Monday, May 30, 2016

Movie Question: TV vs. Movies

Movie Question

TV vs. Movies

As of 2016, who is winning?
Why do I like movies so much?

Because they feel like dreams come to life.

I know, what a cheesy thing to say right? But in a way, its not. Film critics Richard Roeper and Harry Knowles have also referred to movies as dreams. They are tap into the psyches and emotions of people from around the country, and around the world. In an odd way, we are all connected to each other in those few hours when we are sitting in a dark auditorium, meeting characters and learning their stories. We see things that are blatantly impossible, but we also see things that are true. The world of film is a gateway. Gateways to other dimensions, places we'd never find in our own backyards. We see places where people are capable of dozens of different emotions and we feel those emotions ourselves. They help us escape. They help explain the world we live in. They help explain us as a society and a culture. They confirm our beliefs and even sometimes, challenge those beliefs. The world of cinema feels like a world that encompasses all.

As I reflect back on my life, I can't remember a time where movies weren't apart of it. I can't remember a time when a certain movie impacted me is some way, either major or minor. On Saturday mornings, I remember not watching cartoons, I watched movies. I wanted to be an actor so bad and did impressions from movies anywhere I went. I was the guy in high school who pushed films on all my friends, which resulted in a great night for everyone. (While also resulting in disaster every once in awhile.) I have always held film in such a high standard. For most of my life, I held it in a higher standard that television.

How could television compete with film, I thought. To me, television growing up was a fun pastime, but not something I felt like I needed a lot of. I had about zero shows that I felt I needed to commit myself to and that lasted a very long time. Television shows just didn't carry the inspiration and emotion that I felt movies did. Sure, I enjoyed things like "The Simpsons," and "The X-Files," but I never felt like I HAD to plant myself at my television every week. It was a casual process for a long period of my life. I was so absorbed by film that I had no time for television. Especially since I felt that so much TV felt so much alike. There were sitcoms with artificial laughter, and crime thrillers with cartoon villains. What else could I get out of that, I thought. It was the movies there were pushing the emotions, it was the movies that had the bigger budgets so we could see better actors and cutting edge special effects. Sure, television might have had stronger character development, but the well-written screenplays out there could compete with any TV show any day.

I don't know if it was 2008 or 2009 or the start of the new decade, but I began to feel a shift in screened entertainment. It was around when I went off to college that TV began to change. Suddenly, I found myself paying attention. Suddenly, people cared about writing great characters and sticking them in good stories. Suddenly, TV got experimental and played with big emotions, took chances and rolled the dice on risks. From the year 2008/2009 until now, I declare with confidence that we are living in the golden age of television. I can't remember a time when so many good shows were on the air. Growing up, I didn't commit myself any show at all. Now, I have about a dozen different shows on my DVR, and I have to frantically watch before my DVR gets full. TV is dominating both the quantity and quality. We have shows on primetime, we shows on special platforms, Netflix has blown up the streaming service world and creating original programs of their own, (as well as other streaming services doing the same.). We have so many venues to find a great show now, more than we ever have before. The thing is, a lot of the shows on the air now aren't just fun pastimes, they aren't even good, there is a lot of great TV right now. 

When I was young, I liked "The Simpsons," and "The X-Files." I am also a huge, huge "Survivor" fan. I also dabbled in "The Twilight Zone" marathon every New Years Eve. Now, I am committed to "Arrow," "The Flash," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards," "Orphan Black," "The Blacklist," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "Last Man on Earth," "Daredevil," "The Affair," "The Walking Dead," "The Knick," and "The Leftovers." There is also "Bob's Burgers," "You're The Worst," "American Horror Story," "Once Upon A Time," "Homeland," "Better Call Saul," "Black-ish," "The Goldbergs," "Fresh Off The Boat," "Scorpion," "Dice," "The Americans," and "How To Get Away With Murder." Even within the last six years, the shows that have come and gone, like "Spartacus," "Boardwalk Empire," "Parks and Recreation," "Justified," "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," and "Togetherness" are all shows I'll binge watch, over and over again, because they are that good. I never thought in my life I'd be committed to so many shows. And there are several others that I didn't list above. I am writing weekly reviews of certain shows on this very blog. It seems I hear about a new show every week that I feel I need to see. That my world won't be complete unless I see at least an episode of it. Does it all work? Of course not. There are shows that are coming out that didn't work for me. But even the shows that I don't watch or even don't like had something special going for them.  If you look at that long list of shows above, there are several different journeys you can unlock, several different emotions you can feel, and several different ways to look at our culture and society.

Now look at how Hollywood works these days. It doesn't seem that the studios are taking the chances that they used to. The golden age of television is happening now, the golden age of film was during the 1970's (arguably, of course.). There was a point in film where directors were crossing lines and not caring what the outcome would be. Taking chances and a risk on a story line was just another day at the office in the 1970's, or so it seemed. Then around the late 1980's, the dream died. Hollywood got obsessed with franchises, they wanted to see what could get sequels and how they'd plan summer schedules. That need to turn every movie into a brand only got continually worse. When we come to 2016, nobody takes chances in Hollywood anymore. It seems like nobody makes a personal movie anymore, its all manufactured from the studio. Hollywood is seemingly run by brands now, every studio wants that one big idea that they can turn into the next big franchise. They want a movie that will allow them to make about ten movies, planning their next five to seven years in the future. Hollywood is obsessed with nostalgia and is continually bringing back stuff from yesteryear, whether in worked or not, trying to get the next big franchise. Trying to fill their pockets with cash and turn their movies into money machines. It doesn't seem to matter if a movie is good or not, just as long as it breaks box office records, they will keep the machine moving.

I feel like somewhere along the line, Hollywood lost its magic, and its hard to find. It feels like if you want a personal movie, if you want to watch something that isn't just noise and chaos, you have to look at video-on-demand, you have to find a special theater, you really have to do your research. Hollywood doesn't take chances on smaller movies anymore, they want something they know will be moneymakers. There is no room to take risks or trying something new anymore. Or at least, so it seems.

But its not all bad though. Because of streaming services and a shift in thought, the foreign market is wider than its ever been. Seeing a movie from another part of the Earth is an experience that isn't for everyone, but its certainly for me. I am also happy to look for the more experimental and more arthouse movies on ITunes or another venue. I love my "Overlooked Film of the Week," column on my blog, which allows me to push for movies that don't get a fare shake in the Hollywood marketing engine, but are movies I feel deserve to be seen. Even today, there are several movies on my end-of-the-year lists that people say "I've never heard of that." Its a shame that you don't hear about more than half the movies that come out each year. But, it doesn't mean they aren't there. Plus, just because a studio is obsessed with franchises and the money they bring in, that doesn't mean that franchises don't work. I mean, just look at what Kevin Feige has done with Marvel since 2008.

I still love movies. I will still watch movies and go to the theater. I think movies are so ingrained my lifestyle that I can't just quit them. I just think its hard to ignore just how far TV has come. Its hard to ignore how much TV has changed over the years. How they are becoming more experimental and risky and how Hollywood is suddenly playing it safe. But, just like I hope-watch "Gotham" on Fox, hoping it will turn around and tell a good story about how Bruce Wayne became Batman and deviate from the clusterfuck it is right now, I will hope-watch Hollywood. I hope Hollywood gets back on track and stops its obsession with franchise work. I hope that, at the very least, its tones itself down. I hope they begin to take more risks with story and character. I hope they don't look at a movie and think how much money it will make them, but rather, what will the audience make of it? If you can hit the audience dead-center, you can make money. Guaranteed.

I'll always love movies, but I am loving TV more than ever right now. So I have to ask, do you believe in TV's current golden age? Are glued to your TV more often than ever before? Do you think Hollywood is playing things too safe? Tired of the next unwanted remake or young adult novel adaptation in Hollywood and want something more? Who is winning your heart right now, TV or movies?

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