Saturday, December 17, 2011

Very Long Awaited TCM Classic Film Festival Recap (Part 1)

This sign was on Highland Ave, not sure if it was for the film festival, but it seemed appropriate :)
So, sometimes you don't update when you say you're going to update and sometimes it takes you 8 months to do a review of something when it shouldn't!!  But I'm hoping we can put all that behind us and marvel at the fact that I am, in fact, actually posting about the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival (aka one of the most amazing 4 days of my life, second only to last year's TCM Classic Film Festival).

So here we go!  This year I decided to get the Essential Pass again, because I didn't want to miss the opening night film An American in Paris and I loved getting the fun TCM merchandise, like tote bags, and what not. I also justified the purchase since I had enough miles accumulated to get a "free" flight, and I was able to book a room at my favorite (far less expensive) hotel.  And who knew they're be a strapping cowboy on the pass?  Just an added bonus :).

This year it seemed like TCM planned some more activities for Thursday, during the day.  The schedule included a Mickey Rooney autograph session (which was later cancelled), a poster signing by the artist Mike Schwab, a panel to meet the people behind TCM as well as opportunities to be in the "audience" for taped segments by Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz.  Very exciting stuff.  I ended up being able to make it to only the tapings.  It was so fun to see how the magic happens.   

Grauman's before walking the red carpet
This was a great way to ease myself into the festival, I was able to collect my festival information, check out festival headquarters, and the boutique.  I then retreated to my hotel to get ready for the opening night.  On the walk back I had to take the obligatory photo of Grauman's Chinese Theater ------>

A minor sidebar: I tend to get over-excited or over invested in things that others may find silly or small, but I love it.  For both festivals I made a real effort to find super cute/fun dresses and some little pieces of jewellery to complete the ensemble.  Yes, I know I'm not really walking a red carpet, but still it's fun to have a reason to get fancy.  Here are photos of my dresses from the past 2 festivals:
Here's my dress from this year

And the one I wore last year.  It had pockets!!

I love both of these dresses so very much and find any excuse to wear them to other events.  I wore the one from last year to a wedding and the one from this year to an engagement party.  Here's hoping I have more fancy events to get invited to :).  Anyway, yes I got all fancy-like and headed back to the theater for the opening night movie, 'An American in Paris.'  I ended up "walking the red carpet" at the same time as Rose McGowan, Ann Rutherford and Anne Jeffries (the latter two were wearing matching red dresses, so adorable).  And I managed to snap a photo of Rose McGowan before getting reprimanded for taking too long walking into the theater.
Found a picture of the 2 Annes in their pretty dresses (from TCM's Facebook Page)
 I made my way inside, found a seat, had a lovely conversation with my neighbor and took a look around the theater.  I spotted Tippi Hedren, Diane Baker (my bud from last year), Illeana Douglas and Jennifer Love Hewitt.  After a few minutes I saw Haley Mills and Juliet Mills walk in and take their seats two row in front of me.  Never thought I'd be seeing a movie in a movie theater with Haley Mills sitting in front of me.  I used to watch The Parent Trap every night before I went to bed when I was younger.  I love the movie and love sharing a b-day with the twins :).
Before too long the night got started with a welcome and introduction by Robert "TCM Film Festival Superstar" Osborne.  He shared excitement over being able to have a 2nd annual Classic Film Festival and that he was very excited to be there.  He then introduced Leslie Caron, who came on out and looked absolutely adorable!  And seemed genuinely very excited to be there.  It was such an amazing experience to have her there and share the same enthusiasm as so many other people there.

Osborne interviewed her, but like all interviews I've had the privilege of seeing Robert Osborne conduct, it just felt like 2 friends having a conversation.  One of the people in the conversation just happens to be a world famous movie star/dancer who starred alongside some of the greatest classic film stars and the other is a rockstar in their own right :).  Anyway, he asked her about getting the role in 'An American in Paris' and what the whole experience was like.  She said that she had only auditioned, "to be polite."  Imagine that, she explained that she was asked and didn't want to be rude so she went.  She also talked about what it was like to be in Hollywood, when she was so young.  And working with and getting to know Gene Kelly.  She also talked about how she had to learn English.  She said that she could barely speak any English when she first started and felt lucky that she had so few lines in the movie.   She also said that she never felt like she did a good job with the few lines that she had.  I decided to watch the movie with that in mind.  I had seen the movie countless times, so it's always fun to keep an eye/ear out for something new and different.  I found that she did a phenomenal job with the English language and it didn't seem that she had fewer lines, at least not noticeably.  Maybe it was because her character was in fact French.  Either way it was interesting to hear that that was how she felt about her performance and nice to watch 'with a purpose', although I think she really sold herself short.

Ms. Caron then discussed how she had very recently had her stage debut in France.  She was in a production of 'A Little Night Music.'  She talked about how this was the first time that Sondheim had been performed in France and that it was very well received. And that she hopes to do more live theater in the future.  All in all, she was wonderful, very well spoken and kept saying that the whole festival and just being there was "awesome."  Very fun to hear Ms. Leslie Caron say 'this is awesome.'

After the interview they started the film.  It was amazing to see it in such a wonderful theater, the colors were gorgeous, the sound was amazing.  Simply wonderful.  While I did keep an eye and ear out for Leslie Caron's dialogue, I managed to develop a new-found appreciation for Oscar Levant and his character in the film.  This seems to happen to me each year with an opening night movie, last year I stopped being creeped out by James Mason.  Mr. Levant had the honor this year.  In previous viewings of 'An American in Paris' I found myself bothered by Oscar's character, found him annoying and unnecessary.  However, this time around I appreciated his comic relief while watching the movie this time and I was amazed and awe-inspired by his piano playing and his multiple Oscar sequence.  Perhaps his character, who is a little bit exaggerated and larger than life is better appreciated on a larger than life screen. Who knows?  All in all the movie was glorious on the big screen, the colors were gorgeous, the ballet was breathtaking and don't worry Gene Kelly is still a dreamboat :).

After 'An American in Paris' I decided to make my way over to the neighboring theater and see The Devil is a Woman.  I had read that this movie was very hard to come by and you can't miss an opportunity to see Marlene Dietrich on the big screen, so it seemed like a good choice.  On my walk over to theater I happened to have ended up behind Jennifer Love Hewitt and her manager/handler type person, as they walked this manager/handler was screaming, "no autographs, no autographs, stay back" and waving his arms.  I feel he was a little confused about the people he was dealing with, it didn't look like anyone was looking for Jennifer Love's autograph.  Aside from that the walk over to the theater was uneventful.  I got in line and waited to be let in.

The film was introduced by a woman, who's name I don't remember, but I shall look up, who works at MOMA.  Ah, found the schedule, her name was Kate Trainor.  She told us that the film had come to them from Marlene Dietrich's personal collection of her films and she said that it was one of Ms. Dietrich's favorite performances of her own in any of her films.  She also told us that the film had been banned by the Spanish government because it showed Spanish police officers in a bad light.  Then she finally shared a newspaper review from when the film came out that described the film as "having enough confetti for a millennium celebration," and also commented on the ridiculous costumes.

Upon hearing all of this, I had NO idea what to expect from this film.  An amazing performance, crazy costumes, lots of confetti and a plot line that was offensive to an entire government!  Sounded amazing!  The movie overall was great, the costumes and the confetti were indeed ridiculous.  As the film progressed Marlene Dietrich's headdresses (yes headdresses) got more and more ornate and larger and larger.  The story was told mostly in flashback and definitely did not put Spanish officials in a good light.  I'm glad I chose to see this movie.  I recommend watching it if you get a chance.  I believe it's available on the Marlene Dietrich Glamour Collection.  It was amazing to see Marlene Dietrich in such a packed theater.  My other experience with one of her movies was a screening of 'Morocco' at the MOMA in NYC with just a handful of people in the crowd.  Definitely a different vibe.

So, there's a very long winded account of day one of the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival.  Maybe that's why it takes me forever to update, I just write so darn much.  Hope to get day 2 up soon!

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