If you’ve been reading this bl-g for any amount of time, you may recall that I founded this Interweb space on the premise that I would write about music and my rediscovery of vinyl records as part of my recovery from a bout of depression and anxiety that occurred in 2010. I know the exact date, you see, because I’d just returned home from the movies. I’d seen Black Swan on it’s opening weekend. I came home that night and after a short conversation with my wife about the movie, I broke down. I’d been experiencing these symptoms of depression for about a month by this point, but I couldn’t put the feelings into words, nor did I truly understand what was happening to me. I told her that I didn’t know what was wrong, that I knew I’d been distant. The things which had made me happy no longer had value. I’d largely stopped watching movies, reading or listening to music. I hadn’t been able to write. I told her I didn’t know what to do to make myself better. It felt very confessional. She says what shocked her the most about that night was when she asked if I wanted to see a therapist. Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”
After six-plus months of conversations with my therapist, I finally considered myself recovered. I continued to attend sessions for over a year, however. I’ve remained emotionally well (with one or two minor lapses) ever since. The existence of this bl-g represents the first step taken toward recovery. It reinvigorated my writing and gave me a focus again. Writing about music, just for the love of music, kickstarted my first steps toward wellness. As I dove into the vinyl hobby, I started going to concerts again. I wrote about all of it. I explored new music and what music had meant to me as a child as an 80’s youth. I wrote about the nostalgia that still fulfilled me.
Somewhere along the way, writing about music, however, became less fulfilling.
I don’t spend less time listening to new releases or scouring record bins for hidden gems. I just stopped writing about music.
Anyone who has spent any time writing knows that the endeavor is a very solitary activity. When writing and submitting fiction to literary magazations, publishers or agents, there’s no immediate response. Often not even denial. Often there’s just the kind silence that hurts more than negativity. Each and every story or novel is a slog with only the sound of that internal, nagging voice spurring you forward. Silence sides with that voice. Writing this bl-g proved helpful. Short bites of writing followed by immediate response. I was writing. People were reading when I wrote more about music and nostalgia. For awhile the topic of the vinyl resurgence held a regular audience.
But as my writing turned back toward new artists and new releases, response dwindled. I was again writing for the void. I didn’t need more silence in my life, so output lessened. I grew disinterested in the bl-g, and this space remained largely dormant until I conjured an idea for a post about some of that good old fashioned nostalgia. Even then, due to my less-than-regular posting schedule, I found myself begging for views. No one checks in if you’re not putting up words. Nor should they. That’s not what this is about, nor is it what I’d intended when I signed up for the writing-as-therapy gig.
If it’s not familiar, if it’s not already welcome or expected, it’s often not accepted.
But then there’s the other side of that coin. Much of my disillusionment stems from reading the greater oeuvre known as “music writing.” As “music writing” has grown, so too has criticism of music writing. We’ve reached a point with the proliferation of music blogs that criticism of criticism has become it’s own genre. I’m also implicated here. I read P-fork (as the spearhead of this particular genre of music writing) like rubberneckers view the aftermath of a traffic accident. I often blame P-fork for everything that ails music writing, but they’re not alone. This is part subjective disagreement and part fundamental discord. Even when I agree with the overall opinion of a review, I often can’t relate what I’ve just read to the music it intends to describe. Purple, expressive and flowery prose often aptly describes the feeling that a certain music inspires. P-fork (just as one example I apparently plan to beat like a rented mule) has allowed rampant negativity to cloud their reviews. “Listenable” has taken on a very negative connotation. Not all music has to break new ground. Not all music must “challenge” in order to justify its existence. Talented writers work in this music writing genre, but I more often than not feel that they’ve completely lost sight of the goal — to express their connection to the music — in favor of fostering aural elitism.
I’m generalizing, but I don’t have the time to write a full treatise here… so generalizations will have to do.
This culture of elitism has plagued music writing since the dawn of the Interwebs (probably before as well). The “I knew about this band when they were playing out of their garage” mentality spread. Soon it included the notion that most average humans haven’t yet developed the aural IQ necessary to appreciate said music/noise of choice. I’ve never to my recollection begrudged someone for “not getting” a particular artist or record. I believe, however, that music appreciation develops and adjusts over time. We become more discriminating, more appreciative of true greatness. Greatness does not require innovation. Greatness can be the evolution of something familiar or merely a catalyst for change. What I’m trying to say, through far too many words, is that music listeners, overall, need to listen to more music and rely less on the hyperbolic elitism fostered by the most visible of music writers.
This is where I radically change directions for a drastic juxtaposition (and to get to the point).
When I started writing about James Bond for The James Bond Social Media Project, I found connections that had eluded me while I wrote about music. Despite being joined at the hip, the online cultures for music and film couldn’t be more disparate. I’m sure others have had different experiences; I can only speak to mine.
When I started the #Bond_age_ live tweet series, I immediately made stronger connections than I had through two years of writing about music. There’s greater acceptance and exchange of new ideas and opinions. Guilty pleasures are discussed and accepted. Where social media has shifted the focus of film criticism and appreciation away from the tedious and nebulous elitism once fostered by a handful of film critics, it has only exacerbated that effect in music. As a result, I’ve gravitated toward writing about film — oddly enough where my writing began as a 15-year-old kid writing movie reviews for Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner.
My friend and I began writing that page in 1994 as high school freshman and continued until we went to college. Writing homegrown reviews now seems quaint at best, but this was 1994, goddammit. This was the future. We earned a full-page writeup in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and had our reviews syndicated by MTV’s Adam Curry (who at the time was more than just a forgotten punchline). Sadly little of that endeavor remains, only fossilized records in Google searches. We each wrote reviews for at least two movies per week. We even had our own Top 100 lists. I still have the PPG clipping, and you’ll occasionally see our names pop up in really random book citations, like this one for Accounting for Taste: Film Criticism, Canons, and Cultural Authority 1996-2006 by Jonathan D. Lupo.
…and you can still find us in many old-timey lists of favorite movie review sites that more closely resemble ancient Internet sea scrolls. That’s us down there in that list alongside the San Francisco Chronicle and Usenet! If you’re old enough to remember Usenet, you’ll also find that amusing. Or not. I’m no authority on outdated Internet humor.
Maybe writing about music was never my bag. Writing about music may have just served as that temporary dose of adrenaline to bring me back from the brink. It’s entirely possible I just don’t have the stomach and/or necessary disdain for humanity. For as long as I can remember I’ve written about movies; it was just James Bond brought it all back. Though I may never reach the lofty heights of Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner (some sarcasm intended), I’ve met people through talking and writing about movies whom I believe will remain lifelong friends and contacts beyond the Twitterverse, even when The James Bond Social Media Project too has also joined the legions of websites in the Interweb heavens.
Am I crazy in thinking that that’s what this is all about anyway? Are any of us doing it for fame or money? I hardly think so. Writing for free, writing with time that would otherwise be spent living AFK, all of this is about the connection with people who share similar passions. As long as this bl-g remains part-time therapy and subject to the whims and memes of my life, it will be about the movies, music, writing, literature and guilt-free nostalgia that fulfills me for just as long as the end result, the connection, justifies the effort.
Time for my obligatory Record Store Day 2015 post. I’ll even phone it in.
I’m not wild about Record Store Day this year. I’m not plotting and planning and scheming how to get those elusive gems that I’m sure will walk out the door after the first few customers. At this point, I participate in Record Store Day for tradition and to support local vinyl shops. There’s no one disc that’ll get me out of bed before the sun comes up to get in line and wait for the 8am open. It’s the activity. It’s a morning that belongs to me. No familial obligations, no place else I need to be… I’ll talk records, buy records and then go home and play records. I’ll tell the 5yo about my morning and she’ll question me with the full powers of her 5yo logic.
Participating record shops open at 8am. Gone are the midnight opens. The RSD organization really needs to lift the ban on the midnight opens. They really put the kibosh on a great experience for forcing participating stores to open in the morning. The queue’s more congenial and the wait less tiresome. There’s far better conversation at 1am, more reason to stand around and chat. At 8am everyone’s a bit crabby because they’ve been standing in line since 4am or something stupid like that.
Part of the thrill is having no clue what your store is going to have available. And no matter how much you study the list in preparation for that dash through the stacks, nothing ever goes to plan. You’ll find some stuff you never knew you needed, guaranteed. But since I like to have scuttled plans, here’s my wishlist for RSD15.
30Hz Record Store Day 2015 Wishlist
Sun Records Sampler Volume 2:
Picked up Volume 1 last year. Great selection of tunes and the Sun Records catalog runs deep. And since I’m a completist, I’ll just keep picking up every damn release they come up with.
Thai Pop Spectacular: 1960-1980
One of the great joys of RSD is picking up oddities like this. These two ladies will slot in nicely next to my Nippon Girls records of Japanese pop hits.
Willie Nelson – Teatro
This is essential Willie. I don’t have this on vinyl. A clean copy would be a lovely thing. This might be my most wanted item for RSD15.
Music to Drink Beer To (compiled by Dogfish Head)
I drink a lot of Dogfish Head and eat at their brew pub in Delaware each year. I don’t see why having music to drink Dogfish Head by could be a bad thing. The track list boasts Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, A Tribe Called Quest, Muddy Waters, Iggy and the Stooges, Uncle Tupelo… etc.
Frank Sinatra – Songs for Young Lovers
One of Sinatra’s greatest records. I’ve got a lot of Sinatra on vinyl… but not this one.
Jurassic Five – Quality Control (The Wood Box)
It’s Jurassic Five! In a wood box! I love Jurassic Five and the wood box means classy.
Bernard Herrman – Psycho
BHerm on vinyl is always essential. Some of his trademark work right here. Scare the neighbor kids off your lawn.
Side by Side – “Walk On By”
Each year the RSD brains come up with a series of Side-By-Side releases, 7″ singles with two artists who covered the same song. To me, this is the most interesting of the 2015 releases. Dionne Warwick and The Stranglers doing “Walk On By.”
Country Joe & the Fish – Together
Coincidentally I just got into listening to Country Joe after picking up the Zachariah soundtrack. It’s seems little bit like fate that they’ve got a RSD15 release then. Don’t mess with fate, boys and girls.
Simple Minds – Celebrate, Live from the SSE Hydro Glasgow
As a Simple Minds junkie, I can’t pass up a 2 x colored, clear vinyl live album. I can’t. I might try, but if it’s in the store, it’ll be in my grasp. Come over. I’ll play it for you. We’ll have a Simple Minds jam session with everything they’ve ever recorded. On vinyl. We’ll have gin rickeys. I dunno. What do you drink while listening to Simple Minds? Maybe Dogfish Head has some suggestions.
I haven’t ponied up for a BTIWTW post in a few weeks, but this week I was inspired to return to the typewriter by a treasure trove of “Best Things.” This collection will run the gamut of movies to talk shows to sports highlights to one specific movie trailer that I guarantee gave people of a certain age some serious feels. No more exposition. Let’s get on with the Things.
1. Rancho Deluxe
When you stumble across a little sleeper of a film that contends for a spot in your Top 100 movies of all time, it makes all the bad ones worthwhile. It’s why we keep going back to the well. It’s why we keep watching old movies that few people remember rather than falling back on old favorites. Old favorites are great. They’re the backbone of any movie collection, but they’re old and they’re favorites. When we watch them, expectations are met and cockles are warmed, but there’s nothing like the thrill of “discovering” a new love. That happened to me this week. I picked up Rancho Deluxe because the film stars a very young Jeff Bridges, Clifton James (Sheriff J.W. Pepper in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun), Slim Pickens and Harry Dean Stanton along with a few other very recognizable faces.
Rancho Deluxe has all the makings of a cult film without any of the hyperbolic Internet ballyhoo. This is documented decadence of the traditional cinematic Western. Why doesn’t this film get its due hyperbolic praise? Maybe because the film lacks a specific genre. It’s part teen comedy, part satire, part Western dystopia viewed through nostalgia that still romanticizes the ideologies of the Old West.
Through the perspective of two young Montanta misfits (Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston), Rancho Deluxe views the West as a comedy of overidentified ways and means. The cattle farmers and ranchers living high on the hog from merely “showing bulls” and reveling in their pre-existing wealth. So bored that they’re hunting cattle rustlers because they’ve got no other way to fill their days. The youth growing up in this modern frontier without education or potential employment and tormenting the cattle barons “for sport.” There’s a brothel scene, pot smoking, very un-PC bits of dialogue (“Mexican Overdrive” = “neutral”), the old steer in the motel room gag and conversations filmed only in the reflection on the glass of a Pong video game machine.
I should start by saying that Roger Ebert hated Rancho Deluxe. Reading his review, I can’t help but think he overlooked the entire point of the film. Likewise for many other critics of the film in 1975. It’s possible everyone was just too close to the glory days of the classic cinematic Western. Maybe Rancho Deluxe was a little jokey to see the dose of wickedness behind the gags. Whatever the reason, I f’ing loved this film, though it begs for some restoration and a Blu-ray treatment. The current DVD is terribly muddy and hardly does the brilliant Big Sky landscapes justice. Should you want to give Rancho Deluxe the shot at being your newest favorite, the movie is available on YouTube. I’ll toss the embed below:
2. This Catch by Nolan Arenado
Any baseball fan will immediately compare this catch to Derek Jeter’s 2004 catch. This catch tops it. Arenado made this catch over his shoulder and running straight back from his position at 3B. Jeter’s catch is made legendary by the theatricality of his Greg Louganis into the seats. The angle of approach makes Arenado’s far more impressive, plus he almost doubles up the runner trying to advance. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two. No contest. It’ll probably be the best catch you’ll see this year.
3. Ad-Rock on The Daily Show
The Mutual Admiration Society joined The Daily Show on Monday night when Beastie Boy Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz sat down for a chat with his fanboy Jon Stewart on Monday night. The two bromanced, talked vinyl, how Ad-Rock didn’t remember meeting Jon Stewart during his days at MTV (not sure he remembers much from those days at all) and then engaged in an admittedly cursory discussion of Horowitz’s movie appearance in While We’re Young. Stewart has always conveyed sincerity, but this talk with the equally sincere Ad-Rock reminds us that even stars are full-on stammering fanboys when confronted with their idols. They’re just more eloquent than the rest of us.
4. And then, yesterday, there was this f’ing thing.
Narration by Mark Hamill. The voice of Harrison Ford breaking through the fade to black just before the image of Han Solo and Chewbacca. More teases of the John Williams score. The goddamn teaser trailer made me teary eyed. A SUB-TWO-MINUTE TEASER TRAILER. Every time I watch the thing I run through all sorts of gooey feels. I never had any doubts that J.J. Abrams would be good for Star Wars, but he’s gone beyond expectations. J.J. Abrams has entered the dangerous territory of impossible expectations. These trailers and the quality of Star Wars: Rebels have awakened the obsessive 6-year-old boy who paused Return of the Jedi to count the Stormtroopers during the scene where Darth Vader arrives at the Death Star. I had to have all the Stormtroopers and Santa was going to bring them to me.
If I were to summarize my experience at the 2015 TCM Film Festival in an image…
[I typed this up on my phone from the airport terminal before my red eye flight home on Sunday night. I wrote it as an email to my family, many of whom had not heard from me in days.]
I’ve arrived at the airport. Currently sipping a $15 Tanqueray martini next to my gate with some Korean barbecue that was far better in theory. The American Airlines gate is reserved apparently for second-rate flyers. There was nobody in my security line despite the heinous traffic jam getting into the airport. The TSA agents were cracking jokes about not having anything to do.
I’m coming down off the high from an amazing four day movie experience. This festival is a test of your meddle and cinematic fortitude. Even the most ardent cinephiliacs are winding down on Day Four. I spent no more than 2-3 waking hours in the hotel room. I lived like a nomad on Hollywood Blvd. for 16 hours each day, shuttling back and forth between 4 different theaters.My four day total: 16 1/2 movies (I had to leave Marriage Italian Style to get to the airport) and 1 seminar (the Art of the Title, about title credit sequences). I skipped only 1 time slot.
I saw conversations/film introductions with Shirley MacLaine (twice), Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret, the stuntman on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Zach Galligan (Billy Peltzer in Gremlins), Errol Flynn’s daughter, and Ileana Douglas who was here just because. I ate lunch with Lou Lumenick, the critic for the New York Post. He knew me as “the #Bond_age_ guy.” I saw two midnight movies of varying degrees of quality (both very rare and not available for public consumption) with my father-in-law. “Midnight movies with my father-in-law” sounds like a brilliant idea for a podcast. I saw a program of hand-cranked silent movies, including a piece of film that was just discovered in a film archive and made its first appearance at this festival. I met people to which I’ve been talking on Twitter for years.
This was an amazing experience. I’m extremely grateful that my wife gave me the opportunity to be a part of this. And Andy (my father-in-law) for joining me on this whirlwind tour. I sincerely hope he enjoyed himself because I enjoyed our time spent talking movies and sharing this experience.
In other news, the stewardesses for this flight are delayed and I’m still sitting here on the floor with my back against a recycling bin and regretting the Korean barbecue situation that I dispatched to the trash can after only a few bites.
In conclusion. I need sleep.
Before the Apartment at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Shirley MacLaine speaks with Leonard Maltin.
30/007Hz 2015 TCM Film Festival Post-Mortem
I have a B.A. in film studies and participated in my fair share of triple-features at the Cinema, but I’ve never experienced anything as cinematically intense as the gleeful 4-day grind that is the TCM Film Festival. I knew what to expect, clearly. I’d read the tweets for years now, felt my share of jealousy and monitored all the joy being had without me. I’d studied the schedule, planned my attack. All that was left was the execution… and navigating Hollywood Blvd.
I’m now reminded of this famous passage from the Robbie Burns poem “To a Mouse”
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!
Since this recap is taking a free-form construction, influenced likely by the only souvenir I brought back from Hollywood (a killer head cold), I’d just like to mention that enjoying Robbie Burns day in Ireland some years ago was an absolute delight. The Irish celebrate (heavily I might add) a day dedicated to the Scottish poet (his birthday, January 25th). That would sort of be like Americans celebrating a day for Bliss Carman (Canadian-born poet, Canadian poet laureate).
Back on topic.
TCMFF 2015 Final Tally: 16 1/2 movies
*denotes never before seen
**denotes previously viewed, but no memory remains
Too Late For Tears* (1949)
The Sea Hawk** (1940)
The Smiling Lieutenant* (1931)
Reign of Terror* (1949)
The Cincinnati Kid* (1965)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
42nd Street (1933)
Air Mail* (1932)
Christmas in July* (1940)
The Apartment (1960)
Return of the Dream Machine* (1902-1913)
Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
Don’t Bet On Women* (1931)
The Children’s Hour* (1961)
Marriage Italian Style* (1964) — had to leave halfway through to get my plane!
Best *new to me* movie(s):
Either Reign of Terror or The Smiling Lieutenant.
Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book)
Reign is Anthony Mann’s noir-style interpretation of the French Revolution. If that doesn’t interest you, this may not be a movie for you. It’s beautifully shot, with top notch chiaroscuro, black and white cinematography. There’s lot of devilish villians (one even kicks a cat to solidify his villainy) and a solid starring turn by Robert Cummings, but it’s Arnold Moss’ Fouche that steals every scene.
The Smiling Lieutenant
The Smiling Lieutenant is an essential Ernst Lubitsch musical comedy. Innuendo is never more potent than it is in the hands of Lubitsch. Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins work wonders with a wink and a turn of phrase. Checkers will never be the same. Nor will breakfast. *nudge nudge* They both mean sex. *wink wink*
Most forgettable movie:
John Ford’s Airmail.
As Leonard Maltin said in his introduction to the movie (I’m paraphrasing), “This isn’t Ford’s best, but Ford never made a movie that wasn’t worth watching.” This is a lesser Only Angels Have Wings, but Howard Hawks clearly borrowed liberally from Ford’s 1933 film when making that 1939 masterpiece. I can’t recall ever considering Ralph Bellamy a great lead. Slim Summerville elevated the movie from a supporting role.
Most memorable moments:
James Bond in the house before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Ben Mankiewicz looking appropriately confounded by George Lazenby’s interview.
“For the first time in this conversation you’re underselling yourself.” @BenMank77 to George Lazenby. #TCMFF#OHMSS
Best moment of #TCMFF Saturday: @007hertzrumble + me getting lost in a secret stairwell at the Multiplex where the staff goes to smoke weed. — Will McKinley (@willmckinley) March 29, 2015
Hand-cranked silent movies.
The Return of the Dream Machine program. Hand-cranked silents as they were originally shown in the early 20th century. Photo courtesy of @NitrateDiva.
The midnight screening of the infamously so bad it’s good BOOM! (1968).
At one point the editor (apparently) fell asleep and after an awkward cut Liz Taylor (now off-screen and apropos very little) screeches “WHAAAAAAT?”
BOOM! survivors at the festival quoted this line for the next two days.
Meeting folks I’ve chatted with on Twitter for years now.
#Bond_age_ contributors @NitrateDiva and @MiddParent
@MiddParent, me, @WillMcKinley
@joelrwilliams1, @NitrateDiva, @MiddParent, me at Reign of Terror. (We’re waving to Will because he spent too long eating fries at Johnny Rockets and got shut out of the screening.)
@ChrisSturhann snapping photos of Ben Mankiewicz before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
not pictured: Trevor and his Buster Keaton hat (@tpjost), Paula Guthat (@Paula_Guthat) and Tim Guthat (@tkguthat), @BeesKnees_pdx, @LaurasMiscMovie… and others I’m surely forgetting.
The Bogart’s Gin.
I’ve never tasted a gin (and I’ve had a lot of gin) that was both harsh and flowery. It was sandpaper and lilacs. Even free gin has a price.
I didn’t get to meet everyone on my Twitter list.
With so much going on and everyone taking full advantage of the festival’s offerings it’s often hard to pre-arrange a path crossing or a meetup at a movie. I bypassed the opening #TCMParty meet and greet because I opted for a power nap. I’d been up since 2:30am PST and something had to give.
Drinking too much coffee on Saturday night to stay up for Nothing Lasts Forever.
Zach Galligan introducing Nothing Lasts Forever on Saturday night.
A midnight movie after 5 hours of sleep the night before is hard enough. Not being able to sleep at 2:30am when you’ve absolutely got to get up by 7:30 to catch the encore of Don’t Bet On Women is worse. Just let the midnight mid-movie snooze happen. See @WillMcKinley during BOOM! and J.P. (@HollywoodComet) during Nothing Lasts Forever. J.P. even found herself in an elevator with women who were talking about the girl that fell asleep at the midnighter, not knowing she was standing right next to them. Now that’s infamy.
Not being able to watch three movies at once.
The entire Friday schedule was a test of endurance and decision-making confidence. My day fell into place around On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Tough decisions were made for me so that I could get to the queue OHMSS early. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark instead of Steamboat Bill, Jr. (with a live orchestra!) because Buster had me out of the theater only 30 minutes before Bond time. Unacceptable. Meanwhile Sunday afternoon indecision (without the benefit of a must-see) had me weighing two of my oft-watched favorites, Out of Sight and The Philadelphia Story, against The Children’s Hour, a movie that wasn’t even on my radar. I doubled down, supported Out of Sight with a flurry of tweets pre-show, got my #1 ticket (’tis a badge of honor)… and eventually went to see The Children’s Hour and some more Shirley MacLaine pre-show chatter with this crew. When in doubt, I decided, it’s best opt into the never-before-seen film. Always take the opportunity at these events to see something new or different.
Also, this is what happens when you try to take a picture selfie-style in a large, semi-dark theater. The flash, naturally, is on the other side of the phone so doesn’t flash. Duh. Almost pictured: @MiddParent, me, @fallonthornley, @WillMcKinley
…and this provides a segue way into one final segment…
Advice for future attendees from a 1st timer:
1. See your favorites, of course, but prioritize special or one-of-a-kind screenings, like the restoration of a film thought lost or a special exhibition, such as the hand-cranked silent films.
Taking the above example: I love Out of Sight but I saw it during it’s theatrical release. I own it on DVD and Blu-ray. The 35mm-showing of The Children’s Hour featured in introduction with Shirley MacLaine in the grand Egyptian Theatre. Of course, editor Anne V. Coates introduced Out of Sight, and Madeline Stowe introduced The Philadelphia Story in Grauman’s. It’s hard to go wrong at the TCM Film Festival.
2. Visit all the venues. One of the greatest things about the festival is the chance to see films (on film!) at some of the greatest and most storied moviehouses in the world.
The organ grinder at the El Capitan played a selection of John Williams hits before Raiders of the Lost Ark.
A silhouette “selfie” before The Children’s Hour that was all about the ceiling at The Egyptian Theatre.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre during the red carpet ceremony before The Sound of Music. Later on at the fest, I saw The Apartment and Marriage Italian Style here.
3. Find someone in the know, pick their brain early on at the festival. Chat with the six-timers who know all the tricks. These tricks, like how to manage the queues and still find time for food and the fastest paths between theaters are the keys to seeing everything you want. Befriend these people, hell… befriend all the people. You never know who will show up at one of your screenings with a higher queue number and seat-saving abilities. I was lucky enough to have the very recognizable fellows @joelrwilliams1 and @WillMcKinley line up right behind me at my very first movie, Too Late For Tears.
4. Take advantage of social media. Connect with those Twatterquaintances and keep in touch regularly during the festival so that you know who’s going where and doing what. Clearly, you’re there to see the movies, but the people on your Twitter list that you finally meet in person and the offhand conversations with complete strangers make the TCM Film Festival more than just a succession of great movies, more than just the sum of it’s parts. More than once I ended up in random conversations with people who I already followed on Twitter.
5. People love the Festival swag because they love to bedazzle their passes with buttons and flags and stickers. If you have a website bring something to promote it. I tacked on stickers to a business card order to promote my James Bond Social Media Project before the Festival. The business cards were nice, but the stickers were more memorable. If you can afford it, do buttons. It’s Pokemon syndrome up in there for buttons. (The great Paula Guthat even turned one of my stickers into a button!)
It’s awkward introducing yourself to people as “the #Bond_age_ guy,” especially so near Hollywood Blvd. I eventually got used to using my @007hertzrumble Twitter handle as a lead-in, but the damage had already been done by the “#Bond_age_ guy.” #Bond_age_ looks great on paper, but verbally, it’s all a bit clumsy.
The TCM staff put on a great show. I know there’s drama about calling movies released after 1980 “classics,” but it’s probably not worth the fuss. Many wouldn’t consider Apollo 13 or Out of Sight worthy of a slot at the festival. Is it worth some debate? Sure. But there’s always other options and it’s unlikely that these more modern movies are jeopardizing slots that would otherwise be occupied by anything rare or special. If it were rare or special it’d already have a slot in the lineup.
The merchandise for purchase at the festival’s TCM Shop was woefully uncreative and overpriced. Where are the movie posters with original artwork for some of the festival headliners? Or even just a music festival-style piece of artwork with all the names of the represented movies? Original, unique artwork that can only be found at the TCMFF would sell $30 t-shirts, posters, post-card sets, etc. Just slapping the name of the festival on a black t-shirt is lazy. I wanted to buy something at the shop, but there was just nothing worthwhile. (Psst, my design services are available for such an endeavor, TCM. Call me. You might have a card or two of mine sitting around Hollywood Blvd. somewhere.)
I don’t know if I can make this an every-year trip, but I’m sure going to try. Now that I have a taste of the goodness and know what I’d be missing, it’ll be damn near impossible to sit idly by and watch the barrage of pictures and stories featuring familiar faces and #TCMFF shenanigans.
…so next year (hopefully), I’ll get to come back and be known as something other than just “the #Bond_age_ guy.” “Jay,” for example, would do just fine. Hell, if I’m honest it’s still fun being called the “#Bond_age_ guy.” Carry on, either way.
For Christmas my wife shocked me with a pass to the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. The event takes place March 26th to the 29th, which means I’ll be journeying across country to Los Angeles in just a couple of days to partake of the cinematic masochism. I’ll be meeting up with my father-in-law to be my movie buddy for the week. He has no qualms about surviving on Cherry Coke and popcorn alone. You do what you can to survive… and watch as many movies as possible. He’s got the right mentality.
TCM Film Festival 2015 at the Frequency of 30/007Hz
Each year Turner Classic Movies hosts this affair, shepherding Old Movie Weirdos and Young Movie Weirdos from all across the country into a three block section of L.A. They then hold us captive, force our eyelids open and subject us to flickering images from 9am until 2am each day. Sounds amazing, right?
As this is my first trip to the event, I’m relying upon the grizzled veterans for guidance and support. Will McKinley, a notorious Old Movie Weirdo, for example, has written the TCMFF survival guide. I plan to make three copies, just in case I lose a couple. It also appears that tradition dictates, as a bl-gger of sorts, I must also post my anticipated schedule and then explain why the whole thing might blow up as I make last-minute decisions on the fly. Like whether or not to eat… or sleep. Anyway. Here we go.
Day 1 – Thursday, March 26th
Arrive at LAX sometime around noon. I even got a non-stopper from Pittsburgh.
I hear there’s some trivia contest happening around 3pm. Time enough to throw my stuff in the hotel room and hop over to the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. I’ll be in need of a few pints by this point in the day (air travel and I have a troubled relationship). I’ll be excited to meet some familiar Twitter faces for the first time over movie trivia. And beer. Some of these people I’ve been chatting with for years now. Luckily I’ve been hosting my #Bond_age_ live tweets while sauced so I don’t think a little inebriation will misrepresent me.
After this the movies formally start. Right off the bat, I need to make the decision between an old favorite and a movie I’ve always meant to watch as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance goes up against Queen Christina in the same time slot.
Ultimately, I think, Jimmy Stewart punching John Wayne will win out over Garbo.
6:15pm: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
After that it looks like I’ll have a break for sustenance as my presence won’t be requested until 10pm when I have to decide between a favorite William Powell/Carole Lombard comedy, My Man Godfrey, and my favorite Errol Flynn swashbuckler.
I’ve seen My Man Godfrey on the big screen a couple of times. Errol Flynn not so much. Swashbuckle me all night long, Errol.
10:00pm: The Sea Hawk (1940)
End with a nightcap? Errol Flynn would have wanted it that way.
Day 2 – Friday, March 27th
The Festival begins in earnest at 9:00am with a battle for attention between Inherit the Wind, My Darling Clementine and The Dawn of Technicolor, a special presentation that “illustrates the development of Technicolor through the boom period of Hollywood’s early sound musicals.” True to form, I’ll roll in a little bit late and catch the 10:30, the Ernst Lubitsch-directed The Smiling Lieutenant featuring Claudette Colbert and Maurice Chevalier. Lubitsch and Colbert? Sold. Plus this one’s new to me.
Since I’m generally choosing the never-before-seen tact at the festival, this means I’m bypassing the glorious spectacle of Lawrence of Arabia, despite never having seen this OMFG epic on the big screen. It is long. And I can see like seven movies in the same amount of time. Maybe not seven, but you understand the hyperbole. Lawrence starts at 10am, which means it blocks out the entire middle of the day until 2:30pm. Sorry, Larry. Catch ya later.
10:30am – The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)
After my date with Claudette Colbert, I can either hoof it over to Lenny with Dustin Hoffman and Alec Baldwin in attendance (Alec is interviewing Dustin. I hope he calls him Dusty) or enjoy a more leisurely lunch-filled stroll over to see Anthony Mann’s Reign of Terror at high noon, Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo or Michael Curtiz’s The Proud Rebel. Purple Rose is a favorite, but I just recently picked it up on Blu-ray. Terror trumps Rebel because I think I need to the French Revolution done film noir style… and it gets me out earlier to make sure I have enough time to get in line for The Cincinnati Kid with Ann-Margaret in attendance.
12noon: Reign of Terror (1949)
3:15pm: The Cincinnati Kid
After basking in some Steve McQueen cool for a couple hours, I’ll have to face the fire. I have real life and death decisions to make. Raiders of the Lost Ark starts at the El Capitan Theatre at 5:30pm. Raiders overlaps Don’t Bet On Women, A Man for All Seasons, Norma Rae, Rififi, The Invisible Man (1933) and Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. with a live performance of Carl Davis’ brand new score for the film. On one hand, it’s Raiders. On the other hand, I’ve seen Raiders in magnificent fashion at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta complete with villain-hissing and hero-cheering. But then again, it’s Raiders of the Lost m’fing Ark. Right now I have Rififi penciled into the schedule as I’ve never seen Dassin’s brilliant heist film on the big screen.
But don’t be surprised if I end up at the Capitan.
6:15pm: Rififi (1955)
On second thought, Raiders might end up being the smart play here anyway. My whole weekend revolves around the next film. Sure, Roman Holiday would be swell. I’ve only seen the Peck and Hepburn classic on DVD. Apollo 13 is a no-brainer. And by no-brainer, I mean I didn’t especially care for it the first time I saw it in the theater. Even if Alex Trebek is scheduled to converse with Captain James Lovell. I just hope all these other attractions distract people from getting in line for arguably the best James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with James Bond (George Lazenby) in attendance. It’s actually #2 on my list of Bond films (behind only From Russia With Love), but that would have lessened the build-up to the reveal.
9:15pm: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
While OHMSS is happening, Hitchcock’s classic Rebecca also happens somewhere else, but that’s just static and more places for people to get distracted while I can get a good seat for 007. You may or may not have heard, but I’m a wee bit of a James Bond fan.
Tired, weary and probably hungry, I will now find a double-shot of espresso, hoist my petards, and tackle the midnight showing of Boom! I’ve never seen this but I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity. This one’s a camp classic rarity with a legendarily bad (so bad it’s good?) reputation (8% on Rotten Tomatoes). A Tennessee Williams’ “adaptation” gone haywire, featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noel Coward.
12midnight: BOOM! (1968)
….and… nightcap. Elizabeth Taylor would have wanted it that way.
Day 3 – Saturday, March 28th
I’m totally down for seeing silent vixen Colleen Moore in the excellent Why Be Good (1927) but this is looking like a rest and recover morning. I’m thinking brunch. As a waitress once said to me in a bed and breakfast in Cork, Ireland before just giving me a third breakfast course, “Ohhhhhh the day is long.” The Irish know how to do breakfast. If you’re going to drink at the pubs all day you’ve got to start your day with a three-hour breakfast. Maybe the same holds true for the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival.
This clears my morning. I’ll bypass Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King at 10am in order to let Busby Berkeley dazzle me with 42nd Street at 11:30am.
11:30am: 42nd Street (1933)
After being dazzled, I’m definitely avoiding The Miracle Worker (been there quite a few times) and 1776 and Malcolm X (both too long). That leaves time for lunch and perhaps joining a Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival conversation with Sophia Loren. Or another viewing of Rebel Without a Cause or going to a book signing… I literally have no idea. None of these events are essentials. We’ll let this sit here as a wildcard, potential nap time slot. I’ll have to get back on the wagon by 4:15pm because an unseen Preston Sturges, Christmas in July, will demand my A-game. After that it’s another full night.
4:15pm: Christmas in July (1940)
Now begins a night of wicked decisions. Shirley MacLaine stops by for the screening of The Apartment, one of the all time great Billy Wilder flicks, if not just one of the all time great movies period. Choosing The Apartment, a movie I’ve probably seen a half dozen times, means I’m ignoring a Mel Brooks favorite of mine History of the World Part One, The Wind and the Lion (more Connery) and Viva Zapata! (Brando!) All of which start at the same time. This one’s going to come down to the epic adventure vs. in-person Shirley MacLaine. I expect to crowdsource this decision, meaning The Apartment might freeze me out with a super long line. If I’m putting dollars down, The Wind and the Lion might be the underdog with the big payout. Plus I’ve never actually seen it. If a crazy line awaits me at The Apartment, I could see myself hopping over to see Slouchy Bond woo Murphy Brown.
6:00pm: The Apartment (1960)
The French Connection happens at 9:15, and I do love me some Popeye Doyle, but I’ve seen this three times in the theater. Adam’s Rib would be fun with comedian Greg Proops hosting, but it’s not a big-screen essential for me. The Loved One‘s a cool flick, but I own it on DVD and watched it not entirely too long ago. Great choices all, but there’s only one that can’t be imitated elsewhere. At 9:30pm, TCM offers a collection of silent films, all hand-cranked and shown on 35mm. This is the way the earliest audiences watched movies. A rare experience that I can’t pass up. Return of the Dream Machine features Melies’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), The Great Train Robbery (1903), D.W. Griffith’s A Corner in Wheat and Suspense (1913).
9:30pm: Return of the Dream Machine (1903-1913)
The midnight show is another rare treat. Nothing Lasts Forever was produced in 1984 by Lorne Michaels and features the absurdly cool cast of Zach Galligan, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Imogene Coca, and Eddie Fisher. The studio buried the picture. Presumably because MGM didn’t believe a black and white, noir-style science fiction film would sell. It’s never appeared on home video of any variety. Zach Galligan will be attending this TCM Film Festival screening. I watched it on YouTube before it was erased from the Interwebs’ collective conscious and on TCM Underground a couple months ago. (I still have it saved on my DVR. NOBODY WILL DELETE IT. EVER.)
12midnight: Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
Day 4 – Sunday, March 29th
Patton screens at 9am. Pass. The Hunchback of Notre Dame happens at 9:30am. Pass. I can’t do pre-noon weepies. This happily leads me to a noir classic. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley at 9:45am.
9:45am: Nightmare Alley (1947)
Gunga Din offers some dated adventure-time thrills. Cary Grant is always a bonus, but it lets out at 3:45pm, mere minutes before my next planned feature. All signs point to Desk Set because I had to do a shot-by-shot analysis of a large portion of Psycho in film school. I haven’t watched it since. Maybe time to revisit finally? Ehhh….. I think I need more Katharine Hepburn in my life. No offense, Hitch.
1:15pm: Desk Set (1957)
This brings up a moment that has my panties in a bunch. TCM has pitted me against myself. Classic Film Me is like “Of course you have to see The Philadelphia Story. Don’t be a shmuck.” Modern Film Me is like “Out of Sight is ahead of The Philadelphia Story on your Top 100, man. Just look at the numbers.” Grrr. The movie poster is on my wall.
4:15pm: Out of Sight (1998)
I’ll get to sneak one more movie in before I need to catch that last flight out of La La. No better way to close out the Festival than with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in Marriage Italian Style.
7:30pm: Marriage Italian Style (1964)
Race out of the theater, hail a cab, head back to LAX for some red eye action.
…stay tuned for more dispatches from the 2015 TCM Film Festival in the frequency of 30/007Hz.
Netflix Streaming is an ebb and flow of new and old titles. They come and go as Netflix pleases. It seems that lately, however, Netflix’s streaming options skew newer and newer and newer… which is why that every month I check Instant Watcher and filter new offerings by decade. I switch the sliders to 1900 – 1990, open up my Netflix window and start adding stuff to my queue. Maybe I get around to watching them before they disappear. Maybe I don’t.
Luckily, we have also have Twitter personalities like @bobfreelander (operator of the fantastic website Rupert Pupkin Speaks) who specializes in underseen and underappreciated films. Last week sometime he noted the addition of Teen Witch to the Netflix Streaming lineup and offered a hearty recommendation. Thursday I queued up Teen Witch.
This is Episode IV: A New Hope of The Best Thing.
The first scene is a Vaseline-scrubbed, slo-mo dream sequence. Flowing capes. Shadow silhouettes. Smoke machines. Neon everywhere. A killer 80’s jam.
…and yadda yadda yadda… I didn’t do any work during my daughters’ nap time.