What is a Movie?

Once upon a time, a movie was a video story that took over an hour to tell and required you to leave your home, buy a ticket, sit and be entertained. Genre didn’t matter, popcorn didn’t matter, the comfort level of your seats didn’t matter. You watched it with others and it had to be in a theater.

Today, it’s more complicated. If you’re watching something on Netflix that takes over an hour and isn’t a TV show, it is a “movie” but not always a great one. It depends on the quality of the script, acting, cinematography and editing, the music and the special effects. It also depends on whether it tries to say something bigger than itself, if it has an artistic ambition, if it’s trying to explore and convey or if it is just about making money.

The first films were static shots of events — workers leaving a factory gate, people walking in the street, the view from the front of a train traveling down a city’s Main Street. Around the turn of the 20th century, filmmakers started stringing several scenes together to create a story. And once they did, audiences responded to the emotion and tension in these new, moving images. Ang Lee’s adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story is one of the most famous examples – and it won best picture in 1996. This film is both heartbreaking and uplifting, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s shepherds’ love matched by the beauty of Wyoming landscapes.