Cinecon 54 (Cinecon Classic Film Festival in Hollywood) - New York City Article
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Cinecon 54 (Cinecon Classic Film Festival in Hollywood)
Loews Hollywood Hotel, 1755 North Highland Avenue
Grauman's Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard
Thursday, August 30 through Monday, September 3
An institution for 54 years now, Cinecon is a five-day festival of vintage films, most of them wonderful and all of them rare, that takes place over the Labor Day Weekend in the heart of downtown Hollywood. When it first started, way before home video, Turner Classic Movies, or Netflix, this was one of the few ways that “old movies” of any kind (or virtually anything beyond new, first-run films) could be seen at all, other than waiting for them to turn up on The Late, Late Show. Yet even though one now has many more options for finding classic films, the CineCon not only thrives, but has inspired dozens of similar vintage film fest events around the country and the world.
At the heart of the weekend is the movies themselves, projected as God intended in proper 35 millimeter in a real theater. This, in itself, is significant; while I would never give up my home theater, no matter how big your screen and how resonant your sound system, there’s nothing to compare with watching a classic film in an actual theater. This is not only for the size of the image, but because film is, no less than live theater, at heart a communal experience. Netflix is good for binge-ing Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and Youtube is good for watching cats attack babies, and I certainly can’t get enough of either, but neither of these can compare with an actual theatrical experience.
Like any thrilling experience, this one too includes an element of danger. The rarest of rare experiences for hardcore buffs is the “Saturday Nitrate Fever” event; even as seasoned a classic film buff as I am, I have barely ever seen an actual nitrate print being screened. For those who don’t know, this refers to the film stock that most movies were printed on up to the 1950s; it was more brilliant and luminescent than anything that’s come since (even Blu-ray or 4K or the absolute best digital format) but also highly flammable - and for that reason, vintage nitrate prints have almost never been projected in the last 60 years.
Apart from the actual films, the next big draw is the guests: there are, to quote a classic Nat King Cole song, only “a handful of stars” remain from the Golden Age of Hollywood. This year the big guest is one of everybody’s favorites, Eva Marie Saint, who will speak before That Certain Feeling, the 1956 comedy in which she co-starred with Bob Hope (and Pearl Bailey). The other major guest is Cora Sue Collins, a former child actress who appeared in about three dozen major motion pictures in the Depression and War years, and appeared with almost every major figure of the era.
Then too, there are special programs galore - the two that I’m most looking forward to are presented by a pair scholars who are, without question, the world’s foremost authorities in their respective fields: Mark Cantor, who knows more about classic jazz on film than anyone (including yours truly) hosts a program titled “I've Got Those 'Just Gotta See It But It Ain't On Youtube’ Blues” on Friday, and Jerry Beck, who is the world’s go-to guy for animation history, has put together a collection of rare vintage cartoons on Saturday.
For many attendees, the highlight will be the big room that doubles as exhibition space and dealer’s room, with posters and other memorabilia aplenty, both to see and to buy. But overall, it’s the communal aspect of the CineCon that’s the most compelling; the chance “to confer, converse, and otherwise hobnob” with other vintage film buffs from all over the country and the world. And if you know what that line is from, you should definitely be there.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)