As the Oscars approached last Sunday, I made the error of using Facebook to express my belief that “Gravity” was far and away the best film nominated for Best Picture. Many of you reading this may have acted just like my friends when you read that prior sentence: Eye rolls followed by mutterings of “12 Years a Slave” under their breath. This isn’t an article about why “Gravity” was robbed of the Best Picture Oscar, I promise. Instead, this is an effigy to the death of cinema as we knew it.
“Gravity” may be the last film that was truly a masterpiece on the “big screen.” By this I mean the last film meant to be viewed solely in the overwhelming visual experience of the movie theatre. You could watch “Gravity” on your 13-inch Macbook pro, sure, but that feeling of isolation and lack of balance as director Alfonso Cuaron threw the rules of cinema out the window, would be missed.
There are certain films, many films, that have no reason to be seen on the big screen. I’ve never seen a comedy (that wasn’t directed by Woody Allen) that did anything to take advantage of the large screen. Even dramas these days hardly take of advantage of the visual experience; of the eight other films nominated for Best Picture, only the exterior scenery of the deep south in “12 Years a Slave” took even a cursory advantage of the big screen (“Captain Phillips,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” actually improve on the small screen).
This isn’t to say that film is dead, far from it. There were plenty of brilliant films made this year, including “Gravity,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Captain Phillips,” but just that the way we view the medium is changing. As screens become smaller, and the comfort of home overtakes the annoyance of finding parking and sitting next to a couple that feel it’s okay to discuss the romantic interests of the actors throughout the entire film, cinema as we know it is going to morph into the cinema of the future, one where Leonardo DiCapiro’s manic high on Quaaludes will be much more likely to be repeated than a film about isolation in deep space.
Maybe it isn’t the worst thing in world, but I fear that if cinema stops promoting such visual adventures, the future medium will miss out on many masterpieces, and instead, cinema will cease being its own medium and instead be morphed into a version of television.