Showing posts with label Lillian Michelson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lillian Michelson. Show all posts

Monday, June 18, 2018

Fail-Safe (1964)

Fail-Safe (1964) poster

The year was 1963 and Columbia Pictures was in a pickle. They had two Cold War movies currently in production that basically told the same story but in very different ways. One was Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a farce based on the otherwise serious novel Red Alert (aka Two Hours to Doom) by Peter George. The other was Sidney Lumet's Fail-Safe, based on Eugene Burdick and Henry Wheeler's best-selling novel of the same name. One was a satire and one a serious thriller but both delivered a frightening warning about nuclear war. Dr. Strangelove was well into production Kubrick got word of Lumet's project and he threatened to sue Columbia. To appease Kubrick, Columbia agreed to release Dr. Strangelove in January of 1964 and not to release Fail-Safe until September of the same year. That would give both movies some breathing room. Little did Columbia know that Dr. Strangelove would be such an acclaimed hit that it would essentially set up Fail-Safe for failure.

Ben Mankiewicz presenting Fail-Safe (1964), 2018 TCMFF opening night

At the recent TCM Classic Film Festival, opening night included a world premiere restoration of Fail-Safe by Sony Pictures, which now owns Columbia. Fail-Safe screenwriter Walter Bernstein was to be on hand to discuss the film with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. A fan of the film, Mankiewicz considers Bernstein a personal hero and requested that he introduce the film at TCMFF. Unfortunately, the day before the festival 98-year-old Bernstein suffered a serious fall that landed him in the emergency room. Mankiewicz stepped in and offered a 15 minute introduction with a brief audience Q&A. 

Walter Bernstein is a screenwriter of several films including The Magnificent Seven, Something's Gotta Give (Marilyn Monroe's final unfinished film), Semi-Tough, The Front, The Money Trap and of course Fail-Safe. Over the years Bernstein has always been very candid about his blacklist experience. According to Mankiewicz, Bernstein was a member of the Communist party from 1946 to 1956, wrote for a variety of radical groups and his name appeared in red channels. Because of his involvement the House of Un-American Activities Committee wanted to subpoena him. Bernstein had no interest in naming names and wanted to avoid jail time so he went underground instead of appearing in front of the committee. Luckily for him, the HUAC was starting to lose its power and was able to avoid jail time. He kept busy writing scripts under pseudonyms. Although Dalton Trumbo was famous for breaking the blacklist in 1960 with credited roles in Exodus and Spartacus, Bernstein quietly broke the blacklist in 1959 with Sidney Lumet's That Kind of Woman (1959). Lumet was interested in working with Bernstein but wanted to ask him some questions. They regarded Bernstein's involvement with Communist and radical groups and publications. Bernstein was unabashedly open in his responses. Mankiewicz joked that his responses were "yeah! up! That's me. I did that. Yes that's right." Mankiewicz went on to say that Bernstein shed his radical ties but went on to become "a very proud progressive. [Bernstein] says there are people who run the world and people who make the world run. Whose side are you on? Regardless of your politics you have to like Walter Bernstein."

Larry Hagman and Henry Fonda in Fail-Safe
Larry Hagman and Henry Fonda in Fail-Safe (1964)

"I tell you the truth, these machines scare the hell out of me."

Lumet and Bernstein would join forces again on Fail-Safe, a magnificent nail-biter that explores how a mechanical failure could lead to nuclear war. The term fail-safe refers to how devices are set-up in order to cause the least amount of damage when they fail and the film explores what could happen when we rely to much on machines. The movie stars Henry Fonda as the President. As the commander-in-chief, he is given the grave task of making the hard decisions of how his military will proceed when a bomber pilot Col. Grady (Edward Binns) is given a false signal to drop two nuclear missiles on Moscow. Assisting the president is Gen. Black (Dan O'Herlihy) whose been suffering from nightmares about impending nuclear war, the headstrong Dr. Groeteschele (Walter Matthau) who thinks accidental war with Russia is a good thing, the head of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Gen. Bogan (Frank Overton), Col. Cascio (Fritz Weaver) who loses his cool at a crucial moment, and Buck (Larry Hagman), a translator who is key to the president's communications with Russia. The film starts off slow and builds up so much momentum in the second half that I found myself literally at the edge of my seat wanting to scream profanities at the screen. This is a dialogue driven drama and Walter Bernstein does a fantastic job building the tension that propels the story forward. Due to the nature of the story, the characters suffer a terrible internal conflict that we see unravel as the plot progresses. To prevent a nuclear war that will destroy all of earth's inhabitants, Russia becomes an ally when they were once an enemy. The men battle with the new grey area that separates patriotism and treason. Dom DeLuise who plays Sergeant Collins, has a particular poignant scene when he must give up a military secret to Russia when other members of SAC could not.

The serious war room.

Edward Binns in Fail-Safe
Edward Binns in Fail-Safe

"Anyone would crack under the stain."

The film received much opposition from the Johnson administration who didn't want to see it come to fruition. According to Sidney Lumet, his crew was denied access to information and archival footage. The scene in which we see the bomber plane and it's five defense planes take off was bootleg footage of one plane taking off that was repeated to make it seem like it was six different planes. Before I saw the movie at TCMFF, I spoke to film researcher Lillian Michelson. She told me she worked on the movie studying and reporting back with information about a variety of military tactics and technologies. I'm sure Michelson filled in the blanks for many details that the government wasn't willing to provide the filmmakers.

George Clooney remade Fail-Safe in 2000 as a TV movie broadcast live on CBS. Walter Bernstein wrote the new adaptation. According to Mankiewicz, Columbia owned the rights to the original novel but not to Bernstein's 1964 screenplay. So anything added to the 1964 movie that was not in the book could not be used in the TV movie. For example, instead of the wife talking to her pilot husband the TV remake had a son talking to his pilot dad. On the afternoon of the live broadcast, TCM was going to show the original movie. Clooney begged TCM to reconsider and said he would do anything for them in exchange. TCM pulled the movie but Clooney has still to make good on his end of the deal.

Fail-Safe (1964) is one of the best war movies I have ever seen and it quickly became one of my favorite movies. It's so brilliantly acted, the plot so well-paced and it induced so much anxiety that I couldn't help but be completely and utterly engrossed. While I enjoyed Dr. Strangelove and consider it one of the greatest satires of all time, as far as Cold War stories go I think Fail-Safe is a far superior film. It's a shame Fail-Safe wasn't taken seriously when it came out because it was stuck in the shadow of the film that came before it. I highly recommend watching Fail-Safe knowing as little as possible about the plot (I gave very little away in my description) and embracing the fear that this film will instill in you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cinema Shame: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971) was always one of those classic musicals that I've meant to see but I never got around to. When the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival schedule was announced, I saw the film was part of their Sunday morning line-up. And the director Norman Jewison, who has directed some of my absolute favorite films, was going to be in attendance at the screening. TCMFF is the best venue to experience a film for the first time. Unfortunately it didn't happen. When Sunday morning rolled around, I was very sick from the physical effects of social anxiety. I've since gotten over that and can attend the festivals with no problems.

Fast forward to the 2016 TCM festival when I got to meet film researcher Lillian Michelson on the red carpet. She was there with director Daniel Raim and producer Jennifer Raim to screen their documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. This is a documentary I've been championing ever since I watched it in November of 2015. In the film, Lillian discusses how she did research for Fiddler on the Roof and she met with Jewish ladies "of a certain age" at a deli and asked what young girls wore for undergarments. One of the ladies fetched her a pattern and the end result was period-specific undergarments, with scalloping on the bottom, in the Matchmaker musical number.

In my brief red carpet interview with Lillian Michelson (which you can watch here), I asked her which of the films she worked on was her favorite. And her answer was Fiddler on the Roof. Her research went beyond just the clothing so when you see the film you know the specifics are as true to turn-of-the-century Russia as possible. Also for Lillian this helped connect her to her familial roots.

Fast forward to 2018 and I was heading back to California for my sixth TCM festival. I was scheduled to have a lunch with Lillian, Daniel and Jennifer and I knew I had to watch Fiddler before I got there. The film on briefly came up in conversation but I was glad that I finally got to see that film that meant so much to Lillian, and to the Raims too!

I really connected with Fiddler. Even though I was raised Protestant and I don't know what it feels like to deal with Anti-Semitism, I connected with the story about family, about marrying for love, going against ingrained cultural norms and the disconnect between generations. The movie is over 3 hours long but it didn't feel it. The plot and the pacing are perfect and I was swept into this family saga and stayed engaged the whole time. I can see how it became a beloved musical. I would watch Fiddler again in a heartbeat.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971) is the third of eight films that I am watching for the 2018 Cinema Shame challenge. Check out my original list and stay tuned for more reviews!

Friday, April 27, 2018

TCM Classic Film Festival 2018: Recap #1

My trip to California started off at lightning speed and I'm only now just able to catch my breath. I'm here in Hollywood for the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival. This is my sixth fest and it's always a surreal feeling when I'm actually here. I take a moment to appreciate it when I'm standing in line for a movie otherwise all the amazing moments fight for my attention and I don't stop to appreciate where I am.

First stop in Los Angeles is always In-n-Out Burger. We pick up our car rental and head straight to the one just outside the LAX.

Later that evening we headed to Burbank for a dinner with Robby of Dear Old Hollywood and his adorable family. We ate at Pinocchio's and had a great casual Italian meal.

On Wednesday we had a full day. I picked up my badge and goodie bag at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel before the start of the festival. Here's a look at what I got!

We traveled to the Motion Picture and Television Fund home in Woodland Hills for a very special visit. When we arrived we took a gander at the Roddy McDowall rose garden and sculpture.

The reason for our visit was to have lunch with Daniel Raim, Jennifer Raim and Lillian Michelson all of the documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. All of you know how much I gush about this movie. I've reviewed it, interviewed Daniel Raim, hosted a Twitter chat (that trended!) when TCM aired the doc. So it was really gracious of Lillian to host a lunch for all of us at the MPTF home. And I'll tell you right now, this was a day I will never forget. We talked for hours and I didn't want to leave. In fact I had such a great time that if we had flown back that night and not done anything else I would have said that was an amazing trip to be remembered forever.

I'm grateful for Daniel, Jennifer and Lillian for being so gracious and welcoming Carlos and I! And a special thanks to Lillian for hosting the lunch.

After peeling myself away from that amazing experience, I headed back to Hollywood for a TCMFF press event. We mingled with lots of press and bloggers and TCM staffers and TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian kicked off the event with a speech. She spoke to some of the highlights of the festival this year and I got so excited more so than I have been which is saying a lot.

Then we headed to Kitchen 24 for a dinner with some of my blogger friends.

And even more friends were waiting for us at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel for TCM's Social Influencers Mixer. Thanks to Marya for hosting us! I got to chat with lots of friends and colleagues and got to take a ridiculous amount of selfies.

Carlos, Jessica, Matt from Warner Archive and me!

Raquel and Rachel

Joel and me!

Casey, Meg, Carlos and me

Raquel and Karen of The Dark Pages

Stay tuned as I'll have more recaps for when the festival kicks off including Thursday's red carpet!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Interview with Daniel Raim, Director of Harold and Lillian

October marks the home video release of Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, now available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber. If you follow me on social media, you know I've been a champion for this film ever since I reviewed it back in 2015. I recently hosted a Twitter chat for the movie's TCM premiere and have been recommending Harold and Lillian to anyone who will listen. Now that the film is available, I encourage you all to all to purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray which contains over 2+ hours of deleted scenes, words of wisdom from Lillian Michelson and a full lecture from Harold Michelson on storyboard art. To celebrate the release, I had a chat with director Daniel Raim about his work on the movie.

Daniel Raim got his start as a documentary filmmaker while he served in the Israeli Defense Forces. Born in Israel, he moved back on his own at the tender age of 15. He studied painting at art school but it wasn't until his time in the military where says he learned to "tell stories through camera and editing." Raim said, "I found it something I connected with on a level and enjoyed immensely. To look through the lens of a camera and see individual stories and to shape them." During the last week of his service, he had a premonition that he would go to Hollywood and meet a wise sage who would teach him the way of cinema.

Daniel Raim at the 2016 TCMFF.
Source: Zimbio
Raim found himself at the AFI where he met a sage in the form of Robert F. Boyle, the production designer who worked on Hitchcock masterpieces such as Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, North by Northwest, The Birds and Marnie. Boyle was then 90 years old and had founded the production design program at the AFI. Raim remembered hitting it off with Boyle immediately. He said to himself "this is the guy I want to learn cinema from. I wasn't interested in becoming a production designer per say but I was more interested in him." While the other AFI students didn't fully appreciate Boyle, Raim saw not only the opportunity to learn from him but also to tell his story.

The first documentary Raim made was The Man on Lincoln's Nose (2000), a 40 minute film profiling Boyle's career. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. About the film Raim says "I made it my personal mission to make a documentary that takes the time to listen." At the time Raim felt that he didn't have the skills to make the film he really wanted to make. He followed up The Man on Lincoln's Nose with a feature length project called Something's Gonna Live (2010), which became a portrait of six artists, icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood. These include Robert Boyle (North By Northwest), Henry Bumstead (Vertigo), Conrad L. Hall (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Harold Michelson (The Graduate), Albert Nozaki (The Ten Commandments), Haskell Wexler (America, America). Raim said, "somehow all these careers and friendships were intertwined and there's a narrative about that."

It was during Raim's time at AFI that he met storyboard artist and production designer Harold Michelson. Harold had a long and varied career and worked on everything from The Ten Commandments to Spaceballs. He began as a storyboard artist in the studio era which then became New Hollywood. Raim remembers, "I'd go hang out in Harold's office... For hours, he'd just tell stories. Then I noticed on his bookshelf were all these original storyboards from Cleopatra, The Ten Commandments, The Birds, The Graduate, The Cotton Club. Mind-blowing, more than I could handle." Harold's stories weren't fanciful fantasies of a glorious time in Hollywood. They were about the real struggle to work in what Raim refers to as the "combat zone of working on a Hollywood movie production set." A place where egos often clashed. Raim told me that feature films during the studio era "were often storyboarded long before a direct was brought on. There was a script, someone like Harold storyboarded it, with all the camera placements, angles, height, tilt, lens... all of this was economical... to determine how much set they needed to build."

Then there was Harold's wife Lillian Michelson, the vivacious, charming and genius film researcher. In 1998, Harold invited Raim to meet Lillian at DreamWorks where she regularly had lunches with industry folks. Raim remembers,
 "[it] was amazing to be so warmly received. She [doesn't] know who I am.  She's immediately interested in who I am and what I'm doing. It's almost like being welcomed into a family you never knew you were a part of. It was like this open door in a way. The routine was that I'd have lunch, Lillian would spend half an hour yelling at Harold because of what he was eating. She'd go off and do her research work. Then I would spend the next few hours in Harold’s office soaking in all this amazing film history. I would leave these lunches completely energized.”"

Harold and Lillian Michelson (Source)

Fast forward to 2013. What started as an interest in Harold Michelson's work developed into a feature-length film about two personal and professional lives that made an impact on Hollywood and the lives of those who inhabited their world. During the process of working on the movie, Raim visited the Art Director's Guild and asked if they had any taped interviews of Harold that he could use. Harold had passed away in 2007 so anything Raim could get his hands on would be crucial. He received a Hi8 Analog cassette shot in 1998. When Raim went to digitize the grainy footage he recognized his voice on the other side of the camera. He remembers, "I don't even remember shooting this stuff. Later I recalled that I was asked to record this interview with Harold for his lifetime achievement award... The cinema gods have handed me the making of this film." This footage allowed for Harold Michelson's own voice to shine through in the documentary.

In addition to this, Raim had access to Harold's poems and cards and a very carefully selected and small pile of love letters that Lillian allowed him to use. In these Raim and his wife and co-producer/co-editor Jennifer Raim, found "nuggets of wisdom and humor and everything else that humanized them." Harold and Lillian were a real couple audiences could relate to. Raim said about their story:
"I was determined to make a film that puts the audience in the shoes of Harold and Lillian to experience what it must have been like to come to Hollywood in it's heyday... I wanted to create that narrative so I found the idea of that moment when she's stepped off the train in Hollywood for the first time. For me that's what the movie is about. That moment."
Even though Raim did not have Harold to film he did have Lillian, who like Harold did not care to be on camera. In addition to that, she was reluctant to discuss anything negative, especially about Harold. However, Raim didn't want to make a puff piece. He said to Lillian, "I promise you audiences will believe the movie only if you share with me some of these less flattering stories. These stories humanize Harold and make his accomplishments that much more believable." And that meant discussing Harold's drinking, his depression as well as her own challenges and her son's Autism. Raim made Lillian more comfortable by ditching the film crew. He didn't hide the fact that he was filming her but he scaled it back to make for a more intimate atmosphere.

A piece by Patrick Mate from Harold and Lillian

Harold and Lillian features excellent storytelling about two captivating figures. The film has added elements that effectively draw the audiences into the story. Artist Patrick Mate's illustrations would not only fill in the gaps where footage was lacking but would also enhance the storytelling and pay tribute to Harold's art. Early on in the process Raim had shown Mate a rough cut. Mate reluctantly agreed to view it and as soon as he did he knew this was a project he wanted to be involved with. Raim said "it was wonderful how Patrick's images tell a very nuanced story all in one frame." When you watch Harold and Lillian, look closely at Mate's illustrations. Some of them are references to classic films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and several others. Raim knew the ending of Harold and Lillian very early on. The train sequence when Lillian travels to Hollywood to meet Harold is the heart of the film. It was up to Mate to tell that story with his line illustrations and he did so quite beautifully. Those pieces were the first ones Mate created. If you watch closely you'll see the illustration techniques change throughout the film to what Raim called " a little more surreal, a little more adventurous."

Part of the whimsy of Harold and Lillian is the lovely music which includes an original score by Dave Lebolt as well as a classic piece by Debussy. About the music, Raim told me,

"I worked with him and at some point I arrived at a kind vision for the music based on an attitude I felt the music represented towards their life. . The Jaques Tati-esque music that's on the Blu-Ray, that was born out of thinking about their life and also my desire to present their life in a way that it channels the ups and downs. That they look back on it with humor, wit, compassion, love. To use music that wasn't inherently dramatic but presented a driving forward, how they approached life. They just kept going despite the challenges. There is a more poignant piece of music that we call the Lillian theme. That more poignant piano theme makes a statement that there's more to it than someone who organizes books on a shelf."

Would audiences get what the director was trying to get across? Raim received help and advice from Danny DeVito, a good friend of the Michelsons. He had collaborated with them on several projects. DeVito was one of the first people Raim interviewed for the film. He, along with editor Lynzee Klingman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), encouraged Raim to edit the movie down to 1-1/2 hours from it's original 2+ hours length. DeVito's involvement was so important to the film that Raim invited him to become executive producer.

Lillian Michelson, Daniel Raim, Jennifer Raim at the 2016 TCMFF. Source: Zimbio

Also instrumental to the movie was Jennifer Raim. Daniel Raim told me that Jennifer brought "a sensitivity and sensibility toward Lillian's very personal feminist struggles." This became crucial in presenting Lillian to an audience who would be primed to receive her message of perseverance and hope. One of the things that surprised Raim about the release of Harold and Lillian, despite the fact that it had a successful 68 city theatrical run, was how much of a rock star Lillian would be. He told me a story of how he and Lillian attended an American Academy of Dramatic Arts event where the Michelsons received a lifetime achievement award. The crowd of academy alums watched the documentary and shortly afterwards there was a line out the door to meet Lillian. One young woman told Lillian that her story inspired her so much that it helped lift her out of her depression and suicidal thoughts. In fact Lillian Michelson has had a profound effect on many people who have watched the film, myself included. She is the feminist hero many of us women look to for guidance and inspiration.

Following the success of Harold and Lillian, director Daniel Raim is busy with many new projects. He's working on a series of videos for the Criterion Channel on Filmstruck. While he was in Japan he made a documentary about one of his favorite directors Yasujiru Ozu. He continues to be inspired by stories of filmmakers and has other features currently in development. Stay tuned for more from this talented director. Make sure you follow him on Twitter @DanielRaim and check out his production company Adama Films.

Many thanks to Daniel Raim for taking the time to chat with me. Make sure you visit the official Harold and Lillian website to purchase a DVD or Blu-Ray copy of the documentary. It's also available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play for digital download and to rent on DVD Netflix.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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

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!

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook