Kodak Theatre

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes —

LOS ANGELES, February 26 — As long as I was in Los Angeles thru Saturday for CAA anyway, it seemed like a no-brainer to stick around one more day and attend the Academy Awards on Sunday. Despite all of my mother’s alleged connections, I still couldn’t get a “real” ticket for the thing, but she did manage to scrounge up a “Seat Filler” spot for me. Turns out, when someone wins an award or has to get ready to present one or whatever, they have a “Seat Filler” take their spot so the place is never empty for the camera.

It’s pretty much a little perfume, a lot of deodorant, really a lot of lipstick, and an unbearable amount of standing… standing… standing! Oh yeah, and you even sit occasionally.

But I don’t actually want to talk about that, I want to talk about the “Kodak Theater.” As far as I noticed, the host, Billy Crystal, never once said “Kodak Theater.” He said “Chapter 11 Theater,” and “Your Name Here Theater” and other stuff, but I don’t think the word “Kodak” was ever uttered once. If my father were still alive, he probably would have cried.

During all those years my mother worked for the State Department, dragging my brother Jeff and I around to every little spot on the globe, dad would jet in and out and shoot thousands of frames of film with his fancy Canon cameras. Sometimes he was on assignment for someone, often he’d just shoot stuff and try to sell it or do something with it later. Digital photography rolled in as he was retiring, and it really rocked / shocked his world.

I just can’t believe there won’t be any more film.

Even with my own daughter turning 20 on Friday, apparently I’m still young enough to be excited, or giddy, or carried away, or obsessed, with the promise of the new. We often think about technology that way. Rebecca Solnit has written about how, in Victorian times, they seemed more fully aware of the trade-offs, of the inevitable gains and losses, of all things new. But somehow today, we’re almost blinded by our passion for the new. In the transition from film to digital, I was mostly appreciating the gains. Dad was mostly appreciating the losses.

Although entirely different from the deaths of Napster or Wikileaks, the death of film shares at least one thing with the passing of these more recent media phenomena, that it is very much a “The Queen is dead, long live the Queen,” kind of thing. Imaging may leave its childhood substrate of film, but far from the death of imaging, it is the golden age.

For dad, it was something that had been a constant of life, the world, and seemingly almost the universe itself, abruptly and all-too-soon coming to its demise. I tried to offer that Fox Talbot chemistry had been born not all that much earlier than he had been. That while it was true that the sea was changing, that it was a short window, not a long tradition, really. But when the short window happens to be your entire life, when Saturday means movie theater, when your way of understanding almost any event you experience is with your Canon lens and your Kodak film in-between your face and the event, this is a monumental change that rocks the world you understand to its, and your, core.

Today we live in a world that is more mediated, not less. We look to a future that will be more mediated still. But for dad, the demise of the little strips of plastic that held the little moments of humanity was a passing almost as sad as his own.

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