It’s time for me to take a moment to reflect a bit on what I learned from my rather hectic but definitely fun and enlightening time at the TCM Fest. As previously reported here and everywhere else, it turned out to be a fairly roaring success and is promised to be repeated next year in Hollywood. Because of time constraints and because I wasn’t able to enjoy the truly titanic number of films seen by, say, a Dennis Cozzalio — currently working on a detailed and sure to be great summary of the event — I’m going to limit myself to a few random observations covering material I have not mentioned in prior TCM-centric posts. (Here, here, and here.) Naturally, it’ll still turn out to be much longer than I originally intended.
Borgnine, Donen, Rainer
As someone with parents in their eighties and nineties, I’ve become especially interested lately in the way things work for people of a certain age. So it was with some some special interest that I listened to the words of 100 year-old thirties star Luise Rainer, 93 year-old star character actor Ernest Borgnine (“Marty,” “The Wild Bunch”), and 86 year-old directing great and one-time boy genius, Stanley Donen — best known for co-directing “Singin’ in the Rain” and other MGM musical classics with Gene Kelly but also an outstanding director in his own right of both musicals and “straight” films.
I’m having a rough morning here. Not that it’s been all bad here at TCM Fest in the heart of Hollywood, in fact a lot of has been very good. I did catch three movies yesterday, each in their own way fascinating: the unusually emotional Delmer Daves western, “Jubal”; the bizarre and fascinating inept and inapt once ultra-scandalous wartime British gangster film set in America, “No Orchids for Miss Blandish”; and the first public screening of the 1963 sci-fi/horror hit “Day of the Triffids” in a genuinely impressive restoration which would have been even better if I hadn’t been so sleepy — or if the introduction hadn’t been so long. (It’s hard to blame a film restorer for excess enthusiasm, but, well, the garages close here at 2:00 a.m.). A post screening discussion between Leonard Maltin and Ernest Bognine after “Jubal” earlier in the day, on the other hand, was another highlight. I’ll be posting about that one a bit later, I think.
But then there was the hour I just spent trying struggling with IT people to try and use the wi-fi at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. (Absolutely no knock on the hotel, where everybody has more than helpful and I seem to be the only one having the problem. Apparently they’re system and my lousy Vista using laptop computer are just having a bad relationship.) And, so, I find myself back at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf trying to tie up loose ends, including feeding this here blog beast. And I’m in need of a bit of cinematic comfort.
Fortunately, tonight the festival is coming to the rescue with some old personal favorites of mine and about a gazillion other people. So, now a movie moment from “Singin’ in the Rain” showing tonight at the Egyptian Theater with its great co-director, Stanley Donen, appearing afterward. I wasn’t sure about it as I’ve seen it a million times, but I can definitely use the cinematic comfort. And here’s it is….
…No, actually, here it isn’t because suddenly all the clips I can find on YouTube on “embedding disabled upon request.” It’s been that kind of a morning. So, instead, here’s a pretty great clip from 1935’s “Top Hat” which showed last night.
I’ve been staying up late a lot lately trying to finish various projects before the holiday lull. I wish I could be as energetic right now at 1:30 a.m. as Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor were in 1953’s “Singin’ in the Rain.” Of course, they’d just decided to make a musical. More people should do that.
* In the real world Obama appears to be rethinking Afghanistan; in the cable TV world Lou Dobbs is relieving CNN of his xenophobia and is threatening to go into politics while The Onion has the real scoop. Meanwhile in the movie world, Disney’s new chairman, Rich Ross, is reorganizing. It sounds as if technology will be leading the way in the new regime. Also, the structure of the organization will resemble more a television network, we’re told, than a movie studio. Once upon a time that might have worried me, but these days TV is hardly any worse than movies. I’m not sure if that’s good news about TV or bad news about movies. (A little of both?)
* The lion of Hollywood has been a bit mangy for a long time now. Peter Bart reports that MGM is about to be sold and the whole thing, 4,000 titles and all, is worth about $1.5 billion, which would be a lot of money to you and me but to a once mighty film studio sure sounds paltray. One factor, even the older titles in the library ain’t what they used to be, either. The studio’s signature titles: “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gone With the Wind,” and “Singin’ in the Rain” are now available on Warner Brother’s DVD along with a good chunk of their best known classics. The ghosts of Culver City’s glory days are restless tonight.
* Apparently being a movie critic these days is such an unstable, lousy position that some of the best known reviewers are jumping ship and becoming film festival programmers. Yesterday, it was Newsweek’s David Ansen. Today, it’s the L.A. Weekly/Village Voice’s Scott Foundas. Anne Thompson has the depressing news that might nevertheless be creating more opportunities for some of the better known online folks.
* The fruits of my compatriot Will Harris’s London sojourn are appearing in the form of some extremely worth-your-time interviews. First with writer/director Richard Curtis of the criticially underrated “Love, Actually” and the soon to be released “Pirate Radio.” Also roly-poly movie superstud and general all around good guy Nick Frost of “Shaun of the Dead,” etc., as well as “Pirate” newcomers Tom Sturridge and Talulah Riley gets the Harris treatment as well. Bob says collect ’em all.
With the completely and utterly sold-out Comic-Con starting mid-week, Hollywood publicists seem to be working overtime to fulfill your no doubt insatiable need for geek news. I could probably write seven or eight posts catering to nerd proclivities. But you’re getting just one today, (and, with the help of few snafus, this one took much longer than it should have). A few highlights
* Leonardo DiCaprio’s company has signed writer Rand Ravich (“The Astronaut’s Wife,” the TV series “Life”) to do a new film somehow tied to Rod Serling’s classic anthology science-fiction/fantasy TV series, “The Twilight Zone.” Many of you will remember the 1983 film, which utilized multiple writers and directors and consisted of three adaptations of well known episodes from the original series, one tale loosely drawn from a pair of episodes (sadly infamous due to the accident which killed actor Vic Morrow and two illegally hired children, very nearly ending the career of director John Landis), and a framing story featuring Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd. No word on what form this new film would take — a single tale would be missing the entire point of “The Twilight Zone,” IMO — and I’m unfamiliar with Ravich’s work. So, it’ll be interesting to watch this one move further along the pipeline.
[Update: Apparently, one year ago at least, the idea was to make a single film drawn from an episode of the series. Why, I have no idea. I learned this via Monika Bartyzel, you can read her post and my messed up comments here.