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Every Holiday season movies vie to be the big blockbuster, the film everyone is talking about.
But are people more likely to be discussing the small screen? The latest legal battle on “The Good Wife” or the bonus videos from the “Breaking Bad” box set?
This is not a new argument. In 2010, New York Times film critic A. O. Scott asked “Are Films Bad? Or is TV just better?”
“American movies have become conservative and cautious, while scripted series, on both broadcast networks and cable, are often more daring, topical and willing to risk giving offense,” Scott wrote.
He is not alone in questioning if filmmakers have lost their ambition. Even George Lucas has said that cable television is "much more adventurous."
But fast-forward to the 2013 holiday season and something has changed, A. O. Scott sees something different in the cinematic landscape.
“Filmmakers are determined to define and reinvigorate the medium, to capture newness and uniqueness and to figure out in a post-film, platform-agnostic, digital-everything era, what the art of cinema might be,” Scott wrote in December’s New York Times Magazine “Movies Issue.”
Scott argues that mega-blockbusters – with cliché battles between good and evil, and that same chase scene you’ve seen a million times – have inspired filmmakers to try something wildly different. To be “smaller.”
“You can be taken into a very intimate world, and into the imagination of a filmmaker,” said Scott on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” Wednesday.
As examples Scott lists films that lack leading actors, or easy takeaway messages.
There’s the bleak black and white film “Nebraska” that follows a man’s quest to pick up a million dollar prize in Lincoln, Nebraska that his family is convinced does not exist.
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” from the Coen brothers, follows a young man as he pursues his dreams of being a folk singer.
And Spike Jonze’s “Her” is the story of a man’s (Joaquin Phoenix) ill-fated love affair with a Siri-like computer generated operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
For Scott, these films “have a very individual stamp of a director thinking about how to tell the story.”
Some successful blockbusters also fall into this category. Scott says that “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” were hard to get made because they weren’t focused on what usually draws audiences to the movie theatre.
So this Holiday season, if you need a movie to bring the family together – whether its to forget wine-fueled political debates, or relax after a food coma – Scott suggests choosing a movie that brings something unique to the big screen.
“If you really want to be swept up in this sort of intimate small-scale world, movies, I think, have a power to do that television hasn’t gotten to yet.”