For the past four festivals I have been accompanied by my youngest daughter Amanda, who is as movie crazed as I am and will gladly sit down for a pre-code classic or a late eighties recent classic. Like her old man, her favorite decade of film is the glorious 1970s, but we have a healthy love for all the prior decades as well. We started off the opening day by checking in and getting the gift bag that came with the pass we had purchased, and then we strolled down the street to have dinner at the venerable Musso and Frank, which is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year. Thursday night is Chicken Pot Pie night, which is what I had last year, so Amanda ordered that. I chose the scallops and was rewarded with a light but very rich meal. Since I skipped the Lyonnaise Potatoes, I did not feel too bad devouring the hard crusted sourdough bread and butter that was set on the table when we ordered.
We turned down desert and walked back to the Chinese Theater to walk the Red Carpet Event. We saw a couple of celebrities, including the Chair of TCM itself, and David Paymer was out front talking with some of the crowd.
We went into our seats in the theater, loaded down with the popcorn and soda that comes with the celebration of opening night. I did a quick little Facetime video while we awaited the start of the proceedings.
The Opening night film this year was "When Harry Met Sally", which is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year. I was a little sad at times during the evening because my memories of the film are now bittersweet. My wife and I went to see the film when it opened, on our ninth wedding anniversary. "When Harry Met Sally" was also the first Laserdisc I purchased a year later when we treated ourselves to a new Laserdisc player as an anniversary gift for our 10th. I remember how pleased and surprised my wife was at the selection, and we enjoyed the film many more times over the years. This coming August will be the first year I will be alone for our wedding Anniversary, and the cloud of loneliness hovers over the heartwarming memories.
Before the film presentation, there was a brief video salute to the founder of TCM and it's namesake, Ted Turner. Mr. Turner was there in person, seated about five rows behind where we were. In a nod to social politeness, nothing was mentioned about film colorization and his early advocacy of that. Instead, the focus was on his love of old movies and the desire to create a place for all of us who love them as well. Best to dwell on the positive at an event like this.
The main guests for the film were the two stars and the director. Rob Reiner was brought out first by host Ben Mankiewicz, and then Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan appeared, and they were rolled out on a couch like the one the married couples were interviewed on in the film. That of course was the close of the movie, so it was as if Billy and Meg had been sitting on the couch for 30 years since and are in the same spot for this evening. It was a very cute idea that when over well with the crowd.
What followed was a delightfully entertaining conversation about the origins of the movie, the work of screenwriter Nora Ephron and the contributions made by all of the cast members during the shoot. It seems that the iconic gag line "I'll have what she's having" was suggested by Billy Crystal, and that Meg Ryan was the one who actually volunteered to act it all out in front of the full crowd at the deli. Everyone seemed in good spirits and talked graciously about the late Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby. Nora Ephron was the focus of a tribute that would happen later in the festival, and another of her films was also being shown during the weekend.
A truly cool moment emerged when Rob Reiner, while talking about the music of the film, mentioned the work of composer Marc Shaiman, who was there in the audience and then came forward and briefly joined in the conversation. He was an enthusiastic spark plug in the middle of the discussion and made the moment feel even more special by his contribution.
When the movie actually runs, you are reminded how it really reinvigorated the idea of romantic comedies. The approach was fresh and instead of a series of contrived events, you got moments of personal revelation and witty dialogue to boot. All of the stars were excellent in their roles and the promise of the young Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby is weighed down a bit by their absence in the opening discussion. The scenes where all four characters are talking simultaneously on the phone will remind you of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, and the clever echoed dialogue shows how we all want the same sort of thing, to be loved.