The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality


The cinema of the United States, often generally referred to as Hollywood, has had a profound effect on cinema across the world since the early 20th century. The major film studios of Hollywood, a suburb of Los Angeles, are the primary source of the most commercially successful movies in the world, such as The Birth of a Nation (1915), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Sound of Music (1965), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Titanic (1997), Avatar (2009), and the like.

Classical Hollywood Cinema is defined as a technical and narrative style characteristic of film from 1917 to 1960. It stuck to all the characteristics of a film genre. Most Hollywood pictures closely abided by a formula – Western, splastick comedy, musical, animated cartoon,  biographical film – and the same creative teams often worked on films made by the same studio.

Post-classical cinema is the term used to describe the changing methods of storytelling in the New Hollywood. New approaches to drama and characterisation played upon audience expectations acquired in the classical period: chronology is often scrambled, storylines might feature "twist endings, " and the contrast between the antagonist and protagonist is sometimes blurred. The roots of post-classical storytelling may be seen in film noir, in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and in Hitchcock's plot-shattering Psycho  (1960).

In the 1970s, the films of New Hollywood filmmakers were often both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. While the early New Hollywood films like Bonnie and Clyde  (1967) and Easy Rider (1969) had been relatively low-budget affairs with amoral heroes and increased sexuality and violence, the enormous success enjoyed by William Friedkin with The Exorcist  (1973), Steven Spielberg with Jaws  (1975), Francis Ford Coppola with The Godfather  (1972 - ) and Apocalypse Now  (1979), Martin Scorsese with Taxi Driver  (1976), Stanley Kubrick with 2001: A Space Odyssey  (1968), Roman Polanski with Chinatown  (1974), and George Lucas with American Graffiti  (1973) and Star Wars  (1977 - ), gave rise to the modern "blockbuster, " and induced studios to focus ever more heavily on trying to produce enormous hits.

Starting with the 1980s, the studios have been driven mainly by financial motives, producing, for example, sequels that have precipitously declined in quality, and Hollywood, apart from a few surprises, has been on a steady decline ever since. Subsequently, directorship gradually ceased being equated with authorship. An excellent illustration of the internal dynamics of a Hollywood studio can be observed in the movie The Player (1992) starring Tim Robbins. This orientation on profit has led to a sharp division between Hollywood and the independent American cinema, promulgated in the Sundance Film Festival, and represented by such directors as John Cassavetes, Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee.

Some of the most influential Hollywood actors, directors and movies are described in the following few paragraphs:

Charlie Chaplin is an iconic figure of the silent-film comedy. His most famous movies, like The Gold Rush (1925), Modern Times (1931) and The Great Dictator (1940) are still considered classics.

Steamboat Willy (1928) marks the first appearance of Walt Disney's most celebrated character, Mickey Mouse, in an animated short. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is Disney's first feature-length animated film, and one of the greatest blockbusters in Hollywood's history.

There were two huge hits in 1939, Gone With the Wind, a four-hour epic-historic romantic drama, and The Wizard of Oz, a musical comedy-fantasy classic.

Orson Wells's Citizen Kane (1941) has often been called the best American film ever made, mainly because of its cinematographic innovations.

Casablanca (1942) is a romantic drama featuring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. The last scene in the movie featured in numerous subsequent romantic films.

Singing in the Rain (1952) with Gene Kelly is probably still the best known Hollywood musical.

No one knows if James Dean would have become such a teenage hero if he hadn't died young, but the three movies he made, especially Rebel Without a Cause (1955), are now considered Hollywood classics.

Alfred Hitchcock pioneered the genres of suspense and psychological thrillers. Some of his most famous movies include Vertigo (1958), West By Northwest  (1959) and Psycho (1960).

Audrey Hepburn as Holly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) is considered one of the most iconic figures of 20th-century American cinema.

Even though Stanley Kubrick has not made more than a dozen films in his lifetime, he is considered one of the most influential directors in movie history. His most famous films include: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987).

The Godfather (1972 - ) has become not only the best known mafia film, but one of the most celebrated Hollywood movies ever made.

Blade Runner by Ridley Scott (1982) is considered one of the best science-fiction movies of all time. Its portrayal of Los Angeles in 2019 seems futuristic even today.

The 1990s have seen great improvements in visual effects. Jurassic Park  (1993 - ) is responsible for a dinosaur craze that hasn't died out yet.

Quentin Tarantino's second feature film, Pulp Fiction (1994), is memorable for its ludicrous dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline and a host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references.

Toy Story (1995), the first Pixar studio megahit, marks a new revolution in animation.

A neo-noir sci-fi action film The Matrix (1999) is notable for its dystopian portrayal of virtual reality and clever allusions to philosophy, religion and literature.

Fight Club (1999), which became a classic only after its DVD release, is renowned for its innovative form and style.

The 21st century is marked by the screening of some of the best known children books like the classic The Lord of the Rings (2001 - ) and Marvel comic strips, like the Dark Knight (2008). Avatar (2009), a world-wide blockbuster, is notable for its visual effects and ecological themes.


Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films (2000) is a book by the famous film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum about how good movies are still made, but we don't have access to them.

Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia: Film Culture in Transition (2010) is a collection of movie reviews by the esteemed film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.

The Player (1992) is a satirical black comedy by Robert Altman about the inside workings of Hollywood stars and executives.

Be Kind Rewind (2008) is a movie about two salesmen who inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.

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