As posted a few weeks ago, Josh and I had the amazing privilege to attend the third annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. This was by far our favorite of the three years.
Because we’d been the previous two years, we’d already had the opportunity to see some amazing classics on the big screen. Two of our favorites from previous years were Casablanca and Singin’ in the Rain. Both of these were screening again this year and because we’d already seen them, it freed us up to experience movies we hadn’t seen yet and in some cases, hadn’t even heard of.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
We kicked off the festival with a tweet-up in the Marilyn Suite at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There we were given free food and drinks and a chance to mingle with TCM’s PR team as well as other tweeting attendees from the festival. The hotel room was small but had a great view of the pool. It is named the Marilyn Suite because Marilyn Monroe lived there for a few years.
After the party, we headed over and caught our first film of the festival Sullivan’s Travels (1941) at the Chinese Multiplex. Written and directed by the great Preston Sturges (one of the first writer/directors), it’s an important film blasting important films. I’d seen it before back in college but it’s one of those that always stuck with me and I’m glad I got to see it again on the big screen.
There were more films screened that evening but we decided to go home and get some rest. We had a busy three days ahead of us.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Friday morning, we started the day with The Searchers (1956) at Grauman’s Chinese. Both Josh and I agree that this is John Wayne’s finest performance and possibly John Ford’s best film. One of our favorites to be sure. We both got into filmmaking partly because of this movie: it is featured in the Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World.
Next up was Elmer Gantry(1960) at The Egyptian. Neither of us had seen this one before. It’s a powerful film with great performances by Shirley Jones and Burt Lancaster. A must see for classic film fans but not one of my favorites.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) at Grauman’s Chinese was next. Kirk Douglas was there to introduce the film. He’s 95 years old and has had some major strokes that have left him with a strong speech impediment but his mind is still sharp. Seeing him was one of the highlights of the festival. He even sang a verse and chorus of “Whale of a Tale.” Revisiting the film revealed a very weak script but it’s so much fun and the world is so imaginative. I wonder if 20,000 Leagues would have been the Transformers of its day.
You can hear the audio of Kirk Douglas introducing the film here:
The next film was our first big risk of the festival. We went to see a Film Noir called Cry Danger (1951) at The Egyptian. It was here that we were introduced to a man named Eddie Muller who has written several books on Film Noir. He’s the unofficial expert on the genre and he programmed all of the Noir films at the festival. He pegs this film as one of the best and we both agree. It was so good. We skipped seeing Vertigo at Grauman’s Chinese in order to see this but it was so worth it.
The final film of the day was Grand Illusion (1937) at the Chinese Multiplex. The film started after 9pm and we were pretty wiped out so we didn’t see the film under optimum circumstances. It’s all in French which made it doubly hard to stay focused. I didn’t care for the film but I’ll definitely give it another chance in a couple years. I’m a little bummed we passed up on Chinatown at Grauman’s Chinese but at least now I can say I’ve seen Grand Illusion.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
First up was an Abbott and Costello film called Who Done It? (1942) at the Chinese Multiplex. This is the first feature length I’ve seen of their films and to be honest, I didn’t like it. Bud and Lou are best in short form, in my humble opinion.
We watched one short during A Fine Mess: Laurel and Hardy Shorts at the Chinese Multiplex. We had to leave early to get in line for the next film –
Snow White (1937) at Grauman’s Chinese! This was spectacular. Ginnifer Goodwin and Leonard Maltin introduced the film. What’s not to love about classic Walt on the big screen?
The next film was the hardest choice we had to make at the festival. We passed on Casablanca to see a Harold Lloyd film called Girl Shy (1924) at The Egyptian. I’m so glad we did. I’d never seen a Harold Lloyd film in its entirety. Only clips in film school and on TV. With a live orchestra, there is no other way to see these classic silent films. Last year I was introduced to Buster Keaton’s films and I became an instant fan. The same with Lloyd. He’s a genius.
The second hardest choice was to pass up Singin’ in the Rain for Gun Crazy (1950) at The Egyptian. It was another Film Noir introduced by Eddie Muller. Again, it paid off. Such a good movie. We were exposed to several Noirs that were made outside the studios. Josh and I know a lot about the studio features during the 30s, 40s, and 50s but our knowledge of indie films is very little. It’s been so much fun learning about these great classics!
As much as we wanted to see A Night to Remember on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, we were told by several people that we absolutely cannot pass up Seconds (1966) at the Chinese Multiplex. It’s a crazy sci-fi thriller made in the 60s by John Frankenheimer and starring Rock Hudson. It’s a small club of people who have actually seen it, much less know what it is. But once you’re in the club, you instantly want to start adding members. It’s very bizarre but gripping. Find a copy somehow. It’s not easy but you won’t regret it.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
The last day. We started it with a special screening of How the West was Won (1962) at the Cinerama Dome.
Cinerama is a gimic process created in the 60s where three cameras were used to extend the size of the screen. It had to be projected with three projectors. We were privileged to see the film projected on a screen where it was shown in the 60s in the way it was shown.
And what a movie! It was always one of my favorites as a kid and it holds up. So much fun. And it was very meaningful to both Josh and myself. The film captures the spirit of the American pioneer going west to seek his fortune. We can identify plenty!
They had an actual working Cinerama Camera in the lobby.
Next we saw Raw Deal (1948) at the Chinese Multiplex. It’s a lesser known Film Noir like the others in the festival but very good. I didn’t like it as much as Gun Crazy or Cry Danger but it had some interesting elements that sets it apart from other Noirs. Worth a look for sure.
Our last film in the Grauman’s Chinese was Rio Bravo (1959), a western starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Angie Dickenson. It was directed by the great Howard Hawks. I loved it as a kid and I loved it on the big screen. I haven’t seen it in probably 20 years. And this time, I had a great appreciation for Angie Dickenson in the role of Feathers. She was on hand to introduce the film and shared some fun stories.
And this brings us to the last film we saw at the TCM Classic Film Festival. The Thief of Bagdad (1924) at The Egyptian. We chose this over seeing Annie Hall. I’d never seen Douglas Fairbanks in a film even though he was one of the first BIG STARS of Hollywood. I enjoyed the film. The sets and stunts were fantastic and the special effects at the time would have been like watching Jurassic Park. But it was long (two and a half hours) and after seeing 14 movies over the last few days, I was struggling to get through it. We actually left halfway through once we realized the film was streaming instantly on Netflix. Haha. (This is unfortunate because the last hour is definitely the most impressive.)
So that’s it. We had a wonderful time and we appreciate TCM inviting us to cover the festival.