Moving on… A conundrum frequently faced in our modern experience. Is it time to move on from your job? Your significant other? Maybe it’s time to move on… At least that’s what your friends keep telling you.
Moving on is an arduous process. Those first few months after deciding to change jobs are grueling. Piles of job applications, I mean how many times can you answer what your strengths are in a fresh and unique way? Maybe you get a new job, but it’s in a different city; movers, U-Haul, a new lease, new friends. And moving on from a romantic relationship? Starting from square one… dating again? First dates, ugh.
But if you hadn’t moved on from that job, you’d still be stuck in a position that you’re wildly over-qualified for. And if it wasn’t for your break-up, you wouldn’t have been able to find you know who. So, while it’s certainly not easy to move on, sometimes, it’s for the best.
Now, what I’m proposing here may cause as many fights and tears as you moving on from Brad/Lisa, Brisa, but in the end, it will be for the best.
It is time for the film world to move on from the theater. Yup, I said it, start yelling at me, go ahead. I know I just ripped that band-aid off and it hurts, but after the initial pain goes away, it’ll be good for that cut to get a little fresh air.
It’s no secret that the future of media is not in the black boxes that have housed the film industry for the last century. The future is right at home. It’s in the palm of your hand. It’s in digital distribution, in streaming, in digital subscription services, i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO GO, Mubi, YouTube, Filmstruck etc. Yet, you still find people clinging to the theater. Studios are terrified of digital releases. Filmmakers squawk at choosing streaming over a theatrical release. Cinephiles plead to their friends, “For the love of god, go see it in theaters! You absolutely have to!”
Listen, there’s no doubt that we are giving up a lot by trudging out of the theater. The theater oozes solace and nostalgia. The dimming lights, the light chatter before the film, even the smell. And you simply can’t replicate the viewing experience at home. Well, you can’t unless you’re Bill Gates and can afford to build a full theater on your compound, but none of us are Bill Gates.
You’ll often hear theater purists going on about technical visual terms and how, only in the theater can they be properly monitored and achieved. Honestly, they’re 100% right, but 99% of people will never be able to tell the difference in contrast/color ratio between their local AMC Loews and their phone, laptop, or home TV.
The theater oozes solace and nostalgia.
My last short film was shot entirely at night. I dealt with every visual hurdle a filmmaker can face; exposure issues, color, contrast, grain, the list goes on and on. When I was distributing my film, I spent hours upon hours figuring out the best way to visually present my film to people. I exported it from the editing software in all sorts of different codecs. I sent people DVDs, Blu-Rays, hard drives, google drive downloads, YouTube links. I basically drove myself ragged trying to make sure every time a person watched my film, no matter if it be on their computer, TV, phone, in a real theater, whatever, that it was presented in the highest visual capacity. I put in all that time, all that effort, and in the end, no one ever mentioned any sort of visual technicality. Eventually, the effort I was expending to do what I thought was right for the film’s artistic integrity didn’t amount to much. I had to stop worrying about it, stop spending so much time and energy on it, I had to move on.
Filmmakers want people to see their films. That’s obvious. The issue is that most eyes aren’t on the big screen, they’re on the small screen. Word of mouth and popular culture no longer live at the theater. They live on TV, more specifically, streamed TV.
Let’s do a little comparison to prove this point.
The following is the list of TV shows that were nominated for outstanding drama and outstanding comedy series at the 2018 primetime Emmys.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Game of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
This is Us
**Note that all highlighted shows are digitally distributed, streaming shows.
Compare those lists to the Best Picture Winners at the Academy awards for the last five years:
The Shape of Water
12 Years a Slave
Not a fan of the Academy? Fair enough. Let’s look at the highest grossing films over the last five years:
Star Wars Episode VIII
Star Wars Episode VII
Look at these lists… The streamed TV shows have a stranglehold on the modern American media lexicon. Those TV shows are what people are talking about. There’s really no wonder TV historian and critic David Bianculli is stamping the current era as the “platinum age of TV.” You could argue that Black Panther had a substantial impact on popular culture, but the rest of the films fall short. I mean, most of the highest grossing films in recent years are just remakes and sequels of Star Wars films that made their impact on pop culture 40 years ago.
OK, so what’s going on here? Is it that suddenly people hate movies and love TV? Is it that the quality of TV shows are higher than films? No and no, it’s just that television executives and producers were smart; they moved with the times and have reaped handsome rewards. It baffles me why films don’t do the same.
Most eyes are on the small screen.
Not only will a move away from the theater help film in a large, more commercial sphere, it will also help art house, independent, and global cinema. Why? One word, reach. Theaters don’t reach people anymore. Take Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 film, Roma, as an example. It was one of the first art house films to get a double release, in theaters, and on Netflix. Roma is a film that had a lot of film purists screaming, “For the love of god, go see it in theaters! You absolutely have to!” The issue is, outside of metropolitan areas, it’s not playing. For example, if you live in the state of Iowa, you only have two options if you want to see Roma in theaters. Two options in the entire 56,272 square miles of the state. It’s not hard for someone who lives on 6th Avenue in Manhattan, but what about if you live in Davenport, Iowa? The simple fact is that in 2018, indie, art house, and foreign films just won’t reach you.
Since the digital age, through different streaming services, my personal exposure to independent, art house, and global cinema has exploded. For example, recently I’ve been discovering, and really enjoying the work of Japanese filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu. Yet, had it not been for streaming, I probably wouldn’t have ever discovered his films. It’s really about basic understanding of human behavior. Would I have left my house after work, got in my car, drove 20 minutes to the cinema downtown on a weeknight and watched a two and a half hour 1950s Japanese film? No, probably not. But hey, I just turned on Filmstruck, and look, they’re promoting the work of renowned Japanese filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu. Interesting, let me check that out. One click, and you’re there.
The other glaring issue is that theaters are no longer cost effective. The standard Netflix package is currently 10.99 a month. That’s less than a single theater ticket. Hold on, wait a second Sam, now you’re talking about messing with the pocket books of working filmmakers. Taking away ticket purchases? Filmmakers are supposed to turn down 16 dollars a ticket for cheapo monthly plans? This goes too far!
Listen, I’m no business whiz, but when streaming companies started producing original content, people in the TV industry laughed. They thought it was an impossible business model to sustain. Hell, when studios moved from silent films to synced sound films, people in the film world in the 1920s honestly thought adding sound to film would ruin the film industry.
Despite the initial scoffs, Netflix is now a multi-billion-dollar company. These streaming giants are basically studios now, except with a modern business structure. Netflix gave Stranger Things season 2 a budget of 8 million dollars per episode. They handed Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, 150 million dollars to incubate original shows for Netflix. In what world will moving on from the theater hurt the money? The numbers simply don’t add up.
There’s no doubt that “moving on” has a drab ring to it, but think back to moving on from that old job, from that old boyfriend/girlfriend… Moving on is really about progress. I know that the theater is a sacred place, I’m not saying this will be easy. It will take sacrifice. There will be bumps in the road, but it’s far past time to move on from the theater. It starts with the movie goer, the movie lover. If you truly love movies, then you should be embracing the digital distribution age, not holding onto the past. The past is hurting the film community.
We need to do more to support companies like Filmstruck who preserve classic films online, not spend our time pushing our friends to see Roma in theaters. When Netflix releases a wonderful film, why not encourage your friends to see it on the streaming service? Push the analytics to show Netflix that viewers want to see more creative, artistic, and thoughtful films. When you hear news of Warner Brothers working on their own streaming service, don’t groan, that’s a sign of progress. Progress is the only thing that is constant in art, and to deny or hold back progress can only hold back an art form that we all hold so dear to our hearts.
Chadwick Boseman Forever!!
It is clear that Chadwick Boseman chose iconic roles like Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Black Panther with deliberate intent and for a specific purpose. In an age where positive roles for Black actors is often sparse, Chadwick managed to land and portray historical figures that made most respect his talents if not revel in his ability to transition effortlessly for one character to another. Even I had to give his African accent a solid B+ (It’s the highest grade the Nigerian Standards Bureau can give for an African accent to a non African FYI.)
Holding out and preparing for these dynamic roles came with both great frustration and incredible resolve I’m certain. Not to mention the taxing ordeal of battling Colon Cancer as the grueling scheduling of filming and increasing responsibility for positive representation loomed. Even under extreme duress, Chadwick’s commitment to others appeared to outweigh his own tribulations, unbeknownst to us all.
Black Panther may have been just a movie to some and that may be because some can easily rattle off 10 movies with a king of non Af-Am origin. It represented a lot more to others. Albeit imagined, imagery on cinema often accomplishes more to augment the social narrative and society itself than actual reality. If negative stereotypes influence perception then positive ones absolutely have the same converse effect.
Even in jest, the cultural misappropriation of raisins in potato salad on SNL skits directly spoke to the tampering of black culture to which T’challa championed, represented and aptly responded “Oh hell Nah Karen!”
If you don’t understand the relevance of representation, it’s probably because you are thoroughly represented. After all, no one is ever grateful for every breath they take until they are gasping for air.
R.I.P Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for breathing life into the possibility of Black excellence.
The Mandalorian Gets Star Wars Right
Star Wars is pretty silly, and that’s okay. If we want Shakespeare, we already have it. I don’t expect some fantasy silliness to ever take the place of nutritious art. Still, I like candy, too, and that’s what we get from those films whittled from the paper-thin mythologies of the original.
Enter The Mandalorian, like some nameless Sergio Leone anti-hero through a planked saloon door, stopping the piano player and all conversation in its tracks. There’s a stranger in town. Could be Clint Eastwood, could be Charles Bronson. In this case, it’s Pedro Pascal, a Chilean actor best known for Game of Thrones and Narcos. You’d never know it, though, since as of episode 7 we’ve yet to see “Mando” sans helmet. This only adds to a coolness originally displayed by another famous Mandalorian, Boba Fett. Boba actually debuted between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in a hastily produced Christmas cartoon.
Not everyone likes it when silly wants to be taken seriously. Still, there’s a way to do it that’s not as jarring as Adam West v. Christian Bale.
Jon Favreau, whose Iron Man truly kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, acts as executive producer and showrunner of The Mandalorian, and he knows just how to balance the whole thing with an aesthetic more Alex Ross than Jack Kirby. As head writer, Favreau successfully walks that tightrope between nostalgia and the now. He tempers seriousness with one of the most adorable little puppets you ever did see. I’m talking about “The Child,” better known via recent memes as “Baby Yoda.” In the same way that the Mandalorian isn’t Boba Fett, the Child isn’t Yoda – yet both have those original characters baked into their DNA.
At 15 million clams an episode, you get some excellent production value. Cinematography, music, and special effects are all on point, as are cameos from the likes of Amy Sedaris, Bill Burr, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, and Taika Waititi. Waititi also directed the final episode of Season 1, to be released December 27th.
The Mandalorian may be the best byproduct of the original series. Check it out on Disney+.
Aaron Paul Breaks Bad Once Again
Vince Gilligan brings us the further adventures of Jesse Pinkman as only he can, and the results are pretty entertaining.
Released on Netflix and in theaters on Friday, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie steps back and forward in time to resolve Pinkman’s story in two tension packed hours. Thankfully, Gilligan doesn’t bite off more than he can chew, and manages to pack more action into this story than in four frickin’ seasons of Better Call Saul.
You know that feeling you get when an episode of Saul ends and you feel like you’ve just been tricked into watching lawyers talking for an hour? You won’t have that with El Camino.
Now, if they could just spin off Jonathan Banks the same way.
Some familiar faces show up here and there, and they thankfully don’t chew up too much of the scenery. Worth noting that Robert Forster does a fine job in El Camino, and he unfortunately passed away the day the film was released. Peace out, Mr. Forster.
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