TONGUE OF THE DAY

by Ross Sharp

The ever-excellent James Wolcott from Vanity Fair on why television has officially surpassed the movies

“After I fell out of love with movies (new movies, that is—classic Hollywood I still adulate), I realized during my rare visits to the multiplex that what I missed wasn’t the big screen, that Mount Rushmore larger-than-lifeness, but the short vacation in the receptive dark, the comfort and calm of the blinds being lowered on the city outside. But even that respite is too often tattered by the cell-phone compulsives texting and checking their messages, whatever spell the filmmakers attempted to cast spoiled by these mousy little screens flashing their gray pallor. As movie theaters switch from film to digital projection, home flat-screens take up a wall, Blu-Ray discs exhume masterpiece-painting volumes of color and intricate detail from popular releases, and the unholy moviegoing experience cries out for human-pest control, cinema has lost its sanctuary allure and aesthetic edge over television, which as a medium has the evolutionary advantage. Movies will never die, not as long as a director like Terrence Malick can make every green blade of grass sway like the first dance of creation, but TV is where the action is, the addictions forged, the dream machine operating on all cylinders. As I write this, the Academy Awards are a few days away, with The Artist the odds-on best-picture winner. Does anyone think The Artist is better than Mad Men?”

And on the current state of Hollywood film comedy …

“In fact, anyone looking for comedy should just nest at home, because Hollywood comedy has become a plague, a blight, and an affront to humanity. The gross-out element in film comedy (puke, poop, sperm, breast milk—any bodily fluid with projectile possibilities) has gotten so prevalent and predictable that it’s as if filmmakers had their heads diapered. It’s pointless complaining about it now—it makes one sound like such a church lady—but can’t movie comedies at least be rudimentarily, technically competent? Whenever I catch a chunk of an Adam Sandler comedy on cable, it looks as badly shot and goofily tossed off as a Jerry Lewis gag reel once he hit the late downslide with Hardly Working and Cracking Up. Feature-length film comedy is harder to pull off than the episodic sitcom—it doesn’t have the same factory machinery up and running, teams of writers putting familiar characters through permutations—but that doesn’t explain the widening quality gap that makes movie humor look like a genetic defective.”

I could not agree more. The charms of “The Hangover” eluded me. I may have chuckled vaguely at one point.

But I cannot think of a film from recent years that has had the same visceral, mind-searing impact upon me as a “Breaking Bad” or “The Wire”. Or a film that made me just want to get up and dance every five or ten minutes like “Treme”. There’s the luxurious wallow that is “Mad Men”, or the sunny, comic decadence of “Weeds”. 

The last film I enjoyed was an “evil Santa” film from Finland.

No, really.

But it probably would’ve been even better as a series …

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