New poster debuts at Con
At the last minute, I got the chance to attend Comic-Con in San Diego
for my fifth straight year and probably my tenth visit overall. With rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof
every other night of the Con, Friday the 13th was my day for a day trip to Geekdom's Holy Mecca. And within three hours of being inside the Exhibit Hall, something happened that had never happened before.
I was tired of it!
For the first time that I've ever gone, the inherent amount of sensory overload that is Comic-Con really got to me. And not just me, but when I met up with friends there that morning, all of us seasoned vets of the Con, we all agreed this time it was a tiresome experience.
But would we never
go if given the opportunity to
go? Of course not! We'd always
go. You can't not go to Comic-Con if you have a pass. That's just silly.
Video of the Long Line of Hall H!
I also took video while at the Con. Every year, both the media and the fans talk a lot about Hall H and especially about the long line you have to wait in to get into Hall H. Hall H is the largest hall at the San Diego Convention Center and it's where all of the major studios have made their big movie and television presentations complete with cast and crew in attendence. Everyone from Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Joss Whedon to Harrison Ford, Robert Downey, Jr. and Charlize Theron to the casts of The Big Bang Theory, the new Star Trek film, Buffy and Firefly have shown up to meet and greet with the fans while talking up their new big films or TV shows.
With all that talent and the opportunity to ask them questions one-on-one, fans are willing to get in line very early in the morning for a chance to be let in and sit in one of those 6,500 seats inside Hall H. And because of the policy that folks can sit all day long if they desire without fear of being asked to leave at the end of each presentation, people will get in line at 3am just to see The Big Bang Theory cast that's scheduled for, say, 3:30pm. With that strategy to compete with, the ritual of getting and waiting in line for Hall H has become legend.
For years, rather than just describe the line I've witnessed, I've always wanted to share with friends the scale of just how long the line is with video. This video to the left is my first attempt to do that. But even so after you watch it, it still only captures part of the line. There was more of the line that continued behind the Convention Center that I didn't even film!
The last time I attended a screening of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
was just this past December at the Egyptian Theatre
where they screened a 70mm print of the 1963 comedy classic
. My good friend Perry let me know about it, and I met him and his family there for what would turn out to be a really enjoyable movie theatre experience!
It was my first visit to the Egyptian. It has a quaint but historic cinema vibe about the place, especially once you enter the theatre itself with its high, curved ceiling, beautiful wall paintings, and warm decor, much like the El Capitan Theatre
down the street and the Avalon Theatre
on Catalina Island.
Before the screening, the audience was treated to a brief Q & A session with two stars from the film, Barrie Chase
, who played the bikini babe dancing with Dick Shawn
in the film, talked about how she got cast and how it was working with Shawn, and Marvin Kaplan
, the familiar character actor, shared funny anecdotes playing one of the two gas station attendants relentlessly assaulted by Jonathan Winters
' character in the movie. Then the screening began, but not before a bit of drama beforehand. After the Q & A moments, the theatre manager came to the front of the house to announce that they had been stalling the start of the movie because they realized at the last minute they did not receive Reel 5 of the film! Explaining that they're back up plan was to fill in the missing reel by playing an advance copy of the Blu-ray Disc of the film
that one of their employees happened to have, he returned a second time to tell us they found where Reel 5 was and hoped to have it delivered in time to drop it in at the right time during the screening. We enjoyed the entire movie in its original film glory as planned and it was hilarious!
The film, which I hadn't really seen in a long, long, long, long time, featured so many famous comedians of the Golden Era of Hollywood and popular actors in early roles that the screening also doubled as a Where's Waldo-like game, identifying faces as they appeared in their small roles or wordless cameos. If you've never seen the film and intrigued with whom I'm talking about, click the movie poster at the top or see this list on Wikipedia
of actors, comedians and celebrities who appeared in the film. But obviously I recommend you seek out a copy on DVD or Blu-ray to watch the entire film yourself.
Now flash forward seven months later to sometime a couple of weeks ago when Perry again tells me about a screening of the same 70mm print, this time at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theatre
in Beverly Hills. The first installment of the Academy's film series entitled "The Last 70mm Film Festival"
, this screening
advertised a panel discussion to include cast members Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Marvin Kaplan, Stan Freberg, Barrie Chase and Carl Reiner! And not only that, there was this eye-catching bit of detail in the press release: Tickets are $5 for the general public.
Five bucks? Really!?
My standby ticket in front of Academy building.
So, Perry spread the word and plans were made to go. A hiccup occurred when Perry found out that tickets had sold out shortly after they went on sale. But a call to the box office let us know that standby tickets might be available the day of the show. We'd have to arrive two hours before the event to receive a number, and then return again at showtime to find out whether tickets were available to buy or not. The day of the screening, without a solid guarantee that we'd get in to see the panel and movie, we headed to Hollywood and made it to the Academy building before 5pm. To our good fortune, there was only one person ahead of us in line when we arrived. By the time standby numbers were handed out at 5:30pm, there were about 30 others who had gotten in line behind us.
After getting dinner
across the street at a place called Lazy Daisy Café
, we arrived back at the box office to see if we'd have good luck. (It would've been fun to see a huge "W" over the box office, eh?) We were encouraged to see that they were still handing out standby numbers to folks arriving at showtime. And by about 7:15p, numbers 1 through 6 (Mine!) were allowed to buy tickets.
And again, tickets were only five dollars! What. A. Deal!
Leaving the box office, we entered the main entrance where they scanned our tickets for admission and immediately I thought to myself, "Yea, I get to keep a pristine ticket as my souvenir!" Then, I waited until one of four security guards was available to empty my pockets in front of and make sure I wasn't carrying a bomb. I retrieved my belongings to follow my friends upstairs (which gave my stiff, achy thighs from yesterday morning's workout some unwelcome displeasure) where at the top we all received programs and immediately I thought to myself, "That five buck price is getting better all the time!"
Front of souvenir program and event ticket.
We entered the theatre and eventually found seats in the center left section for the four of us in our group. I was pleased to find they offered a very decent view of the screen. And it was great timing too because the lights just began to dim, signaling the start of our evening at the screening.
A gentleman took the stage to mention the screening of the short film "The Miracle of Todd-AO"
that those who arrived earlier had apparently just seen. Then, he read an introduction, acknowledging this was the first in their "The Last 70mm Film Festival" series. He quickly took note of the packed house (the theatre seats 1,012) and guessed that this would likely not
be the last 70mm film festival and the audience, mostly aduits in their 40s and older, applauded in agreement. He went on to share factoids about 70mm film in general and about the aspect ratio of the film we were about to see tonight. (It was 2.75:1, with the tops and bottoms cropped so that the very left and right edges of the film would fit on their projection screen.
But before we'd see the film, it was time for the panel discussion, and to host this part of the evening, the gentleman introduced Billy Crystal
He was great as emcee! He started off telling us a humor-filled anecdote about his father's love of comedies and also how he and a childhood friend of his, with the principal's help, organized a school outing across town to watch the film. That evening, he invited that school friend and he stood up in the audience when Billy called him out. Then, he introduced the evening's guests: script supervisor Marshall Schlom
, casting director Lynn Stalmaster
, director Stanley Kramer's wife Karen Kramer, Barrie Chase, Marvin Kaplan, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney
, Stan Freberg
, and Carl Reiner
L to R: Emcee Billy Crystal, Carl Reiner, Stan Freiberg (seated), Barrie Chase, Karen Kramer, Marshall Schlom (seated), Lynn Stalmaster (seated), Marvin Kaplan (seated), Jonathan Winters (seated), and Mickey Rooney.
Theatre lighting > iPhone's abillty to focus
To say it was a special evening is a great understatement. With some like Freberg frail and not in the best of health and Winters and Kaplan in wheelchairs, when they and the others spoke, they were back in performance mode and entertained us with their stories and their they've-still-got-it quick wit! Mickey Rooney was wheeled out in a wheelchair only to stand up to take a seat he was wheeled to. He was surprisingly animated throughout the event, proving he still loved the limelight and tried out some one-lines about his marriages for the audience. Kaplan related the same story he told us at the December screening with the same life and enjoyment as before, and the ever-beautiful Chase repeated her experience working with Dick Shawn again, with Karen Kramer sitting next to her assuring her that Stanley did indeed enjoy working with then young dancer. Carl Reiner told a funny tho' possibly suspect story about filming the tower scene which allowed him to inadvertently touch the plane that soared past. He also remembered seeing Winters whittling a 3" x 3" block of wood during the production that would ultimately be transformed in a perfect egg shape. When asked whether he still had that wooden egg, Winters deadpanned he'd laid a lot of rotten eggs in his day or something to that effect. Besides Crystal, Winters was clearly still at the top of his game, charming everyone with his wit and humor. Crystal used Winters' rotten egg line as the perfect cue to end the half hour discussion. The panel received a standing ovation and thinking of just those past thirty minutes, I thought to myself, "Best five bucks I've ever spent!"
The screening of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" rounded out the rest of the evening. It still genuinely made me laugh out loud, plus this time I was able to find Stan Freberg in the film thanks to the anecdote he shared earlier in that evening. On the ride home, Perry and I noticed the screening had a darker look to it than when we last saw it together at the Egyptian. When I got home, I popped in my Blu-ray copy of the movie for the first time, to see the opening and a couple of other scenes fresh after seeing the 70mm film on the big screen. The picture's not distractedly crisp and sharp thankfully, but it does has a much brighter look to it. For example, in the opening scene during the highway chase, it looks like how bright the desert region would naturally look if the morning sun beat down on it on a cloudless sky. And I noticed age spots on Jimmy Durante
's head in his close-ups that I hadn't noticed before seeing it two previous times plus a fly that skittered over the hand that would be Jonathan Winters' hand in the same scene.
Anyway, that's what it was like to attend "The Last 70mm Film Festival" screening of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre last night. The series continues
through the summer with screenings of "Sleeping Beauty," "Grand Prix," "The Sound of Music," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "Spartacus." Most are sold out now, but so was ours and we got in! So fortunate that I got to go. As a fan of their work and legacy, it was big deal to get to see this now rare gathering of so many from Hollywood's comedy history. Below are more photos of the souvenir program to enjoy. And thanks again, Perry!
The Amazing Spider-Man
Midnight July 2, 2012
IMAX 3D @ Rave Motion Pictures 18 + IMAX @ The Promenade @ Howard Hughes Center
I'll give this 3 1/2 out of 4 web shooters. I might've given it only 3 except the teenage girl sitting next to me cried at all the right parts that a teenage girl's supposed to cry. So 1/2 point for that! The writing was wonderful, Garfield and Stone were GREAT as Peter and Gwen, and I especially like the tone of the first half of the movie. I even appreciating some of the risks and surprises they put in the story to keep us jaded and annoying comic book fans surprised. But I think The Dark Knight Rises
in two weeks will be outstanding. And for the love of film scores, Mr. Horner, stop re-using your Star Trek II music
in your new scores!!!! Those ten seconds pulled me right out of the film.
Fourth of July, 2012
Regal Marina del Rey 6
This movie went to so many wrong places! The kind that make you - or at least me - go, "I want to laugh, but is it okay to laugh; I don't know if other people in the theatre will be offended?" Every opportunity to make some racial, sexual, religious or socially stereotypical remark was not missed, which sometimes made several scenes run a beat or two too long. But I was entertained. And is Seth MacFarlane a geek or what?! I mean that seriously because I don't watch Family Guy
regularly and the 1980 movie Flash Gordon
is a major plot device in this film, to the point of re-creating scenes and using the score from that movie to move this story forward. Also loved the original score for Ted
by Walter Murphy, of cool, swinging jazz like on MacFarlane's CD
. Anyway, for a matinee price, it was good.
July 5, 2012
@ home on DVD
I felt compelled to revisit this film after seeing it referenced throughout Ted. Loved it as a kid, but it hasn't aged well. On this viewing tho' I finally noticed just how game the British actors were playing their parts. I re-watched the interview with Lorenzo Semple Jr. too that's included on the DVD. He falls just short of saying people who take comic book characters seriously are stupid. I wonder what he thinks about the comic book films that've come out today.
July 5, 2012
@ home on Blu-ray Disc
Starting my look back at selected Batman films before I see The Dark Knight Rises, I begin with Tim Burton and Michael Keaton's Batman. Amazing as ever on Blu-ray, this film will never fail to entertain me. Nostalgically, it reminds me of how grateful I was to finally see a successful tonal shift from camp to dark in the depiction of my absolute favorite comic book character. Then, it has Jack Nicholson brilliantly playing the life out of The Joker! I remember there were those who felt Cesar Romero had a better laugh. Pshaw! Jack's Joker hooked you in from the start and then kept you intrigued and amazed with the character throughout the rest of the film. This Batman wasn't the perfect Batman (that one arrived sixteen years later), but Burton and Keaton's take on Bruce and Batman fit fine in the world Burton created for The Batman, at a time when there were no other successful superhero movies but one, Superman: The Movie, and that had come out eleven years earlier at the time. Plus, the sentiment in '89 was that for all that could've gone wrong with Batman, the re-introduction of this dark creature of the night was a seminal moment for the cinematic Batman. On top of that, for better or worse, Tim Burton made it okay for Hollywood to tweak classic superhero costumes. That's a pretty big deal imo too (even tho' I wasn't 100% happy with the costume change at the time).
The Flash (1990)
July 6, 2012
@ home on DVD
After watching Tim Burton's Batman, I followed it up with the pilot episode of The Flash which came out a year after the movie. Ugh, I was always able to look past the awkwardness of the pilot before, but seeing it immediately after the brilliance of Batman was a mistake.