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A 16 Year Old’s Perspective on Modern and Classic Films: How Have Movies Changed?

By Luke McGuire

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Is this Marlon Brando’s fearsome mafia boss, sitting in a dark, smoke-filled room outside the scene of his daughter’s wedding? No, it’s me, a 16 year old kid on Halloween at my high school, dressed up as the legendary crime Don from one of my favorite movies, The Godfather. Unfortunately, not a single one of my classmates knows who I’m supposed to be. Though I am only 16, I have developed a passion for all kinds of film. My interest began over the pandemic. Like many others, I had become tired of quarantining during the pandemic when I decided I wanted to start watching and reviewing films. At that point I was unqualified to criticize anything, but I didn’t know that.

I began to watch films based on recommendations from family members, and before I knew it, I was obsessed. I was constantly researching movies to watch, organizing and reorganizing my top 10 list, and familiarizing myself with different directors and styles. Film saved me. However, I found that my interest in classic films was not shared by many of my peers. Friends of mine would tell me that they just weren’t interested in movies made before 1990, or would scoff at me when I told them that I liked an old movie. It wasn’t that my friends had no appreciation for classic films, they just didn’t know classic films. 

People debate about whether or not classics are “better” than contemporary films or vice versa, but the topic is entirely subjective. It is more useful to recognize that these two film styles serve different purposes, and are driven by different motivations. Many contemporary films are an escape from life. They seek to thrill or excite an audience. Modern horror films, such as It or Halloween seek little more than to frighten an audience, and the use of modern special effects only makes it easier. Many modern comedies exemplify “slapstick” qualities, with no real message or meaning. In many classic films, comedy was used as a way of portraying a director’s point of view on life. Lines like “gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the war room!” from Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove hold both insightful and comedic value. When Hitchcock made his 1960 horror film Psycho he was not able to benefit from the technological advancements of our time, and had to rely on his own expert filmmaking. In the famous shower murder scene, music and a masterful use of camera angels and shadows made the scene great, not overly gory visual effects. None of this is to say that I dislike all or even most current films. There are many films today that use modern technological advancements to enhance their storytelling. Rather than trying to convince others that one era of film is finer than the other, we should acknowledge the good elements from both to better the movies of the future.

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