My Movie History:
The Effects and Influence of a Cinema Course

         The movies I had seen in past were generally recently made. This was before this class. One of the most enjoyable films I had ever seen, prior to this spring, was The Birds (1962) from Alfred Hitchcock. This movie was shown in my humanities class in high school and basically was the oldest movie I had ever watched and enjoyed. And not until the class watched Citizen Kane had I ever enjoyed a black and white film, then came (1946) directed by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 Notorious then Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933King Kong. King Kong was the first movie I can remember was remade and I enjoyed the original a great deal more than the remake; the original was shorter as well.

         The strongest part of this course was the emphasis of how older movies are able to be just as good as the newer “better” movies. After I watched this whole gamut of films this semester, I feel my appreciation has heightened. My favorite movie of all time is Ridley Scott’s 1994 Gladiator. This film is a technological wonder with good acting and a high level of complexity within all realms of filming. I own the DVD of Gladiator, and the film has been played through at least fifty times. I am a moviegoer of the modern realm with special effects and computerized characters but before this course my movie repertoire was limited.

        The Birds was my threshold. Now the threshold has been pushed back half a century; all the way back to The Birth of a Nation. Slowly did the threshold movie move. I hated watching The Birth of a Nation the first time through. It had no spoken dialogue, poor picture quality and only intertitles and annoying continuous music of the era. The film culminated all predisposed notions I had of the movies of, what I consider, the Dark Ages. Now I believe I have learned to appreciate the film for exactly what it was; it was the first big film and it was made over eighty years ago. It may have been primitive, but it was not primitive for the era. If I had tried to watch it as a theatergoer living and working in 1915 then I suppose I would have related more with the quality of the film. However, I am a student and commercial proprietor of the present film industry. I am acclimated to the blockbusters of today. I have tried to critic the older movies, the beginnings of the film industry but have not been able to enjoy them as many others have and will continue to enjoy. However primitive, as an educated person, understanding the film was not primitive at one time is a crucial concept to eventually loving the past masterpieces, which are the stepping stones which have led to the present masterpieces.

        Citizen Kane has now become on of the greatest I have ever watched; beyond hundreds, even a thousand films seen in my lifetime. The threshold has moved. The night we watched this film in class was a night in which I purposely skipped in order to be at my nephew’s third birthday party. I had not seen the movie in a while, so I went to Blockbuster and rented the DVD of Citizen Kane for a mere dollar and some change. It was a date; my couch, a rather large TV and Orson Welles. The film started slow and eventually started moving around, which got me more interested in the storyline and trying to figure out what the heck “Rosebud” was for two hours. The camera work, the lighting, the acting were better than those of most other films. By the time the film was over, I honestly wanted to watch it again. Instead, I opted to watch the inside informational bonus disc, The American Experience: The Battle of Citizen Kane. The bonus disc allowed me to understand more about the film and why certain things were the way they were in the film. Orson Welles was my hero for about three days until Gladiator played in the background while studying; then Ridley Scott, David Franzoni, and Russell Crowe were my cinematic heroes.

         My appreciation for dramatic depressing ending has improved. Citizen Kane had a relatively sad ending, but it is how the movie was supposed to be. There are movies which change the ending to give it a “fairy-tale ending” in many cases. Now, my days could be spent watching older movies. Just recently did I watch David Lean’s 1965 Dr. Zhivago, even though the film make me want to turn it off because I am used to the action-packed films which have no downtime. The ending is appropriate to the mood of the film, and I appreciated the movie for what it was. Who knows: maybe if I watched The Birth of a Nation again, I might like the film for what it was and not for what I had hoped it to be.

         Looking far back into cinematic history, I believe the class has allowed me to understand why films are made the way they are, both technically and actuality. I understand in the past as well as within the present, the way the film is make technically is just as important as the story and acting which make up the face of the film.

Eric Morris

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