Their year-round programs have consistently highlighted under-seen female directors, should-be-canon entries from black filmmakers, foreign delights, and more. The annual BAMcinemaFest, now in its eleventh year, is no different in range and spirit, showcasing festival favorites fresh from Sundance and elsewhere and ripe-for-discovery underdogs to a New York audience. All screenings. Over the years, my experience has been that, even when the quality varies, this national cinema rarely avoids pertinent subject matter, and in the case of narrative films, consistently provides stellar performances.
One anxiety that emerges loud and clear this year is the lack of hope and dismal future faced by working-class Italian youth. David Hockney luxuriates in the word, adding extra sibilance to the adjective, one he applies to a friend, the American model Joe MacDonald, who sits with him in a hotel room in Geneva in June Fact embellished by fiction and vice versa , A Bigger Splash , protean in structure, explores fluid.
Audiences, hearing an actor speak on screen for the first time, were enchanted. The hand-painting technique became impractical with the advent of mass-produced film, and the tinting process, which filmmakers discovered would create an interference with the transmission of sound in films, was abandoned with the rise of the talkie. By , Technicolor had designed a three-color system with more realistic results, and for the next twenty-five years, all color films were produced with this improved system.
Despite the success of certain color films in the s, Hollywood, like the rest of the United States, was feeling the impact of the Great Depression, and the expenses of special cameras, crews, and Technicolor lab processing made color films impractical for studios trying to cut costs. The spike in theater attendance that followed the introduction of talking films changed the economic structure of the motion picture industry, bringing about some of the largest mergers in industry history. By , eight studios produced ninety-five percent of all American films, and they continued to experience growth even during the Depression.
The five most influential of these studios—Warner Bros. However, postwar inflation, a temporary loss of key foreign markets, the advent of the television, and other factors combined to bring that rapid growth to an end. In , the case of the United States v. Paramount Pictures—mandating competition and forcing the studios to relinquish control over theater chains—dealt the final devastating blow from which the studio system would never recover.
Control of the major studios reverted to Wall Street, where the studios were eventually absorbed by multinational corporations, and the powerful studio heads lost the influence they had held for nearly thirty years. While economic factors and antitrust legislation played key roles in the decline of the studio system, perhaps the most important factor in that decline was the advent of the television.
In an attempt to win back diminishing audiences, studios did their best to exploit the greatest advantages film held over television.
For one thing, television broadcasting in the s was all in black and white, whereas the film industry had the advantage of color. While producing a color film was still an expensive undertaking in the late s, a couple of changes occurred in the industry in the early s to make color not only more affordable, but more realistic in its appearance.
American cinema/American culture
In , as the result of antitrust legislation, Technicolor lost its monopoly on the color film industry, allowing other providers to offer more competitive pricing on filming and processing services. At the same time, Kodak came out with a multilayer film stock that made it possible to use more affordable cameras, and to produce a higher quality image.
In the late s, only twelve percent of features were in color; however, by after the release of Kodak Eastmancolor , more than fifty percent of movies were in color. Another clear advantage on which filmmakers tried to capitalize was the sheer size of the cinema experience. This wide-screen format increased the immersive quality of the theater experience. Nonetheless, even with these advancements, movie attendance never again reached the record numbers it experienced in , at the peak of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The Cold War with the Soviet Union began in , and with it came the widespread fear of communism, not only from the outside, but equally from within. In the highly conservative and paranoid atmosphere of the time, Hollywood, the source of a mass-cultural medium, came under fire in response to fears that subversive, communist messages were being embedded in films.
These ten, later known as the Hollywood Ten, were fired from their jobs and sentenced to serve up to a year in prison. The studios, already slipping in influence and profit, were eager to cooperate in order to save themselves, and a number of producers signed an agreement stating that no communists would work in Hollywood.
Over three hundred and twenty-four individuals lost their jobs in the film industry as a result of blacklisting the denial of work in a certain field or industry and HUAC investigations. These four films, in particular, grossed so much money at the box offices that producers began churning out low-budget copycats to draw in a new, profitable market.
In the s, with the rise of work by Coppola, Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, and others, a new breed of director emerged. These directors were young and film-school educated, and they contributed a sense of professionalism, sophistication, and technical mastery to their work, leading to a wave of blockbuster productions, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind , Star Wars , Raiders of the Lost Ark , and E.
The computer-generated special effects that were available at this time also contributed to the success of a number of large-budget productions. In response to these and several earlier blockbusters, movie production and marketing techniques also began to shift, with studios investing more money in fewer films in the hopes of producing bigger successes.
With the opening of Jaws, one of the five top-grossing films of the decade and the highest grossing film of all time until the release of Star Wars in , Hollywood embraced the wide-release method of movie distribution, abandoning the release methods of earlier decades, in which a film would debut in only a handful of select theaters in major cities before it became gradually available to mass audiences.
Jaws was released in six hundred theaters simultaneously, and the big-budget films that followed came out in anywhere from eight hundred to two thousand theaters nationwide on their opening weekends. Additionally, corporations sought revenue sources beyond the movie theater, looking to the video and cable releases of their films.
Introduced in , the VCR became nearly ubiquitous in American homes by , with The s saw the rise of two divergent strands of cinema: the technically spectacular blockbuster with special, computer-generated effects, and the independent, low-budget film. The capabilities of special effects were enhanced when studios began manipulating film digitally.
Early examples of this technology can be seen in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park Films with an epic scope—Independence Day , Titanic , and The Matrix —also employed a range of computer-animation techniques and special effects to wow audiences, and to draw more viewers to the big screen. Only one movie from a big film studio was nominated—Jerry Maguire—while the rest were independent films.
The growth of both independent movies and special-effects-laden blockbusters continues to the present day. You will read more about current issues and trends and the future of the movie industry later on in this chapter. Until the bombing of Pearl Harbor in , American films after World War I generally reflected the neutral, isolationist stance that prevailed in politics and culture. However, after the United States was drawn into the war in Europe, the government enlisted Hollywood to help with the war effort, opening the federal Bureau of Motion Picture Affairs in Los Angeles.
Bureau officials served in an advisory capacity on the production of war-related films, an effort with which the studios cooperated. As a result, films tended toward the patriotic and were produced to inspire feelings of pride and confidence in being American, and to clearly establish that America and its allies were forces of good. For instance, critically acclaimed Casablanca paints a picture of the ill effects of fascism, illustrates the values that heroes like Victor Laszlo hold, and depicts America as a place for refugees to find democracy and freedom.
These early World War II films were sometimes overtly propagandist, intended to influence American attitudes, rather than present a genuine reflection of American sentiments toward the war. Army, and were later shown to general audiences; they delivered a war message through narrative. Films like Dr. Fears about the possibility of nuclear war were very real during the s, and some film critics argue that these anxieties were reflected not only in overtly political films of the time, but also in the popularity of horror films, like Halloween and Friday the 13th, which feature a mysterious and unkillable monster, and in the popularity of the fantastic in films like E.
The relationship between movies and culture involves a complicated dynamic; while American movies certainly influence the mass culture that consumes them, they are also an integral part of that culture, a product of it, and therefore a reflection of prevailing concerns, attitudes, and beliefs.
In considering the relationship between film and culture, it is important to keep in mind that, while certain ideologies may be prevalent in a given era, not only is American culture as diverse as the populations that form it, but it is also constantly changing from one period to the next. Mainstream films produced in the late s and into the s, for example, reflected the conservatism that dominated the sociopolitical arenas of the time. However, by the s, a reactionary youth culture began to emerge in opposition to the dominant institutions, and these anti-establishment views soon found their way onto the screen—a far cry from the attitudes most commonly represented only a few years earlier.
Not only do Hollywood films reflect certain commonly held attitudes and beliefs about what it means to be American, but they also portray contemporary trends, issues, and events, serving as records of the eras in which they were produced.
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These films grew out of a seminal event of the time, one that preoccupied the consciousness of Americans for years after it occurred. In , director D. At the time, The Birth of a Nation was the longest feature film ever made, at almost 3 hours, and contained huge battle scenes that amazed and delighted audiences. He also experimented with editing techniques such as close-ups, jump cuts, and parallel editing that helped make the film an artistic achievement.
Additionally, the dominant political climate, largely a reaction against populist labor movements, was one of conservative elitism, eager to attribute social inequalities to natural human differences. However, the outrage many groups expressed about the film is a good reminder that American culture is not monolithic, that there are always strong contingents in opposition to dominant ideologies. While critics praised the film for its narrative complexity and epic scope, many others were outraged and even started riots at several screenings because of its highly controversial, openly racist attitudes, which glorified the Ku Klux Klan and blamed Southern Blacks for the destruction of the war.
At the time the nation was divided, and Jim Crow laws and segregation were enforced. Nonetheless, The Birth of a Nation was the highest grossing movie of its era. However, Mrs. Robinson and the other adults in the film fail to understand the young, alienated hero, who eventually rebels against them. This baby boomer generation came of age during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Not only did the youth culture express a cynicism toward the patriotic, pro-war stance of their World War II—era elders, but they displayed a fierce resistance toward institutional authority in general, an anti-establishmentism epitomized in the hit film Bonnie and Clyde.
The wildly popular Easy Rider —containing drugs, sex, and violence—may owe a good deal of its initial success to liberalized audiences. And in the same year, Midnight Cowboy, one of the first Hollywood films to receive an X rating in this case for its sexual content , won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
When the MPAA originally MPPDA first banded together in to combat government censorship and to promote artistic freedom, the association attempted a system of self-regulation. However, by —in part because of the transition to talking pictures—renewed criticism and calls for censorship from conservative groups made it clear to the MPPDA that the loose system of self-regulation was not enough protection.
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Hays , which remained in place until However, many people in Hollywood resented its restrictiveness. In , the MPAA adopted a ratings system to identify films in terms of potentially objectionable content. By providing officially designated categories for films that would not have passed Production Code standards of the past, the MPAA opened a way for films to deal openly with mature content.
The MPAA rating systems, with some modifications, is still in place today. Commercially, less restrictive ratings are generally more beneficial, particularly in the case of adult-themed films that have the potential to earn the most restrictive rating, the NC Some movie theaters will not screen a movie that is rated NC When filmmakers get a more restrictive rating than they were hoping for, they may resubmit the film for review after editing out objectionable scenes. Sometimes the influence is trivial, as in the case of fashion trends or figures of speech.
After the release of Flashdance in , for instance, torn T-shirts and leg warmers became hallmarks of the fashion of the s. During the s, and up until about , American culture experienced a period of rapid industrialization. At the same time, film and other methods of mass communication advertising and radio developed, whose messages concerning tastes, desires, customs, speech, and behavior spread from these population centers to outlying areas across the country.
The effect of early mass-communication media was to wear away regional differences and create a more homogenized, standardized culture. Film played a key role in this development, as viewers began to imitate the speech, dress, and behavior of their common heroes on the silver screen. Fans became obsessed with the off-screen lives of their favorite celebrities, like Pearl White, Florence Lawrence, and Mary Pickford. American identity in mass society is built around certain commonly held beliefs, or myths about shared experiences, and these American myths are often disseminated through, or reinforced, by film.
One example of a popular American myth, one that dates back to the writings of Thomas Jefferson and other founders, is an emphasis on individualism—a celebration of the common man or woman as a hero or reformer. With the rise of mass culture, the myth of the individual became increasingly appealing because it provided people with a sense of autonomy and individuality in the face of an increasingly homogenized culture. The hero myth finds embodiment in the Western, a film genre that was popular from the silent era through the s, in which the lone cowboy, a semi-nomadic wanderer, makes his way in a lawless, and often dangerous, frontier.
From until , Westerns accounted for nearly a quarter of all films produced. John Belton, introduction to Movies and Mass Culture, ed. John Belton, Griffith recognized nearly a century ago, film has enormous power as a medium to influence public opinion. More recently, films like Hotel Rwanda , about the Rwandan genocide, or The Kite Runner , a story that takes place in the midst of a war-torn Afghanistan, have captured audience imaginations by telling stories that raise social awareness about world events.
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