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?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No"- Day 1 of the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival (Part 2: The Movie)

Since my previous post ended up becoming VERY long I decided to break Day 1 of the festival into 2 parts.  After the Sons of Gods and Monsters panel I went ahead and did my annual changing of the clothes for the opening night movie.  I then ran around Hollywood Blvd to complete my final social media task in order to obtain all 7 pins and! get the prize.  I meant to tweet about it, but between changing, going to the multiplex, the Roosevelt, going back to my car and then to Grauman's I was a bit out of sorts AND to top it all off my phone died a slow and painful death.  I realized that phone battery life was going to be a problem this year.
I made my way to the Chinese Multiplex a little bit before 5:30, which is when the photo booth would open for business.  While waiting I chatted with the Genworth employees, who were very nice and another film festival attendee, we mostly talked about cats though.  When the booth was officially opened I went ahead and nabbed a picture for myself.

I then headed over to the Roosevelt Hotel Lobby to show that I had completed the task, but the crosswalk in the middle of the street was closed off, as was the sidewalk in front of Grauman's so I had to head all the way down to Hollywood and Highland.  I'll go ahead and count it as my exercise for the weekend since I would be spending the rest of the next 3 days watching movies.  I ended up claiming the final pin:
Gale Sondergaard really got a lot of face time at this year's festival.  Upon receiving the 7th and final pin I also got this cool bag:
It was a really nice prize and something that I definitely see myself using, it's quite large and kind of has a carpet bag top which of course makes me think I could run around like Mary Poppins and carry hat racks in it, but I won't.  It was hard to get a decent picture, here it is from another angle:
I then decided to head back to my car in the Hollywood and Highland parking structure, cause I didn't want to have to worry about another bag throughout the night.  So I hoofed it back down to Highland, through the mall and then over to Grauman's for the opening night movie: Oklahoma!.

I had been very undecided and had a hard time deciding whether to see Oklahoma or maybe have a Ginger Roger double feature, or see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane on the big screen.  But, after a great deal of going back and forth, I realized that I couldn't miss out on the opening night movie and red carpet experience.  Which, I have been lucky enough to be able to have for the previous 4 years.  I also thought I would possibly gain a new appreciation for the movie or at least appreciation seeing it on the big screen surrounded by excited film festival attendees. 

Right when I got on the carpet I immediately saw Robert Osborne being interviewed by Greg Proops and dared to take a picture.  I wasn't sure what kind of 'security' there would be on the red carpet this year, I was either going to be told by large men telling me to "keep moving, keep moving" or find smiling large men gently suggesting that I make my way down the carpet.  This year I was lucky enough to be greeted by some laid back security people who didn't seem to mind that I stopped to take pictures or stopped to take everything in.  As I made my way down the carpet, I spotted a few familiar faces and pretty much just said their names out loud (to myself).

Kim Novak!
Tippi Hedren! Ben Mankiewicz!  I continued down the carpet in this fashion, maybe no one bothered me cause they thought I was slightly unhinged, but then a couple asked me to take their picture on the red carpet (it wasn't Ben and Illeana again), so maybe I wasn't too scary.  And then I had a totally surreal experience, that lead to the following picture.

When I spotted Margaret O'Brien, I said"'Margaret O'Brien" out loud.  And to my surprise a woman who was helping her on the carpet turned to me and asked, "You know who she is?!"  I said, "Of course!"  The woman responded, "You're so young"  and told me to come over, so I did.  The woman told me that I could wait near the barricade until Margaret was done with her interview.  I stood there not sure what was going to happen next and constantly worrying that I was going to be told that I had to keep moving, but no one bothered me.  While I waited this wonderful woman told me that Margaret would be introducing Meet Me in St. Louis at the festival and then asked me if I had seen the movie, I said I had and that it's wonderful.  After about a minute, a man who was accompanying Margaret on the red carpet came over to the barricade and showed me the top hat that he was carrying.  He asked me if I knew where the hat was from, I hadn't, but I noticed that on the inside the name Mickey Rooney was written on it and that it had Ann Miller's signature inside of it.  The man told me that it had been Mickey's hat and that he had given it to Margaret many years ago.  He then told me that Mickey had planned to walk the carpet with her that night, but since he couldn't be there she wanted to bring a little piece of him with her.  I was so moved and thought that was such a thoughtful gesture.

Margaret with the hat, found at
The next thing I knew Margaret was done with her interview and the nice woman went over to her and asked her if she would take a second to pose for a picture with me.  I was in shock and I think I said, "thank you so much, it's such a pleasure to meet you," but it's also possible I just babbled nonsense.  The woman then took my camera and snapped that photo.  I thanked them all for the experience and went on my way down the carpet in a daze.

Right before entering the theater Tom Brown introduced the TCM Mafia to the crowd.  I then got to soak in the newly renovated TCL Chinese Theater (which I keep calling Grauman's out of habit and stubbornness).  They really did a great job of maintaining the historic look on the inside and the arrangement of the seats seemed to make more sense.  I noticed that no matter where I sat I had a great view of the screen and didn't have to worry about walking out of the theater with a stiff neck.  Upon walking in I noticed that there were many, many, many reserved seats so I had to keep moving forward.  While on my hunt to find a seat I crossed paths with the lovely Jeff (@jlundenberger) and got to meet his lovely partner, Ed.

I finally found an available seat and ended up next to some lovely friends of a friend that I had met at the festival last year.  Before the movie started we went over our game plans for the festival, it turned out that we had very different festivals ahead of us and they almost made me leave our row because I wasn't planning on seeing Maureen O'Hara at How Green was my Valley, but they forgave me in the end, I think.   But that's what I love about the film festival, everyone can have a completely different experience.  This is also what I've loved about blog coverage and reading about other people's experiences so that I can hear about all the fun stuff that I missed out on while I was enjoying my fun stuff.

After getting settled we were introduced to the wonderful and amazing Robert Osborne.  I'm sure many people feel this way, but just seeing him makes me happy.  He stood at a snazzy podium and welcomed us to the festival and then introduced the lovely Shirley Jones.  She looked so cute and was very energetic and seemed happy to be there.  I didn't know what to expect, since she had backed out of the festival a couple of times in the past.  But she was really quite lovely.

She talked about getting cast in Oklahoma!, her first movie role, and the audition process.  She talked about getting the phone call from Fred Zinnermann finding out that she had gotten the role.  She shared with us that she had been singing since the age of 6 and began singing in church, she also said that she didn't realize that she had such a talent, she thought everyone could sing.  She had grown up wanting to be a vet and never thought she'd act or sing professionally.  Some other fun things she shared about Oklahoma were that Shirley MacLaine wanted to be cast in the role of Ado Annie.  And that she loved singing with Gordan MacRae, who was her favorite person to duet with.  You can hear Shirley in her own words in this clip of the interview from TCM's YouTube Channel:
It's amazing that she was only 18 at the time.  She then talked about how lucky she was to have a dramatic director, Fred Zinnermann, as her first director rather than a musical one.  He was able to support and guide her in a great way.

She then talked about working with Frank Sinatra (briefly) in the movie Carousel.  He had worked on all the pre-production work and recordings, but after discovering that every scene was to be shot twice, due to the 2 different formats Sinatra left the production.  Shirley had never talked to Frank about it, but wondered if that was the real reason that he quit.  She shared with us that she learned very recently that the real reason Frank left the production was because of Ava Gardner.
He had heard that things were steaming up for Ava Gardner and Clark Gable on the set of Mogambo, so to save his marriage he left the film.  Apparently, Ava called him and told him that if he didn't get out there she was going to have an affair.  After Frank left the movie, Gordon MacRae was approached and then cast in the role, which worked out quite nicely.

All in all it was great to hear Shirley Jones speak about the early part of her career and speak candidly with Robert Osborne, it made watching the movie that much more interesting.

Now onto the film.  I want to start by saying that visually it was breathtaking!  The colors were vibrant, the quality was impeccable, a great restoration.  I was entranced from the first image and also noticed that there were so many interesting angles.  It was if it were filmed as a 3-D film, there were shots through the corn fields, under wagons and interesting camera placements during some of the musical numbers.
The songs are obviously very catchy and exciting, but there's just something about the story that doesn't do it for me.  Upon this viewing, I ended up feeling bad for Jud, who just seemed to be a sad, lost soul looking for love.  Obviously, I don't condone or support setting haystacks on fire on people's wedding days, but he was kind of jerked around by Laurey and Curly literally sang him a song encouraging him to kill himself, not very neighborly.

The movie also has a wonderful cast, including Rod Steiger as Jud, Gloria Grahame and Eddie Albert as the comic relief, Ado Annie and Ali Hakim and the young, but made to look old, James Whitmore, Gene Nelson as Will Parker, and Charlotte Greenwood as Aunt Eller.

All throughout the movie I was blown away by how much Shirley Jones looked like Marilyn Monroe in some shots, it was really unbelievable.  I was planning on sharing that observation with my friends at intermission, but before I could say anything, my friend said the exact same thing. What do you think?
In the end I was glad that I decided to see Oklahoma as my first movie of the festival.  However, it ended a little later than scheduled and I was unable to get over to the Chinese Multiplex in time for Bachelor Mother.  At the time I was upset, but in a way I was grateful to have a relatively early first night.  I also decided to figure out a solution for my phone battery problem.  Since it was before 11, I was able to stop by Target on the way home and picked up a portable charger which ended up being a lifesaver for the rest of the festival.

Alright, that does it for day 1, part 2: The Movie.  Tune in next time for: Day 2, which will include- The Thin Man, Touch of Evil, A Matter of Life and Death, Double Indemnity, and Blazing Saddles