Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Nobody Knows How to Watch Movies Anymore

Jason Kehe, Wired:

[…] That’s why simpleminded arguments like “our attention spans are shot” are so rarely, on their own, convincing. You simply attend to different things these days, like TV, or TikTok. (Worse things, some say, less unified, less artistic, but to an alien it looks like complete attention all the same.) In 2022, there’s something uniquely daunting about the prospect of committing to a movie, even for just 90 minutes. So you scroll and scroll and scroll, never quite ready to make a decision, aware, on some level, that you lack the strength to see it through.

Maybe this doesn’t bother you. Movies are a dying art form; TV is ascendant! I suspect, however, it does. The less you watch movies, the more you miss them. You miss the completeness of them, of a story fully told — something TV (or TikTok, neverending) almost never provides. A movie is designed, after all, to be watched all at once, its rhythms and pacing serving the arc of a single emotional journey.

Or at least they used to. Blockbusters are now more than ever shoehorned into never-ending story arcs and expanding universes of characters.

Update: Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Buzzfeed News:

Are you exhausted yet? We seem to have arrived at the nadir of original stories, a cultural moment where many of the TV shows and movies feature names and characters we already know. It does not matter how well we know them — it just matters that the audience is already familiar with the world. We are living through the age of peak intellectual property. Hollywood has learned the safe route, found a reliable pattern: Every time studios push this button, $13 comes out. Why wouldn’t they keep pushing it? But at what cost to originality?

I know plenty of people have complained about the dearth of original cinema for years, but it feels like we have hit a new low point in the risks studios are willing to take. Maybe that is because so many of these movies and shows are inherently expensive to make, with marquee actors and thousands of visual effects shots, so studios demand the closest thing they can get to guaranteed success.