2016 TCM Film Festival Post-Mortem

Posted By jdp on May 4, 2016 | 0 comments


I used this image as a lead-in to my 2015 TCMFF Post-Mortem, and I’ve got to be honest, there’s really no better way to summarize the experience. So here it is again, primed and ready for my recap of the 2016 TCM Film Festival:

TCM Film Festival

Last year I also arrived at the airport for my midnight flight home with time to spare. Enough time, in fact, to eat some ill-advised Korean barbecue and write a rather inspired email to my family about the experience. I’d planned to do the same this year (minus the Korean barbecue), except I found myself hornswaggled by the LAX TSA Security Check. One of the security agents kept yelling at us like high school delinquents in a heavy-handed teen drama. “I’m here to help you,” he caterwauled, “If you guys don’t start listening and don’t want to be helped we’ll be here all night! I’ve got nowhere else to be. You do!” He must have said this a dozen times as I waited in the winding, interminable queue. I sought solace in my Twitter feed, many of whom remained at the closing festivities.

 

By the time I reached the gate, I didn’t even have enough time for a much needed libation at the bar, let alone a heartfelt composition on my phone notepad. Just as my flight began to board, I hastily grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of Peanut M&Ms from a woman of the finest brand of occupational disinterest. She reluctantly accepted my $5 bill (she wasn’t “supposed to,” you see) like she were doing me a favor. Apparently cash is preferred currency… except in the Delta terminal at LAX.

I tried channeling that weary, loopy state of mind yesterday as I assimilated to everyday life, but sleep deprivation (something less than 10 hours in three nights) had firmly taken hold. No longer was I loopy; I was walking dead. Instead of writing, I unpacked, went for a short run, consumed a large green smoothie called the “Turmeric Cleanser” (which I recommend highly for gastrointestinal recovery after mass popcorn and Baja Fresh consumption) and managed a 90-minute nap before running my daughter over to gymnastics. (I also have a recommended smoothie for immune boosting that I drank every day before departure. They come from this book, which I treat like a bible… but I digress.)

Still, let’s give that letter a shot, now 36 hours removed from my final screening at the 2016 TCM Film Festival. Hopefully, the unsheathed nerve of sleepless delirium and festering emotion remains raw. Unless you want to talk more about my daily green smoothie regimen.

No?

Okay. Back to the movie thing.

tcmff ticket 2016 TCM Film Festival

Dear So and Sos:

After leaving the TCM Film Festival last year, I called it “an amazing four-day movie experience” and vowed to return. I praised my wife for giving me the time off and thanked Andy, my father-in-law, for joining me for these adventures in hardcore moviegoing. It’s wonderful having someone with which to share this experience… even if you hardly ever end up in the same movie theater… and nothing much has changed. I felt the same warm and fuzzies, though they were dulled somewhat by that damned TSA checkpoint.

But the TCMFF is so much more than just movies. Even though we spend every waking moment at the fest planning which movies to see and how we’re going to go about making these plans happen, it’s the people we meet. It’s the shared experience. (It’s also about the buttons, which Kellee Pratt (@IrishJayhawk66) perfectly dubbed “friendship bracelets” for movie weirdos.) Friends and family that don’t understand how we can sit through nearly 20 movies in four days might call us “insane movie people.” And it is true. To a certain extent we are mentally depraved. Just in all the best ways.

Certain friends revere my movie knowledge, but when I go to the fest, I revere everyone’s cinematic IQ. I’m humbled. I’m in awe of my fellow attendees, the guests, the TCM staff… and I couldn’t think of a better place to absorb all of this cinematic appreciation… except maybe the very same place only with free gin. But maybe not the Bogart’s gin from 2015, which was more like liquid sandpaper.

Both years I’ve really only had one major regret — not getting to spend more time idly chatting with these like-minded lunatics. There’s always time in lines to get some good conversing done with a few often arbitrary people each fest, but there’s still dozens that slip through the cracks of even the best laid plans. That said, I met plenty of people I missed at the last festival and reconnected (at least briefly) with almost all of my Twitter friends out there in the real world… or whatever Hollywood Boulevard actually is since one can hardly call it “real.”

I certainly hope to return next year.

Cheers,

Jay, aka “the #Bond_age_ Guy”

PS. I apologize to the guy sitting in front of me at Gog, who apparently thought the film was no laughing matter, despite the flaming phalluses in not only two, but three dimensions. Don’t sit in front of me at a midnight movie if you don’t want commentary. There were many, many, many other seat choices. 


 

2016 TCM Film Festival Post-Mortem

 

hollywood sign 2016 TCM Film Festival

The view from my hotel room.

 

As opposed to last year, the 2016 TCM Film Festival went down almost precisely as planned. I was wiser. I knew a few tricks. I still can’t figure out Will McKinley’s short cuts from the Egyptian Theatre back to the TCL Multiplex… but no matter! I executed my plan with the precision of a Josef von Sternberg shot through lace and smoke and soft focus. (I’m not sure that analogy works, now that I think about it.) I came. I saw. I stalked Elliott Gould. I heckled a midnight movie. I passed out a lot of damn buttons… and somehow still returned with a bunch. I found a great little breakfast place across from the Egyptian on Las Palmas that makes great croissant sandwiches and green smoothies. And best of all, I saw a lot of movies.

 

2016 TCM Film Festival Final Tally: 18 movies/features

*denotes never before seen
**denotes seen, but barely remembered

 

One Potato, Two Potato* (1964) – presented in 35mm
Los Tallos Amargos* (1956) – presented in 35mm
Shanghai Express (1932)
Double Harness* (1933) – presented in 35mm
When You’re in Love* (1937)
Private Property* (1960)
Batman: The Movie (1966)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Roar* (1981)
Vitaphone 90th Anniversary* (1928-1929)
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)
The Long Goodbye (1973) – presented in 35mm
Band of Outsiders** (1964)
Gog* (1954)
Holiday in Spain (aka Scent of Mystery)* (1960) – presented in Cinerama & Smell-O-Vision
Horse Feathers (1932)
The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966) – presented in 35mm
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back* (1934) – presented in 35mm

 

Vitals:

1,702 minutes of movie (even I can hardly believe this)
9 1st time watches (plus I’d never seen any of the Vitaphone shorts)
13 B&W. 5 color.
By decade – 1920’s: 1 / 1930’s: 5 / 1940’s: 0 / 1950’s: 2 / 1960’s: 7 / 1970’s: 1 / 1980’s: 2
1 intensely philosophical discussion about acting between Elliott Gould and Alec Baldwin

 


Most Memorable Festival Experience:

 

holiday in spain 2016 TCM Film Festival

Holiday In Spain (aka Scent of Mystery) presented in Smell-O-Vision

I had no idea what to expect from this special presentation at the Cinerama Dome. As this took place at the same time as the M*A*S*H screening, it interfered with my Elliott Gould stalking. Also, due to the duration of the event and the distance from our Hollywood Blvd. epicenter, Holiday in Spain locked up 3 different time slots on Sunday. The people that made the trek and time commitment did so because they could never experience this anywhere else.

I don’t think anyone left disappointed.

Upon entering the massive, domed amphitheater we found cups of goodies at every seat. Contained within each were a piece of 70mm film from the film we were about to see, a fan, and a small, numbered vile. The bottle contained one of 14 scents. When our number flashed up on the screen, we were to spritz our aroma in a semi-circle over our heads and then use the fan to help distribute the scent throughout our section of the auditorium.

Leonard Maltin introduced the event and our special guest, Beverly Bentley, the actress starring in the film. Ms. Bentley appeared overcome with appreciation that we were all there to support the resurrection of Holiday in Spain, a film that has largely gone unseen since its debut in 1960. She warmly recalled how excited she was upon the premiere of the film — and then poof — the Smell-O-Vision gimmick and the film disappeared overnight. She also recounted the story of meeting Earnest Hemingway in a bar in Spain during filming. She had recognized the writer before a group of tourists approached her and asked if the man at the end of the bar was indeed Papa Hemingway. She said, “Of course. Let me holiday in spain cup 2016 TCM Film Festivalintroduce you.” She pretended to be old friends with the literary icon, and Hemingway played along with the bit. They subsequently became rather chummy. He escorted her to bullfights and treated her to the life of Earnest Hemingway. Later, Beverly Bentley married Norman Mailer, so apparently she has a thing for writers. I support this.

After her pre-show interview, Ms. Bentley assumed her V.I.P. seat across the aisle from me. The actress ooohed and cheered throughout the movie. She applauded her co-stars (offering an especially warm reception for Diana Dors, whose son was also in the audience) and stifled a fit of giggles when her character first appeared on screen. When I said earlier that we lunatics attend the festival because of the movies and the people… well, it’s also for moments like this. Hearing the actress, now 86, react like a girl of 16 to her own movie. This is authentic and human. How must it feel to watch yourself, preserved in time, 56 years younger, act on-screen alongside the late greats Denholm Elliott and Peter Lorre? Others at this year’s fest had a similar experience when Norman Lloyd showed up to the screening of He Ran All the Way merely as a fan, as someone who wanted to watch his own movie.

I stopped traffic upon exiting to take a picture of this rubbish bin with a "Smell-O-Vision" sign on it. No one understand why I thought it was funny. Oh well.

I stopped traffic upon exiting to take a picture of this rubbish bin with a “Smell-O-Vision” sign on it. No one understand why I thought it was funny. Oh well.

Meanwhile, we, the gathered masses, relished our jobs as scent distributors, replacements for the seat-born dispensers of the original Smell-O-Vision technology. A number flashes on screen. Someone nearby would spritz the air and we’d all begin sniffing, waiting for the scent to waft over to us. Roses. Peaches. Pipe smoke. Garlic. Various perfumes that played a vital role in the narrative.

After the movie I ran out into the lobby and bought a copy of Holiday in Spain on Blu-ray. I don’t know if the movie holds up on its own. And quite honestly I don’t give a damn. I won’t be able to separate the memory of this experience from the film itself. If I saw nothing else of merit during these four days, this event alone made my festival a success.

 


Favorite *New to Me* Movie(s):

 

bulldog drummond strikes back 2016 TCM Film Festival

Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934)

I’ve seen many of the Bulldog Drummond films. I had interest in seeing this more hard-to-find entry in the series but the  screening conflicted with Carl Reiner’s appearance with Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. It just wasn’t an option. But then Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back fortuitously got scheduled at the tail end of the festival, in that final TBD slot opposite The Band Wagon and Cinema Paradiso and Network. All of which I’ve seen. None of which I could have finished before bailing and hitching a ride to the airport for my 11:15pm flight. Thank you, TCMFF programmers! I sprinted out of The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! and arrived back at the Multiplex just before showtime, and the film ended 10 minutes before I needed to catch my shuttle to LAX. Kismet. Thank you to @middparent and @NitrateDiva for selling the joyous virtues of Bulldog. Ronald Colman and his mustache are devilishly suave. The twists and clever turns of the detective narrative stand out as comedic highlights in the series.

 

when you're in love 2016 TCM Film Festival

When You’re in Love (1937)

This unreleased, completely unavailable musical romantic comedy features Cary Grant at the height of his Cary Grantness. It’s hard to imagine why no one has found a way to make this film commercially available. The only film directed by Robert Riskin (Capra’s favorite screenwriter), When You’re in Love features Australian opera singer Grace Moore opposite Grant for the second time. The pair successfully teamed up in 1934’s One Night of Love. The film’s a lark, a casual screwball oddity that ladles charming songs and Grant’s oozy charm in equal measure. The highlight? Moore singing “Minnie the Moocher” as an operetta with occasional fits of scat with Grant on piano. Before the film, Jennifer Grant, the only daughter of Cary Grant confessed that this may have been the only film of her father’s that she hadn’t seen. Both @joelrwilliams1 and I called it “charming.” Did I mention that I found this movie ever so charming?

jennifer grant 2016 TCM Film Festival

Tara McNamara (left) speaks with Jennifer Grant (right), daughter of Cary, before the TCM Film Festival presentation of When You’re in Love.

 

private property 1960 2016 TCM Film Festival

Private Property (1960)

Shot in 1959, over five days, for just under $60,000, the independently produced Private Property had been thought lost until a print turned up a couple years ago. Directed by Leslie Stevens, better known for his prolific TV output, Private Property depicts a plot conceived by two drifters (Corey Allen and Warren Oates – in his first starring role) to seduce and, well… eventually rape a neglected housewife (Kate Manx). This is 80 minutes of low-lying and persistent tension. Allen’s drifter is unhinged and unpredictable. Oates is immature. And Manx’ housewife displays enough pent up sexuality for the entire cast of Desperate Housewives. Stevens overtly channels Hitchcock (and even references him at one point during the film by naming an unseen character “Hitchcock”) and succeeds. 20th Century Fox tried to buy the film for distribution in 1960, but the MPAA wouldn’t issue a ratings certificate due to the films depravity. It’s barely a scandalous trifle by today’s standards, but one can certainly see how it might have caused a ruckus.


 

 

Most Forgettable Movie:

 

double harness 2016 TCM Film Festival

Double Harness (1933)

And it wasn’t even that forgettable. But this is irony, folks.

On Friday morning, after finding myself in the front row of 2 of my first 3 screenings at the TCM Film Festival, I bolted out of Shanghai Express just as the curtain fell on that von Sternberg masterwork. No time for applause. I grabbed my queue number for Double Harness, a pre-code William Powell film that I was rather positive I’d seen before.  #39. I figured I had this one in the bag. A nice, cushy middle row seat for my aching neck. I enter the theater to find only a mere handful of seats remaining. All in the front row. The hell you say! I claimed yet another front row seat and settled in. The good news: I hadn’t seen Double Harness before. It’s an enjoyable film, more of a dramedy (with one highly entertaining dinner-party-gone-wrong scene), and William Powell doesn’t get to unleash his full-cad material. This was, after all, an Ann Harding vehicle for RKO. Powell was merely the guy plopped in to support her.

Little did I know that outside the Double Harness theater real-life drama unfolded. The large number of people that got shut out of the screening took to Twitter and social media to express their monumental displeasure that TCM continues to drop the very popular pre-code films into the tiny TCL Multiplex #4. For the rest of the festival, the legend of Double Harness grew. I became an oddity for making the cut. I was lavished with jealousy and courted like a king. (True story. Clearly.) It didn’t take long for TCM to announce that Double Harness would be the first TBA slot on Sunday. On Sunday the screening again sold out, leaving more attendees put out (poor, poor Will) and shaking their fist angrily toward the heavens, cursing that damned Double Harness.

 

 

If the 2016 TCM Film Festival is remembered for nothing else, it will be “the Double Harness Kerfuffle.”

 

 


 

Memorable Individual Moments

 

Gog (1954) in 3D

Our rowdy row before the Gog (1954) in 3D midnight presentation on Saturday night.

Our rowdy row before the Gog (1954) in 3D midnight presentation on Saturday night.

 

Stalking Elliott Gould (Club TCM & The Long Goodbye)

Alec Baldwin's interview with Elliott Gould. Listening to Gould talk about acting is like listening to great jazz improvisation.

Alec Baldwin’s interview with Elliott Gould. Listening to Gould talk about acting is like listening to great jazz improvisation.

 

Batman: The Movie (1966) Poolside

IMG_2190

Ben Mankiewicz chats with Lee Meriwether and Adam West before a screening of Batman: The Movie (1966). (Next year I promise to remember my real camera.)

 

batman 1966 poolside at the roosevelt hotel tcm film festival

Roosevelt Pool during my favorite scene in Batman: The Movie (1966). In case you can’t make it out, that’s the shark-repellent bat spray and Adam West clubbing an obviously rubber shark.

 

Confirming that Anna Karina is actually real and not a figment of my Jean Luc Godard-induced film school hallucinations.

 

The radiant positivity of Eva Marie Saint

 

Carl Reiner and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

 

Dame Angela

I was too far away to get a decent photo of the lovely Angela Lansbury. But suffice to say the movies I sacrificed to see Angela Lansbury and the Manchurian Candidate (for the fourth time or so) were well worth it. The woman is a legend of all screens and stage. Alec Baldwin, who conducted the pre-film interview, could not come up with enough praise to bestow upon her. Though my pictures are hazy (yes, even hazier than the ones above) the memory of this event will remain vivid…  or at least more vivid that the blotchy photo on my phone.

 

Vitaphone shorts

Here’s a sample of my favorite of the Vitaphone shorts.

 

Advice for Future Attendees from a 2nd Timer:

  1. Arrive a day early if you can manage it. I can’t manage it… so I prioritize rest that first afternoon during events I otherwise would have liked to attend. I missed some trivia and some #TCMParty meet ups for the sake of a much needed power nap. Plus, early arrivals got to tour the WB lot with the @WarnerArchive guys! Jealous!
  2. Visit all the venues at least once. The El Capitan wasn’t part of the festival this year and I missed it. I missed seeing a venue! I’m heading towards #OldMovieWeirdo oblivion here.
  3. Prioritize events you’ll never see or experience anywhere else, i.e. Vitaphone shorts, Cinerama/Smell-O-Vision, live orchestrations, etc.
  4. Participate in social media, tweet actively, and keep your eye on the #TCMFF hashtag feed. You’ll never know who’s in line ahead or just behind you unless read the feed. That’s when you’ll find the most time to socialize with friends and arbitraries. I finally found a moment to hang out with @QuelleLove and her husband because I saw her tweets while waiting in a long, long, long ass line. Or meeting @NoirGirl in One Potato, Two Potato because I realized from her tweet she was sitting, well, directly to my right. Plus, TCM arranges many fun festival quirks through the Social Media Producers. There was even a monitor in the Roosevelt that played a random feed of #TCMFF tweets.
  5. Bring a battery backup charger for your phone. Don’t rely on being able to find a plug when you need one. I highly recommend this item. It’s a little bulky, but you’ll never run out of juice and it has ports for two USB plugs. Sharing your spare battery power is caring.
  6. Get up early enough to eat a breakfast. Really. Eat regularly. Drink lots of water. And coffee. And then more water.

Final Thoughts:

I thought it’d be nice to show up at this year’s event and not be known as “the #Bond_age_ guy,” but that’s a name that just sticks. Over the last year I’ve come to embrace it — even putting it on my Twitter account and the avatar buttons I made for my TCMFF badge. So yeah, I’m the #Bond_age_ guy. And I’m good with it, he said with a certain pride akin to Kramer proclaiming himself “the Assman” on Seinfeld.

Let’s see… other thoughts… other thoughts… if you’re a classic film fan and think this kind of masochism sounds like a great time, start planning and budgeting now. Make it a priority — you won’t regret it. The only real danger is loving it and wanting to attend every year. And if that’s the case, welcome to this sick and twisted, deliriously happy crowd of bleary-eyed movie hooligans and #OldMovieWierdos.

 

 

 

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