Four Movies a Day

In “A Star is Born,” the first film showed at the TCM Classic Film Festival, James Mason “discovers” Judy Garland and arranges for her to get a screen test. He tells her that her life is about to be changed by success and that she should never lose her soul to the chaos of Hollywood.

I could use a little bit of that advice on my second day of this film festival.

As my first sponsored blogging gig (I received full passes for two — entries to all of the films and parties — and a new Buick Lacrosse to drive all week, from the festival’s sponsor, Buick), I understand that I am supposed to be blogging about my experiences here, but the festival is so all-consuming from 7AM to 2AM, that it is almost impossible to find any time to write anything very good. Do film critics write on their laptops in the middle of the movie? So far, this film festival has been a blast, but if you have been to BlogHer, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it is also exhausting!

Here is a quick recap so far, as shown through iphone photos —

Thursday night was the red carpet opening, a screening of “A Star is Born.” The day leading up to the event was chaotic. We were supposed to drive our fancy new Buick to the event, but the care got lost somewhere near Phoenix, and we didn’t receive it until two hours before the screening. We still haven’t had time to fully appreciate everything this car has to offer. Sophia and I had other concerns as well — what to wear! I bought a new shirt, but then discovered that it required cuff links. Who owns cuff links?

I wore cuff links once, at my wedding. I did what I always do nowadays when I need advice — I went on Twitter and asked for help. A female blogger, a Martha Stewart type, suggested I create my own cuff links from two buttons and thread.

“It’s very easy,” she said.

Yeah, right. I opted to change my shirt.

I ended up wearing this. This same female blogger, seeing this photo, criticized me for looking “too conservative for the red carpet.”

I had an even bigger problem. Sophia wanted to dress the role of old Hollywood glamour, wearing her mother’s vintage jacket from 1950’s Russia. Although it had an authentic feel, something a star might have worn to the original opening of “A Star is Born,” the jacket was made of… uh, well, FUR.

I visualized Sophia and I stepping out of silver Buick, onto the red carpet, and immediately getting covered in blood from some zealot from PETA. I’m not sure Buick, my lovely sponsors, would appreciate this, so I begged Sophia not to wear it. Did I wimp out? Probably. Selling out to the man CHANGES YOU!

Off to the red carpet in our Buick!

Hollywood was all abuzz with the film festival. The headquarters was at the Hollywood Roosevelt, and most of the screenings were at the Chinese and Egyptian Theaters.

I impressed Sophia by proving once and for all that my feet are bigger than those of Kirk Douglas.

Here’s a little secret about the red carpet. It’s not really red. It is more “cranberry.”

Next time I dress like Alec Baldwin. I WAS too conservative.

On Friday, Sophia and I attended four movies. One of the was “The Producers.” I hadn’t planned to attend it because I had seen it so many times before. But when I learned that Sophia had never seen it before, I was curious to see her reaction. Hey, Mel Brooks — I chose you over a screening of “Casablanca!” Mel Brooks was there for a discussion, having just received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier that day.

By the way, Sophia loved “The Producers.”

Sophia didn’t enjoy “The Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, calling it “too dark.”

In the middle of the day, I met with a video crew, who filmed me driving all around Hollywood, talking about old movies and Buicks. Don’t laugh when I post this video! I was blabbing all over the place. Hopefully, they will edit most of it out.

I felt like one of those American Idol contestants making those music videos. It all happened so fast, that I hardly remember what I said or did. At one point, I was walking along Hollywood Boulevard like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, en route to the screening of the film (even though the screening was not really happening at the time, or even on that day). Hollywood!

Off to another day of movies. So far, it’s been a great experience, but I am a little dizzy. One of the oddest things is having people ask me about my blog, and having to come up with answers for “What do I write about?” Now I understand why you all put up those annoying “blog badges” on your blogs. There is something about wearing a badge around your neck that makes you more legitimate in the eyes of others.

“Your blog sounds fascinating,” some actress-type said to me, thinking that I was someone of importance, seeing that I had the exclusive all-access pass.

Yeah.

I think I fell asleep last night while Fred and Ginger were dancing cheek to cheek in a screening of Top Hat, but I’m not sure.

TCM Classic Film Festival

After years in Los Angeles, I finally made it to the red carpet of a star-studded premiere. And ironically, it was blogging that brought me there. Danny and I are attending the TCM Classic Film Festival, thanks to the recommendation of blogging friend Jane Devin and the cool people at Buick. There are movies and lectures about classic movies from morning until night. Hey, Roger Ebert, is it humanly possible to see five movies in one day?I once made it through a special showing of the Star Wars Trilogy, but I had a headache for a week, and I was drugged up on coffee.

My first post about the event is going to be a little short, because I am rushing to the Chinese theater to see King Kong! Most of the films are at the classic Chinese and Egyptian theaters in Hollywood, so that makes it extra special.

Last night was a showing of “A Star is Born” with Judy Garland, a favorite of anyone who has tried to make it in Hollywood, or any gay male. I have seen the movie so many times, but never on the big screen. At the party after the movie, there was much conversation about Judy Garland and James Mason’s teeth because the big image allowed us to see how imperfect and coffee and cigarette-stained they were. Imagine, movie stars with REAL TEETH! Ah, now that is classic cinema!

I love “A Star is Born,” but this was a re-mastered version where they added material that was edited out after the premiere. Danny explained to me that the movie was not a total success at first, so the studio edited out some scenes to quicken the pace, against the wishes of George Cukor. George Cukor is a brilliant director, but I think the studio was right. Do you ever see the extended version of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” where Spielberg added in a sequence of Richard Dreyfuss walking into the spaceship and meeting the aliens. Sometimes, less is more. However, it was cool that they tried to be historically accurate and show the movie exactly as it was during premiere night.

Since I have a guest pass, I’m bringing Sophia to many of the films. It should be interesting to hear her reviews.

Today should be a wild day of screening. Here is my schedule of what I want to see:

King Kong
Sweet Smell of Success (with Tony Curtis in attendance)
The Producers (with Mel Brooks in attendance)
Imitation of Life (with Peter Bogdanovich, Juanita Moore, and Susan Kohner)
Casablanca
Midnight Cowboy
and The Day of the Triffids at midnight

Let’s see if I can keep my eyes open. (but free popcorn and soda!)

Since Buick is a sponsor of the event, they are also MY sponsor. For a week, I can drive around in a fancy, classy new Buick Lacrosse, a really cool car. Buick is smart. They are aware that some of us still think of a Buick as “Dad’s car,” rather than something cool, hip, and timeless — like Casablanca.

“So if they want to position themselves as cool and hip, why did they ask YOU to do this?” wondered Sophia.

Nothing could be farther than the truth about Buick being old-fashioned. This is one nice car, and even I’ll agree that I looked sexy driving it.

More later, including OFF-CENTERED photos of me ON THE RED CARPET.

The Housing Market

(the following is written after watching a commercial for a horror movie on TV. I was taking Nyquil)

A young couple is being shown a three bedroom home in Long Island by a realtor.

YOUNG WOMAN: I love it. The kitchen is so cozy. And look, Ben, a breakfast nook.

YOUNG MAN: (to realtor) Are you sure the price is only $150,000. In such a nice neighborhood? Is this a foreclosure?

REALTOR: Oh, no. Absolutely not.

YOUNG WOMAN: It’s the economy, Ben. Housing prices have been going down.

YOUNG MAN: But $150,000?

REALTOR: There are some other factors.

YOUNG MAN: I knew it! It sounded too good to be true. Is there a problem withe the plumbing, because…

REALTOR: No, no, no…I didn’t mean that. It just that before it was renovated in 1965, this house used to be a funeral parlor.

YOUNG MAN: Oh, that’s fine. Isn’t it honey?

YOUNG WOMAN: Absolutely. That’s why the living room is so large. That must be where all the coffins were stored!

REALTOR: Exactly. It’s a beautiful room. Difficult to find wood paneling like that. The first family that lived here after the renovation, the Kensingtons, used to have gala Christmas celebrations in here, with sparkling lights and eggnog, and a beautiful tree.

YOUNG WOMAN: How lovely!

REALTOR: Sadly, the entire family was massacred by a roving band of escaped mental patients.

YOUNG MAN: Hmmm, that doesn’t sound very good…

REALTOR: Oh, don’t worry. The mental patients were captured and returned to the institution.

YOUNG WOMAN: You see, Sweetie. You worry over nothing! (to realtor) Can we see the bedrooms?

REALTOR: Of course.

They climb the creaky stairs to the master bedroom.

REALTOR: Don’t mind the blood stains on the walls. They’ll be cleaned off by next week.

YOUNG MAN: What happened? Why are there so many blood stains?

REALTOR: Well, this is going to sound silly, and rather unimportant, but many years ago, a group of women were burned at the stake as witches on this exact spot, and past owners sometimes complained of ghosts and evil spirts. But I don’t believe in ghosts or evil spirits, do you?

YOUNG WOMAN: Of course not. we’re professionals. We’re both web designers!

YOUNG MAN: You still haven’t explained the blood stains on the walls…

REALTOR: Oh, it’s the last owner. A young guy. A college kid with wealthy parents. He shared the place with some roommates. Lots of girls and drinking and sex, until each was killed in some grisly manner. It was a very odd coincidence.

YOUNG MAN: The owner was killed too?

REALTOR: Oh no, he committed suicide by impaling himself on the kitchen chandelier.

YOUNG MAN: That sounds a little uh, drama queen-ish.

REALTOR: Eh, you know, college kids. Sowing their wild oats. I was pretty wild myself back in Alabama State before I settled down with the little lady. Go Crimsons!

YOUNG MAN: (turning to his wife) Honey, are you sure this is the right house for us?

REALTOR: (pulling an envelope from his pocket) Oh yeah, the last owner left this envelope for “The Next Owner: Must Open Immediately.” But is it really necessary to read the letter? I think this place is perfect for the two of you. Why be bothered by anything right now that will ruin the moment?

YOUNG WOMAN: He’s right, Ben. I love it. So much room. We can have wonderful dinner parties in here with the Axelrods! We can celebrate Rob Axelrod’s early release from prison for that manslaughter charge!

YOUNG MAN: OK, then I guess we are interested!

REALTOR: And the envelope?

YOUNG MAN: Who needs to read it?! Rip it up! Let’s start fresh!

The Young Couple kisses as the realtor starts the paperwork.

The Orthodox Jewish Guy Outside the Supermarket

I went down to Pathmark Supermarket to buy whole wheat hamburger buns and some bottles of Snapple.   In front of the entrance, was an Orthodox Jew handing out leaflets.  He was wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit, a traditional fringed garment worn under the clothing.  I’ve seen these guys before.   Some ultra-religious Jews go around and try to get less religious Jews to pay more attention to the various rituals of Judaism.  These men believe that the spreading of their religious fervor will hasten the arrival of the Messiah.

Usually, these Jews only bug other Jews.  They frequently ask passerbys, “Are you Jewish?” before they annoy the hell out of you.   I understand that they are on a mission, but sometimes I just want to walk to the supermarket without having to discuss religious issues.   The only time I’ve ever said that I WASN”T Jewish had nothing to do anti-Semitism.   It was to avoid one of these ultra-religious guys pestering me on the street about lighting the Shabbos candles.

“Here, take some candles. Light them on Friday night. Do you belong to a temple?  Come to our temple.  We even will feed you!”

They will feed you. I know their trick.   You go to their temple.  They feed you some good chicken soup, and then they OWN YOU!

What surprised me about this guy outside the supermarket was that he was not asking, “Are you Jewish?” to anyone.   He was handing out his leaflets and talking to every passerby, whether they were black or white or Latino or Asian.  Some of these shoppers quickly walked by, while others politely took one of his leaflets.

Was he trying to convert everyone to Judaism?

Three years ago, I wrote a post advocating Jews trying to convert other religions. I was being a little tongue in cheek.   At the time,  I felt that if other religions are always trying to convert you, why not return the favor?   In reality, conversion is a dirty word for most Jews because it brings up a sad history of forced conversion, mostly at the hands of Christians.   Even though I wrote that post, I don’t really feel comfortable with anyone trying to convert another person.

I wondered if this zealot outside my Queens supermarket felt safe trying to convert others to Judaism because we were in Queens, and there were many Jews in the neighborhood.   Maybe he felt safe in numbers, despite the fact that there was a mosque right across the street.

This made me angry.   If I were a Jew in a Christian neighborhood, I would hate having someone try to convert me outside my local supermarket.  I would feel as if I was being pressured to be “one of the majority.”  I’m not a hypocrite.    Why should a Jew try to convert others in our neighborhood?   Surely, the religions of others — whether it be Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism — is as worthy a religion.   This smug Jewish guy, passing out leaflets, was arrogant.  It didn’t matter if he was “part of my tribe.”

I walked into the supermarket, using a side door, just to avoid him.

After I finished my shopping, I looked through the store window, and saw my Jewish friend deep in conversation with a black mother and her son.  The mother took the flier, nodding in agreement.  Did he just sucker in another victim to leave her own religion behind?  My face grew red.  This idiot was giving the Jewish people a bad name.

I walked outside, waiting for him to hand me a flier and engage me in conversation.  I walked by and he completely ignored me.   What was up with that?!   Did he see that I was angry and was worried about a conflict?   Or could he tell that I was already Jewish so he didn’t need to convert me?   And how did he know I was Jewish?   Was he judging me on my Jewish nose like a racist would do?   Was this Jewish man stereotyping a fellow Jew?

Hell, I wanted him to try to convert me!   I wanted him to hand me one of those leaflets, so I can shove it back in his face and tell him that this is not the ways Jews should behave.  That it is a shame for him to stand there in his yarmulke and tzitzit and show such disregard for other cultures and other religions.

I did a 360 and entered the supermarket again, just so I could exit a second time and get one of those leaflets.  I quickly re-walked my steps, leaving the market as I did before, not even waiting for the electric door to fully open.  I walked past the ultra-religious Jewish guy, who was eagerly handing out his leaflets — and the asshole ignored me again.

That was enough for me.   Like Abraham, who would sacrifice Isaac, his son, because of God’s word, I knew that it was my moral obligation to confront my Jewish nemesis.  I stepped in front of him.

“May I have one of those leaflets.”

“Sure,” he said reluctantly.

He handed me one. I held it tightly in my hand, ready to start my diatribe against religious hypocrisy.  And then I read the piece of paper:

“Looking to sell your condo?  Call 718-555-1212.”

When I arrived home, I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair had gotten long again. I was unshaven. I was wearing an old t-shirt. Apparently, I was stereotyped by this guy as someone who can’t afford to own a condo.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthTruth and Fiction

Bad Dialogue

The “love scene” from my latest screenplay, a romance titled “The Secret Affair of the Mommyblogger”:

The couple meet in his car, which is parked outside the “other” suburban Bed, Bath, and Beyond – the one the neighbors DON’T go to, because there is no Chipotle next door. The are immediately all over each other, the passion intense.

She: “I think we should put on the breaks.”

He: “And I think we should shift gears.”

She: “And I think I need an oil change.”

He: “And I think you turned on my ignition.”

She: “And I think you’ve just opened my glove compartment.”

He: “And I think I feel your airbags.”

She: “And I think we should go hybrid.”

He: “And I think your cupholder is convenient.”

She: “And I think I need a lube job,”

He: “And I think I’m going zero to sixty.”

She: “And I think we’re stuck in a fender bender.”

He: “And I think I’m overheating because of the steep incline.”

She: “And I think your timing belt needs adjusting.”

He: “And I think it is my internal combustion.”

She: “And I think you’re not watching the road signs.”

He: “And I think I blew a gasket.”

She: “And I think you stalled before I reached my destination. Hand me the GPS and I’ll get there myself. Then I need to pick up the kids from day camp.”