The end of the feature film

The end of the feature film
PHOTO: The Straits Times

R.I.P. movies.

They've had a tremendous run over the past 120 years and profoundly transformed global popular culture for the better. (The last decade or two have made it a close call).

But 2017 is the year in which we need to admit feature films, as a distinct segment of our popular culture, have really ceased to exist. No, not because the latest wave of sequels with words like "Transformers," "Mummy" and "Despicable" in the title are too mind-numbing to bear. If you prefer coherence in your big-screen entertainment, you can still see "Baby Driver" or "The Big Sick" or "Beatriz at Dinner."

The reason is Netflix . And Marvel. And HBO.

The world's most successful digital-entertainment company, movie producer, and television network are all blurring the lines between the big screen and small, between big-budget TV and mid-budget movies, and between film reboots and TV pilots to such a degree that it's tough to say what a movie really is anymore.

Is it entertainment meant to be seen on the big screen?

Netflix has answered that question with a resounding "no." After tiptoeing into the space with art-house fare and comedies from the fading box office draw Adam Sandler, Netflix has significantly upped its movie game with the US$75 million military-political-comedy "War Machine," released in May and starring Brad Pitt, and "Okja," a US$50 million (S$69 million) modern fairy tale from South Korea's most respected director, Bong Joon Ho, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton.

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