2018 TCM Film Festival Review: Sounder (Ritt, 1972): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

2018 TCM Classic Film Festival - Hand and Footprint Ceremony: Cicely Tyson
HOLLYWOOD, CA – APRIL 27: Actor Cicely Tyson attends the Hand and Footprint Ceremony honoring Cicely Tyson during the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival at TCL Chinese Theatre on April 27, 2018 in Hollywood, California. 350620. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM)

Viewed at the TCL Chinese Theatre during the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival as part of Cicely Tyson’s Hand and Footprint Ceremony. The screening was proceeded by a conversation between Tyson and TCM host, Ben Mankiewicz.

Sounder was produced in 1972 and was adapted from a 1969 Newberry Award-winning juvenile novel by William H. Armstrong. The story follows a young boy and a family of black sharecroppers during the Great Depression era. The father, Nathan Lee, played by Paul Winfield, steals food to provide for his small family. When He is caught he is charged with illegal trespassing and robbery and sentenced to one year of hard labor in a Louisiana Parish prison camp. John A.Alonzo provided the film’s cinematography and contributed significantly to the film’s exquisite mise-en-scene while Taj Mahal created an authentic, highly original musical score.

Director Ritt marketed the film to ministers and educators allowing the film to make a nice profit. Lead actors Cicely Tyson, as Rebecca Lee, and Paul Winfield were both nominated for Oscars. The 2017 film, Mudbound, also nominated for four Oscars, shows a powerful, tour-de-force performance from American singer-songwriter, Mary J. Blige. I felt Blige’s performance shared a remarkable resemblance to Tyson’s performance.

The narrative strikes at the heart emotionally. After, the father is sent to prison, the family manages to get the seed in the ground and to harvest the grown crop. Along, the way, the eldest child, David, played by Kevin Hooks in his first big-screen role, goes to find his father at the prison camp. When the family goes to get the location at the courthouse, a confederate monument is clearly visible in the frame as the family is about nto go into the sheriff’s office. The sheriff tells the family he can’t tell them where Nathan is. Eventually through a family friend, Mrs. Boatright, played by Carmen Matthews, David ascertains the location after Mrs. Boatright finds the location by peeking into the sheriffs files when he is momentarily called away. The sheriff threatens her with social ostracization if she tells where Nathan is.

David goes on a seven-day walkabout sleeping under the stars with the family’s hunting dog, Sounder. David comes across an all-black school where blacks in history are studied and celebrated by a black teacher. David is invited to attend the school bu tmust leave home to do so and he is reluctant when his father returns home. In one of the film’s most intimate moments. David runs away after his father tells him he must go. Nathan chases after David and in an exquisite moment by a wooded stream, Nathan tells David, sometimes you lose when you go after something. But you always lose the ones you don’t go after. The driving undercurrent is Nathan wants David to break the chain of being a sharecropper. The 2016 Oscar-nominated Fences (2016), based on August Wilson’s 1985 play, tells a similar story with a much harsher narrative.

Sounder, nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, was a breath of fresh air for me. Having written an essay on Blaxpolitation and having watched films like Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadasssss Song, SuperFly, Shaft, Foxy Brown and Coffy (all films from the same time, the early 1970’s), with tales of the black experience in urban decay with the seedier aspects of life including drug use, gratuitous violence, pimping and prostitution. Sounder, in juxtaposition, provided an elegant and emotionally moving narrative of a black family coming to terms with the difficulties of life and successfully dealing with them on life’s terms. Highly recommended – an historical treasure.

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Cicely Tyson Hand and Footprint Ceremony at TCM Classic Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better at the TCM Classic Film Festival’s warm welcome on Wednesday evening, the extraordinary talent, Cicely Tyson, was honored with a Hand and Footprint Ceremony Friday morning, April 27th, 2018, at Grauman’s TCL Chinese Theatre. The diminutive Tyson is still working and shows little sign of slowing down. Enjoy the footage from the ceremony and check out what the festival wrote about Tyson below!

Actress, advocate, and humanitarian, Cicely Tyson is renowned for her portrayals of strong female characters on stage, screen, and television, from her stunning initial stage appearance as Barbara Allen in Dark of the Moon to her triumphant 2013 return to Broadway.

After a 30-year hiatus from the Broadway stage, Ms. Tyson returned as Mother Carrie Watts in Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful in 2013, for which she received rave reviews and the triple crown of theater awards: the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Actress in a play. Ms. Tyson returned to the Broadway stage in September 2015 in The Gin Game co-starring James Earl Jones.

Best known for her double Emmy performance (Best Lead Actress in a Drama as well as a Special, unprecedented Emmy Award for Actress of the Year) as Jane in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ms. Tyson also was recently nominated in 2015 and 2017 for an Emmy for her recurring guest role as Ophelia, Annalise’s mother (Viola Davis) in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. Ms. Tyson received her third Emmy Award for The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and was nominated for her performances in Roots, King, Sweet Justice, The Marva Collins Story and A Lesson Before Dying. 

Ms. Tyson was nominated for an Academy Award in 1973 for her role in the film SOUNDER (1972). Her film credits also include The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Hoodlum (1997), Because of Winn-Dixie (2005), Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), Madea’s Family Reunion (2006), Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010), The Help (2011), Alex Cross (2012) and most recently in 2017 Last Flag Flying directed by Richard Linklater.

In March 2014, Ms. Tyson served as the executive producer of the film version of The Trip to Bountiful, presented on Lifetime television network. In 1977, as a student of the American Film Institute, Ms. Tyson directed the one-act play, Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn. 

In recognition of her talent, dedication, and contributions, Ms. Tyson has been the recipient of countless awards including numerous Honorary Doctorates, most recently by Columbia University in 2014, as well as an unprecedented number of NAACP Image Awards. Other notable honors have been bestowed on her by the Princess Grace Foundation, National Urban League, National Council of Negro Women, National Civil Rights Museum and other organizations: PUSH, CORE, SCLC and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center.

Ms. Tyson is among the elite number of entertainers honored with a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. She was recognized for her contribution to the performing arts at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. She is the recipient of the NAACP’s highest honor, the prestigious Spingarn Award. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, the highest civilian award of the United States.

Since 1996, Ms. Tyson has served as the guiding force of the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts. This $143 million institution of academic and creative expression in East Orange, New Jersey serves 1,200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. This cultural icon continues to develop her art as she takes on new roles and opportunities in her efforts to enlighten the human race.

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*Feature photo courtesy of TCM Press Room

TCM Classic Film Review: To Have and Have Not (Hawks, 1944): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

While the rest of the TCM Classic Film Festival was down Hollywood Boulevard at the historic Chinese Theatre for the Opening Night Gala or at the Chinese Mann Theatres, a demograhically, well-represented audience experienced an extraordinary film emanated from a bet between legendary Hollywood director, Howard Hawks and one of my favorite literary heroes, Ernest Hemingway, a Nobel laureate. Prior to the screening, the audience was treated to a talk by film historian and film producer, Michael E. Uslan.

Uslan provided the audience with tidbits of information to stimulate and whetten the audience appetite for the main course. For instance, the film’s female lead, Lauren Bacall was nineteen years old and Humphrey Bogart, the film’s male lead was forty-five years old during the film’s production. A year later Bogart divorced his wife and married Bacall. They remained a couple until Bogart’s death in 1957.

Legend has Hawks gushing over Hemingway one night singing the writer’s praises until finally proclaiming he could make a good movie from Hemingway’s worst novel. Hemingway hemmed and hawed until finally giving Hawks To Have and Have Not. William Faulkner, a Nobel prize winning author himself, collaborated with Jules Furthman and is given/took credit for the screen adaptation of Hemingway’s novel. The film originally passed from Howard Hughes to Warner Bros where Hawks was able to bring the work to fruition.

The film follows the tried and true plot of Casablanca as the Vichy Government is harassing the populace while the Resistance is smuggling co-conspirators out of the country. The film is set in Martinque. The film’s opening mimics Casablanca with a somber non-diagetic beat and a map overlay the camera pushes in on to reveal the film’s setting. In juxtaposition, to the sobering non-diagetic pieces, Kansas City jazzman, Hoagy Carmichael leads an array of diagetic, upbeat, fun-spirited tunes on his piano. The costuming and production design are similar to Casablanca (excellent) while the lighting adds a bit more mystery with its use of shadows than Casablanca does.

Best by far, in my opinion, is the acting. Bogart and Bacall have an unspoken sexual tension that permates most, if not all of their scenes. The supporting cast of Walter Brennan, Delores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael, Sheldon Leonard and Marcel Dalio delivers with their spoken lines and physicalities that kept the audience rollicking when not mesmerized by Bogie and Bacall. Director of Photography Sid Hickox provided some nicely crafted frames, highlighting Bacall’s luminescent skin tone. Perc Westmore was credited with the film’s make-up.

One of the film’s lines is listed as a top 40 greatest film lines of all time by the American Film Institute. The sequence begins with Bacall delivering her line to Bogart’s character Steve, in the form of a rhetorical question. “You know how to Whistle don’t you Steve?…The second half brought the house down with claps and cheers.


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To Have and Have Not, viewed during the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival at the historic Egyptian Theatre, is an exceptional film embodying this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival thematic logline: “Writing focuses visions, reflects our feelings and inspires great performances on both sides of the camera.” Highly recommended!


TCM Classic Film Festival 2018 Welcome!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Off to a warm start here at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California!

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TCM host, author, director, producer and actress, Illeana Douglas, above, posing outside Club TCM during the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival’s Welcome Reception, Wednesday, April 26, 2018, at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.  (Photo credit: @illeanarama twitter feed)

I had the pleasure of chatting up TCM host, author, writer, director, producer and actress (the adjectives and accolades could literally go on and on – probably needs its own post), Illeana Douglas.

Having previously met Douglas at her book, I Blame Dennis Hopper: and Other Stories from a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies, signing, in 2016, and politely engaging periodically on twitter, my experience last night was comparable to catching up with that long lost, charismatic aunt we haven’t seen in years. Happy to hear about her forthcoming book, It Never Happened, tentatively scheduled for publication and release next year. She’s an extraordinary talent with a refreshing openness and keen sense of humor. And she promised It Never Happened parlays the “Other Stories” from her first title into stories, adventures and tales that never happened. (Wink. Wink) Keep an eye out for it! And, if you haven’t read I Blame Dennis Hopper yet, give it at least a “run through” until her new book, It Never Happened hits the shelves. But enough about Illeana Douglas for now…

TCM and FilmStruck General Manager, Jennifer Dorian, welcomes the guests for the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018, at the TCM Club inside the Hollywood Roosevelt. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

The TCM Classic Film Festival Staff and Directors were out in full force for the 2018 Welcome Reception held at the Club TCM inside the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Wednesday, April 25th, 2018. TCM and FilmStruck General Manager, Jennifer Dorian, who was also recently named Executive Vice-President for Turner Portfolio 360 Brand Strategy, welcomed the guests explaining this year’s welcome would be a more casual affair focusing on creating and building relationships through conversation. Indeed!

Club TCM audience with all eyes on TCM General Manager, Jennifer Dorian, at the TCM Classic Film Festival Welcome Reception held Wednesday, April 25, 2018, at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Cocktails and soft drinks were provided with light appetizers.

The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival officially opens tonight with a Gala and Presentation by Leonardo DiCaprio followed by a screening of the Producers (1967) at the Historic Hollywood Chinese Theatre.

Stay tuned as this event is shaping up to be a one-of-a-kind with an extraordinary 120 spectator events and activities!

TCM and FilmStruck host, Alicia Malone, poses before the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Welcome Reception at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, Calif., on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

See you at the movies!

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TCM Classic Film Festival to Open with Gala and Presentation by Leonardo Di Caprio

Posted by Larry Gleeson

This is a must see event! Check out the TCM Pressroom media release below. See you at the movies!

Film icon, Martin Scorcese addresses the TCM Classic Film Festival 2017 audience at the Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Scorsese’s film preservation work was a driving factor in the restoration of the evening’s film Black Narcissist. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/Hollywoodglee)

Acclaimed Actor and Activist Leonardo DiCaprio to Present Martin Scorsese with the Inaugural Robert Osborne Award at the TCM Classic Film Festival

Award Recognizes an Individual Who Has Significantly Contributed to Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Classic Films to Be Given Annually in Honor of TCM’s Iconic Host

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) today announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will present friend and frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese with the inaugural Robert Osborne Award as part of the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival. DiCaprio, an Academy Award-winning actor, producer, and philanthropist, has appeared in five of Scorsese’s films, beginning with 2002’s Gangs Of New York and most recently in Academy nominated 2013’s The Wolf Of Wall Street. DiCaprio will present the award to the world-renowned filmmaker for his decades-long commitment to the legacy and preservation of classic films.  The award will be presented on April 26 during opening night of the Film Festival.

In 1990, Scorsese established The Film Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and preserving motion picture history. The foundation has funded the restoration of over 800 films, which are made accessible to the public globally. In addition, The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project has restored 31 films from 21 countries representing the rich diversity of world cinema.

The Robert Osborne Award will be given out annually at the TCM Classic Film Festival to a recipient whose work has helped keep the cultural heritage of classic films alive and thriving for generations to come.

About the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival

For the ninth consecutive year, thousands of movie lovers from around the globe will descend upon Hollywood for the TCM Classic Film Festival. The 2018 festival is set to take place Thursday, April 26 – Sunday, April 29, 2018. Over four packed days and nights, attendees will be treated to an extensive lineup of great movies, appearances by legendary stars and filmmakers, fascinating presentations and panel discussions, special events and more.

TCM Primetime host Ben Mankiewicz will serve as official host of the TCM Classic Film Festival. The festival’s official hotel and central gathering point for the ninth consecutive year will be The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has a longstanding role in movie history and was the site of the first Academy Awards® ceremony. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel will also offer special rates for festival attendees. Screenings and events during the festival will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre, as well as other Hollywood venues.

Description of the 2018 festival theme Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen
Writing focuses visions, reflects our feelings and inspires great performances on both sides of the camera. Join us for the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival, celebrating the representation of the written word on the silver screen. From original screenplays to unique adaptations to portrayals of writers real and imagined, we will celebrate the foundation of great film: the written word.

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(Sourced from TCM Pressroom media release)