question of the day: Is TV better than film these days?

Mad Men Christina Hendricks Elisabeth Moss Cara Buono

Norman Buckley at Static Mass Emporium says something that many of us have been thinking these days: television is better and more satisfying than movies at the moment.

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of Mad Men. It was an enormously satisfying episode of television because the patient, deliberate development of the story, throughout the season, paid off in wonderful ways.

Why aren’t movies this good anymore?

Are films of the last thirty years less well-made on some level (not technically necessarily, but well-crafted as a whole?), redundant, lacking in cohesion, playing to the lowest common denominator, afraid to tackle ideas? I’m not sure, but I know the days of feeling that I might see a masterpiece when I go to the movie theater are few and far between. Even when I think there might be a great film looming, I’m usually disappointed.

When we look at a film like Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Tokyo Story or Lawrence of Arabia, what we believe intellectually, politically, or spiritually falls away to make room for something more primary—recognition of our common emotional values. Everyone knows what it means to care passionately, to lose, to love, to fight. In the films that stand the test of the time, the stories that are told endure because they appeal to something fundamental in the collective unconscious.

Which films speak today to our commonality in such a profound way? Which films will we still be talking about thirty, forty years from now?

I know this: we’ll still be talking about Mad Men and Breaking Bad, which plumb the depths of modern man’s search for a soul. For me, the former examines personal relationships in such a way that illuminates how we, as a people, careened into the narcissistic, consumer culture of the last fifty years; and the latter elucidates the effects of a society that has thus lost its bearings, driving people to behavior that runs counter to their better selves.

He makes a good case.

Is TV better than film these days? If you think so, do you see this changing anytime soon?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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