May 16, 2013

In Conversation: Leonard Maltin

"Film preservation should be of interest to everyone- from the average film fan to the most erudite scholar. We cannot allow such a significant part of our history to vanish."
-Leonard Maltin

It's been another great season at the Paramount, with performers, authors, raconteurs, singers, actors and comedians all bringing their immense talents to the audiences of Austin. It seems like just yesterday that  things kicked off with provocative film director Spike Lee, and now the season comes full circle with the affable film critic and historian Leonard Maltin. A staple of the American film critic society, Maltin will conclude the series. With the annual Paramount Summer Classic Film Series imminent, it's only appropriate the one of the most vocal advocates for film preservation be the guest for the evening.

For over 30 years, Leonard has been the film reviewer for television's "Entertainment Tonight," becoming one of the most visible film critics working today. While critics had previously been confined to print in the past, Maltin (along with Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel and Gene Shalit) was at the forefront of film critics who became household names by establishing themselves on TV. While some of his contemporaries could be acerbic or snarky in their reviews, Maltin always projected a warmth and friendliness that set him apart. In fact, he often comes across as just about the nicest film critic who ever reviewed movies.

But Maltin's efforts aren't just limited to film critique. He has been a tireless champion for film preservation and restoration. Repeatedly over the years, Leonard has considered himself blessed to have seen so many vintage films during his youth. Alas, the fragile medium of film means that great care must be taken to ensure that future generations get to experience the same stories that were told decades ago. Time and money must be invested into saving film of yesteryear, or we could lose early cinematic works just by doing nothing. Idle hands mean we lose more films as they dissolve into dust.

Leonard Maltin will bring with him a rescued film from an American master. Frank Capra is best known for directing IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, but there was an early gem of his that was all but lost for six decades. After its recent recovery and restoration, The Paramount will host a screening of this classic: LADY FOR A DAY.

It's remarkable to think that a film like this was deliberately hidden away. But you know what? It's just best to let Leonard explain it himself.

After the film, Maltin will be available for a discussion about the film and his thoughts on other endangered works or art. It's a film lover's treat and a preamble to the summer series.

For all his hard work and advocacy for film restoration, Maltin gets the eternal gratitude of millions of movie goers.  And why wouldn't we? He's a charming and affable guy, and you'd have to be some kind of monster not to like this cinematic historian...

Ok, well, maybe not a monster. But certainly a Gremlin.

Leonard Maltin is a modern torchbearer, keeping the flame of classic cinema going for generations to come. In an era of disposable entertainment, let's all try and remember that there are better ways to introduce future generations to film than with Transformers movies. Come and behold a recovered Capra jewel, and be grateful that we haven't lost this treasure like dust in the wind. That would be the reel tragedy.

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