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TCMFF 2022 Top Five Moments

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CinemaSips at TCMFF 2022

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending my first Turner Classic Movies film festival at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. It was intense, it was magical, and it was everything I hoped it would be. After two years of mostly solitary movie watching, it felt great to be in a theater again, surrounded by other people who love classic films as much as I do. The kind of people who would gladly give Richard Benjamin a standing ovation for the weird and wonderful The Last of Sheila, and who, like me, were incredibly stressed about getting in line early enough to make it into a Pre-Code screening (note to TCM- PUT THESE IN BIGGER THEATERS). For four days, I lived on Gardetto’s snack mix and popcorn, trying desperately not to collapse before the last movie of the day. It’s also worth noting, some nights I didn’t even get back to my hotel room until 11:30pm- who even am I??? TCM Liz, that’s who. She’s wild and she doesn’t even need dinner.

Because I believe in positivity, I won’t go into too much detail about my least favorite things about the fest. The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel certainly topped that burn list, and if (when) I go back, I won’t be staying at the place that lost my luggage and served me a margarita instead of the gimlet I ordered, then took the bold stance that gimlets are often served on the rocks.

Reader, they are not.

I’ve had better service at a La Quinta. Plus, I’ve never had to wait 25 minutes for an elevator at a Marriott. But I digress. This post is about positivity!!! So here they are, my top five moments of TCMFF 2022.

  1. Cocktail Hour Screening
Image credit: Cocktail Hour, 1933 Poster

Before the fest, I didn’t know much about Pre-Code films, and I was grateful for the fabulous intro by historian Cari Beauchamp to explain the kind of freewheeling depictions of women and sexuality that were taken from us by Joseph Breen and his censorship office. Cocktail Hour (1933) was a delightful romantic comedy starring Bebe Daniels and Randolph Scott, in an enemies-to-lovers plot about a free spirited artist not wanting to be tied down to any man, even one who’s madly in love with her. She leaves on a cruise, where she unwittingly becomes the third party in an open marriage, before arriving in Paris and getting involved in a murder scandal. This was not even the first movie I saw at the fest where someone fell out a window, but it was certainly the most enjoyable. My only complaint- the TCL Multiplex bar had a paltry list of cocktails to choose from, so I watched with a Mai Tai instead of the French ‘75 I should have been sipping. Oh well. This film is a new favorite, and I never would have been able to see it outside of the fest.

Mai Tai (meh)

2. Jane Seymour Q&A

Jane Seymour Q&A with TCM Host Alicia Malone

I’ve seen the 1980 time-travel classic Somewhere in Time before (and paired it with a cocktail!), but never on the big screen, and never with Jane Seymour discussing how she and Christopher Reeve fell madly in love during its production, and would ultimately be torn apart by a cruel twist of fate. It was obvious to everyone in the audience that Seymour’s love for Reeve endures to this day, and when she said she hopes to see him again “somewhere in time,” I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. I’m still getting a little misty just thinking about it.

3. Houseboat Screening

Image credit: Houseboat, 1958 movie poster

Not being a morning person, my 9am screenings were very rare at TCMFF. But for Cary Grant, I’ll put some pants on and leave the hotel room. I’d never seen Houseboat before, so I didn’t expect to receive such an utterly charming and poignant film experience. Although filled with beautiful dresses and chipper songs (including a Sam Cooke single!), I was caught off-guard by the frank and lovely discussion about death between Cary and his on-screen son. Having just lost my dad last year, I kind of needed this fatherly movie icon to tell me it was going to be okay. Houseboat was the warm hug I never knew I needed.

4. The Hollywood Legion theater

Stand-in bar for The Shining’s Overlook Hotel

I went into this festival really looking forward to being inside the big TCL theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese), so imagine my surprise to discover that the best movie experience was actually found at the Hollywood Legion! I waited until the last screening of the fest to make the trek over (for Jewel Robbery, another delightful Pre-Code romantic comedy), but it was well worth the extra steps. Gorgeous architecture, cocktails in the basement, and the best surprise of all- a hidden Shining bar! That’s right, this replica of the Overlook Hotel bar was used in pick-up shots for The Shining, and if you’re really nice, a delightful old employee of the Legion will show it to you. Also, three cheers for the free popcorn and chocolate covered pretzels handed out by HBO Max. All the better to soak up that night’s gimlet.

5. The Closing Party

Although I love throwing parties, I don’t always love attending them. I was not expecting a poolside soiree at the Roosevelt to be worth my time (although literally, the only good thing about this overpriced establishment is the heated David Hockney pool), but between bites of hors d’oeuvres and sips of an HBOMax-tini, I found myself talking to other reviewers, TCM hosts, and all the internet friends I’ve made over the last two years of isolation. To have the opportunity to meet these people in person, trading laughs and movie recommendations, hatching plans for the next time we’ll all see each other, made the fest worth every penny for me. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous weekend, and when it comes to me and TCMFF, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Pictured: Liz Locke, Rosalie Leonard, Fiona Underhill, Oriana Nudo, Kerrington Fier, Maureen Lee Lenker

Victor/Victoria

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Victor Victoria

Image credit: Victor/Victoria, 1982.

From Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to The Party, to the Pink Panther films, I am devoted to the comic genius of Blake Edwards. The man does party scenes like nobody else, giving us a blend of style and cheekiness that all but defines 1960s cinema. Victor/Victoria (Disc/Download) may fit squarely in the 1980s (blame Robert Preston’s hair), but I still put it alongside those other classic ‘60s gems. It’s got flair, whit, and above all, it pushes boundaries.

Starring Edwards’ wife Julie Andrews as a hungry soprano masquerading as a female impersonator in 1930s Paris, this film broke a lot of social barriers. Mary Poppins playing a woman, playing a man, who’s playing a woman is something I never thought I’d see, but this role was unexpectedly perfect for Andrews. She struts about the nightclub stage with confidence, making her audience forget about pedestrian concepts like gender and sexuality. Svengali/Manager Toddy (a role originally intended for Peter Sellers before his sudden death) provides witty banter and one-liners for days, their friendship serving as the true heart of the movie. Sure, we’re meant to root for love interest James Garner, the Chicago mobster who can’t figure out why he’s in love with a man (until realizing “he’s” a “she”), but by the end I don’t even care if James and Julie run off into the Pre-World War II sunset. I just want her to drink champagne in bed with Toddy forever.

Speaking of champagne, these characters drink a lot of it. There’s even one impressive number done by an acrobat balancing on a champagne bottle (CLASSIC Edwards physical comedy). Let’s join these liberal, sophisticated Parisians by drinking a Shady Dame.

Shady Dame

4 oz champagne

½ oz Lillet Blanc

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

Combine Lillet, Cointreau, and Lemon Juice in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne, and a twist of lemon.

Shady Lady

In a lot of ways, this film is a snapshot of “before” (before WWII, before the Nazi occupation of Paris), and yet, also a preview of “after”. After we learn to give up our arbitrary rules regarding gender and sexuality and just let people be who they are. After we say it’s okay for anybody, male, female, or non-binary, to wear flamenco dresses, drink champagne, and laugh. Cheers!

Back to the Future

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Back to the Future

Image credit: Back to the Future, 1985.

I don’t know about you, but I could really use a trip right now. A trip back to a time before Covid-19 exploded across the world and cancelled everything. A particular disappointment for me personally has been the cancellation of the 2020 Turner Classic Movies Film Fest, which was my big surprise Christmas gift from a VERY generous husband. I’d wanted to attend for years, and now… I have to wait another year. To take the sting out of this huge disappointment, and to keep me entertained while I’m social-distancing at home, I’ll be featuring several of the movies I’d been looking forward to seeing at the festival this month. First up is Back to the Future! (Disc/Download)

In case there was any doubt, this is a MOVIE. A big, epic flick that was meant for popcorn and a packed theater. I had to make do at home by watching it on LaserDisc, but honestly this giant record-sized disc really brought the ’80s to my living room. As Huey Lewis began to sing about the Power of Love, and Marty McFly made googly eyes at the girl with the great hair, I remembered why I love this movie so much. It’s got all the flash and magic of a big-budget Hollywood production, but it’s also got heart. Imagine being able to meet your parents as teenagers, or even your grandparents when they were just middle-aged; knowing them as people and not just photographs? And what if you could change the course of history and make the present day just a little bit better? I personally wish the DeLorean could take us back to 2016 so Marty could help us defeat another misogynistic bully, but maybe that stuff only happens in the movies. Or…Back to the Future Part 4???

Lest we forget, none of this time travel would be possible without Doc Brown. He figured out the plutonium/Flux Capacitor stuff, and even put his life on the line with a van full of Libyan terrorists (yeah, things were weird in the eighties). Let’s honor him with this simple Doc Brown’s White Lightning.

Doc Brown’s White Lightning

4 oz Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda

1.5 oz Sugarlands Shine Hazelnut Rum

1 scoop Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)

Fill a glass with ice and pour in Hazelnut Rum. Add cream soda, and stir gently to combine. Top with Vanilla Ice Cream, if desired.

White Lightning

I don’t have a DeLorean, or a Flux Capacitor, but I do have something even more incredible: movies. It’s classic movies like Back to the Future that will get us through this tough time, and remind us that great art can’t be cancelled. It lives on, through LaserDisc, DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming, and eventually someday again, a big theater filled with popcorn and people.  Cheers!