To summarize the film industry, its progress over the years, and how one director’s style or one picture gave birth to another, would be a feat that is almost impossible to achieve. Two good books successfully narrated Hollywood’s progress but each book made reference to thousands of films. Chief film critic Robbie Collin takes a shot at summarizing Hollywood in 10 films. In his narrative list, he omitted the great films such as Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, and the likes because the greatness of these films, Collin believed, would drown out the others.
1. One Week (1920). Art is an imitation of life and in 1920s people can relate to funny and tough stories. It was Buster Keaton who was the master of this era, and who masterfully played the role that so many men can very well relate, that Collin also identified as the perpetrator of the birth of American film. The story shows a newlywed couple who are trying to build a house. The film was successful in capturing the paroxysms of excitement and fear when one tries to make his way in this world. Collin thinks that the film exploded with energy and youth, like the very first chapter of the history of the film industry.
2. It Happened One Night (1934). It was the first film that won all five major awards in the Academy’s. What made it very great is that audiences who were all suffering from the Great Depression wanted an escapism and a social satire that Francesco Capra’s film generously provided.
3. Stagecoach (1939). This film brought back the grandeur in American films, raising respectability, adding poetry, and letting the industry come back roaring out of the B-pictures. This film ventured out of the world created by the big studios and dabbled on the thrilling genre.
4. Out of the Past (1947). After the war, Hollywood’s taste for films has turned sourer and sexier. According to Collin though, nothing can beat the sexiness and sourness better than this Jacques Tourneur film. It has cool dialogue that ‘makes you laugh with callous delight’, with the actors real and raw onscreen chemistry. It was a perfect film noir that captivated audiences.
5. An American in Paris (1951). This marked the very first successful amalgamation of Broadway and Hollywood. The choreography and stunts were astounding for its time with Gene Kelly leaping and whirling around the painting of the French capital, evoking what can be called as pure and ageless cinema.
6. Point Blank (1967). Hollywood was shackled by Motion Picture Production Code that made all its film prude and timid compared to its European counterpart. This film, even though it was created by an English director, is American in every way. It’s sexy and violent and it was so much like a science fiction.
7. The Conversation (1974). This Francis Ford Coppola film represents the era of Hollywood catch up, the era when the industry hired very young mavericks to supply smart, literate, and wildly entertaining cinema. The film’s story revolves around the mounting paranoia caused by the governance of Nixon. This film and the films created afterwards slowly helped Hollywood gain its confidence back.
8. Back to the Future (1985). For Collin, this film was the pinnacle of the fruitful period for the film industry. It is funny, optimistic, nostalgic, and gives focus on real human experience. It has tense editing much like Hitchcock’s films.
9. Pulp Fiction (1994). Quentin Tarantino was one of the three products of the Sundance Institute that Robert Redford has founded. It’s the institution that created the modern independent film in America. This film was something else and gave birth to “trash” cinema.
10. The Dark Knight (2008). After the 9-11 attack, Hollywood found itself outblockbustered by the reality and the industry thought the only option left was laughter. Christopher Nolan provided just that through Heath Ledger’s cackling white face. Collin said without the Nolan’s trilogy, superhero movies today wouldn’t be as thunderous. Audiences have responded to the fantastical messages that Nolan tried to send just as they did for a film noir after the Second World War.