The LA Diaries 2019 #4: TCMFF Day 1

I had a great first day of TCMFF, mainly because it was different from how I have spent my time in previous years. The films always start in the early evening, and because I don’t do the red carpet or sit in the bleachers, I have no need to really be any place until the first show. Seeing the red carpet rolled out and set up in the morning and afternoon is always fun (especially if you’re eating lunch with a view), trying to cross the street or bypass the Boulevard in the afternoon is not so much, and becomes impossible the closer the clock approaches four. But I have all the detours memorized — you just need to add another five minutes to a two-minute coffee run.

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Instead of hanging around and soaking up the festival atmosphere, Kendahl and I followed up our plans from the previous night and jumped in a Lyft headed downtown for the final day of the Art of the Motion Picture Design Exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).

 

Now in its 27th year, the exhibition brings together some of the most phenomenal movie costumes from a host of Academy Award-winning films. Amongst those on display included Ruth E. Carter’s award-winning work on Black Panther (I gasped), pieces from Avengers: Infinity War (I was hyperventilating by now — and this was in the first room), Ocean’s 8, Solo: A Star Wars Story, A Simple Favour, Crazy Rich Asians, and so many more! Here’s a snippet of what was on display.

 

With a couple of hours to spare after we finished, we nabbed another Lyft back to the station and caught a train back to Hollywood to avoid the rush hour traffic and arrived back in plenty of time for the first movie. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) at The Egyptian — what a way to kick off the festival!

The final film of the night was The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, a screwball romantic comedy (and first-time watch for me) starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. Temple is the smart high school student who develops a crush on cad artist (Grant), the man who her Judge older sister (Loy) had met in her courtroom the previous day. Obviously, they end up attracted to one another, much to the dismay of Rudy Vallee. It’s funny, a fresh take on a reliable formula, and just delightful. A great first day of the fest.

The LA Diaries 2019 ​#3: The Night Before

 

The day before the festival is always fun; the sense of anticipation in the air palpable. Everybody is excited, happy, energized for what lies ahead. We start seeing each other on Hollywood Boulevard as we walk between The Roosevelt and bites of lunch or dinner, as we stroll between hotels or to pick up supplies that take us through four days of solid movies. Time becomes irrelevant.

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And then the day before becomes the night before, which always kicks off in style. The combination of the historic hotel, classic movies and the City is an intoxicating combination, on this night more than any other. So, I don my glitter heels, and I have a great time before it all gets crazy, before the movies start and before everybody is tired or on their way home. Because this is the night we have looked waited for since we arrived home from the previous year’s events. And when the party ends at the Roosevelt, we head to Boardners until 1am. The night becomes the early morning. TCMFF has begun.

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The LA Diaries 2019 #2: Fashion and Tiki

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The Woman’s Club of Hollywood is one of the best-kept secrets in Hollywood. On a quiet road, a couple of blocks away from The Roosevelt and the Boulevard is an unassuming on the outside, a stately home inspired building creeping with history.

Founded in 1905 by twenty Hollywood women — “wives, daughters and sisters of Hollywood Pioneers to support the community” — the club was the building blocks of the City’s legacy.

The Woman’s Club Members created the Hollywood Public Library in 1906, were founding members of the Hollywood Studio Club and the Hollywood Bowl and supported the Hollywood High School and the Hollywood Hospital – all before they were allowed to vote!

In 1908 the club moved to their current location, the previous site of the Hollywood School for Girls, where Jean Harlow and many of the mogul’s daughters were students. Even Edith Head taught here, which was especially fitting given my reason for attending: Kimberly Truhler’s Fashion in Film of TCMFF lecture.

With reference to the films on the schedule, including my opening night choice Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Kimberley took us on a detailed, illustrated, sartorial trip in the most perfect of locations. The evening is always a highlight of the trip, the lecture serving as a gathering for friends who have not seen one another for the best part of a year, so it always serves as an official pre-festival reunion of sorts. I have included some of my highlighted tweets below:

Following the talk, I went to meet friends at Lono, a Tiki bar on Hollywood Boulevard. This would have been a regular, easy, fifteen minutes or so walk if it was not for the Santa Ana-like winds pushing against me, blowing palm tree branches everywhere, and, not going to lie or exaggerate here, lifting this five-foot-nothing-hundred-pounds woman off her feet. There were a couple of Seven Year Itch moments with my dress, but luckily my weighty shawl prevented anything dramatic or dangerous occurring. I beat the elements and was taking shelter in the neon-tinted bar where a glass of wine was calling my name. A great full day. And the movies had not even started yet.

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The LA Diaries 2019 #1: I Have Arrived

 

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Morning view

I’ve toyed with how to structure these posts.  I don’t want to bore you with minor irrelevant details, but I want to give you the fun stuff: the cool theatres, exhibitions, glorious sunshine, beautiful costumes, all the movies, and the fun times. So, here’s a diary of sorts: a potted day-by-day — or even a few days combined — that will give the highlights where needed and cut the rubbish. (Ok, so there may be some information that was excellent at the time that you may read thinking, “wow, so dull”). Some entries will be extended, like during the festival, but the shorter ones will be illustrated. So. let’s track this from the beginning…

I arrived in LA the Saturday before TCMFF. After my first couple of years arriving two days before the festival, the last two visits have been all about the pre-festival built up, seeing local friends and then welcoming the Tuesday crowd. The festival is only fours days of movies, but all the days spent in the City are lovely.

 

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Hey, Miss Fanny!

 

I spent all of Sunday with Marya — and finally met Miss Fanny Brawne, her super sweet cat. The weather was glorious, and it was a perfect excuse to wander around and take in the city on foot. A lovely Bellini brunch was followed by books, records, the Hollywood Museum of Death and Pet Semetary. Death takes a Sunday if you will. 

The museum has been on my must-do list for some time, and this was a very different experience to what I had expected. Having lectured on death from an art history perspective and written for magazines on real crime, I was astounded at the wealth of memorabilia on display, which consists of everything from William H. Gacy’s clown shoes to Charles Manson’s guitar and crime scene photographs of the Manson Murders (the Sharon Tates images are A LOT). Recently, there has been much discussion of the glamorization of serial killers but, in this situation, being in such a confined space with all these artifacts belonging or created by some of history’s most grotesque personalities, this is as raw as it gets and there is no hint of glamour. The small museum will certainly not appeal to those of a more sensitive disposition, but, if you have a non-frills interest in true crime, you will find the place well-curated, a little overwhelming, and intensely fascinating.

 

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Hollywood Museum of Death

 

Stepping out into the fresh air and sunshine, we decidedly to continue with the mortality theme by heading to a screening of Pet Semetary at Los Feliz 3, a beautiful small theatre with stunning art deco detail and carpeting. One of the most excellent parts of repeated and extended stays in Los Angeles is visiting a variety of non-multiplexes and independent movie theatres in the non-Hollywood area. This cinema is gorgeous.

As first days in town go it lovely start, and, as you shall see, set the tone for this trip, which was to be followed by a Monday evening drinks a beautiful Art Deco neighbourhood bar and the most glorious sky I had seen for some time.

Yep, LA and TCMFF week certianly got off to a good start…

New-To-Me Movie Round-Up: March

Like February, I barely watched any new-to-me movies in April because of MCU rewatches and TV I’m currently consuming for various things. April will be different — I’ll be at TCMFF and consuming all sorts of goodies, I promise.

 

Captain Marvel​​: Thought we’d show these boys how we do it. You ready?

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*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*

It has taken twenty-one films and eleven years, but we finally have a woman headlining a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ever since Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel insignia flashed up on Nick Fury’s pager in the closing seconds of Avengers: Infinity War, we knew we were in for a treat. And she has not arrived quietly.

If you follow me on Twitter and/or are friends, you will know how excited I have been for the release of Captain Marvel. But not everyone has shared my enthusiasm.  Brie Larson kicking ass and looking awesome in the movie’s trailer was met with ridiculous criticisms from men. I read everything from “her voice is too soft” to “why is she so moody?” Most recently, Larson’s calls for more media diversity during her press tour were met with trolling, abuse, and a bewildering determination for this movie to fail before general release. However, all of these aspects have fed into the film’s message, because, essentially, Captain Marvel is about a woman facing the man (or Larson facing the men on the internet) and declaring “I have nothing to prove to you.” And Captain Marvel explores this beautifully.

For six years, “Vers” has been living on Hala as a member of the elite Starforce, defenders of the Kree civilization against their Skrull enemies. Her memory is sketchy; she glimpses her past life as a pilot, and her traumatic childhood, knowing that these are the keys to something more. Trained by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) to control her emotions and photon-blasting hands, he uses her strength as a weapon against her, insisting “control your emotions, emotions are weakness,” a mental shackle to suppress her full potential. In the real world, she would be deemed ‘uncontrollable,’ ‘difficult,’ ‘stubborn,’ and asked to ‘tone it down.’ Belittling powerful women appears to be universal.

The movie steps up in humour after Vers crash lands on C-53 (Earth) and meets a two-eyed Nick Fury. This intergalactic saga becomes a fun buddy comedy set in 1995, complete with grunge and pop soundtrack as more memories of her past life begin to take shape. Larson and Samuel L. Jackson have great chemistry, as do Fury and Goose, a ginger cat/Flerkin who, let’s be honest, steals the movie (I should write a post just on Goose, right?). I loved seeing pilot Carol and wanted more of that, just like I wanted to see more of Carol’s childhood on screen and more of her friendship with Maria Rambeau (the very underused Lashana Lynch). I am hopeful this will be explored and developed further down the line, especially now Carol has recovered her past.

The most powerful moment in the film occurs in the third act. Facing Yon-Rogg, who still addresses her as Vers, she finally shakes off his manipulation, casting off her given identity and telling him “my name is Carol.” It’s a victory for the women who feel they must make themselves smaller, not take up too much space, or are compelled to downplay their personality and abilities.

Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s spin on Phase One era Marvel takes the MCU, albeit momentarily, away from the more overtly lavish movies of late, while the key message should not be taken for granted. Sure, it did not need to be verbalized quite so much, but its strength cannot be denied. I loved Captain Marvel, and can’t wait to rewatch. And I’ll very likely write more soon.

Additionally, it is very much having a Captain America: The First Avenger effect on me: the more I rewatch and reminisce about TFA the greater my affection grows, and Captain Marvel appears to be going in the same direction. There are striking similarities between both movies, and they both share similar characteristics.

In an interview with Polygon in 2018, comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, whose groundbreaking 2012 ‘Captain Marvel’ comic book series was the primary source material for the movie, said something that stuck with me for months and, in hindsight, is perfect about the film:

“Carol falls down all the time, but she always gets back up — we say that about Captain America as well, but Captain America gets back up because it’s the right thing to do. Carol gets back up because ‘Fuck you.’”

We see this on screen: Carol throughout the years falling and picking herself back up again. Nothing can keep this woman down. I cannot wait to see what she will do in Avengers: Endgame next month (the thrilling mid-credits scene was A TREAT!!!). Carol Danvers is here to stay, and she is will only soar higher, further, faster, baby.