Showing posts with label Carl Reiner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carl Reiner. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017)

If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017)
"__________ is still alive?!" 

Just fill in the blank with the name of a very elderly actor, actress or entertainer and this is a question I hear on a regular basis. As someone who has an interest in classic movies and 20th century culture and entertainment, I cherish the fact that some of my favorites are living legends. It makes me happy to see so many of them in their 90s and 100s thriving and in many cases still working. It pains me when people relegate the status of old people as useless or simply close to death. People fear growing old and dying so when they see an elderly person their defenses go up and they lash out. It's my belief that we should respect and treasure the elderly. They bear the wisdom of the decades and we have much to learn from them about living life.

This is why it is so important that everyone watch HBO's new documentary If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017). This doc explores several figures both in and out of the entertainment industry who are living life to the fullest in their 90s or 100s. The documentary follows legendary comedian Carl Reiner, 95, with the help of his nephew George Shapiro, as he seeks out the stories of those who are thriving in their advanced years. The title of the documentary is inspired by this often repeated quote:

"Every morning before having breakfast, I pick up my newspaper, get the obituary section and see if I'm listed. If I'm not, I have my breakfast." - Carl Reiner

Carl Reiner, George Shapiro, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear
Carl Reiner, George Shapiro, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear

Many familiar faces can be found in the documentary. Tony Bennett who recently turned 90 serenades us with a song. Reiner chats with long-time friends producer/comedian Mel Brooks, 90 and TV producer Norman Lear, 93. Their casual chats produce some of the best moments in the film. Reiner has a hilarious conversation with Betty White about age, having purpose in life and sexuality. At 94 she says, "I don't want to be a burden to anybody. Except possibly Robert Redford." Dick Van Dyke, 90 never lost his goofiness or energy over the years. There are numerous scenes with him in the documentary including sit down chat with Reiner but we also see him heading to Capitol Records to record songs with his wife Arlene, at a Barnes & Noble for the launch of his book Keep Moving (I've reviewed it here) and dancing around and being jovial out and about and in his home.

Carl Reiner and Betty White, If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017)
Carl Reiner and Betty White

Comic book creator Stan Lee shares his life's story as well as some insights on what his life his like at the age of 90. All of these figures are healthy and thriving. This gets Reiner thinking about people who are at an advanced age yet are suffering from poor health. He visits Kirk Douglas, 99 at the time of filming, who is still dealing with the aftermath of his stroke. They have a honest chat about death. Reiner shares the story of his wife Estelle's passing and Douglas relates the story of his mother's passing. Douglas' mother told him, "don't be scared. It happens to everyone."

Then there are the discoveries. Those wonderful figures who grace this documentary and charm us with their wit, wisdom and joie de vivre. Moments spent watching them were my favorites. There are a few you might of heard of including fashion icon Iris Apfel, 94 who is the figure of a fantastic documentary Iris (2014) directed by Albert Maysles. Then there is singer/actress Patricia Morison who at the age of 101 still enjoys singing, delights us with her joy and tantalizes us with a scandalous story about Yul Brynner. I fell head over heels for a few of these discoveries. There is Stan Harper, the world's greatest harmonica player. He was Reiner's old army buddy and can be seen at the age of 14 in One-Third a Nation (1939). Fyvush Finkel, 92 a Yiddish comedian and singer who lives to perform. He quipped "as soon as I get on that stage I have all the energy in the world." Lounge pianist and music composer Irving Fields, who wrote Latin infused songs including A Latin from Manhattan, won my heart. I feel head over heels for his passion for music and his drive to keep doing what he loves to do. Unfortunately all three of these have since passed away.

Irving Fields
Irving Fields

Others who will inspire you include centenarian athlete Ida Keeling, pianist Harriet Thompson, 93, yogi and tango dancer Tao Porchon-Lynch, 97, portrait artist Ray Olivere, 91 and singer Alan Bergman, 90. I particularly loved the segment with Jim "Pee Wee" Martin, 95, who was in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment during WWII. We see footage of him sky diving at the age of 94. His interview was one of my favorites because of his frankness. He lived a life where he cherished simplicity and hard work. Martin reflects, "the age part is nothing. I don't feel any different today than when I was 25 years old."

There are lots of great bits of wisdom throughout the documentary. Here are some highlights:

"Life is the main gift that we have. And as long as you're here eat it up." 
Patricia Morrison

"There are two words we don't understand the importance of: over and next. When something is over its over. And then comes next." 
Norman Lear

"I do it my way. I'm not interested in being current."
Iris Apfel

"People are scared to death of age. Don't fear it. Meet it head on."
"New experiences are the only thing that you can collect in life that end up being worth it."
Dick Van Dyke

 "Don't lose your curiosity." 
Ray Olivere

"I go on and on because I love what I do."
Irving Fields 

"Being old is like a whole new adventure. You can't describe it to young people."
Stan Lee

"You gotta be the boss of your body."
Ida Keeling

So what is the secret of longevity? There are many answers that Reiner as well as longevity expert Dan Buettner share in the documentary. These include: Have a social life. Be optimistic about your future. Have a purpose for every day. Be physically fit and enjoy life. Then there are those elements that are genetic or pure luck like being cognitively aware at an advanced age, avoiding fatal accidents and overall good health.

If there's one thing I hope to get across to people, its that they absolutely need to watch If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017). I could review it as a straight documentary and find its flaws. But the importance of its message and wonderful stories of beautiful lives that it shares overshadows everything else. I fell in love with this documentary and the people in it. I hope you do too.

If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017) is currently available on HBO GO and HBO Now. I hope it gets a DVD/Blu-Ray release in the near future. I'll definitely be picking up a copy. And to my TCMFF friends, you'll delight in seeing our bud Jeff from Larry Edmunds Bookshop who makes a cameo in the documentary.

*All ages listed reflect the correct age at the time of filming.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Carl and Rob Reiner Hand and Footprint Ceremony #TCMFF

Carl and Rob Reiner

There are few father and son teams who love and adore each other more than Carl and Rob Reiner. I had the privilege of attending the first ever father-son hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre courtyard (formerly known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre). The event was a family affair but also an opportunity to celebrate two entertainment icons.

This is my fifth hand and footprint ceremony and my fourth covering the event for my blog. It's also the very first time I was seated with the guests. For a few moments I felt like I was one with Hollywood royalty.

I got to share this event with other writers and good friends including Karen who was covering for Citizen Screen, Anne Marie of Classic Movie Hub, KC of A Classic Movie Blog, Carrie of and others too.

Karen, Raquel and KC

We sat in our designated seats and watched as the guests arrived. It's always a surprise who will be in attendance and that's half the fun of this event.

Norman Lear

Kevin Nealon

Cary Elwes

Cary Elwes giving Norman Lear a hug

The guests of honor Carl and Rob Reiner with Tom Bergeron

Cary Elwes

We didn't have the best view but we made do with what we had. Actor Cary Elwes, best known for The Princess Bride (1987), sat right in front of me and I strategically had to take photos over his shoulder.

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz

The ceremony kicked off with three speeches. First off was TCM host Ben Mankiewicz who opened the event with some jokes and much praise for the two honorees. He said, "few fathers and sons are as accomplished as Carl and Rob Reiner and none are as funny." As we all know Carl Reiner has had a long and impressive career. He's not only a comedian but he's also an actor, writer, director, producer and even a political activist on Twitter. Mankiewicz noted that Carl Reiner has been in the business for 70 years and "his version of slowing down is writing one book a year." He's currently working on another memoir and a children's book.

Then there is Rob Reiner who forged his own impressive career. Mankiewicz sang Rob Reiner's praises noting his work on All in the Family, This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride and more as well as his production company Castle Rock. Rob Reiner has two political films coming out soon: LBJ and Shock and Awe.

Mankiewicz joked that the combined age of the Reiners is 165 and brought up this tweet by Carl Reiner.

Tom Bergeron

Up next was TV personality and host Tom Bergeron. He joked that to prepare for his speech he Googled "top things to say about a dear friend soon to be immersed in cement." You can imagine what the search results would have been. Bergeron went on to say, "turns out you don't need Google to find the perfect thing to say about Carl. You go to the source." Carl Reiner once said: "The absolute truth is the thing that makes people laugh." Bergeron points out that this "speaks to the rich source of Carl Reiner's genius. He went on to say "this gave us his alter ego Rob Petrie and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Absolute truth turned into comedic beauty. And fifty years later we're still laughing."

Billy Crystal

To pay tribute to Rob Reiner was actor and comedian Billy Crystal. But before he got to Rob he started with a hilarious joke about Carl Reiner: "I realized that Carl was also a prophet. In 1966 on film he screamed “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” And he also made The Jerk."

Crystal believed it was fate that brought him and Rob Reiner together. He remembered performing at the Comedy Store in 1975 and having a chance meeting with Norman Lear and Carl Reiner. Carl introduced himself saying "Hi I'm Carl Reiner" and Crystal jokingly replied "and what do you do?" Norman Lear called Crystal up with an offer to play Rob Reiner's best friend on All in the Family. Crystal was impressed with how Rob was inclusive and asked him for his opinion and insight. He remembers "the show did very well and we just said, we played best friends why don't we keep that going?" Their working relationship and friendship led to Crystal having the plum roles of Morty the Mime in This is Spinal Tap, Miracle Max in The Princess Bride and what Crystal calls "the part of a lifetime " Harry Burns in When Harry Met Sally. Crystal went on to say, "between them [Carl and Rob] is 120 years of great comedy, entertainment and  amazing drama. They are stretching always looking for something new to do. And that’s because the two of them are geniuses."

Carl Reiner

Carl and Rob Reiner
Carl Reiner warmed up the crowd with praise for his son by saying "Ive known this guy for almost all of his life" and went on to compliment him on his photographic memory and his terrific work on The Princess Bride. In fact, Carl Reiner likes to introduce people to three movies in particular: The Count of Monte Cristo, Random Harvest ("if you don't have a tear in your eye or a smile on your face at the end of it you're not human" and The Princess Bride.

This is the first time a father and son had a dual hand and footprint ceremony and Rob Reiner quipped "I think we should not only put our hands and feet in cement, we should put our bald heads. And that's never been done!" I really wish they had done that, it would have been hilarious.

Rob Reiner had much praise for his dad. He said, "my father was my idol. I looked up to him. He stood for everything I wanted to be in life." He remembered when he was 8 years old wanting to change his name. His parents were concerned that he didn't want to live in the shadow of his famous father. His dad asked him what he wanted to change his name to, Rob responded "Carl!" Rob Reiner pointed out Norman Lear who has been like a second father to him.

To his kids he joked, "I wouldn't be here for him having sex with my mother and then you being supportive of me. And you wouldn't be here if I didn't have sex with YOUR mother. TMI. T.M.I."

Then it was time to make their mark in cement. Carl Reiner brought up Mel Brooks, his best friend and fellow genius, who wasn't at the event but there in spirit. Brooks had added a false pinky to one of his hands during his imprint ceremony making him the only one with 11 fingers marked in cement.

Flip through my Instagram post to find a brief video.

Carl and Rob Reiner writing their names in cement

Carl and Rob Reiner just after putting their hands in cement

Carl and Rob Reiner making their footprints in cement

I wish I could have gotten a photo of all the guests with the Reiners and the freshly imprinted cement. Unfortunately the security at the ceremony mistook some of us low-level media for regular passholders and unceremoniously kicked us out before we could get a word in edgewise. It was a rather negative end to what was a quite fun event. I've tried to get that out of my mind and focus on the positives of my experience but haven't been able to do that so far.

I'm still grateful to TCM for the opportunity to cover another wonderful hand and footprint ceremony. Whenever I'm back in Hollywood and I see the imprints of those ceremonies I've covered in the past, I feel a rush knowing I was there for that historic moment.

I hope you enjoyed this armchair experience!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #5 Recap

The Saturday of the TCM Classic Film Festival was packed with amazing events and movies. I still had plenty of energy and by sheer luck made it to everything on my schedule.

I got up early and headed to Grauman's Egyptian Theater for the 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone presentation.

Me and Joel of TCM Party
This was the only time I got to see Joel during the festival. Sometimes the chaotic schedule prevents you from seeing the people you want to see and that's where waiting in line comes in handy. You can spot familiar faces in the crowd. Joel and I took a selfie for Vanessa of Stardust who wasn't at the festival but was there in spirit. While waiting in line I also met Ray, one of the TCMFF volunteers who regaled me with stories of Robert Mitchum.

My only TCMFF Snapchat. Me at the Vitaphone screening.
The Vitaphone presentation was hosted by Ron Hutchinson, co-founder of the Vitaphone Project. It included a 30 minute lecture with slideshow on the history of Vitaphone, the technology and the films and soundtracks too. Then Hutchinson screened 7 Vitaphone shorts, one of which was my favorite short of all time Shaw and Lee's The Beau Brummels (1928).

The Beau Brummels at Grauman's Egyptian
All seven shorts were a hit but the most talked about after the festival was The Beau Brummels. It was also the one short out of the bunch that received the most laughs. I'll have a full report on the experience here soon. If you want to watch this short, it's available on Vimeo and also as an extra on The Jazz Singer (1927) Blu-Ray set. I was so excited to watch The Beau Brummels on the Egyptian's giant screen that I discreetly took the above photo to memorialize the event (if you must take a photo during a screening keep your phone to your chest, turn off the volume and make sure the brightness is at it's lowest setting). I really wanted to sing along with Shaw and Lee but held back so as to not annoy my neighbors.

There was a Q&A after the films but I had to skip out early to grab a unch. And I'm glad I did because my stinky McDonald's meal (sorry Jay!) ended up keeping me full until late in the evening. Making time for food is always an issue at these festivals and I was very lucky to fit in meals when I could. As I said before, luck was on my side during this trip!

The line for An Afternoon with Carl Reiner and featured screening of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) at the TCL Chinese Theater was already super long. It snaked all the way from the courtyard, through the Hollywood and Highland mall and around to the other side of Madame Tussaud's. I was in line with Jay and we had a good long chat. We were so engrossed in conversation that we forgot to take a picture. He's a fascinating guy, very intelligent and your go-to expert if you have any questions about the James Bond series.

Carl Reiner and Ileana Douglas in conversation
TCL Chinese Theater was packed with eager fans excited to see Carl Reiner. Once we got our seats I headed to the bathroom and of courses who did I see? Carl Reiner himself! Previous TCMFF bathroom trips have put me in the vicinity of stars such as Mickey Rooney, Margaret O'Brien, Tippi Hedren and producer Walter Mirisch among others. I now use the hashtag #alwaysgotothebathroom when I tweet about these encounters!

I'll have a full report about this event soon but what I'll say for now is that it did not disappoint. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid was hilarious, the tribute video was great and I loved Ileana Douglas' 45 minute interview with Carl Reiner himself. But the best part was...

Karen shaking hands with Carl Reiner

The book signing! It was held in the foyer of the TCL Chinese Theater which probably wasn't the best choice. I stood in line for a while, even though I had already purchased my book, and was worried I'd miss my next screening. Those of us at the beginning of the line got to take pictures with Carl Reiner. 

Millie taking a selfie with Carl Reiner
Carl Reiner autographed my copy of his memoir I Remember Me (which I read on audio shortly before heading to TCMFF). I asked him for a selfie and he was eager to take one. He said "get in closer!". I told him how much I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of I Remember Me and he thanked me for that. I shared my selfie on Twitter and Facebook and it was my most popular social media share. Millie wrote to me on Facebook saying that everything before this moment should be labeled BC (Before Carl). It really was a life changing moment.

Raquel Stecher and Carl Reiner
My selfie with Carl Reiner
I met a really nice lady from Boston while in the book signing line and we had a good chat. She's been to all seven festivals! I gave her my card at the closing night party and I hope she contacts me soon.

I hoofed it over to the Chinese Multiplex to get in line for Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015). I had 20 minutes to spare and they were already seating passholders. I got there just in time and even proclaimed to one of the TCMFF volunteers "this is my number one pick!".

And guess what. I had to go to the bathroom again. And I had another #alwaysgotothebathroom moment. On my way back I saw director Daniel Raim, producer Jennifer Raim, film researcher Lillian Michelson and actor and executive producer Danny DeVito at the entrance of the theater. DeVito was a surprise guest and he introduced the documentary.

Danny DeVito introducing Harold and Lillian at TCMFF

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is one I've seen before when I reviewed it for my blog. But seeing it on the big screen with an audience was magical. At the end of the documentary there was nary a dry eye in the house. We were all wiping away our tears when director Daniel Raim and film researcher Lillian Michelson came out onto the stage for an interview and brief Q&A. And of course there was a standing ovation.

Director Daniel Raim and film researcher Lillian Michelson at TCMFF
I'll have a more detailed report about this screening soon. Watch the Harold and Lillian website for details on upcoming screenings. If you have a chance to see this, do so. You'll thank me later.

The Chinese Multiplex was my home base for the rest of the evening. I got in line for
another documentary The Endless Summer (1966) which is a new-to-me favorite. I had seen it for the first time a few weeks before the festival and was happy for an excuse to watch it again and hear more about the film from director Bruce Brown.  It happens to be a personal favorite of TCM staffer Marya and it was fun to hear her wax poetic about the film and what it meant to her.

Raquel Stecher and Endless Summer director Bruce Brown
Me with Bruce Brown, director of Endless Summer
After the screening Bruce Brown was kind enough to hang around in the lobby of the Chinese Multiplex for a meet-and-greet with fans. I got my picture taken with him and congratulated him on making such a wonderful film. He replied "it's old!". And I said, "it doesn't seem old. It's timeless." I don't think he believed me but seemed to appreciate what I said. Besides some comments made in the film that were deeply rooted in the period (price of gas, references to race and sex, etc.), the film really does transcend time. More on my experience to come!

When I thought the day couldn't get any better, it was time to see actress Anna Karina and The Band of Outsiders (1964). Karina superfan Kate Gabrielle had camped out at the multiplex hoping to get the #1 queue ticket. Some rude passholders beat her to it even though that number should have been hers.

I really did think that this screening would sell out but it didn't. It was about 75-80% full at the largest of the multiplex' theaters which was still a good turnout. Kate Gabrielle, KC, Jandy and I sat in front for the interview then moved to the far back to join Jessica, Angela and others for a better view of the screen.

Anna Karina and Ben Mankiewicz at TCMFF
Again, luck was on my side and I was able to say "we love you Anna!" to her as she was getting a standing ovation from the audience. I thought I had dreamed it but she looked right at me and said thank you. I didn't quite believe it had happened until Kate confirmed it to me later. Much more on this special screening to come.

One last TCMFF recap, my opinion post as well as in-depth coverage of specific events are coming soon!

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