Film Festivals are back!
I may have declared this back in February when the Kansas Silent Film Festival was in full swing, and I was able to sneak down for a double Lon Chaney showing, but I digress; the Turner Classic Film Festival is back, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
After the longest three years of my life, I practically sprinted into the arms of some of my best friends from all across the country. Nothing heals you faster than a big embrace from people you love and haven’t seen in years. This year, I brought along my sister, Cori. It was her first festival experience, and I was so excited to see how things would go.
We went out early early to spend a few extra days with friends and see some sites. Once the Festival starts, you’re stuck in a two-block area in the heart of Hollywood, possibly one of the least desirable places in all of L.A.
The Festival kicks off on Thursday night with the “exclusive” pass holders event. This year, it was the 40th Anniversary screening of E.T. at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX), with Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy in attendance.
Usually, the red carpet event is one of my favorite events to attend. I can watch the attendees walk the red carpet and interact with them with my pass. This year, Turner Classic Movies nixed that I believe due to COVID.
After a hearty dinner at one of our favorite places, we finished the night with one of my closest friends, Jessica. It was nice to skip out of some of the craziness of the first night and take it easy to spend time with friends for quiet conversation and maybe some good old-fashioned gossip. What we didn’t bargain for was a downpour once we were ready to walk back to our hotel. It was the first time I’d seen rain in my years attending this Festival. It wasn’t a little rain either; by the time we made it to Jessica’s hotel, it was a downpour. My LA roommate Angie showed up a few minutes later, absolutely drenched. She had to take a blow dryer to her tights the following day. The most interesting turn of events came when the historic hotel we were staying in couldn’t handle the downpour, and the water started to back up in our bathtub, kitchen sink, and two other sinks. That smell will haunt me for the rest of my life, but it made the night entertaining.
The next day, there would be no room for error in getting up early and out the door. We had Lily Tomlin’s hand and footprint ceremony in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Cori and I knew we wanted a good spot for this event, so we practically leaped out of bed and ran to get in line that morning. We were ushered in and checked with security wands, the first time I’ve had to do that since I started attending the Festival. I wasn’t sure if this was a sign of the times or a sign that someone super amazing would be attending.
We ended up with fantastic spots where we watched in delight as Ms. Tomlin, Ms. Jane Fonda and Mr. Ben Mankiewicz walked out and sat before us. How exciting it was to see people my sister and I both love, June Diane Raphael from Grace and Frankie, Burning Love and more; George Schlatter, director and producer of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and Paul Sheer from The League and his and his wife June Diane Raphael’s hit podcast, ‘How Did This Get Made?’ and Rita Moreno. All were there to honor Lily that day.
Ben Mankiewicz briefly spoke and made introductions. As he wrapped things up, he quoted 9 to 5 to rounds of cheers and laughter, “It’s great to see them here because, for a while, it didn’t look like Jane and Lily would make it. They had a rough morning, but they tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, Poured themselves a cup of ambition. Thankfully, they did indeed come to life.”
Tomlin’s frequent co-star, Jane Fonda, gave an emotional speech. “I can’t stop crying. I’m very moved to be here. It’s a real honor,” said Fonda. “I’ve worked with her now for a whole long time, since the 1970s, and she is always fighting against any words or statements that would hurt someone’s feelings,” she said.
She tried to pull herself together by joking, “Lily’s been pushing me around for decades, so I’m really glad she’s going to put her hands in cement. Maybe they’ll get stuck, and her feet, too.”
As Tomlin addressed the crowd, she joked, “I dreamt the sky was the limit, and here I am being celebrated as a sidewalk. What a journey it’s been from having to hit the pavement to bring the pavement.”
She thanked her friend, Jane Fonda, saying, “One of the thrills is knowing my slab of concrete will end up near the one made by the brilliant and beautiful woman who introduced me.”
She also thanked Marta Kauffman and Howard Morris, the creators of Grace and Frankie. “[They] had this radical belief that women don’t outgrow desire, friendship, humor, and relevance. They created Grace and Frankie. Like all visionaries, they didn’t play the game; they changed the game. It became the longest-running series in Netflix history.”
Tomlin paid tribute to Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In character Edith Ann by scribbling her first name into the cement.
Once the historic moment ended and Tomlin and Fonda were out of earshot, Cori and I did what any fan[atic] would do. We screamed, “We love you, June,” and “We love you, Paul.” We received big smiles and waves as we giggled like school girls.
Sometimes, during this Festival, you find yourself in a spot where it’s too late to go to a movie and too early to stand in line for another. Cori left with Angie to see All of Me with an introduction by June Diane, and I found myself by the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel pool, meeting up with more friends arriving in town. We moved inside to the lobby, and I spotted a man I had seen do an introduction in 2019. I had fallen head over heels in love with him, and now he was standing across the room from me.
(To be continued
Nikki McKim attended the TCMFF in Hollywood as a paid pass holder not as a media pass holder.