On January 22, 2018, HBO released an immersive new television series titled Mosaic, courtesy of acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and starring the magnificent Sharon Stone in a primordial role although often more sensed than seen. The show was unique as it originally surfaced in a very different forum, appearing on streaming services as a cinematic app whose presentation of story wasn’t bound by traditional narrative aesthetics.
Featuring a compelling murder mystery headed by a high profile cast, the original incarnation of Mosaic allowed viewers choice in how to view the procedural events, through the eyes of different characters. Similar to a video game or other interactive media, one could also uncover Easter eggs independent of the episodic “perspectives”, allowing the viewer to piece together the mystery in their own way and at their own leisure.
It was nothing short of groundbreaking if potentially sobering when it comes to lovers of traditional film. Indeed, with the arrival of portable media like Mosaic, web series like Stranger Things, and even the prolific nature of mainstream television à la The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, many are asking the question: will traditional film, in a theater, still exist in the coming decades?
Speaking with the Scope Weekly, one of Mosaic’s second unit directors, Brent Geisler, is hopeful it will.
For me, I want to see it as big as possible,” he said. “It’s important that it stays larger than life.
He is not alone.
Vocal film stock advocate and Oscar-nominated director Christopher Nolan told IndieWire he wouldn’t work with online companies like Netflix because digital distribution is “a mindless policy of everything having to be simultaneously streamed” making the projects “an untenable model for theatrical presentation.”
In spite of this sentiment, Mudbound, a Netflix film, currently is competing in the 2018 Academy Awards, with three Oscar nominations to its name. Another project Netflix streamed, Okja, premiered last year at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, hoping to snatch a Palme d’Or.
This year, the third installment in producer J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield series opted for a surprise release on the site. Untenable for theatrical presentation or not, that isn’t stopping online and interactive mediums from posing as a formidable adversary to traditional cinema aesthetic. For one, the cost can be significantly cheaper than one theater ticket. Mosaic’s initial release was for free.
The practicality of portable or home viewing is starting to outweigh nostalgia for the old, as many high profile directors are finding the changes in medium to be creatively liberating.
“Steven (Soderbergh) is always looking to be challenged. The planning and the script (for Mosaic) were broken down by each character, each sequence was very specifically designed,” said Geisler to The Scope Weekly. “It allows the viewer to be in the driver’s seat, which is more fun. You get to choose your own adventure.”
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