Monday, 05 January 2009

It's always already been the end of epic film. Whether he knows it or not—and "he" being Adam Kotsko, I'll bet he knows it—this Weblog post is less about the formal fit between epic and the television serial than the relation of film to the episodic form. I know that sounds backwards—what with MOVIES! being PRESENTED! on SCREENS! the SIZE! of WYOMING!—but the compounded facts of run time and the modern American attention span necessitate we consider film the proper realm of the self-contained episode. Even films which promise sequels announce their completion in terms of whatever -ology they embrace. Films should be about something in the original, locative sense of the word. They should surround some subject matter, be "on every side" "wholly or partially," as per the OED. They should be self-contained. Not that they shouldn't be sweeping—you can frame Guernica or a sublimely panoramic view of the Hudson River and slap it on a gallery wall without robbing them of sweep—but they should recognize their formal limitations. Films can only intimate narrative epicness. They can't achieve it. "But!" "But But But!" Try me. Start listing epic films and I'll start listing films with grandiose tableaux. The Lord of the Rings? Shot in that sewer of New Zealand. Blade Runner? The Lord himself envies Ridley Scott's matte painters. With film we confuse the formal qualities of narrative epic for the GIANT! SCALE! presented by the movie screen. Cases in point: Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Both were hailed as epic upon release, and yet both are far superior films on the small screen. Before you ask: I do remember what I wrote about The Dark Knight on IMAX, and inasmuch as it relates the experience of watching an obscenely high-quality image projected on the side of an eight-story building, I stand by it. Watching the film on a small screen—one on which a bug of a Batman glides between five-inch tall skyscrapers while Heath Ledger's Joker licks human-sized lips and establishes human-sized eye-contact—it's impossible to deny that this supposedly epic performance is better suited to the televisual medium. (This goes doubly for Iron Man, which barely passes for "good" on the big screen but shines when we connect with Robert Downey Jr. as a human actor in corporate world.) Not that I think we should deny that the serial drama is also better served on the small screen. A solidly written, solidly acted television show can be a better film than most films. To wit: having finished the first four episodes of the blogosphere's own Leverage, I can't help but wonder what went so terribly wrong with Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen. (x-posted about.)
I only investigated this report online. Michelle Malkin’s vaunted list of “investigative online reporting published on conservative blogs” demonstrates, for the umpteenth time, that Michelle Malkin can’t tell the difference between reporters and partisan political operatives. She opens the list reportly enough—Patterico’s posts on William Jefferson, Alex Kozinski and Chuck Philips are, in fact, works of investigative journalism—but after that you have: a hit-piece on Air America a hit-piece on Al Franken an unpublished hit-piece by Larry Grathwohl that Confederate Yankee posted because neither knew the New York Times doesn’t print op-ed rebuttals something or other in which someone talks about attending political rallies a hit-piece on Ayers in which one “Zombie” did a Lexis-Nexis search numerous failed hit-pieces by Charles Johnson—representative—about trolls on Obama’s community blogs a hit-piece on Jeremiah Wright a hit-piece on Obama Jr. via Obama Sr. numerous hit-pieces by Stanley Kurtz—representative—on Obama numerous hit-pieces on Obama for his “abortion extremism” in which his public voting record and campaign statements were “reported on” some “top notch investigative work” that links to back to Malkin’s post some video hit-pieces on YouTube that rebroadcast Obama’s never-before-heard and never-anywhere-seen statements about “redistributing wealth” a Google search for Ed Morrissey at Hot Air that “brought down [Canada's] liberal government in 2005 a whole slew of hit-pieces written by Malkin herself which I won’t bother to link to My point? Doing a Lexis-Nexis search is not investigative reporting. Reprinting material from social networking sites is not investigative reporting. Rebroadcasting clips that every network—including Foxnews—had in heavy rotation for weeks on end is not investigative reporting. Attacking people with whom a Presidential candidate had some contact is not investigative reporting. While it’s possible for partisan hacks like Malkin to do investigative reporting, little of what she presents as investigative reporting is investigative reporting. The majority of her links are to undisguised attacks by unpaid political operatives, and—say it with me now—an undisguised attack by an unpaid political operative is not investigative reporting. (via Young Matthew.) (x-posted.)

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