Saturday, May 5, 2018

TCMFF 2018 – Post-Partum Wrapup

This post is my initial thoughts about the 2018 TCM Classic Movie Festival (TCMFF), held April 26-29, 2018. It covers just a handful of highlights at each day of the Festival. In-depth coverage of each day will follow as time permits.


On train from San Diego, business class is about $20.
This is what $20 worth of leg space looks like.
Wednesday at TCMFF started as usual with the train ride up from San Diego to Union Station, LA, and then the 20-minute subway ride to Hollywood Highland station. It's about the same time as driving, provided you don't hit any bad San Diego or Orange County before you hit the horrendous LA traffic the last 20 miles into Hollywood. Now, you know why I take the train, but it's also a good way to gather your thoughts and start connecting with people you'll be seeing the next several days.

I cover the festival as media and normally, it's a rush to make it to the TCM press conference, that is usually starting about the time I'm popping my head out of the subway station and scrambling to get upstairs just a minute or two late.

TCM did things a bit different this year. Rather than the standard press conference in the early afternoon, TCM did a media mixer in the late afternoon. Though this was a nice change of pace, the timing of the event overlapped with the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group meetup at the pool. I really didn't want to miss the Facebook group meetup, I felt I should take advantage of the media mixer that was offered. I ended up touching base with people in the first half hour of the Facebook meetup and then coming back after it was in progress. Unfortunately, by the time, I got back it didn't seem worth the trouble of sticking around for the tail end. Plus, that was the only window I had to get dinner for my daughter who attends TCMFF with me.

My daughter Jasmine and me, obligatory train selfie
The media mixer was great, an informal format with drinks and hors d'oeuvres. TCM General Manager Jennifer Dorian made some brief announcements and then turned us loose to mingle. I spent most of my time catching up with my fellow film bloggers/twitter #TCMParty fiends, though I  got a chance to talk with Eddie Muller. He's great, a real down-to-earth guy and super knowledgable about film noir and classics in general.

Oddly Jennifer Dorian sought me out to talk about the festival (it might have been the hat), but she was sincere. I'm sure there were many mainstream media outlets there. The fact that she took the time to track me down speaks volumes on how TCM as a whole feels about the classic movie blogging and social media community.  The food was good, and I took advantage of the free drinks to sample the rather aggressively overhopped IPA (typical of most West Coast IPAs). Yes, I'm craft beer geek as well as a classic movie geek.

Theresa Brown and me at Influencer Mixer
The other thing that stands out was the Influencers Mixer at Teddy's in the Roosevelt, though it did seem to me that it was a lot of the same people as the Media Mixer. If I had to guess, I would say that the Media Mixer was limited to people with Media badges whereas the Influencers Mixer had a mix of Media people, and TCMFF goers, who spend lot of time online. Anyway, it was a good crowd, and it was great to have a chance to bond with the people you only talk to online the other 360 days a year. Last year, TCM had an event similar to this in the Spare Room on the mezzanine. The Spare Room is a cooler venue with a bowling alley etc., but Teddy's was larger, and it seems like it accommodated more people. For me, that's a good tradeoff. All I know, was a lot of my online cronies were there, and TCM picked up the tab for the
drinks. Gotta love that.


TCMFF breakfast at Mel's
Thursday started with breakfast at Mel's. A big thanks go to @BeesKnees_pdx, who made the arrangements. We had over twenty people at four tables, but despite the crowd, it was great. Often, groups like this can go off the rails, and you end up waiting forever to eat. But the good folks at Mel's rose to the occasion, and what would normally be a pain came off without a hitch.

After breakfast, we ended up in the TCMFF Gift Shop in Sweet. My daughter wanted some me time, i.e., shopping, so I ended up hanging out with Ana Roland. We took a walk down Hollywood Blvd. The biggest benefit of this was discovering a way in and out of the Hollywood Highland mall all the way to the TCL Chinese Theater from The Egyptian side, while mostly avoiding Hollywood Blvd. Five years I've been coming to TCMFF, and I finally found a good way into the mall from that direction.

Playing dress-up with Jasmine
Afterwards, we ended up at Larry Edmunds Bookstore, a specialty new and used bookstore with everything from movie biographies to screenplays to movie posters. We continued east all the way to the Frolic Room at Hollywood and Vine near the Pantages Theater. It's kind of a hole-in-the-wall bar, but what stands out is they had CNN on, and they were just announcing that Bill Cosby was convicted, yea!

The other big thing Friday was playing dress-up with my daughter. Okay, that came out a lot weirder than I intended. A few years ago I bought a white dinner jacket, and TCMFF is the one chance a year I have to wear it. This year my daughter is a high-school senior, and I got to see more of her prom dress than just taking pictures before she wanders off into the night with her boyfriend.


The big thing of Friday was, Witness for the Prosecution. I had originally planned to skip it for Grand Prix, but that meant skipping two whole blocks of films, and I just couldn't bring myself to do that. Of course, I've seen it, but my daughter hadn't, and her face on the big reveal by itself was worth the cost of her Classic Pass. We only had a fifteen minutes between the end of Witness for the Prosecution at The Egyptian and How to Marry a Millionaire at the TCL. I would like to say that we set a world record on the trip, but we did have to wait a full two minutes at the light at Hollywood and Highland, so I doubt it was an actual record, but we did make it, and that has to count for something, right?

Dennis Miller, Ruth, and me
The other big highlight on Friday was something I hadn't even planned on doing. Jasmine really wanted to see, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, but neither of us liked the movie (more on this when I do my Friday post later). Jasmine decided to skip the late block and that left me on my own after dropping her off at our AirBnB. I ended up hanging out with Ruth Mundsack, a woman I interacted a bit with on the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group before TCMFF and had met the first time on Wednesday.  As we sat in the Roosevelt lobby, she noticed Dennis Miller. We talked him and even got a picture. He seemed nice. I refrained talking politics because a) We wouldn't agree. And b) He's way smarter than me and would make a monkey out of me in a political argument.


Saturday kind of all came down to celebrities, and oddly the ones I'm going to talk about are the ones I wasn't planning on see. About a week before the Festival, TCM announced that Jeff Bridges would be appearing at the screening of The Big Lebowsky. I wasn't originally planning on seeing it, but the addition of Bridges was quite an enticement. Plus, I hadn't seen the film. I'm not sure how that happened. I would have sworn I had seen it, until a couple of months ago, when my wife was watching it.

The interview with Jeff Bridges was fun, mostly because of how far it went off the rails. Ben Mankiewicz was perfect because he just rolled with the punches and just let it unfold the way it was going to. Having now seen the film, I can safely say Jeff Bridges is the Dude. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I figure videos work about the same. The following videos are about the first 12 minutes of the interview.

The next big thing was, Night of the Living Dead as a midnight movie. Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the Dead) was supposed to appear, but had to cancel at last minute. He was stuck in the UK with visa problems. Thanks, Obama. Oh wait, that wouldn't be Obama. That would be Trump. Anyway, rumors had been circulating that Edgar Wright was working on a surprise replacement. I don't know if it was Wright or the TCMFF staff, but somebody came through when Simon Pegg (star of Shaun of the Dead) came out to introduce the film. It was perfect. Simon Pegg is a huge fan of zombies, and I couldn't think of anyone better to introduce the film. 

Simon Pegg, photo courtesy of TCM


King of Cool at The Egyptian
By Sunday everything was kind of a blur. It opened with The Black Stallion on 35 mm at The Egyptian. The film itself was great and Jasmine and I sat with Jeff Lundberger, the first person I met at my first TCMFF back in 2014. The film was great, but that's not what I'm going to talk about. For the first time, I didn't bring a real camera to TCMFF. I'd just got a new phone, a Google Pixel 2. It has a great camera and takes great pictures in almost any situation. One of the things I love about The Egyptian is the theater itself and the view of the fresco in the ceiling from the balcony. Though we were sitting in the main theater, before the film I went up to the balcony and took what might be the best picture I ever took at the Festival.

Animal House cast courtesy of TCM, left to right: Mark

Metcalf, Steven Bishop, Martha Smith, John Landis,
James Widdoes, Tim Matheson, and Bruce McGill
The last screening for me was Animal House at the Chinese. Before the film, a talk was scheduled with director, John Landis, and most of the people in the cast who are still with us. My friend Ariel Schudson said she didn't want to see John Landis dominate the conversation. He did, but to his credit his stories are very funny. Present were the actors, Tim Matheson, Otter; Bruce McGill, D-Day; James Widdoes, Hoover; Martha Smith, Babs; Mark Metcalf, Neidermeyer, and singer/songwriter Steven Bishop, who wrote and sang the "Animal House Theme" song. Also present was, I think, producer Matty Simmons. All I know was that when John Landis would tell a story, he would usually chime in with what he was going through with the suits at Universal.

Animal House was shot at the University of Oregon. The cast members who were in the Delta house all came up about a week early, which gave them a chance to bond together and against the Omegas. Apparently, when Mark Metcalf (Neidermeyer) first arrived, the cast invited him over to the coffee shop at the hotel they were staying in, and then threw food at him when he arrived. Steven Bishop play a small role as the guy with the guitar singing, "I Gave My Love a Cherry" in the toga party. They had scored a guitar to make it break easier, but apparently, not well enough. When John Belushi hit it the first time, it didn't break. He hit it the second time with such force that Bishop was absolutely terrified.

I sat with one of my Twitter friends I had met for the first time this year, Stacy Black from Austin. I had bought a bag of what I used to know as penny candy as a kid from the Sweet shop in the Hollywood Highland mall, Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, Dum-Dums, etc. I was offering them to people all weekend. By Sunday, I was down to my last couple of pieces. Stacy I had found out earlier on Twitter likes the same bourbon I do, Elijah Craig Small Batch. I just so happened to have a flask, so we watched the film over bourbon and Smarties.

As always, the closing party was great. For the first time, Jasmine stayed more or less until they kicked us out of Club TCM at midnight. It was great to talk and share a drink with the people I've met over the years, including those like Stacy and Ruth, I'd just met this year and Jeff Davis and Guy Priley, who were at the Festival for the first time and whom I know will be back. Again, I'm going to let the pictures do the talking here.

Clockwise from lower right, Jackie, Jeff,
Jasmine and me

Jazzy and me

Stacy and me

Jeff and me, stolen from his Facebook feed.
I love Jasmine photo bombing in the back


Shot from the train
Monday after TCMFF, not much happened. For me a highlight was breakfast at Mel's with Jasmine. We had to be out of our AirBnB by 11 am, so we packed went to breakfast. I had two buttons left, and I found a group of the three women, one of whom was wearing a TCM shirt. I gave one to her a let the other two fight for the last one. They were from Marin County in Northern California. It also turns out that Guy was sitting at one of the other booths. Breakfast was good, but that's not why I mention it, nor Guy, nor buttons, nor the women from Marin. It was the jukebox. At each table, they have one of those things to play songs.

I had some quarters, so I dropped a few in, fully expecting to never hear the songs I just selected, as is typical in a place like that. I put in the number for the Chi-Lites, "Oh Girl." The next song that came up "Oh Girl," the Chi-Lite. Jasmine punched in David Bowie, "Space Oddity." It came up. We played and heard all of the six or seven songs we played. I just love subjecting strangers to my taste in music.

Reading material courtesy of TCM
We had left our luggage at the AirBnB. We went back, grabbed it, and hopped the Metro for Union Station. We got on our train with a good three minutes to spare. No sense having to rush.  On the way home, I alternated between reading #TCMFF tweets and the Must-See Sci-Fi book that came in my TCM Media bag. It was a great way to end a great Festival.

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