Apparently there are lots of people out there who hated Sunshine and think it the worst movie ever. I beg to differ.

While I don’t think it was anywhere near best-movie-ever-made status, there was a lot I enjoyed about it compared to your average sf movie, which as a genre I mostly hate. Seriously the amount of sf films I think are okay (in a non-camp way) is very very small. Sunshine gave me a mission to save the world without big long speeches about saving humanity, uniformly good acting, no boredom, plus it was pretty.

What I didn’t like were the standard annoying Hollywoodisms, like, and here come the spoilers, the saboteur captain of the previous mission turning out to be a near invincible monster straight out of any bog standard slasher movie. Yawn. They didn’t need to do that. The disaster wreaked on them by going off to salvage the previous mission was more than enough to keep things tense. Also there wasn’t enough world building to make me really care about the world saving, or enough time spent with the characters to know who they were, and thus care about them.

But that problem had more to do with the format than anything else. Increasingly movies just aren’t doing it for me. They’re too short and—especially the Hollywood ones—too constrained by their genre and dumb rules like the baddie-must-be-a-superhuman-monster which destroyed, for example, Wes Craven’s Red Eye.

I saw Ratatouille recently and while I could see why there’s been such a fuss—technically it was amazing—it just didn’t do it for me. There wasn’t enough stuff. Plus all the rats were male—how did they reproduce? While it was supposed to be all about food and cooking there were precious little details making that cooking come alive. I couldn’t tell what the ingredients were most of the time and the rescue of the soup made no sense in terms of any cooking I’ve ever done. I didn’t buy it. I can see the charm but, well, it didn’t charm me.

I cannot remember the last time I loved a new movie.

But I can tell you the last television show I fell for: Flight of the Conchords. Singing Kiwis in New York! Making mock of Australians (occasionally). What more could I ask for?

Right now tellie is doing it for me in a way that cinema just ain’t. You’ve got your Deadwood, The Wire, Rome, Weeds, The Sopranos, Big Love. Go back a little further and there’s Prime Suspect, Cracker, Blue Murder, Homicide: Life on the Streets and my recently discovered love, American Gothic. I don’t rent or buy movies hardly at all anymore—I want discs and discs of television goodness. Otherwise why bother?

Movies have become the deeply unsatisfying short form and television the deeply satisfying long form. I want arc, I want character development, I want to be surprised and wooed. I’m getting all of that from the best tv right now, but not from the best movies. (Unless they’re a series like Infernal Affairs.)

Sunshine isn’t a bad movie, neither was Ratatouille, but, wow, are neither of them a patch on even the mediocre tellie shows like Dexter or Entourage.

Am I alone?


  1. Malcolm Tredinnick on #

    I’ll agree with most of your premise: the cliches and formulaic constructs are annoying. Haven’t seen sunshine, but your description sounds something like I might have expected.

    I wonder if you’re viewing the past through rose-coloured glasses a bit, though. There were plenty of truly crap movies in the 80’s and 90’s, too. Only the good ones have survived in our memories and DVD collections.

    There’s been a few movies in the past few years I’ve enjoyed a lot. Thinking about it, though, they fall into two categories: Chinese films done well (not all them) and some romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed with friends and talked about a lot afterwards. The first group might be because I’m not up on the typical Chinese cliches, though, so some of my favourites might suck if you were Chinese. And my friends will be the first to point out that my sense of humour is pretty weird, so the second category could be dubious, too.

  2. lili on #

    i’m so with you. i’ve just picked my 13 films for the Melbourne Film Festival, and i’m feeling guilty for thinking that i’d rather stay home with a bottle of wine and the next episode of studio 60 on the sunset strip.

    i think tv is actually better suited to novelists. because you can’t really get to know a character in 120 minutes. but you can in 24 42 minute episodes. there’s much more depth of character*, more time for things to develop and simmer. Sexual tension works sooo much better in tv. i think it’s one of the reasons why there’s never been a really perfect jane austen film made. you just don’t have time to squeeze everything in.

    * i’m only talking about the good ones, here.

  3. Karen on #

    The Simpsons movie surprised me with how good it was. Maybe not the kind of film to hug close to your heart, but really, really funny and sharp and smart.

    But yeah, tv has gotten amazingly good.

  4. Lauren on #

    Pixar can bite me. I think the rash of animated kids movies with Smurfette syndrome is nothing short of a crisis. Little girls and boys are watching this crap, which basically teaches them that males are the norm and girls are rare, specialized versions of males with skirts on. Pixar and Disney should be boycotted until their development goons get out and notice that half the population is female.

    As for the suckiness of movies, I overdosed on them about 7 years ago and only rarely dabble nowadays. I think they blow in part because creative decisions are made by executive types who think they can ensure financial success by following certain packaging formulas, i.e., if you put Actor X in a movie featuring Plot Twist B with sexy Co-star Y, you’ll net Z at the box office. The truth, however, is that box office success is never predictable and the bulk of a film’s earnings come from ancillary markets (like foreign rights and DVD) which are even less predictable than box office. Remember Office Space? Box office disaster, DVD blockbuster. The film industry has become virtually encrusted with self-appointed “winner-pickers” who crowd their names into the producer credits then claim responsibility for every success while dodging the blame for every failure. Add to this the fact that directors (despite their “auteur” status) are increasingly the least experienced people on set and you end up with a formulaic piece of star-packaging slapped together by amateurs. But what do I know. I retired from this miserable business seven years ago.

  5. robin on #

    Definitely not alone. My netflix queue is unapologetically movie-free. Movies can be good (or at least people will tell you they’re good) for lots of reasons, but TV is *only* good when the writing is good. Which I guess is why screenwriters are persona non grata on movie sets but in the land of TV, the writer (I’m looking at you, Joss) is king.

  6. niki on #

    I watch sunshine on the plane. I didn’t like it. I suspect that watching it on a small screen bouncing up and down occasionally probably isn’t the best format to see this film. As you say, my biggest problem was that I didn’t care if they lived or died or if the world was saved or not.

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