The penultimate day of the festival was near-constant movement with a bump that caused me to leave the screening for How Green Was My Valley. Thankfully, the day was salvaged by encounters with three people I never believed I’d meet. Oh, and there was more movie-watching. The festival ends, for me at least, tomorrow night but Saturday was the highlight by far. The morning started early with a trip to the TCL Chinese Theater where Jerry Lewis placed his hand and footprints in the theater forecourt. There was an amazing turnout of both fans and celebrities with Quentin Tarantino and Dane Cook in attendance alongside TCM hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz. Before the ceremony, both Osborne and Tarantino gave introductions to Lewis. Tarantino explained he’s adored Lewis since childhood where his films were a Saturday-morning staple. Lewis is definitely a firecracker at 88-years-old. While standing on-stage he cracked jokes at the expense of the poor handler whose job was to prevent Lewis from falling, telling him to “move your ass,” while also flirting with one of the female TCM employees.
On top of the personal honor that is placing one’s hands and feet in the TCL forecourt, for Lewis there was a personal element in seeing it happen with his wife and daughter in the audience. His beautiful daughter was hesitant to take photos, but the family gathering for a picture was amazing. Lewis succeeded in placing his hands and feet in the cement, and proved he’s still spry as he climbed onto the cement, wanted to know if he could jump off the stage, and stood on the chair provided for him to sit on. The screening of The Nutty Professor, with Lewis in attendance, didn’t work for my schedule so I’m happy I was able to watch Lewis receive the honor. The completed mold was on display for a bit in the forecourt, it should be on display for patrons in a few weeks.
Immediately after Lewis stuck his hands in the cement I raced over to the Egyptian Theater-farther than it looks-for an early afternoon screening of the original Japanese print of Gojira. I’m not a kaiju fan at all, but my travel buddy wanted to watch it and the guest was Monsters director Gareth Edwards, the perfect guest considering his upcoming turn helming the new Godzilla movie. Edwards comes off as a true fan at heart, discussing how he got the call about directing Godzilla while looking at a copy of the original movie. He’s also incredibly disarming and funny, talking about the overuse of CGI in movies-“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something”-before immediately stating he contradicts himself in other festivals and there’s plenty of CGI in his movie! Edwards is a charmer and if I wasn’t already planning on watching his take on Godzilla when it hits May 16th, he sold me on it.
As for Gojira itself, I was impressed! The pounding opening credits sequence, and score by Akira Ifukube, sets the tone for a pulse-pounding thrill ride. Hokey moments abound-the machine that destroys oxygen dubbed “the oxygen destroyer”….it destroys the oxygen-but the power of the movie is keenly felt. The movie is a stark commentary on Japanese perception of the US post-nuclear bomb, punctuated by the movie’s final lines advocating for nuclear disarmament for fear of another “Godzilla” returning. Edwards mentioned during the discussion his movie isn’t directly commenting on any social events, but he still plans some type of social commentary in the movie. Based on what’s come before, Godzilla is more than just a guy in a rubber suit.
I’d originally planned to watch a screening of How Green Was My Valley, introduced by Robert Osborne and Maureen O’Hara, but issues with the El Capitan’s handicapped section prevented it. TCM’s crew was filming in one handicapped spot (and in case you’re wondering, they’re well aware of my problem), and I’m uncertain if there’s more than one handicapped seating area. Regardless, if there’s a crowd at the El Capitan and you’re wheelchair bound, prepare to get there super early or end up being crammed. Either way, I stayed for Maureen O’Hara’s talk because, well, she’s Maureen O’Hara. O’Hara is a beautiful soul as she discussed living life to the fullest and her belief in the afterlife. Upon seeing the audience give her a standing ovation she started to tear up. Osborne, hosting and directing the talk, respectfully sat back and let her talk. I’m hoping to catch the movie later on, but I’m happy I saw the fabulous Maureen.
The evening was planned around two key events: Conversation With Richard Sherman and The Muppet Movie, hosted by Bill Hader. If you weren’t at Conversation With Richard Sherman, you missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime event! Sherman is a wonderful storyteller, aided by critic Leonard Maltin who guided him into various avenues of his career. Sherman talked about his life, going to war, how music was in the family’s blood (his father wrote “You’ve Got to Be a Football Hero” in 1933), and how Richard and his brother, Robert became house composers for the Walt Disney Company. I’d assumed the point of this talk was in the title, a conversation, but Sherman ended up providing musical accompaniment for the event. He played all his most enduring songs from the likes of The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins, as well as earlier hits like “Tall Paul” and “You’re Sixteen.” Osborne is still able to tickle the ivories and present a rollicking concert like no other. He also played “Admiral Boom,” an unused song for Mary Poppins which is being released, along with several other unused Sherman songs, by Disney.
The hour ran by so quickly, but not before Sherman closed out the evening with a gorgeous rendition of “Feed the Birds.” I’ll admit, I cried a bit. By the end, I just wanted to hear Sherman talk more. As I was leaving the venue, I ran smack into Sherman who graciously agreed to take a photo with me and commented on my Mary Poppins pin. Meeting Richard Sherman will go down as one of the best moments of my life!
After that excitement I ran down to the Roosevelt Hotel pool to take in a showing of The Muppet Movie. Bill Hader opened the movie with an impression of Animal and commenting on Orson Welles’ appearance. It was a briefer introduction than other presenters but he got everyone excited to watch Kermit and crew. Oh, and did I mention he also agreed to take a picture with me? I should have apologized to the people I bowled over for the opportunity…sorry, guys. Another first for me at this event: I’ve finally watched The Muppet Movie. I love Jim Henson, but never saw his 1979 debut feature with the characters. As with Gojira, and even more so, I loved The Muppet Movie. It’s story is ripped from The Wizard of Oz-a rural frog goes on a journey to a magical land while picking up characters along the way-but with Henson’s brand of zaniness and cameos. Having watched Blazing Saddles, I wondered whether Mel Brooks received a bonus considering almost the entire Brooks repertory company is there (Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Brooks himself). “The Rainbow Connection” has always been a great song for me, but in the context of the movie it’s a soaring melody I appreciate all the more.
I wanted to watch Freaks at midnight but the penetrating cold (who’d have thunk) kept me from going. Sunday is the final day for me-note for next year, stay till Monday-so I’m hoping to watch the filming of TCM’s on-air segments and maybe Maureen O’Hara’s discussion with Osborne later at Club TCM.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.