I wish I could be in Hollywood right now for the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Classic films have been my passion since I was in grade school. You can see my love for films in the kind of TV and radio film work I've done over the years. What never ceases to amaze me is the power of films. Films are a mass market art than can connect us to new people, to other cultures and provide total strangers with a common bond that leads to substantial communication. They can enlighten, educate and -- most of all -- entertain. When I was a kid, going to the drive-in movies in Los Angeles was like Christmas Day. Sitting in the back seat of the car with my little sister (both of us had our pajamas on underneath our street clothes) and seeing movies in Technicolor, Deluxe color, Cinemascope, Cinerama or in gorgeous black and white was always a thrilling experience for me. Those were some of my favorite family moments, those nights at the drive-in. Seeing movie stars bigger than life on a big screen outdoors against the backdrop of a California nighttime sky that looked like deep purple velvet was magical.
Being in the car with Mom and Dad and watching a new movie starring Sidney Poitier was always a special night. I grew up watching his movies. His films made me feel significant. They made me dream bigger dreams.
Walk-in theaters were wonderful too. Another cool part of my youth was that classics would be re-released before they eventually made their network TV premieres. Hits like Gone With The Wind, animated Disney classics and Wyler's Ben-Hur. My sister and I got to see Anne Baxter vamp Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments. Milk Duds and Cecil B. DeMille. What a fun Saturday at the movies that was.
The work of a 1930s MGM movie star saved my life. Literally. Imitating him saved me from a near-death experience when I was in elementary school and away from home. If not for his movies which I watched on local TV, I would not be alive today. But that's another story.
I'm so grateful to classic films and I cherish them so much, I can often come off like "the cranky older dude" when I hear or read someone constantly wisecracking about them or commenting on how much they hate a certain star. To me, if you're going to watch a classic like Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, A Place in the Sun or the post-WWII drama, The Best Years of Our Lives, and make snarky wisecracks during it, that's like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa in order to get a laugh. Just my opinion.
If I was attending the TCMFF, I'd love to meet and talk to people seeing classics on the big screen for the first time. I still vividly recall being a high schooler, sitting in the mezzanine of Hollywood's Egyptian Theater with a reserved seat ticket and seeing Funny Girl. The "My Man" closing number took your breath away on the huge screen.
When Dorothy first sees Scarecrow, there's a shot of the yellow brick road behind her. My buddy, Bob, and I looked at each other in awe. We thought the same exact thing: "Look at how far she's come!" Dorothy traveled a long, long way before she found even her first friend on her journey to The Emerald City. The length of that road travelled on her journey to find happiness really hit our hearts. We were deeply moved.