TCM Film Fest 2017 Recap: Day 1

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Wednesday

AKA Day Zero. First off, between classes, I popped into Hollywood to pick up my badge and bag. I’ve finally figured out that picking up the bag early gives me the advantage of stashing it somewhere before my movie-watching/theater-hopping actually begins. As expected, there were lots of fun goodies in the bag, including, most important, WINE. I’m happy to report that the Hitchcock Zinfandel is very good, and I may have to look into joining the TCM Wine Club.

Wednesday evening I was pleased to go to the Social Media Influencers party at the “Spare Room” in the Roosevelt. It was a nice little nook in the hotel–I’d heard of the bar, but didn’t know its precise location until then. As the name might indicate, there were two lanes for bowling! I always enjoy events like this, because it seems like much of the later conversations during the festival depend on who you’re near in line or in the theaters. It also always takes me a bit to feel bold enough to say hi to people I haven’t seen in a year, so this gives me a little head start. Anyway, there were lots of nice folks there, a good Old Hollywood-esque atmosphere, and even movie-themed cocktails! Plus, a virtually empty Roosevelt lobby—a sight not to be seen for the next few days, for sure.

Calm before the storm… #tcmff

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Thursday

Movie #1: Love Crazy (1941)

Thursday was time to get things started, and my first movie was Love Crazy, a (non-Thin Man) William Powell/Myrna Loy comedy from 1941, screening at the Egyptian. This was my first time to the Egyptian since their restoration, courtesy of a grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It looked fabulous. I especially loved the carpet at the entrance, which matches their iconic scarabed ceiling inside the theater. The ceiling itself looked more vibrant and the hieroglyphic friezes in the courtyard and in the theater had also been restored.

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The one drawback to the restoration was that they didn’t allow outside food or drink (including, as they emphatically noted on a sign outside, COFFEE). This wouldn’t have been so bad, but their popcorn machine and refrigerator also weren’t working yet, and the quick-food options in the immediate surrounding area are pretty bleak. They did have a little makeshift snack bar set up, but it only took one bag-of-pretzels and warm-can-of-Coke lunch for me to figure out that was not going to be sustainable over four days. So that was one more thing to take into consideration for schedule planning—trying to put myself near the Hollywood & Highland food court at meal times, which had many more options.

Anyway, back to Love Crazy. This was a new one for me, but I generally assume that a Powell/Loy picture is always going to be a winner. It fell under the festival’s “Divorce/Remorse” subcategory, a topic that’s a surprisingly fertile ground for the larger “Make ‘Em Laugh” comedy theme. Love Crazy was no exception.

After a series of misunderstandings involving a scheming ex-girlfriend, a meddling mother-in-law, and a world champion archer, Susan Ireland (Loy) decides to divorce her husband Steve (Powell). However, Steve’s friend reminds him of a loophole in which the divorce can be blocked due to insanity, so he sets out to attempt to prove his mental unbalance. It works a little too well though, and he actually gets committed to a sanitarium, which culminates in a madcap chase scene as Powell attempts to evade his captors after he escapes.

This ended up being a great start to the festival, with lots of laughs throughout (in keeping with the festival theme) and that nice, euphoric, good-movie feeling afterwards!

First number, first movie! LOVE CRAZY (1941)

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Movie #2: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Next was The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), also at the Egyptian, and the first of the festival’s nitrate screenings in the newly outfitted (fireproof) projection booth. I had already been planning to go to this, due to both nitrate and not-having-to-switch-location factors. Earlier in the day though, the festival had also announced that Marty Scorsese, whose Film Foundation had restored the film, would be on hand to introduce it. Although every time block has multiple great options, that did make my decision a little bit easier.

FUN FACT: I can call him “Marty” because I once appeared in a Scorsese movie.*

*He filmed his 2010 documentary Public Speaking in part at a talk with Fran Lebowitz I attended. You can see the back of my head in the movie so yes this obviously counts.

I’ll admit that, initially, I couldn’t quite tell the difference between the nitrate/regular film stock. However, after a few minutes that soft, buttery-smooth glow started to reveal itself. This print in particular belonged to David O. Selznick, who was scouting Hitchcock’s talent at the time. In it, vacationers Bob (Leslie Banks) and Jill (Edna Best) accidentally uncover an international assassination plot. The criminals kidnap their daughter Betty in order to keep them from telling the police or warning anybody about the planned crime, so they have to save her themselves. I especially loved the moment where Jill saves her daughter—a great moment of vindication, if basically telegraphed from the movie’s first scene.

Weirdly, this was the second movie of the evening in which an unraveling ball of yarn, attached to a person, provided a moment of comedic effect. How’s that for an oddly specific movie-to-movie connection? I’m always looking out for (and pleased) to find these, and TCMFF always delivers some interesting ones.

That was it for Day 1! All in all a successful start to the festival.

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