Is it time to leave “cinematic” behind?

Film culture has created an aura around the term “cinematic.” A piece of media described as “cinematic” carries with it certain qualities – pace, staging, cinematography, and weight – that are typically seen as ideal or enviable. But as digital distribution democratizes film and television, should directors still chase the same feeling as the cinema?

Ben Sachs of Chicago Reader offers an alternative: maybe television shouldn’t strive to be “cinematic.” Though admittedly not a big fan of television, Sachs finds shows like Breaking Bad closer to a novel than a film. Television shows, he says, offer a more cerebral, slow-burn format that is friendlier to consumption on tablets and phones. Sachs argues that without the need for home-theater-ready image and sound mixing, television shows can develop their own feel independent of traditionally “cinematic” style.

It’s not difficult to imagine that the explosion of quality television will eventually result in creative types abandoning the pursuit of a “cinematic” ideal in search of something new. As digital media opens new platforms of creative expression, it will be harder to uphold any stylistic mode as the best.

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