Archive for the ‘TCM Classic Film Festival’ category

Happy 5th Anniversary to TCM Classic Film Festival!

Five years ago, something wonderful happened to Hollywood. Then in its 15th year as a network, Turner Classic Movies launched a labor of love that has gone on to become the most exciting annual event for lovers of classic films everywhere. I remember first hearing about it, with a delicious shiver of disbelief creeping across my skin, leading to the extreme excitement of attending its inaugural event: a screening of A Star is Born at the Chinese Theatre. By the time of the festival’s closing film, a screening of the newly restored Metropolis with the consummate Alloy Orchestra, there was an electricity that ran through the audience making it undeniable that this had, not only been a special four days, but the start of something very, very big. And when the patron saint of classic film fans everywhere, Mr. Robert Osborne, appeared at the conclusion of Metropolis to announce that they’d be back for another year, well, the cheers were deafening.  Read more ►

2013 TCM Film Festival – My Pictorial Picks

In just over a week, Hollywood is getting, well, the Hollywood treatment with the 4th annual Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. The billboards are already up over town and, as a Hollywood local, I gotta say: forget the holidays. This is the most wonderful time of the year. For three days, I get to see Hollywood as it used to be: glamorous, sophisticated and exciting.

It’s my fourth straight year and, of course I’m looking forward to rendezvous-ing with good friends and eager to meet new film fans from all over the world. Deciding on the schedule is always torture– one I look forward to eagerly each year– and here are my picks for this year’s fest in true Pictorial fashion:

 

2013 TCM Film Festival Picks

 

Harold Lloyd's Safety Last and the Triumph of Silent Film

The Orpheum Marquee: Harold Lloyd ... Robert Israel ... and Hugh Hefner. Only in L.A. ;)

Wow. So the best cinematic experiences I’ve had in recent memory tend to have the same thing in common: silence. First with the TCM Festival’s triumphant screening of Buster Keaton‘s The Cameraman in April. And now two months later, with the Los Angeles Conservancy’s closing night film of their 25th Annual “Last Remaining Seats” series, Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last.

For the uninitiated, the “Last Remaining Seats” series is a fantastic event each summer in which the Los Angeles Conservancy, LA’s foremost historical preservation society, opens the doors of Downtown LA’s movie palaces to the general public with a series of classic film screenings. It is an extraordinary event and its evergreen– indeed, ever growing– popularity is a true testament to the fact that audiences will always love the old-fashioned joy of a night at the movies. Because “Last Remaining Seats” is all about old-fashioned joy. These palaces were built as veritable escape portals for the masses– with their gilded halls and plush velour, where even the grimiest working Joe could, for an hour or so, feel like royalty.

And boy, did we ever feel like that tonight!

The majestic Orpheum interior

Having missed last year’s schedule completely, I was not about to miss this– even a lingering cold did not foil my plans! Tonight’s screening was greeted to an enthusiastic crowd– a large majority of which had never seen a silent feature film before in their life.  I know because renowned silent film composer Robert Israel, providing the night’s accompaniment, asked for applause from any silent film first-timers– the applause was rather verbose.

Keaton’s charming short Cops was the appetizer, followed up by crowd-pleasing pre-show in the spirit of Sid Grauman‘s famous prologues of the ’20s. The Cicada Club is a downtown Los Angeles world unto it’s own: a tangible time glitch where dames in fringe dresses and faux fur with fellas in tailored tuxes and top hats put on the ritz every Sunday night to the vintage croons of Ben Halpern and orchestral swing of Dean Moira. The Cicada set may have its cliques (vintage purists who happen to wear blue jeans, like me, don’t exactly fit)  but oh can they put on a show! The club’s proprietor Maxwell DeMille presided over the high-spirited prologue which included a hot Charleston number and some delightful standards, from “Singin’ in the Rain” to “California Here I Come!”

Film historian John Bengtson‘s recent book Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd is the third in a series of books that are, truly, cinematic archaeology: meticulously unearthing the filming locations of the great silent comedians to create a detailed composite of a city on the come. It was fitting that he took the stage with Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne, to introduce the film, it’s Los Angeles-centric importance, and the movie-like backstory that surrounded it’s production. (Lloyd married his leading lady just before the picture wrapped.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen Safety Last many a time and have always liked it and admired Lloyd’s physical prowess. But I have always preferred Lloyd’s Girl Shy and The Freshman (with their respective Robert Israel scores, of course) and, while I appreciate the film’s significance, it was never a favorite.

Well, scratch that last.

This film was made for the big screen in every possible sense. The audience literally screamed with both laughter and fright, a deliriously thin line, at Lloyd’s aerial antics– the ferociousness of which simply cannot be truly appreciated on the confines of a television screen. Safety Last is, first and foremost, a MOVIE: intended to be projected on a 20 foot screen and was made for those towering dimensions.

My palms were sweating and fingernails were bitten– even though the outcome was as plain on the nose on my face. It was simply … magic.

The audience’s verbal reaction only intensified the experience. Even when paying 20 smackers for the latest 3D extravaganza, it is very very rare to have an audience so intimately, totally, completely immersed with the film. Ever move Harold made, every slip of the foot, even the most blatantly obvious of set pieces, elicited a gut reaction. Ooohs, Aaaah, Nooos and Eeeeks screamed from the balcony and orchestra seats.

We. Were. His.

And I wonder what it all means. In this unappreciative era of instant information and unearned entitlement, when we are so completely jaded and rarely impressed at the movies… how truly meaningful is it that a silent film, 80+ years old, without gimmicky camera trickery or CGI imagery can make our hearts beat right out of it’s cages and our palms sweat like no Michael Bay extravaganza could ever hope to.

The purity of silent film triumphs once again.

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last

Kitty Packard Pictorial of the Month: The TCM Classic Film Festival

Welcome to Paradise

Last night, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was aglow with Beethoven and Bach and elegance, and tonight … it’s Thor. See what happens when you leave town, TCM?

Last year’s was fun… this year’s festival was special. Building on last year’s framework, what was noticeable this year was a close-knit sense of community. This shared, communal experience was instant and electric, making fast friends of complete strangers, simply because they happened to be waiting in a queue for the same film. Film is a universal language that unites people regardless of background or distance or age or even language– I’ve been to many a film festival and, without question, nowhere is the power of film more apparent than at TCM’s Classic Film Festival. If for no other reason than the simple fact people are not there simply to watch a movie– nor are they simply there to be seen. (cough, Sundance, cough) but rather to embrace the beauty of film and to engage in an exchange of expression with like-minded enthusiasts.

And that is why The Kitty Packard Pictorial is breaking with tradition and our next Pictorial of the Month is not dedicated to a classic film star… but rather classic film’s reigning patron saint: Turner Classic Movies.

Four days of films, fans and fast new friends, here is our farewell to the TCM Classic Film Festival with a send-off of highlights and a collection of newly released press-photos.

Enjoy, and see you at the Festival next year!

Mickey Rooney, Leslie Caron attend the Vanity Fair party

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Jane Powell and Eva Marie Saint at the Vanity Fair party

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Rose McGowan in Robert Osborne's arms... the luckiest girl in the world.

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Debbie Reynolds signed autographs in Club TCM

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Jane Powell signing an autograph

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Mickey Rooney and Ben Mankiewicz discussing Girl Crazy (1943)

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Peter O'Toole at the screening of Becket (1964)

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Julie Andrews remembers her late husband Blake Edwards @ Breakfast at Tiffanys

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"How Do I Look?" Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

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Hayley Mills and Leonard Maltin discussing The Parent Trap

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Alec Baldwin and Warren Beatty discussed the film Reds (1981)

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Drew Barrymore chatting with Robert Osborne

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Rose McGowan, Robert Osborne, and Anjelica Huston

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The TCM Billboard at Orange and Hollywood

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A long way from home... yet very much at home!

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Hollywood's very own Lady in Black, Kerrie Bible

The night’s silent festivities were introduced by the classic Burns and Allen Vitaphone sketch Lamb Chops. The perfect introduction– we were putty in their silly little hands:

Vince Giardano and the Nighthawks perform Buster Keaton's The Cameraman

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Leonard Maltin talking with Vince Giordano

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Hah-- that's me and good buddy Nicole clapping our hands numb for Vince Giordano's stupendous performance

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Robert Osborne -- our patron saint!

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Marge Champion -- the most youthful 91 year old on the planet!

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Robert Osborne visibly charmed with the charming Marge Champion. (My new favorite person in the world!!)

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TCM's Scott McGee and Anne Wilson-- THANK YOU for making this possible!!

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Passholders puttin' on the ritz outside The Henry Fonda Theatre's Music Box!

Club TCM's After Party-- Farwell, Fantasyland!

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Magic at the TCM Film Festival: The Cameraman

From the very beginning, motion pictures were… magic.  Of course, the medium has evolved to become one of the most important means of artistic expression that we’ve ever had– complex, subjective and ever-evolving. But sometimes all we want– indeed, all we need– is a little magic.

Perhaps the magic of cinema is found, in its purest form, in silent comedy. Hardly a definitive statement, but after tonight’s screening of Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre for the TCM Classic Film Festival … I am hard pressed to find anything more magical than in the visual purity of silent comedy. One definition of magic is, in fact, “The exercise of sleight of hand or conjuring for entertainment.” At the ripe age of 10, it was that sleight of hand and truly magical conjuring of delightful laughter, and wrenching tears, in the films of Charlie Chaplin that gave me my first love of silent film, and my undying passion for silent comedy. And the skilled sleight of Buster Keaton’s hand in The Cameraman (indeed, the exceptional skill in most all of his work) fits Merriam-Webster’s definition to a tee. How did he do it? There are books dedicated to the exploration of it. But the result is magic.

Ask the audience at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre. A crowd of crisscrossed demographics, truly boggling in their variety. USC film students, venerated film historians (Kevin Brownlow, Leonard Maltin), Hollywood hipsters lured by word of mouth and Midwest purists on pilgrimage. Some of us clapping madly at the The Cameraman’s iconic moments (Keaton riding proudly on a fire-engine) while others’ jaws dropped in awe at witnessing Keaton’s physical fearlessness for the first time.  Packed in like sardines, different (quite possibly) in the extreme, yet all with the same knee-jerk reactions of Buster’s seemingly effortless comedic… magic.

I do not mean to imply that silent films are in some way uncomplicated or without depth. Quite the contrary in fact. And it is indeed those delicate complexities and layers of humor and heart that are integral to the magic of silent film.

The live orchestra was a definite feather in Buster’s cap.

Vince Giordiano and his Nighthawks are an east-coast based jazz ensemble that are absolute purists for the music of the ’20s and ’30s. Their music has appeared in period films like Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator and shows like Boardwalk Empire (also Scorsese, hmm…) and what sets them apart is that they do not imitate hot jazz– they are highly fluent in the language of early 20th century music, understand the psychology and sociology of the culture that created it and there fore play it with striking authenticity. It was that authenticity that provided a truly perfect background for Keaton’s film (their set list weaving in period hits like Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe, Runnin’ Wild and The Mooche), creating an extra layer of energy that ramped up the audience’s already considerable excitement.

My favorite moment of this weekend’s festival hands down. And one of my favorite experiences to have ever had at the movies period.