Movie...short for motion picture.

A motion picture is simply a series of still pictures shown quickly so they simulate motion. While that can include something as simple as pieces of paper with crudely drawn pictures on them, this writeup is more geared to movies as we know them today, movies on film.

A Technical History

Movies took off in the late 19th century with the invention of the motion picture camera. Louis Lumiere is credited with this invention, called the Cinematographe in 1895, but he really was not the first. Thomas Edison had created a device called the Kinetoscope in 1891, but the Kinetoscope could only show a movie to one person at at time. Lumiere's invention was the first to combine a portable motion-picture camera, film processing unit and projector, and it was his camera that showed the first movie in a theater with more than one paying person. It was exciting stuff, they showed workers leaving a local factory at their test screening, and for the first real screening, they basically showed home movies. On second thought that may be better than much of Hollywood's offerings today, but I digress.

Sounds and the Movies

In the beginning movies were silent. If you wanted music or sounds, you hired a orchestra, or the operator of the projector made his own sound effects. There were efforts to synchronize gramophones and phonographs to the movie, but these were largely unsuccessful. The first truly sucessful method for sound at the movies was the Vitaphone system developed by Warner Brothers, it was used in the 1927 movie "The Jazz Singer". It worked, but was not ideal (it used records that broke a lot). The eventual system adopted in 1928 arose from an amalgamation of Lee de Forest and Theodore Case's Phonofilm system with Charles A. Hoxie's Photophone system. Subsequent developments in sound have been the Dolby system, and more recently digital sound in the forms of Dolby digital which is on the film and Digital Theatre Sound (DTS), these are used in movies today.

Color movies

Oddly enough, color did not seem all that important to the motion picture indusrty. Movies in color had been around for decades (since 1906), but as late as 1954, more than one half of the films shot were still shot in black and white. If there was a film that had color in it in the 30's and 40's it was shot in Technicolor a process where a special camera was used that split the image and recorded on three strips of black and white film simultaneously. Red, green, and blue filters were used to filter the light to the three strips respectively. A proprietary printing process translated the images from the developed strips into the color prints projected in the theatres. The downside of Technicolor? It was very expensive. Even so, Technicolor was the dominant coloring process until the mid' 1950's, when Kodak's Eastman Color process made its debut, and gained the upper hand.

There are many other facets to the movies and hopefully someone can node them, I just wanted to get this node off to a good start.

Ever since the early 1970s, children and non-intoxicated adults have had an activity to fill a couple hours each evening and keep them from smashing rocks over each other's heads the way things used to be before people starting "getting woke" (Internet kiddie saying). That activity has been movies.

When I came to Baltimore in the early 1970s, I had already seen movies that my father's erstwhile former lover Leah used to make, but German technology was decades ahead of the Americans at that time. Germany was the world's only superpower and America was a collection of 40-50 pioneer shacks where people urinated on logs and used a 17th century war wagon and Captain America to defeat the Germans through trickery and playing with communists. That changed in the 1970s with the advent of "the movie," a word meaning "pictures that move on a screen." The introduction of film technology to America in the early 1970s made America into a world superpower. There can be no debate on this topic. I won't allow it.

The first movie to be officially released in America was The Outlaw Josey Wales shown after a Mickey Mouse cartoon when Walt Disney pioneered the character of the mouse with a hat on to commemorate the release of the first movie in America on January 10, 1970, a date no American who was alive at the time can ever forget. Millions of typically bucktoothed and hee-hawing Americans lined up like cattle to file into the theatre to see these features. The dating scene became much easier because it was easier to pin and grope a woman in the dark than at dinner in front of her strict Protestant parents and her shotgun-toting uncle. Enough said.

The first instance of homosexuality in history occurred when two men were spotted kissing in the back row of a theatre showing the classic film, The Sex Pigs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1972. This changed the course of the world. At the time I did not like this business because it seemed unnatural to me, and because of reported ties between that and the first recorded instance of cancer in a city 3,000 miles away two decades earlier, which concerned me. I have since come to believe that homosexuality opens a door to me that was not open to me before because when I am in a room I can propose sex to anyone in it without reprisals. And I have been having a closet affair with my friend Chopper for three years (although we've fallen out of touch).

These are historical moments tied to the advent of film technology in America in the early 1970s, but movies did more than just cause historical moments you can tell your fundamentalist friends about when you see them at company picnics. They created mass hysteria.

In 1973, when the classic movie The Wizard of Oz was first released in theatres, there was a general panic over the belief that this movie was about real events and that an alien invasion was under way, creating some kind of "war between the worlds" scenario. People were tearing down storefronts and screaming, "Surrender Dorothy" to the point of absolute inanity. This went on for a full three months before people settled down. After that, movies were required to state that they were not about real events that were happening at the same time as people were watching the movie.

A movie is about something that happened in the past. Possibly yesterday, but also movies about cavemen have been made. Ringo Starr has been in many of those movies.

Color and sound was added to movies in 1978, appearing together for the first time in the classic Christopher Reeve biopic, Superman, a film which was so intense it caused Margot Kidder to lose her mind. This also may have been related to sex with the character of Superman, which would be biologically impossible due to the speed and force with which Superman's semen moves through the birth canal. It isn't something you want to talk about over dinner with your fundamentalist relatives.

In 1985, the first movie with a serious theme was released to theatres to much fanfare. Manimal told the true story of a man who changed painfully into different animals at various times and showed his emotional and physical pain in a very real way. It won the first ever Academy Award, which then became the most prestigious award in the film industry (which makes movies and donates to liberal politicians).

So, the next time you see a movie in the local cinema remember the history of this significant art form and don't take it for granted. A lot of people suffered and died so you can laugh at Cheech & Chong.

"Save me an aisle seat."

Mov"ie (?), n.

A moving picture or a moving picture show; -- commonly used in pl.

[Slang or Colloq.]


© Webster 1913

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