Monday, May 25, 2015

Farewell Cinevent 47

Cinevent is over, and I had a great time. The Renaissance Hotel worked very nicely for the show and I heard lots of positive comments about the rooms. The main dealer room on the 2nd floor had spacious aisles which didn't force attendees to squish behind each other to visit the next table. The smaller rooms on the 3rd floor were easy to access and were nicely air-cooled, unlike the 6th floor at the previous hotel which was often stuffy and humid. I hope to contribute to the planning of next year's show and welcome any suggestions you may have.

Early Birds Prior to the First Screening Friday
Because of my limited budget this year I watched lots of films rather than spending my time shopping. Of course I spend a good amount of time in the dealer's room talking with friends and admiring the many posters and displayed items I could not afford. I have a difficult time sitting in the stiff-backed chairs in the screening room for more than two films in a row, so I spend the time in between walking and browsing. But after all, this is a film convention, and with such rare offerings, it would be silly to skip the movies altogether.
The first film was my favorite of the weekend. Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore is a alternately predictable and bizarre Monogram film starring beautiful Simone Simon. It begins in a train. Kathy is reading a magazine and stumbles upon an advertisement (for what I don't know) warning viewers to watch out for Gremlins. One appears and begins harassing the leading lady who tosses salt over her shoulder in order to ward off bad juju. It doesn't work. She arrives at her destination to find that the woman who invited her to room with her has just eloped and wants privacy. Kathy walks day and night and can't find a vacancy, and it is by chance that she stumbles upon a man off to join the military who won't be needing his room for a while. "How did you know my name is Johnny?" he asks her. "I call everybody Johnny," she sweetly responds. He sublets her his room but fails to tell her about the many keys he has distributed to various friends around town, all of them male. They pop in for a beer at night and for a shower in the morning and each time she has to sternly inform them that "Johnny doesn't live here anymore." Of course several of them are taken by her beauty and do all they can to get an invitation to stay. I liked this movie so much I bought a lobby card depicting the scene toward the end where Kathy is asked to choose between the two men she cares for.

My opinion of Shooting Stars was much different than most people I talked to. While I found it to be technically above average, the routine storyline and adequate acting left me feeling that the movie was okay but not special.  The story concerns an acting couple (Brian Aherne, Annette Benson) who are starring in a film together. Meanwhile, she is having an affair with a comedian working on the same lot. There are some beautiful shots in this movie, such as the overhead tracking shot which follows the action of various activities on the movie set, the moving camera which follows a dangerous descent down a hill on a bicycle, and the poignant ending which tracks a washed-up actress's slow departure from a set. These moments are the reason to watch the film.

I've been watching a lot of Elvis movies lately. Loving You is among the best because it has a plot which excuses the many musical numbers. The talented auxiliary cast makes it worth your time too. Elvis is a small town boy with an impressive stage presence, so a publicity agent (Lizabeth Scott) recruits him to help assist the waning popularity of her ex-husband's (Wendell Corey) traveling western show. The gimmick works wonderfully but people begin to become suspicious of her motivations. Shot in Technicolor, this film is a feast for the eyes, and if you're an Elvis fan, essential viewing.

The Senator Was Indiscreet was another big hit with the audience. I am in the minority in my indifference to William Powell, but he usually makes good films, and this was no exception. A stuffy senator who is counting his chickens decides he wants to run for president even though he isn't even a candidate yet. He panders to all types, from native Americans to country folk to southern gentlemen, on a road tour across the country. Every day he records his experiences in a diary, something he has been doing for years, much to the chagrin of his manager. Of course someone steals the diary, and the senator and his associates frantically try to recover it before his and other politicians' reputations are ruined. There are lots of good jokes and the audience responded well to them.

Lloyd Nolan is billed first in Undercover Doctor, although his part is not the biggest. This is proof that not every film made in 1939 was a classic. The movie is a programmer, a film depicting true crime which isn't an unpleasant way to kill an hour, but which doesn't leave the viewer with anything when it is done. A doctor begins padding his pockets by treating gangsters who have been wounded in shootouts. The cops are out to find out who he is, and they do eventually. Unremarkable.

A few years ago, I was invited to join a group to watch 16mm films in a friend's hotel room, a common occurrence at film festivals. This year we had the luxury of the Monsterbash room. Among the short comedies (Our Gang, The Three Stooges, a Danny Kaye comedy), cartoons, and trailers were a few soundie shorts, including one that was particularly odd and poorly made, and therefore highly entertaining. I hope you like it as much as I did.

The Saturday morning Annual Animation Program always plays to a packed house. The highlights included Porky Pig in The Case of the Stuttering Pig which concerned a monster and a dark house, Donald's Dilemma which featured Donald Duck singing like Bing Crosby, and Lonesome Lenny which shows an overzealous dog smothering Screwy Squirrel to death.

If you like pre-code movies, you will like Luxury Liner. The story surrounds George Brent and his wife who is running off to be with a millionaire aboard a cruise liner. He becomes the ship's doctor to confront her about it. Meanwhile an enthusiastic blonde (Alice White) spends her time schmoozing men to get ahead in life. Her scenes are the most comedic, and the most scandalous. The ending is abrupt and silly, but the rest of the film is entertaining.

Each year there is a Charley Chase festival, and this year all of the shorts were silent. I don't recall ever seeing silent Chase films before, and I was excited to check them out. With this limited introduction, I still prefer the talkies, but these movies were fun too. The first, One of the Family, was the weakest of the offerings and concerned Jimmy Jump becoming a chauffeur. Hello Baby got more laughs by recycling jokes from other comedies of the era. Many Scrappy Returns revolves around suspected marital infidelity and features an elaborate door routine which is very well done. A One-Mama Man has Chase as a Count who is hired to impersonate himself at a party and evokes a lot of laughs.

The next film was Take the Stand, a rare Thelma Todd feature which is rumored to be the only copy outside of one trapped in an archive. My friends were bustling about how excited they were to see it, and I planned to watch it because of its rarity, but after the Chase shorts my butt couldn't take it anymore. I made a good choice. One friend left after about 20 minutes, and another groaned about sitting through the whole thing expecting a payoff and never getting it. "Some films are lost for a reason," he said.

The Nervous Wreck could have been a funnier film. A hypochondriac (Harrison Ford) goes to the country for his nerves and meets a flirtatious and impulsive blonde (Phyllis Haver) who is engaged to the town sheriff. Before departing on a day drive with the hypochondriac, she leaves a note telling her fiancee she is actually eloping with the new guy. On their drive they run out of gas, and rather than walk somewhere to get more, they accidentally hold up a passing car and have to hide out for a while. Pair this with every man's expectation that the blonde cook for them, which she hates and rejects outright, and the man's constant need for pills and relaxation and you get a mildly amusing silent which is okay but very forgettable.

I would have enjoyed 99 River Street had I not been dozing off periodically throughout it. It is a standard noir story which reminded me of the Hard Case Crime book series I love with superior acting performances, particularly by Evelyn Keyes. A taxi cab driver and his wife are no longer in love with each other. She resents him and he's given up trying. She embarks on an affair with a gangster and winds up dead and he goes on a mission to avenge her death even though his heart isn't totally in it.

I missed the first movie on Monday when I overslept. I forgot to set my alarm. Running on only a few hours of sleep each night definitely takes its toll.

San Francisco Docks was my least favorite film of the weekend. A couple of convicts escape from prison and ride back to shore in a fishing boat. At a dockside bar, a few men get into an arguement and later one of them ends up dead. A man is accused but claims innocence, and his sweetheart and friends at the bar step in to try to find the real murderer before he hangs. They flirt with comedy without achieving it occasionally, and attempt suspense but fall flat there too. This film is trying to be lots of other films and fails all around to be very entertaining at all. I did get a chuckle out of one line though, which said one man was "just in time to be too late."
I knew Melody Parade would have a thin plot and lots of musical numbers. Both are quite forgettable but they make for a pleasant ending to a great show. A nightclub is in trouble financially, until a wealthy woman promises to back them. At least they think she's wealthy because she has the same name as a millionaire, but she's the 4th, not the 3rd. No matter; she hires a stuffed shirt at $1000 per week (to make it more impressive) and starts bossing the boss around. Cinevent began and ended with a pleasant Monogram feature.

Losing Cinevent founder Steve Haynes was unfortunate, and the difficulty finding a new hotel after the last one closed added a wrench into an already stressful situation, but Michael Haynes and the other Cinevent organizers did an amazing job of keeping the show going and in the same tradition of years past. This is a show that celebrates nostalgia and sometimes attendees are resistant to change, but most everyone seemed willing and enthusiastic to adapt to the changes and enjoy themselves.

If you have any suggestions for next year's Cinevent, please let me know. And be sure to check out blogs of the attendees, like Jim Lane's Cinedrome, Caren's Classic Cinema, Cleveland Movie Blog,etc.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Go to Cinevent!

Cinevent is fast approaching (May 22-25), and pre-registered attendees are getting excited. For those of you who are not regular patrons or are on the fence about attending, let me sway you.

If you're a fan of classic movies, and if you've been watching them so long you've seen all of the standards or if you just like to check out new things, this is the perfect convention. The film program boasts 16mm film, which is an experience in itself, and an addictive one if you've never had it before. Unlike revivals, like CAPA's excellent Summer Movie Series at the Ohio Theatre, these are obscure movies which are not available on DVD, but which feature recognizable stars. If you only know Lon Chaney from his monster characters, now you can see him play Fagin in Oliver Twist accompanied live on the piano. If you've only ever seen Zita Johann in The Mummy, now you can see her with George Brent in Luxury Liner. If you've seen Larry Parks play Jolson a hundred times, why not check him out as a swashbuckler in The Gallant Blade?

Additionally, you can shop til you drop in the massive dealer's room. Vendors offer items in all price ranges from $1 up to a few thousand for film prints, original lobby cards, posters, movie stills, press books, vintage magazines, books, DVDs and videos, records, autographs and other various movie memorabilia.

One of the biggest drawbacks to watching these niche films at home is the lack of interpersonal interaction. Cinevent offers not only movies but conversation about them. And these people are knowledgeable film fanatics who just may be able to teach you a thing or two and turn you on to new things. In terms of the social component, there is no equal outside of conventions. Where else will you find a gathering this large in person?

Columbus has a lot to offer visitors in addition to Cinevent. The more I've traveled and visited other cities, the more I've appreciated where I was born and raised.

Places to Go:

  • The Ohio Historical Center
    This museum may be of particular interest to Cinevent attendees because of its exhibit on 1950s living which includes an entire Lustron home that visitors can explore. The Ohio Village opens Memorial Day and is a recreation of a real Ohio town in the 1860s.
  • Wexner Center
    Ohio State's art center screens a classic in conjunction with Cinevent annually. This year's offering is From Mayerling to Sarajevo, the love story of the Archduke Ferdinand and Czech Countess Sophie Chotek.
  • Columbus Museum of Art
    The art museum hosts everything from old masters like Picasso and Monet to modern art. There are currently exhibits on nurses in art, a photographic tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, and fabric art by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. Admission is free on Sundays.
  • Franklin Park Conservatory
    If you're itching to be outside after a long day of watching movies, check out this beautiful garden oasis. In the spring, butterflies are put on display and released daily.
  • Columbus Zoo
    Often heralded as one of the best zoos in the country, our zoo features a large variety of animals sectioned off by continent, including the new Africa exhibit featuring giraffes.
  • Near East Side, German Village & Victorian Village
    If you're a fan of 100+ year-old architecture, you will want to drive through these historic neighborhoods to see how many beautiful buildings have been restored and preserved as residences in Columbus. It is a free feast for the eyes.
Places to Eat:
  • The Top
    This steakhouse has been in operation for 60 years and its swanky vintage vibe makes it a unique and memorable place to eat if you're willing to pay a bit more than you would at a chain. Pair your classic movies with a classic and delicious steak dinner.
  • Hickory House
    If you're particularly hungry, look no further than the Hickory House's combination dinners where you can choose between ribs, steak, chicken and shrimp in addition to large potatoes, salad, and dinner rolls.
  • La Chatelaine
    In search of something rich, hearty and flavorful? Check out this great French bakery/restaurant for anything from dinner, a quick bite to eat or just dessert. The biscuits are so flaky, you'll be addicted with just one bite.
  • Schmidt's 
    This sausage restaurant in the heart of German Village has been running for more than a century and was featured on Man Vs. Food. The bahama mama sausage is so popular it is sold in local grocery store.
  • Akai Hana
    This Japanese restaurant is so authentic, half of the menu is in characters. For fresh sushi, delicious appetizers or unique hot entrees, you can't go wrong here, and the staff is very friendly.
  • Ange's Pizza (& other locations)
    While some people flock to Massey's or Donato's or Plank's when they're in Columbus, I choose Ange's every time. If you like good, local, greasy thin crust pizza that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, you can't go wrong here.
  • Jeni's Ice Cream
    This unusual and locally sourced ice cream shop will be re-opened in time for Cinevent, which is great if you want to try something different like Goat Cheese and Red Cherries or Wildberry Lavender or Salty Caramel.
  • Graeter's 
    Do you ever wish you could visit an old-fashioned soda fountain? Greater's offers a variety of rich, traditional ice cream flavors, but you could have them made into ice cream sodas or sundaes. Or try a phosphate soda. Their spring flavors (strawberry chip and bourbon pecan chip) are especially good.
If you're unable to get away from downtown, the hotel's restaurant Latitude 41 features a somewhat unique but satisfying variety of meals. Tip Top is within walking distance and features a large ornate bar and good lunch options. The Elevator is a historical restaurant a few blocks away and is worth checking out.

Still not sure if you want to come out? Message me! I'll convince you.