(Original post at The National Student)
At the Golden Globes on Sunday, Guillermo Del Toro secured his first Golden Globe for Best Director, an accolade that few can deny he has earned. Yet at an event designed to honour both film and television, it seems unfair to only highlight the directors of the silver screen.
The Golden Globes is unique amongst America’s largest media awards, because it combines television and film categories in one event. Whilst it would be unreasonable to expect the Golden Globes to cover as many categories as the Oscars and Emmys combined, some parity between the two mediums should be attempted.
Television, so often seen as the bratty relative of film, has had its own renaissance in the last twenty years. Ever since The Sopranos ushered in a wave of challenging new series, television has been increasingly considered on a par with its cinematic sibling.
There are countless episodes of 2017 television that are as dramatically compelling as the films of the five Best Director nominees. Take Daniel Sackheim’s Chicanery, for example, a decisive courtroom instalment of Better Call Saul that paints a subtle picture of brotherly betrayal.
Time’s Arrow, a devastating episode of Bojack Horseman, singles out director Aaron Long for praise as much as Spielberg or Scott. Hell, any episode of Jean-Marc Vallée’s Big Little Lies could be nominated, so beautifully does the series capture the abuse and violence at the heart of an elite Californian town.
With increasing budgets and an emphasis on stylistic innovation, television offers a chance for directors to experiment with long-form storytelling. 2017’s television directors have grabbed that opportunity with both hands.
David Slade’s American Gods episodes back up the show’s weirdness with stunning visuals, making its leprechaun brawls and sex with deities convincing and real. The experimental cinematography of Legion’s six directors creates a visual melange, showcasing an aesthetic ambition that is unparalleled in mainstream film.
Like cinema, television suffers from its oversaturation of white male directors. Yet as in film, women and people of colour are creating extraordinary, powerful art. Melina Matsoukas, best known for directing Beyoncé’s Formation video, directed some of the finest episodes of Master of None and Insecure in 2017.
Reed Morano’s Late, an exemplary episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, is the most brutal and unforgettable hour of television you’ll see all year. At the other end of the spectrum, Erin Ehrlich’s season opener for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend provided some of the series’ funniest, catchiest musical numbers.
The sheer number of directors who work in both film and television should highlight the medium’s prestige and potential. Barry Jenkins, fresh from his Oscar-winning drama Moonlight, helped convey a pivotal moment in Dear White People’s first season through his direction.
David Fincher’s return to television with Mindhunter proved that his distinctive style translates equally well to the smaller screen. In a year when David Lynch produced eighteen hours of ethereal, nightmarish brilliance with Twin Peaks: The Return, the power of television’s storytelling cannot be denied.
If we are truly living in a golden age of television, an era where its performances can be deemed equal to those in cinema, then the same validation must be extended to the medium’s directors. Without the tireless efforts of television’s directors, the medium’s newfound prestige would not exist.
At next year’s Golden Globes, I hope to see television directors honoured alongside the elite of cinema.