Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

It's time for my fourth annual summer reading challenge! This is a great way to tackle your growing pile of unread film books. All the details about this challenge can be found on my 2016 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge page.

Here are some of the basics.

Sign up for the challenge here.
Read a classic film book
Write a review and post it on your Blog, Instagram or Goodreads profile
Submit your review link here.
Repeat until you have read and reviewed 6 books!
Review 6 and be automatically entered to win a prize.

Challenge runs from June 1st until September 15th, 2016. You have until July 15th to sign up.

One grand prize winner will receive the following:
One runner-up will receive
Open internationally.

All the details can be found here. Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Who I Met, Who I Saw and My Thoughts on the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival

Me on the red carpet

My fourth TCMFF was by far my best. I really pushed myself to do things outside of my comfort zone like filming with TCM and doing red carpet interviews. I also gave myself a lot more wiggle room in my schedule which allowed for more sleeping and eating. Our hotel was close by which made things a lot easier. It was a good balance and for once I didn't get sick at the festival. I had great social interactions, saw lots of interesting people and went to some amazing screenings. 2016 TCMFF gets a big thumbs up from me.

My thoughts:

I had luck on my side because I got into everything I wanted to and only ended up skipping two events on Sunday. Overall this was fantastic considering how much I had to miss last year. If I go again next year I'll make sure not to skip movies just to get in line for something else. It's really not worth it. I regret not going to the midnight screenings of Roar and Gog which seemed to benefit from a social experience unlike other festival screenings. I watched Roar on my own and it just wasn't the same.

The special guests were a delightful mix of stars and personalities including several former child actors. This festival fest very intimate because of the additional access I got. The highlights for me were interviewing Gina Lollobrigida and Darry Hickman and several others, taking a selfie with Carl Reiner, flirting with Norman Lloyd, meeting Lillian Michelson and chatting with director Bruce Brown.

The social aspect was mixed. I had a blast hanging out with my social media friends and meeting a few folks for the first time. Passholders were more aggressive this time around. There was lots of bad theater behavior. The TCM volunteers were great and kept everything in order. I had fun chatting with a couple of them.

I do wonder about the social culture of the festival overall. Bloggers and social media folks already have a built-in network of people to socialize with. What about everyone else? Do they stick to their festival partner or go at it alone? Is the festival a lonely experience for some? When you're in line with a couple hundred other passholders, chances are you'll strike up a conversation with someone else orr you wait in line with your friends. Is being in the VIP/spotlight line different because you don't line up for as long and there are fewer people there with you? 

I love the theme of moving pictures and the sub-themes too (sports movies, discoveries, religious movies, etc.). Discovery seemed to be a big hit at the festival and many people prioritized seeing 35mm film over DCP. The pre-code Double Harness got sold out twice which didn't surprise some but did surprise me. This is a film that's been available in full and for free on TCM's website for years (they took it down some time ago). I guess you can never underestimate the draw of pre-codes and William Powell! I was disappointed that TCM programmed the Harold and Lillian documentary in a difficult time slot. They should have put it on Sunday or an early morning screening.

I made a point of spending more time at the closing night party and I'm so glad I did. I had such a fun time and got to see a lot of people. Our post-party In-N-Out burger jaunt was a blast.

New-to-me films I saw at the festival included Los Tallos Amargos (1956), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), Pleasure Cruise (1933), several Vitaphone shorts and Band of Outsiders (1964).

Films I've seen before included Tea and Sympathy (1956), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Beau Brummels (1928), Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015), Endless Summer (1966) and Network (1976).

Ben Mankiewicz had a big role to play at the festival and I thought he did a fantastic job. I wish Osborne's not being there would have been addressed in some way because his absence was definitely the elephant in the room.

Kudos to TCM for hosting 7 book signings and partnering with Larry Edmunds Bookshop. The lobby interviews were missed. I hope they bring them back next year. I didn't find anything I wanted in the TCM boutique but was more than happy just to buy a bunch of books instead.

Remember when I talked about my top 5 picks for TCMFF? Here is my follow-up video:

Now on to who I saw at TCMFF:

Jessica and Me. The festival just wouldn't be the same without her.

Me and Danny
Me and Jill
Millie, Kate and me

Daniel and me

Jackie and me

Sabina and me
Me and Casey (we kinda match)

Casey, Kate, Millie, Lindsay, KC, Laura and me

Warner Archive's Matt Patterson on the red carpet. AKA best TCMFF photo ever. Photo credit: Jessica. 

Kate, Sabina, Angela, Raquel, Danny Jessica, Kristen,
Lindsay, Nikki, Millie, Pete, Carlos, Jill, Casey, KC, Kim and Matt

Special Guests:
Alec Baldwin
Peter Bogdanovich
Bruce Brown
Francis Ford Coppola
Danny DeVito
Illeana Douglas
Faye Dunaway
Darryl Hickman
Anna Karina
Chris Lemmon
Norman Lloyd
Gina Lollobrigida
Leonard Maltin
Lillian Michelson
Eddie Muller
Margaret O'Brien
Sr. Rose Pacatte
Daniel Raim
Jennifer Raim
Carl Reiner
and more

TCM Staff: Ben Mankiewicz, Charlie Tabesh, Jennifer Dorian, Genevieve McGillicuddy, Scott McGee, Sean Cameron, David Byrne, Chuck Moore, Coleman Breland, Marya Gates, Noralil Fores and many more. These people are rock stars.

Friends and Bloggers
Anne Marie of Classic Movie Hub
Aurora of Aurora's Gin Joint
Beth of Spellbound by Movies
Carrie of Classic Film Fan
Casey of Noir Girl
Chris of Blog of the Darned
Daniel of Movie Mania Madness
Danny of
Diane of Classic Movie Blog
Eric of Classic Era Movies
Jackie aka @Jaxbra
Jay of The James Bond Social Media Project
Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood
Jill of The Retro Set
Jocelyn of Classic Film Observations and Obsessions
Joel of TCM Party
Karen of Shadows and Satin
Kate Gabrielle of Silents and Talkies
Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled
and her husband Gary!
KC of Classic Movie Blog
Kim of I See a Dark Theater
Kristen of Journey in Classic Film
Kristina of Speakeasy
Lara of Backlots
Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Lindsay of Lindsay's Movie Musings
Lou of New York Post
Marya of TCM
Matt of Warner Archive
Millie of Classic Forever
Nikki of A Midwest Blog
Nora of Nitrate Diva
Noralil of TCM
Pam aka @fallonthornley
Paula of TCM Party
Robby of Dear Old Hollywood
Sabina AKA @SabinaStent 
Stephen of Classic Movie Man
Will of Cinematically Insane
and more.

Drop me a line if I missed adding you to my lists. Hope you enjoyed my recaps. Stay tuned for more detailed posts about individual events!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Holy Cross Cemetery Tour

Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City

We recently visited Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California where many classic film stars of the Catholic faith are buried. We didn't have a lot of time to go searching for gravestones but did find a few. Interesting thing about this cemetery is that there are very few upright gravestones. Most of them were flat and very non-descript. Rosalind Russell's was the most prominent. There is also a chapel with a mausoleum and crypts. I have a phobia of entering spaces like that so I wasn't able to see much before I had to leave. We did get to pay our respects to quite a few stars. Here are the gravestones we visited:

Bonita Granville Wrather along with my phone case with her image!

Bing Crosby

ZaSu Pitts

Edmond O'Brien

Holy Cross Cemetery

Pat O'Brien

Ann Miller and her daughter Mary

Loretta Young and her mother Gladys

Ray Bolger

Holy Cross Cemetery Chapel

Mario Lanza

Rosalind Russell's tomb was the biggest in the cemetery

Rosalind Russel Brisson

John Ford

Thank you to Doug and Laura for taking us to this cemetery!

Red Carpet Interviews at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival

Raquel Stecher at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival red carpet
On the red carpet at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival

Chalk it up to being a newbie but I'm still on cloud nine after my first red carpet interviews. It was a nerve-wracking yet thrilling experience. I studied all the TCM Classic Film Festival guests for weeks beforehand, came up with a lengthy list of questions and a default question for everyone. I had a great camera thanks to my husband who bought me one for my birthday. On the big day, I locked myself up for 5 hours to prepare. I packed up all my equipment, crossed my fingers and headed out.

I got to see all the stars but was only able to interview a handful. Karma was on my side that day because my top interview picks: Darryl Hickman, Gina Lollobrigida and Lillian Michelson all stopped by. And while I would loved to have interviewed Norman Lloyd, my brief interaction with him on the red carpet is a memory I'll never forget.

Out of the Past at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival red carpet

The experience was even more wonderful than what I could capture on camera. This was my first time not only conducting red carpet interviews but also with filming and editing. The result is amateur at best but I'm still really proud of my work. It's always been a dream of mine to do this and I'm so glad I finally got up the courage to do so. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies for giving me this incredible opportunity. I still pinch myself everyday.

Red carpet interviews with...
Turner executives Coleman Breland and Jennifer Dorian
Actor Darryl Hickman 
Film Critic Leonard Maltin
Film researcher Lillian Michelson (includes also director Daniel Raim and producer Jennifer Raim)
Film Critic Sr. Rose Pacatte
Actor Chris Lemmon (son of Jack Lemmon)
Actress Gina Lollobrigida

Darryl Hickman at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Red Carpet
Darryl Hickman
Norman Lloyd at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Red Carpet
Norman Lloyd

Dennis Barry and Anna Karina at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Red Carpet
A glimpse of Dennis Barry & Anna Karina

Lillian Michelson at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Red Carpet
Lillian Michelson

Gina Lollobrigida and Kate Flannery

Chris Lemmon and Gina Lollobrigida at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Red Carpet
Chris Lemmon and Gina Lollobrigida

Gina Lollobrigida and Raquel Stecher at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Red Carpet
In action on the red carpet

Monday, May 9, 2016

TCMFF Book Haul

My TCMFF Book Haul

In this video I discuss the books I acquired during my trip to the TCM Classic Film Festival. Books are the best souvenirs!

Books mentioned in the video:
Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital 1928-1937 by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira
Into the Dark: The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950 by Mark A. Vieira
The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold with an introduction by Robert Osborne
I Remember Me by Carl Reiner
Telly Savalas: TV's Golden Greek by Marsha Daly

Sunday, May 8, 2016

TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #6 Recap

Raquel Stecher at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival
Raquel at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival
By Sunday morning I was really exhausted. I always try to keep my Sunday TCMFF schedule pretty light to conserve my energy. By the end of the festival I was also sick of festival-goers misbehaving. Smelly people leaning on me, people using their tablets, phones and cameras in disruptive ways, seat kicking, post-interview evacuations and rude people trying to save front row seats at Club TCM. Knowing that the Spotlight and Essential passes sold out in 14 minutes, it's inevitable that more aggressive types make it to the festival.  There seemed to be more VIPs this year too which made for some uncomfortable situations. There is already a bit of a class system at TCMFF but it was more prominent this year than previous years. With all that said, it's really difficult to complain when this was the best festival of the four I attended. I had been very lucky this time around. And best of all, I didn't get sick!

I sacrificed going to Holiday in Spain at the Cinerama Dome (shown with Smell-O-Vision!) to have breakfast with by Robby of Dear Old Hollywood and his lovely family. 

Me and Carlos with Robby, Zinnia and their daughters

Then I met Noralil and Marya of TCM and Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood for a chat. This social time was worth sacrificing a few screenings. The biggest draw of TCMFF for me is the opportunity to socialize with friends who share my passion for classic film and live far away from me. This is my one chance to see them.

Jessica, me, Noralil and Marya

The first event I went to was The Art of the Film Score: Creating Memories in the Movies presented by composer Michael Giacchino. I won't lie. I went to this as an excuse to camp out at Club TCM for a good seat for Conversation with Gina Lollobrigida which was immediately after. It proved to be a really good presentation and I'm glad I attended. I know next to nothing about music in film so it was definitely an education. It was interesting to learn how music can alter an audience's reaction to particular scenes.

Club TCM in the Blossom Room

After several issues getting seats for the Conversation with Gina Lollobrigida, I managed to get a spot. I should have stood towards the back because the seating area was not ideal. If you weren't towards the front, you couldn't see Lollobrigida at all. I hope TCM considers elevating the stage so more people can see. Lollobrigida is a fascinating woman and Leonard Maltin's interview with her did not disappoint. More on that soon.

Gina Lollobrigida showing us her portraits of Fidel Castro

I was going to see The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming (1966) but didn't feel like sitting in a crowded theater. I opted instead for a meal at the historic Pig N Whistle restaurant and spent some time at Larry Edmunds Bookshop chatting with the Jeff and Sean.

 I met Jill and her friend Sean in front of the Egyptian before the screening of Network (1976). I got to spend much more time with Jill this year and for that I'm truly grateful. I also met up with Angela, Jessica and some others (sorry if I forgot you!). I was telling folks how Robert Mitchum's grandson Bentley once told me that my husband Carlos looked like Kevin Spacey. Ever since then I cannot unsee the resemblance. Jessica took this funny Snapchat while we were waiting to get in. It was inspired by my comment and my series "Carlos hates Snapchat".

Snapchat by Jessica

Next up was Network (1976) with special guest Faye Dunaway. When Burt Reynolds couldn't make it to the festival, TCM recovered well by adding Dunaway to the roster. I was already planning to see Network so having Dunaway there was icing on the cake. Ben Mankiewicz interviewed her before the screening before an almost packed house. I was surprised how many laughs the film got. I've always been more traumatized than amused by this movie. Some see it as a dark comedy, others as an eery prediction of things to come. I probably won't do an in-depth post on this one because I have so many other posts to work on. But if I find some time and energy to do so I'll report back here.

Ben Mankiewicz and Faye Dunaway at the TCM Classic Film Festival
Ben Mankiewicz and Faye Dunaway in conversation TCMFF

After Network, we headed to Club TCM for the Closing Night party which is always bitter sweet. I had a couple of expensive glasses of whiskey and got a bit tipsy. I apologize if I said anything weird to you at the party. I spent a lot of time during the festival being Kate Gabrielle's make-shift publicist. I talked her up to anyone who would listen. Some folks called her the button girl and I was quick to explain to them that Kate is a very talented artist and she does more than just buttons. Many folks were interested in learning more about her art and said they would check out her website. I hope I drove some future business her way.

My TCMFF bestie Jessica, Ben Mankiewicz, me and my second glass of whiskey

I finally got to officially meet Ben Mankiewicz! I showed him my Ben Mankiewicz Fan Club button and told him that Kate Gabrielle created them. Jessica and I got our picture taken with him (many thanks to Marya for the photo!). Ben is a really sweet guy. Very down-to-earth and friendly. I always try to say hi to him at the festival when I can.

After having lots of great but short conversations at Club TCM we were all booted out to make room for TCM's exclusive staff party. A bunch of us made our way to the In-N-Out burger a few blocks away. This was great. I had a long conversation with Kate about foreign film and we all took this epic selfie thanks to Kate's selfie-stick.

Kate, Sabina, Angela, Raquel, Danny Jessica, Kristen,
Lindsay, Nikki, Millie, Pete, Carlos, Jill, Casey, KC, Kim and Matt
 My husband Carlos ended up being our social coordinator that evening. That's a role usually relegated to me but he stepped in when I was too tipsy to know what was going on. He helped corral us all to go to In-N-Out, saved us seats so we could sit together and helped orchestrate the group selfie. Thank you hun! Carlos has a fabulous time at TCMFF every year and he loves hanging out with my friends. They seem to like him too.

I was sad to leave my friends and I had a good cry in our hotel room afterwards. I love you all. Until next year!

On the Monday after the festival, Carlos and I went with Laura and her husband Doug to visit Matt
and Dan of Warner Archive. We had a nice lunch and the conversation was not nearly long enough. I could have spent hours basking in the warmth of the California sunshine talking about movie business.

Carlos, Raquel, Matt, Dan, Laura and Doug
I hope you enjoyed my TCM Classic Film Festival recaps. Please stay tuned for more festival coverage.

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