During the Q & A session after her controversial “State of Cinema” keynote address at the 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival, independent movie producer Christine Vachon responded to an audience question by saying, “Nostalgia is the most dangerous emotion in the world.” Almost immediately, Vachon narrowed her focus, warning the crowd against the dangers of outdated modes of filmmaking, distribution, and exhibition while praising the rise of quality television and the positive impact of VOD, YouTube, and Hulu. Amidst all of her self-important proselytizing, Vachon failed to mention the evolving and pertinent relationship between film history and its future or more specifically how nostalgia undeniably affects the way young filmmakers think about storytelling. Instead of contextualizing film history’s technological advancements, narrative techniques, and business practices as part of the same inseparable chain, Vachon divided past, present, and future into tidy subsections.
The goals of the TCM Classic Film Festival, which just wrapped its second successful year at the wondrous Grauman’s Chinese Theater complex in Hollywood, form a rebuttal to Vachon. Over the course of four days and over 70 classic films, some fully restored to amazing new glory, TCM celebrated every facet of Hollywood’s past, most notably the experience of seeing films theatrically as part of an equally invested community of viewers. Even more impressively, the festival successfully merged a passion for Hollywood’s old-school luminance with an eye toward the future, tipping its hat to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, new media platforms like VOD, and state-of-the-art restoration processes and projection quality. Instead of a generational tension between cinema nostalgia and new media, I found a necessary overlap between the two that is as important now as ever. Read the rest of Glenn Heath Jr.’s coverage of the TCM Classic Movie Festival in Los Angeles.