Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

TCM’d: Film Fest Recap

tcmff13

You know you’re getting old after completing something monumentally fun and your hair hurts from the effort. The hair no longer there, mind you. Still, I’ve completed what I think was a personal best, movie and number-wise. That being my first 3-day weekend attendance at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

Sure, I live in the same city as this celebratory event, now four years old. However, nary one of their screenings did I do till last year, via an impromptu stop in a festival standby line. You see, the first two years TCM scheduled this opposite the longstanding L.A. Times Festival of Books. In other words, during the same weekend of the largest, two-day, book festival in the U.S.

Something we, as a family and friends, never miss.

So, it pitted two things I love, books and film, against one another. As Faye Dunaway said in Three Days of the Condor:

“This is…unfair!”

Not that my complaints made any difference, but TCM shifted the festival back to the fourth weekend in April come 2012. I’d have no excuse whatsoever to ignore it going forward. With this film event staged in the heart of Hollywood, centered around the Roosevelt Hotel (you guys know it’s haunted, right?), you damn well better be prepared.

TCM surely was.

The organizers ran it like a well maintained carbon arc projector. Using the famed movie palaces of Grauman’s Chinese (I refuse to use TCL out of reverence for this landmark) and the Egyptian Theatres along Hollywood Blvd. as showcases. Challenging to say the least. Especially considering the notorious (almost legendary) pedestrian foot traffic along the Walk of Fame. Yet, the long lines were organized and efficient, and worth the wait.

Praise indeed as L.A. is my hometown and Hollywood is not for the meek.

Picked up my Palace Pass the day before on Thursday and planned out my schedule in advance. Needed in the utmost as my daughter’s orchestra recital would also happen at the weekend’s midpoint in Anaheim, way down come Disneyland way. Oh, boy. This is why you have a car in Los Angeles. Everything else risks not getting around to anything situated within our well-known sprawl.

The film festival joyously overflowed in people and film.

Friday

the swimmerThe Swimmer (1968) – I thought I was getting one over on the folks jammed into the palaces for Ben-Hur and The Night of the Hunter by heading to this 9 AM showing in the Chinese Multiplex House #1. Nope, this was packed, too. A Burt Lancaster role I’d always heard of (his favorite), but had never seen. Ideal, too. Allison Anders interviewing Marge Champion, another best. Check out Dennis Cozzalio’s Day 1, Pt 1: Disillusionment and Bliss post on this supremely allegorical tale.

The Narrow MarginThe Narrow Margin (1952) – The large gaping hole in my film noir log that had to be filled was done so right here. And in the Egyptian Theatre, at high noon. Yes, I’d seen the 1990 remake, but the Richard Fleischer original certainly made that pale. And with Jacqueline White there, it was such a great experience. I didn’t even mind when the projectionist missed a changeover ‘cuz…wait for it…a 35mm print was used! Fantastic.

Bonnie and ClydeBonnie and Clyde (1967) – Anytime I can return to The Chinese Theatre, it’s memorable. So with this landmark film, one my friend and author John Kenneth Muir cited as one of the earliest and best of savage cinema, how could I pass that up? It’d been years, but Arthur Penn’s production had lost none of its power and appeal. Robert Benton’s in-house anecdotes were sublime. In fact, Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie broke my heart all over again by the time the audience reached its still shocking finale.

The Great EscapeThe Great Escape (1963) – For weeks, I’d be waiting for this 5:30 PM screening of a James Garner favorite, mine as well, one of great war films of all-time. At the Chinese Theatre where it premiered 50 years ago and played for weeks. Producer Walter Mirisch’s interview made that much more special when my son arrived after-school (taking two buses to get there) in time to get through the stand-by line to join me. His first time with the film and venue. Just doesn’t get any better than that.

Best way to end the day really — my first quadruple-header, ever.

Saturday

As I attended my daughter’s orchestra down in Orange County this day (wouldn’t miss it for the world), this proved my lightest movie-wise. But I got back in time to see…

Le MansLe Mans (1971) – One of few Steve McQueen films I’d missed over the years. A near legendary, quasi-documentary thrill ride of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the gear-heads and movie lovers. With son Chad, race drivers Derek Bell and Vic Elford discussing the film in person, I wouldn’t miss the 9:15 PM starter’s flag. As the Porsche drivers exclaimed re: the engine roars awaiting, nothing sounds like this movie… before or since. They were right, of course.

Sunday

GildaGilda (1946) – The actress Debra Winger led a packed house for the 9 AM show of the film that forever set Rita Hayworth in the minds of everyone, man or woman. It was simply something to behold on the Egyptian’s big screen. My son clapped when it was over. A tinge of sadness came with me out the door, however. Rita was always Gilda from that moment forward. “Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda… and woke up with me.”, she forlornly confessed years later.

The BirdsThe Birds (1963) – I’d missed the Turner Classic Movies, Universal Studios, and Fathom event for this film the year before. Wasn’t about to do it again, especially in Grauman’s Chinese. And with Tippi Hedren in person, right there as Hitch’s target! As I mentioned to Aurora in her piece on the work, this “…struck an emotional chord that Alfred’s films rarely hit“. “Here, a good bit of the melodrama was hot-blooded.” My son scrunched down throughout and almost shouted at Melanie to “…not go up those stairs!

Three Days of the CondorThree Days of the Condor (1975) – My final film had to a good one, and it was. With Max Von Sydow among those being celebrated at this year’s fest, a number of his films were on the schedule. Robert Osborne interviewed the Swedish actor right before the film’s projection onto the Chinese Theatre’s screen. The digital print and Dave Grusin’s score never looked and sounded as good as it did here. The whole cast, actually. Don’t tell his mother, but my son’s favorite quote in the entire film was another line delivered by Faye Dunaway:

“Oh no, I’ll help. You can always depend on the ol’ spy fucker.”

Addendum

Eight films in three days and I wanted more. In a happening such as this, no matter how much you take in, you’re going to miss most of it. For those I’ve listed, what competed and lost in my selection process (or lacking the time and energy) was:

Ben-Hur, The Night of the Hunter, River of No Return, Notorious, The Twelve Chairs, On the Waterfront, To Sir With Love, Mildred Pierce, Badlands, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Scarecrow, The Train (twice), Cape Fear (the original), Giant, Deliverance, Shane, The Seventh Seal, The Lady Eve, The African Queen, The General, and Airplane!

And that didn’t count the midnight screenings for Plan 9 From Outer Space and Island of Lost Souls! Just a fraction of it all. I wish they could re-run the fest another four or five times just so I could catch everything I pined for.

Just the same, what I saw or came in contact last weekend was pure highlight reel (even if it did cost me in gas, parking, driving to hell and gone, and sleep). Matching this was the delight in meeting up with some truly special and remarkable people. Some of them movie bloggers, scribes, and Twitterers who’ve kept me enthralled the past year with their continuing interest and writing toward all things cinematic. It was simply great to put a face to:

  • Paula of Paula Cinema Club, who is just an absolute joy to speak to
  • Followed closely by her husband Tim of Alchemist Blend
  • So, too, the awesome Aurora of Once upon a screen…
  • The splendid Iba of i luv cinema (meeting after her last film on Saturday)
  • A too quick howdy with Will McKinley, the NYC-based writer, producer and classic film obsessive
  • And those attending or around the same venue as I while in the Twitterverse, a 140 character thoughts at a time via the #TCMFF hashtag.

The three-day set at the TCM Film Festival really turned out to be a high point for 2013. All I know is what it’s now come down to:

Let’s plan to meet up again next year!

photo of TCMFF 2013

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28 Responses to “TCM’d: Film Fest Recap”

  1. Paula

    Thanks so much Michael…you are too kind and an absolute joy as well. I know I keep saying this, I’m sorry we didn’t spend more time together…I kept changing my mind and often wouldn’t know what I was going to do until a movie ended and I had to choose. See you next year I hope 🙂

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    • le0pard13

      Thank you so very much, Paula. The time spent at the festival was so very worthwhile. I wished, too, we all had gotten more time together, but we will try and rectify that in 2014 ;-).

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  2. Le

    I’m obsessively reading all the posts on the TCMFF. You all seem to have had a wonderful time, and this only make me wish to go one year!
    Thanks for the post!
    Cheers!

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    • le0pard13

      Yes, it was a wonderful time at TCMFF. I sincerely hope you can come out here to join in on the festivities, Le. If and when you do, please let us know so we can meet up. Many thanks :-).

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  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael:

    Not to sound cliche, but it appears a splendid time was had by all!

    Not a bad list of films to enjoy on the big screen, either.

    Always preferred the novel, ‘The Six Days of the Condor’ to the film. But Redford and Dunaway do work well together.

    While ‘The Birds’ is the kind of film where you find something new with each viewing.

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    • le0pard13

      It was a splendid time, Kevin. I thought I’d enjoy it, but that was surpassed. Thanks so much for the read and your thoughts, my friend.

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  4. Aurora

    wonderful recap, Michael! Can’t wait to get to mine. getting the oppotunity to meet and talk to you at length was a highlight! And your son’s reactions to Gilda made my day!

    Aurora

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    • le0pard13

      Highlights all around! Thanks so much for the shout out and the kind words sent our way, Aurora. Look forward to seeing you next year 🙂

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  5. filmhipster

    Wow, now that sounds like fun!!!! Minus your hair hurting of course. Looks like you saw some good ones, what really stands out to me is Steve McQueen’s Le Mans which I’ve never seen. Must rent that sometime.

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    • le0pard13

      Oh, yeah. Be sure to check out ‘Le Mans’. I know I’ll be picking up the Blu-ray. Turn it up, too. The old sounds of the real racing Ferraris and Porsches is something to behold. Thanks, Chris.

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    • le0pard13

      I think I’ve seen Bonnie and Clyde a half dozen times, and twice in a theater setting. The first during its initial run and here at the TCMFF. Both times being startling and awesome. Thanks, my friend.

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    • le0pard13

      Thank you very kindly, TM. I’ve been to couple before this, but TCMFF in organization, volume and quality of the classic films presented blew them all out of the water.

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  6. Eric @ The Warning Sign

    Awesome recap, Michael, really enjoyed reading this! Sounds like a great little festival, and it’s so cool that you were able to meet up with other bloggers, too.

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  7. The Focused Filmographer

    sounds like a wonderful weekend! Wow! AND you got to meet Paula and Tim?! how great is that?!

    Thanks for sharing. I’d love to see The Great Escape on the big screen!

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    • le0pard13

      It’s a great film to experience on the big screen, alright. Fantastic weekend, shared with family and friends. Doesn’t get any better than that. Thanks, T.

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  8. Rachel

    So glad you did this recap! It was great to read and I even felt a bit of the whirlwind that must have been your weekend. What a great time! Love your son’s fave quote.

    I can’t imagine seeing The Great Escape on the big screen. I have this weird suffocation via chest compression phobia so that movie on the small screen trips my sympathetic nervous system like no how and all I want to do is “flight.” 🙂 Seeing it on the big screen would probably leave me paralyzed with fear that the tunnel is going to collapse on me… yes, ME even though I’m obviously not in the film.

    I noticed the LATFoB is earlier next year (second weekend in April) so perhaps another year of no overlap?

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    • le0pard13

      Yeah, whirlwind was a great descriptor, Rachel. Y’know, I experienced a bit of that myself when watching ‘The Great Escape’ at this venue. I wish I was as cool McQueen and Garner, but Bronson in panic-mode would be closer to the truth.

      I hadn’t checked, but that’s most interesting. Good, too. I’m sure the exhaustion I felt was due to both of these weekend events coming one right after the other. LATFOB, a break, and TCMFF is a much better schedule.

      Thank you very much, Rachel.

      p.s., how’s autumn in the southern hemisphere so far? Please send or post pictures :-).

      p.p.s., my wife wants to know what’s the voltage in NZ?

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  9. Rachel

    Regarding postscripts…

    Autumn is not bad so far other than that I can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that it’s May. It’s just not May weather! Bit rainy, foggy, with beautiful sunny days interspersed. The constantly changing weather makes for some lovely walks on the beach. I want to take a picture of everything. 🙂

    Speaking of pics… I will email you a link for the best place to view.

    NZ voltage is 220 which means we sacrificed an awesome collection of kitchen appliances in the move. 😦 It was a bummer and now we will have to get the collection going again but oh well… it’s only stuff. We each chose one thing we hoped would survive the crank up in voltage. I chose the rice cooker; Jeff chose the hand mixer. Our hopes are not high though as the Netherlands is on 220 as well and we had some very interesting times with the hair clippers we tried to use there. ha!

    We have adapters for our computers and phones so when you come visit we’ll have you all set up. 🙂

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