Sunday, March 15, 2015

TCM 2015 Classic Film Festival Picks

Hello all, anyone else been obsessively picking and choosing movies for the film festival and then completely starting over?  No, just me then :).  This year has been particularly tough cause I find myself with a number of conflicts and the added bonus of thinking about another person.

As most of you know, my dad is going to be attending his first film festival this year.  We also have the extreme pleasure of covering the festival as part of the Social Producers Program, which is absolutely thrilling.  I've been coy about sharing the news, but now I'm gonna say it loud and proud :).  I was contacted by TCM, submitted 2 proposals, they liked one and got approved.  My dad and I are extremely excited to tackle this really exciting and awesome opportunity.  Look for us on twitter: @diandapanda.  I went ahead and made some cards for use at Moo.  I loved the cards I made last year and had to make more:

I'm not totally sure how much use we're going to get out of them, but it was really fun to find classic Father/Daughter duos from film and real life.  If you see me or my dad feel free to ask for one. Anyway, back to the schedule.

And now onto the schedule!  The much anticipated full schedule was released this past Monday, I randomly checked the festival website before getting out of my car at work on Monday morning and was thrilled to find that it was available.  I quickly tweeted about it and then texted my dad to let him know that we had some decisions to make.  But, unfortunately, I didn't have much time to peruse it until my lunch break.  When I did finally get a full look at the schedule I noticed some tough choices that had to be made. Over the past 6 days I've ended up with about 4 different schedules, some that primarily focused on absolute favorite movies that I just HAD to see on the big screen,  one that showcased all the special guests, one that deferred completely to my dad's interests and taste, and one that consisted of new to me films.  And now I finally think that I have arrived at a happy mix of all these different schedules. So without further ado, here comes our (tentative) schedule.

Thursday Afternoon: Meet TCM, So You Think You Know Movies, Welcome Party at the Roosevelt Hotel.  Easy choices, since there aren't any conflicts :)
Here's the Roosevelt during the fest last year
Thursday Time Slot: Embracing New Things and Special Guest
The first conflict comes right off the bat.  For all previous festivals I've had the unbelievable pleasure of attending the Opening Night Red Carpet Movie at Grauman's, however this year I won't have access to that.  So how does one choose between Queen Christina and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance?  For me the deciding factor was the inclusion of special guest Keith Carradine at The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  I have been trying to embrace Westerns more, so perhaps this will help.

Thursday Second Time Slot: Favorite/Must See
Again, hard to pick, but we're gonna go with My Man Godfrey, it's close to impossible to pass up a chance to see Carole Lombard and William Powell on the big screen.  Although the screening of The Sea Hawk with Errol Flynn's daughter in attendance is extremely tempting, I think the late ending time is a deterrent for us.

Friday First Time Slot: New to Me vs. Must See
For this movie block, I'm leaning towards The Dawn of Technicolor, while my dad is leaning towards Inherit the Wind.  I'm not sure what we're going to decide on here.

Friday Second Time Slot: Special Guest
We're gonna go with Lenny with a Q&A with Dustin Hoffman with Alec Baldwin.  This is one of those blocks where 3 of the movies had been previously announced and we were looking forward to all 3.  I had wanted to see Reign of Terror with Norman Lloyd and my dad was looking forward to The Proud Rebel with Alan Ladd's son, but in the end Dustin Hoffman wins.

Friday Third Time Slot: Special Guest and Must See
For this time slot The Cincinnati Kid with Ann-Margaret in attendance wins out even though I had been looking forward to the screening of Limelight and hearing Norman Lloyd.  It'll be wonderful to hear Ann-Margaret and to see Steve McQueen on the big screen.

Friday Fourth Time Slot: Too difficult to decide
This happens to be one of our tougher time slots.  When titles were first being announced I knew that I had to see Steamboat Bill, Jr.  It was pretty much number one on my list of must sees.  My dad and I were also interested in seeing Rififi, which would be a new to us title, and I was also very excited about getting the chance to see Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen.  So, imagine my surprise when I saw all 3 of them pitted up against each other!  And to add to that there is also a screening of The Invisible Man at the same time.  We are completely at a loss for this time slot and it may be our first time splitting up during a screening.  I had my heart set on Steamboat Bill, Jr. and The Invisible Man is one of my dad's favorite movies and was one of his father's favorite movies.  Not sure what will happen here.

Friday Fifth Time Slot: Dad's interest
If I were going by myself this time slot would be Roman Holiday at the El Capitan all the way.  It would've been a nice change of pace, since it's possible that we would be spending this entire day at the Egyptian Theater and it is by far one of my favorite movies.  And my second choice would've been Rebecca, to satisfy my Alfred Hitchcock fix.  But here's where other factors come into play.  I recently saw Roman Holiday at UCLA and I know my dad has been looking forward to the opportunity to see a real-life James Bond.  So, in the interest of embracing new things and seeing a wonderful celebrity guest I think we will end up seeing On Her Majesty's Secret Service with special guest George Lazenby.

Saturday First Time Slot: Special Guest and New to me
For the first time slot on Saturday my father and I have decided on The Man Who Would Be King.  The deciding factor here was an opportunity to see Christopher Plummer and to see a new to me movie.

Saturday Second Time Slot: Undecided
For this time slot my dad and I are trying to decide between Rebel Without a Cause and The Miracle Worker with Andrew Prine in attendance.  Both are movies that we've seen before and love.  We may also take this undecided opportunity to check out Sophia Loren Live from the Film Festival.  I have never attended one of these in the past and it may be our one chance to see Sophia Loren since we are most likely attending The Grim Game as our closing night movie.  This time slot may come down to a day of decision.  And as James Dean says in Rebel Without a Cause, "You're tearing me apart!"

Saturday Third Time Slot: Special Guest and Must See Movie
I'm pretty sure we're going to the screening of The Apartment with special guest Shirley MacLaine during this time slot.  This feels like one of those quintessential must-sees and a great opportunity to see Shirley MacLaine.  My dad has expressed interest in both Madam Curie and Viva Zapata! Both of which sound wonderful, but I don't know if I could see them instead of The Apartment.  Another we shall see and possible split up moment.

Saturday Fourth Time Slot: Wait and See
For this time slot, we're still trying to decide between The French Connection at Grauman's with William Friedkin being interviewed by Alec Baldwin and the amazing hand-cranked presentation of Return to the Dream Machine.  This may be another decision we make the day of, perhaps depending on our mood.  Both offer something very unique.

Sunday First Time Slot: New To me
Sunday morning we're going to start off with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this is a movie I have always wanted to see and what better way to see it than at the Film Festival in Grauman's.

Sunday Second Time Slot:
This may be where I get my Alfred Hitchcock fix with Psycho, but my dad is making a compelling case for the Diary of Anne Frank complete with Diane Baker and Millie Perkins, another we will see.

Sunday Third Time Slot:
If we end up seeing The Apartment on Saturday then we will skip The Children's Hour during this block, for now we are trying to decide between The Philadelphia Story and Judgement at Nuremberg.  They could not be more different, a light fun rom-com or a heavy courtroom drama.  This may be another decide on the fly movie block.  My dad also mentioned interest in seeing Houdini, so all bets are off.

Closing Night Movie:
We have been excited about The Grim Game since it was first announced and it would make sense for us to close out the festival at the Egyptian Theater since we will possibly spend all day Friday in the Egyptian Theater.  It will be tough to miss out on Sophia Loren and the screening of Marriage Italian Style, but I think we're set on this decision.
We will then attend the Closing Night party at the Hollywood Roosevelt and then pass out from movie watching fatigue. :)

As you may have noticed I have no set definitive plan, I'm really on the fence about a lot of time slots, but it was fun pulling up all the movie posters for my first, second and third choices and I know that whatever movie, panel or event I attend it will be a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience.  I am really excited (as per usual) to attend the festival and especially thrilled to share this experience this year with my dad.  We may have different movie tastes, but I kind of like the fact that I may end up at screenings I wouldn't normally attend.

Other bloggers picks for the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival:

Out of the Past: My thoughts on the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule

Blog of the Darned: March Movie Madness Baby

Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: The 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule

A Classic Movie Blog: Joy! The TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule is Here: What I Plan to See

The Black Maria has Cary Grant's reactions to the schedule

I'll be sure to update as soon as more bloggers post their picks.


Once Upon a Screen: My Picks for #TCMFF 2015 are not made of stone

Joel's Classic Film Passion: 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival

Happy Film Festival-ing everyone :)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Classic Film Related Activities- A not so brief update

Since my last post, I have been up to a great many classic film related activities.  Some of which I plan on blogging about, just give me some time.  I'll briefly share the highlights before devoting full posts to some of these events.

I've been to the Hollywood Costume exhibit a number of times, it has become my go-to activity for family members visiting LA.  I went myself the opening weekend in October and then took my aunt in November and just this past weekend took my mom while she was visiting.

In October, one of my friends was singing in a choir that sang along to a screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  It was a very unique and surprisingly emotional experience to have an orchestra and choir performing live during a silent movie.

In November, I was invited to a very interesting conversation/panel at the LACMA called, Defining Character.  It was moderated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis and was associated with the Hollywood Costume Exhibit.  I really enjoyed it.

In December, I went to a wonderful event thanks to Street Food Cinema and a deal on Amazon local.  There was a screening of The Princess Bride with Cary Elwes doing a book signing and a Q&A at a lovely old theater downtown.

While home in NY for winter vacation I encouraged my mom to see You Can't Take it With You on Broadway and was lucky enough to meet Mark Linn Baker and tell him how much I love Noises Off.

Upon returning to LA I went to the Aero theater (in Santa Monica) for 2 Frank Capra double features. I was surprised to see Ron Howard seated in my row the first night, I wanted to ask him if he would be attending the TCM Classic Film Festival along with Apollo 13, but I resisted.

Earlier this month I finally made it back to the New Beverly Cinema for a Fosse Double Feature (but I didn't stay for the second movie).  I always love going to that theater.

This past week my mom came to LA for a visit and to escape the super cold East coast winter.  While she was here we came up with a fairly even balance of things she wanted to do (see West Coast sunsets) and things I always like to do (film related things).  And even combined the 2 one night by seeing the sunset at Griffith Observatory.

So there you are, a brief-ish update of the things that I've been up to the last few months.  I'd like to devote whole posts to some of these events so keep an eye out for that.  In the meantime I expect another post, soon-ish, with some very exciting TCM Classic Film Festival News.

Happy Oscar Sunday to all.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Good Evening, The Big Picture: Hitchcock! at the Hollywood Bowl

This past weekend (now a couple of months ago) I had the great pleasure of attending The Big Picture: Hitchcock! extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl.  This was actually my first visit to the Hollywood Bowl after living in Los Angeles off and on for about 12 years.  I now can't believe that I had never been there before and certainly plan to attend more concerts and events there.  It is such a great venue and they offer such interesting programs.

I decided to go to the concert the day of the event, Sunday, August, 31st.  I had hemmed and hawed about it for a couple of days before and then decided to go for it.  I was lucky enough to have lunch with a very well informed friend who had been to the Bowl numerous times and he advised me to bring a blanket, sweatshirt, water and snacks.  I, of course took his sage advice.

Next, came the decision of where to park and whether or not to take advantage of the shuttles.  I decided to park at the Hollywood and Highland structure and then take the shuttle up the hill.  It worked out pretty nicely.  While lugging my things on the shuttle and to my seat I was a little worried that I may have over-packed, but my friend did not steer me wrong.  The blanket came in very handy on the benches, although you could rent a cushion for $1.  It didn't get quite cold enough for the sweatshirt, but I could imagine that on another night it would be necessary and how can you go wrong with snacks?

It was really exciting to soak in this venue, I didn't even mind the trek up the hill to get to my seat, there was something so cool about ascending the hill and then seeing the actual half dome, really amazing.  I was very lucky and ended up with an extremely centered seat, although I have a feeling that any seat in the venue is phenomenal.

Before the concert began they kept the profile of Hitch up on the center screen (as you can see below).  It was really cool to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign past the dome waiting for the show to begin.

While waiting for the concert to begin I spoke to a few people seated around me, one man asked me what my favorite Hitchcock movie was, which is always a tough questions.  I also had a chance to look over the program, which was sold for also $1, quite reasonable prices for this day and age.

Before too long the show began with this:

It was lovely to get an introduction from Hitch himself.  After the intro Eva Marie Saint graced us with her presence and became our emcee/teacher/stand-up comedienne/hostess with the mostest for the evening.  She was so charming and delightful.  It's hard to believe that she turned 90 this year, she was very sharp and witty, really kept the evening moving nicely.

Since this was the best picture I could get of her that night I'm also sharing one of my pictures from the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival where she intro'd On the Waterfront. And a picture from the First TCM Classic Film Festival where she and Martin Landau were interviewed before North by Northwest.

She gave short introductions before each clip/performance.  Her intros were a combination of interesting information and personal stories.  For example, she told us that while filming North by Northwest, Hitch was unhappy with her wardrobe in the movie.  So he took her on a little shopping spree at Bergdof Goodman in New York City and when she saw the beautiful black dress with the red roses she said she liked it and Hitchcock immediately had them wrap it up.  From then on she called him Sugar Daddy.

That is a lovely dress
During one of her introductions she said that it felt like this was a masterclass and she was so right, how often to you get to focus so specifically on the music in a movie?  And have it be performed by a stellar orchestra.  She also had some very hilarious moments, when she was introducing a montage of romance themes she  introduced To Catch a Thief and accidentally said, "starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint."  She then started laughing to herself and declared that it was a very Freudian slip.

Before the Foreign Correspondent clip it was revealed that the conductor for the evening, David Newman's father, Alfred Newman was the composer of the musical score for the film! What a fun connection. When the night came to an end it was hard to believe that they didn't play the haunting, shrill, frightening strings from Psycho.  There was then an encore and Eva Marie suggested that all of us stay away from our showers for the next day or so.

The whole event was wonderful and I'm so glad that this was my first experience with the Hollywood Bowl.  It was a lovely blend of music, film clips and a great opportunity to see Eva Marie Saint.  And it was particularly creepy to see the strings from Psycho played in person.  Since then I've been back for the Simpsons concert there.  I apologize for the delay, oh and you can also check out Laura's post about the event.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Birth of a Classic Film Fan

I've been hinting at sharing my Classic Film Enthusiast origin story and I've decided to actually go for it.  It might be lengthy, so here's your fair warning, but I will try to add fun pictures along the way to keep it engaging.  Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy post. :)

My origin story is actually two-fold, but together they make a great deal of sense.  Ultimately, for me it's a story of wanting to be a complete-ist and being slightly obsessive.  One night, while I was in middle school, I couldn't fall asleep and I decided to flip through the channels.  During my channel surfing I found a movie on WPIX (Old school Channel 11 in NY, before it became the WB/CW).  The movie was Dogfight, starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor.

I was in awe, amazed, hooked.  I didn't know a movie could be like that and I didn't know actors could be like River Phoenix.  I decided then that I had to know everything about him and see every movie he had been in.  Thus, my Actor Phases were born.  Initially, I was dismayed to find that River Phoenix had passed away and so young! I couldn't believe that such a talent could have been gone already and that I had only just discovered him. But, I decided to dive right in.

I tried to find the oldest logo, but did not succeed
At that time IMDb was still in it's infancy, there was no Netflix, no online streaming.  I actually went to IMDb and printed out the list of his movies.  I would then take that list to Blockbuster or the Library and try to work my way through all of the movies.  I would also order VHS tapes (yes, you read that right VHS!) online or buy them at Sam Goody if they had it, if I had trouble renting the movies.  I did a great deal of "blind-buys" during various Actor Phases, some good choices, some not so good.  For better or for worse though, I did get a very diverse movie education thanks to River Phoenix.  I was introduced to Stand by Me, Running on Empty, Peter Bogdonavich's A Thing Called Love and so much more.

After exploring the life and work of River Phoenix, I decided to check out some other Actors and see what they had to offer.  This turned into a binder filled with IMDb print-outs of various Actor's filmographys.  Romney may have his binders filled with women, but in the mid to late 90s I already had my binders full of actors.  I would tirelessly hunt for these movies and soak in as much film history as I could.  At the time though most of my motivation was how cute the actor was, which would explain my Ryan Phillippe, Devon Sawa, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Keanu Reeves phases (not my proudest moments, but I was young and foolish).  But, I did also gravitate towards actors like Harrison Ford, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp (before Pirates of the Carribbean) and Ewan McGregor.  And in later years I also started to tackle the filmographies of George C. Scott, Albert Brooks and Dustin Hoffman, so I feel like it balances it out (a little).

On one of my recent trips homes I found and went through my binder and lucky for you, I took some pictures, it looks like my dad didn't appreciate me using all of the white paper so I was probably asked to use all the neon paper we had.  It also looks like I printed out articles and pictures that I liked too, but maybe it was gently suggested to me that I stop doing that after my River Phoenix phase:

I inadvertently got a film education, I was exposed to many films that weren't mainstream and I wouldn't have seen otherwise.  I was also honing my skills as a researcher and a completest.  But, I still wasn't exploring much of anything before the 70s or 80s.  The classic film bug hadn't bitten me yet.  I still didn't become a fan, even during college when I took various film courses where we had screenings of movies like, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Executive Suite, Giant, and  Somebody Up There Likes Me.  I certainly didn't hate the movies or dismiss them, since they were stellar films, but there still wasn't that desire to care (as much as I do now).  Don't get me wrong though, I did always have an interest in older movies, I watched The Wizard of Oz endlessly as a child and I have always been a huge fan of Disney movies, but there wasn't the love that I have now.  That didn't happen until 2 fortuitous events.

First, was a recommendation from my cousin, he is an assistant director, second unit director and screenwriter for a handful of TV shows and who I browbeat into attending part of the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival.  He was in LA for some work meetings in the summer of 2006 and we met for dinner.  We talked briefly about movies and I can't remember what movies I had been watching around that time, but he recommended that I immediately Netflick (that's my verb for renting a movie through Netflix) The Thin Man and The Thin Man series.  I heeded his advice and Netflicked it in the summer of 2006 and LOVED it.  It was so clever and funny.  I was smitten.  I promptly watched the 5 sequels in quick succession.

About 3 months later I was introduced to the 1001 Movies you Must See Before You Die, I don't exactly recall how the list came to me, but once I found it I was super cocky and thought, 'Oh, I've always watched lots of movies, I'm sure I've seen most of these.'  I actually just found an email conversation between me and a friend of mine in October of 2006 in which I boldly claim, "I've probably seen about half of the movies in there." But I was very much schooled by the list and on my first go through I had only seen about 200 of the movies.  I also shared the list with my friends and wanted to see how I fared with my peers.  It turned out one of my friends had seen more movies than me and then uttered the phrase that has fueled me for the last 8 years.  He said to me, "You will never defeat me."  Gauntlet thrown, my friend, gauntlet throw.  (I can be a little competitive sometimes).

These 2 events and my obsessive nature put me on the path to become a very passionate classic film fan.  I was determined to work my way through the 1001 list and I also wanted to see other great movies, like the Thin Man.  At first I used the 1001 list as a spring board to see the movies that I had always kind of wanted to see, but hadn't.  So I would pick and chose from various movies, with no real direction.  Eventually, I decided to work through the list chronologically, starting with A Trip to the Moon.  As I worked through the book I would take little breaks from the list to see more movies by a particular director (Hitchcock, Wilder, Powell and Pressburger) or movies with a particular actor (Buster Keaton, Cary Grant, Tracy and Hepburn).  I would also take time to read various biographies about actors and directors.  I sometimes like to think of this journey as an independent study of film and the history of film.

I've been working on the list, on and off, for about 8 years now.  The book has been modified or updated 3 or 4 times over the years and my grand total of movies seen, as of today, is 783 titles.  This has been thanks to Netflix, TCM, the now unfortunately closed RocketVideo, Cinefile and my local libraries.  It's been such a fun challenge to track down these movies throughout the years.  And really interesting to see certain movies that were inaccessible 7 or 8 years ago, now be available through streaming services or places like WarnerArchive.  I've tried to maintain a spreadsheet and I even had a blog for a short while to track my progress, indicate where and how I was able to see the movie, and keep a little journal so I would remember some of the movies, but as you may have noticed I don't update things as well as I should. 

Oh, and since we're on the subject and clearly this post isn't long enough I guess I should also share my first experience with the amazing channel/network TCM.  It was on a plane, I was on a Jetblue flight flying back to LA from NY and I was flipping through the channels and came across the channel TCM.  At that time I don't even know if I had heard of the channel, but I was drawn to it because there was a special on, it was the Private Screenings episode of Child Stars.  The episode included Robert Osborne (obviously) and Daryl Hickman, Dickie Moore, Jane Withers and Margaret O'Brien.
Here's a tee-tiny picture of them found at
I watched these former stars discuss their lives and their work and found it really interesting and then of course thanks to TCM, a few years later I had the pleasure of seeing Darryl Hickman in person at the first TCM Classic Film Festival, meet and speak to Margaret O'Brien at this year's Film Festival, and be in the same room as Dickie Moore at a screening in NYC.  Later on in the flight I flipped back to TCM and ended up watching Rafter Romance, starring Ginger Rogers. We landed before the movie ended, so I don't actually know if there was a long lasting romance.  I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there probably was.

Well, that's the long and short of, mostly long, how I became the huge classic film fan that I am today.  It's been a wonderful journey and has introduced me to so many wonderful people, experiences, and of course movies over the years.  After going back over all of these experiences it seems like it was just the right mixture of things at the right time.  And I'm very glad they all happened.

So there's my Classic Film Fan origin story.  What's yours?  How were you introduced to classic film and when did it become an overwhelming passion?