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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Happens When You Watch 18 Films in 3.5 Days - Part 1

I'll tell you what have a great time!

I spent last weekend in Hollywood with thousands of other classic film fans attending the TCM Classic Film Festival. Beth and I stayed at the Loews Hollywood, which is next door to the outdoor mall complex that houses the Chinese Multiplex (the three smaller venues for the event, the three larger venues being: TCL (Grauman's) Chinese, Egyptian Theater and El Capitan Theater.)  The Loews Hotel was extremely wonderful and very convenient to all TCMFF screenings. I highly recommend it to friends for next year who were 'so-so' on the Roosevelt.

I had created a schedule of what I wanted to see...and for the most part I stuck to the schedule (I'll explain exceptions below.)  Although I know that some venues filled and they had to turn away patrons, most of the screenings accommodated all pass-holders and then let in extra 'standby' ticket-holders.  Even the tremendously popular MILDRED PIERCE which screened in the 616-seat Egyptian Theater had room for standby ticket-holders.

I tried to take notes about each screening while standing on line for the next's a blow-by-blow of the films that I saw the first two days of the festival:


We flew from RDU to LAX (via ORD) and met Jessica at the Delta terminal to give her a lift into Hollywood.  It was fun chatting during the 40 minute ride about other online friends. We checked into our room and then headed out to explore.

I went solo to THE KILLING a great noir/heist film starring Sterling Hayden.  This film had a great jazz score and included many older character actors...many with European accents.  The film quality was perfect...this was a DCP screening, it was flawless. Actress Coleen Gray who was in the film was interviewed before the film.  I introduced myself to Trevor before the film (you can't miss him...only pork pie hat at the festival.)  Chatted with a mother/daughter seated next to me who lived in the LA area, this was their second year.

Afterwards, I queued for SAFE IN HELL which Beth joined me for.  Also at this screening were Will, Maggie, Laura, Trevor, Paula, Aurora and others, I'm sure.  I was in line a few people behind Paula, and didn't recognize her (she had a floppy hat on...but did recognize her voice.) I tweeted her that I was standing behind her and she turned around and gave me a hug...and I met her husband, Tim...a really nice couple.

This was screened in Chinese Multiplex theater #4, the smallest venue at 177 seats.  The screening was packed solid and they re-screened this on Sunday in one the TBA slots.  (There was a lot of buzz as I chatted with people on line all weekend about this film.)  A pre-code with director William Wellman's son interviewed by the brilliant Donald Bogle to discuss the film and his father.  A pre-code for sure...but some tender moments between the leads.  (I must admit my eyes close a few times during this...I saw most of it, but I'll need to watch again when I'm more awake.)


The first full day of the festival!  We (Beth joined me for this) started the day off early with a Robert Mitchum in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.  A creepy way to start the day for sure!  I'd never seen it before.  It was screened at the Egyptian, the line was in the sun so we were sweating before heading into the theater.  Watched this with Beth and Aurora and sat down in the 'geek seats'...front and center! One of my favorite scenes is when they shoot the car underwater with Shelley Winters' hair billowing in the river current.  Creep-tastic!  An older Lillian Gish excellent as foster mom to a group of children.

Next up we exited the Egyptian and immediately re-queued again for the next screening: THE NARROW MARGIN, a tale of a detective assigned to protect the wife of a mobster on a cross-country train trip.  Really snappy dialog between the detective and the mobster's wife. This screening was a 35mm print and had two technical glitches, which turned out to be the only glitches the whole weekend that I experienced.  The first issue is that there was a delay on a reel cut-over  one real ended and played through the trailing lead, while the other machine didn't start and cut-over properly.  It was manually started quickly and we were back in business.  The second issue which occurred a little later was that the sound dropped for about 15 seconds.  I'm not sure if this was a problem with the print or something else.  I talked with Will about these glitches and he said "I'll give them pass on those minor issues."

After this, I had a small break, so I grabbed some lunch with Beth at Starbucks and then headed to the hotel to recharge my phone and read up on the upcoming films.

Back to the Multiplex #4 for I AM SUZANNE!  This was the most intriguing film on the schedule and I really wanted to see it...I queued up fairly early (think I got queue card #2) as it was in the smallest venue.  I was not disappointed...this film was indescribable.  According to the film restoration person speaking before the film, most prints of this film in circulation were 16mm prints and they went back to the original 35mm negative and recreated a 35mm print.  The lead acress Lilian Harvey was quite beautiful.  This film is hard to categorize: musical, show-within-a-show, love story, had elements of many genres.  I sat between Will another guy who knew a lot about the film and the puppeteer troupes used in the film.  After the screening we got into an intellectual discussion about the film...until I abandoned Will and headed to the Egyptian for my next screening...stopping at the Starbucks along the way for a turkey sandwich and coffee which I inhaled on line for IT.

I've never seen the film IT, but was glad I saw it on Friday evening.  Live accompaniment by a 15-piece orchestra.  Clara Bow biographer David Stenn was full of insight before the film...gotta purchase his book.  Will and I sat down in front to be closer to the orchestra.  Bow has that joie de vivre, that 'fire within'...the 'IT' girl, for sure.  After the film, most people were rushing back up Hollywood Blvd. to get in line for one of my 'must sees' of the weekend.  Will and I escaped out the side fire-exits and got a jump on the crowd.  He was off to see Hondo.

Meanwhile I lined up for ON THE WATERFRONT and met Beth on line.  We both got into the massive 1100 seat Grauman's Chinese Theater and sat with Alan.  Introducing the film was Ben Mankiewicz who interviewed Eva Marie Saint.  They were having a fun time with each other.  The film was wonderful on the huge Chinese Theater screen.  Nice applause for all major actors with their first on-screen appearance.  What a great way to end the evening.

But wait!  There was a midnight screening of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE that started about 30 minutes after the previous film.  Great crowd, the house was about 2/3 full...many TCMParty folks in attendance.  Great laughter at all of the weirdness throughout the film.  (Curious? The entire film is online here.)

Got back to the room at 1:30am and caught up on twitter then hit the sack at 2am.