Does it matter that a TV show is at the top of the best movie lists? | Simran hans


THElong before the garish and obstinate nerds of Twitter, the French cinema magazine Cahiers du cinéma had already perfected the art of trolling. Its annual list of the 10 best films of the year is still my most anticipated, if only to see what its opposing critics will name as their generic choice. Favorite personal provocations include The Brown Bunny (2004) by Vincent Gallo, The Lady in the Water (2006) by M Night Shyamalan and Long Halftime Walk by Billy Lynn (2017) by Ang Lee, a 40 million flop. dollars.

To close the decade of cinema, the Notebooks declared the 18-part television series of David Lynch Twin Peaks: The Return. his best movie of the 2010s. The inclusion of a television show on this kind of list is not exactly unprecedented; Notebooks named the original Twin Peaks seal fourth best movie of the 90s and The Return its best film of 2017 (oddly, Fox’s terrorism-themed 24-hour TV show also appeared on the 2002 list). And anyway, Twin Peaks: The Return appeared in many end-of-year top 10s when it was released in 2017, ranking second among View and sound end of year survey.

And so, to come back to a recurring theme: Is The Return part of a list of “best films”, if it is not in fact a film? More urgent, is it important?

On ideas of aging, memory, loss and trauma, Twin Peaks: The Return is extremely moving, and its surreal bottle episode (Episode 8) remains one of the most formally inventive and thrilling films I have ever seen. seen this decade. But that a project with high qualities, experimental or “cinematographic” seems to transcend the “lowbrow” form of television is a kind of snobbery.

On the other hand, Cahiers arguing for the return as the cinematic crown of the decade is its own sweeping statement – an adherence to a new and more elastic understanding of what constitutes cinema. The way movies are produced and consumed is changing at breakneck speed, and so it makes sense that the way critics react to these “movies” is changing as well.

Film and television are not interchangeable forms, but the advent of streaming means that viewing experiences are increasingly flexible. One could, in theory, watch Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour epic The Irishman on an iPad, in five digestible parts, or set up a projector and treat an 18-episode television series like The Return as if it were one long. film, supposedly how Lynch himself initially conceived the project. (Never mind that Lynch already made a Twin Peaks movie – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me in 1992, a haunting prequel that’s markedly different in both form and tone of the show.)

Anticipating an upheaval at the Cahiers, Vue & Son Magazine revised the column in its poll this year, telling its constituents that “movies mean movies as they are traditionally understood” (whatever that means; watching anything frenzied can make it throw away quality). “Linear shorts are okay,” its editors wrote, “but we will exclude television, games, virtual reality and other extended forms of moving images. A separate survey for television was sent out. But as critic Richard Brody wrote in New Yorker’s best movies of 2019 package, an “editorial policy favoring theatrical release critics risks pushing even more to the sidelines and off the map of films and filmmakers already unknown”.

If criticism is above all archival work, then lists are documents that reveal the temperature of a particular cultural climate. As benchmarks for what critics saw as the important issues of the day, their political leanings, aesthetic concerns, and thematic concerns, lists can be both fascinating and useful. Given the type of online debates that have animated film criticism over the past decade, such as #MeToo, #OscarsSoWhite, #MarvelVsScorsese, it is inevitable that the Notebooks list will reflect its stake in those conversations. Indeed, the omissions from the list are just as revealing; Consider that the Cahiers have chosen to honor only one director (Maren Ade), a colored filmmaker (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) and a documentary (Le Livre Pictures by Jean-Luc Godard).

Still, it’s entirely predictable that the critical establishment will feel empowered to include something done by a tinsel writer. Renowned filmmakers like Lynch work for TV and streaming platforms because it is the best way to get their projects done on a large scale. Their shift to Amazon, Netflix, HBO, and others may sound like a shift to new technology, but it’s a survival tactic. Likewise, investing streaming services in original productions may sound like a revitalization of the film industry, but these services are capitalizing on bankable names, priming Oscar titles which in turn will fuel their own streaming numbers. And, anyway, Lynch is already a Cahiers darling – The Return is his eighth appearance in a Cahiers top 10.

Simran Hans is film critic for The Observer


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