Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Review

Friday, February 8, 2013

TV Up, Movies Down

English: Susan Sontag's tomb, Montparnasse cem...
English: Susan Sontag's tomb, Montparnasse cemetery, Paris Deutsch: Susan Sontag Grab, Friedhof Montparnasse, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comparisons of this kind are pernicious and possibly invidious, but I am not absolutely uncomfortable with the idea that - in the great hierarchy of genre - TV is where it iz and movies are where it wuz. Though there's precious little soul in appealing to authority, I can find plenty of folk to back me up:

Even in cine-mad Manhattan, where the admonitory ghost of Susan Sontag haunts theaters by night, the new movie that everybody’s talking about is being talked about by a shrinking number of everybodies. It’s seldom the presiding topic of cocktail chat and intellectual quarrel, as it was when critic Pauline Kael led the wagon train. (Her successors at The New Yorker, David Denby and Anthony Lane, might as well be tinkling the piano in the hotel lobby for all the commotion they create.) Movies divide and stratify; television, like sports, is the democratic includer. Mention Breaking Bad, Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime Cleopatra-a-go-­go procession, Abby Lee Miller’s latest volcanic diatribe on Dance Moms, or Downton Abbey and all the birdies start to pipe up, except for the one pill pres­ent (there’s always at least one), who takes pride in declaiming that he or she never watches television—they only listen to NPR. Pity these poor castaways. They must stand there with glassy, uncomprehending eyes while the rest of us tongue-flap about the latest installment of a favorite series down to the last crumb, like Proust scholars.

That's from an article in last year's Vanity Fair called Prime Time's Graduation by James Wolcott. I will not spoil the excitement of your own journey through his argument - and wasn't that a graceful evasion of responsibility - but the density of his examples is persuasive, particularly if you think Art (whatever that is but we have some idea) should be Democratic (what that means but we have some idea, in particular that it should make for good conversation, conversation as play, with equals for fun and games).

Anyway, this idea makes me feel better about starting the class with fillum and moving on to teevee. I wish we had asked David Thomson - who came to our class this week as water comes to the desert - to flesh out this topic. He implied he agreed? Kind of?? I recall he mentioned HBO as one of his top two film studios. Ah well. I left my notes at work, but blog posts exist in the here and now, not the wait and see.
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  1. To be quit honest, I used to think this way. TV series are easy to get sucked into, and you are satisfied quicker then if you were watching a movie. Plus the series gives you a ritual, something to look forward to every week. Therefore, without a doubt, I do not think TV will be taking over movies though, it can't.

    Netflix. One of the purchases most freshmen make their first year, not for the movies, but rather the shows. Watching is easy, and with unlimited access, who needs the movies? Going to movies is not as fun as it used to be. Our advancements in technology have decreased our wonder, and increased our conniving abilities. Why pay for something you can find online? It's easy, more cost and time efficient, and though it's illegal, we all know how to do it, and do.

    Access isn't the only reason TV is climbing, but also the competition. TV shows are immaculate, and someones excuse for not getting into them usually sounds something like this..."I know, I wanna start watching Breaking Bad, but I know I'll get addicted."... People don't have time. Yes, TV shows are not as long as movies, but there are at least 10 episodes for one show. With all of them going at once, focusing on one is already time consuming.

    We don't have enough time to watch all the TV shows out there, nor do we movies. Both mediums of media have their pros and cons, and neither of them will rid the other. Movies are for some, and series are for some, it all depends on time.

    Time, time, time, everything is about free time.

  2. I really liked your post natalie. I think you are right on several points. I personally do not think that TV will replace movies...however, TV forms different relationship with its audience compared to movies which has become more and more attractive. Movies are something that people watch over and over again. They know the plot line, the characters, and are familiar with how the movie starts and ends. With TV shows, the plot line and characters grow through each episode which, I think audiences like because they feel as if they too are growing with the show. People like the anticipation on waiting to see what happens next. Me and my friends love getting together every wednesday to watch American Horror Story...I can't even remember the last time my groups of friends and I went out to the movies.

  3. Good points, ST. Some shows have long complicated arcs that are supposed to make them appointment viewing. Question is how many appointments does one have time for?

  4. I definitely agree with Scarlette and Natalie! Tv is great but it takes a lot of dedication--at least, time wise. Still, I find myself watching way more television than movies. At this point, I think it's a culture thing. A college culture thing. I'd say an age thing, but it's not quite that. Like, when I was 13, I went to the movies every weekend. It was that one social activity in middle school and early high school that you knew you could rely on every weekend (and that your parents would actually let you go to.) Didn't matter what kind of movie it was--romance, action, horror--we saw it all just because it was the only grown up thing we could do. Then, junior year of high school, it started slowing down. Now I had more freedom to do what I want (and a boyfriend who hated movies). We went to concerts and to parties--not the theater. In college, it stopped completely. And it's not just me. Almost everyone I've talked to about the subject of movies and theaters has told me the same thing: they don't go to the movies. Maybe it's because we're extremely busy or maybe because ticket prices have climbed to almost $13 (let's not even talk about 3D) or maybe because it's kindof a task to get wasted in the theater. Whatever the maybe, the college years just don't seem to be the time to go to movies. As magical as movies can be, it's television that brings my roomies and I together for an hour or two every Wednesday night. As time consuming as tv can be, we still crowd around the television every week for a welcomed break. No movies. I'm assuming that this will change for most of us as we get older. Apparently the theater becomes a cool activity again when you're 40 and married. But that's my take on it!