Friday, December 20, 2013

The Era of Re-Creation

Throughout the history of cinema, there have been several movements that define the changes the films undergo, that separate the films of one time period from the films of another. Much like in the realm of painting, these eras are determined on the basis of technological, structural, and content-focused changes in the films being produced. Generally these shifts occur in times of serious cultural change. Wars coming and going, governmental issues, worldwide paranoia, all of these in some way alter the nature of Hollywood. Drastic developments in technology also help to classify these eras, as do changes in the business side of film, such as changes in marketing. However, coming out of the last era of filmmaking, Return to Myth, there have been many changes – some small, some highly significant – that have, as seen in the films of today, once again altered the films Hollywood produces. All of these changes suggest that our present era of filmmaking could be declared The Era of Re-Creation, a time of reinvention for all aspects of film.
            The Era of Re-Creation is defined by a variety of elements, separating it from but similarly connecting it to the eras that came before. Since the Return to Myth era of American Cinema, 1975-1990, many of the most evident changes that have occurred in filmmaking are related to marketing. The present day has been dubbed the “social media generation.” People are becoming more and more connected to each other. It has become the norm to request and post updates on one’s life. Through websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, the internet has become one of the most powerful tools in promoting oncoming films. By posting information on one of these sites, the word can be spread across the globe in a matter of seconds. This idea has lead to a lot of changes in marketing. For example, MTV recently created a horror movie that they would only release if enough people electronically stated that they were interested in seeing it. Over the course of a few weeks, over 500,000 people had committed to viewing the film. Through ideas such as this, TV shows and movies alike have been able to garner public support and interest, leading to greater box office gains.
            Content is another area of revolution. In the past, studios tended to produce films that were specific to a certain age group or gender. For example, the teen movies – rom-coms and dramas – were created with these people specifically in mind, and often, it was primarily that audience that attended. However, today, attempts have been made to widen the scope. In order to achieve the highest gross possible, it has been projected that the film must not exclude any age or gender group, that it must Footloose, for example, a teen drama, was rated R upon its release. This limited its audience to those over 17 or those that could either fake their way into the theatre or had a parent to go with them. As a result, the PG-13 rating acts as a guideline rather than a rule, expanding not only the number of people able to attend a movie and in turn, expanding its gross, but also expanding the number of films that teenagers and tween are able to attend. This creates a more all-ages environment in film. From that change, the content of films have been gradually altered in order to account for the various groups that can now attend. This causes, as one critic suggests, the almost complete elimination of successful movies specifically geared towards tweens.
appeal to all people, must draw all people to it. Therefore, the era of the “teen film” has largely disappeared. Instead, films tend to focus in one of two ways: everyone, or specific interest groups. The films made for specific interest groups tend to be rated R and are never projected to make an overly impressive gross. In addition, due to the addition of PG-13 as a rating in 1984, children are able to attend a wider range of movies.
            Also, the social issues of the day have shifted the content of films. 9/11 and the destruction of the World Trade Center created a very different America than the one that came before. The state became more powerful in their security measures. The government has been allowed to wiretap, to enforce high security measures in public places, is able to search individuals for weaponry, keep tabs on all people that may be potential terrorists. The subsequent invasion of Iraq furthered tensions, sending the U.S into another state of war, something that is typical of many of the shifts in the Hollywood era.
            Through all of this, content has turned darker. Whereas in the earlier years of Hollywood, during World War I and World War II, people often viewed films as a form of escape. Most of the popular ones were happy – comedies, romances – fun films that did not cause the viewer too much stress. They had enough of that in their everyday lives. However, many of the popular films today rely on much more violent imagery. Dystopia has gained in popularity, focusing on the possibility of what would come after if the government were to collapse. These films tend to be a social commentary of some sort, possibly exacerbated by the increase in security and government control that arrived post-9/11. The high-grossing  Hunger Games film makes one such commentary, centered on a world in which children are forced to compete to the death for the entertainment of the Capitol. In the next year, films such as the Hunger Games sequel, Divergent, and The Maze Runner will continue this trend.


            In addition, today is the era of recreating in terms of the reimagining of that which has already been created. Many of the films being released today are sequels, adaptations, or remakes of stories that have already been written out in their entirety. This year, at least thirty-two sequels have been released, and fifty remakes have been commissioned or released. Even Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time, is based off of the 1990 movie Dances With Wolves which was adapted from a book of the same name. Though this isn’t an idea original to the present era of filmmaking – people have been reimagining stories for lifetimes – it is one of the first times that these adaptations have resulted in blockbuster-sized grosses.
However, in terms of how these concepts are carried out, Holly wood hasn’t changed much from the Era of the Blockbuster. The focus is primarily on developing films with the greatest monetary benefits. Once the idea of a blockbuster was coined during the previous era, every studio is searching for the next blockbuster. High budgets and attempts at widened commercial appeal have become much more typical. In fact, the eighty-seven of the hundred highest grossing films of all time were produced between 1995 and the present. Therefore, the blockbuster era has been taken to an even further extreme, creating an era in which to a studio, a movie is hardly considered successful unless it breaks the $100,000,000 mark.
            Much of the blockbuster qualities of these films have come out of the technology utilized within them. It is true that technology has not undergone a major revolution since the era of Return to Myth. Rather, the technology of today has built upon the technology of the past. For example, the IMAX of today is reminiscent of the Cinemascope of the 1950s and 60s. The idea of creating a larger image, one that brings the viewer into the film itself, immerses them in it completely, is one that with new developments in graphics and lens technology, has been able to expand. This adds to the idea of special effect development in that as effects become more and more realistic, people often want a screen, want an experience that also seems more realistic. As a result, people often desire to attend the “blockbuster”-style films in theatres such as IMAX.
            Further, special effects have gained ground as well. The revolutionary technology employed in the 80s with films such as Star Wars is still in tact today. However, it has been developed to provide Avatar, a film conceived in the 90s, was even put off for production until technology had bettered to such a degree that it could accurately fulfill the vision of the director. Most significantly, this film employed revolutionary techniques in motion capture. Before practiced by Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films, the technology used in Avatar is said to have transferred 100% of the actors’ performances to their digital counterparts. Therefore, Hollywood has been making strides towards more realistically representing the fantastic in movies. This way, characters who are modified through special effects can retain the complete realism of the actors’ performances. They will not be subject to the loss of ease or emotion that sometimes results from computer imaging.
further realism to the film.
            Higher frames per second rates have also recently appeared. The first film to be shot 48 fps was The Hobbit trilogy. However, some critics suggest that this frame rate may even be too high, too developed, as it removed the “glossy” characteristic of movement attributed to films.
In addition, it has also become popular to return to the technology of previous eras in order to create something that calls on a time long past. As shown by the success The Artist, a 2011 film that was almost completely silent and was awarded five Oscars, we do not always have to develop technology in order to create something significant and relevant. Instead, we can use the technology of today in order to “improve” upon the vision of the past. The newer cameras, techniques in editing, and acting styles allow for films such as this to take ideas from the past and make them appealing to the present, update the past, or, as suggested, recreate the past in the context of the present.
             Through all of this, it becomes clear that today’s era of Hollywood is characterized by redefining, reinventing, recreating. Technology builds upon the ideas of the past, reinventing them in order to create something even more spectacular, more marketable within the present time period. Our present idea of social media is a step beyond the newspapers and magazines of the past. Now, a movie can be effectively promoted by posting about it on the internet. Content too, has altered. Many movies of today recreate those of the past, borrowing and employing present day technology in order to update them. Therefore, through all of this, we are in a new era of filmmaking. It may not be as revolutionary as the past eras, but it is one in which there are trends, one in which the tone and technology of the present is separate from that of the past. By building on the teachings of past eras, the era of today is one of development, the creation of the new from what the past has left to us, and through the teachings of this era, another will develop.


Sources:
Readings
"Box Office Mojo." Box Office Mojo. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.
Johnson, Bobbie. "The Technological Secrets of James Cameron's New Film Avatar." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 20 Aug. 2009. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.

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