2010 TCM Film Festival Report

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 1:58 am

Well, here’s my long-belated 2010 TCM Film Festival report. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock (or happen to think the Twilight series is the best thing going), there’s a little cable channel out there known as Turner Classic Movies. Around since 1994 (Gone With the Wind was the first film broadcast), TCM specializes in classic movies pre-1970. Having steadily grown in popularity over the years, 2010 saw the first-ever film festival hosted by the channel, with 50 classic movies shown on the big screens of Grauman’s Chinese, Mann’s Chinese, and The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California. And the whole thing was headquartered at the lavish Roosevelt Hotel, which just so happens to be right across the street from Grauman’s.

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To make the TCM Film Festival even more enticing for cinema buffs, historians like Robert Osborne and Leonard Maltin were on hand to conduct interviews, participate in panels, and generally lend their years of experience to the proceedings. And don’t forget about all the stars from the actual films–performers like Ernest Borgnine, Eli Wallach, Esther Williams, Jon Voight and many more who turned up to speak about their experiences while making these unforgettable motion pictures.

It was truly an experience to remember for fans of old movies, and this meager entry will try to capture some of my experiences. But before we get started, I’d also like to remind you that all the movies mentioned can be purchased through Amazon, and the friendly guy in the UPS truck will deliver them right to your door. If you visit one of the links on this site and make a purchase, we’ll even get a small commission for sending you there. That’s great, as I’m already starting to save my money for the 2011 TCM Film Festival.

Getting There

I was accompanied to the festival by my good friend Randy, and he kindly volunteered to drive his extended cab pick-up all the way from the OGM headquarters in Texas to scenic Los Angeles. Why didn’t we fly? Randy is a big guy, and he prefers the comfort of his massive truck. Besides, it was a chance for both of us to take in some previously unseen countryside in New Mexico and Arizona.

So we rolled out at 8:40am, excited about the days ahead. We hit a snag with the GPS early on, but luckily we didn’t end up in a pond like on The Office. We were missing a cord for our iPods, so neither of us could torture the other with our taste in music (I like modern stuff, while Randy prefers artists who’ve been dead for at least 25 years…and country).

Travel Tip #1 – Make sure you properly program your GPS. While they’re all kinds of handy, we could’ve saved an hour by taking a different route. I think ours was set to find the quickest distance via interstate highways.

We stopped in Amarillo to eat at The Big Texan Steak Ranch, although we didn’t try to eat the 72-ounce steak featured on Man vs. Food. We journeyed on to New Mexico and stopped for the night after just over eight hours on the road. As we settled in the hotel to watch Lost, we noticed that Amarillo (which we had passed through earlier) had at least one tornado touch down. Talk about your close calls. Since we had planned to drive 12 hours each day, our early stop meant we had at least 16 hours of driving ahead of us on Wednesday.

The next day, we eventually passed into Arizona, and that’s when the hell began. I’d never been in a dust storm in my life, and apparently they’re not at all uncommon in Arizona. As we rolled in Winslow (popularized in “Take It Easy” by the Eagles and located on historic Route 66), we learned that the interstate was closed due to a semi being ripped in half by the wind. We could either wait for an unknown period of time, or detour south into Phoenix and continue on to L.A. We chose the latter.

Travel Tip #2 – Stay out of Arizona. The weather there is fucking crazy.

What we didn’t know was that going south took us up into the mountains. And did I mention that Randy is afraid of heights? Not a good combination, and things looked even worse when it started to sleet and snow. And if all that wasn’t enough, a crazed trucker decided to ride our ass for more miles than I would care to consider. Suddenly, I had a newfound respect for Dennis Weaver in Duel.

Travel Tip #3 – If you find yourself menaced by a semi-truck in the mountains, swallow your pride and take it. You’re simply not going to win in that situation.

After finally getting out of the damned mountains, we proceeded on to Los Angeles under the cover of darkness. We rolled into the Hollywood Hotel (actually a Ramada) around 2 am, giving us around 18 hours on the road. Being from rural Texas, I was less-than-thrilled to see the occasional homeless person or shifty character hanging out just a few blocks from our hotel. Welcome to the jungle, baby, you’re gonna diiiiieee. Time to go to bed.

Travel Tip #4 – Major cities are filled with plenty of weirdos. Get used to it.

TCM Film Festival – Thursday

While spending much of the day recuperating at the hotel, I took the opportunity to wander around a bit and enjoy the sights of sounds of a hotel filled with tourists. That night, we were off to the opening of the TCM Film Festival. The real high rollers went to a screening of A Star is Born, and stars like Alec Baldwin were in attendance (tux or evening gown required). Instead, we went to see Monkey Business, a Howard Hawks film starring Carey Grant, Ginger Rogers, and Marilyn Monroe.

Travel Tip #5 – While extended cab pick-ups offer a comfortable ride, they’re not the best for navigating the streets of a city. They’re even worse for navigating the cramped confines of a parking garage.

Peter Bogdanovich and his ascot shuffled out to introduce the film. He charmed the audience with stories of Grant and the actor’s love of his Howard Hawks impression. He also mentioned that Grant and Ginger Rogers had done the nasty, but not until filming was over. Another great story involved President Kennedy and his brother, Bobby, calling up Grant at his home, just so they could hear Carey Grant talk. I wonder if President Obama has ever done that with someone like Brad Pitt or Denzel?

As for Monkey Business, Grant was his usual charming self, and Monroe was just absolutely smoking (man, you’ve gotta love those old school bras). Rogers showed how multi-talented she was, and the whole picture was stolen by a little kid with a monotone voice.

Next up was Casablanca. The film belonged entirely to Claude Raines, in my opinion, as his much-needed comedy balanced out the world-weary cynicism of Bogart’s Rick Blaine. Ingrid Bergman was stunning, and the screenplay was simply amazing. Still, I have to admit that I think the film’s a bit overrated, even though I enjoyed it immensely (despite the couple next to me that wouldn’t shut up, even after being asked to by the guy in front of them).

Travel Tip #6 – If you’re attending a film festival where people have paid hundreds of dollars for passes, have the decency to shut the hell up.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed through a Latino neighborhood, and I saw what would be the hottest woman I’d witness on our trip. Hanging out in front of a Mexican café and clad in a tight one-piece dress, she was obviously a streetwalker. Too bad I wasn’t driving. It’s just as well, though, as I’d rather bring a keychain back from L.A. instead of herpes.

Back at the hotel, I decide to order Legion on pay-per-view. It sucks, and I end up fast-forwarding through some of it.

TCM Film Festival – Friday

While Randy recovered from the previous night’s walking around, I took a taxi and got dropped off right in front of Grauman’s. What a chaotic mess, as the line for the festival intermingled with all the tourists intent on snapping pictures of handprints from Eastwood, Vader, and Harrison Ford. Luckily, my next movie was playing inside Mann’s.

Travel Tip #7 – Before taking a taxi in Hollywood, be sure to read the Wikipedia article on Armenia. Chances are, that’s where your cabbie is from.

The Big Trail features John Wayne in his first lead role, and it’s amazing how much he developed as an actor between this and The Shootist. He was just this side of awful in this tale of the Oregon Trail, but his charm and all-American looks managed to carry him through. It was interesting to note that the film’s director, Raoul Walsh, made hundreds upon hundreds of film, many of which have been lost due to improper archival techniques (or no techniques at all). A film historian spoke before the film, noting that the entire production traveled over 4,300 miles to complete the film. I wonder if they went through the mountains of Arizona in a snowstorm while being tailgated by a trucker?

After a smoke break (no indoor smoking anywhere in L.A.), I was off to see Jubal (starring Glenn Ford and Ernest Borgnine). I’ve always enjoyed Borgnine’s work in everything from Marty and The Wild Bunch to Escape from New York. He’s supposed to speak after the film, so that will be a treat. The guy next to me is talking about Thai subtitles on certain brands of DVDs before the movie begins. He mentions that the Charlie Chan movies made $10 to $15 million, but the Mr. Moto series didn’t fare as well. You learn something new every day.

Leonard Maltin introduced the film, although he doesn’t perform a nunchuka routine like I hoped. Still, he was damned engaging. And have I mentioned yet how friendly and professional the TCM staff were? They were a real joy to deal with, especially those working inside of Mann’s.

This is the North American debut of the restored print of Jubal, and the film proved to be a real western gem. Glenn Ford gives a powerful performance, Rod Steiger makes for a memorable villain, and I’m officially in lust with Valerie French. The other hottie from the film, Felicia Farr, would later marry Jack Lemmon.

Following the movie, Maltin sat down with Borgnine for an interview, but not before a standing ovation from the grateful crowd. Borgnine talked about Lee Marvin, Glenn Ford, Spencer Tracy, and so much more. After spending 10 years in the Navy, he returned home and hoped to avoid working in one of the many factories in New Haven, Connecticut. His mother suggested he try acting, and a decade later he had won an Oscar for Marty. He also talked about his latest projects, including Red with Bruce Willis and Nightclub, about a group of young people performing court-ordered community service at a retirement home who introduce alcohol and dance music into the environment.

Randy is still back at the hotel, so I return to keep him company (after grabbing a bite at an excellent café just down the street from the Roosevelt…I think it was called Sally‘s Café). Later in the evening, I watch the South Korean film Mother on PPV, although it doesn’t end up being as good as films like Oldboy or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

Thank goodness the room has a balcony, so I can get some serious smoking done. Otherwise, I’d be climbing up the walls. Looking forward to that complimentary breakfast in the morning.

TCM Film Festival – Saturday

So much for breakfast, as Randy and I sleep in. That means we missed Sunset Blvd. We do eat lunch at an In and Out Burger, and we visit Dark Delicacies, an all-horror bookstore. We hang out in the hotel, and I catch up on my reading about the NFL Draft. We’re set to have dinner with a business associate of Randy’s, and we make our way to a restaurant built around an old train car. I get the filet mignon, and it’s the best I’ve ever had. It should be, though, as it cost more than $50 for an 8-ounce streak (Randy’s friend was buying). His pal also brought a female friend along, and her cleavage provided a nice distraction while Randy and his buddy caught up on old times.

Travel Tip #8 – If you’re looking to do some reading while on a trip, it’s hard to beat Amazon’s Kindle.

Back at the hotel, I watched The Road on pay-per-view. It wasn’t anywhere as good as I had hoped it would be. Guy Pearce sure looked wacky, though.

TCM Film Festival – Sunday

We got up early to stand in line in front of Grauman’s for a screening of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. As we wait in line, the sun begins to shine and tempers start to heat up. The guy behind me refuses to let an elderly tourist pass in front of him, and the guy calls him an asshole. Fun stuff. I got a kick out of watching the Asian tourists cluster around John Woo’s handprints.

I’ve seen The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly numerous times, but never on the big screen. Eli Wallach is on hand to discuss the film, and he’s interviewed by none other than Robert Osborne. I never realized just how much Tuco steals the show, but it finally sunk it during this screening. The ceiling of Grauman’s, by the way, is something to behold, although the bathrooms are only accessible by a narrow, winding set of steps.

After that, we hit the road and head back towards Texas.

The Long Road Home

The trip back was pretty uneventful, although we did drive through another In and Out Burger. I tried an A&W franchise in New Mexico for the first time, and the food there wasn’t half bad (as artery-clogging fast food goes). It was also cool to get a look at a lot of the sites on or near Route 66. My parents have made the pilgrimage from Chicago to L.A. in a hot rod, so it’ll give me something to talk about with them. After two more days on the road, it was nice to finally get back home and sleep in my own bed.

Travel Tip #9 – One of the best things about traveling: it makes you appreciate your own home even more.

2011 TCM Film Festival

Before the 2010 TCM Film Festival had even ended, it was announced that the 2011 TCM Film Festival would be taking place next year. If you missed this one, and you like classic movies, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you’re unfamiliar with films prior to 1970, you might just find a whole new cinematic world opening up for you. Hope to see you there in 2011.


This entry was posted on Thursday, May 6th, 2010 at 1:58 am and is filed under Thoughts on Film. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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May 6, 2010


great post as usual!

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