Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The 2015 TCM Film Festival

If you are familiar (filmiliar?) with me at all, you know that last year, I won the TCM Ultimate Fan Contest. My prizes were: hosting a film on-air with Robert Osborne, and attending last year's TCM Film Festival where I also introduced a film. All of that to say, TCM spoiled me rotten last year. I wrote all about it here.

TCM's 20th Anniversary was last year, so they pulled out all the stops for the film fest. One of the highlights for me was the "Ask Robert" event at the Montalban Theater that ended up being a star-studded surprise tribute to TCM's veteran host. It was incredible. That doesn't mean I thought I would be disappointed with this year's fest; it's just impossible to beat when the bar has been set so high.

Well, I can safely say that this year's fest kicked serious rump. I won't say it was better than last year's; just different. While I certainly missed Robert O, the other guest hosts stepped up to the plate and brought us incredible intros and Q&As. TCM's staff is (like every single day) a group of rock stars who can literally do anything. So, I'll point out some major highlights that proved why this film festival is one of the best events you can go to:

1. THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLOR - Historians and archivists David Pierce and James Layton hosted this special presentation including rare photos and clips of films (many screened in 35mm) to detail the development of Technicolor during it's early period. This was a rare treat for anyone deeply interested in film history.

2. PINOCCHIO - This was my 3rd TCMFF, and I still hadn't been to El Capitan Theater! I knew I had to go this year, and I knew I would go for Pinocchio. It's been at least two decades since I've seen the movie, and it is better than I remember. It's so well-made, and watching it in a historic Disney theater was perfect.

3. SOPHIA LOREN - What can you say about Sophia Loren other than "QUEEEEN!"? Interviewed by her son Eduardo Ponte, their talk was personal, funny, and all-around adorable. It almost felt like the audience was intruding in a personal conversation between a mother and son, which it almost was. Hearing stories from one of the classic bombshells of Hollywood (and great actress - TWO WOMEN.) was a rare treat for me.

4. RETURN OF THE DREAM MACHINE - Easily my favorite moment of the whole film festival. As soon as we walked in to the theater in the TCL Chinese Multiplex, an Edison phonograph was playing music from the early 20th century, and a gorgeous hand-cranked projector from 1908 was waiting for us all. The energy in the room was scintillating. Everyone crowded around the projector to take a picture of it. Anyone would easily have thought the biggest stars in the world were in that room (for some of us it was), but we were all fawning over that beautiful piece of machinery. Short films screened that hadn't been seen in 85 years. Others screened that every film student has seen and are even available on YouTube but it didn't matter. These experiences are why film history lovers exist. There is a humanity within all of this technology that is sadly fleeting. Moments like this are once-in-a-lifetime and I am so glad to have experienced it.

5. DESK SET - This was one of the most enjoyable film screenings I have been in. It's such a funny movie and the audience was roaring with laughter throughout the whole thing. I don't think I stopped smiling for even one second. I have nothing else to say besides how much damn fun I had at this screening.

6. OUT OF SIGHT - This was one of the films i'm sure a lot of fans were not happy about, since it is only 15 years old. And maybe because it stars Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, stars who...stand out a bit...amongst other lineup names like Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and Maureen O'Hara. But I love this movie. I always have, and I have always wanted to watch it in a theater. And Editor Anne V. Coates was present for a Q&A with Ben Mankiewicz before the screening. She is such a talent with a career that spans from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA to - yes - 50 SHADES OF GREY. And she chose this film because it is one of her favorite ones. The editing is edgy, and the film is sexy without being vulgar, which shares this quality with many classic films. I love the whole cast, and the script is "cool" while still retaining substance.

7. THE GRIM GAME - It was a major highlight to see a film starring Harry Houdini from 1919 where the plot is quite secondary to him just escaping out of various situations - and there's nothing wrong with that. There is an actual plane crash that was recorded and made it into the film, and the whole audience gasped when it played. I loved this historic experience.

8. THE PEOPLE - This might be the best part about the film festival every year. I actually came to Los Angeles by myself this year since I knew that I would see my TCM family. I figured even with this, I may have some moments alone, but that was okay with me. WRONG! I met new friends everywhere I went, and ran into old friends from social media, the TCM staff, and my TCM Ultimate Fan family. We now consider this our annual reunion and I can't say how special it is to me now. I never had a lonely moment. Waiting on line for films ended up being something I looked forward to since I was meeting so many new people! Even though I was spoiled and hardly waited on any lines last year, I didn't realize there is actually a huge downside to that - you don't get to talk to anyone!

These events and the people you meet are reasons why it's almost disrespectful but definitely inaccurate to just call TCM a channel. No other channel seems to go above and beyond for its viewers. I promise you, just have one conversation with a TCM staff member and you will know what I mean. Programming also reflects the wide array of complete film history which is very important to me. So, it's safe to say I had a great time again at TCMFF. I can't wait for next year!