Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Thoughts on the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival

Photo courtesy TCM / by Edward M. Pio Roda

Things that stood out to me:

The good
  • I’d easily say this was my favorite of the three TCM Film Festivals that I've attended so far. Why? Because of all the new people I got to meet this year. There were a lot of first-timers that I met, but also a lot of folks that have been coming for years, that follow me on twitter that I just hadn't had the opportunity to visit with previously.
  • Lines for the Chinese Theater were better managed by moving most of the line up into the mall on the 2nd level (vs. having the line fill the courtyard of the theater and run up the steps.) Great idea from TCMFF management to do this: 1) more of the line is in the shade, 2) less obstruction with visitors who are looking at hand and footprints in front of the Chinese Theater.  (Also kudos for water being passed out for outside this the first time they've done that?  It was very welcome.)
  • Social Producers! Huge thanks to all who participated, and a special shout out to Social Producer Manager Noralil Ryan Fores (a TCM employee and about the kindest person you've ever met.)  This was a big hit...people loved doing the activities while waiting on line and getting buttons.  I, myself came down with a case of 'button fever'.  Keep this going for made many of the waits seem faster. Only suggestion I’d make is do something more than a white ribbon on the pass to identify the Social Producer folks. We heard a lot of “Who are these people? How do I find them?” type questions.  Maybe brightly colored t-shirts or hats with ‘Social Producer’ on them?
  • Midnight screenings.  Big thanks to TCM’s Millie De Chirico who programmed this years midnight screenings. BOOM! was the film I was most looking forward to seeing at the fest (believe it or not.)  It was deliciously terrible with laugh-out-loud lines delivered in over-the-top style.  It was a terrific fun sitting with Fussy, Nora, Jay, Miguel, Will (and many other folks.)  Fussy and I kept exchanging glances at each shocking line uttered in the film with expressions that could only be translated as "Can you even believe what is happening here?!"  NOTHING LASTS FOREVER was a rare treat...and what an interesting film.  My eyes were drooping during the first 30 minutes, but I really perked up when the seniors were taking their bus trip to the moon. Bizarre and lovely.  (More on this screening below....)
  • Ending the fest with an Italian film was wonderful for me. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love foreign film and have a special place in my heart for Italian films (especially Italian neo-realism films.) Though this wasn't a neo-realism film, it was directed by the great neo-realism director Vittorio De Sica. Also Sophia Loren and Ben Mankiewicz had such a great interview before the film. Aurora and I were verklempt after the interview.
  • TCM staff, family and volunteers. This is a huge part of the festival.  The logistics it takes to pull this off each year boggle my mind.  Slow clap for:
    • The folks that work for TCM (that I feel comfortable on a first-name basis: Scott, Millie, Noralil, Ben, etc.)
    • The familial guests they bring in each year that help with the pre-film interviews and introductions (Eddie Muller, Illeana Douglas, Leonard Maltin, Bruce Goldstein, etc.)
    • The countless staff and volunteers who were managing the lines, answering questions, passing out water bottles, etc. Everyone had a smile on their face...they were all happy to answer questions or point the way to the end of the line.  I tried to make a special point of thanking them for their service, especially on the final day.
  • Festival Guests.  How many times will I be able to sit 15 feet from 100 year old Normal Lloyd as he spins a yarn that has the audience laughing and applauding.  The discussions and interviews with stars past and present are things you can't find anywhere else and are the icing on the cake at the festival.

The bad
  • A small problem with our hotel reservation at the Loews Hollywood could have been an ominous start to our trip.  For those who hadn't heard: when checking in, Loews front desk staff told us we'd been 'walked' (hotel lingo for being sent to another hotel) to a property in Universal City...a couple miles up the 101.  They were going to comp our first night and gave us a voucher for a one-way cab to the other hotel.  I tweeted my frustration at the situation but it was really my fault...we had booked through an odd third-party booking agent and I told myself to call the hotel directly and confirm the reservation about 2-3 weeks out.  I never did.  We scrambled and ended up finding a room Wednesday night at the Roosevelt (a really nice room...a really expensive room) and a room for Thursday through Sunday nights at the Holiday Inn Express...just a little further up Highland past the Loews.  It was a fine room (and I only spent four hours a night there!)
  • I noticed for the first time one or two #OldMovieWeirdos. Something that may have been there every year, but I became aware of these folks this year for the first time. There was the guy playing his belly like a drum while on line for THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, and another who was chosen to ask a question in the Q&A segment before 42ND STREET. His question wasn’t very coherent (it’s like a call-in radio show where the host has to interrupt and ask “what’s your question?”.) I felt bad for Illeana Douglas who was conducting the interview...but she handled it well. (Maybe this was the same guy, who knows.)
  • Guy falling asleep during the midnight film NOTHING LASTS FOREVER. He was snoring loudly, and normally I wouldn't think twice about this at a midnight screen, however he was two seats away from director Tom Schiller. I felt so bad for him (the director, that is.)  Our saving grace was Will McKinley’s efforts to keep the poor snoring sap awake:  shoving him, sprinkling water on him, kicking his seat.

The ugly
  • There were more ‘cell phone distractions’ during film screenings this year. At some of the film intros there was mention of people taking pictures during the film. I thought “who would do that?!” Then--while watching THE PHILADELPHIA STORY in a packed Chinese Theater--a woman about three rows in front of me brazenly was taking pictures or shooting video with her phone during the film. I wanted to throw my empty water bottle at was so distracting.
  • During 42ND STREET, a guy in the row in front of me had his phone start ringing (it wasn't silenced!) He answers it while he’s seated.  In the theater.  While the film is running.  Then he starts talking to this person while he makes his way out of his seat and down the hallway. But he doesn't exit the theater, he’s carrying on this conversation about ten feet down the hallway...I could hear most of it.

Emotional moments:

  • Definitely the end of Chaplin’s LIMELIGHT...what a great film.  I wasn't prepared to be so touched by this...but I should have been, I mean, the end of CITY LIGHTS slays me each time.
  • Watching THE APARTMENT in the Chinese Theater surrounded by a bunch of friends. Shirley MacLaine’s line “I’m so fouled up, what am I going to do?” We've all been there...and that line always gets to me.

Final thought:

Leaving the festival this year was more difficult than the past two years.  I suppose it's because of the many new faces that I met and befriended.  As I watched YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU on the flight to my layover in Houston, I marveled--like I always do--at the random, crazy cast of characters that live in that house.  Then I realized, that's us...we're each different, we each come from different places, with different jobs and we drive different cars, and listen to different music.  We're different ages and races and genders...and we're a little kooky to watch 18 films in three and half days.  But somehow it works and we genuinely care for each other no matter how different the other person is.  Just like the Vanderhof family (and their adopted members) the die is cast...we're lilies of the field.

I'm very much looking forward to next year's TCM Classic Film Festival.

OK, enough of the weepy stuff...on to...

The films:

By day (N = New, R = Rewatch):

  • Thursday
    • TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) - N
    • MY MAN GODFREY (1936) - R
  • Friday
    • REIGN OF TERROR (1949) - N
    • LIMELIGHT (1952) - N
    • RIFIFI (1955) - R
    • THE BANK DICK (1940) - N
    • BOOM! (1968) - N
  • Saturday
    • WHY BE GOOD? (1929) - N
    • 42ND STREET (1933) - R
    • AIR MAIL (1932) - N
    • THE APARTMENT (1960) - R
    • THE LOVED ONE (1965) - R
  • Sunday
    • NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) - N
    • PSYCHO (1960) - R

By decade:
  • 1910s - 0
  • 1920s - 1
  • 1930s - 3     
  • 1940s - 5
  • 1950s - 2
  • 1960s - 5
  • 1970s - 0
  • 1980s - 1

By screening type:
  • 35mm - 9
  • DCP - 8

New/Previously seen:
  • New - 10
  • Rewatch - 7