By declaring an instinctual resistance to including made-for-cable movies into the Oscar realm, a genuinely good and brave idea passed along by director-screenwriter Paul Schrader, I regret to say that Roger Ebert has painted himself into a nostalgic 20th Century corner.
“Why not?,” he says in a 5.15 Newsweek/Daily Beast article. “It’s tempting, Paul. I could relax before my big eight-foot home-theater screen, and the work would come to me. The problem is, that goes against my grain. A movie is shown in a movie theater, and I like to sit there and see it. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m not ready to bowl alone.”
No…no. That’s over. That ship has sailed. The collusion of corporate calculation and mass Eloi taste buds have all but ruined the upscale movie business, and the only way to get past this (or get around it) is to finally and completely jettison the idea that the best high-end, intelligent or semi-intelligent films open only in theatres first. The whole theatres-first distribution concept is out the window when it comes to movies with a brain…has been for years. The best are the best, no matter how they arrive.
Schrader, says Ebert, claims that “grown-up films and creative projects are ‘over’ in the new Hollywood, and that many of his friends are turning to long-form television.” Here’s how Schrader put it :
“The quality of theatrically released films has been dropping so precipitously in recent years that the Academy Awards are no longer a fair gauge of audiovisual entertainment. Several decades ago audiences could expect a film such as The Social Network every week; now we are lucky to have one or two a year.
“Add to this the fact serious dramas have more or less migrated to television, and it’s clear that the Oscars have become progressively less relevant.
“A veteran film critic — by this I mean you, Roger — should take it on himself by unilaterally abandoning the distinction between theatrical and nontheatrical films in year-end best-of lists. All long-form audiovisual entertainment, released on any distribution platform, would be eligible for consideration. The Academy, of course, would regard this as a nightmare. It would downgrade the ‘specialness’ of theatrical films. But this is all happening anyway so why not get ahead of the curve?”
Movieline‘s Stu Van Airsdale has written very passionately and persuasively about this also.