A Space Odyssey: Hollywood Film Analysis Essay

Published: 2021-07-19
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Middlebury College
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Richard Maltby argues that studying films as art takes them out of the context of their production and consumption as objects in an industrial and commercial process; films have formal and aesthetic properties but must also be regarded as consumable goods in a capitalist economy. According to Wikipedia, Hollywood is a Cinema of the US, sometimes known as Hollywood. Today, the US is the third most prolific producer of films in the world after India (Bollywood) and Nigeria (Nollywood). In studying Hollywood, the following aspects should be considered:


Political Economy




Hollywood Classicism

According to Richard Maltby, the rules of composition and aesthetic organization in classical cinema produce unity, balance, and order in the resulting art-work.D. Bordwell, Thompson and J. Staiger say that the principles which Hollywood claims as its own rely on notions of decorum, proportion, formal harmony, respect for tradition, mimesis, self-effacing craftsmanship and cool control of the perceivers response.

History of Hollywood

Has four distinct eras which include the following:

Silent era and the emergence of the studio system.

The Golden Years of Classical Hollywood Cinema.

The end of the Production Code.

Contemporary Hollywood.

Manifest Destiny

The manifest destiny is an American belief originating in the 19th century that the US was destined to expand across the continent. It is still identified by the political left and critics of US foreign policy as a cause of American imperialism.

Lecture 2: Hollywood and the production code

The production code was a code that was developed in the industry to structure, guide film output and distribution of films. The 1930s was a remarkable decade for Hollywood cinema. It was in this decade that Hollywood film confronted social pressures coming from outsiders and figured out ways to ensure that its production would go ahead. In the 1920s and 1930s, Hollywood studios were under increasing criticism and pressure from civil reform groups in the US and overseas. These groups argued that Hollywood Cinema promoted immorality and was also a corrupting influence. These influences originated from both the United States and Overseas, and with Hollywood Cinemas distributing films in both the US and overseas, it had to figure out a way around it. From the production code cited in Jacobs p. 10, there was a lot of discussion at this time about how Hollywood might affect sexual morals and conduct.

Movies had become a key site where cultural anxieties got played out. They had become subject to critical attention and public outcry than any other cultural forms like literature. The complaints made by particular lobby groups were felt like the political pressure at a state government level and also as industry pressure regarding box office. This resulted in the films being boycotted, cut or banned. To go around these challenges, the film industry came up with the production code. It was introduced by all the studios getting together and developing a code of practice they would use to shape their films as a way of precluding state censorship. This was indeed a system of self-regulation. Thus, the production code was introduced and managed by the studios. The primary aim of the code was to ensure that the studios could get their production out distribute them to both the domestic market (United States) and international market. The code led to the film industry neglect the contentious subjects and things which were contradictory to the industry policy. It avoided things in ways that people could recognize. It was comprised of guidelines that film industries had to meet. It provided film industries with a way of being self-regulated. The MPPDA (Motion Pictures and Producers and Distributors Association) set up the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) would go through the script before shooting of movies and pull out scenes that would be problematic. Therefore, films required the approval of SRC before they could be distributed.

The production code came into being in 1930 and was implemented through the Studio Relations Committee which operated until 1934, where it was refigured. The MPPDA oversaw all of this.The Production Code Administration (PCA) was the body that replaced the SRC after it was disbanded in 1934.The production code was a determining force in the construction of narrative and the delineation of character in every studio film produced after 1931. It also taught film viewers how to read between the lines and taught directors how to be ambiguous.

Lecture 3: Hollywood cinema

The technology and Genres of Early Cinema

The first camera and film projector were called the cinematograph. It was simultaneously the camera and a projector invented by the Lumiere brothers from France. Their invention made it possible for the first film for a public audience screened on December 28, 1895. The very first comedy made was by the Lumiere brothers and was called L'Arroseur arose. In the US, the invention of cinema took place as follows:

1888 the Kodak camera was invented.

1889 George Eastman developed the first picture film.

1891-1893 Thomas Edison perfected the first motion camera.

1895-1896 Edison worked on a projector.

Edisons first projector was called the kinetoscope.


The film could only be viewed by a single person and utilized the peep show principle. Kinetoscope parlors were popular all over the US, and each had five machines. People would pay a 25c entry fee or a 5c fee per machine. Its audience was predominantly the middle-class audience-the same audience who frequented vaudeville shows, variety theatres, and amusement parks. Kinetoscopes were in use until 1905.


The significant thing about Vaudeville entertainment is that it comprised of a variety of entertainment. It consisted of some shows such as musical numbers, magic acts, one act plays, performances by trained animals, acrobats, impersonators, dancers, athletes, etc. So it was quite easy to integrate projectors where movies were initially shown as one element of some variety acts.

1895-1905: the cinema of attractions

The first films were very short (just a few minutes duration). They were brief attractions whose appeal was their spectacular subject matter. There were different kinds of attractions namely:


Films of distant and exotic locales.

Trick films that played with the technical and illusionistic capabilities of the medium (slow and fast motion, reverse motion, and multiple exposures)

Shocking events

Strong men flexing their muscles

Women were undressing for the camera.

Cinema of this time is described as a cinema of showing rather than a cinema of telling.

Viewing Spaces

1905: The Nickelodeon

They were situated in shopping or entertainment districts and seated around 200 people. They were first converted from shops but as the popularity of cinema increased, purpose built venues attracted working class patrons and the middle class that previously frequented vaudeville. Nickelodeons were among the first movie houses where members of different classes, religions, and ethnicities were transformed into a single community of movie goers. Nickelodeons were however racially segregated.

Public response to cinema

Cinemas were melting pots of differences since they were full of people from different backgrounds and races. For some people, the mass appeal of movies was potentially harmful to maintaining conservative Victorian values. Anxiety about the threat posed to the citys moral and physical well-being-in 1908 the mayor of NY ordered all Nickelodeons to be closed down. If cinema wanted to prevail, this anxiety had to be addressed. The first player to do so was The Motion Pictures Patents Company (MPPC), which was quick to respond to public concern over its capacity to sustain a morally virtuous society when showing films.

D. W. Griffith

He was the father of narrative cinema and heavily invested in the idea that cinema was an art. He made excellent use of cinematic devices. Other prominent early American film pioneers include Thomas Ince and Mack Sennett.

Crosscutting/parallel editing

Two separate series of shots of actions that occur in different spatial locations but at the same time are intercut to create suspense.

The Close-up

Griffith used this technique to give the audience a sense of what the character was thinking by connecting close ups of their expressive faces with objects of their desire. Close-ups allowed audiences to attribute psychological states of characters.

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