Oscar Island Is Shrinking

Sasha Stone‘s just-posted article, “Where The Oscars Go When Television Starts To Lead,” is well worth reading. It basically (a) acknowledges the steady, gradual drift of quality-level talent (especially writers) away from theatrical and over to cable television while (b) urging that the Academy needs to start giving a special annual Oscar to the Best Effects-Driven Film — “a separate category for the kinds of films they don’t like to award for Best Picture, the same way they’ve done for Foreign Language film and Animated Feature.”

Excerpt #1: “American film is moving away from good, quality storytelling and towards branded tent poles. This started during my childhood with the advent of the blockbuster. Now we’re actually rebooting Star Wars via JJ Abrams. Movies as video games, movies as amusement park rides, movies as familiar, comforting, non-challenging entertainment. Tent poles — get used to them. Get used to every beloved director being hired to make one. Branded tent poles are power in Hollywood. Directors can do those and then turn around and make what they want.”

Excerpt #2: “The Academy is going to have to find a way to deal with effects-driven films within the next ten years. Either that, or the Best Picture/Best Director race is going to represent world cinema — films made by foreign directors who aren’t seduced by the tent poles and are still being encouraged to simply tell good stories, to make good movies. This is what you see at the Cannes Film Festival, and it should be said [that] the Sundance Film Festival offers up many films by up-and-coming filmmakers. That hasn’t changed. Independents will continue to find a seat at the table, with unknown but talented filmmakers while the best directors this country has to offer are off doing This New Piece of Crap, Part 10: The Formative Years or else they are making coffee and music as David Lynch is doing, or they have exiled themselves to television where the ground is fertile, the audience engaged and the future limitless.”

Excerpt #3: “Right now, Oscar Island still makes room for the best directors working at the top of their game, like Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, like Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming Inherent Vice, like David Fincher’s Gone Girl. But it certainly isn’t easy for them. Scorsese had to go outside the studios to get funding. Television is going to continue to thrive in this, its second Golden Age. Effects movies are going to continue to make too much money to stop now. Americans are going to condition themselves to watch only one kind of movie when they go to movie theaters. The baby boomers are [soon] going to be senior citizens soon so perhaps they alone can keep alive the art house.

“Or maybe we can keep looking to pioneers like last year’s Ava DuVernay, who is broadening the reach of the art house to, gasp, people of color. Or Benh Zeitlin who used crowd funding and a good idea to make his movie. Oscar Island waits for them and offers them safe passage through the storm.”

  • I saw about 50 quality movies last year and I’m sure critics who watch EVERYTHING saw even more. Art-driven flicks are moving away from studios but independent financing, co-financing, and St. Ellison have ensured plenty of star-driven, boss vehicles even as tentpoles swarm the multiplexes.

    We forget, there’s a TON OF SHIT on tv. Critics single out the good shows because they last for years whereas audiences can stop watching garbage. Critics have to see just about every flick that comes down the line so cynical expressions of commercial interest or general shoddiness don’t escape their notice.

    If Sasha had to watch every CBS procedural and Chuck Lorre printing press and all the soon-the-be-cancelled failed experiments, she’d probably sing a different tune. And as much as I love MAD MEN, it’s a what, 9 year investment? Christ, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD was a 2-hour one-and-done which holds an appeal of its own.

    • Christopher A. Otto

      Let’s face it. You can fill out the entire Emmy ballot each year at this point without once flipping to ABC, NBC or CBS. No need to subject yourself to any of that dreck.

      • Jeff

        Hannibal is pretty damned good and Fox/NBC still have some great comedy choices in Brooklyn 99, Parks and Rec, Community and New Girl. But yes on the whole you are right.

      • Mechanical Shark

        You could, but the networks do still produce some good stuff. In particular, I’d recommend Person of Interest, The Good Wife, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. At the very least, see the last one. A TV awards ballot without Andre Braugher = a shameful ballot.

    • Pertwillaby

      Amen. TV will never be as good as cinema. The best thing television can offer is simply very well made quality entertainment. You won’t find stuff like 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street or Blue is the Warmest Color on TV in the near future.

      • BrianBrightblade

        Why does it have to be as good or compared? We wouldn’t be making this comparison of films to books. They are two very different art forms which can and should coexist. I can equally love and respect a two-hour film and a multi-season exploration on television.

        • moviewatcher

          2 things:
          The comparisons started when people who watched Cable TV series began saying it was better than film (they should see more movies that aren’t studio dreck, and they should see all the shit that’s out there on TV before making such an uneducated judgement)

          I definitely agree that TV has never reached the moments of cinematic ecstasy one experiences when watching a masterpiece. However, I do think TV can reach some truly great depths and go past being “simply very well made quality entertainment”. The very crop of the crop of TV series (Mad Men among them) do sometimes reach those climaxes that could stand up there with some of the great scenes in film history. Not the greatest (you know, you won’t find anything remotely as great as the “Club Silentio” scene from Mullholland Drive on TV) but some of the great ones, definitely.

          • Pertwillaby

            The funny thing is that Mullholland Drive was originally intended to be a TV series and about 75% of the final movie was shot for TV.

            Still I believe it’s great that at the end it turned out to be a movie. It would have never been this great as a TV show.

            • moviewatcher

              Everything in the last 45 minutes or so (basically anything post-nudity) didn’t come from TV material, but I get your point. I’d then submit to you the opening and final minutes of Apocalypse Now; the climax of Barton Fink; and just about all of Persona.

        • Pertwillaby

          I am not the one who made the comparison. I just simply pointed out that the comparison was wrong.

    • thevisitor967

      It’s true. The cinema is playing catch up to television. How else can you explain why the majority of the films that were nominated for a Best Picture Oscar were derivative of reality TV? (Note: Reality TV = Biopics)

      • moviewatcher

        Because “Best Picture Oscar Nominees” do not equal “Best Films of the Year”? (although the nominees are better than the winners at least 90% of the time)

    • Kano’s_Razor

      “I love MAD MEN, it’s a what, 9 year investment? Christ, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD was a 2-hour one-and-done which holds an appeal of its own.”

      I’m super-late to this thread (obviously), but this is sort of what I was ranting and raving about above this morning. I’m a fan of both MM and RR, but it shouldn’t exactly take a Rhodes scholar to figure out that they are DIFFERENT ANIMALS and should be evaluated as such (well-thought out example by you, by the way).

      It feels like most pro-TV people will always take the stance of, like, “oooooh, such-and-such (in this case, Mad Men) is just so much DEEPER!” Two points about that:

      a) Well, no shit, Sherlock — they had like 50-some odd episodes onscreen, and countless more YEARS to think and develop that theme offscreen.

      b) The flipside of that is they have a lot more time to fill constantly — certainly not an easy task, and I can respect that — so the whole “Who is Don Draper?” kernel (which is really the ONE quality that propels the show to its “gotta-see-it!” level, IMHO) has been spread fairly paper-thin across a handful of episodes in six seasons. You take that element away, and — yeah, you still have the historical upheaval from a working person’s POV angle and the ad hijinx which are diverting enough — but isn’t it basically, like, the ’60s version of The Office (TM D.Z.)?

      Both mediums are good in different ways. It’s just that, to me, I want to make sure a show is definitely on the right track before I jump onboard. Because a $5 blown matinee some random Saturday afternoon on watching Eva Green go nuts in a stupid 300 sequel, meh…I was probably just going to lay on the couch and watch college basketball, anyway. But if you’ve invested enough hours in a show that make up more than 2 COMPLETE DAYS of your life? That shit better be good, and it better not jump the shark at the end in a way similar to Lost that makes me feel cheated and stupid for having ever started watching in the first place.

      • Yeah, 300 was pretty crappy but Eva Green’s scantily-clad antics made the 100-minute investment worth it (the $15 ticket, not so much)…

        Comparing two mediums with entirely different storytelling processes is pointless. Saying a book’s better than a movie which is better than television with is greater than or equal to a rock opera which is better than a painting which blah blah blah…As hard as it is to maintain an audience’s interest across dozens of programming hours, I think it’s equally challenging to tell a complete, compelling story in 120 minutes. It’s much more worthwhile and fair to the creators to look at art in a vacuum; these cross-medium comparisons never produce accurate assessments.

        • Kano’s_Razor

          That’s right. And some people are going to have natural preferences for one medium over another for a myriad of reasons.

          I’ve always said that watching a great TV show is like experiencing a budding romantic relationship, whereas a great movie is like an unforgettable passionate fling on a long weekend. Both are absolutely fantastic and utterly life-affirming in their own ways — don’t limit yourself to being an “either/or” guy.

  • Christopher A. Otto

    I absolutely think they should consider adding some “new” Oscars. Effects-driven film is one possibility. … I mentioned elsewhere that they should add two acting categories geared toward comedic performances. It would both reward a group of actors who are unfairly overlooked against dramatic competitions and add some big-time ratings power to the broadcast. It would be fun to go back the past 20 years and speculate who would have won Best Male Comedic Performance and Best Female Comedic Performance.

    • DiCaprio in WOLF for all the awards.

    • Thom Phoolery

      Yeah awesome, make it a SIX hour telecast. Awzzzzzzzzzz

    • Pertwillaby

      NO NO NO!!! There are alread WAY too many categories. This is not kindergarten where everyone gets a prize.

      • Jeff

        Why not just push out all the shorts and combine some of the other categories. Its ridiculous that comedy/action performers are always overlooked when they make up a fairly large portion of movies the Americans actually see. I wouldn’t have minded The Dark Knight winning, although this leaves the door open to having to say Academy Award winner Adam Sandler…

        • Christopher A. Otto

          This. Way too much of the Oscar-cast is spent on awards that are irrelevant to 99.5% of the audience.

    • Jeff

      I’d be up for Best Comedic Performance(one for men and one for women) but only if it was really for a comedy and not some horseshit way of pretending a dark dramedy is really a comedy.

      • Christopher A. Otto

        Agreed. Meryl Streep and David O. Russell-like films would be ineligible for the Best Comedic Performances category.

  • I wouldn’t sing the praises of television just yet. Reality programming is basically the summer tentpole of television, and it’s everywhere.

    Increasingly, it’s just more convenient and economical for people to stay home and watch television, and most people have decent-enough systems to make them not miss the theatrical experience much. Tentpole films and “experience” films (think AVATAR or GRAVITY) lure people into the theater in droves, but I don’t think these moviegoers prefer to be at the theater if they had the choice. For instance, most of my friends chose to wait to see ALL IS LOST and NEBRASKA at home rather than the movies. Those are now “television” movies because they don’t require the widescreen experience.

    If they really want the Oscars to matter, they need to make them more like the MTV Movie Awards:
    BEST 3D

  • Ray Quick

    I don’t read Awards Daily, but does Sasha ever go to, like, other movies during the rest of the year, or just write about the next year’s Oscars from March forward? I always get this sense that she doesn’t see a single fucking thing unless it may someday factor into the Oscar game. She’s said on here how she’s this FILM EXPERT we undervalue and she has this deep deep love of cinema…. but like five movies come out this weekend alone, and I’d guarantee she won’t bother to see any of them. Hell, the MOVIE EVENT OF A LIFETIME comes out in two weeks — SABOTAGE — and I can’t imagine Sasha or Jeff even remotely care.

    • Thom Phoolery

      Sabotage? Damn, Spike Jonze directed another movie already?

    • Mechanical Shark

      sabotage looks awesome. Ayer having TWO films this year excites me to no end. End of Watch = MASTERPIECE.

    • JoeS

      And, she still hasn’t seen THE GREAT BEAUTY despite it garnering world-wide acclaim, awards and now, the Foreign Film Oscar. So Sasha is selective of even what Academy Awards “count”, I guess………

    • moviewatcher

      Not sure sabotage was the best example to give, but up till there your post pretty on point. 🙂

  • brenkilco

    So on the one hand quality story telling on the big screen has been driven out by the mindless, CGI tentpoles. But on the other hand if the annual orgy of cinematic, self congratulation these sites all live by is to remain relevant it must find a way to celebrate the mindless, CGI tentpoles. Cognitive dissonance can’t be fatal. Can it?

  • K. Bowen

    It’s easier for quality films to find an audience now than it’s been in a long time. Look at the slate of Best Pictures this time around: Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Gravity, etc. each made $100 million-plus easily – genuine hits. That’s been going on for a few years.

    Meanwhile It’s not like quality television is some new phenomenon. There have always been a handful of good shows amid a sea of crap – Homicide, Northern Exposure, etc. I mean, Whit Stillman and David Fincher directed episodes of Homicide. The truth is that today’s good shows have far smaller audiences. But there’s a lot more hype. Before it’s final season, there were like 18 people that watched Breaking Bad and 17 of them spent all day writing about it on the Internet.

    I doubt Martin Scorsese feels like his art is threatened by Lena Dunham whatsoever. But maybe Sasha would like to be the one to let Marty know that it’s all over and he can go sell his camera.

    • Correcting Jeff

      “I doubt Martin Scorsese feels like his art is threatened by Lena Dunham whatsoever.”

      Perhaps not, but Martin Scorsese still felt intrigued enough by the possibilities of television to now work there.

    • Jeff

      The shows now(starting with The Sopranos) are SIGNIFICANTLY better than ever before. Old TV shows just don’t hold up, try rewatching some of the shows that won Best Drama in the 80s and early 90s, there was a massive leap. Shows that aren’t even Emmy nominees like The Americans and Hannibal would have been winning awards hand over fist 20 years ago.

      The problem isn’t that TV is better than movies, its that TV has closed the gap between the two mediums. The best episodes of tv wouldn’t win Best Picture, but the top to mid-tier shows and pure quantity of product(10-13 episodes per year) are on par with above average movies from a quality standpoint.

      • K. Bowen

        All I know is that when I finally get around to watching the hip new show it always disappoints me.

      • Kano’s_Razor

        “Old TV shows just don’t hold up, try rewatching some of the shows that
        won Best Drama in the 80s and early 90s”

        I almost feel like a time traveler could come back from the year 2020 and tell us that almost none of our current shows “hold up,” and I’d probably believe him.

        Isn’t it possible that TV is just one of those cultural anomalies that all seems very important “in the moment,” but in retrospect (even slight retrospect), seems kinda worthless? I almost feel like they are sort of the visual entertainment equivalent of a daily newspaper (or even a blog like this) in that respect — and who goes back and “re-reads” old HE blog posts??

        Hannibal is admittedly a pretty slickly-designed and eminently-watchable show, but (like most TV) ultimately sort of empty. I feel pretty confident in saying that hardly anyone will talk about it AT ALL after it finishes its run.

        • Jeff

          I think that used to be the case with dramas but I am not sure that is true anymore. First season episodes of The Sopranos or The Wire don’t really feel dated or unwatchable like first season LA Law or Picket Fences. Most of the HBO dramas hold up quite well in my opinion. Hell even something life Buffy’s pilot plays well 15-16 yrs later. This trend in dramas became apparent to me when Hitfix’s Firewall and Iceberg Podcast did their big summer pilot rewatch and you could see The Sopranos pilot as a dividing line in the sand.

          • Kano’s_Razor

            But Twin Peaks doesn’t seem dated to me at all. That’s the kind of show that would likely be on HBO today, and it just somehow slipped onto networks because that’s what happened in the ’90s (can also totally see X-Files in AMC’s Walking Dead slot today, with a geek show devoted to talking about it afterward).

            Maybe LA Law or Picket Fences were just never that good to begin with?

  • Correcting Jeff

    Extremely astute observations by Sasha.

    What’s fascinating to me is that the Harvey Weinsteins of the world will almost certainly go on pretending that dramatic film has enough relevance to continue warranting their self-congratulatory festivals and awards when, in reality, all of Hollywood will be dominated by the tentpoles. The festivals and awards will be their lonely echo chamber of fading relevance where they can pretend they still make the greatest art in the world.

    Meanwhile, anyone who wants to make a movie that ISN’T a tentpole will be going to television (and online distribution like Netflix) for the obvious reasons:

    1. Financing. Martin Scorsese has to finance his own films while 50 cable networks desperate for original prestige programming will throw cash at marquee talent– the talent will (*is*) following the money.

    2. Freedom. Cable nets give their showrunners FAR more creative control than any studio to craft their vision (at least for a time– see Darabont, Frank). Likewise, television isn’t limited to two hour movies with a studio editor breathing down your neck– directors and writers get many more hours to play with in telling their stories, they don’t have to leave what they like on the floor (for good or bad).

    3. Cost. TV is cheaper than film, both to make and distribute. That may not last forever as talent drives up prices, but for now it’s true.

    4. Prestige. The Emmys will never be the Oscars, but A-list cocktail parties are what really matter– and what dominates cocktail parties in 2014 more than must-see television? A statue on the mantle is always nice, but *social relevance* is of great value. People admire Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas Buyer’s Club performance, but they *talk about* his True Detective role. Getting talked about is what gets actors work, and what boosts their insatiable egos.

    5. Quality. When it comes to drama, comedy, etc., there is NOTHING preventing television from matching film. Meaning, there’s nothing inherently superior about making a dramatic movie on the big screen versus making it on the small screen.

    To quote Pertwillaby below: “You won’t find stuff like 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street or Blue is the Warmest Color on TV in the near future”? Yes, you will, because you already do. You found Behind the Candelabra (Soderbergh, Douglas and Damon) and Phil Spector (Al Pacino and Helen Mirren!) there. And those are just the “traditional” movies– you’ve got Martin Scorsese (Boardwalk Empire), David Fincher (HOC), Jane Campion (Top of the Lake) and others of their stature working in long form.

    Let’s face facts: Steve McQueen was a Brad Pitt-sponsored distribution deal away from making 12 Years a Slave on HBO or even the History Channel. Even then, there’s nothing about the movie or the cast that can’t be done on television. What, you can’t get Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio on TV? No– you can just get Academy Award Winner (TM) Matthew McConaughey.

    6. The Tentpole. The biggest flaw in the Hollywood assumption that it can only make money with “big screen” tentpoles is that *even there* tentpoles aren’t going to be unique to the big screen forever. When your audience has a 65+ inch 3D television at home that doesn’t cost $80 for a family of four to encounter gun-toting texters and seat-kickers, it takes a very rare movie experience to get them to the theater (something like Gravity).

    But the bigger issue for Hollywood is that what arguably makes the tentpoles unique– big special effects– is no longer the exclusive domain of Hollywood films. No, television isn’t there yet, but there’s nothing about CGI that doesn’t scale. You can put the CGI effects of a Battlestar Galactica or Game of Thrones right up against any dumb Hollywood blockbuster and 95% of the audience wouldn’t notice any difference– and more significantly, *wouldn’t care* about the difference, as the *dramatic quality* of a Game of Thrones is far higher than a Michael Bay shlockfest.

    Bottom line: I know it’s not a popular sentiment in these parts, but if there are compelling and convincing arguments that television/online programming WON’T surpass American film in every measurable mark of quality within 20 years, I have yet to hear them. People like to pretend that past results guarantee future performance (you know, like Spock and Elvis plates always increase in value), but that’s not the case. Film changed live theater, radio changed film, TV killed radio– and eventually changed film, and may soon even kill it, at least in any recognizable sense. And what comes after TV in the sense of online distribution will kill the networks (even cable networks) dead, too.

    Everything’s evolving, yet so many insist on the past never changing. Strange, that.

    • Christopher A. Otto


      • Thom Phoolery


    • K. Bowen

      And yet no one is watching in any great number, for the most part, compared to 30 years ago. Or 10 years ago for that matter.

    • JoeS

      “You won’t find stuff like 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street or
      Blue is the Warmest Color on TV in the near future”? Yes, you will,
      because you already do. You found Behind the Candelabra (Soderbergh,
      Douglas and Damon) and Phil Spector (Al Pacino and Helen Mirren!) there.”

      CANDELABRA and SPECTOR were just ok movies (and you can throw in Emmy award winners like GAME CHANGE and RECOUNT, too). Saw all of them. None would make my Top 20 list…maybe not even a Top 30.

      I haven’t seen an exceptional TV movie in a while. Certainly nothing that compares to 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

      And, most shows that folks think are so great, would be considered “Indies” if they were features. They aren’t on the big broadcast networks – the “Studios” of television.

      • Correcting Jeff

        Sigh… You’re still not getting it.

        Cable TV & online distribution can now attract the *exact same talent*– directing, acting, writing, everything– that Oscar-caliber film can. And they are.

        There is nothing unique to 12 Years a Slave that required it be made for a movie theater. All the people involved could easily have done the work on television. And they increasingly will for the reasons I laid out above.

        For the 2014 Best Picture nominees. You can’t (yet) do Gravity or Captain Philips on HBO because of production costs. And I think something like American Hustle is still too big an A-list cast. But you could do every other nominated film on cable or direct today and they wouldn’t have been any different from what we watched in a movie theater.

        • JoeS

          Oh, I ‘get’ it. It’s just that I haven’t seen any TV movies that compare to the top stuff theatrically. The four movies I mentioned were all multi-Emmy winners and I would call any of them anything other than just above average. I still think the cache of a Theatrical Release will still be the default place where the better features head first.

          My other point was that even in TV, they are usually what one would call “indies” as far as production goes. They aren’t on the big networks for the most part, and they don’t follow the daily grind of 22 episode season. And, the features simply don’t have the budget to do a GRAVITY or LIFE OF PI (as you noted; plus the cast cost)

          • Kano’s_Razor

            Totally with you (see above rant). And, yes, I think we probably need to differentiate between network drivel, and the HBO/AMC model.

            A show like Breaking Bad (or even X-Files, when it was doing its stand-alone episodes early on) serves a distinct purpose that movies can never fulfill because they simply don’t have the time. Having said that, the concept of a two-hour feature will never die. There are lots of busy people out there that want a self-contained narrative the wraps up in two hours flat. They don’t want the boxset collecting dust on their coffee table, and they sure as shit don’t want to spend their entire rare free weekend on vacation marathoning it via streaming.

            Whether or not the culture will change to a point where we still refer to that as a “film,” I don’t know (and I don’t much care). I don’t foresee the desire to view such footage publicly waning to such a degree that our current idea of a “theater” ever completely disintegrates, though. People will always want to share these experiences communally (and “live” in-person), I can feel it.

            • JoeS

              I’m one of those ‘let’s get it done in 2 hours’ folks. Sorry, I just don’t have 100 spare hours sitting around to watch five seasons of a network show only to find out something that could have been revealed 100 MINUTES into a feature film.

              Sure, you get to know your main characters very well over 4 or 5 seasons. And, they may be very well written, directed and performed. But, how many characters are really worth exploring that deeply? And, being the nature of the beast, every long-running series has episodes that basically just spin their wheels to fill out their 12 to 24 episode commitment.

              • Kano’s_Razor

                We park our cars in the same garage, friendo.

                Every single show in the history of television programming is PADDED to some extent. Because TV exists to sell you, the consumer, shit.

                The only exceptions that I can think of are really, REALLY strong anthology shows (a la Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, or maayybee first few seasons of X-Files), which are obviously quite rare.

                • JoeS

                  But, that’s the point – those are anthologies with new stories every week. Even, older traditional series like Mission Impossible, Columbo, Hill Street Blues etc. used to tell a different tale every week. Now, everything seems to be one very looooooooooooooooong single story.

                  • Kano’s_Razor

                    People on this site disagree with me all the time on this, but I believe there’s a certain time threshold to telling a single, self-contained FICTIONAL narrative efficiently (documentaries don’t count), and it’s around 10-12 hours. That covers the original LotR saga (even the longest cuts, which aren’t necessary), the Star Wars trilogy (the prequels don’t count; I never bought them as a continuation of that story in the same universe), the pilot + first season of Twin Peaks (before it jumped the shark).

                    Anything more than that, and a certain point you stop telling a story and you just start “hanging out” with characters. Which is fine, obviously…it’s just not my thing. But it aggravates me to no end to hear that someone NEEDS 60 or 70 one-hour eps. in order to have the “creative freedom” to realize their vision…that’s bullshit.

        • Kano’s_Razor

          I actually agree with Joe on most of these points. That’s not to say that you’re wrong, of course — you definitely express your point of view very well, and ultimately only time will tell.

          Having said that…television and film ARE still two distinct mediums as it stands right now — which is a fact of which you either don’t seem entirely convinced, or are being willfully ignorant.

          I won’t say it won’t ever happen (because never say never), but it seems highly improbable that you will see enough entertainments as ballsy or as groundbreaking as The Counselor, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Her, All is Lost, Killing Them Softly, Looper, Django Unchained, Killer Joe, The Master, Cabin in the Woods, let alone the pure spectacle of The Desolation of Smaug, Gravity, The Dark Knight Rises (for overall quality), Dredd 3D (for integrated 3D effects), Wreck-It-Ralph, The Wind Rises (for animated ingenuity), The Raid: Redemption (for non-stop action), Prometheus, Man of Steel (epic scope/budget), (), or Grand Budapest Hotel (huge cast willing to work for scale) on TV over the next 20 (?!) years to completely shift the tide.

          Also, don’t ever forget: cinema has a richer history — roughly a half-century more to draw on than popular television (and, let’s face it, the first 15-20 years of network broadcasting hardly spawned many artistically-enduring works). You say that past performance doesn’t indicate future results, and I certainly agree, but I also seem to remember from my mass communication textbooks this whole “movies are dead!” mantra being prophesized wholesale during TV’s first golden age. It never came to pass. I think these feelings come in cycles depending on the quality of whatever is good (or popular) at any given moment. Isn’t it possible we could be coming to the end of such a cycle?

          The Sopranos is long gone, and The Wire wasn’t far behind. Breaking Bad (easily the best of all of these acclaimed shows, at least to my eyes) has recently come to its logical conclusion; Mad Men is on its last legs. Where are all these so-called “great shows” that everyone is watching?

          House of Cards is outrageously overrated because of the Spacey factor, Hannibal‘s OK for a network show, but doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to Manhunter (let alone SotL), Game of Thrones is fine, but it’s awfully niche (another one of those cases where everyone that watches it is blogging about it). Justified? Not to go all Davey Spade, but I liked that better the first time when it was called Deadwood (another R.I.P. show). Don’t even get me started on disposable entertainments like Girls, The Walking Dead, The Good Wife, or Sleepy Hollow. Pure jizz-whizz, and it’s a joke that any of these ever get put on any critics’ “must-see” list.

          I actually like the True Detective model (assuming that’s what it is) better than most — tell your eight episodes, get the fuck out, and come up with a completely different angle next season. Serialization is absolute death in television (Lost, anyone?), but it’s also the most “convenient” default decision because it keeps people happily employed. This is BY FAR the biggest Achilles’ heel that film doesn’t share — being constrained to tell a story in three hours (which, admittedly, are violated by sequels and trilogies) forces everything that’s put onscreen to be significant — “all killer, no filler.”

          And, sure — the flipside of this is that across the span of five-seven seasons, you REALLY get to know Tony Soprano, Don Draper, or Walter White — but considering the showrunners are given upwards of 4300 (!) minutes to work with…I do sometimes wonder just how impressive that actually is (and again, those are shows I like).

          4300 minutes works out to about 36 (average) feature-length films…that is a LOT of time — and also a LOT great stories that are being told infinitely more efficiently.

  • Stewart Klein

    Oh I wouldn’t worry too much about TV. Somebody today told me it”s all just weak bullshit.