By Devin Malone
Films have been a major part of the past two centuries of American history. Since its inception, films have been used for entertainment, information, and artistic expression. Yet, while the root and basics of film have stayed the same, the way they try to achieve this are much different compared to the past.
Film began in Europe during the 1800’s as a pastime,usually depicting comedy tricks and other small gags with minimal story. However, these standards changed in 1910 when films such as “The Student of Prague,” possibly the first independent film ever made, came out. From there, films have adopted the feature length running time of 80 to 120 minutes, rather than the average 10 to 15 minutes.
This decade also brought the film genre simply known as the “epic.” Epics themselves are films that are much longer and much more expensive, taking the viewer on an adventure to far-off times and places.
The first major example of this genre in American cinema was D.W Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” taking place during the Civil War. It is highly controversial for it’s pro-
Confederacy stance and glorification of the Ku Klux Klan.
It was not until 12 years later in 1927 that sound was introduced into films with Al Jolson’s film “The Jazz Singer.” The film, though heavily using “blackface” which is offensive, is still considered a revolutionary piece due to its synchronized audio.
With the power of sound, many new genres of film appeared in the 1930’s such as musicals, gangster flicks, and noir detective stories. In that same decade, color was introduced into mainstream American cinema with the classic musical adventure “The Wizard of Oz” and the historical epic “Gone with the Wind,” both released in 1939. The latter of which still remains the highest grossing film in the world when adjusted to inflation, according to Box Office Mojo.
A lot has changed in the world of film since the 1930’s. Colorized film has become the standard, the aspect ratio has changed from 4:3 to 16:9, the quality of film itself has reached 3840 pixels × 2160 lines and have mastered the third dimension.
Yet, not all has changed for the better. Epics are being slowly phased out by the giant studios in search for shorter and less costly means of getting their money’s worth. One such example of this is that now most films are only an hour and twenty minutes, rather than two or two and a half hours.
Gradually, new ideas are being overlooked by more financially viable sequels like Michael Bay’s soon to be “Transformers” quintology that runs off brand recognition rather than through its own merit or originality. We also happen to live in a world where “Suicide Squad,” rated 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, could actually win an Oscar for “Best Makeup.”
There is no saying as to how cinema will progress in the future, but regardless of what direction its evolution takes, cinema has made is way into America’s heart and is here to stay, for better and for worse.