Now this is interesting.
Over the weekend, Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan decried the sorry state of summer movies and closed by pointing out that the best movie he’s seen in awhile was made for TV, HBO’s “Temple Grandin.”
Scott takes almost half the piece to get to the most provocative part of his premise — or at least, to reinforce the title. But then he weighs in with this:
The salient question is this: Will any of the movies surfacing this fall
provoke the kind of conversation that television series routinely do,
breaking beyond niches into something larger? This bad summer movie
season, in what seems to be one of the best television years ever,
reinforces a suspicion that has been brewing for some time. Television, a
business with its own troubles, is nonetheless able to inspire loyal
devotion among viewers, to sustain virtual water-cooler rehashes on
dozens of Web sites and to hold a fun-house mirror up to reality as
movies rarely do.
Look back over the past decade. How many films have approached the moral
complexity and sociological density of “The Sopranos” or “The Wire”?
Engaged recent American history with the verve and insight of “Mad Men”? Turned indeterminacy and ambiguity into high entertainment with the conviction of “Lost”?
Addressed modern families with the sharp humor and sly warmth of
“Modern Family”? Look at “Glee,” and then try to think of any big-screen
teen comedy or musical — or, for that matter, movie set in Ohio — that
manages to be so madly satirical with so little mean-spiritedness.
I swear, I’m not trying to horn in on my colleagues’ territory. But the
traditional relationship between film and television has reversed, as
American movies have become conservative and cautious, while scripted
series, on both broadcast networks and cable, are often more daring,
topical and willing to risk giving offense.
This may represent not an aesthetic fault line, but rather a corporate
division of labor, since the television networks and the movie studios
belong to the same conglomerates, and there is frequent crossover among
executives and producers as well as directors, actors and writers. And
looked at from another angle — from your couch to the living room wall,
say, or from your armchair to the laptop or other mobile electronic
device in your hand — the distinction between movies and television
grows more tenuous every day. The most interesting, provocative and
surprising movies of the coming season may well reach you through video
on demand or Internet streaming, playing in only a handful of theaters
so that critics can have a chance to spread the word about them.
He’s onto something, although it’s not really “news” to anyone who’s been paying attention. Prior to the Oscars, I pointed out that TV — unlike movies — would have no problem fielding 10 deserving “best” nominees for a full year.
Still, the idea that movie critics — always a little snobby about their preferred field, frankly — are recognizing this shift reinforces that TV, with its episodic approach and niche audiences, can tackle subjects and material in a way that is scratching the itch that was once occupied by “adult-oriented” movies. And just wait till some of these film critics get a look at “Boardwalk Empire,” HBO’s new drama that counts Martin Scorsese among its producers.
Years ago a TV producer said to me, “Movies are bigger. They win.” And yes, to quote an old billboard, size matters.
But bigger can mean “Avatar,” or it can mean “Godzilla” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” And those are pretty good reasons to stay home and watch “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” or a lot of other things on TV.