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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Television Goldmine

I’ve written about this subject several times over the past few years, but now it seems like it’s gaining steam more and more: television is a much more interesting landscape than film these days. That is not to say that I think all TV shows are better than all movies, but that I think television is an inherently more fascinating medium for character-based narratives. In a film, we get maybe three hours to see a character develop and grow and change; in television, we could have upwards of a hundred hours. Great film actors like Daniel Day-Lewis are able craft a persona and give us an idea of the depth of a character in something like There Will Be Blood, but how do I compare that greatness to, say, Jon Hamm’s creation of Don Draper on Mad Men.  It’s almost impossible to compare the two, but when all is said and done, I will probably feel like I know Don Draper and his motivations better than Daniel Plainview.

I was realizing just that point when I was watching Mad Men this past Sunday.  I’ve gotten to know Don Draper so well at this point that I feel like I can guess what he may or may not to do in any given situation.  That might make it sound really boring, like it would take the fun and excitement out of it, but instead it made me feel comfortable with the fact that I’ve spent almost four seasons getting to know this person (upwards of 40 hours) and now I know his tics.  And that’s a testament to the acting of Jon Hamm, that he’s able to convey the feelings that I know Don is having, but without having to state it as such.  Every furrow of the brow, every hesitation of an inhalation of cigarette, every faux-tender kiss on a woman’s mouth…we know what Don is feeling as he lies to the world.

It’s not just on Mad Men either.  All across the television landscape, there are shows and characters that are just starting to scratch the surface of what can be done with the medium.  No longer do we have stand-alone episodes of every show where we follow one character as they solve a mystery.  No, now we have mysteries and narratives that last for the entire length of a show’s run and characters that fall believably in and out of love.

Look, I will always love movies with all my heart – it’s my primary passion.  But even I can’t deny that television is kicking some serious ass right now.  It’s starting to feel more and more like film is the equivalent of a short story while TV shows are novels.  That’s not a knock on films at all, as some of the best stories are short ones.  But, I’ve got it on pretty good authority that Boardwalk Empire is going to kick all of our asses when it debuts on HBO in a couple weeks.  And, you know, it’s gotta say something when even Scorsese is noticing what television can offer these days.

4 Responses to “Television Goldmine”

  1. Amazing mob at Lovato’s Hotel in Toronto today! I was right behind 2 idiots who were much taller than me!

  2. We tried their restaurant and had the exact same experience.

  3. christian says:

    So tired of this meme. TV is for people who want a continuing serial. Do not confuse it with the theatrical experience. I find the overreaching suspect — I think people want to justify how many hours a week they spend watching these shows and then demanding that “you don’t get it unless you get to episode 25 of the sixth season.”

    And why are all TV characters scumbags these days?

  4. hcat says:

    I am quite a snob about television having spent most of the last two decades with Rabbit Ears and missing the “Golden Age of Cable”. And while I always thought the intention of a television program was simply to keep you interested through the commercial break, I have to say this season of Mad Men is absolutly incredible and keeps suprising me with little moments of brilliance.

    One person’s scumbag is another person’s complex character.

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster