When Martin Scorsese complains that a Marvel movie isn’t cinema, he’s not wrong. But his critique of the commercialism undergirding those movies is expressed in the language and tone of an old crank defending a fading novelty from some darned, degenerate kids. It’s not that the theatrical movie-going experience (so sacred!) is going away anytime soon. But it is in danger of becoming the equivalent of attending a live jazz show — something a small group of people do regularly, a slightly larger group of people do on special occasions, and a very much larger group of people do never.
There will, presumably, be some who prefer to watch Scorsese’s “The Irishman” in a strange room filled with strange people who are eating food they snuck in and texting their friends. But many more will watch it in the comfort of their homes on Netflix. The living rooms of America are increasingly stocked with giant television screens with amazing picture and sound that can be inexpensively purchased on Amazon — itself a purveyor of fine filmed entertainment, much of it more spiritually aligned with Scorsese’s idea of cinema than the franchise plays that make up the bulk of the theatrical movies.
Just look at this year’s Golden Globe TV contenders. Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag,” HBO’s “Barry” and Netflix’s “The Crown” are expansive, consistently surprising works that could never have come out of the feature-film world — not just because they’re ongoing series, but also because television remains a writer-dominated medium. It is increasingly informed by film, as those three shows evidence. But as more and more showrunners gain the kind of clout previously reserved in Hollywood for big-shot movie directors, the writer-driven process of TV is yielding more and more great art.
The Globes, for all its movie fetishization, has done a superb job of celebrating that art in recent years. Without early recognition from the Globes, the CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” may never have enjoyed the lengthy, unlikely runs they finished this year. It was the Globes that turned Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and FX’s “Pose” from cult delights into awards behemoths. It was the Globes that named a lifetime achievement award after Carol Burnett.
But Festivus, a fake holiday made real by television, is just around the corner. So, to the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. I say, in the spirit of the traditional airing of grievances, “I got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re gonna hear about it.” Stop treating movies as if they’re still more important than TV. Stop holding the prime spots at the end of the broadcast for the film awards. Stop giving the choicest seats in the ballroom to the movie stars. Let the cast of HBO’s “Succession” sit up front. People love “Succession.”
And people love when the HFPA gets behind a great show that could use some help trying to stand out in a crowded field. So don’t forget about Showtime’s “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” and OWN’s “David Makes Man” and NBC’s “The Good Place.” “Avengers: Infinity War” may not be cinema, but those shows are — no matter where you watch them.