The Next Golden Age – Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Golden Age of cinema.

Most film historians will point to the period of the studio system from the 20’s to the 60’s as the golden age of Hollywood. One key year, 1939, is often cited for the release of “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz”. Postwar, Europe brought a vitality to film with “new wave” filmmakers in France and Italy. Then came the first film school generation with Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola and De Palma. One of them – Spielberg – changed the movie-going experience for the next 40 years. With “Jaws”, Spielberg ushered in the age of the blockbuster.

When I was in film school in the 1980’s, indie cinema was coming into its own with directors like Jim Jarmusch and the Coen brothers. It was inspiring to see great cinema being produced by these young filmmakers and at a realizable cost. At the same time, the advent of VCRs and rentals added a whole new avenue for filmmakers to get their films seen in public. Yes, a lot of it was schlock.

Now we’ve entered the digital age. The digital age is so much more than the replacement of chemicals with electrons. The digital age has put filmmaking in the hands of the masses. It’s amazing to me the editing and FX capability that sits on my desktop computer (a tape-based, avid system would have cost over $100K when I was in film school and would have far less functionality). Cameras and lenses can be had by film students that rival some of the best available to the golden age cinematographers. The internet has made it possible for a filmmaker to “four wall” his or her film to the world for free!

So, I’ve been sitting here the last few years waiting for the next golden age of cinema… and I sit here waiting. With so much filmmaking power in the hands of so many people, where are the next great contributors to the art form? What I see for the most part is more schlock than was produced in the straight-to-video era. Why?

I think that there are only so many talented individuals in this world. Only once in a while will you get a Chaplin or a Truffaut or a Kubrick or a Spielberg. However, we now have so many more chances of finding them. We’re casting a wider net, as it were, and yet… I sit here waiting. For sure there are talented filmmakers working right now, that’s not the point. The point is, shouldn’t we be living in a new golden age of film right now? Some would argue television is where the golden age is occurring. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong screen? What do you think?

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