Moving images have captured the imaginations of human beings since the very beginnings of our species... Grand, sweeping introductory statement? Check. Now we can begin...

Just The Facts

  1. A movie is any representational media that produces a moving image.
  2. You have watched thousands of movies in your lifetime.
  3. You've probably touched yourself to more than half.
  4. Aside from pornography, movies can be used to tell stories and convey ideas.

Plato's Cave

The cave concept, from Plato's Republic (380 bc.), is presented as a discussion between Socrates and Glaucon. The term 'discussion' is used very loosely when referring to Socrates. Contributing any of your own ideas to the discussion would be like Luke teaching Obi-Wan how to use the force.

Socrates created a hypothetical cave in which a bunch of dudes have been held prisoner for their entire lives. They are chained down so that they can only see the cave wall. Shadows are cast onto the wall, providing them with their only source of stimulation and entertainment. Since the 'shadow casters' had a pretty captive audience, they felt uncompelled to produce anything with quality characters, twist endings, a plot, or recognizable shapes of any kind.

Below is the cave as Socrates described it.

Look familiar?

A bunch of pale mouth-breathers sitting inside a dark room? With sticky floors and disgusting body odour? Thank god I've never been subjected to such-

Oh. Right.

Sitting in the darkness? Check. Light source behind us? Yep. Image projected onto screening front of us? Of course. Chains? They may not be popular yet bet theatres will need to evolve if Matthew McConaughey continues to appear in movies. The only trick now is how to get people in.

I suppose Socrates didn't 'invent' movies in the same way Edison invented the lightbulb. He really just vaguely conceptualized the idea. But if the internet has taught me anything (and it hasn't), it's that actions don't mean jack shit compared to thoughtful musings and empty words. Either way, this is history's first mock-up of the cinematic experience, thousands of years before technology could catch up to Socrates and his vision. In comparison, it only took 20 years for technology to catch up to James Cameron's vision for Avatar.

Come on, science. Try to keep up.

Muybridge and the Horse Debate

Lets jump ahead a couple thousand years to 1872 when former Governor of California Leland Stanford had become interested in a popular debate at the time. "Does a horse have all four hooves off of the ground at any given point in its gallop?" This is what used to happen when people ran out of things to argue about before the invention of the internet.

Stanford set out to prove "unsupported transit" and recruited a photographer named Eadweard Muybridge to help find a way. Eaddie, feeling he had something to prove with such an oddly spelled first name, set up cameras around a horse track. He rigged each of them with trip wires so that when the horse ran past, each camera could take a picture of it in mid gallop.

The succession of photographs created in this experiment set the stage for the development of motion picture technology which began in the next decade. Oh and as you can see above, Stanford proved "unsupported transit", ending a long debate that many claim was "just utterly pointless".

Edison and The Lumiere Brothers

Various technicians tinkered with the budding technology. Even Edison tried his inventy little hand at making movies. He created the Kinetograph, one of the first motion picture cameras. He also invented the Kinetoscope which was used as a viewing device. The films depicted in the Kinetoscope were simple shots of moving bodies such as boxing matches and pornography.

I see some TITTAYS!!!

Where Edison's design faltered was in how he exhibited his films. Surprisingly, people didn't like being hunched over with their cheek bones pushed down against cold steel. In 1895, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere began showing their short films at Salon Indien du Grande Cafe in Paris. Audiences piled in to experience this wacky new technology. They were thrilled by what they saw and some accounts say that the image of an approaching train looked so real that people jumped out of their seats in surprise and panic. Or perhaps witnessing the true birth of cinema might have been so genital-tinglingly awesome that it caused the spectators to have intense orgasms, which were mistaken for panic by those outside the theater.


Movies Today

Styles have emerged and been played out. New technology is giving filmmakers a greater mastery over images and sounds. Original ideas are increasingly harder to come by. A brave leap into the realm of three dimensions brings with it new possibilities and many questions about the future. And yet like the great, unchanging pyramids of Egypt, Keanu Reeves sucks at acting.