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Film historian Robert Osborne is one of my favorite people in the movie industry. He has been the host of the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) television network since its debut in 1994, and his introductions are so interesting, you could end up watching movies that you would never have considered otherwise, simply because he brings context to what you are about to see. If I ran a movie theater, I would want a guy like this to introduce every movie to the audience.
In addition to his many other duties, he also hosts the annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. Indiewire caught up with Osborne and interviewed him about this year's festival and the experience of seeing movies in a communal environment (as opposed to watching it alone at home):
How do you define a classic film?
I just think that "classic" has to do with how welcome a film is and whether it's worth seeing more than once. With some films, once you see them, they can be pretty much dismissed. But a classic film is something that's really seen for a reason, it's got some legs to it and deserves attention, deserves to be preserved and seen by future generations. That doesn't mean it has to be a great film, but it's got to have some kind of quality for something in it that makes it have a lifespan. That's how I describe it.
Do you see the festival as a way of advocating for the big-screen experience -- and, by extension, the survival of movie theaters in the digital age?
I don't think it's coming into the conversation yet, certainly, but it might in the future. Part of the moviegoing experience is not just seeing it on the big screen, but seeing it on a giant-sized screen with hundreds or thousands of people. It's totally different if you're watching a comedy and have 1,500 people laughing, or if it's a horror film and everybody's in a state of terror. That's a communal experience and what going to the movies used to be all about. The joy of watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing -- sharing that pleasure with all these other people sitting around you and behaving properly in a movie theater, which they don't always do today. They do at our festival. No matter how big the screen is in your basement or your living room, you don't get that communal experience. It's missing from a lot of people's lives now, particularly now that we're sitting a lot in front of a computer screens by ourselves. In our festival, you're sharing it with a lot of people, in admiration of people three stories high, and you're this little person sitting there, in the dark, focused on that. Nobody's going to be opening a refrigerator or texting on the couch.
Click the Read link below to view the full interview.
Looking over the lineup of movies and events on the festival's slate this year makes me wish I were in California right now. Seeing classics like The Searchers, To Catch a Thief, Singin' in the Rain, and others would be great when combined with the discussions, events, and personal appearances from directors, cast members, and other industry types.
For example, there is a showing of Vertigo at Grauman's Chinese Theatre with a discussion with lead actress Kim Novak in attendance. Then, tomorrow, there will be a handprint ceremony where Novak will be immortalized in the theater's famous forecourt. That's an experience you just can't get while watching the movie on your iPad!
I think the hardest thing about attending this festival would be choosing which movies to see and which events to attend. With five or more venues having something going on at once, you're forced to pick and choose, and you run the risk of missing something great because you picked something else (even though what you picked was probably still a good choice).
The TCM Classic Film Festival started yesterday, and goes through Sunday. 80 movies are on the schedule, covering themes, such as "Deco Design" and "Essentials." You can see the entire line-up on their Films page.
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