The Parthenon

The Golden Age of Hollywood is over, but movies today are still pretty good

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Movies of the golden age may mark a step forward in the history of film, but they also created a version of storytelling that constructed its own reality.

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The Golden Age of Hollywood, a period of cinema between the late ‘20s and the mid ‘40s, is often heralded as the greatest period in the history of film. While it is true that many great advances in the way movies were made occurred in that time, it can be argued that the golden age of cinema is happening right now.

There was an explosion of cinema during the golden age: stars were born, fortunes made and people discovered a new form of entertainment. Although movies had been made before, they had never been made like this. Cinema of that time period turned actors into idols and movies into events. So, while the moniker of that period may have been accurate, it is arguably even more accurate today.

Movies of the golden age may mark a step forward in the history of film, but they also created a version of storytelling that constructed its own reality. Actors of the time period created archetypal characters that did not mirror people who actually existed. They were constructs, intended to be emulated and idolized—or, if that was not the intention, it was definitely the result. And of course, the special effects of the time don’t hold a candle to what films can create today.

As movies progressed over the years, and the content became less and less relegated to family friendly content, the separation between fiction and reality began to blur. Even before special effects became capable of creating films like “Star Wars” and “Gravity,” it was the actors who became less archetypal and more genuine. The golden age of Hollywood never saw performances of the caliber seen today: men and women who create performances that are indistinguishable from genuine emotion or characters so physically disparate from the actors that portray them, that a viewer might briefly forget they are not viewing reality. The golden age of Hollywood never had actors like Daniel Day Lewis, Christian Bale, Meryl Streep, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett or Gary Oldman. These are just a few of many men and women who do not simply act, they transform.

Further, the advent of special effects technology has created films that transcend reality in a number of ways. Who wasn’t blown away by the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” the magic of “Avatar” or the genius of “The Matrix?”

Who in the ‘30s would have believed that a movie like “Gravity” would ever be possible? Especially when you consider that all the scenes that took place in outer space (rather than in the space station or flight capsule) were entirely computer graphics with the exception of the actors’ faces.

The creation of films that include mature content allowed filmmakers to mirror reality in ways that had never been seen before and to explore themes and concepts in a realistic manner.

In short, movies today are better than ever before. Of course, there are still terrible films out there (and always will be) but the great ones are crashing through boundaries every day and constantly changing the face of cinema in numerous ways.

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