Monday, May 9, 2011

TCM Classic Film Fest Final Day

Sunday started off with a series of disappointments that ended up curating the perfect day for me -- a DANCE DAY! I was talked out of the 9am screening of Network, one of my very favorite movies, in favor of Night Flight, a 1933 film that's been out of circulation since 1942 due to copyright problems. It stars John Barrymore, Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy and Robert Montgomery, so it's a big deal that it hasn't really been seen since its original release. What I didn't take into consideration is that Drew Barrymore was going to be there to talk about her grandfather and great uncle (and her love for TCM), so the place was PACKED. Swinny got there early and got a seat but I did not. At 2 for 0 by 10am, I was a bit bummed, so I wandered over to Graumans and slipped into a screening of That's Entertainment, a 1974 "behind the scenes" documentary about MGM musicals, that's really just one great musical number after another. It also features some of my favorites, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds and Liza Minnelli. It turned out to be tons of fun seeing so many great dance numbers on the big screen, including two from Singing in the Rain and this classic Judy Garland number from Summer Stock (another Gene Kelly movie)!


I went from there to The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) at the Egyptian. Debbie Reynolds is adorable and tap dances her little heart out in it, but I didn't stay for her chat afterwards because I had to book it to the "Dancing in the Movies" panel at Club TCM.

As a former dancer who grew up on musicals and still dreams of being a professional ballerina, this was one of my most anticipated events of the whole festival. Marge Champion, one of the heroes of my musical-loving childhood, and Debbie Allen, my inspiration as a "non-traditional" ballet dancer in high school, were both on the panel, as was Vincent Paterson who choreographed my favorite music video of all time, "Smooth Criminal." 
The panel covered everything from how technology and innovation changed the way dancing is filmed to how choreographers have had to fight to direct their sequences, or just become directors themselves (what up Debbie Allen!) to be sure that their numbers are filmed correctly. Marge Champion talked about her father who directed ballet on silent film and her experience being the motion capture model for early animation. She was Snow White, Tinkerbelle and the hippos from Fantasia! I almost fell out of my chair when I realized that that women -- who lifted herself up in her chair to demonstrate hitchkicks halfway through the panel -- is 91 years old! I felt like I should be bowing to her Wayne's World-style. Debbie Allen talked about growing up in Texas and being told she would never be a ballerina because her body was all wrong. I wanted to rush the stage and kiss her face. As the girl with the big butt and no patience for technique, I always looked up to her and appreciated her for breaking out of the mold of what a classically trained dancer should be. Vincent Paterson talked about choreographing for Lars van Trier's Dancer in the Dark. They used 100 cameras to film all different angles of each dance number, which were only done 3 times each. They did this so the dancers could stay warmed up without having to do a bunch of takes. I could go on and on about all of these things that are probably only interesting to me, but I'll just sum it up by saying this was everything a panel should be. Afterward I talked to Debbie Allen a little bit about how great it is that So You Think You Can Dance is giving dancers and choreographers jobs (this came up on the panel when Marge Champion complained that they're giving too many dance jobs to actors rather than dancers), and tried not to gush too much.

I followed nearly everyone from the panel over to "A Tribute to the Nicholas Brothers." Robert Townsend and Bruce Goldstein talked about the lives of two of the greatest dancers in classic Hollywood, and showed clips from their films, home movies and interviews to a sold out crowd including their family. The tribute was very upbeat and focused on their dancing and accomplishments, rather than the racism and trials that held them back in Hollywood. It was such a treat, and reminded me that I need to watch more of their movies.

The final screening of the festival was Ashley's favorite movie, West Side Story, on my favorite format, 70mm. It's extra-wide film that makes everything look bigger and deeper and more alive. I was shocked by how many new things I noticed in this film that I've seen dozens of times, and by how moved I was. I can't remember ever crying through it before but I totally lost it during "Somewhere" and had a hard time composing myself for the rest of it. During the intermission (yes, they kept the intermission from the film's original run in theaters -- awesome) I checked my phone and found out that Osama bin Laden had been killed. As I scrolled through my twitter feed and a few news stories, I was deeply unsettled both by the reminder of what's going on in the world outside the movie theater and by the wild celebrating in the streets over his death. It made the second half of the movie, the classic Romeo & Juliet story of innocent lives being lost in the middle of a senseless war, even more heartbreaking. But there was dancing and singing and hope and that is why we watch movies, is it not? Swinny bawled through the whole thing, natch.

After the screening we went to the closing night party and hung out with our TCM friends. Then my friend Nick met up with us at the Roosevelt. We've been friends since third grade and used to be bffs in middle school, when he was just dreaming of being an actor and I of living in New York. It's always nice to catch up and high five each other for living our dreams.

We flew back to New York the next day, so sad to say goodbye. A week later I am still missing it.

1 comment:

  1. Hey pretty lady, I am writing a big paper soon on the importance of film archiving! My original reference has come from the lost footage of The Passion of Joan of Arc and so am stemming from there but will have to delve it lots of cool stuff.

    Have you ever had to write on this specifically? If theres any cool information I got squeeze from you i would looove to get it! Maybe papers you have written? or links websites? I'm just writing a proposal now so it's not too rushed at the moment. but if you get a chance, email me :) kelsie.lm@gmail.com

    you're the greatest

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