Steven Rubio has a great post about a review of the new Star Trek movie that criticizes it for aspiring to being a television show (whatever the film’s flaws, I would be surprised if this were its problem). His objection is that the writer still assumes television is a vast wasteland while movies are still a bastion of high culture. But as Steven points out, it’s precisely the opposite. Even good films now lack the plot sophistication and character depth of the great long-form ensemble TV series like Intelligence or The Wire. Even art house fare that is supposed to be sophisticated, I often find lacking since the plot only gets two hours, and there must be a hierarchy of characters where the majority become more or less puppets in the psychodrama of the few; emotional content feels manipulative as character appear only to be tormented or rewarded; or worse, we are treated to pointless avant-garde experimentation. Meanwhile, even serious Hollywood has become so politically timid that most plots can be predicted from the first few minutes of the film. This was not always the case. Even cinematic closure is largely unsatisfying to me at this point. So I go to movies for special effects, mise-en-scene and cinematography, or maybe a good thriller, occasionally a good documentary or something really political–things that in fact harder to accomplish on the small screen. Past a certain point, I prefer if they just don’t try too hard on characterization or story telling.
Thanks for the shout-out. You bring up something I didn’t get to in my post, but which is crucial, that television gets more than two hours. It occurs to me … and this is so obvious, I don’t know why it hadn’t crossed my mind before … that television changed immensely when series moved from standalone weekly episodes to chapters-in-a-novel episodes. Back in the day, movies generally had more time to tell their stories than did TV series, because each series episode needed to resolve itself within an hour. Now, though, a TV series can go for several seasons without resolving every last point. People have noted how The Wire resembles a novel … and, of course, novels have more room to expand than do movies. So, in terms of the amount of time available to various forms, it used to be novels>movies>series, but now it’s more like novels=series>movies.
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