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.

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