Thursday, October 9, 2014

Anthony Quinn - Man of Many Faces

When Aurora (@CitizenScreen) and Kay (@KayStarStyle) announced their idea for a blog related to Hispanic Heritage, I thought "what a wonderful opportunity to write on a topic that deserves more attention."

So, I weighed my options and decided to write something on Anthony Quinn.  Quinn has always fascinated me by his versatility as an actor...he has played a wide range of characters and each of them comes across as a unique individual.

Born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca in Chihuahua, Mexico, Quinn grew up in El Paso, TX and Los Angeles, CA.  Early interests in boxing and architecture are an indication of his varied talent.  It was his friend and famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright who suggested he look into acting.

Quinn won the best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of Eufemio Zapata (opposite Marlon Brando in the lead role) in Viva Zapata! (1952) making Quinn the first Mexican-American to win an Academy Award.

Enough copying facts from Wikipedia about Quinn's past...let's discuss some of his most popular film roles!

LA STRADA (1954)

What can I say about this film?  Directed by Federico Fellini, co-starring Giulietta Masina, it's a tour-de-force of acting by both of these wonderful talents.  Quinn plays Zampano, a one-trick-pony travelling showman who purchases (yes, purchases) the simple-minded Gelsomina (Masina) and incorporates her into his act.

He's brutish...that's the only way I can describe him.  He pays almost no attention to Masina (except for pleasures of the flesh, along with physical and emotional cruelty.)  Eventually he abandons her on the road after she becomes despondent from a 'broken heart'.

It's a heart-breaking film...and at the very end of the film, we see the culmination of Quinn's wonderful performance.  This man who seemingly has no emotional bone in his body,  breaks down realizing what he has lost.

Seriously watch this for Quinn, but also watch for Masina, who is absolutely amazing in everything she's in (one of my all-time favorites is Nights Of Cabiria [1957].)


This is one of the best 'character study' films that exist.  Of course, the character that we're studying is the titular character of T.E. Lawrence who understood Arab culture and helped the British (along with Arab tribes) defeat the Turks in WWI.  However, there are other characters here that we get to know fairly deeply as well.

One is Auda Abu Tayi played by Quinn.

There are a handful of memorable scenes and quotes from Quinn here:

  • His character introduction - riding down the large dune on horseback with his son confronting Lawrence in his new white flowing Arab robes (then later confronting Sherif Ali with some verbal sparring.)
  • Meeting with Lawrence in his tent with the amazing "I am a river to my people" speech.  I get chills every time I watch that scene.
  • After looting the train, his exchange with Colonel Brighton regarding the desertion of various Arabs from the fighting: "when you find what you are looking for you will go home."
Quinn plays Auda with such passion in this film.  Never over-the-top...even in anger when Auda realizes there's no gold (as he was promised) in Aqaba.

This film is in my top four...essential viewing in my opinion.


This film represents the peak of Quinn's career.  And it's the film that most identify as the definitive Quinn.

Quinn plays Zorba...a man brimming with life, who meets Basil (played by Alan Bates) a man who finds no joy in life.  They are at two opposite ends of the spectrum.  But soon, the brimming life is overflowing and Basil learns to 'loosen up'.

There are a million great lines from Quinn in this film, I'll spare you, and just let you watch the film and enjoy it.    I've actually only seen this film once before, but it has one of the great endings in film history with Basil and Zorba can't help but smile.

So, here we have Quinn--a native Mexican--in three of his most popular roles, playing at different times an Italian, an Arab and a Greek.  And he played them all so well...that's a lot of talent.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ocean's 11

When I saw that Kellee and Aurora were doing a blogathon on Billy Wilder, I jumped at the chance to participate. Here's a light piece on Ocean’s 11 (1960) which Wilder was listed as an uncredited writer. There are many great things about this film, I’d like to discuss a few of them.

The Title Sequence

Classic Saul Bass Title Sequence

Starting at the very beginning, the opening title sequence is done by none other than the great graphic designer Saul Bass. He’s done many opening title sequences including some of my favorites: Vertigo, Anatomy of a Murder, The Man With the Golden Arm, Psycho, North By Northwest...and more recent films like Casino, Goodfellas. Seriously, the man was a addition to his great title sequence work, he created many iconic corporate logos, here’s a Google image search that’ll give you a quick idea of his work:

The Cast

The Rat Pack & Friends

Next, let’s talk about the cast. Ring-a-ding-ding...we’ve got the great Dean Martin along with Rat Pack buddies Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Here’s the complete list of eleven:

Along with “the crew” we've got sexy Angie Dickinson and a knockout performance by Cesar Romero in a supporting role. Make no mistake most of the film is focused on the Rat Pack (and specifically Martin, Davis and Sinatra.)

The Plot

Let’s talk about the heist genre. This is one of my favorite genres and the original 1960 version of Ocean’s 11 uses the standard three-act heist progression:

  1. The crew plans the heist
  2. The crew carries out the heist
  3. The plan falls apart and the crew ends up with nothing (or worse)

If you've ever seen the remake (released in 2001) you know that act three doesn't follow the standard heist plot. One reason I much prefer this original version.

Great Musical Numbers

Davis belting out Eee-O Eleven

Dino sings 'Ain't That a Kick in the Head' w/Red Norvo (on vibes) & his quintet

There are a few great numbers in the film...the first is by Sammy Davis Jr. (who plays--of all things--a garbage man) and it’s a knockout number called Eee-O Eleven. The song is about one day making the big score and living the lush life. The second is Dean Martin singing Ain’t That a Kick In the Head accompanied by the Red Norvo jazz quintet...quite a swingin’ number.

Lovely Late 50s/Early 60s Style

Watching this film, I keep pointing to things and say “I want that.” The furniture, clothes, cars, etc.  The look, the feel, the overall aesthetic are wonderful to my eye. Clean lines, simple design...good stuff.  For a great overall overview on the clothes style of this film, check out Kimberly's penultimate blog post: Toasting to 2014 with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack in OCEAN'S 11

Classic Ending

The Crew files out

Once the boys accept their ruin, they exit out of the funeral home and walk down the sidewalk in Las Vegas passing by a marquee touting their very names. As Will would say, “how meta.”

One of the great iconic shots in film


If you want to check out other great heist films, I suggest THE ASPHAULT JUNGLE (1950) and RIFIFI (1955).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 TCM Film Festival Summary

This year's TCM Classic Film Festival was great fun, I saw an amazing 19 films in three and a half days.  Here's a list of highlights for me followed by the details of what I actually saw (which differs slightly from my proposed schedule which you can find here) along with some thoughts from each screening.

At last year's TCMFF, there was a single, standout film for me in I AM SUZANNE!  This year, while there wasn't one singular standout, there were a handful of things that are sticking in my mind:

  • Meeting many friends--old and new--from the online Twitter community.  My film friends are so knowledgeable...I'm blessed to be able to learn from them.
  • Documentaries GREY GARDENS and BEST BOY
  • Seeing the original GOJIRA in the Egyptian Theater
  • Special presentations by Bruce Goldstein for EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE, GOJIRA and STORMY WEATHER (TCM, please bring him back next year!)
  • Emotional screenings of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, CITY LIGHTS and TOKYO STORY

Some breakdowns of the 19 films:
  • New or old:
    • New discoveries - 9
    • Old friends - 10
  • Format:
  • Decade:
    • 1930s - 8
    • 1940s - 6
    • 1950s - 2 (both Japanese!)
    • 1970s - 3 (including both documentaries)
  • Actor:

Now...onto the individual screenings and memories:

Wednesday - Day 0

Even though I didn't arrive to the festival until Thursday afternoon, a lot of cool stuff went down on Wednesday including some 'tweet-up' parties.  I really missed out on these (I enviously watched them unfold on Twitter) and have decided that next year I'll make an effort to fly in on Wednesday in order to 1) have 24 more hours to adjust to Pacific time zone and 2) have more time to hang out with friends socially while not standing on line for a film.

Thursday - Day 1

This opening evening of film was my Ginger Rogers double-bill:
  • 5TH AVENUE GIRL (1939) - What a great way to kick off the festival with this lovely Ginger Rogers film.
  • BACHELOR MOTHER (1939) - Another great Ginger Rogers film introduced by comedian Greg Proops who knew a lot about the film and did a great job prepping us for the it.

Friday - Day 2
  • STAGECOACH (1939) - Author Nancy Schoenberger (who's getting ready to release a book on John Wayne and John Ford) read off a typed list of fun facts.  The film was a 35mm presentation, and like film professor Drew Morton mentioned in his blog post for The Black Maria, I thought the print wasn't one of the best (and reflecting back it was probably the worst print of the festival that I personally saw.) 
  • GREY GARDENS (1975) - My first viewing of this film...what an interesting film with the most unique characters.  It was sad seeing where this mother and daughter came from and where they were now, in a decaying house being slowly overrun by cats and raccoons.
  • MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) - Shown on the huge Grauman's screen in glorious Technicolor (the first of only two films I saw at Grauman's Chinese.)  Before the film there was a nice interview with Margaret O'Brien.  Although I've seen this many times before, this was a very emotional viewing, maybe because of the size on the big screen, maybe because of friends around me all sniffling.
  • DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) - The second film I saw at Grauman's Chinese.  What can I can say about this great noir film that hasn't already been said?
  • EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE (1933) - This screening was preceded by a great presentation by Bruce Goldstein called 'Pre-code 101'.  He showed various clips and talked about what Pre-code films had in common thematically.  It was very entertaining and memorable.  The film has Warren William at his smarmiest.
  • ERASERHEAD (1977) - I hadn't seen this in about 26 years and was viewing with friends who had never seen it.  It was introduced by actor Patton Oswalt who asked who in the well attended house had never seen this film before...surprisingly to me about one third of people raised their hands.  After the screening, some friends were visibly upset, not at the disturbing imagery from director David Lynch, but the fact that it was 85 minutes of their life they weren't getting back.

Saturday - Day 3
  • CITY LIGHTS (1931) - What a way to start the day with this classic Chaplin silent film.  We had a nice group of TCMParty folks at the film, including some who had never seen it before.  Wonderful being with them for their first time seeing it.
  • GOJIRA (1954) - This was the only film that I saw in Grauman's Egyptian Theater.  My buddy Miguel and his friend Beth were queue cards 1 & 2, so they got really great seats!  The print was a restoration from Rialto on DCP & it looked great.  It was great sitting in a full theater watching a Japanese movie where the theater applauded when Takashi Shimura appears on screen for the first time.  After the film Bruce Goldstein had a nice presentation (including film clips) of the differences between the original Gojira and the edited US version with addition of Raymond Burr.
  • STORMY WEATHER (1943) - I hadn't originally planned on seeing this, but before Gojira, I was reviewing the next block and realized that this great film with Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Dooley Wilson, The Nicholas Brothers, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson that I had seen once before might just be something special.  Indeed it word: entertainment.  From start to finish this thin-on-plot-but-rich-in-entertainment film did not disappoint with its 20 musical numbers.  Film historian Donald Bogle introduced the film with great information on the African-American performers in the film.  After the screening (a beautiful digital print) Bruce Goldstein discussed the Nicholas Brothers and showed a clip from a television special taped when the brothers were in their mid-to-late 40s where the reenacted (more or less) the ending dance number scene from the film.  After airing the clip, Bruce announced that members of the Nicholas brothers' family were in the audience, he asked them to stand up to a rousing ovation.  This was a last-moment change in plans that paid off.
  • THE STRANGER'S RETURN (1933) - This was one of those 'long lost' films that had fallen off the face of the earth.  An early King Vidor film with great performances put in by leads Miriam Hopkins and Lionel Barrymore.  I thought it was quite an interesting little film about a 'bad girl' (separated from her husband) who returns to her roots on the family farm and falls in love with the married neighbor.
  • HAT CHECK GIRL (1932) - Ginger Rogers in a supporting role here about a hat check girl (played by Sally Eilers) who falls in love with a millionaire.  MoMA folks in attendance to introduce the film.  (I think they own the print that was screened.)
  • HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946) - I was looking for something more with this Edgar G. Ulmer film...the story line, though was very interesting.
  • FREAKS (1932) - What can be said about this great Tod Browning film, introduced hilariously by Dana Gould (who also intro'd last year's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.)

Sunday - Day 4
  • TOKYO STORY (1953) - Introduced by the lovely and talented Illeana Douglas, she quipped that after seeing this slow-paced, quiet film and then stepping out onto Hollywood Blvd. you may want to step right back into the slow-paced TOKYO STORY again.
  • BEST BOY (1979) - This was an amazingly touching documentary that was introduced by the filmmaker himself, Ira Wohl who was joined in the theater by his teenage daughter.  After the film there was a great Q&A with the director with many thoughtful questions from the audience.  I finally got to meet Lawrence Carter-Long at this screening.
  • EASTER PARADE (1948) - This was introduced by Leonard Maltin and noted Garland biographer John Fricke.  Maltin explained that 35mm Technicolor prints can simply no longer be struck because the equipment to do so has long since been dismantled.  That explains some of the rough patches and splices at reel changes.  A pretty good print overall, though.  An enthusiastic audience applauded after most musical numbers.
  • THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948) - This is the first time I've ever seen this film.  It was a 4K digital screening which looked absolutely amazing.  Closeups of Rita Hayworth were incredibly detailed (and beautiful.)

As we did last year, a bunch of twitter folks gathered at the Roosevelt pool to chat about the festival.  Miguel also got us to participate in recording a podcast for Monster Island Resort answering some questions about the festival.  That was fun and it was great to see people's different takes on the festival.

I hope to return next year for the festival and meet even more folks from twitter.  See you all in 2015!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 TCM Film Festival Picks

The TCM Film Festival calendar came out late last week, and I've gone through the schedule day-by-day and and read a bunch of other friends' blogs and here's what I've come up with for myself (so far, obviously, one factor in having fun at the festival is to be flexible and be able to switch gears.)

Once again, I'm using Will's 'block' approach from last year as the films are fairly evenly laid out in blocks.  (Note, films that I'm currently planning on seeing are bolded and in GREEN)

Block 1: Thursday early evening

Since my flight isn't scheduled to arrive until 2:30pm PDT, I won't be able to catch most of the early 'non-film' items.  I really wanted to catch Scott McGee with the 'Sons of Gods and Monsters' discussion...oh well, another year.

I can't get into opening night OKLAHOMA! or the party afterwards.  Although WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? would be a scream to watch in a packed theater, and the soundtrack of AMERICAN GRAFFITI is one of my favorites (not to mention Paul Le Mat and Candy Clark will be there in person)  I'll probably check out 5TH AVENUE GIRL because I love anything with Ginger Rogers.  

Block 2:  Thursday late evening

I originally wanted to see JOHNNY GUITAR... with a badass Joan Crawford a little later in her career.  I've seen some clips from the film, but I'm going to make Thursday night a Ginger Rogers double-bill by seeing BACHELOR MOTHER.  Looking forward to seeing both of these for the first time and then getting into bed at a reasonable hour.

Block 3:  Friday morning

I wrote a blog post (rather a video blog) a while back about character actor Thomas Mitchell who appears in a lot of films, including STAGECOACH.  Also here are character actors Donald Meek and Andy Devine.  John Wayne's first big role...and a great story.

Block 4:  Friday early afternoon

This was a tough block for me to pick from.  Initially I narrowed it down to TOUCH OF EVIL (which I've never seen,) ZULU which I've seen one time quite a while's a great story of severely outnumbered British troupes defending a position against Zulu warriors.  Finally there's GREY GARDENS which I'm leaning towards as it's a quirky documentary.  After careful consideration, I've decided on GREY GARDENS.  I can't seem to pass up quirky characters or quirky films.

Block 5:  Friday late afternoon

Even though I just watched this on TCM the other night (at least up until The Trolley Song), a personal appearance by scene-steeler Margaret O'Brien means I'm hoping to get into MEET ME IN ST. may be a tough ticket.  Seeing that lovely Technicolor in the newly refurbished Grauman's theater will be a wonderful treat.

Block 6:  Friday early evening

I'll exit Grouman's and get right back in line for DOUBLE INDEMNITY - great noir on the big, big screen.

Block 7:  Friday late evening

This block presets some problems.  BLAZING SADDLES with intro discussion with Mel Brooks or THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES which is in my all-time top 5 and I've never seen on the big screen.  Think I'll go with the latter...I can't seem to get enough of that film.

Block 8:  Friday midnight show

David Lynch's ERASERHEAD is perhaps the most disturbing film I've ever seen.  Fellow film buff, Will McKinley opined on Twitter the other week that he was disappointed in the picks for the midnight films this year.  I have to say that I agree with him and during a brief discussion online we threw out a handful of other options (although in hindsight, I'm not sure our picks would have fit in with the theme of the festival.)

Intro by Patton Oswalt should be funny.

Block 9:  Saturday morning

This was a fairly easy pick for me, as CITY LIGHTS is my favorite silent film.  Chaplin's masterpiece, made after the silent era bowed out, has a serious plot thread that is woven throughout humerus vignettes.  If you've never seen a silent film, let me request to go to this screening...and bring your Kleenex for the final absolutely perfect ending.

Block 10:  Saturday early afternoon

I'm not the biggest monster movie lover, but I do appreciate the original GODZILLA and it's undercurrent message about the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Block 11:  Saturday late afternoon

The only problem with going to see GODZILLA in the previous block is that it runs up against the beginning of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.  I'm also sorry to say that HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY is not one of my favorite films (I can hear the gasps now.)  Even the rare appearance by Maureen O'Hara probably isn't enough to get me to that screening.  That means that I'll probably go to see the discussion with Thelma Schoonmaker, I'm a big fan of Martin Scorsese and it will be interesting to hear about her collaboration with this great director.

Block 12:  Saturday early evening

Although fellow classic film friend Aurora (whose blog post on what she's seeing can be found here) suggested that this was a tough block for her...I found that this was a fairly easy pick for me.  I'm going to attend what many have called the 'pre-code double-bill' of THE STRANGER'S RETURN and HAT CHECK GIRL.

Block 13:  Saturday late evening

This was a tough block for me to decide between, but ultimately I've chosen HER SISTER'S SECRET from the poverty row production house Producer's Releasing Corporation.  To my knowledge I've never seen an Edgar G. Ulmer directed film...hoping for good things here.

Block 14:  Saturday midnight show

TCM is screening FREAKS as the midnight film on Saturday, a film they show fairly often (it feels to me like the air it about twice a year.)  It's a one-of-a-kind film belonging to that niche genre of 'disability dramas'.  Tod Browning does something marvelous and gives these 'freaks' real depth and personality over the short 62 minute running time.  Dana Gould is scheduled to introduce the film...I think he intro'd one of the midnight screenings last year as well.

Block 15:  Sunday morning

This is one of those blocks, where I see a film, and I know "this is the film I'm going to see."  The film is TOKYO STORY, Yasujiro Ozu's masterpiece about aging parents and their children who have no time for them.  Typically Ozu--quiet, reserved, still camera--this is a perfect pick for the theme of the festival.

Block 16:  Sunday early afternoon

As tempting as GONE WITH THE WIND is on that huge Grauman's screen, I'm going to attend the screening of the documentary BEST BOY at the Chinese Multiplex.  A story of aging parents who have a mentally challenged son.

Block 17:  Sunday late afternoon

This block present a problem for me...because I didn't have a great interest in seeing any of the films presented.  The festival has added Alan Arkin in THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER at the Egyptian, so I may see that, or I may see something light like EASTER PARADE.  There's always the TBA slot which should be announced sometime Saturday.  UKNOWN.

Block 18:  Sunday early evening (final group of films)

I'll probably watch THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, a film I've never seen (again, I hear more gasps.)  I know a lot of folks are going to see THE LODGER which is a new restored (by BFI) version of the Hitchcock silent complete with live accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

So...that's my list as of today. My schedule may be changing in the very near future!

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 TCM Remembers

"We live and we die
Like fireworks"

UPDATE: 12/17/2013:  TCM has edited the original clip to include five new images: Jean Kent, Audrey Totter, Tom Laughlin, Joan Fontaine and Peter O'Toole (whos images now end the video.)  I'm astonished at how quickly they did this and how they were able to squeeze these five extra folks in without removing anyone else and all the while working within the strict framework of the the existing video and it's music.

At first I thought maybe they'd shave .25 or .5 second off some of the images here and there to make up the time necessary to add 5 new video images.  But there are so many images that take place with musical cues.  For example Harry Carey Jr. looks up as the song lyrics talk about catching God's eye...or Matt Mattox swing his ax which hits the ground to the beat of the song.  Any clip-shortening would affect those match-ups.

So how did they do it?  Here's what was removed to add the new folks:

  • Jean Kent appears before Roger Ebert, the image of Ebert was shortened to fit her in
  • Audrey Totter appears where there was an image of a room in the theater with overlayed cursive writing on the pillar/wall.
  • Tom Laughlin appears between Hal Needham and Jonathan Winters.  A clip related to Needham of a Pontiac Trans Am making a jump in Smokey and the Bandit was removed to add Laughlin
  • Joan Fontaine was added before Esther Williams, a still image of Esther Williams was removed to make some time for this clip
  • Peter O'Toole comes at the end, to squeeze him in video producers had to:
    • Some of the later clips (after the musical tie-in with the firework displaying on the screen) I believe were shortened in the area between Ed Lauter and Kim Hamilton (that's 5 clips) in order to make some room for O'Toole.
    • The cut to the TCM Remembers graphic at the end is the old version you saw most of the word 'Remembers' drawn out while in the new clip you see just of the word drawn out.
    • The final clip of the single seat in the theater was shorted to add the blowing out of the match

[end of update]

It’s that time of year again, when Turner Classic Movies releases it’s video memorial production ‘TCM Remembers’ showcasing a list of film folks who've passed away during the past year. This year, like previous years, it’s a beautiful piece running around four and a half minutes long.

The song used in the piece is “In the Embers” by Sleeping At Last (an ‘Indie Rock musical project’.)  Quite a touching song, great lyrics relating to life and death.  Simple music, just piano and a single voice.

As usual, there are still pictures and/or short video clips of each person featured. And as usual, these are broken up with small breaks (where I’m usually muttering ‘oh my word’ as my mind tries to catch up from the overwhelming string of images it just saw.)

If you haven't seen it's the YouTube clip.

Some nice things about this year's clip:

  • Similar to the 2012 TCM Remembers video, this year’s theme is also theater-related and the images are of a shuttered theater or (as I prefer) a theater in the midst of renovation. 
  • As usual, the producers get seemingly the perfect clip for each of these folk (where a clip is shown.) The expressions/gaze of the person is spot-on. (Great examples are Annette Funicello and Eileen Brennan.) 
  • I like the video effect of playing the video onto a paint-peeled wall 
  • Love the tracking shot going through the series of open doorways...that shot is almost worth the price of admission 
  • Some of the transitions are fabulous, for example with Ruth Prawer Jhubvala we see someone walking through a field of flowers...cut to Julie Harris lying in a field of flowers and one in her hand. Speaking of transitions... 
  • So nice they put Virginia Gibson and Matt Mattox together with clips from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 
  • The dissolve on Jonathan Winters’ face on the glass door 
  • I really cannot believe how quickly there were able to add Eleanor Parker into this. 
  • Final shot of Peter O'Toole blowing out the match in an early scene from Lawrence of Arabia

Here’s the complete list of people from the clip in the order they appear:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thomas Mitchell - What a Character

First, I need to thank the co-hostesses of the What A Character blogathon.  This is a wonderful idea that Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66), Paula (@Paul_Guthat) and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) execute so well every year.  Kudos, ladies!

No discussion about Thomas Mitchell can begin without first acknowledging 1) the sheer amount of work this great character actor has been in (IMDB has him listed with an acting credit in 106 film and television roles) and 2) how many of these films were big hits.

In this video, I take a quick tour through some of these big hitters:

Stagecoach (1939)

Friday, May 3, 2013

What Happens When You Watch 18 Films in 3.5 Days - Part 2

Now that we had our 'sea-legs' after a full day of films on Friday, here's the recap for Saturday and Sunday:


Another full day of six films!

Beth and I started by going to see CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS which was in the 'early' block.  We saw lots of folks queued up for the Bugs Bunny retrospective (also playing at the multiplex...this seemed to be the big draw of the morning.)  The small theater (#4) for our screening was fairly full of mostly Spencer Tracy and Illeana Douglas fans.  Ms. Douglas introduced the film which stars her grandfather, Melvin Douglas.  Her comments were funny and succinct.  I'm looking forward to seeing her on Friday nights in May with her 'Second Looks' series.  Those who tweet along with me using the #TCMParty hashtag on twitter know of my love for this film.  It was great to see it on the big screen...not a dry eye in the house at the end.

Next, I rambled down to the Egyptian Theater for what would turn out to be a very special screening of THE DONOVAN AFFAIR.  There was a 30 minute delay getting into the theater.  TCM volunteers and network staff (including Scott McGee) kept the crowd informed of what was going on.  Once inside  Will and I sat in the 'geek seats' close to the actors.  This film was directed by Frank Capra and was Columbia's first 'All talkie', the only problem was that the audio disks (which looked like large vinyl records) were lost somewhere between 1929 and today.  So, what do passionate film fans do when this happens?  They recreate the entire soundtrack LIVE!  This included a piano accompaniment, 8-9 mic'd actors, a Foley artist and (if I remember correctly) pre-recorded background music tracks.  The film was a comedic whodunit, and the crowd was laughing throughout the film.  The live talent onstage were absolutely great in their recreation of the soundtrack.  Will later tweeted that this was the most impressive thing he's seen in four years of attending the festival.  High praise, indeed!

I had originally wanted to see THE BIG PARADE next, but due to the 30 minute delay, I didn't know if I could get into it on time.  So before THE DONOVAN AFFAIR, I made up my mind to grab lunch and head to the El Capitan theater for GUYS AND DOLLS.  So I inhaled a burrito from Baja Fresh while waiting on line for the musical...but while the black beans were falling onto the street where I was waiting, I realized that this film would get out too late to queue up for a ticket to THE SEVENTH SEAL.  So...I dashed over to the multiplex and walked into THE TRAIN about ten minutes before it started.  I've seen this once before on TCM, a good film...Burt Lancaster is wonderful in it.  A few things here:
  • This is only screening I attended where the audience did not applaud at the title card and they didn't applaud when Lancaster shows on screen for the first time...odd, and a bit awkward.
  • The theater filled completely and this was added to the TBA slots Sunday.
  • Great film if you're a train geek
  • The shot where German officers are seated at a table drinking wine and the truck blows up reminded me so much of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Raiders must have put that in as an homage.
  • Bass rumble from an adjacent theater (2, 3 or 5) bled over into our theater and was slightly distracting.  This also happened in I AM SUZANNE!
After that I met Beth down at the Egyptian to see THE SEVENTH SEAL.  Now, you may know that I love foreign films and I was looking very forward to seeing this for the first time.  However I was tired and closed my eyes more than once in slower spots.  The movie was quite odd...I'll have to watch again to get a better feel for it.  Ben Makiewicz interviewed Max von Sydow before the film and there was a special video of Mr. Sydow's work that was played before the interview (the only 'puff piece' I saw for any attending actor...but done very well...isn't that the case with everything that TCM does?!)

After leaving the theater, I think all 616 folks queued up for MILDRED PIERCE.  We were in a line the snaked back to El Segundo, I think.  But our queue cards were in the mid 200s, so I was confident that we'd get in.  The ushers even managed to squeeze in some walk-up/standby ticket-holders.

This was an amazing screening.

Lots of applause for many of the actors when they make their first on-screen appearance, including Butterfly McQueen who has a small role in this.  And (perhaps best of all) applause and shouts when Mildred slaps Veda early in the film, then hissing and booing when Veda slaps Mildred later in the film.  Before the film, Robert Osborne interviewed Ann Blyth who still looked terrific and had wonderful stories to tell.  It's amazing that she didn't get type-cast as the 'Veda-type' after making this film.

Next, another midnight screening!  This time, Charles Laughton and ISLAND OF LOST SOULS.  I was able to meet the irrepressible Jill at this screening.  We briefly discussed her video clips aired by TCM before the film started.  There were a few 'haha' moments in this, it was more of a bad sci-fi film.  I ended up closing my eyes a few times in this one, too...or zoning out with my eyes opened.

After the film let out, I walked to the room and crashed...again around 2am.


The last day of the festival...bittersweet!

I had originally planned to see YANKEE DOODLE DANDY this morning...a film I've seen countless times (because it's great!)  But the TBA screening in the morning was THE LADY VANISHES and Alan was going to see that, so I went over to check it out with him.  It was a marvelous film, effectively blending romance, comedy and suspense.  Thank you Mr. Hitchcock!

I had a little time to grab some early lunch (yet another burrito from Baja Fresh) and ate in the courtyard in the mall before getting in line for THE BIRDS at Grauman's.  (I would actually spend the rest of the day either in line on Hollywood Blvd. or in Grauman's Chinese theater.)  Before the film, Tippi Hedren was interviewed and I was shocked to hear about how Hitchcock treated her.  The picture quality was awesome (another DCP projection) and the film was wonderfully creepy on that huge screen.  I was admiring the editing while watching...good stuff.

After exiting Grauman's, I immediately got back in line for THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR.  Beth was also in line a little bit behind me, so I walked back and joined her.  This was the only film she watched today.  Max von Sydow was interviewed by Robert Osborne before the film (a better interview I thought than yesterday's with Ben M.)

After exiting the theater, I got right back in line again for the final event of the festival, a screening of Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL with live accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra.  Once I got my queue card, Beth and I ran across the street to get dinner at Baja Fresh.  Who did we run into?  The delightful Kimberly!

Before the screening of THE GENERAL, Robert Osborne came out for an announcement 'wrap'.  He thanked the sponsors one last time and highlighted some TCM folks who were integral in organizing and managing the festival.  His final comment was regarding the Chinese Theater.  He mentioned that in a couple of days they were going to close the theater and rework the interior to have stadium seating and IMAX projection.  There was an audible gasp from the crowd and booing...Osborne quelled the uneasiness by jokingly saying "don't throw anything at me" and also suggesting that we should reserve judgement and he hoped it would turn out well.  I had already heard the news, so it wasn't shocking to me, I kind of wished Robert O hadn't ended the evening like that, but he wanted to make sure people took a good look around the theater after the film to remember what it looked like.

The film was preceded by a Buster Keaton short film (maybe 20-25 minutes long).  Alloy orchestra was great...lots of percussion!  After the film ended, everyone was looking around the theater and taking photos of everything.  We really took Robert's words to heed.  Alan, Will and Aurora (whom I sat with) took some photos inside the theater, then met Paula and Tim outside where we took some more photos.

I ran back to the hotel and changed into my fancy duds and Beth and I walked up the street to the closing night party at the Roosevelt hotel.  There I met Kay and Kim (and got my picture taken with these lovely ladies!)  Then wandered out to the pool with Beth and we met up with a group of TCMParty folks where we discussed the films and the festival.

Beth and I left the party around 11, went back to the hotel and crashed.  The next morning brought a sobering reminder that this was a temporary joy as we were scurried to the airport by our car and waited to catch our flight home.

I enjoyed the TCM Film Festival immensely   I hope I can make it back in 2014 and meet up with folks I spent a lot of time with this year and meet up with new folks, too.