Friday, April 18, 2014

TCM Classic Film Festival 2014

My last post explained in greater detail why I love THE NAKED CITY (1948), and how I won Turner Classic Movie's Ultimate Fan Contest by submitting a 90-second video introducing the film.  I wrote the blog post just a few days before heading to Los Angeles to attend their 5th annual film festival, where I was able to introduce my good-luck film to an audience before it screened.

Now I'm back in New York, and what has been probably the best weekend of my life is all over.  Yes, I've cried myself to sleep every night (not only due to missing the beloved TCM staff and Los Angeles weather, but because my body has still not readjusted to Eastern Standard Time).

The only thing that might aid my crippling depression and TCMFF withdrawal symptoms is to relive the whole weekend via blog post.  So here we go:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I arrived in Los Angeles in the afternoon.  Shortly after settling in to my hotel room, my +1 (best friend Pam) and I picked up our passes at the Roosevelt Hotel, where I spotted lots of TCM staff already in full festival mode.  Right away, I was treated like I had done something much more valiant to win my prize than just gush about one of my favorite films.  TCM's head researcher Alexa Foreman was the first to spot my nails, and showed everyone my work, which immediately set the tone throughout the festival: friendly, and FUN.

I was grabbed for a quick on-air chat with Ben Mankiewicz, where he said that I didn't "strike him as a noir girl." I asked if it was my bright green polka-dot dress, which can often throw people.  

That night, I attended a special tweetup for TCM's social media friends.  I got to meet the incredible people behind #TCMParty and other very notable movie tweeters.  We also swapped film trivia.  My trivia question was: Theodora Van Runkle worked on her first film in 1967.  Due to stress and self-consciousness, her leading lady kept losing weight, forcing her to constantly alter the costumes.  From this point on, Van Runkle nicknamed her "Fadin' Away." Do you know the actress and film? Comment at the end of this blog post and I'll answer!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This was the first day of the film festival.  The first event I attended was "Meet the Staff" at the Egyptian Theater.  I have had the privilege of meeting the staff at Turner Studios in Atlanta, but they have so many incredible stories and words of wisdom, I had to go to this event.  As suspected, they did not disappoint.

I took the next few hours to relax by the hotel pool.  I have been to the TCM film fest in 2011, so I was well aware that leisure time would be scarce in the days to come.  Then, I got dolled up for what would be my first red carpet interview experience:

Again, I was treated like I actually was somebody.  Admittedly, I felt strange having so many pictures taken of me, but I loved doing the interviews.  It gave me a chance to talk about films with other film fans, and I don't get to do that as often as one might think.  Many people asked about my contest entry, but other press outlets wanted to talk about musicals (OKLAHOMA! screened just a few minutes later), and others wanted to talk about my being a young classic film fan.  I've said this before and I'll say it again: yes, I am a classic film fan, but I really consider myself a fan of great films.  This knows no borders of age, content, style, or origin.  Everyone and everything is welcome, as long as it's something that resonates within me.

Later, we enjoyed the Opening Night party hosted by Vanity Fair, located on the rooftop of the W Hotel Hollywood.  Swanky.  Here's a Vine I took during the party.

Friday, April 10, 2014

The first full day of the festival, better known to many passholders as "Oh, you think you'll have time to eat today? That's cute" day.  We started off utilizing the privileges of a Spotlight pass, which allowed us to have breakfast at Club TCM in the Roosevelt Hotel, where we briefly chatted with Ben again. Shortly after, we boarded the shuttle bus to the Ricardo Montalbán Theater for the "Ask Robert" event. I didn't think it was strange that every staff member urged me to attend this event, but now we all know better.  What started as an already great opportunity to ask Robert Osborne almost any question about his life and professional journey became something so much more awesome.  Robert's mic suddenly stopped working, which should have been a red flag for all of us since TCM makes no mistakes.  Then, Alex Trebek walked on to the stage (much to Robert's surprise).  What followed was like an episode of "This is Your Life;" surprise guests took turns paying tribute to Robert Osborne in the most entertaining, heartfelt, and hilarious ways.  Who stopped by? Eva Marie Saint, Diane Baker, Alec Baldwin, Ben Mankiewicz, Michael Feinstein, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Bill Cosby and Cher (both via video), and members of Robert's own family!
The wonderful thing about "Ask Robert" was getting to see stars gush about him as much as we do.  Sometimes, I forget that stars are film fans too, and they are inspired by Robert's intelligence and integrity as much as any other TCM fan.  A major highlight? The blooper reel where we all got to see the hilarious side of Robert.  I laughed so hard, I walked out with a headache.  This event was an emotion overload, and it may have been the best thing about the whole weekend (and there was a lot of competition).

With my heart full from "Ask Robert," I went to Club TCM where Leonard Maltin interviewed the legendary Quincy Jones.  Mr. Jones often strayed from the questions Maltin was asking, but no one (including Maltin) seemed to care.  Jones' stories about Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Sidney Lumet had everyone mesmerized.  At one point, Jones and Maltin fist-bumped, and that instantly became something I never knew I always wanted to see.

Shortly after Jones/Maltin, I went to Grauman's Chinese (I reeeallly don't want to call it TCL) because I knew the line for BLAZING SADDLES would be mad.  Robert Osborne introduced the film with Mel Brooks, who is hilarious as ever.  This is one more great thing about TCMFF - you will get to see and hear legends.  People may throw that term around carelessly, but there are real legends at this film festival, and the talent that these masters have never fade; so you are guaranteed to have your mind blown.

After BLAZING SADDLES, I met up with a few more fans who won guest programming spots on the air to watch one of them live on TCM! Go Peter Tulba! He introduced THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).  Check out how happy he is:

Shortly after that, I went back to the theaters for the first midnight screening: ERASERHEAD (1977). Patton Oswalt opened his intro with a fitting description: "Welcome to day 3 of Coachella for shut-ins." Many people were watching David Lynch's film for the first time, which surprised me.  Oswalt gave them some great warnings, including one for couples who would potentially want children in the future.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This day started with another early breakfast; this time I got to chat with my main man Robert Osborne. Since I would be introducing THE NAKED CITY later on, I asked what the difference was between introducing a film on the air and in front of a live audience.  He simply said "None.  Just talk to one person." His nonchalance actually comforted me, and I started to realize that I would be talking to the same people I had been talking to all weekend.

Right after breakfast was the handprint ceremony for Jerry Lewis.  After getting a great spot on the side (which would later be blocked by perhaps the tallest man in Los Angeles), I looked up to see Quentin Tarantino.  I had no idea he would be introducing Jerry Lewis, and I was starstruck for just as long as it took me to wonder if he would go on one of his...famous rambles.  But he made a great point; while growing up, there was no other star who became a generation's sole favorite: "For every child, we only had one favorite movie star.  I don't know anybody else who owns that."
Jerry Lewis was remarkable, making faces and obscene gestures for the cameras, all of which were hilarious (please refer to my Mel Brooks "legends" comments for similar sentiments).

Afterwards, we dashed over to the Egyptian to catch the original GODZILLA (1954).  Gareth Edwards, director of the soon-to-be-released reboot, introduced the film with historian Eddy von Mueller.  Edwards had so much passion and respect for the original, he seemed to ease us all about the 2014 version.

I had time for one more event before having to get ready for my intro, so I went back to Club TCM for "Hollywood Home Movies," where people from the Academy Film Archive screened some gems from the once-private collections of Alfred Hitchcock, Ginger Rogers, Florenz Ziegfeld and Billie Burke.  I love getting to see stars in off-screen, unscripted moments, so this was a treasure for me.  I especially enjoyed the footage from the wrap-party of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), and the compilation footage of stars with animals.  I'm a sucker for that.

Then came the moment I had been nervous about for months.  And surprisingly enough, I wasn't nervous anymore.  Great friends (TCM fan programmers Stefanie del Papa, Peter Tulba, Michelle Curtis, Alberto Ferreras, and Petri Boyd) were in the crowd, along with an excellent audience; many of whom had never seen THE NAKED CITY before.  I was joined by Eddie Muller, founder of the Film Noir Foundation.  We had a great conversation about the film, and I was able to say some new things about it (in case anyone read my previous blog post, saw my on-air introduction and/or saw my contest entry).  I had so much fun introducing this film, and seeing a bit of it on the big screen was marvelous.  Gosh I love this movie.

Since I had quite a bit of adrenaline pumping through my body afterwards, I was up to the challenge of Saturday's midnight screening: FREAKS (1932).  It was my first time.  I had no idea what I was in for. But I made an excellent decision.  Seeing the climax on the big screen had my heart pounding.  Whew, even thinking about it now gives me chills.  After the screening, I tweeted/instagrammed: "I am so glad I chose this over sleep," and I stand by that.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The final day.  Sadness sets in.

Our first event of the day was the live taping of Robert Osborne's interview with Alan Arkin, a talented actor who I believe many people overlook.  His filmography is stellar, and Arkin's humility was cherished among the audience.  He's also a hoot!

The final screening I went to (*quietly sobs*) at this year's TCM film festival was Alfred Hitchcock's THE LODGER (1927).  This was one of my favorite screenings because of how much it shocked me. For the first time, I realized how established Hitchcock's direction was from the beginning.  This is Hitchcock's third film, but his first suspense thriller, first blonde leading lady, and first cameo appearance! If I didn't know this was a Hitch film, I certainly would have guessed it OR would have thought this was made by someone who inspired him.  It's simply amazing.  The screening was accompanied by an original score performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, and it was brilliant.  There is a blurred close-up that almost exactly resembles Grace Kelly's blurred close-up in the beginning of REAR WINDOW (1954).  That shot thrilled me; I wanted to run up and down the theater aisles!

Afterwards, the Closing Night party began, which was a great time to see the beautiful, talented, wonderful TCM staff and tell them how much this weekend meant to me.  I also got to see my fellow Fan Programmers one last time (before we have another reunion, obviously).  Here are Michelle, Stefanie, and Alberto:

I have also added a photo album on Facebook, so I can scroll through the pictures with a deep sense of longing.  Feel free to check them out.  And if you are sick of my posts, rants, raves, and tweets - I get it. I'd probably be sick of me too.  But I shan't apologize and I also probably won't stop.  Ever.

If you read this whole blog post, I congratulate you.  It is now 3:30AM, and I am wide awake in amazement of all I was able to experience.  Thank you for going on my journey with me, and take it from me, if you are a fan of TCM and they have another contest, ENTER IT.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

As the days pass and I get closer to crossing two incredible tasks off my bucket list (hosting a film on Turner Classic Movies with Robert Osborne, AND introducing a film to a live audience at the TCM film festival), I figured I might as well ramble a bit more about THE NAKED CITY (Jules Dassin, 1948).  It's the least I can do, since I now consider it to be a good luck film for me.  It was the film I introduced in my contest video submission, the film I will introduce on the air, and the film I will introduce at the festival.  It has been good to me.

My Criterion.  Watched dozens of times these last 7 months.

So, why do I like this film? There are countless classic films I could have chosen to introduce in my entry.  This choice wasn't easy; a large part of me wanted to take this opportunity to introduce a film where I can discuss Hollywood's mistreatment of people of color and/or women.  Then, I decided that may get too serious and critical for the judges - this I can reserve for my blog posts.  Eventually, I chose SUNSET BLVD (Billy Wilder, 1950); I wanted to discuss the powerful character of Norma Desmond, and the decrepit side of Hollywood that the film reveals.  However, I wasn't able to travel to the location I needed to introduce Sunset, so I had to use what I had.  And I had the greatest city in the world in my backyard.

Let's be honest; the strongest aspect of The Naked City isn't the plot/story.  It's New York City.  I'm proud to say that I am a New Yorker from birth.  I was born in Bronx Lebanon Hospital, raised in Queens, and then moved to the Bronx.  I went to NYC public schools from Kindergarten to the 12th grade; my undergraduate and graduate degrees are from St. John's University and New York University, respectively.  Along with film, the city essentially raised me.  So, the first time I saw The Naked City, I was astounded.  My love of classic film collided with my love of the city; and it wasn't portrayed on sound stages or sets.  It was real.  

The Naked City begins with narration from the film's producer, Mark Hellinger.  A helicopter shot over Manhattan provides the visuals, and a first-time viewer may think s/he is about to see a travelogue or documentary.  Hellinger goes on to narrate the seemingly mundane details of random New Yorker's lives, until he states that a young woman has been murdered.  Then we are introduced to Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and protégé Detective Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor).  The murder investigation leads the viewer to various neighborhoods in New York City; not excluding the outer boroughs (which, as a Queens/Bronx girl, I absolutely love).  Take a look at the opening shot:

When I first saw The Naked City about 6 years ago, recognizing locations was my favorite part of watching.  Jimmy Halloran lives in Queens, and he rides the IRT Flushing line (now known as the 7 train) home.  His wife complains to him that their child tried to cross Queens Boulevard by himself.  Anyone who knows anything about Queens knows how dangerous it would be for a child to do this, even today.  The fact that such a seemingly insignificant detail resonated so deeply with me is one reason why I love The Naked City.  The minute I shared a personal experience with someone else in the film, the film became personal to me.  At that moment, I felt partial ownership of the film.  These are moments that film fans like myself live for - the connection.

Mark Hellinger's narration pops in and out of the film, which is a good thing.  It may seem outdated and/or corny to some, but it serves a greater purpose.  Each time Hellinger draws our attention to every day New Yorkers - women shopping, children playing games outside, vendors selling food on Delancey street - we are reminded of the dynamics of the city.  Even in the film's climax, when the suspect daringly ascends the heights of the Williamsburg bridge, people are seen below living their lives unchanged.  Only someone who truly understands New York would think of doing this.  This is an excellent way of reminding us that, like the film's most memorable line (and later, the tagline of the television show): "There are 8 million stories in this city."  Thus, we are reminded that this is just one story.  There are countless others, and no two are the same.

In case you want more film geekery in video form, you can check out my contest entry below:

Please mind my choice of words in certain parts.  I meant to refer to Valley of the Dolls as a Cult Classic, but nerves got the best of me.  

Also, TCM posted a small bio about me on their film festival page!