Tonight is the first chance I've had to post about my festival experience, and I have so many great memories to share. I got into Los Angeles shortly before the festival began, and took the opportunity to visit the El Capitan theatre (loved the "Alice" pre-show spectacle), the Griffith Observatory, Skylight Books and Clifton's Cafeteria (where I enjoyed a slice of banana cream pie made with tender California walnuts- yum!).
Thursday night, I went to see "A Star is Born" and my first thrill of the night happened at the concession stand where I was told, "Help yourself to drinks and popcorn- it's all free!" Woo hoo! Butter stains could have ruined my cocktail dress, but I grabbed some refreshments anyway. Then, I took my seat, and was awed when Martin Landau sat in the row behind me. I told him how much I love his work, and he was so gracious and warm. His guest that evening was Gretchen Becker, a film director whose latest short "Finding Grandma" features Landau, and I really enjoyed speaking with her as well. At this point, Robert Osborne comes out on stage, and asks Alec Baldwin to join him. The two men introduce the film, and the screening begins with a vintage news reel showing the original premiere of this version of "A Star is Born". As various movie stars appear on screen to share kind words about the film, the audience applauds each one with affection and enthusiasm, as if they were actually appearing before us. At this point, a gentleman joins Martin Landau behind me, and begins to impersonate some of the actors on screen. I thought, "Who is this guy?" After the feature begins, he continues to make occasional cracks, but he's genuinely funny, so it's not annoying. When the intermission comes, I turn around and am truly staggered to see that the color commentary I've been hearing is coming from Rich Little. Wow.
During the intermission of "A Star is Born", I see my chance to approach Robert Osborne and thank him for his contributions to TCM. I bolt over towards him, but at the last minute I'm cut off by a woman escorting a little bearded fellow. Once again, I think, "Who is this guy?" The woman steps in front of me, presents her friend and says, "Robert, this is Norman Jewison." Jewison then says, "I had to come and see her," and Osborne makes a nice remark about how Judy is just great in the film. So, I'm standing there half-wanting Norman Jewison to stop talking about Judy Garland and get out of my way, but half-wanting him to talk for hours and give some insight into his experiences working with her. After that conversation finishes up, I take the rare chance to thank Robert Osborne for his great work on TCM. I step back towards my seat and notice a crowd of people lined up behind me. Now, I knew that I was going to lose my mind over Robert Osborne at the festival, but I didn't know that literally hundreds of other people were also going to lose their minds over him. Day after day, I heard countless stories about how kind he was to all of the festival attendees who approached him.
I return to my seat, and even though I've seen the film before, the second half of "A Star is Born" is devastatingly heart-breaking. There really is an extra kick to seeing it on the big screen, and it is deeply moving. The lights come up, and I try to dry my eyes while hustling over to Mann's Chinese theatre number 3. While I wait for this show to begin, some folks share stories about the earlier screenings of "Dirigible" and "Neptune's Daughter", both of which sound wonderful. I wish I could have somehow experienced all of it. After a great introduction from a representative of New York's Museum of Modern Art, "Sunnyside Up" comes on-screen, and its charming story mends my broken heart. The film is truly a laugh riot, and the audience roars at some of the gags. After true love wins out, and the film ends, I join a crowd of people swarming towards Club TCM, but as soon as I step inside the Roosevelt, I head for my cozy bed. Coming to the TCM Film Festival was a really big financial investment for me, but the last thought I had before drifting off to sleep was, "I think I already got my money's worth from this pass."
That was just one night! It was an extraordinary festival experience.