Conformist cultural commentators on the interwebs like to boast about how TV’s toppled film in recent years.
Where do I even begin?
How about by stating the obvious ridiculousness of comparing mediums. They of course bear superficial similarities, but on a fundamental level, their mode of storytelling is significantly different. I personally prefer single unit storytelling, with a clear beginning, middle, and end, thus the reason I gravitate towards the cinema. But there’s nothing objectively superior about one form over another; to each their own.
As for which of the mediums plays a more important role today…who cares? People may watch more TV, but that probably has more to do with ease. When the quality is relative, most will opt never to leave the comfort of their abodes. Convenience will almost always trump quality, but quality doesn’t necessarily follow convenience. Plus, just because more viewers participate in the boob tube doesn’t make it more dominant; that’s like saying the best movies of the year are Marvel’s schlock that generate the most dough (the Academy Awards may one day, in the too near future, agree with this assertion!).
And do individual TV shows really dictate the cultural conversation more than movies? For every Game of Thrones and Succession, there’s Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians. It might feel like more attention is paid to the former, but that’s mostly a byproduct of the fact that they release new content every week for months, refreshing the discourse. In terms of total eyeballs, the biggest movies will undoubtedly garner more watches than any single TV episode.
Again, film and TV is unexpectedly apples and oranges. One core truth applies to both: no entry in either medium can be as central to our cultural consciousness as back in the day. It might feel like there’s more gab about them than ever, but that’s just a result of the digital age — specifically social media — amplifying how privy we are to such gabbing. Box office receipts for theaters may be way up, but that’s due more to inflated ticket prices; Gone with the Wind remains the most attended movie in the history of moviegoing. In this age of unlimited options, we can all curate our viewing diet as personally-specific as ever. Thus, less material will transcend all of this self-pruning.
Can you tell I’ve been cognitively preparing these arguments for years now in the face of the neverending film vs. TV face-off? Happily, I’ve heard countless agnostics in this non-debate bemoan the absurd number of options on the small screen. When everyone recommends a different, new, MUST-SEE show basically every week, it can feel impossible to keep up with this unlimited streaming boom. As such, many appear to be throwing in the towel for fear of drowning in content.
Film doesn’t have that same problem, but it ran into an even worse fate earlier this year: a lack of superior alternatives! There was of course a Hereditary here and an Unsane there, but for the most part, work that was worth leaving our couches for remained few and far between. After years of resisting, I started wondering if TV was indeed hurting my beloved cinema, due to the latter’s alluring talents gravitating to the former’s greater artistic freedom…and paychecks.
But then just like that, August changed everything.
A month commonly considered a dumping ground for theaters, falling between lucrative summer blockbusters and prestigious fall Oscar contenders, has somehow transformed into a breeding ground of some of the year’s best. But it makes sense; studios treating this season as relatively unimportant, AKA insignificant to their bottom lines, allows for niche offerings to flourish free of such transparently-limiting agendas.
But by no means are the current bumper crop of expert flicks relegated only to art houses. I can’t remember the last time when I could wholeheartedly recommend THIS many movies, all horses of a different color. In fact, the titles below comprise 13 of my favorite 30 cinematic experiences of the year…and they’re all in theaters, right now! That never happens, ESPECIALLY in freaking August.
So in these dog days of summer, why not beat the heat and take a chance on the following movies (merely listed in alphabetical order; AKA, they’re not ranked); you, most likely, won’t leave disappointed:
- Christopher Robin
- Eighth Grade
- Generation Wealth
- Leave No Trace
- Madeline’s Madeline
- Mission Impossible — Fallout
- Night Comes On
- Sorry To Bother You
- Teen Titans Go! to the Movies
- The Wife
- Three Identical Strangers
- We the Children