‘Movies are a necessity to our lives’ – TCM Film Festival round-up

“What are you most excited about,” several people asked when I arrived in Hollywood at the Turner Classic Film Festival last Wednesday.

I fumbled for words like Ralphie trying to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas as I thought of the best answer.

My mind turned to seeing 93-year-old actress Maureen O’Hara introduce the film “How Green is My Valley” or to watching rare films like Alan Ladd in “The Great Gatsby” on the big screen.

Robert Osborne interview Maureen O'Hara before "How Green is My Valley." (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Robert Osborne interview Maureen O’Hara before “How Green is My Valley.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Suddenly it hit me: I was happy to be around people who appreciated classic films as much as I do- if not more. People with whom you can discuss classic film topics such as character actor Donald Meek or Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones divorce.

This year’s festival was the second time I attended. I had the privilege to receive media credentials, covering the festival for my website Comet Over Hollywood and the Shelby Star newspaper.

The festival started with a question and answer portion with Turner Classic Movie’s primetime host Robert Osborne, host Ben Mankiewicz, and TCM programers Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy.

“Movies are a necessity to our lives,” Osborne said.

My second go at the festival was different than my first time. My first time at TCMFF, I devoured as many movies as possible. For example, last year, I watched 18 films, and this year I only saw roughly 12.

I think this year I had a richer adventure. I watched films but experienced unique events not found anywhere near me.

Where else can you see an actor like Jerry Lewis immortalized during a hand print ceremony outside of TCL (Graumann’s) Chinese Theater or wait in line for two hours to see a rare appearance made by Maureen O’Hara.

But my favorite event was “Ask Robert,” which started under the pretense of a question and answer portion for Robert Osborne.

After four questions from the audience, Osborne’s lavalier microphone supposedly stopped working. Jeopardy’s host Alex Trebek appeared to remedy the issue.

The event turned more into “This is Your Life” celebration for Osborne to celebrate 20 years of Turner Classic Movies. Celebrities such as Eva Marie Saint, Diane Baker, Alec Baldwin, Bill Cosby (on video), Cher (on video) Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, and pianist Michael Feinstein shared stories about Osborne.

The crowd and guests toasted to Robert Osborne and 20 years of TCM. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

The crowd and guests toasted to Robert Osborne and 20 years of TCM. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

What you see is what you get,” said Osborne’s cousin. “When he talks to you, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the world that he wants to talk to.”

I also had the privilege to hear musician Quincy Jones and actor Alan Arkin reflect on their careers, as well as former child actress Margaret O’Brien pay tribute to the late Mickey Rooney.

“He always had his ‘Mickey’ face,” O’Brien said.

Maureen O’Hara received a standing ovation and she weakly waved her hand to tell everyone to sit down.

“Don’t be fooled into thinking I do magic things,” said the 93-year-old Irish actress.

The Turner Classic Film Festival is four days filled with film watching and walking down the strangest place in America- Hollywood Boulevard. You may don’t eat much, you may sleep four hours a night and it’s wonderful.

Posing with Robert Osborne's star on the Walk of Fame in front of the Montalban Theater. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Posing with Robert Osborne’s star on the Walk of Fame in front of the Montalban Theater. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Watch Comet Over Hollywood during the next few days for more detailed posts on different festival events including Jerry Lewis’s hand print ceremony, Maureen O’Hara’s appearance and Margaret O’Brien’s tribute to Mickey Rooney.

Which movies did I watch?
*American Graffiti (1973)
*East of Eden (1955)
*Paper Moon (1973)
*The Italian Job (1968)
*Eraserhead (1977)
*How Green Was My Valley (1941)
*Her Sister’s Secret (1946)
*National Velvet (1944)
*Gone with the Wind (1939)
*The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
*The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Which special guests did I see? 
*Candy Clark- American Graffiti
*Paul Le Mat- American Graffiti
*Bo Hopkins- American Graffiti (who is also from Greenville, SC)
*Eva Marie Saint- Ask Robert
*Alex Trebek- Ask Robert
*Diane Baker- Ask Robert
*Alec Baldwin- Ask Robert
*Jill St. John- Ask Robert
*Robert Wagner- Ask Robert
*Michael Feinstein- Ask Robert
*Quincy Jones- Italian Job
*Maureen O’Hara- How Green is my Valley
*Here Sister’s Secret- Arianne Ulmer Cipes, daughter of Edgar Ulmer
*The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Alan Arkin
*Jerry Lewis during his hand print ceremony
*Quentin Tarantino during his hand print ceremony

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at@HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com


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TCM Film Festival Day 1: Press Day

Robert Osborne had no idea he would touch so many lives through movies.

“People have said TCM has helped them get through divorce, unemployment or illness,” TCM’s primetime host said Friday. “I never thought I would be a nurse.”

Osborne, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and TCM programers Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy opened the floor to questions during the film festival’s press day.

Robert Osborne at press day during #TCMFF

Robert Osborne at press day during #TCMFF

“Movies are a necessity to our lives,” Osborne said.

Osborne told about how he got his start in Hollywood with Lucille Ball and lived with character actress Jane Darwell when he first moved to California.

“When I asked Lucy who her favorite leading man was, she said she didn’t care about those. She was more interested in the character actors,” Osborne said. “

Osborne was originally interested in acting, but it was Ball who encouraged him to write a book with all of his film knowledge. Nostalgia wasn’t big at the time, and she felt he should utilize it.

He also said Ball wasn’t funny in real life like we see on the “I Love Lucy Show” or in her films.

“Lucy was a great lady. But she wasn’t funny,” he said. “She didn’t think funny or do funny things.”

When he met Ball, she was going through her divorce with Desi Arnaz.

“She loved him, but it just wasn’t working,” he said. “Desi was really the genius behind I Love Lucy but never got the recognition. I guess that’s why he would step out with other women.”

When Osborne was starting out as an actor, he got to be friends with Diane Baker and Robert Wagner who were also starting out at the time.

Young contract players were encouraged to watch big stars film their movies. He was able to watch Orson Welles in “Compulsion,” Gary Cooper in “Ten North Frederick” and Marlon Brando in “The Young Lions.”

‘Festival means something to people’

“This festival means something to people in their hearts and souls,” Mankewicz said. “TCM got them through, and I take that incredibly seriously.”

No other channel has a loyalty like TCM, Mankewicz said.

“I don’t feel like fans are as connected to HBO or ESPN,” he said. “Our fans care about TCM and feel like they are a part of the network.”

The festival is a way for channel and fans to connect and give back, Mankewicz said.

“I don’t even think we make much money on the festival,” he said. “It does raise the profile for TCM but it’s more to connect with our fans.”

TCM’s audience is much younger than most people think. Sixty-six percent of TCM’s viewers are 18 to 49, said Mankewicz.

“I thought this would be more of a nostalgia thing, but it’s very young people,” Osborne said. “You may see some older married couples in their 60′s, but it’s mainly younger people.”

As viewers get older though, the TCM won’t start showing newer movies.

“We aren’t going to start showing movies from 2004,” Mankewicz said. “We are never going to stop showing the movies that we watching right now.”

Ben Mankewicz at Press Day

Ben Mankewicz at Press Day

Questions from the media:

Q for Robert: Who have you wanted to come to the festival?

A: We really wanted Olivia de Havilland to be here. She is 97 and sharp as anything but the trip from Paris is too much for her. She visited her niece in Malibu and it took her a year to recover. She really wanted to be here this year. We have a Private Screenings set up with her in November in Paris and we were there, but she got pneumonia and we had to cancel. We rescheduled and were going to do it in New York but she had another flair up with pneumonia.

Q for Robert: What are your favorite movies?

A: “A Place in the Sun,” “Razor’s Edge,” “Sunset Blvd.” and “This is Spinal Tap.”

Q for Robert: Where do you get your style?

A: “Its confession time: I have no style, it’s all picked out for me.

Q for Robert: Will there ever be a character actor as the Star of the Month? 

A: We have been trying to do that more character actors, but they really need to have one or two films where they are one of the main characters.

Q to programers: What star would you like to see at the festival?

A: Doris Day is at the top of our list.

**More to come from Friday’s adventures! Don’t forget to follow me at @HollywoodComet, @StarJPickens or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood



The Comet goes to the TCM Film Festival


Today, the Comet really will be over Hollywood.

Today I’m flying out from North Carolina to Los Angeles, CA for the fifth annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

After attending the festival for my first time last year, I knew I wasn’t going to miss it when it rolled around the next spring.

The main difference this year is I am going to the film festival with press credentials.

I’ll be flexing my reporting muscles I use on a daily basis as a reporter at the Shelby Star in Shelby, NC and covering the different events and films I attend.

It will be a perfect mix of the two things I love: reporting and classic films. Folks at work even call me Torchy Blane.

Classic films have been a large part of my life so it’s a pleasure to share film experiences with others equally as passionate.

How can you follow me? 
Twitter: @HollywoodComet or @StarJPickens
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood
Instagram: @HollywoodComet
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfaDOeIsKQhOJcPXUaHg98g
Or here! CometOverHollywood.com

Are you heading to the festival? Comment below and let us know what you are most excited about at this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

Comet Over Hollywood owner Jessica Pickens with TCM host Robert Osborne at TCMFF 2013.

Comet Over Hollywood owner Jessica Pickens with TCM host Robert Osborne at TCMFF 2013.

Take a look at last year’s festival: http://cometoverhollywood.com/category/turner-classic-movie-film-festival-2/

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates or follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

Birthday Blogathon: Film #3 To Kill a Mockingbird 1962

This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday.

Early Thursday evening was characterized with screeching tires and a growling Toyota Tacoma truck transmission.

I was running late for the TCM screening of “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) in Charlotte, N.C., showing in movie theaters all over the United States for one day. I had already planned on trying to see the movie, and then was fortunate enough to win tickets from True Classics blog in a contest.

Now I’m not sure I would categorize it as a favorite classic film like other movies I have written about in the past, but I do really enjoy it.

It had been a long time since I had seen the film, probably since the first time I watched it in Miss Presley’s freshman English class at Eastside High School. Watching a classic film in a high school classroom ruins the experience; kids talking and laughing at the movie, the teacher pausing to discuss literary elements.

There I was on the front row, up close and personal with Gregory Peck. Seeing the film on a movie screen for probably the first time since I was 14 was unreal.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch defending Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

Starring: Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Paul Fix as Judge Taylor, Robert Duval as Boo Radley, James Anderson as Bob Ewell, Mary Badham as Scout, Phillip Alford as Jem

Brief Plot: Set in the 1930s and based off of the 1960s book, the film follows children growing up in Alabama and their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, as he defends a black man who has been accused of rape.

Key moments in the film: 

Scout (dressed as a ham) and Jem walking home from an agricultural pageant.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” in my opinion, is a flawless film with several scenes that stick with you:

-Atticus Finch shooting the rabid dog.

-Scout’s friend Walter putting syrup on his dinner.

-Rev. Sykes telling Scout, Jem and Dill to stand up after Tom Robinson was found guilty, because their “Father is Passing.”

-Scout running walking through the woods in a ham costume.

-The way Boo Radley presses against the wall when they see him behind the door, and Scout looks at him closely and says, “Hey Boo.”


Children: The children who play Dill, Jem and Scout have great comedic timing and also act with a lot of heart. I think my favorite thing about the children is that they act like regular kids: Running out the door as fast as they can to school, spitting on hinges so they won’t squeak, believing in rumors

Atticus Finch shooting a rabid dog

Gregory Peck: Of course, the performance that stands out the most is Gregory Peck’s as Atticus Finch. The 1963 Academy Awards are one of those years that you wish every Actor in a Leading Role could have won.  There have been times when I think, “Why didn’t Jack Lemmon when the Oscar for ‘Days of Wine and Roses’?” or “Why didn’t Peter O’Toole win for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’?” And then I see that Gregory Peck won for his role in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and see why they didn’t. Peck plays the role with so much heart and integrity. From defending a man who was innocent to saying goodnight to his children, he is believable as a father and citizen.

Obviously, several people remember Peck’s speech in the court room. But for me, it’s the little moments that really make the part, such as when he’s talking to Scout about his pocket watch and how she would get her mother’s pearl necklace, struggling with his glasses as he tries to shoot the dog or when he reacts to Bob Ewell spitting in his face.

Atticus telling Scout how she will receive her mother’s pearl necklace and a ring.

Supporting Characters: The supporting character’s make the film as well. James Anderson plays a loathsome Bob Ewell, Paul Fix is the epitome of a Southern judge who also seems sympathetic for Tom Robinson and Estelle Evans as Calpurnia shows compassion for the children that she’s cared for since their mother died. But most of all, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson. He isn’t in the movie very much but the scene of him testifying in court about how he supposedly raped Mayella Ewell is perfect.

To Review: The film of “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be considered thin compared to the book, it leaves out a lot of coming of age experiences that Scout and Jim encounter. However, compared to many film adaptations of novels, I think the film highlights important issues while still addressing the racial issues and children growing up in the 1930s South. Seeing it on the big screen was by far my best classic film screening of the three I have attended (the others being “West Side Story” and “Strangers on a Train”). No one was talking around me-no quoting allowed of quotes or singing aloud. It’s a wonderful feeling to sit in a theater packed with other classic film fans. One last thing, I have to admit that I teared up when Scout said, “Hey there, Boo.”

The end

This concludes Day 3 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Have to admit, I got a little behind. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page .

Random from Comet: Now Playing Guides and moving

Comet Over Hollywood has been moving and Cary Grant helped!

I wanted to apologize for the lack of posts lately.

A year ago, Comet moved to Elkin, N.C. to work at my first reporting job at the Elkin Tribune, which I discussed in a the post Jessica Pickens: Girl Reporter.

A year later, I’ve moved on to a new job. Coming full circle, I’m now working in Shelby, N.C. at the newspaper I interned during the summer of 2010 when Comet Over Hollywood was born.

Do to the moving and lack of internet, I haven’t been able to continue the Classics in the Carolinas series.

In other exciting news, Turner Classic movies spotlighted Comet on their Twitter and Facebook page! In a moment of procrastination during packing, I took this photo:

Roughly 106 Turner Classic Now Playing Guides on my apartment floor.

I first started subscribing to the Turner Classic Movie Now Playing Guide in October 2003 and am currently still a subscriber. Since then I have kept every Now Playing Guide because of the great articles and covers, that usually feature the Star of the Month.

I posted the photo on Twitter and was retweeted by TCM and then put on their Facebook page and labeled as a “Super Fan” – A welcome treat to a bittersweet move.

Do you subscribe to the TCM Now Playing Guide? Have you kept them? What is your favorite cover?

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page  or follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

Classic Movies in Music Videos: Give Me All Your Luvin’ by Madonna

This is August’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s classic film references in music videos.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death on August 5, 1962.  Turner Classic Movies is dedicating today to Marilyn Monroe with a whole day of her film’s during their 10th annual Summer Under the Stars Salute.

As we all know, everyone and their mother has imitated Marilyn Monroe in some shape or form. Comet has even already spotlighted two music videos where Lana Del Rey and Madonna both paid tribute to the 1950s sex symbol.

Well 27 years after Madonna dressed up like Marilyn in “Material Girl,” the singer paid tribute to her again in her 2012 single “Give Me All Your Luvin’.”

But Madonna isn’t the only one in the video who donned short blond curls and a sexy white dress. Her two famous back-up singers in the song, MIA and Nicki Minaj also dress up like Monroe.

The Marilyn moment happens at 2:08 to 2:54 minutes into the video:

Check out other posts on Marilyn Monroe during the TCM Summer Under the Stars blogathon at http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ and http://sittinonabackyardfence.com/ for the month long classic film celebration!

Check back in September for another classic film reference in music videos!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates.

The day we’ve all been waiting for: Robert Osborne’s return

This is for the  Welcome Back, Bob! Blogathon celebrating Robert’s return to Turner Classic Movies on Dec. 1. Hosted by Carley (@MissCarley) from The Kitty Packard Pictorial and Will McKinley (@willmckinley).

Robert Osborne returns to TCM Dec.1

Silence always sweeps over my household whenever the prime time introduction begins on Turner Classic Movies. My family likes Robert Osborne, but they also know they might get in trouble if they talk during his words of wisdom.

Even non-classic movie fan friends know about my love for Robert. My senior year of college, I walked into Winthrop’s student newspaper office on my birthday. The desktop background of my computer had been changed to a photo of Robert Osborne saying Happy Birthday to me.

Robert Osborne birthday desk top background, thanks to my friend Devang Joshi

One of my favorite Robert Osborne moments was when he was interviewed by one of TCM’s programmers during Oscar month 2009. He told about how he went to journalism school, went to Hollywood, became friends with Lucille Ball and how that catapulted his career of film history. Ball told him to combine his journalism skills and film knowledge and write a book.  This was inspiring to me as a sophomore journalism student who also loves film.  A distant and most likely unattainable dream is to follow in his footsteps and do the same thing.

Though I haven’t had the good fortune to meet Mr. Osborne like so many other fans, his introductions are so personal, informative and sweet that you feel like you are his best friend. It’s like he’s sharing his knowledge with you and only you.  On New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2009, he even wore a tuxedo and toasted a glass of champagne to the camera.

It was pretty Earth-shattering for me, as well as for all other Turner Classic Movie fans, when he announced his extended vacation. I was very upset, but honestly not very surprised. He looked tired and not quite himself. Mr. Osborne certainly deserved a rest-particularly after reading today that he hadn’t had a vacation in 17 years!

This is the closest I've ever gotten to Mr. Osborne

Jane Powell is one of my favorite actresses and I enjoyed hearing from Leonard Maltin, but none of the guest hosts came close to the personal panache Robert offers. Fortunately, I have so many movies recorded off of TCM-some dating to 2009-that I was still able to get my Robert Osborne fix during his absence.

One of my life goals is to meet Mr. Osborne but for now I’m happy enough with his return. Unfortunately, on a reporter’s salary and living on my own for the first time, I can’t afford cable and won’t be able to watch his first prime time introductions after five months on Thursday, Dec. 1, but my mother promised to record it for me.

Welcome back, Robert Osborne and thank you for all you have taught us film fans.

With much love and admiration,

Jessica Noelle Pickens

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page .