I almost gave up and slept in on Sunday morning, but I knew I had to experience Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) in the Chinese Theater. Assuming that many people would skip the morning block, I showed up washed, but thoroughly ungroomed, minutes before the line was led into the theater.
|I'm not here for the cameras
Director John Sayles took an appropriately cowboy-like stance as he introduced the film. He had a lot to share, and it was interesting, but knowing how long the movie was, I eventually wanted to get the show on the road.
I then sobbed my way through one of the most magnificent movies ever made, moved by every extreme close-up or twang of the Ennio Morricone score. At the end I sat there huddled over a tissue thinking how much I loved movies and that theater. Of course I was exhausted and emotional, but it was also a moment of deep appreciation for what movies have brought to my life. Enjoyed individually and as part of a community, they have meant more to me than I can express.
After the film I finally slowed down for a decent lunch with a good friend. For future festivals I need to remember Whealthy, another build-your-own bowl place just outside the back door of the Chinese Multiplex. Many of the restaurants I went to during this year's festival had plenty of vegetable options available and as a result I ate much better than in previous years and noticed a dramatic improvement in my energy and mood. It pays to balance out all the popcorn and Junior Mints when you are navigating this crazy schedule.
After that, I visited The Hollywood Museum, which is located in the former Max Factor building, just off Hollywood Boulevard. My main goal was to check out the Batman ’66 exhibit, but there are so many other wonderful things to see in the permanent collection:
|Eartha's Catsuit was worth the price of admission
|A gorgeous portrait that was part of the Jean Harlow exhibit
|A tiny costume Elizabeth Taylor wore in Giant (1956)
Then in a great piece of luck, I got to catch the TBD screening of This Thing Called Love (1940), which I had skipped before for another must-see. Illeanna Douglas introduced the film, which starred her Grandpa Douglas (aka Melvyn Douglas) and Rosalind Russell. It’s about a newly-married couple who at the suggestion Russell have embarked on three months of chastity so that they may ensure that they are compatible in other ways.
|Illeana Douglas had A+ backlighting for this intro.
It’s a silly, fast-moving film, which at one point didn’t work to my advantage. I fell asleep for about five minutes, and woke up at the start of a dinner party where all the jokes set up in the previous five minutes paid off. Everyone else was laughing and I had no idea why. I thought I had ruined the movie for myself, but was eventually able to catch up. I hope I can see it again sometime.
|The best thing about sitting in the balcony of the Egyptian is gawking at the ceiling
I reluctantly went back to the hotel to pack before joining many friends new and old in the forecourt of the Egyptian Theater to line up for A Star is Born (1937). I couldn’t think of a better way to end the festival. It was a lot of fun to see Janet Gaynor wandering around the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater with nary a beer-bellied Spiderman in sight.
Alicia Malone interviewed director William Wellman's son William Wellman, Jr. before the film.
Then on to the chaos of the closing night party, which is an introvert’s nightmare. This was my best year dealing with that mess, because I discovered several of my friends had nabbed a booth in a quiet corner and people were dropping by to visit. That made it all much easier!
|Ahhh, relative peace and calm
When the lights came up on the party, I joined an expedition to In ’n Out, which was as packed as if it was the noon rush. It was good to have a chance for one more chat though. Our goodbyes were reluctant, but airy, because we all knew how fast a year can go.
I’m already mulling over what to eat, what side trips to take, and how else I can make next year’s TCMFF even better. It’ll be hard to top 2018.
I wanted to wrap up with a few observations about the TCMFF experience--
Hand and Footprint Fail
Every year I try to go visit the hand and footprints made in the TCMFF ceremony for the previous year. This year I wanted to visit Carl and Rob Reiner's prints from the 2017 event. I knew that all new prints were close to the theater and I searched in confusion for quite a while until I found this:
Yes, the Reiners were under a handtruck, which was stuck under a big box, so I couldn't move it. I figured if anyone would have a sense of humor about this, it would be those two.
Beautiful theaters like the historic Egyptian and Grauman's Chinese are an important part of the joy of TCMFF. These are some of my favorite places in the world to spend time:
I mentioned this to a local last year and she told me that the Chinese Theater was only of interest to her during the festival, because it showed current movies the rest of the time.
I'm sure she feels that way about the Chinese Multiplex as well, which doesn't have the same classic theater feel, but becomes a lot more fun when the lobby becomes a hub of social activity during the festival.
Making Our Own Swag
I love how the tradition of festival attendees sharing personalized pins with others has expanded to M&Ms, picture postcards and all sorts of other interesting things. It further emphasizes how much this is a fan-driven event:
|@ and Fredric March M&Ms
|I still had this many pins after giving away a few!
|Handed out before the Thursday screeening
Friends: Old, New, and Undiscovered
Of course film is the focus of TCMFF, but community is its character. This is where classic film fans go to find their own kind, both familiar faces and new. Even new TCM host Alicia Malone expressed awe several times during the festival that she was with so many of her own kind. A lot of us spend all year looking forward to experiencing this camaraderie again:
Until next year fellow film fanatics!