Is Television the new Cinema?

Television is riding on a high at the moment, thanks to shows like House of Cards, True Detective, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones etc. Whether you like these shows or not is irrelevant, the main thing is that these types of shows are receiving some high profile recognition, especially since Oscar winners like Kevin Spacey and Matthew Mcconaughey joined these shows and the fact they have collected a large amount of accolades along the way. So could it be argued that TV is the new cinema?

I was reading a really interesting article in Total Film by Matt Glasby (who is one of the rare people to share my opinion) and he states that TV is not the new cinema*. Instead, TV is experiencing a revolution which demonstrates that TV can have quality, an example of this is Netflix’s House of Cards. Every episode is so perfectly shot and stylised and each episode feels live a lavish big budget film, which is no surprise since David Fincher is the producer of the show. Speaking of Fincher (who directed the first two episodes of season 1) the fact an Oscar nominated director is attached to the series shows the quality of the series.

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Speaking about star power, Oscar winner Kate Winslet starred in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce (for which she won a Golden Globe) and the series received positive reviews. The question why someone on her status would front a TV series is answered by her interview with Radio Times, she just wanted to get [her] teeth into something that was bigger” and has “always been a little bit of a risk taker” The mini-series in spilt into five one hour episodes, allowing Kate Winslet to give depth to her character and allow to show her journey over the course of the series. Films being screened in the cinema gives them more importance and stature, you give it your full attention as you can’t pause it or pick it up where you left it. Matt Glasby humourlessly points out TV is still TV despite it’s increase in quality, nothing can change that. They have their own purpose and we shouldn’t try to replace one with the other.

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I think what is changing is the format of most series, a good example is True Detective. Personally it is not my favourite show, however the format allows it to have the potential to stay fresh and relevant due to the fact it is an anthology series. Matthew Mcconaughey and Woodey Harrelson starred in series one (for which they were both nominated Golden Globes) and series two will feature a new cast and a new storyline, each series will be its own thing. As mentioned previously, the fact that the full season of House of Cards was uploaded onto Netflix allowed people to watch the show in a completely different way. This creates an excitement and buzz surrounding the show, for you have to watch it quickly before people dish out spoilers.

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The thing that TV and Cinema have in common is they both don’t know when to stop. Matt Glasby claims that Breaking Bad should have ended sooner and that films are an entry within themselves. However I would point at the Marvel brand, it is almost impossible watching one of the recent films without having to watch the previous entries. House of Cards is another good example of a show that should have had been cancelled “Firefly-style” (as Glasby states Breaking Bad should have just been one season) because the first season of House of Cards was exciting, enticing and driven by brilliant performances. The second season stalled and the third season redeemed itself ever so slightly…but it wasn’t as daring as the first season.

In all honesty, I think it’s a sad time to say that TV is catching up with cinema because they are still two different formats, you can enjoy them on different levels. TV allows a lot more time to develop characters and various themes, but with film it is a two hour experience where you can discuss what was explored in that space of time, there is more variation in film and more history to the medium.

*TOTAL FILM (April 2015). Matt Glasby. Page 143 


Whiplash (2014)

Reflecting upon the films that were nominated for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards, Whiplash was the only one that truly excited and thrilled me. The film won three Oscars (Best Actor in a Supporting Role-J.K. Simmons, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing) out of five nominations and received critical acclaim. The premise of the film is of a student jazz drummer (Miles Teller) who seeks the approval of an oppressive teacher (J.K. Simmons) and it raises some really interesting themes and issues.

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Whiplash is a great showcase for Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons’ incredible acting. Miles Teller truly comes into his own in Whiplash, his character really makes you think about dedication and how far you are willing to go for your dreams. Whiplash really engages the audience because you continuously root for Andrew Neimen (Miles Teller) to overcome the ruthlessness of Dr. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Miles Teller gives a blistering performance that was praised yet should have received more love during the awards season, he gave such a convicted and dedicated performance. There are certain shocking moments in the film that question Neiman’s determination and make you think about whether you would do the same or not, yet some moments in the film really help you admire his character.

Speaking about Neimen’s opposition (Fletcher) J.K. Simmons gives an immersive performance as a dictator of a teacher. J.K. Simmons became the favourite of the awards season, eventually winning him an Oscar. He’s an actor that has worked hard and finally his work is paying off, he also starred in Juno, Up in the Air and the Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007) and finally is receiving the recognition he deserves. The interesting thing about Fletcher’s character is that you understand where he is coming from, but that in no way condones his actions. Fletcher believes that you must push people over the edge in order to become more than great, and he will use any method necessary in order to achieve his goals.

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There’s a really interesting scene later on in the film where Fletcher explains his reasoning behind his “teaching methods”, what really stuck out was how he was not remorseful about the people he has hurt in the past or over the course of the film. Neiman counteracts his argument by suggesting whether there is a line of how far to push people, this creates a really good talking point.

Whiplash has a very raw and stripped back feel to the film, allowing the performances to shine through and to be a real as possible. It allows the shocking moments to have real gravitas and causes them to be more impactful. The film will leave you with your heart racing and trying to make sense of the true meaning of the film.

The great thing about this film is that it isn’t just about a jazz musician trying to impress his teacher, it is a lot more than that. It is a psychological drama that makes you question why you make certain choices in life, are we doing them for ourselves or other people? Are we trying to do it because we love it or just want to be recognised? That’s what makes Whiplash brilliant, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and continually asks the audience questions and engages them with the events of the film as the unfold.

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