Some Thoughts On “O.J.: Made In America”

“Movies are dead.” That’s a popular refrain I’ve heard (and said myself) for years. It’s hyperbole, except for the fact that this month might truly be the death knell? “Independence Day: Resurgence” is pure, outright garbage. “The BFG” stinks. Hollywood wants us to care about “Warcraft”? I’m supposed to think “The Legend of Tarzan” is going to be good? It’s almost too much to believe.

But maybe instead of expiring, movies have just transformed into something else. As television has risen to cultural prominence, the biggest films have become episodes — sequels and spinoffs about characters we know that end with a call to tune-in next week. Even “Independence Day: Resurgence,” a sequel no one wanted that everyone hates, closes with a tease for the next chapter. Hey, why not?

But what if that episodic nature of cinema in 2016 was used for good? It would look like “O.J.: Made in America,” a five-part documentary that takes television and turns it into a movie. Plenty has been written about the doc so I won’t regurgitate it here other than to say a fuller portrait of O.J. Simpson, his life, and the institutional racism that turned his case into the Trial of the Century does not exist. It’s perhaps the most important document about the America in the 1990s.

But beyond its place in history, “O.J.: Made in America” feels like a watershed moment in packaging content. It’s an astonishing film — For Your Consideration: Ezra Edelman for best director at the 2017 Oscars — told as if it were the best television. And maybe this where things are truly headed: to a place where storytelling trumps its delivery system, and #longform is more than a trend publishers use to game Facebook.

After the New York Mets won Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, outfielder Mookie Wilson (he of “behind the bag” fame) told reporters, “Mirrors, magic wands or whatever — all that counts is that we won the ballgame.” That’s “O.J.: Made in America,” really: movies, television, or whatever — it counts, and it’s a landmark.