Lonixcap

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  1. I know there's always a theme involved in the selections. This year was history. I'm not sure about next year's theme, but here's what I'd like to see: A Frank Sinatra retrospective of Frank the actor: From Here To Eternity The Man With The Golden Arm The Manchurian Candidate Von Ryan's Express 50th Anniversary Salutes to: Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf The Sand Pebbles The Blue Max Born Free John Frankenheimer tribute: Seconds Grand Prix Sam Fuller Tribute: The Crimson Kimono Shock Corridor The Big Red One
  2. TCM FILM FEST PT.1

    To recap this past festival weekend, I'll start with: Houdini (1953) This rather conventional romance disguised as a bio pic was actually directed by George Marshall, not Byron Haskin as I mentioned in an earlier post. I think because it was also produced by George Pal that I assumed Haskin directed, a la War of the Worlds. Anyway, this is a very entertaining, not entirely factual account of Houdini's career. I've seen it many times on TV, but the print they showed was of barely decent quality. The colors are starting to bleed and it's a shame that an old three-strip Technicolor film like this one was not properly restored. Paramount doesn't seem too interested in preserving much of their legacy when it comes to films like this one. The introduction was done by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, curators of the Houdini museum and magicians themselves. They did a very entertaining straight-jacket escape routine which made it one of the best intros of the whole festival. The Grim Game (1919) This silent film with the real Harry Houdini was a nice curio item; not a great film but a rather stodgy melodrama made strictly to show off Houdini's ability to escape from jail cells, handcuffs, straight jackets, bear traps, etc. But the payoff comes at the end with a real mid-air collision of two bi-planes, with no one really getting hurt. The live music was not that good. Sounded like the composer wanted this to be Schindler's List. Doesn't hold a candle to what Carl Davis' music did for Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr. Houdini was not destined to be a film star like Chaplin, Keaton or Fairbanks, and it shows. All in all, I enjoy this festival. Standing in line, you hear so many conversations about so many great films. It's hard not to get involved with talking to other film goers about the experience. Films I missed: Patton, The Apartment, My Darling Clementine, A Man For All Seasons, Riffifi, Boom, Diary of Anne Frank, Marriage Italian Style. The main drawback for me was the Egyptian Theater. It has the least comfortable seating of any of the theaters. It's not a full time first run house anymore and serves a home to the American Cinemateque. It has been altered from it's original design and not preserved like the TCL Chinese. I guess it's better than being torn down and replaced with a Gap store, but the TCL 6 multiplex is way more comfortable in comparison. Last thing I'll mention is the absence of Robert Osborne. I know he's getting up there in years, but he is the star of the TCM channel, and he was missed. Ben Mankiewicz seems to be the heir apparent. He's a likable host with a great sense of humor, and just like us, has a knowledge and love of the classic era of moviemaking. I'd also like to point out that there's lots of young people who are classic movie fans. I saw scores of twenty-somethings and milennials there, too. That's a good sign for the future.
  3. TCM FILM FEST PT.1

    Saturday Malcolm X (1992) After watching Spike Lee's massive, 3 hour epic i'm convinced again that it is one of the all time great bio films ever made. Lee was there in person with film historian Donald Bogle, and they had a very informative discussion about making this film. Apparently James Baldwin co-wrote the screenplay but he, and his estate, refused screen credit. Spike did his own re-write but admitted he could not have done so without Baldwin's contribution. Also, Norman Jewison was the first choice to direct, and he withdrew not because of the public outcry at the time, which demanded a black director be attatched, but because he could not reconcile certain elements of the Charles Fuller script that he would be working from. Lee told this story, and showed nothing but respect for Jewison. Also on hand was Lee's longtime cinematographer, Ernest Dickerson. After watching Malcolm X, Lee and Dickerson will be forever cemented in my mind as one of the great director/cameraman collaborations, along side those of David Lean/Freddie Young, Alfred Hitchcock/Robert Burks, Robert Aldrich/Joe Biroc, Anthony Mann/John Alton. History of the World Pt.1 (1981) Mel Brooks' take on world history is hilarious, has some great sight gags and a cast of great comedians in cameo roles, like Henny Youngman, Jack Carter, Jackie Mason; not his strongest screen comedy from a story point of view, but "The Inquisition" was worth the price of admission. Intro by Ben Mankiewicz. Earthquake (1974) Somewhat disappointing screening of this movie outdoors at the poolside of the Roosevelt Hotel. I felt the screen size was too small; from where I was sitting my 60' flat screen at home would have been better. The pre-film discussion, with Ileana Douglas talking with Richard Roundtree, was too long and they got off point by talking about other movies and actors, and Rountree's personal health issues. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy who played Shaft, and Miles Quade in Earthquake, but these talks should stay focused on the movie we are about to watch. Plus, there's no need to talk about Earthquake in reverent tones; it's a trashy, all-star disaster flick from the 70's, not a work of art. I enjoy it as entertainment, a guilty pleasure, nothing more. Sunday The last day, and I just couldn't get it together to catch the 9am screening of Patton at the Egyptian. If they were showing it at the Cinerama Dome in 70mm, I might have made it; I think I'll wrap things up with Houdini (1953) and Grim Game, a silent film with the real Harry Houdini.
  4. TCM FILM FEST PT.1

    Thursday The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) Nice introduction by Keith Carradine, whose father John appears in the film, which was digitally projected, not a 35mm print. Image and sound were excellent, I thought. Ford's last black and white film still resonates today, holds up extremely well. The Sea Hawk (1940) This one had a nice intro and chat with Rory Flynn, Errol's daughter. She had some great anecdotes about her dad and the film itself. Unfortunately, the 35mm print they showed was an edited 109 minute version, not the full 127 minute one they show on TCM. Print quality was not that good, however the mono soundtrack featured Erich Korngold's score in it's full bombastic glory. Friday The Cincinnati Kid (1965) Ann Margaret and Ben Mankiewicz had a nice chat beforehand. She had some great things to say about her and McQueen working together. Sounded like they were kindred spirits, they both liked fast motorcycles and being bad. The film itself features a great cast, very atmospheric New Orleans vibe, has some 60's hipness about it even though it takes place in the 1930's. 35mm print quality was fair; it had that mid-60's Metrocolor look, although some scenes are lit more in the style of 70's Gordon Willis. Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928) Classic Buster Keaton silent comedy with a live orchestra conducted by Carl Davis. Restored digital copy looked fantastic. With these old classics, the digital screenings are coming across better than the 35mm prints so far. Opening commentary by Leonard Maltin, who tells a great story about how he met Keaton in NY years ago. Apollo 13 (1995) This one was screened at the TCL (Grauman's) Chinese IMAX, with Alex Trebek interviewing James Lovell, one of the actual astronauts from the real flight. I never saw this movie before, and it's excellent, a modern classic. Very refreshing to see story of science fact. Rare in this era of so many sci-fi fantasy films. To recap the experience so far, there's a lot more people here than were here two years ago, the last time I made it. Festival seems to be a hit, every screening so far is filled to capacity. There's some tough choices to make over the weekend, since so many of the movies are screened at different theaters at the same time. So on Saturday I have to choose between Rebel Without A Cause or Malcolm X; The Wind and the Lion or History of the World Pt.1; Adam's Rib or The French Connection. One thing's for sure: the outdoor screening of Earthquake.
  5. The only screening I caught this year was the Cinerama showing of How The West Was Won. I had never seen Cinerama before and it was impressive. I remember seeing Abel Gance's Napoleon at Radio City in 1980, saw the 70mm restorations of Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus at NYC's Zigfeld Theater in the 90's, but this was incredible. I think widescreen revivals are essential to us classic film buffs. I would love to see a VistaVision series during the festival. The Ten Commandments in it's original format; North By Northwest; a restoration of Brando's One-Eyed Jacks, the last film shot in VistaVision, would be fantastic, provided the camera elements still exist. Then there's the big 70mm Todd-AO musicals like South Pacific; even normal 35mm CinemaScope treasures like Bad Day at Black Rock and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers should be seen as they were intended. Anybody else think the festival should "go wide"?

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