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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:

Kirk Douglas at TCM Film Festival

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.

Check out all of our FilmGeekTweet reviews from the TCM Classic Film Festival here.

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For the last two years, Josh and I have been privileged to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.  We are stoked as ever to attend once again.  The 2012 festival begins in just a few short days.

In anticipation, we thought we’d post a link to all of our previous coverage:

2010 TCM Classic Film Festival

2011 TCM Classic Film Festival

Adventures in Filmmaking contributor Carrie Specht has written a wonderful run down of which films she recommends and which she doesn’t.  Even if you aren’t attending the TCM Classic Film Festival, this proves a valuable resource as you determine what movie to rent/stream on a Friday night.

Be sure to follow our posts on Twitter.  We’ll be live tweeting the events at our personal accounts — @joshdaws and @jeremiahdaws — as well as tweeting movie reviews for FilmGeekTweets.com from our FilmGeek accounts — @filmgeekjosh and @filmgeekjer.

 

 

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Last year in 2010 Turner Classic Movies chose director, George Cukor’s 1954 version of “A Star is Born” to be the film to kick off their first ever Classic Film Festival. This Friday, June 10 at 12:15PM (PST) you can see for yourself exactly why the iconic film was such a perfect choice for establishing the tone of a festival dedicated to the celebration of great classic cinema.

Judy Garland stars as a struggling, unknown performer who becomes the protégé and love interest of a difficult and egotistical Hollywood star played by James Mason. The two become devoted to each other, but, sadly, as her star goes on a meteoric rise his life spins completely out of control until he becomes a hopeless has-been. Set amid the exciting yet brutal behind the scenes world of Hollywood the story is deftly presented with all the skill and drama one would expect of the collective talents involved. The relationships feel authentic, and the chemistry between the two stars is a uniquely palpable one that sustains itself right up until the heartbreaking conclusion. The supporting cast is equally exceptional, led by the always charming Jack Carson who plays an insider who does his best to help the two people he cares deeply for until it hinders his own career opportunities – he may be a pariah, but you feel for him as he struggles with his conflicting loyalties.

Along with the performances the overall production is absolutely stellar. The glossy and saturated look of the film drenches you with the feel of 1950’s Hollywood, providing a heavy atmosphere to the dingy after hours clubs, and an extra sparkle to the glamorous side of a movie star’s life. And the song and dance numbers are so well integrated there’s never a moment that doesn’t feel completely organic in origin, especially the more intimate scenes between Garland and Mason. The scene where she entertains him with a one-woman show at home is absolutely inspiring, and a great moment in movie history.

I promise you, if you haven’t seen this version of “A Star is Born” you are missing out on a seminal example of cinema at its absolute best. And if you’re already familiar with the film, why would you miss out on the chance to see it again? I know you’ll agree, it’s that good.

Carrie Specht is a walking encyclopedia of classic film. We are delighted to have her helping us out with classic film coverage on the blog. Check out her website: http://www.classicfilmschool.com

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As posted before, Josh and I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival.  It was held in Hollywood with screenings going on at the Chinese Theater and the Egyptian Theater with the festival headquarters in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Thursday, April 28th

The opening night movie was An American in Paris which we did NOT get an invite to.  It was pretty exclusive.  One of our bloggers, Carrie Specht went to the Red Carpet and was able to speak with several old and new stars.  Check out her coverage here.

We started the festival on Thursday evening by seeing a collection of Walt Disney’s earliest animated shorts called the Laugh-O-Grams.  He was only twenty years old when he formed this venture.  He made seven in all before going bankrupt and heading west.  (I”m so glad he did.)

We’d only seen bits and pieces of the Laugh-O-Grams on various Walt Disney biography specials.  There is one famous Laugh-O-Gram that many might recognize.  It actually shows Walt at the animation desk and his drawings come to life.  We were very excited to see the complete short.

The screening was emceed by Disney Historian JB Kaufman.  You can hear his commentary here:

LAUGH-O-GRAMS

Next, we were able to see A Night at the Opera — starring the Marx Brothers.  It was a rare treat to be able to screen the film with Groucho’s grandson, Andy Marx, and hear stories of what it was like growing up in the Marx family.  Producer Robert Bader provided great commentary as well.

I had never seen this particular Marx Brothers film.  It is definitely one of their best.

You can hear the audio here:

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

Friday, April 29th

On Friday, we started early in the morning with a screening of A Streetcar Named Desire at Grauman’s Chinese.  Leonard Maltin was on hand to introduce the film.  You can hear the audio here:

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Immediately after, we watched The Godfather also at Grauman’s Chinese.  That experience was like none other.  A film historian (whose name I don’t remember) gave a quick intro to the film:

THE GODFATHER

After that, we had a tough decision to make but ultimately landed on seeing Girl Crazy.  The thing that put this film over the top — Mickey Rooney was in attendance.  He gave a long introduction to the film and it was delightful!

You can hear the audio with Mickey Rooney and Ben Mankiewicz here:

GIRL CRAZY

On Friday evening, TCM hosted a party at The Music Box on Hollywood Blvd.  A swing orchestra called Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks played the event.  They are famous for being the on screen orchestra in The Aviator (among other things.)  They are the best swing orchestra I’ve ever heard.  And I’ve heard several play.  (About a year ago I took up swing dancing.)  It was an extremely fun evening.

At midnight, we went to a screening of William Castle’s The Tingler.  I had never seen this film before.  When it originally ran during the 1960’s, William Castle would have special in-theater effects to enhance the viewing experience.  We heard a rumor that they were going to recreate some of these effects.  And sure enough, toward the end of the film, there were in-theater actors running around screaming plus a skeleton on cables flying around.  Such a cool experience.

You can read what I wrote about William Castle last Halloween here.

And check out the audio from Bruce Goldstein who produced the night’s screening and in-theater effects:

THE TINGLER

Saturday, April 30th

Early Saturday morning, we saw one of our favorite classic Disney films, Summer Magic.  It’s not as widely known but anyone who has ever been to Disneyland or The Magic Kingdom in Orlando has heard the music from it.  Most of the songs are played on Main Street.

Becky Cline, the current Disney archivist, introduced the film:

SUMMER MAGIC – Part 1

The film stars Hayley Mills and she was on hand to do a Q and A afterwards.  You can hear that here:

SUMMER MAGIC – Part 2

Josh and I parted ways only once during the festival.  He went to see The Outlaw Josey Wales while I saw Cabin in the Sky.  I chose this film because I had heard it had swing dancing in it.  I didn’t like the film but I get why it is historically significant.  You can hear why in the audio I recorded:

CABIN IN THE SKY

Next we went back to the Chinese Theater to see Citizen Kane.  What can one say about that experience?

Norman Lloyd, a frequent collaborator with Orson Welles, was on hand to give an introduction:

CITIZEN KANE

We ended our Saturday night with a screening of the great silent film star Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman.  Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks played the score for the film live.  I have never laughed this hard in a movie theater.  Keaton is a genius.  I’ve had a limited exposure to Keaton but after seeing this film, I want to see more of his movies.  I highly recommend this one.

Check out Leonard Maltin giving the introduction:

THE CAMERAMAN

Sunday, May 1st

Our church meets in the old Pacific Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.  After church, Josh and I drove west on the Boulevard to experience the final day of the festival.

We started by watching Goldfinger in Grauman’s Chinese.  I’m embarrassed to admit it but I had never seen this Bond film.  (I haven’t seen a lot of them.)

It was pretty silly but had some fun iconic moments and was generally a fun ride.  Ben Mankiewicz gave an introduction to the film:

GOLDFINGER

For me the highlight of the film was seeing A Place in the Sun on the big screen at the Egyptian.  I had seen this film once before but even so, I was equally moved by it.  I always leave it feeling incredibly conflicted about the outcome.  If you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t I highly recommend it.  I’d put in the top 10 films ever made.  Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift give incredible performances, as does Shelley Winters.  CHECK IT OUT.  NOW!

Rose Mcgowan introduced the film:

A PLACE IN THE SUN – PART 1

After the film, Robert Osborne interviewed Eva Marie Saint about Elizabeth Taylor:

A PLACE IN THE SUN – PART 2

The finale of the event and the highlight for Josh was Fantasia at Grauman’s Chinese.  We were shocked to find out that Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, was in attendance.  Josh and I walked right past her in the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt.

Walt Disney’s daughter!  Wow!  Experiences like that make this whole thing seem so real.  These people you read about and see on the screen aren’t just characters but real people.

Hear Robert Osborne close out the TCM Classic Film Festival here:

FANTASIA

Hopefully we’ll make it back to the 2012 festival.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  You shouldn’t either.  I just can’t emphasize enough how amazing it is to see all of these classic films in the heart of Hollywood at the most iconic movie theater in the world.  Plan on joining us next year.

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Last year, we covered the 2010 TCM Classic Film Festival and had an amazing time.  And this year, we’re going back!  April 28th thru May 1st.  Just a few days away!  We are so excited.

In anticipation for this year’s festival, check out all of our coverage from last year’s festival:

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Egyptian Theater

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

We’re lining up some REALLY EXCITING interviews so make sure to check back here on the site and follow us on Twitter.  @JoshDaws and @JeremiahDaws

You never know who we might bump into.

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In 1999 an unknown writer/director had a huge breakout success with his third film. The film was so big that it instantly catapulted him to A-list director status. The film was The Sixth Sense. The writer/director was M. Night Shyamalan.

After Sixth Sense, Shyamalan was heralded as the second coming of Spielberg. His next films never achieved Sixth Sense level of success, but were all great movies in their own right. Unbreakable, Signs, and even The Village were all fun movies. Then came Lady in the Water and The Happening. Yikes. They were both beyond bad. How had the once great director fallen so far?

I blamed the writing. He was still stubbornly holding on to the writing. Maybe it would be better if he let go of writing and just focus on directing – obviously his strength. When I heard that his next film would be based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender, I couldn’t have been more excited. My brother and sister were both really into the show at the time. I had only watched a few episodes, but had seen enough to know that it could be an amazing series of films. This would finally be Shyamalan’s return to glory. Finally a chance for him to focus on directing a story that hadn’t originated with him. He couldn’t possibly screw this up. Right?

WRONG! The Last Airbender is horrible. I had a chance to see it at an advance screening in Hollywood last week. It didn’t work at all for me. It’s horribly written (by Shyamalan) and poorly paced. The main kid actors were far too modern for this movie. They looked like they belonged in Twilight. The film suffers from a truly dreadful voice over. It’s one of the main characters speaking in past tense, so you know it’s all going to work out in the end.

Rather than show us two characters falling in love, we’re told by the narrator that they do. This narration is used to cram in a season’s worth of exposition. It’s almost like a six year old telling you what happens in the show. “First this happens and then this happens and then this… Oh and I forgot to tell you this one part…”

For those of you with no knowledge of the show, The Last Airbender takes place in a world with four kingdoms – air, water, earth, and fire. Each of these kingdoms have some people with the ability to bend their kingdom’s element. Bending means they can control that element. Move it around and stuff. If you’ve seen the trailer, you get the idea.

The story starts when two kids from the water kingdom find this other kid frozen in an iceberg or something. He’s the lost avatar. Every generation has a new avatar that can control all of the elements. This kid avatar has been missing for 100 years. While he’s been missing, the fire nation has killed all the airbenders and is ruling over the other nations. Once the kids realize they’ve found the avatar, they set off on a mission to help him learn how to bend the other elements.

It could have been really cool, but Shyamalan botched it. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like he directed it. It was fairly basic direction without any of the interesting shots and creative blocking we’ve come to expect from Shyamalan. However, it was the writing that was this movie’s downfall. Even with some fantastic source material to draw from, Shyamalan comes up short in the writing department. I have no clue what happened to his writing ability after Sixth Sense. Dialogue was on the nose and clunky. There is no drama in any of the scenes. It was mostly just people talking followed by scenes of bending followed by more talking.

I will admit that the bending is done really well. It’s a cool ability and fun to see on screen. Sadly, I suspect that for many audience members that will be enough and this will do big business this summer. We’ll see, but as far as I’m concerned I’d be irresponsible not to tell you to save your money. Avoid this stinker at all costs.

It Only Takes One

Josh —  June 24, 2010 — 3 Comments

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The film industry can be brutal. The odds against success can be really disheartening. Just about everyone you meet out here is an aspiring writer or director. If you were to dwell on the odds, it would be tempting to give up and go back home.

So how do you beat those odds? Some would say it’s all about constantly finishing scripts and getting them in front of people. Eventually your body of work will get you work and something will sell. That’s a fine strategy, but I think it’s far more important to focus on doing great work.

If you can churn out three great screenplays a year, you’re a genius. The rest of us all wish we were you. However, more than likely it’s going to take a lot more time to write something excellent. Don’t rush the process by trying to achieve quantity of scripts. Quality is the goal here.

Remember, it only takes one script to open the doors of Hollywood. M. Night Shyamalan’s whole career is based on the strength of his script for The Sixth Sense. I recently read an interview with Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3.) He spent a year writing Little Miss Sunshine and then revised it for 4 years before he felt it was ready to hand out. Once it was ready, he gave it to one person. One. Arndt said that almost overnight all the big directors were reading it. Spielberg, Zemeckis, etc. Behold the power of a great script.

What are you working on? Are you going to settle for good? Or are you aiming for great? Remember it only takes one great script to launch your career.

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This week’s pick is a film that I really hated to miss at the TCM Classic Film Fest. A Star Is Born (1954) was the opening night film and the only film that our media credentials didn’t give us access to.

This Judy Garland classic is a remake of a 1937 film staring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March. I actually prefer the original, but the Garland version is really good as well. In it, Garland plays a young actress who falls in love with a huge star (played by the always wonderful James Mason) just as she is discovered and his fame is beginning to subside. It’s a great behind the scenes look at Hollywood of the 1950s.

Judy Garland delivers the performance of her career in this film. She was nominated for Best Actress, but ultimately didn’t win. It’s a heartbreaking look at fame and all the negatives that come with it, especially when you consider Ms. Garland’s own struggles due to fame.

With some great musical numbers and a ton of fantastic Hollywood locations, I heartily recommend you checking out A Star Is Born (1954).  If you can’t catch it on TCM, a newly restored version has just been released on DVD & Blu-ray.

Star Is Born, A (1954) – Saturday, June 19 at 8:00pm EST
A falling star marries the newcomer he’s helping reach the top.
Cast: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford Dir: George Cukor C-176 mins, TV-PG