The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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Nothing evokes more innocence and wonder more than The Wizard of Oz.  Another film at the very top of my favorite movie list, it takes the viewer on a magical journey through imaginary lands.  As part of its 75th Anniversary, I saw this on Friday in IMAX 3D at the IMAX Theater at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It was quite spectacular.  Fans of this film were uncertain as to how the 3D conversion would turn out.  As a devoted fan, I was worried as well, but I couldn’t pass on this chance to see one of my favorite films on the big screen.  I am so happy to say that is was an incredible experience.

I had never seen a film in IMAX, but it truly does immerse you into the story.  The picture was so crisp and clear that you could see all of the details and textures.  Some of the things most noticeable to me were the freckles on Dorothy’s face, Toto’s teeth and fur, the Scarecrow’s burlap face, the projection of the wizard with the surrounding smoke, and some of the makeup on the Tin Man, the Wicked Witch, Glinda, and the Munchkins.  The colors were so vivid and popped right in front of my eyes.  Glinda’s bubble popped right in my face. The sparkling of the Emerald City when the gang sees it for the first time was so prominent and the shimmering of the plants in Munchkinland when Dorothy first arrives was so shiny, I couldn’t believe it.  I loved how the film was brought right to my eyes with the IMAX 3D aspect.  The 3D wasn’t too much and just the right things popped.  Since I was closer to the action, there were things in the background that I never noticed before.  Most notably, when Dorothy and the Scarecrow go through the forest and find the apples, there is a large bird, almost a crane in the background.  This happens again after they meet the Tin Man, about to find the Cowardly Lion.  Also, when the wicked witch is placing her spell of poison over the poppies, she holds her mortar bowl in her left hand and it smokes.  The smoke gets in the flying monkey’s face and he keeps turning his head to try and avoid the smoke.  I had never noticed that before.  I probably just wasn’t paying attention to the other things going on and had never picked up on it, but it was so noticeable this time since I could focus on more things in the frame when it was closer to me.

The sound quality was quite remarkable as well.  There were different layers and you could hear each one.  Something that I immediately picked up on was Toto’s crying when he was put in Miss Gulch’s basket.  It was a heartbreaking moment, but very real and I almost had the same reaction as Dorothy.  The look on her face said it all.  The Kansas tornado was heightened as well and I felt as if I was right there in Kansas.

As for my love of this film, it has some great performances and there is a wonderful story to tell.  Even though the direction was sometimes up in the air, MGM turned out a remarkable film.  Judy Garland is absolutely perfect as Dorothy Gale from Kansas, an innocent and curious creature who longs to dream big.  Each member of the cast brings something special to the table.  I love the whimsical tone of this film.  Sometimes, it’s alright to daydream and lose yourself in another world.  But it’s always important to remember where you come from. The young and the old can relate to this aspect.  I love the scene when the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are receiving their gifts from the wizard, brilliantly played by Frank Morgan, who plays four additional roles.  The wizard has great words of wisdom for the three of them.  The one that stands out to me is what he tells the Tin Man- “…a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others”.  It’s one of my favorite quotes from the film.  Throughout the film though, the characters had what they thought they were lacking all along.  The Scarecrow always had a brain, since he came up with a plan to rescue Dorothy from the castle.  The Tin Man always had a heart, because he would not have cared for his new friends and showed them loyalty if he did not have one in the first place.  The Cowardly Lion showed courage towards the end because he was brave enough to help save Dorothy.  Each character just had to believe in himself.

I loved this film growing up and I’m really happy that I was able to see it on the big screen.  Of course I started to tear up when the opening credits began.  I just get so emotional because I’m so happy that the classics have started emerging back onto the big screen in one way or another.  I think it’s the coolest thing!  I see the IMAX 3D version as a celebration of a great film and as an opportunity for a new generation to witness this piece of film history.  Hopefully, many new moviegoers will be exposed to this timeless film for many years to come.

 

The Wizard of Oz. Dir. Victor Fleming. MGM, 1939.

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Casablanca (1942)

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Casablanca– what I consider the greatest film of all time.  This is my absolute favorite movie and I never get tired of watching it. I thought that it was fitting to write about this film first since it is such a favorite of mine.  It stars some of my favorite actors, including Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Paul Henreid, and Ingrid Bergman.  These top-notch performers bring their characters to life in a believable way, and you really do root for the characters in the end.

World War II was a frequent setting for films during that time, but Casablanca brought those realities to life just as the war was going on.  The rationing of materials was evident in this film, just as it was with the advent of Film Noir.  It is even mentioned in the film with “gasoline rationing”.  Casablanca was filmed at the back lot of Warner Bros. studio, and I was fortunate enough to see the last remaining set from the movie at the studio when I was there in April.  It was from when Rick and Ilsa were at the café during his flashback, hearing about the Germans’ invasion.  It was a very special moment for me when I knew that my favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart, stood in that very same spot.

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Casablanca spans several different genres: action, drama, romance, war, and suspense.  Right off the bat, it’s as if you’re watching news footage from the war with the map in the background, a great way to catch the audience’s attention.  One scene that strikes me in the beginning is when the man without his paperwork is shot.  The shadows on the ground of the lattice-work overhang represent bars of entrapment since some people are trapped in Casablanca forever.  The people are desperate and some will resort to anything to get passage out of Casablanca.  Claude Rains plays a great role.  Even though he is the captain of the police, he has a lighthearted attitude and will usually help people in a jam.  Rick’s Café Américain encompasses a place of escape for people during those desperate times.  They could go for a drink, entertainment, or gambling.  Sam’s piano playing brings in a sense of good-hearted hospitality at the café.  The introduction of Rick is quite significant, since the first thing the audience sees from him is doing business, and then he continues his chess game.  He is a serious person who conducts business first and he is not afraid to look out for only himself.  Peter Lorre plays a devious character, one that he was so well at portraying.

The setup of Rick and Ilsa’s meeting brings in dramatic aspects.  As soon as Ilsa sees Sam and the way she gazes back in his direction, you can tell there will be nerves when they meet.  It is sentimental when Sam begins playing the piano, but as he begins “As Time Goes By”, you can see the pain and emotion in her face.  Ingrid Bergman played that part brilliantly.  Her eyes are glassy when she sees Rick and there is still much pain and bitterness between them.  As Rick is drinking away his sorrows, he tries not to relive the pain but it is inevitable.  The flashbacks obviously bring in the romantic side to the story, with Rick and Ilsa enjoying each other’s company in Paris.  The train scene is a classic that stands out as well.  With Rick reading Ilsa’s note and the rain pouring down and the dramatic music score, Rick’s hopes of a future with Ilsa are all washing away in front of him.

Rick begins to show his soft spot when he helps the young couple at his café obtain exit visas.  Paul Henreid plays a strong character who truly stands up for what he believes in.  A survivor of a concentration camp, Victor Laszlo inspires others to fight for what is right, especially during the singing between the Germans and the people of Casablanca.  The suspense grows when Ilsa goes to see Rick about the letters of transit.  The gun changes the dynamics and it is an unexpected action from Ilsa.  However, she could not go through killing someone she still loved, and Rick and Ilsa make amends.

I think it’s fascinating that no one on set really knew the outcome of the film until the last minute.  It is a classic ending with classic lines that people instantly recognize as being from Casablanca.  The realization that Rick and Ilsa must be honest with each other has a somewhat hopeful tone in the end.  Rick had such a tough exterior and Ilsa was the only one who could soften him at the end and get him to stick his neck out for someone.  Everyone was going to contribute to the Resistance in some way, and evil will not stand in the way of doing what is right.  Throughout the film, “As Time Goes By” became an anthem for Rick and Ilsa.  So much time had passed between them, but they had to remain true to themselves in the end.

This film is iconic in so many ways- the actors and the characters they portray, the dialogue, the film score by the great Max Steiner, and of course, “As Time Goes By”.  By the end of the film, you feel that everything will turn out alright even in times of suffering and war.   This movie has it all and it is such a great piece of film history.

TCM Classic Film Festival 2013

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Hollywood, California- a place I had only dreamed about going since I became interested in classic films.  Over a span of five days, I was living that dream.

My parents know how much movies mean to me and that I absolutely love TCM, so for Christmas, I got a pass for the 2013 film festival. I cried when I opened the package, but it was definitely tears of joy. My mom was coming with me, and we have begun to watch classic films together over the years. I actually got her started on some of them, although I think she was the one who exposed me to older films when I was younger. Growing up, we would watch The Wizard of Oz (one of my favorites), The King and I, and Pollyanna, which always brings back memories. I guess I was destined to love classic films in the long run. I wanted to be in the same places as the legends were in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and I couldn’t wait to get to Hollywood.

The trip was finally upon us and we got to California (my first time) the day before the festival started. Once I got a glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign, I knew that this was real. Seeing the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame brought me closer to the legends that I love. I wish I was born 60 years earlier so that I could have been alive when these stars were alive, but they are legends because they will live on no matter what. After seeing Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (and it will always be “Grauman’s” to me), I couldn’t wait to sit in the audience the next night for Funny Girl and to sit where the legends sat. Going to the Roosevelt Hotel, I felt as if I were back in the ‘40s and ‘50s when there was sophistication and grace. Once I saw Ben Mankiewicz during one of his interviews, I couldn’t believe that I was seeing someone that I watch on TV all the time.  I got to meet him and he signed my pass, which gave me chills. I was also chosen to have a poolside interview with him the next day, which I was ecstatic about.   Meeting other film lovers that night at the Tropicana poolside made me realize that there are so many people who truly love classic films.

Thursday morning, my mom and I went on the Warner Bros. Studio tour before the festival officially started. It was so cool to see the “fake” places from the movies. I only wish I was able to see more sets/locations from the classics. I was happy though since I saw the last remaining set from Casablanca, my favorite film.  As we made our way back to Hollywood, we got as close as we could to the Hollywood sign and it was a perfect day for pictures. I was officially in love with the Hollywood hills. I tried to get a picture of the Hollywood Bowl, but there were renovations for getting ready for the summer season. At least I was in the same area though as Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were in Anchors Aweigh. Our first event for the festival was Meet the TCM Panel, which I was extremely interested in because my goal is to work for TCM someday. I got to meet a few of the employees and they gave me some great insight. I then had my poolside interview with Ben Mankiewicz. This was such a great opportunity to get my name out there since it aired on Sunday, April 28th. I was thrilled to share my story with everyone. That night, I got to wear a fancy dress and walk the red carpet to see Funny Girl– something I never thought I would do. I was getting chills as I walked into Grauman’s and was completely in awe. As I made my way down the stairs to our seats, I started to cry and my mom kept telling me, “You’re sitting in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, just soak it all in”.  I did a good job of soaking my face in tears, but I truly did soak everything in- the architecture, the designs, the curtains, everything.  When Robert Osborne made his way to the stage, I knew this was going to be a special four days.  It was such a treat seeing William Wyler’s family, and Cher (the surprise guest). When the music began and the credits started to roll, I was so happy. I was literally watching a movie at the most famous movie palace in the world! When the movie was done, we went to the forecourt and admired the handprints and footprints of our favorite stars.

The next morning, we were up early to go and see My Fair Lady.  I was so excited to see Audrey Hepburn (one of my favorite actresses) on the big screen.  After that, we made our way to the Avalon for the live taping of Eva Marie Saint’s interview with Robert Osborne.  It was a fascinating interview and she looked great. I learned a lot and have great admiration for her.  We then took a leisurely stroll down to Musso and Franks, a place I was really looking forward to eating at.  I had the Fettuccine Alfredo, a signature dish of theirs that Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford brought back after their honeymoon in Italy.  We then caught a little bit of the Hollywood Home Movies back at the Roosevelt Hotel, and stayed there for a little while before going to see On the Waterfront.  My mom and I were debating on whether to stick with our plans of seeing that or going to see On the Town, which is a favorite of ours.  At one point I really was leaning towards On the Town, but I stuck with my original decision.  I am so happy that I did because when we were waiting in line, I met a fellow film history student. We instantly hit it off and keep in touch periodically.  We share the same love of classic film and I am so glad I met her.  On the Waterfront was fabulous as always and it was a treat seeing Eva Marie Saint again, this time with Ben Mankiewicz.  She was commenting on the way he was dressed before the movie began, and he stood up and began to take his jeans off. Laughter and gasps ensued, and there was a pair of dress pants on underneath his jeans the whole time.  It was an unexpected and fun moment for all.

On Saturday, we went to Jane Fonda’s handprint/footprint ceremony at Grauman’s.  Waiting for the ceremony to begin, in walks Jim Carrey! I couldn’t believe it was actually him.  Celebrities and the press gathered, and the ceremony began. Robert Osborne took to the microphone and introduced Jane’s son, who spoke and introduced Lily Tomlin, who spoke and introduced Maria Shriver, who spoke and introduced Jane Fonda.  She was so humble and appreciative of the honor she was given, and became quite emotional.  Her granddaughter was there as well, who joined Jane on stage.  It was an awesome experience to witness the ceremony in person.  She ended up making a peace sign in the cement, something that’s never been done before and was very fitting.  Then we went to see the panel discussion for Deliverance, which included the director John Booreman, and stars Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, and Jon Voight.  It was a very interesting discussion, but we then went to the Roosevelt to see Conversations with Tippi Hedren.  Her stories about working with Alfred Hitchcock were insightful and she looks just the same as in The Birds.  After the interview, some passholders were getting her autograph, and my mom was able to get one. I know it meant a lot to my mom because she remembers watching The Birds with her brother and sisters very fondly when they were young.  We got a quick bite to eat then went to the El Capitan Theatre for Guys and Dolls. The El Capitan Theatre was one of my favorite venues and even though it was smaller, the way that the curtains went up before the movie began was true theater.  It was gorgeous.  I was so excited to see this movie because I finally saw Frank Sinatra on the big screen.  I absolutely love Frank Sinatra, his singing and his acting.  For dinner, we went to Mel’s Drive-In, which was very nostalgic.  That night, we saw Mildred Pierce at the Egyptian Theatre.  I had never seen this one before and Ann Blyth was introducing it with Robert Osborne.  It was a very powerful film noir.

The last day of the festival, Sunday, my mom and I got some souvenirs, took more pictures of stars on the Walk of Fame, then went to the Cinerama Dome for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  This was the only film that we never saw before and we wanted to see at least one movie that we both had never seen.  I was really excited to see Mickey Rooney because I enjoyed watching him in the films with Judy Garland, one of my favorite actresses.  It was fascinating hearing the story of how the Cinerama Dome came to be and how it was built specifically for the premiere of this film.  The panel discussion beforehand was rather sad though because Jonathan Winters was supposed to be present, but he had passed away only a few weeks beforehand.  They did a tribute and left one empty seat there during the discussion, and then a video tribute right before the movie began.  The movie was fun and afterwards, we walked the whole way back to the Hollywood Museum for a quick tour before they closed for the night.  I loved seeing all the costumes and props from different films.  We ate again at Mel’s Drive-In, and then it was time for our last film, The African Queen, with my favorite Humphrey Bogart.  Although it isn’t my favorite movie of his, I had to see him on the big screen.  It was back to the Roosevelt for the Closing Night Party and I was able to see some familiar faces.  I was rather sad though because I didn’t want it to be over and I didn’t want to leave to come home.  I wanted to come back the next year in 2014 because it will be the 5th film festival and the 20th anniversary of the network, so it should be pretty special, but I wasn’t so sure that I would be able to.  After saying good-bye’s to my new friends, we got all packed up and were ready to leave the next morning.  When the plane took off, I couldn’t help but cry because I knew that California was the place for me.

Well, this summer I have been working so I am saving up some money for the trip out there next year!  My mom probably will not be able to make the trip, but I want to make every effort to be there.  Hopefully the schedule will not interfere with my final exams at school because I graduate on May 16th.  This year I was lucky that everything worked out the way it did.  Every day I think about this experience and I wish that I was out there just soaking it all up again.  I love TCM more than words can describe and film history is my passion.  I’m really striving for an internship in my spring semester since I will be volunteering at film festivals this fall.  I hope that, one day, I will be able to fulfill my goal of working at Turner Classic Movies in programming.  But for right now, I’m going to work my tail off to beef up my resume so that, hopefully, it will become a reality.  I am more determined than ever to be at the festival next year and to pursue my passion.

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Hello everyone!  My name is Michelle and this is my first blog ever.  Movies have always been a big part of my life, but ever since I was introduced to classic films about four years ago, I was instantly hooked.  A Film and Visual Literacy class in my senior year of high school truly changed the course of my life.  We started off with silent films, and then ventured into Film Noir, and that’s when things took off for me. After watching The Maltese Falcon, I was transfixed with the acting and power on screen, especially from the commanding Humphrey Bogart. I never knew that a film could have such an impact.  I discovered many of my favorite movies in that class, including Singin’ in the RainCasablanca, and Sunset Boulevard. Although we sometimes watched more modern movies, these classics stuck out to me.  I was addicted to black-and-white films from then on, and that was when I discovered Turner Classic Movies (TCM).  I watched it everyday when I got home from school and that entire summer before I started college.

I was finally ready to start school in North Carolina and was going for Interior Design. Some time went by, and I wasn’t enjoying the work I was doing and I felt out of place. Watching my favorite black-and-white movies helped me through the days.  After talking with my family and friends, they convinced me to become a Film major. I applied to a school back in New Jersey, was accepted, and began my spring semester at Rowan University, majoring in Radio/TV/Film. I don’t regret any of my decisions because it brought me to the place I needed to be to further my passion of classic films.

Now approaching my senior year and graduation from Rowan, I want to share my love of classic films with others.  My generation might not know about these films from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I feel that it is crucial for anyone interested in the film industry to know about this time period in film history.  I want to be able to converse with other classic movie fans and share my favorite films with everyone, and I would greatly appreciate any advice or comments.  I hope that, with this blog, I will meet some fascinating film fans.  I was fortunate enough to meet some in person at the TCM Classic Film Festival back in April in Hollywood, California.  It was an unforgettable experience and I want to share that with you all before I start discussing films.  It was so surreal to be in the presence of the wonderful hosts on TCM, Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, who I see on TV all the time!  I met people young and old, and everywhere in between.  That being said, I truly hope that classic movies will never be forgotten.

In the past, I’ve encountered people who can’t quite understand how I can sit around and watch black-and-white movies all the time.  It’s not just a hobby though.  The people I met at the film festival will understand me when I say that watching classic movies is a way of life.  They are timeless gems that deserve to be watched over and over again, and that is what I hope to convey with this blog. I am a fan for life!