A categorically good year for film, 2012 gave us movies like LINCOLN and SILVER LINGINGS PLAYBOOK, appeasing the appetite of film critics and cinephiles alike. Yet, as the year comes to a close, many find themselves mourning the death of cinema.
With the advent of digital technology, 3-D movies, and television shows with the production value of a multi-million dollar blockbuster, many wonder if film culture finally caved to the hungry consumption of a new generation. While many argue that these things enrich the film community, others morn the loss of a bygone era when a night at the movies was more than just popcorn and soda. The following is an overview of some of the major entries in the debate over the death of film. What you find may surprise you!
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?
We know, as its lovers do everywhere, that movie, film, and cinema started dying a long time ago. Year after year, the funeral has been observed. But in show business every wake is a party—some of the great Hollywood romances began at such occasions.
Film culture, at least in the sense people once used that phrase, is dead or dying. Back in what we might call the Susan Sontag era, discussion and debate about movies was often perceived as the icy-cool cutting edge of American intellectual life. Today it’s a moribund and desiccated leftover that’s been cut off from ordinary life, from the mainstream of pop culture and even from what remains of highbrow or intellectual culture.
For many of us who were in our 20s and younger when Tarantino’s masterpiece exploded like a dirty bomb in theaters across the country, Pulp Fiction was the moment when film culture began. Fiction was where our awareness of not only film’s rich history, but how that history could be reinterpreted, repurposed, and reinvigorated, came to a head. For O’Hehir (and Wolcott, and their ilk), their version of film culture may very well be dead. But film culture is not. It’s merely become something else that they don’t recognize.
There are a lot more movie people now than there were in the sixties and seventies, and, thanks to the Internet, the conversation sparked by a festival screening quickly becomes more vigorous, more diverse, and more substantial than before, and the results of that good conversation emerge even more widely than before, albeit in slightly different ways.
The movies are too much with us, late and soon. If there are so many films, then how can any one film count? If the audience is so fractured and distracted, how can the interesting arguments develop? But the thing is, they do—about “Lincoln” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” about “The Master” and “Argo,” about “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Amour” and “Holy Motors” and a dozen more in this year alone. That’s a pretty wild party, even if some of the guests insist on calling it a wake.