In light of (1) summer blockbuster season having officially whimpered to a close, and (2) everybody continuing to lose their goddamn shit over Breaking Bad (fun fact! I have never seen a single episode! this makes me feel like a cultural traitor!), here's a timely read: Alyssa Rosenberg's piece for The Dissolve about the fundamental differences between film and television:
One of the most frequently invoked arguments in discussions of the recent creative renaissance of television has been the idea that television has somehow replaced film. The notion that the two media are actually in some sort of zero-sum struggle doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny: The kind of storytelling that can be accomplished over a season of television and the narratives that fit well within a couple of hours are simply different. But after another crop of disappointing summer blockbusters, television does seem to be putting pressure on movies in one area: world-building.
Rosenberg looks at how big movies like Pacific Rim have to cram as much detail and history as they can into a few minutes, while shows like The Wire can take hours to do the same. And she points to Upstream Color and Sound of My Voice as two movies that don't feel the need to rely on such massive world-building, films that "evoke a sense of wonder in their audiences, rather than trying to be overly comprehensive."
It's a good piece, and worth a read, but the film I kept thinking about as I read it was actually the fantastic Frances Ha—which, admittedly, has a lot less world-building to do than something like Elysium, but also uses the focus of film to remarkable effect. A TV show about Frances Ha (Greta Gerwig) would be fucking excruciating, but a movie-length submersion into her life is just right—Noah Baumbach and Gerwig give you just enough about Frances to make you feel like you have absolutely everything you want to know about a character and her life. Some stories are better suited to TV—can you imagine Game of Thrones as single film, or even three films?—and some are better served by the focus and clarity that film can provide.
(This is me feeling sad we'll never get a Pacific Rim TV show.)
(Also, this is me asking who wants to bet that by the time Warner Bros. figures it can get away with rebooting Harry Potter, they turn it into a TV show? They'll do a season for each year at Hogwarts, though no doubt they'll find a way to drag Deathly Hallows across two or three or four. And regardless of how old he is at the time, they'll get Rupert Grint to play Arthur Weasley.)
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