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: Six Reel-ly Important Years  ( 6269 )
Noodles_SlowStir
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« : February 29, 2008, 05:46:10 PM »

......by a panel of writers contributing to the The Guardian, UK.

 I came across this article today and thought it was an interesting read.  This group of writers picks what they feel are six years that impacted world cinema and discuss the reasons for their choices.  In the course of the discussion they talk about sound, noir, neorealism,  the french new wave, independent film and the rise of the hollywood blockbuster.  Along the way they talk about or mention Out Of The Past, Truffaut and The 400 Blows, Bonnie And Clyde....and Sergio and the dollars trilogy.  They don’t pick years that were uncommonly good in the number of good films that they produced..... maybe like 1939 in American film.  They’re looking at innovations and changes that affected the art and business of cinema.  I was kind of surprised by the inclusion of 1994.  That particular one may be a little overstated.  It also has a little slant toward the changes in British cinema. 

I thought maybe it would be interesting for others.  Maybe some agree or disagree with their thoughts....maybe there was another year that some feel is more worthy for various reasons....Here’s the article:



The Difference A Year Makes

If you're being reductive - and we are - you can boil cinema history down to the story of six years that altered the course of the movies. Here's how film journeyed from the Vitaphone sound system to torture porn.

Friday February 29, 2008
The Guardian

1927
The image of a blacked-up Al Jolson singing My Mammy in 1927's The Jazz Singer has come to define cinema's move from silence to sound, as if the talkies happened overnight. In fact, the first commercial showing of motion pictures with sound-on-film had taken place in New York in 1923, when a set of soundtracked shorts were placed on a bill with a silent feature. And the Vitaphone sound system employed by Warner Brothers on The Jazz Singer had been publicly introduced a year before, on the three-hour feature Don Juan, the first to employ a synchronised soundtrack throughout.

So why do we remember 1927? Because The Jazz Singer was the first commercial smash with sound. After opening on October 6, The Jazz Singer took $2.6m at the box office, nearly $1m more than Warner's previous highest-grossing film. Nevertheless, with the major studios still trying to work out which sound format they would back, there was no immediate rush to talkies - it took until June 1928 for anyone other than Warners to release a movie with dialogue - though by 1929 all the eight majors had seen the light (or heard the sound), and Fox president William Fox's proclamation to the New York Times that "in five years, no producer would think about making silent pictures" was proved correct.

The silents did not die without one last glorious hurrah, however. For 1927 also saw the release of arguably the most influential of all silent movies: Metropolis, Fritz Lang's expressionist masterpiece. Metropolis created a visual language for science fiction through its towering edifices and dystopian worldview - seen most clearly in Blade Runner - and provided direct inspiration for the comic book artists who invented superheroes (not for nothing does Superman live in Metropolis). Technically, too, Lang was pioneering, using the Schüfftan process of angled mirrors to make his miniature sets appear as huge cityscapes among which his actors walked. The technique has remained in use, and Peter Jackson employed it on The Return of the King.

But it wasn't all technical breakthroughs in 1927. The year also saw Hollywood establish the principal means by which it has maintained its own mythology, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded on January 11 1927. Henceforth, the world would listen when Hollywood patted itself on the back.
Michael Hann

1947

It was the best of times and the worst of times. In 1947, carrying on the surge in attendance that marked the war years, the American box office reached sales of 100m tickets a week. It has never again come near that number. And it was in 1947 that the Supreme Court judgment (long feared, long resisted) was being formulated that would compel the major studios to sell off the theatres they had owned. The golden age of the movies, it was decided, was founded on an un-American monopoly. In the same space of time, the craven studio system agreed to participate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. In just two years, the euphoria of victory and peace had given way to the paranoia of the cold war and the decision of Huac to make Hollywood a focus of its activities rooted the age of anxiety in Beverly Hills.

You could feel it in the best American films, not just Crossfire (a study of anti-Semitism), but in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, in which the Jimmy Stewart character, close to despair and suicide, has a vision of what his town might be like without him. That film ended cheerfully, but no one could forget its dark dream. In France, some critics saw the new brand of film from America - suspicious, shadowy, fatalistic - and they called the trend "film noir". In fact 1947 is a vintage year for the new genre, with Crossfire, Desperate, Out of the Past, Dark Passage, Gilda, Scarlet Street, Body and Soul, Kiss of Death.

Nor was film noir just an American sport: in Britain, it flourished with Odd Man Out and It Always Rains on Sunday; in France it was marked by Quai des Orfèvres, by Le Diable au Corps, and by Les Maudits. In Italy, neo-realism was underway and Vittorio De Sica was shooting Bicycle Thieves, the story of an impoverished man who needs a bike for his meagre job - sticking up movie posters in the city, posters of Rita Hayworth in Gilda.

Within a few years, it could be said that mainstream cinema was over. Could art movies fill the gap? One answer eventually came via two people born in 1947 - Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Spielberg.
David Thomson

1959

Few people realised it at the time, but 1959 was the year cinema got truly modern. Classical Hollywood was at its peak - the big hits included Ben-Hur, Some Like It Hot, North By Northwest, Imitation of Life and Anatomy of a Murder - but on both sides of the Atlantic, cinema was loosening its necktie. At that year's Cannes film festival came the first ripple of the French New Wave: François Truffaut's The 400 Blows.

Not for nothing was Truffaut labelled "the gravedigger of French cinema". He and his fellow critics had been laying into the conventional studio system for some time. They objected to its retrograde period dramas and literary and theatrical pretensions, but they also separated Hollywood's wheat from its chaff, labelling Orson Welles, Nicholas Ray, Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock as auteurs - film-makers with a distinct voice that transcended their material. Truffaut was the first of the critics to become an auteur himself, but his colleagues - Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer - were close behind.

The 400 Blows was not particularly revolutionary in content - a sympathetic but unsentimental portrait of a rebellious youth - but in form it was a breath of fresh air, literally. It took to the streets, the fairground, classrooms, the beach, the cinema, tracking its protagonist from rooftops, running alongside him, picking him out in street crowds. The New Wave suddenly made Hollywood movies look ludicrously stiff.

Across the Atlantic, one young American was already planting the seeds of indie cinema. A stage actor with no directing experience to speak of, let alone a script to work from, John Cassavetes borrowed equipment and money and let loose his beatnik acting troupe on the streets of New York and got on with it. The result was Shadows, a hip, jazz-backed semi-improvised story of interracial relationships. Few Americans knew what to make of Shadows, but the French New Wave hailed Cassavetes as a transatlantic cousin. Cassavetes and the French New Wave didn't destroy the studio system, but they certainly gave it something to worry about. They were the outsiders, but they proved that the outside was the most interesting place to be, and that young audiences wanted to see a world they could relate to on their screens.
Steve Rose


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« #1 : February 29, 2008, 05:48:10 PM »

....cont'd


1967

Through the early and mid-1960s, the American movie industry watched helplessly as time, audiences, and the rest of the world's film-makers passed them by. Constrained by a superannuated Production Code that had watered down the content of studio movies for more than 30 years, the studios continued to lean heavily on westerns, war movies, musicals and epics, all to diminishing returns.

In 1967, that all began to change. Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (financed by MGM), a cryptic, unblinking portrait of the sexual exploits of a London photographer, was released without a Production Code seal and shrugged off by Hollywood as an impenetrable art film that would find little life outside New York. Instead, it became a hit in cities across the country and helped drive the last nail into the code's coffin. Westerns would never be the same after Sergio Leone's "Man With No Name" trilogy, and the stalwart heroics of two decades of second world war movies were replaced by the amoral brutality of Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen.

By the summer of 1967, the code was dead, Newark and Detroit were burning in race riots, and America's escalating involvement in Vietnam was becoming a nightly horror show on newscasts. And a couple of movies suddenly seemed to emerge out of a collective consciousness that wanted more out of Hollywood. Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde drew not only from the French New Wave but from the earlier studio films that had inspired those film-makers. The movie's deliberately disorienting lurch from comedy into bloody violence thrilled some critics and outraged others; the debate raged for months as the movie, all but left for dead by Warner Brothers, gradually grew into an immense hit. And Norman Jewison's race-relations-tinged murder mystery In the Heat of the Night, made on the cheap so that it could make a profit without having to play in the American south, became a major success and was one of three 1967 films that turned Sidney Poitier, if only briefly, into the biggest box-office star in the country, the first time a black man had ever held that position.

By the end of the year, Mike Nichols' The Graduate had opened; it was the first comedy to speak directly to the under-25-year-olds who then made up half of the US moviegoing audience, and the first to echo their rejection of their parents' values. The film's immense popularity (and that of Bonnie and Clyde) began a decade of American cinematic resurgence.
Mark Harris

Mark Harris is the author of Scenes From a Revolution: The Birth of the New Hollywood, published by Canongate in March

1975

For the US, 1975 looked like a year of dullness and smugness, defeat and retreat. In Hollywood, things were equally uncertain. The period had seen popular masterpieces such as The Godfather, The Exorcist and Chinatown. But the box office was ruled by that most flatulent genre: the disaster movie. Into these bland yet choppy waters entered a great white shark, and changed everything. Steven Spielberg's Jaws was a sensational suspense classic which smashed box office records and became the film everyone was talking about. It bit savagely at the bloated disaster trope; like the predator itself, it was lean and mean and compellingly cruel. It was about survival, a key theme for the anxious 70s.

During the agonised filming process, Spielberg feared he was making a dumb exploitation picture. Peter Biskind, in his Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, persuasively claims that Spielberg was actually creating classic entertaiment for middle America, but with a hipster "New Hollywood" edge.

Jaws was more than a film, it was a phenomenon. It was Hollywood's first cinema release as talking point, news item and commercially managed festival event. Studio executives were stunned with the profits they made by opening Jaws so widely, and with such massive TV advertising. The days of letting classy little films build gradually, though word-of-mouth, were over.

After Jaws, commercial cinema was all about the opening weekend. There was an overwhelming need to shake the money tree with a single enormous impact - then move on. And the youth demographic was more important than ever. Despite the (relatively) low-budget brilliance of Jaws, it ushered in the behemoth blockbuster. It was like a punk revolution immediately followed by more and bigger prog albums. Jaws was nominated for the best picture Oscar, and though that went to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Jaws was far more important.
Peter Bradshaw

1994

It's not often that a film festival prize symbolises the turning of a cinematic generation, but the almighty tussle for the Cannes Palme d'Or between veteran Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski, with his final film, Three Colours: Red, and upstart American smartmouth Quentin Tarantino with his second feature, Pulp Fiction, set the tone for the subsequent decade and a half. Tarantino got the nod, thereby making him the figurehead of a generation of American independent film-makers.

The victory of the Tarantino school was so complete that American directors no longer cared to draw their inspiration from outside sources, as previous generations had done; in Tarantino's hands America's own pop-culture mythology offered all the brain food the 90s audience wanted. European cinema was instantly on the back foot; its most celebrated products of the era - such as 1995's La Haine - showed them trailing the Americans rather than leading them. In any case, Kieslowski's death in 1996 marked the end of the classic school of European film-making; the art cinema fiend had increasingly to make do with the rather more recondite pleasures of Iranian film or the stately beauty of Wong Kar-Wai's movies. And the enthusiasms Tarantino championed - Hong Kong gunplay, on-screen sadism, 70s blaxploitation, kick-ass martial arts, John Travolta - worked their way into the cinema establishment so firmly that it now seems inconceivable they were ever marginalised.

1994 saw a similar changing of the guard in this country, replicated with very British parameters. A month after Derek Jarman died in February, a little movie called Four Weddings and a Funeral opened in the US, establishing a template for that floppy-fringed, tourist-Englishness cinema which has deluged us since. You couldn't find a more dramatic U-turn.

Whatever else it did, Four Weddings delivered an electric shock of self-confidence to the then-beleaguered British commercial sector, which, augmented by the injections of public money from the National Lottery, decisively ended the supremacy of Jarman and his ilk. In fact, a large chunk of the British film world's activities since 1994 have been to wreak a gruesome revenge on the art film types who, supported by patronage, had kept going while the embittered mainstream producers were forced to shut up shop.

Taken together, these two near-simultaneous shifts in the balance of power influenced what we've seen on our screens since. Why so many "torture porn" movies? What happened to foreign language films? Why do they make so many Brit-lit movies? Six months in 1994 explain why.
Andrew Pulver




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« #2 : March 01, 2008, 01:46:32 AM »

Hmmm, the French New Wave is worth a mention but not James Bond? The year Jaws broke is more important than the advent of Star Wars? I don't think so . . .

And 1967 is most important for being the year when thenceforth all Hollywood features had to be in color.

« : March 01, 2008, 01:49:14 AM dave jenkins »


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« #3 : March 01, 2008, 11:06:06 PM »

I agree with Dave. Rather bizarre selection of years.

Well, they do devote half a sentence to Leone. I GUESS that's something... :D



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« #4 : March 02, 2008, 05:27:45 PM »

I don’t know.  I think they make reasonable cases for the first four years.  Within each they have multiple reasons for their selection.  The last two years aren’t as convincing.

I agree.  Dave makes some great points.  They choose 1975 solely for the Jaws phenomenon.  I would agree with them that Jaws started the whole blockbuster trend for films and how they were marketed and released afterward.  I would agree with them that in some ways Jaws paved the way for films such as Star Wars that followed it.  However, I would definitely agree with Dave that Star Wars is a better choice as a landmark in film that defined the kind of films to follow.  I liked Star Wars, but I also kind of view it negatively in that it somewhat ended that period in film from the mid late sixties to the mid seventies that I think was much more rich, interesting and provocative than what has followed.

I think the point of color film for 1967 is a really excellent point.  Should of been recognized as much as the introduction of sound.

To whatever extent you agree or disagree (and I don’t fully agree with them), it was an interesting read.   I particularly liked when they identified trends throughout world cinema and tried to link them and show how they were influential to one another.   In 1947 they talk about post war film and the rise of neorealism and noir.  In 1959 they recognize the new wave and then later point out how it influenced filmmakers in that period of the mid late sixties to mid seventies.  So for me, what I drew from it, was how important it is for filmmakers to be aware and open to other cinemas throughout the world.  It only enriches the whole process.

1994 seemed to be a stretch where they were maybe attempting to force some relevancy on what is happening now.  Does Tarantino really represent a trend in American film where it’s fallen in on itself and doesn’t look outward?  Not sure.  As pointed out his admiration for asian cinema and even Leone is apparent in his work.  If he does in fact represent the trend that they describe, that’s another negative for me.   I do agree that it seems independent films replaced the European art film.  Maybe due to economic reasons; that some of those filmmakers that led that movement are no longer active or have passed.  I miss and regret the passing of that era as well.  Maybe it’s all cyclical and will come back.  Maybe in our attempt to be open, we should celebrate it while it’s there, not regret its passing and hope something new which isn’t solely profit driven will take its place. Maybe as they infer, another world cinema elsewhere will arise and be as vital.  I was really curious whether anyone had any thoughts on the 1994 discussion. 
 
Interesting, if you accept their timeline, the greatest gap in years from one year to another are on both ends (1927 to 1947 and 1975 to 1994).  1927 to 1947 is understandable.  With the arrival of sound, the methods of filming and acting had to adapt and catch up with the technology.  What’s the excuse for lack of innovation between 1975 to 1994 and up to now?


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« #5 : March 02, 2008, 07:07:09 PM »

The big innovation in the 90s was the use of CGI. I guess we all noticed its presence in T2 (1991), but 1994 is the year I remember noticing it everywhere. And the film that announced that CGI had not only arrived but had conquered was The Mask (which I loved at the time). Then in 1995 Pixar released its first full feature film, and suddenly it was clear that the days of flesh-and-blood actors were numbered. The rise of CGI, of course, has been a mixed blessing, and so far, the way it's been used has been mostly detrimental to film viewing. Perhaps the technology has yet to find the artists who best know how to employ it; it was, after all, almost 14 years after the advent of talkies that a man from radio was finally able to show what he could do with a film . . .

Addendum: You know, it's starting to bug me that they didn't mark 1953, the year that widescreen films became commonplace.

« : March 02, 2008, 10:32:24 PM dave jenkins »


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« #6 : March 03, 2008, 09:09:43 AM »

The big innovation in the 90s was the use of CGI. I guess we all noticed its presence in T2 (1991), but 1994 is the year I remember noticing it everywhere. And the film that announced that CGI had not only arrived but had conquered was The Mask (which I loved at the time). Then in 1995 Pixar released its first full feature film, and suddenly it was clear that the days of flesh-and-blood actors were numbered. The rise of CGI, of course, has been a mixed blessing, and so far, the way it's been used has been mostly detrimental to film viewing. Perhaps the technology has yet to find the artists who best know how to employ it; it was, after all, almost 14 years after the advent of talkies that a man from radio was finally able to show what he could do with a film . . .

Addendum: You know, it's starting to bug me that they didn't mark 1953, the year that widescreen films became commonplace.

Alien 3 was I think the last movie on which special effects were mostly done the old way, with only a small number of CGI elements. Someone on the commentary track said that after it became more and more common, so Alien 3 was the last of it's kind.

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« #7 : March 03, 2008, 09:51:32 AM »

Which was released in 1992, right?

It seems to me you want to pick years where the industry changed due to changing technology or other factors. Here's the way I'd organize it:

1927- talkies
1930- Hayes Code
1932- 3-strip Technicolor (Process 4)
1947- Hollywood's high-water mark (greatest number of films ever in production)
1953- widescreen
1967- abandonment of black & white and the Code
1977- Star Wars signals the triumph of blockbuster movie-making
1994- CGI triumphant

« : March 03, 2008, 10:43:48 AM dave jenkins »


"McFilms are commodities and, as such, must be QA'd according to industry standards."
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« #8 : March 03, 2008, 10:58:10 AM »

Which was released in 1992, right?

Yap.

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« #9 : March 03, 2008, 11:04:39 AM »

Jenkins, you're cheating, we're talking about six most important years in cinema. Not saying there's anything wrong with your choices but originally there were only six choices by the critics. What would be your six?

And I'd say the year cinema was born is quite influential also ::) Only that I wouldn't know which year to pick...


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« #10 : March 03, 2008, 04:14:56 PM »

Limiting it to 6 years is arbitrary, and I don't feel the need to abide by what those guys say. I think the date for the beginning of cinema is commonly supposed to be 1894--at least, 1994 was the year everyone was celebrating Cinema's centennial. But it's a bit of a tautology to say that the year something begins is one of the important years of its history (who puts their DOB on their CV?).



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« #11 : March 03, 2008, 08:15:27 PM »

The big innovation in the 90s was the use of CGI. 

Thanks Dave.  Great insight again.  I guess in an indirect way I expressed my thoughts on CGI.  I didn't even recognize it as an innovation.  You're absolutely right about CGI. It's an important innovation and it's a mixed bag.  I can definitely think of positive ways it's been used to recreate scenery of a different time, or special effects that had not been possible in the past.  Yet overall I do have a negative perception of it.  How it can sometimes create too much artificiality and also become the primary focus of a film.  I think you provide a much better reason why I would buy into the year of 1994 than the writers.  Also, that CGI became pervasive in film from 1994, confirms your choice of Star Wars as the landmark film from the seventies.   

Quote
Perhaps the technology has yet to find the artists who best know how to employ it; it was, after all, almost 14 years after the advent of talkies that a man from radio was finally able to show what he could do with a film . . .

I like how you expressed this.  Nicely said.

Quote
You know, it's starting to bug me that they didn't mark 1953, the year that widescreen films became commonplace.
Another great point.  I think you've really exposed the critics on their neglect of the technical innovations in film.  Really the only one they recognized was sound.  I agree with you on the number of years.  I don't think they set out to specifically pick six years.  For the most part, I think they picked years in which they were able to cite a few reasons that made that year stand out.  Although they did throw out the bath water on their misfire with 1975. Jaws was the sole criteria for selecting that year.  In thinking about this, I think I  too, was concentrating on content and trends in film more than the technical innovations.  So I guess ideally, I would see a timeline unlimited in the number of years chosen, but years that maybe had a couple of contributions, gave recognition to the various trends in film (noir, neorealism, new wave) and also recognized those technical innovations that you've expertly called them on.


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