Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Trip To The Moon... in 2012

I only got to view one film during the TCM Film Festival so i had to choose wisely. See movies I'd already seen but never on the big screen, see something educational, selfishly pick a romantic musical and make my boyfriend suffer? Tough choice, and at 20 bucks a ticket after waiting in a standby line hoping pass holders aren't going to max out the theater, kind of a nerve wrecking one.

I picked "A Trip to The Moon and Other Trips through Time, Color, and Space" - It was at the Egyptian Theater which I'd never been in before, I'd never seen Trip to The Moon, and it was early enough on a Sunday to where hopefully there would be enough room for us single ticket buyers to get in. We made it, and  were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a whole lot more than what we expected.

Serge Bromberg, a french film historian who restores found films with his company Lobster Films,  narrated between scenes and accompanied his restored clips on piano. You can feel the love he has for the whole process, the scavenger hunt to find the films, bringing them back to life - he has spent years searching for rare or lost silent film clips, some his company has even hand tinted frame by frame to match missing scenes (one of the films had 3200 frames!), reproduced from negatives, some combined from various sources and qualities of neglected reels, all to piece back together lost works of art.
The theater gets dark, a spot light shines, Serge takes the stage and tells us about the time intensive and painstaking restoration process he and his company go through to restore near disintegrated films they have found all over the world in forgotten theaters, grandmothers attics, and discarded movie reel tins. It begins with 6 minutes of a camera mounted atop a street car going down a busy street in early 1900's San Fransisco, the horse drawn carriages mixed with Model-Ts, pedestrians in almost Victorian garb dodging bareback riders galloping by, delivery trucks weave around the tracks, no stop signs, no right of way, organized chaos! Kids jump in front of the camera for their 15 seconds of fame, people stare into the lense in curiosity, it's funny how their reaction is identical to how we act today.  Next is another clip from San Fransisco, it's the same part of town, but has recently been demolished by the 1906 quake and fires. People wade thru the wreckage, the once busy street now full of plaster and piles of fallen concrete. An amazing glimpse over 100 years into the past.

waiting for it to start!

 The shorts they have found demonstrate human curiosity and ingenuity, the creative process and trial and error of discovering what all could be captured by the new medium of film, what effects they could create with lighting, film angles, and costumes. "Chinese" acrobats, insect aerobics, the first trials with color, a 1 minute striptease (or what was considered a tease in the early 1900's), a Buster Keaton short once thought destroyed found in pieces and put back together, and a colorized version of A Trip to The Moon (Which gives Metropolis a run for it's money in the "trippy films" category).

Ever since I've started trying to see more silent films in theaters there is just something that makes them seem larger than life viewing them with live music and a theater full of people.  I'm really glad I chose this one (and got in!) And now its settled - Next year, even if I have to sell everything I own, I am getting passes to the festival. 

Learn more about Serge and Lobster Films here :

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Brithday Charlie

What can you say about Chaplin that hasn't already been said? The first Chaplin film I ever saw was "The Great Dictator" and his speech at the end had me bawling like a little girl.  The next film I saw was "Kid Auto Races at Venice", which is so simply hilarious I was again in tears, but from laughing. After reading a bunch of biographies he quickly became one of my favorites from the silent era, and out of Hollywood in general, for his generosity and that he never seemed to cop the attitude many famous people did/do.

Chaplin, born April 16, 1889, has always been one of the more influential to me because although not born in America he epitomizes the American dream - he came from absolutely nothing and became one of the wealthiest, most famous people in the world.  Even to this day, there aren't many who see a picture of the tramp and don't know who it is.

Chaplin, 1916

The things he overcame and achieved make him one of my heroes. He went from literally living in a rat infested broom closet to being one of America's biggest film presences in only 10 years.  Hollywood would've definitely been different without his interference in everything from directing to techniques used to capture scenes to the way the studio system ran. he was the only one who semi-successfully held out on talkies through almost 1940.

From poverty in England, to his introduction to the stage with Fred Karno, to his co-creation of United Artists, Chaplin is one of a handful from the pioneering days of film that still inspires and brings hope to today's underdogs. In any other time period he wouldn't have made it but his genius mixed with being in the right place at the right time propelled him to being one of the most recognizable figures, ever.

With Fairbanks and Pickford

A director, writer, actor, composer, he did it all. If anyone deserves to be commemorated over 100 years after their birth, it's Charlie.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finally got to see Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Opening on May 18, 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B DeMille's "King of Kings", Grauman's Theater is probably one of the most iconic landmarks on Hollywood Boulevard. The forecourt with its hand prints and signatures of stars from Clark Gable to Johnny Depp sees thousands of tourists daily, but the most amazing part is through the doors.

This figurine is said to have been Sid Grauman's main inspiration for the decor.  The superstitious believe that rubbing her shoulder at a premiere will bring luck to the film and anyone involved with the movie for years to come.

Details from the theater's exterior, most designed by artist Moon Quon who was commissioned by Sid as an artistic advisor in the design:

 Although it has gone through many renovations over the years, currently it is the closest to it's original form as ever. As soon as you walk in there are finely hand painted murals, stunning chandeliers, and decades old carpeting. If you are as interested and awed by old architecture as I am, this place will make your head spin at first.  Pictures really don't do it justice:

There is a small but impressive gallery of dresses that have been donated to the theater lining the main hallway. Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, and Bette Davis have gowns here, among others. 

Then there is the theater itself.  Fully restored, the seats boast the original woodwork from 1927, the drapes weigh a ton a piece for sound proofing, The ceiling and crown molding are so beautiful, They really don't take the time to make things like they used to.  Every little detail, hand carved or hand painted. It's amazing.

 Even the concession stand is impressive:

  In the women's parlor room, great care has been taken to preserve the original paintings from 1929. Every time they repaint the rooms these tiny, detailed butterflies are taped over so as to not ruin them.  The tour guide said many stars have spent good portions of their premieres hiding here, from Marilyn Monroe to the cast of Star Wars. They even believe it may be haunted, but by whom they aren't sure.

If you are ever in town I absolutely recommend taking a few minutes out of your stay to take the Grauman's tour. Its cheap, takes about half an hour, and is loaded with history and amazing architecture.  These aren't even half the pictures I have, and I couldve taken 100 more.  Just a really cool piece of Hollywood history.