Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top 10 Milestones In Movie History

A tribute to the films, people, and technology that have shaped our modern cinema.

10. Titanic - 1997. The first Billion Dollar film. With a worldwide box office of over a billion dollars, James Cameron ushered in a new era of blockbuster films, and has retained the title of biggest movie ever till a few years ago when his Avatar film surpassed Titanic. It also was the most expensive film for its time, costing over $200 million. Again, Titanic greased the wheels of movie studios, where nowadays many films are made annually with budgets over $100 million.

9. CGI - 1971. With the invention of CGI, filmmakers are given a broad new paintbrush which enables them to pull off visual effects previously never imagined. The first noticeable use of CGI was in 1971's The Andromeda Strain, with the CGI map of the underground lab. As the technology involved, movies like Jurassic Park, The Phantom Menace, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, and a plethora of others came to life. 

8. Birth Of A Nation - 1915. D.W. Griffith's landmark film, originally called the Clansman, named after the novel that inspired this film. Despite the obvious racial themes of this film, D.W. Griffith pioneered this 3 hour feature length film with techniques still used today. He broke ground with the expressive close-up, naturalistic acting, use of flashbacks, cross-cutting and more that endure today as the structural principles of narrative filmmaking. With an extravagant ticket price of $2, it was the first true Hollywood blockbuster, and the first film to be shown in the White House.

7. Star Wars - 1977. George Lucas created this film which literally created an Empire. From this film spawned top Hollywood companies such as LucasFilm, THX, Skywalker Sound, and Industrial Light and Magic. It changed the way films were marketed with a multi-million dollar merchandise tie-in. It also cemented science-fiction into a legitimate film genre. With 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Star Wars left its mark on pop-culture and the film industry forever.

6. Citizen Kane - 1941. 24 year old Orson Welles is the first in cinematic history to be nominated in four categories; producer, actor, director, and writer. The title character is modeled after real life William Randolf Hearst, which isn't a surprise to learn the film was banned from advertising in all of Hearst's publications. Citizen Kane is known for many filmmaking innovations including overlapping dialogue, layered sound, non-linear storytelling, montage, low-angle shots, deep-focus composition, and low key noirish lighting.  

5. Georges Melies - 1899. French magician turned film-maker, he became the industries first to use artificially-arranged scenes to construct a narrative story. Known as the father of special effects, he used unheard of techniques like stop-motion photography, double and triple exposure, disappearing objects and dissolves/fades. He has written, directed and starred in over 400 films, most notably A Trip To The Moon

4. Kinetoscope - 1891. The first recognizable motion picture machine, invented in 1891 by Thomas Edison and partner W.K.L Dickson. The first public U.S. display of the Kinetoscope occurred at the Edison Laboratories to the Federation of Women's Clubs. The very short film was the test film titled Dickson's Greeting, which Dickson smiled, waived, and bowed. Edison submitted  patent which was finally approved in1893, where it began receiving commercial use.

3. Becky Sharp - 1935. This was the first feature length film to be shot in technicolor. It is based on the William Makepeace Thackeray novel Vanity Fair. By 1937, the Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind benefited from the polishing up of this technique, but Becky Sharp was the first.

2. The Jazz Singer - 1927. The first feature length "talkie". This is the film that truly ushered in cinema to the modern age. It ended the silent film era, as movies literally came to life in both sight and sound. Now, dialogue and audio effects can be placed into film making cinemas more of a theatrical experience and less of a novelty.

1. The Cinematographe - 1900. At the start of the 20th Century, the Lumiere Bros invented the Cinematographe, the grandfather of the modern day movie projector. Taking the concept of the kinetoscope, but projecting it outwards, whole audiences could watch a film simultaneously as it was shown on walls, screens and curtains. This of course led to the concept of movie houses and theaters. Indeed, this was so influential, watching projected films in theaters is still practiced over 110 years later.

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