TCMFF 2018

TCMFF 2018, Day 4: Settling Down

After a few days of running on all cylinders during TCMFF, by the time Sunday comes around, I’m always ready to slow things down a little bit. This was definitely a very leisurely day for me; I only ended up going to 3 different events.

On Sunday mornings, not only do you have the first block of movies to choose from, there’s always something cool going on over at Larry Edmunds Bookshop. In the past, Larry Edmunds has hosted book signings with people like Shirley Jones and Tippi Hedren on Sunday mornings and I’ve always wanted to one of their events, but I’ve never been able to get over there. So when they announced that this year’s special Sunday guest would be with Marsha Hunt, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Marsha Hunt Eddie Muller

Getting to spend a morning with Marsha Hunt was nothing less than an honor. She’s such a remarkable woman and to be able to hear her talk about her life and career was a real treat. It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to hear about Hollywood blacklisting who experienced it firsthand. It was particularly amazing to have the chance to see her in the bookstore because it was a setting that made the event feel so personal. Marsha was joined by two people who know her very well, Eddie Muller and Roger C. Memos, director of the documentary Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity. I’ve been hearing great things about this documentary for a while now, so I was very excited that we were able to see a few clips from it during the event. I definitely hope to be able to see the whole thing in the future.

Since Marsha had turned 100 a few months before the festival, we also had the opportunity to have some cake with her and sing happy birthday. The cake was absolutely delicious, making an already incredible event even better.

Astaire Silk Stockings

After my trip to Larry Edmunds, I had a little bit of a break before catching my next movie: Silk Stockings. A musical with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse is the sort of lighthearted entertainment I typically like on a Sunday afternoon. I wouldn’t say Silk Stockings is one of my all-time favorite musicals, but it’s still the sort of movie I like to revisit every once in a while just because I have such a big soft spot for splashy technicolor musicals and because I love Fred and Cyd so much. It’s definitely a fun movie to see in a theater. The print we saw was a new digital print, which looked absolutely fantastic.

1937 A Star is Born

For my last movie of the festival, I finally got to catch one of the nitrate print screenings at the Egyptian. It had been a very long time since I’d seen the 1937 version of A Star is Born and it was great to finally see it again. It was much funnier than I had remembered it being and the nitrate print was absolutely stunning. Even though I’ve seen plenty of movies that feature famous locations in Hollywood, it was very cool to be able to see shots like the forecourt of the Chinese Theater while sitting down the street from the Chinese Theater. William Wellman Jr. was on hand to discuss the movie before the screening, talking about things like the real-life people and events that inspired the film and how his father fought to make the film.

And with that, my fifth trip to the TCM Film Festival came to an end. As always, I had an amazing time and I came home with a lot of great memories. I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival!

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TCMFF 2018, Day 3: Playing it By Ear

TCMFF is always full of hard choices, but in any given time slot, there’s usually at least one event that I’m least interested in, which helps narrow it down. That was not the case for me with today’s first block. Not only were all of the movies playing in the first time slot all excellent, there were some other cool events going on like a meet-up for fans of musicals and an event at the ASC clubhouse, so there was literally nothing I simply wasn’t interested in. I figured I would just play it by ear and see how I felt when I got up that day, but when I got up, my decision wasn’t any easier. I managed to narrow it down to the panel discussion at the ASC clubhouse and Kiss Me Deadly at the TCL multiplex, but I still didn’t know which way to go. Since they started at different times, I decided to just start getting ready for the day and depending on when I finished getting ready, that would decide it for me. The winner: Kiss Me Deadly.

Kiss Me Deadly

I had only seen Kiss Me Deadly once before, but that was several years ago and I didn’t remember it very well, so it was like getting to see it for the first time all over again. It may not have been the most lighthearted way to start the day, but I’m so glad I went because it was awesome. Getting to experience that ending in a theater was really intense. If you’re a fan of the movie and ever have the chance to see it in a theater, go see it because getting to hear the sound at the very end of the movie over a really good sound system is definitely something you won’t forget.

When You Read This Letter

After Kiss Me Deadly, I went to check out Jean-Pierre Melville’s When You Read This Letter. I only recently started discovering Melville’s work, so this was one I really didn’t want to miss. It’s a movie that can be extremely frustrating; filled with ambiguity and characters who behave in questionable ways. But it has a lot of beautiful shots and moments that are quite startling. There were quite a few moments that drew gasps from the audience. Without getting into any spoilers, the ending completely floored me, yet I was satisfied with it. I definitely need to see some more of Mellville’s films.

Sunset Boulevard Gloria Swanson William Holden

Next up was a trip to the Chinese Theater for Sunset Boulevard introduced by Nancy Olson. Sunset is one of my all-time favorite movies and I’d been waiting for about 10 years to have a chance to see it on the big screen, so this was an opportunity I was not about to pass up. Although I must say, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever be waiting to see Sunset Boulevard while surrounded by a bunch of ‘NSYNC fans. The line for Sunset ran up through the Hollywood Highland shopping center, where there was also a long line for a pop-up shop with ‘NSYNC merchandise. Only on Hollywood Boulevard would there be a point in time when a bunch of Gloria Swanson/Bill Holden/Billy Wilder fans and ‘NSYNC fans would ever be in the same place at the same time.

Seeing Sunset Boulevard in a theater was everything I had hoped it would be. Gloria Swanson was just made for the big screen. There were several shots that were so much more impactful to see in a theatrical setting and the Franz Waxman score sounded absolutely amazing on the Chinese Theater’s sound system. Even though I’d seen the movie many, many times before, this was like getting to see it for the first time all over again. And Nancy’s discussion with Michael Feinstein before the movie was terrific. She talked a bit about her career before she was cast in Sunset and what it was like working with the great Billy Wilder. One interesting story she told was about how the clothes she wears in the movie were her own personal wardrobe. Billy hadn’t been satisfied with the costume designs Edith Head had been coming up with for her character, so he eventually told Nancy to just wear what she normally wears to the studio.

Show People Marion Davies William Haines Charlie Chaplin

The next time slot was another one I was very torn on. I always love Hollywood Home Movies, but this year, it was up against a screening of Marion Davies’ Show People over at the Egyptian, introduced by my friend Lara from Backlots. It ended up being another case where I made an extremely last minute decision and Show People won. I thought it would be nice to follow up Sunset Boulevard with a more lighthearted Hollywood tale. Plus, Show People is one of those movies that absolutely begs to be seen with an appreciative crowd. There’s nothing quite like getting to see a silent comedy in a theater full of people laughing along, plus it had been a long time since I’d last seen it so the jokes felt very fresh to me. Even though the movie got interrupted by a false fire alarm, going to this screening was nothing less than pure joy.

Paul Muni Ann Dvorak Scarface

After Show People, I decided to go in a completely different direction (stylistically speaking) by seeing 1932’s Scarface, which was introduced by John Carpenter. As tempting as the screening of The Big Lebowski was, Scarface won this block for me since I figured I’d have fewer chances to see that movie in a theater. This is another movie I hadn’t seen in a pretty long time and I was really glad to revisit it. The performances by Paul Muni and Ann Dvorak are both electrifying to see on TV at home, just imagine how great it was to see them on a nice big screen.

Night of the Living Dead

Every year, I look forward to the festival’s two midnight movies, but I just didn’t have the energy for The World’s Greatest Sinner the day before. But that’s okay, because tonight’s screening of Night of the Living Dead was the one I was most excited for. You know it’s going to be a good screening when you’re having a blast and the movie hadn’t even started yet. There are a few attendees who often bring fun favors to hand out at the midnight screenings and this time, they had zombie cookies (both in black and white and colorized) and cardboard masks.

Originally, director Edgar Wright had been scheduled to introduce Night of the Living Dead, but unfortunately, he had some issues with his visa and wasn’t able to make it. However, he did arrange for Simon Pegg to to fill in for him, which was really awesome. It was a movie that clearly meant a lot to him, so his intro was great. Getting to see the brand new, crystal-clear restoration of Night of the Living Dead in a theater was a real treat. I’d recently picked up the Criterion blu-ray of that movie so I knew how good the restoration was, but getting to see it in a theater with so many people having fun and with Simon Pegg’s introduction, this was easily one of my all-time favorite TCMFF screenings. Completely and totally worth staying up late for.

TCMFF 2018, Day 2: Memorable Events

Grand Prix 1966

For the first full day of TCMFF 2018, I started things off by doing two things I’d always wanted to do at the festival: go to an event at the Cinerama Dome and go to an event Eva Marie Saint would be at. Going to the screening of Grand Prix meant skipping one of my favorite movies — Witness for the Prosecution — but it was totally worth it because I’ll probably never be able to have that experience of seeing it in an original Cinerama Dome ever again.

I wouldn’t say it was my favorite movie of the festival, but it was one of my favorite experiences. Grand Prix was meant to be seen in Cinerama theaters and it made full use of every single inch of that massive screen. I absolutely could have ordered the DVD off Amazon when I got home or waited for TCM to show it, but it just wouldn’t have been the same. Plus, there wouldn’t have been the drama of seeing it in its original roadshow format, complete with overture and exit music. I really appreciated the effort they put into recreating the experience of seeing Grand Prix at the Cinerama Dome in 1966. They even handed out reproductions of the original program, similar to the ones you get when seeing a live theater show.

During the after-movie discussion with Eva Marie Saint, she stated that this wasn’t one of her favorites of the movies she made, but she was able to tell us stories about things like what it was like to work with legendary hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff. She also discussed what it was like to work with Brando on On the Waterfront.

Harold Lloyd Safety Last

After Grand Prix, I had originally been planning to head back to the TCL Multiplex to catch How to Marry a Millionaire. But when the discussion with Eva Marie Saint ran a little bit long, I didn’t have enough time to get over there. But I was just a few minutes away from the Linwood Dunn theater, where they were doing a special presentation of Harold Lloyd’s 3D photography, presented by Harold’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd, which I was extremely interested in anyway.

Whenever I talk to people who are attending TCMFF for the first time and they ask if I have any advice, one thing I’ll say is to just relax and go with it. And this is a good example of why I say that because even though the Harold Lloyd event wasn’t what I set out planning to go to that day, it ended up being one of my favorite events of the festival. This was a truly unique event that was so much more than just 3D photography, which was absolutely spectacular. He was a master at playing with depth. Lots of familiar faces were among his photography subjects, including Dick Powell, Arlene Dahl, Ronald Reagan, Jayne Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe. Lloyd’s 3D photographs of Marilyn Monroe are actually the only time she is known to have been photographed in 3D. One photo that got a huge reaction from the crowd was one of Glenn Ford standing on the ledge of a cliff.

One of the biggest highlights of the event was getting to see some of Harold’s home movies. It’s always interesting to see the home movies of Hollywood legends because you can really learn a lot from them. The main thing I learned by seeing Harold’s home movies is that he very genuinely loved film technology. They showed a series of clips that spanned several decades and some of them were remarkably innovative in regards to the technology involved. There was footage of him with his family in the 1920s which was shot on 35mm, there was footage from the late 1920s/early 1930s which was in color, and most remarkably, there was footage from the 1930s which actually had sound.

They also screened a couple of his short films on a hand-cranked projector from 1909 and accompanied by one of the few remaining original fotoplayers from the silent film era. There was also a sequence from Safety Last! which had gone through an experimental 3D conversion. I normally have strong opinions against converting films to 3D when the filmmaker is no longer around to approve of it. But I believe that if any of the big silent film stars would be OK with having one of their movies converted to 3D, at least just as an experiment, it would have been Harold Lloyd. I was impressed by how good it looked.

Carole Lombard Gary Cooper I Take This Woman

After the Harold Lloyd event, I had a little bit of a break before checking out I Take This Woman starring Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper. I won’t cut corners on this one — it wasn’t a particularly great movie. The cast did the best they could with what they had to work with, but it just wasn’t the greatest script. However, I’m very happy that I at least had a chance to see it for myself. I’m a fan of both Lombard and Cooper so this is the sort of movie that I could picture myself reading about on IMDB and really wishing I could see it. Now I’ve seen it and I’m a little bit closer to seeing as many Carole Lombard movies as possible.

Jayne Mansfield Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter

For my last movie of the day, I couldn’t resist the chance to see Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter on the big screen. There were a lot of great things going on during that time slot, but I always get such a big laugh out of Rock Hunter and I knew getting to see it on the big screen with a crowd was going to be a lot of fun — and I was not disappointed. There really isn’t anything quite like seeing a great comedy with an appreciative crowd. It had been a while since I’d last seen it, so all the jokes felt really fresh to me. It was a delightful way to end the day.

My Choices for TCMFF 2018

 

TCMFF 2018

It’s that time of year again! In a little under three weeks, I’ll be heading off to Hollywood for the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival. The festival is always one of the big highlights of the year for me and I’m ridiculously excited to get out there for this year’s line-up.

As always, there were a lot of hard choices to make. In a few cases, there were so many things to choose from that I’m just going to wait to see how I feel the day of. But after much hand-wringing and over-analyzing, I think I have my general plan figured out. I fully expect my plans to change a little bit — they always do. But for now, here’s where I’m planning to be:

Thursday, April 26

Throne of Blood

Over the past few years, watching the red carpet arrivals has been my favorite way to spend opening night. It’s a lot of fun and a good way to see some of the special guests who I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to see. Whether or not I make it to the first block of movies is pretty up in the air, though. I would absolutely love to see Finishing School, but there’s a good chance I’ll end up needing a dinner break. After that though, I’m definitely in for Throne of Blood. Even if I miss Finishing School, seeing the famous arrow scene in Throne of Blood seems like an excellent way to start the festival.

Friday, April 27

How to Marry a Millionaire

Right off the bat, I have to make some hard choices here. For the first block, it’s awfully hard for me to pass up the chance to see Strangers on a Train or Ernst Lubitsch’s The Merry Widow on the big screen. There’s also a screening of some Pink Panther cartoons, which would be fantastic. And in the second block, there’s Witness for the Prosecution at the Egyptian, which had been one of the early announcements I was most excited for. But I actually don’t think I’m going to go for any of those. Instead, I’ll most likely go check out Grand Prix at the Cinerama Dome. It really, really pains me to miss Witness for the Prosecution, but I’ve never been to a screening at the Cinerama Dome and I’ve never seen Eva Marie Saint introduce anything, so this seems like a great opportunity.

Opting for Grand Prix also gives me a little more flexibility for the next block. The two I’m most interested in next are How to Marry a Millionaire and the presentation of Harold Lloyd’s work with 3D photography, as well as some of his short films. If I had done Witness for the Prosecution at the Egyptian, that would only leave me with a few minutes to get to Millionaire or I’d be taking a gamble on whether or not I could get to the Linwood Dunn Theater for Harold Lloyd, since that theater seats less than 300 and I wouldn’t exactly be able to line up early. But with Grand Prix, I have more time to work with either way. I’m leaning toward the Harold Lloyd presentation since that sounds like the more unique experience, but I could see myself being swayed by Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, and Betty Grable.

Another star I was very excited to hear would be at TCMFF this year is Marsha Hunt. I have never seen None Shall Escape and with Marsha Hunt there to introduce it, this is one of my must-sees. After that, I’m hoping to quickly get something to eat before I Take This Woman. A rare pre-code starring Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper — I’m sold just on that premise.

After that, I’ll be heading to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. I love this movie; it’s hilarious and it would be so much fun to see it with a crowd. In fact, one reason why I’m tempted by How to Marry a Millionaire is because I feel like getting to see a Marilyn Monroe movie and a Jayne Mansfield movie on the same day would be amazing. Lastly, I’ll be down for The World’s Greatest Sinner at midnight. I’ve never seen it, but it sounds like the kind of gloriously crazy movie that makes the midnight screenings at TCMFF so memorable.

Saturday, April 28

Sunset Boulvard Gloria Swanson Cecil B. DeMille

Once again, I’m starting the day off with a lot of hard choices. In the first block, His Girl Friday, The Ox-Bow Incident, Kiss Me Deadly, Love Finds Andy Hardy, and A Letter to Three Wives are all playing at the same time, as well as an event over at the ASC Clubhouse. If I had to make my choice today, I’d go with Kiss Me Deadly, but I have a feeling this is just going to come down to how I wake up feeling that day.

After that, I’ll most likely be heading to theater 6 in the TCL multiplex for When You Read This Letter. I recently watched Le Samourai for the first time and loved it, so I’d be very happy to see another Jean-Pierre Melville movie. Although This Thing Called Love sure sounds intriguing.

Now we’re at some of my hardest decisions of the festival. At the Egyptian, there are three movies in a row I’d be delighted to see on the big screen: Wife vs. SecretaryGirls About Town, and Show People. But then there’s Sunset Boulevard at the Chinese Theater, introduced by Nancy Olson, and Hollywood Home Movies at the Roosevelt. Normally, I would say that Sunset Boulevard is something I’d likely to see in a theater at home. But it’s a movie I’ve been dying to see on the big screen for several years now and the Chinese Theater would be the perfect place to see it. I’ve also done Hollywood Home Movies every year that I’ve attended the festival and I’ve loved it every time. It’s a tough call, but I think Sunset and Hollywood Home Movies win out here. I figure that at least the other movies have the potential to get a TBA slot on Sunday.

For the second-to-last block of the day I’m very excited to see the 1932 version of Scarface on the schedule. But I was also just thinking recently that I haven’t seen The Big Lebowski in a really long time. I’ll most likely go with Scarface, but if there are any last-minute guest additions for Lebowski, my choice could get even harder.

Tonight’s midnight movie is one of my big must-sees this year’s festival: Night of the Living Dead introduced by Edgar Wright. I just got the new blu-ray of this from Criterion and the restored print is absolutely amazing, so I can’t wait to see it on a big screen.

Sunday, April 29

Silk Stockings Fred Astaire Cyd Charisse

I usually don’t get my heart set on too many things in advance for Sundays during the festival. Since there are several TBA slots for movies that were popular enough to deserve a second screening, and there are several movies I’m hoping will take the TBA slots this year, this approach holds very true once again. But if I were to go just based on the things I know will definitely happening, I’d choose Woman of the YearPlaces in the Heart, either Silk Stockings or the presentation on almost-lost films in Club TCM, and either A Star is Born or Animal House.