Wednesday, May 4, 2016

TCM Classic Film Festival 2016: Day 1 and 2 Recap

TCM filming Raquel Stecher outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater

Little did I know this would be a trip of a lifetime.

Carlos and I arrived on the Tuesday before the festival and I came with a packed schedule filled with things to do. On Tuesday evening I was filmed by the TCM crew for their promo videos. I was a bit nervous even though I had been mentally preparing for the filming for about a week. I didn't think any of my footage would be used but lucky for me something I said off the cuff made it into the TCM Friday Festival Update Video. In that same video you can also catch a glimpse of me interviewing Leonard Maltin on the red carpet. More on that to come!

Kim, Raquel and Carrie

The TCM crew filmed me, Carrie of Classic Film Fan and Kim of I See a Dark Theater. I had a blast working with these two lovely ladies and getting to know them better. Carlos was there too as official schmoozer and purse wrangler. He also took some behind-the-scenes photographs.

On Wednesday Carlos and I made a pilgrimage to the 101 Coffee Shop in the Hollywood Hills. It's a fantastic diner and happens to be one of the shooting locations in the film Swingers (1996).

Along the way we found Carlos Ave!

Around the corner from Hollywood and Vine, you can find Robert Mitchum's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I make the pilgrimage every year to see it and commemorate the event with a few photos. There was a lot of construction happening on that same block and some of the stars were obscured by partitions. It was sheer luck that Mitchum's star was one of the few that was still visible. It was one of several lucky occurrences for me on this trip.

Raquel Stecher with Robert Mitchum's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

As we walked down Hollywood Boulevard I took a quick photo of the iconic Capitol Records building which is just up the hill.

Capitol Records building
Capitol Records building

While we were waiting for the Larry Edmunds Bookshop to open, we stopped by a souvenir shop. Here Carlos is thanking the Academy for his Best Husband Oscar.

Visiting Larry Edmunds Bookshop is a treat as well as a major strain on the wallet. On this trip I purchased Harlow in Hollywood by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira as well as an out-of-print bio on Telly Savalas plus some prints of Murder by Death (1976) for a friend. I also attended two TCMFF book signings that were run by Larry Edmunds.

Larry Edmunds' slogan could be: come for the film books, stay for a chat. Jeff who runs the store and Sean who helped me find some prints are super friendly and I had a blast talking to them at the bookshop as well as at the festival.

Afterwards I headed to the Roosevelt hotel which is the central hub of the festival. There I picked up my media pass which unfortunately didn't have any film themed design. However the excellent goodie bag they gave us more than made up for it.

The media received a TCMFF tote bag, a copy of TCM The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold, a TCMFF 2016 booklet, the latest Now Playing guide, a bottle of Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope wine and a complimentary subscription to TCM Backlot, their new exclusive fan club service.

Raquel and Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

 Then I was off to a press conference hosted by TCM that included Charles Tabesh, Jennifer Dorian, Ben Mankiewicz and Genevieve McGillicuddy. It's also when I got to see some friendly faces for the first time during the fest including one of my best friends Laura! Make sure you check out my full coverage of the  TCMFF 2016 Press Conference.
Left to right: Tabesh, Dorian, Mankiewicz & McGillicuddy

After the press conference a few of us stopped by the TCM Boutique which was not at the Roosevelt this year. Instead it was situated in the Sweet! shop in the Hollywood & Highland mall. If you attend any of the Chinese Multiplex screenings during the festival you inevitably pass by the boutique so it was conveniently located. The set up was beautiful but I didn't end up buying any merchandise. I was more interested in spending my money on books.

Several of us headed to the Roosevelt hotel pool for what ended up being several meet-and-greets happening at the same time. I had two delicious mojitos which calmed some of my nerves and had some good chats with friends. It was a bit chaotic and I didn't end up getting any pictures.

However, a group of us opted to go out to dinner at the famous Miceli's for what proved to be a convivial and more relaxed evening. I had such a blast talking to my friends I forgot to eat my dinner!

Left to right: Casey, Kate, Meg/Millie, Lindsay, KC, Laura and Raquel

Stay tuned as I'll have more recaps as well as detailed posts on my 2016 TCMFF adventures.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

TCM Classic Film Festival Press Conference

2016 TCMFF Press Conference
Left to right: Tabesh, Dorian, Mankiewicz & McGillicuddy
On Wednesday April 27th, TCM held a press conference before the start of their classic film festival. The conference panel consisted of Charles Tabesh, senior VP of programming, Jennifer Dorian, Ben Mankiewicz, host of TCM and Genevieve McGillicuddy, VP of brand activations and partnerships and festival director. Tabesh and McGillicuddy oversee the logistics of the festival and Mankiewicz is taking a bigger role this year, as he did last year, in the absence of Robert Osborne. He'll be conducting most of the big interviews that will happen during the festival.

I've been to two other press conferences in which they brought out Osborne, then Mankiewicz then Tabesh and McGillicuddy together. Essentially it was three very different and informative discussions. In this conference all four on the panel were there together which made for some awkwardness.  I also couldn't help but wonder if Dorian was there to make sure that the discussion didn't stray from their targeted message. I'm very accustomed to corporate-speak and there was some of that during this conference. However, the conference is still a good opportunity for us media folks to learn more about how the festival comes together and I'm very glad I attended this year.

Here are some key takeaways from the press conference:

  • Mankiewicz, who is introducing the opening night film All the President's Men (1976), gets emotional every time he sees the movie because of the connection to his father. NY Post's Lou Lumenick has a great article with more details.
  • According to McGillicuddy the projected number of attendees this year is 26,000 which includes passholders and standby attendees. I didn't realize it was that many people!
  • TCM is launching FilmStruck (think of it like "awestruck"), a new subscription service. They've teamed up with Criterion, who will end their current partnership with Hulu, and together will be curating arthouse films, indie and cult classics and other more obscure films. Jennifer Dorian says this fills a need in the marketplace. It's important to note that this is not a standalone streaming TCM service. While it was not said at the conference, TCM's relationships with cable TV companies most likely prevents them from having such a service. Read Will McKinley's post for more details about FilmStruck.
  • TCM is launching TCM Backlot, an official fan club. The membership costs $87 a year and comes with a variety of perks. There will be meet-ups across the country, exclusive content for subscribers, etc. The Backlot will give members a behind-the-scenes look at TCM and an opportunity to share feedback.  Dorian says "early members will help us build the club of our dreams." I have a membership and will be following up with my thoughts on this blog.
  • Based off feedback, The Manchurian Candidate (1962) will be the most sought after event at the festival. Tabesh says Angela Lansbury, who will be at the screening, is always a big hit with TCM fans.
  • McGillicuddy says they've been really working hard on curating Club TCM events and she's proud of the offerings this year.
  • On sought after guests, Tabesh says Olivia de Havilland almost made it to the festival one year and their number one pick Doris Day is unlikely to ever be a guest. McGillicuddy said Sidney Poitier is someone they've tried to get multiple times are still hopeful he will come. Tabesh says Barbra Streisand is interested but hasn't been able to make it work with her schedule.
  • Ben Mankiewicz said "The success that the previous six festivals have had has unquestionably played a role in smoothing it over for some people because their friends and colleagues and other big stars have told them this is a worthwhile thing..." Having several successful festivals under their belt has opened up opportunities to feature other special guests. For example, this was key in getting Faye Dunaway to attend this year. Although it was not said during the conference, I do believe having Sophia Loren last year really made a difference. I can imagine that opened an opportunity to feature Gina Lollobrigida.
  • Spotlight and Essentials passes sold out in 14 minutes. They won't be expanding the festival to add more venues, screenings and days. They want to keep the intimate atmosphere of the festival.
  • Tabesh says the industry is moving towards digital. Access to 35mm prints and the ability to show them becomes more and more restricted over time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Top Picks for the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival

It’s that time of year again when classic film fans from all over the world flock to Hollywood to enjoy a weekend packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The TCM Classic Film Festival is something I look forward to all year round. When you go to this festival you feel like you’re part of something important. You develop a deeper and richer connection with the past while being part of history in the making.

This will be my fourth time attending the festival and I’ll be covering it once again as a member of the media. I’m very grateful to TCM for the opportunity to once again be a part of the fantastic team of individuals who painstakingly and lovingly capture and share each of every moment of the festival. It is truly an honor.

Now that the full festival schedule is posted I can share my top picks with you (fun fact: I was the first to tweet about it). It was much easier in 2015 to put together a schedule. This year there were some major conflicts and some difficult decisions had to be made.

Here are my selections. I’ve included a bonus video of me discussing my top five picks.


TCM Press Conference – I’ll be live tweeting and providing full coverage on this press conference which will include Ben Mankiewicz, Charles Tabesh, Genevieve McGillicuddy and Jennifer Dorian. Sadly no Robert Osborne this year. He was the highlight of the first two press conferences I attended.
(2014 Press Conference with Robert Osborne)


Red Carpet for All the President’s Men (1976) Opening Night Gala – I was a spectator for last year’s Red Carpet and had a blast. I hope this year I can do more extensive coverage. Stay tuned!
(2015 Red Carpet at the TCM Classic Film Festival)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) or Los Tallos Amargos (1956) – It’s a toss up between these two. Katharine Houghton will be at the Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner screening and it would be great to hear her discuss the film. But it’s hard to turn down watching an obscure Argentine film noir!


Francis Ford Coppola Imprint Ceremony – If I get in this will be my fourth hand and footprint ceremony. These are so much fun and you feel like you are part of history in the making.
(Jerry Lewis Imprint Ceremony and Christopher Plummer Imprint Ceremony)

From Headlines to Ticket Lines: Journalism on the Big Screen – I’m from the Boston area so a chance to see Ben Bradlee Jr. and Spotlight (2015) screenwriter Josh Singer discuss journalism on film along with James Vanderbilt of Truth (2015) and journalist Mary Mapes is too good to pass up.

Mark Vieira signing Into The Dark: The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950 – One of the perks of TCMFF is the exclusive book signings. This one is at the top of my list to attend.
(My review of Mark Vieira's Cecil B. DeMille book)

Tea and Sympathy (1956)Darryl Hickman has been on my wishlist for TCMFF special guests for a long time. He’s been at the festival before but not one I’ve attended. I can’t pass down the opportunity to see him in person when he presents his film Tea and Sympathy.

Two Pre-Codes – I’m glad I’ll be able to fit in two films from my favorite decade the 1930s. Pleasure Cruise (1933) and 6 Hours to Live (1932) are showing back to back and they are short enough that I can fit both screenings in before the major event of the evening.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – This might be the most sought after film screening of the festival because living legend Angela Lansbury will be there. I can’t pass up an opportunity to see her and watch this fantastic mind-bending film on the TCL Chinese Theater’s gigantic screen. I'll have a lot of competition though.

90th Anniversary of Vitaphone – Ron Hutchinson, founder of the Vitaphone Project, will be hosting this presentation of the history of Vitaphone complete with Vitaphone shorts. My favorite short of all time The Beau Brummels (1928) with Shaw and Lee will be screened and I’m beside myself with joy.

An Afternoon with Carl Reiner/Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) – This four part extravaganza is hard to pass up. Not only do you get to see this film at the TCL Chinese Theater there will also be a Carl Reiner tribute video, a conversation with the man himself and a book signing immediately afterwards.

Harold and Lillian : A Hollywood Love Story (2015) – This is my number one pick for the festival. I can’t believe my hero Lillian Michelson will be there along with director Daniel Raim. I had to give up seeing Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell with Gina Lollobrigida to watch this but it’ll be worth it.

(My review of the Harold and Lillian Michaelson documentary)

The Endless Summer (1966) – If you know me you know that I love documentaries and The Endless Summer is one of the most influential documentaries in film history. It’s a stunning color film narrated and directed by Bruce Brown, who will be in attendance, and follows two surfers as they travel the globe searching the best waves. I can’t wait to see the gorgeous colors of this film on the big screen.

Band of Outsiders (1964) – I dare anyone to stop me from seeing Anna Karina in person. This French New Wave icon will be touring to support the new restoration of this Jean-Luc Godard classic. It’ll be my first time seeing this film and wow what an experience it will be.

(Anna Karina comes to LA and New York City)


The Art of the Film Score – I’ll miss the morning screenings but hope to catch this at Club TCM.

A Conversation with Gina Lollobrigida - I’m not kidding when I say Gina Lollobrigida is my favorite Italian. Conflicts will take me away from special screenings of Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell and Trapeze but that’s okay because I’m perfectly happy to sit and listen to Lollobrigida talk for a straight hour. This will be glorious!

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966) – I love madcap comedies and this one looks like a lot of fun. Eva Marie Saint will be on hand to present and maybe Carl Reiner, Walter Mirisch and/or Norman Jewison will surprise us with an appearance?

Network (1976) – Unless a TBD calls my name, I’ll be staying around the Egyptian to catch this contemporary classic. I saw Network for the first time last year and loved it.

Closing Night Party at Club TCM – This party is always bittersweet and usually I have to leave early. But this time I hope to stay longer for one last hurrah with my friends.

What are your top TCM Classic Film Festival picks?


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