So I was thinking about the movies that defined a decade, specifically the 80s, and was having a huge amount of difficulty deciding on any individual entry. These choices, by necessity, include only movies that I have seen, excluding a large amount of films but since I don’t believe in praising or complaining about films I haven’t seen, it was necessary.
I feel these movies best represent both the film-making and the culture at the time, as well as some of the political and economic parts of the decade. I begin with the 60’s because I have not seen many movies before then, and I feel that was really when the best parts of filmmaking took off, excluding previous classics like Casablanca and Citizen Kane. So I went with 4 or 5 films which I feel were monumental in the basis of film, culture, and life in general.
Psycho (1960): Alfred Hitchcock’s quintessential thriller, a story about a man and his mother. One of the best examples of tension building in a film, some will claim it’s boring, but we will ignore those silly, silly, people. The use of jump cuts and a defining score in the shower scene has made it one of the most iconic sequences in film-making. The music throughout the film demonstrated how necessary a score can be, and how much affect it can really add. It also demonstrates the subversion of romance at the time, setting the stage for the ironic films of the next generation.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): A film that proves that not all adaptations are bad, as well as dealing with some very pertinent racial issues, especially at that time of social upheaval, with the civil rights movement just starting. Gregory Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch is to this day used as an example as to what a lawyer should be, and as evidenced by the American Film Institute’s listing of him as the top hero, he is truly an inspiration to us all. The classic Bildungs Roman about loss of innocence proves a timeless story yet again, and amazing performances by the child actors lead to a believable film chronicling the lives of people, nothing more and nothing less.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying andLove the Bomb (1964): Another example of a film that was fiercely relevant at the time, a black comedy about nuclear disaster created in a time where it was a very real fear. Peter Sellers playing not one or two but three main characters all unique in appearance creating an immensely unique effect never duplicated with such great prowess. The caricature of General Ripper as a god-fearing communist-hating ultra-patriot was a penetrating look at the propaganda presented to society, and how it was shaping the American public’s minds. The final scene featuring Vera Lynn singing about how we will meet again to a backdrop of atomic bomb tests is a very telling look into the era, and shows how humor is one of the purest forms of self-examination.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): A final adaptation, of which all of these movies are to various degrees, and a second Kubrick film, 4 years after he finished Dr. Strangelove. This is a film which blew audiences away, due to a style simply not seen before, not to mention the philosophical and technical discussions which ran rampant due to it. The ending stupefied the general populace, as did the slow, methodical style of film-making creating this timeless classic. Again, one of the most notable things is the soundtrack, often used to replace dialogue, given there is none for about the first and last half hours. One must also consider the historical period in which it was made, right in the middle of the space race, and just before a man landed on the moon. This film is more similar to Psycho than Dr. Strangelove, showing that a masterful director can create two incredible and unique films in the space of 5 years.
Yellow Submarine (1968): A little less known than the previous films, this animated feature involved the Beatles journeying through a colorful animated wonderland. This was actually the Beatles 3rd Film, though the only animated one. It involved the band journeying through varied psychedelic environments to fight the blue meanies. This showed the lighter side of the decade, in a very different way than Dr. Strangelove. The music of the film was from a variety of albums, and showed the varied and carefree nature of the decade, as well as further defining the Beatle’s immense popularity. Bigger than Jesus? Maybe not, but certainly an enormous impact on the decade and all the music that has followed it.
The 60’s were a time of change, the civil rights movement, space race, and the threat of nuclear war all sought to escalate this. The Vietnam War created a new era of hippies and protest movements. This decade had some revolutions in the era of filmmaking too, as the above films show, and I believe the quintessential film to be 2001, though a case can be made for all of them, especially given their historical changes to the way films were and are made.
Over the coming days and weeks I hope to do this for all the decades up to the 00s, then one final film which I believe to be the pinnacle of film-making, a true masterpiece in all meanings of the word. One which not only defined a decade but defined a century.
PS I know that this is in no way the correct way to use symposium, but it is a good word, so I will be using it from now on.