After this year's Oscar ceremony, Tim Goodman wrote a piece on Paul Haggis, who was nominated for Best Screenplay. Goodman's argument was that Haggis had done better work when he was involved with television, and he included this provocative statement, which I believe I quoted here at the time:
[A] great television series -- HBO's "The Wire," for example -- is far superior to any of the best picture nominees, though the comparison is inherently unfair. A film is like a short story -- a weekly series more like a novel. Although the latter allows more time to develop character, that shouldn't automatically dismiss the former of its duty to have some kind of depth beyond special effects, a "Sixth Sense" trick ending or, in the case of "Million Dollar Baby, " an implausibility that cheapens the emotional payoff.
Haggis' latest film is Crash, and while it has much to offer, it might have been better as a television series. A complex film about the kind of ordinary racism that exists in our daily lives, it features excellent acting and, within each scene, some terrific writing. The events in the film take place over something like a day and a half, and therein lies a problem. Because Crash is an ensemble piece that requires a lot of interactions from a lot of characters from a lot of different backgrounds, and because it's a movie that lasts just under two hours and takes place over 36 or so hours, Haggis must concoct some unbelievable coincidences just to get everyone interacting with everyone else before the film runs out. If Crash were an HBO series, Haggis could take his time developing his characters and their interactions, without relying on the "implausibility" that emerges during the film's plot construction.
As Goodman noted, there are good reasons for Haggis to work in movies. As I wrote last year, Haggis' greatest TV creation, EZ Streets, "aired a two-hour pilot in late October of 1996, and showed another episode three days later. It then disappeared from the teevee for four months. It ran another month and was cancelled, nine episodes making the screen (a tenth went unshown)." Against this, you've got Haggis getting Oscar nominations, and putting together a film like Crash that allows him to use actors such as Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, and even Tony Danza. No wonder he prefers working in film. But Crash would have been better if it lasted three seasons.