In our line of work, there are days when we get discouraged. Like the ones where yet another studio announces it’s building a Marvel-style universe, or the ones where we spend three hours watching some $200 million movie only to realize it feels exactly like the last three $200 million movies we saw. It starts to feel like there’s nothing new under the sun, and we might as well stop caring.
But we wouldn’t be doing this if there weren’t even more days that made us rejoice in the movie business, and made us excited to see where things are headed next. Not all trends are bad, even if we’ve complained about some of our least favorite ones in the past. After the jump, check out 10 movie and TV trends we love.
1. Hardcore Sci-Fi Is Making A Come Back
While we’ve never lacked for sci-fi tales on the big screen, we’ve recently noticed a welcome resurgence of hardcore sci-fi. That is, movies that are about a central sci-fi concept, rather than films that simply use sci-fi elements as window dressing. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the latter — we loved Guardians of the Galaxy as much as the next geek-centric film blog — but it’s films of the former persuasion that really remind us what sci-fi as a genre is capable of.
At its best, sci-fi opens up fresh ways of considering familiar themes. Sure, you could make a movie about our evolving relationship with technology without bringing a sentient A.I. voiced by Scarlett Johansson into it. But through Samantha, Her was able to extrapolate from our present and imagine our bittersweet future. Or look at Under the Skin, which shone a whole new light on the world we already know by showing it to us through the eyes of a literal alien.
It’s not just indies, either. This year, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes forced us to consider man’s place on the evolutionary path by bringing hyper-intelligent apes into the story, while Interstellar tested the power of love by sending it hurtling into a black hole. Hardcore sci-fi shows us the world as it is, but it doesn’t stop there — it allows us to consider what it isn’t, what it could have been, and what it might become.
2. Anthology TV Shows
The first season of American Horror Story was so bonkers, we couldn’t even begin to guess how Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and company could keep the story going into a second season. Turns out they didn’t have to. Not long after the finale, FX announced the series would be back with an entirely new storyline, setting, and cast of characters next year. Since then, shows like True Detective and Fargo have followed suit.
The anthology model frees TV creators from the obligation to keep a storyline going after it’s run out of steam, and cast and crew members from getting roped into years-long commitments. At the same time, it saves TV networks the trouble of having to market an entirely new show, and audiences the bother of trying out brand-new series. With American Horror Story, part of the fun is watching Murphy and Falchuk play mix-and-match with their favorite tropes and cast members. We know what to expect in terms of general tone and scope, but the specifics are a fun surprise at the start of each season. If the whole idea behind franchise-building is that audiences want more of the same, but different, anthology shows are looking like a great way to deliver just that.
3. Single-Director TV Series
For so long, TV was considered cinema’s less accomplished little sister. Movies were a definite step up from TV, and only a filmmaker or actor down on their luck would deign to return to the small screen. Then the lines started to blur as directors like Martin Scorsese and David Fincher signing on to direct pilots. Then big-name directors started doing entire seasons of shows. In the past couple of years we’ve seen Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, Cary Fukunaga’s True Detective, and Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick, and in 2016 we have David Lynch’s new season of Twin Peaks to look forward to.
The single-director model gives TV series a consistency and distinctiveness that’s hard to achieve with the usual hired-gun approach. The directors are able to make the stamp on the show, rather than having to fit their style to match an established one. Instead of shrinking down big-screen style, single-director shows expand it by giving these directors more room to play.