Early American Cinema: Selected Films of 1900 and 1901

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The Second Boer War (1899-1902) pitted Great Britain’s Cape Colony against the South African Republic and the Orange Free State; Capture of Boer Battery by British (directed by James H. White) shows the Gordon Highlanders (a line infantry regiment) holding the line. By 1900, American films were getting steadily longer, with this one reaching a minute or so in length – the previous decade saw the first feature-length film, The Corbitt-Fitzsimmons Fight of 1897 (only fragments remain of it), documenting the titular boxing match between James J. Corbitt and Bob Fitzsimmons on St. Patrick’s Day, and Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studio remained an important place for cinematography. As can be seen in Capture, the wide shot became one of many innovative techniques introduced in the nascent years of cinema – documentary films carried over from the 1890s, and fictional narratives became more commonplace as the 20th century dawned.

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Early American Cinema: 1890-1896

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Believe it or not, the above screenshots come from the earliest known American films – Monkeyshines no. 1 and Monkeyshines no. 2, respectively. These illustrate American cinema’s nascent period, a time when moving pictures were a novelty and more of a distracting pastime than the major industry we know of today. These particular films (two of three in the Monkeyshines series, all released in 1890) were directed by William K. L. Dickson and William Heise, pioneers in the medium – Dickson would go on to release Dickson Greeting in 1891, the first publicly-shown film in American history, while Heise produced The Kiss, a famous (very) short film depicting the actors May Irwin and John Rice kissing. The 1890s proved to be a rather productive decade for cinema around the world – in the States, the Biograph Company became the first U.S. company to produce and distribute film (debuting in 1895 or so), while Pathé in France debuted in 1896.

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Galaxy Express 999 Episode 2: Life Lessons on Mars

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Mars, the Red Planet – the first stop on the Galaxy Express, allowing Tetsurou to see life on another planet for the first time. That the world looks like a classic Western town is rather fitting, for reasons that will be explained later; for now, the opening shows Tetsurou and Maetal arriving on their first journey away from home, leaving the Earth behind. Of note is the one shot (shown above) of the two isolated in a frame, with darkness around them – this happens to be a long shot, placing the central figures off-center, with them talking about the fact that Tetsurou could indeed die if he were to miss the train. Maetal, the worldly mentor, teaches Tetsurou about the universe and what to expect; this happens to be Tetsurou’s journey more than anything, as he experiences life in the universe on his own terms, seeing the galaxy for the first time as he leaves the confines of Earth (and the bad memories that exist there) so that he can obtain a mechanical body.

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