Category Archives: Film

TCM-Film-Festival-2015

TCM Film Fest 2015: Another Great Experience

There are plenty of great reasons to go to the TCM Classic Film Festival – seeing movies you love on the big screen, discovering forgotten and long-unavailable films, learning about film history firsthand, seeing some of the greatest actors, directors, and behind-the-scenes talent in the history of motion picture, etc. But one of the things that makes it so enjoyable year after year is getting to do all these things in the company of classic film fan friends old and new. Thanks to Twitter, I have a number of friends who come to the TCM Fest every year, and half of the fun is meeting up with them and flocking from film to film together.

Last year, I was only able to attend a few screenings and a lot of the friend magic wasn’t quite there. I still had a great time seeing the films, of course, but one thing I was determined to do this year was work harder to meet up with people I knew and enjoy the atmosphere of the festival, and I succeeded royally. Even when I happened not to be near friends in line, I chatted with a bunch of random cool people – because, I mean, you’re pretty much automatically cool if you come to TCM Fest, right? Right! I still only attended two days this year instead of all four, but they were two of the best fest days I’ve had.

I’ll do full posts on everything I saw later, so I’m going to focus on the festival experience here. Of course, I realized as I start putting this together that I didn’t take ANY photos during the fest, really, so I’ll still have to illustrate with film stills. Oops.

Friday

Chimes at Midnight

I spent Thursday evening with visiting family, and I worked Friday morning, so I missed a few notable programs, especially the Dawn of Technicolor program, but I got there in time for Chimes at Midnight. I’ve recently begun planning to complete a bunch of director’s filmographies, and when I checked up on Orson Welles to start sourcing his films, Chimes at Midnight was one that I simply couldn’t find anywhere, so when it showed up on the TCM Fest program, I had to get to it. I ended up pretty early in line, and chatted for a while with the lady in front of me. She and her daughter were there from the Seattle area, and they were returning festival fans. It’s great how many people come year after year, and not just local people – people who come from all over the country and beyond. The lady really loved Orson Welles, and was probably even more excited than I was to see this rarely screened film.

I’m not sure there was anyone I actually knew ahead of time at this screening, though – most of them seemed to pick Young Mr. Lincoln in this time slot (it was a TOUGH time slot; Chaplin’s Limelight was also playing at the same time) largely because it left more time to get in line for pre-Code Don’t Bet on Women in the following timeslot. Scheduling is everything, folks, especially when you’re trying to get into a film playing in Chinese 4, a tiny room that always, always, always sells out. I took my chances with a fifteen minute break between Chimes at Midnight and Don’t Bet on Women, but I hedged my bets a little by sitting on the aisle and skedaddling as soon as the credit started. It worked, I made it in, and my friends Kristen (@salesonfilm) and Marya (@oldfilmsflicker) had saved me a seat right in the center, and I got to meet Kaci (@kacik11) for the first time. Perfect!

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TCM-Film-Festival-2015

Previewing the 2015 TCM Classic Film Fest

The Sixth Annual TCM Classic Film Festival is nearly upon us – four glorious days of immersion in classic film in the heart of Hollywood along with hundreds of our fellow classic film fans. It’s the best time of the year for those of us who love Hollywood’s golden era of filmmaking.

This year hasn’t been without its controversy, as the early press releases announced programming such as Hollywood’s enduring classic…Apollo 13 (1995)? Malcolm X (1992)? Out of Sight (1998)?! But never fear – though TCM is bringing some newer films to the table, in order to woo some fans who haven’t quite made it as far back in Hollywood history as others, to expand the reach of their theme History According to Hollywood, and honor certain guests like editor Anne V. Coates and stunt coordinator Terry Leonard – they’ve still got PLENTY of pre-1970 films to choose from.

In fact, choosing is the hard part! Some of these time slots are so packed it’s nearly impossible to choose what to see. Such is our burden. I’ve gone through each timeslot, and detailed the choices in each one – basically what to look for if you want to catch all the essential films, if you’re looking for lesser known discoveries, or if you want to make the most of experiences you can’t get anywhere else. Obviously, these are all subjective to some degree.

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A few general suggestions to start with, based on my five years experience of this festival.

Plan Meals and Bring Snacks

The schedule is VERY packed if you want to see something in every slot. You’ll often be running directly from screening to another line without a break. Plan ahead and make sure to eat in any hour long breaks you have. It’s not a bad idea to bring some small bags of chips and a bottle of water with you, in case you end up crunched for time. The theatre doesn’t really make a big deal out of it for festivals – if you’d rather not sneak in food, they do have actual restaurant food and a bar as well as regular theatre food. Plus there are several relatively quick restaurants scattered around the top level of the Hollywood-Highland Center, including a pizza place, a Quizno’s, a Johnny Rockets, a Mongolian Barbecue, and a few more right next to the theatre.

See Something at Each of the Palaces

TCL Chinese, the Egyptian, and El Capitan are the centerpiece theatres and they are all pretty amazing venues. The Egyptian is a bit plainer these days than the other two on the inside, but the balcony is very nice. Head up there, because a lot of people don’t know it’s there and the middle front has the best view in the theatre.

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Watch This: First and Final Frames

I kind of wish the titles of the films were included on the video, since I could only recognize about half of them right off (the titles are in the description with timestamps), but then again, the beauty and symmetry of these shots mixed with the music is so perfect that I’m also kind of glad the picture is unmarred by data. It’s fascinating to see how sometimes the images mirror each other, sometimes they differ greatly, but always there’s a relationship implied. I wasn’t following this guy Jacob T. Swinney on Vimeo, but you bet I am now.

This Year’s Best Picture Nominees as Pie Charts

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I usually don’t post too much about the Oscars, but these pie chart breakdowns of the Best Picture nominees are pretty funny (I’m sure I would think they were even funnier if I’d seen any of the movies!). Also, I need to post more image posts to get the really old Criterion ones out of the sidebar. :)

See the rest of this set of pie charts by Jesse David Fox over at Vulture.

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The Chronological Looney Tunes: 1930

I’ve been a big fan of Looney Tunes for as long as I can remember, and although I’m sure the anti-violent cartoon league will get all up in my face, I’ve started letting Karina watch them and she loves them, too. Thanks to the Looney Tunes Golden Collections, I have a wide range of Looney Tunes (and Merrie Melodies, if you want to be specific) available, and since I’ve tended to stick to a few dozen favorites, I decide I’d like to watch through all the cartoons I have in chronological order and get a better sense of the development of the styles and characters over time.

And OF COURSE I’ll document all this here, year by year. The Golden Collection doesn’t contain every Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies short, and I may supplement from YouTube when they’re available, but I don’t promise to do that both because I may not have time and because YouTube is pretty iffy on Looney Tunes. I do promise to watch all of the ones released on disc, and I’ll be picking some favorite things about each one, and highlighting yearly trends and stuff like that. I am NOT doing a lot of background reading on this – I have a couple of books by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald that I’ll likely be referencing, but if you really want in-depth looks at specific cartoons, I recommend Brandie Ashe’s Saturday Morning Cartoon series at The Black Maria.

The Birth of Looney Tunes

After Windsor McCay introduced his animated dinosaur Gertie to the screen in 1914, silent cartoons became quite popular in the form of The Katzenjammer Kids, Bobby Bumps, Felix the Cat, Krazy Kat, Dinky Doodle, and many other series from Bray Studios, International Film Service, Van Buren Studios, etc. Disney came on the scene in a big way with Mickey Mouse in 1928, and Warner Bros. wanted something to compete, using their vast music collection and Vitaphone sound technology. They contracted with Leon Schlesinger to produce a series of animated musical shorts. He remained head of Warner’s animation unit until 1944, setting up many of the quintessential Warner Bros. characters and animation directors.

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Schlesinger’s animation team was headed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, with animation done by future great director Friz Freleng (among others), and their first character was Bosko, who is modeled on a young black boy but whose characterization as an African-American is spotty. There’s definitely an element of blackface minstrel show feel to his character that’s a bit troubling, which could be one reason he’s largely forgotten today. In large part, this manifests in his genial broad smile and innate ability to make music out of literally everything, so the cartoons tend to be joyful and visually inventive and almost wholly plotless.

Buckle up, because we have a whole lot of Bosko (and some other early, mostly forgotten characters) before we get to the Porky Pigs, the Daffy Ducks, and the Bugs Bunnys we know and love.

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