Day Three (for me) Sunday March 29th, 2015
(READ PARTS ONE, TWO AND THREE HERE!)
The last day of the TCM Classic Film Festival and I was lying there, in bed, debating whether to get up and head off to Hollywood or stay and get some much-needed rest. While a lot of other Festivalgoers who were there that weekend sucked it up and carried on, I was not one of them. I could have sprung up from my hotel bed, headed to Hollywood Blvd and seen either The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Patton or Calamity Jane, but I didn’t. I guess at this point I should explain why I go to the Festival (if it hasn’t been clear already from the past installments).
I go to the TCM Film Festival to see my favourite films on screen. The big screen. Coming from a small town, I don’t live in LA or New York where they have revival houses and show classic films on a nightly basis. I’ve seen most films on a small TV screen. That’s what initially appealed to me about the Festival. In 2011 they showed Citizen Kane, at the still-named Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Some people skipped it because they’ve seen it a thousand times, as if it was old news. To me, sitting in that moving picture house, on that day, seeing the greatest film of all time projected onto that screen, I remember feeling like, to risk becoming a cliché, I had come home. It was if I was in church and Orson Welles was on screen preaching to me. To whole trip was worth it just to see that film, on that day, on that screen. Some people come to the Festival simply to watch movies they’ve never seen before; to discover new favourites. Some people come to see celebrities. I come to see my favourite movies on the big screen. And on that day, only two of my favourites were being shown. And not until noonish. So I was staying in bed.
I took the opportunity to load up some pictures on Facebook and Twitter. I noticed my friend Will McKinley, the hardest of hardcores, was taking the first block of movies off to eat breakfast, so this made me feel better. I read tweets from Festivalgoers and noticed I couldn’t find anything negative, such a rarity on the internet. People come from all over the world and enjoy themselves so much. It helps, I’m sure, that the Festival is run so efficiently. There was some negativity before the Festival about selections of certain films* but once everyone showed up, it was all smiles as far as I could see.
*Out of Sight, the 1998 George Clooney/Jennifer Lopez movie directed by Steven Soderbergh, one of my all-time favourite films btw, seemed to be the one everyone pointed to as an example of TCM ‘going in the wrong direction’ although there was a reason it was selected. The film’s editor, Anne V. Coates, who was being celebrated by the Festival, chose it as one of her favourite films she had worked on. And by my own admission, I didn’t line up to watch the film, as it conflicted with The Philadelphia Story. I think TCM shouldn’t show anything that isn’t in black and white most of the time. But as opposed to the odd person on Twitter who thinks TCM will be taken over by corporate suits and will start showing commercials and more modern films (aka “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”), I trust TCM and think they know what they are doing.
So I was finally off to Hollywood Blvd, waking all the way to the Egyptian, going a bit early cause I wanted to get another ham and cheese omelet from Musso and Franks but had forgotten they closed on Sundays. I got something to eat nearby (can’t remember what) and got a number to get in line for Gunga Din (1939). It was a sticky hot day (the kind of day where it’s so hot out your clothes stick to you) so I was glad to get a spot in line under the rooftop of the Egyptian, in the shade. Finally we made our way into the Egyptian and we were in for a treat.
This wasn’t just a presentation of Gunga Din. Like the night before’s presentation of Adam’s Rib by Greg Proops for his Film Club, this showing of Gunga Din was named “Academy Conversations presented by Craig Barron and Ben Burtt”, which frankly I didn’t know what that meant until I got there. The two are both Oscar winners (Burtt for Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in the sound effects category; Barron for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’s visual effects) and Gunga Din is a favourite for each of them. The macho adventure film starring Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Victor McLaglen has only one woman in the film and might be borderline racist, but it’s a heck of a good time of a movie. Burtt and Baron took a half hour to show us behind the scenes footage, took us to the location in California where the movie was filmed and showed us their visual effects were practical or done with a camera trick. They had a great back and forth banter and were very funny, I’d definitely go again if I heard they were speaking about any other films.
After this I headed over to the TCL Chinese Theater to get lined up for what would be my last film of the Festival; The Philadelphia Story (1940) with an all-star cast of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart among others. This required, again, joining the labyrinthine line twisting around the Hollywood and Highland mall, but it could be worse. In past years, I remember the same line spreading down Hollywood Blvd, causing even more chaos with adding TCM Festival goers to the tourists, celebrity impersonators and food vendors. This was a much better solution. In fact, it occurred to me that many of the problems I had given constructive criticism about they had addressed. Not to say they listened to me specifically, as I’m sure many TCM Festival goers are intelligent and saw the same problems I did and said so in the survey TCM puts out every year after the Festival.
Another thing I had noticed over the past few days was the number of young people at the festival, as in teenagers and people in their early twenties. I recalled attending my first Festival in 2011 and, with the exception of one kid who I believe was 10 years old (and famous, having been interviewed on TCM by Robert Osborne so everyone knew who he was), I was by far one of the youngest people at the Festival, and I was in my easy thirties. I also remembered in 2012, the last time I attended, there were young film students attending shows as well (they had different badges and stood out) as, if I remember correctly, TCM had given out passes to local film schools, which I thought was a brilliant idea. Apparently as the Festival, and TCM itself, has grown, a younger fan base has grown as well. That is a great sign, as with most things, TCM needs young fans to carry on the tradition of loving classic film, and for them to pass that along to their children, and so on and so on. I also noticed young people attending in packs, like their older counterparts, and people like me, attending solo, were still not the norm.
We made our way into the Chinese Theater and Illeana Douglas introduced the film with Madeline Stowe, which seemed like a stretch and that they wanted to have some kind of star power to show off. It turned out to be a fun conversation, with the audience learning about Stowe’s love of classic films, something I didn’t know before. Then the movie started. For me, if you want a great screwball romantic comedy starring Cary Grant, it’s either this film or His Girl Friday. Some people point to Bringing Up Baby but it’s taken a few times for me to watch that film without, well, just being annoyed with the characters. The first time I saw Baby, I wrote on Twitter that “after seeing Bringing Up Baby, now I know why Cary Grant socks Katherine Hepburn in the opening scene of The Philadelphia Story.” For me Grant is the greatest movie star ever, having the ability to do comedy, drama, action and even play the villain once in awhile. And add Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Virginia Weidler, who almost steals the show, and this adds up to one of my all-time favourites. And a great way to end the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival.
I went to the Roosevelt, as they always put on a nice Closing Night Party at Club TCM but I was very early. There was a whole block of movies still playing so I had a few hours until people would start showing up. I went to the restaurant inside the Roosevelt, 25 Degrees, and all the tables were taken so I sat at the counter. It took a few minutes for anyone to notice me and in the meantime, an older gentleman walked in and sat a few seats away from me and he was loudly complaining about something. I ordered a hamburger and the man kept saying the same thing over and over. Apparently he had tried to get into the Marriage Italian Style showing to give Sophia Loren a dozen roses but there were police there and he wasn’t let in, but they took the flowers. This might be hard to believe, but this man literally kept saying basically the same three sentences for the next 45 minutes. “How could they do that? They wouldn’t let me in to see Sophia Loren. And they took my flowers!” There may have been a few differences, like when a new person came along, mistakenly sat next to him and he would start over, but this went on and on. Luckily he wasn’t engaging me directly or I might have lost it. I ate my burger and headed to the Roosevelt lobby.
*Sidenote, the next day I went to the TCM website, as each day they would do a video update of the highlights so far. For the Sunday edition, they showed Sophia Loren being interviewed prior to Marriage Italian Style (I think by Ben Mankiewicz) but the brief clip that they showed had a stagehand handing Sophia Loren a dozen roses, presumably the same dozen roses the man was ranting about. Hopefully he saw that clip and it made him happy, otherwise he’s still probably telling that same story to some other people…
I was still very early for the Closing Night Party and getting tired. I headed out to the pool and sat there on one of their beach chairs, taking in the beautiful night, the light breeze yet warm weather and…I fell asleep. I woke up and it was still only 8pm. I went to the lobby and looked around for familiar faces. There were a few but they were in groups and already locked into conversations. I waited a half hour or so and then had to head back to my hotel and call it a night. The Boutique was closed, there was no more TCM merch to buy, no more movies to see, so the TCM Festival was done, for me anyway. I read on Twitter that some people stayed as late as they could, having to be nudged out by Roosevelt security.
In the weeks since this event, I have read many articles and blogs and Tweets regarding the Festival, all unanimously praising the Festival and saying they had a great time. And most importantly, they can’t wait for next year.
I had a few more days in Hollywood for vacation before I headed to Vancouver for the Fan Expo there. And to be honest, unlike my other trips to LA where I try to cram as much in to every day as possible, on this trip I relaxed, and slept. I still did some cool stuff though. Some movies I didn’t get to see at the Festival, like Rififi and The Man Who Would Be King, I managed to buy them shopping at my favourite store in LA, Amoeba (alongside Topher Grace, who was also shopping there and was walking out with a stack of ten or so movies). Rififi, in particular, was a Criterion Edition, so once I actually have some time at home I’m really looking forward to watching it (I am currently, again, on the road for work as I type this, in Regina, Saskatchewan, where I will be attending the Regina Fan Expo).
I went to Meltdown comics and bought DC Comics’ Convergence #0, which is the latest universe melding together crossover event in Superman and Batman’s worlds. I tried to go to my favourite place to watch a film in LA (other than the Chinese Theater), the New Beverly, so catch a screening of Heat, but to my surprise, on a Monday night, it was sold out, with a lineup down the street. I was happy that the New Beverly was selling out their films, but sad I couldn’t get in. I saw a few matinees at the Arc Light. The first, While We’re Young, was a good but not great film about documentary filmmaking (among other things), with sort of a All About Eve vibe for you classic fans. The second was What We Do in the Shadows, a hilarious mocumentary about vampires starring one half of Flight of the Conchords, Jermaine Clement. I highly recommend this film, it’s excellent…if you are into vampires at all. I then got to see Modern Times at the Arc Light, the young Chaplin film I had wanted to see at the TCM Film Festival, at a special screening. This may have been the highlight of the entire trip, if I am being honest. Doris Roberts was just a few seats away, FYI.
But the coolest thing, by far, I got to do was finally meet up with this website’s master and commander, Audrey Kearns. We met for coffee at a Starbucks right next to my hotel (she braved Hollywood, which most LA residents won’t do, so bravo!) and talked about a wide variety of things. The conversation went by way too fast and I’m looking forward to meeting up with Audrey again, in San Diego for Comic Con!
(EDITOR’S NOTE: WHY DIDN’T WE TAKE A PICTURE, CHRIS??????? DUH! SEE YOU AT SDCC!)
The next day I was off to LAX, almost didn’t make my flight, almost didn’t make it through security, and when I got to my gate, I looked out and saw this huge 737 airplane. Eventually I got on the plane and it was the biggest plane I’d ever been on. In first class, also heading to Vancouver for the Fan Expo were Brent Spiner and Lance Hendricksen. The best part was, again, I got a two seater all to myself! Something that never happens, it happened twice on the same trip. I was sad to leave LA, my home away from home, but I was headed ‘home’ to Canada (home was technically a few hours drive away from Vancouver but anyways…) and was very excited for the Vancouver Fan Expo and to see my friends. But that’s another article…