Thanksgiving is a day for eating excessive amounts of food, watching mindless television, and being close to friends and family. It is also a time to offer thanks for all of the things that make life great. Like Woody Allen, we each have our own running lists of things that make life worth living, but each year we at Film Misery like to name five movie-related reasons to give thanks. Enjoy our lists below and please share yours in the comments.
1) Native American Film Festivals – Given this American holiday’s true (i.e. genocidal) history, I am thankful for the work of indigenous film festivals like the Native American Film + Video Festival in New York and the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco. Native American representation in film is historically awful, and celebrating native filmmakers’ work is one of many needed steps in the right direction.
2) The IFC Center – I moved to New York City around the time I began writing for Film Misery a few months ago, and one of the best perks of being here in Gotham is the IFC. They show new independent, foreign, and documentary features and are always having special events and in-person appearances. I’m in love!
3) My Film Major Husband – My husband Tom’s new job producing video for Polygon.com is the reason I moved to New York, and his chosen collegiate field of study is the reason I’m as excited about the potential of film as I am today. Getting a free education in cinema through his experiences (while I studied theatre at another university) was probably the biggest contributing factor to getting my gig here at Film Misery. (Thanks, Tom!)
4) Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film – If I want statistics about the employment and representation of women in film and TV, I turn to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film. For over a decade they’ve been conducting original research documenting women’s under-representation and investigating the reasons for the continuing gender gap in these fields. Just take a look at some of their research – it’s an astounding call to action.
5) The Anchorman Sequel Will Include Musical Numbers – Move over Les Miserables, the new master of the house is Ron Burgundy? …Dammit, who typed a question mark in WordPress?!
1) My Obscure Opinion – Nice as it is for all us to get along, I can think of nothing more dull than total agreeance. Arguing opinions is what solidifies them, so as I defend Mirror Mirror and Breaking Dawn: Part 2 and despise The Dark Knight Rises and Life of Pi, I know my opinion is important, because it is specially my own.
2) Nicole Kidman – For an hour I was in the same room as Nicole Kidman, the glamorous actress who has stunned consistently in Moulin Rouge, Dogville, Birth, and most recently The Paperboy. She looks fantastically maniacal in next year’s Stoker, and I smile as her career surges passionately once again. That I got to be in the same room as the talented woman is simply a dream come true.
3) Female Directors – 2012’s been a saddening year for woman filmmakers, but as Andrea Arnold, Sarah Polley, Kathryn Bigelow, Julia Loktev, and Ursula Meier proved this year, there ought to be a bigger space for women behind the camera. Even if wide success eludes them, they still join the ranks of such powerful artists as Kelly Reichardt, Jane Campion, Lynne Ramsay, Agnes Varda, and most especially of all…
4) Claire Denis – If I made a Top 100 Films of All Time list right now, most of her ten films would without a doubt be on it. She has such a nimble hand and eye for dissective character studies, unforgiving sensuality, and occasionally breathtaking majesty and show(wo)manship. If you haven’t seen a film from this unparalleled artist of the medium, you’re living in the dark. I eagerly await the day we finally hear she’s hard at work on yet another masterpiece.
5) A Semester Off – I took time off from school to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. In that time I figured out that I want to be a film critic for the rest of my life, I was happily accepted into the Film Misery family, and I got to travel to New York and see many films which will inevitably hit close to the top of my “Best of 2012” list just over a month from now. I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, and to everyone who made them possible!
1) Criterion’s Eclipse Series – We all know that The Criterion Collection currently represents the gold standard in making important films, classic and contemporary, accessible to the home video market. But its lesser known Eclipse Series line of releases seeks to keep alive the more unsung and esoteric works of major artists like Ozu, Mizoguchi, and Lubitsch, and nearly forgotten directors such as Allan King or William Klein. The series is developing into a true archival treasure.
2) Ambition – I didn’t care for Inception or Cloud Atlas, but the helmers of those films have my complete respect for attempting to infuse their movies with big ideas, while playing with cinematic form and subverting traditional narrative techniques. Hey, we can’t all be Malicks, Kubricks, or Lynches, but that there are still directors not content to throw money at the screen thoughtlessly makes me very grateful indeed—whether they are completely successful or not. Keep it up, guys!
3) Cinemas That Still Project Film – In my experience, movie houses that project movies through film instead of Sony 4K—or whatever the hell else they’re using now—tend to frame the movies properly against the screen, project in the correct aspect ratio, project at the correct brightness, and focus properly. Part of “digital happening” seems to be more automation and less quality control (especially at AMC Multiplexes, which are pretty much the worst places to watch movies nowadays). Film hasn’t quite died yet, and I thank owners who care enough to keep it going. For now.
4) Region-free Blu-Ray Players – This one is kind of a cheat, because with a little finagling, every Blu-Ray player can be a Region-free DVD/Blu-Ray player. I can understand the impulse of studios to want control over release date blocks around the world, but… C’mon guys. If you want to go all-digital, you have to take all that comes with it. This means that once you release something somewhere in the world, you’ve just released it everywhere. I don’t believe in delayed gratification, so you better believe that if something I want to see is released somewhere on earth, I’m damn well going to see it.
5) Turner Classic Movies – For not editing films for time or content, for remaining commercial-free, but most of all for helping to finance rescue and restoration of aging film prints around the world and bringing them to a wider audience. I haven’t had cable for nearly six years, and I’ve been totally fine with that decision… except, it does pain me not to have TCM there whenever I want it. If I could pay just for this channel, à la carte, I would do so in a heartbeat. Keep fighting the good fight, guys.
1) George Lucas – I’m being totally serious here in my gratitude toward Mr. Lucas, even if I am about to deal him a backhanded compliment of sorts. While I didn’t loathe his Prequel Trilogy like so many did, his interest in making great movies probably started dwindling the instant he realized how many dolls his movies were capable of selling. Making the decision to hand off his life’s work to a new generation – and donating most of his earnings presumably to charity – was likely not the easiest decision for the notoriously stubborn Lucas to make, so I can’t help but respect a move that not only makes him look good, but brings hope that Star Wars might earn back a shred of its former glory.
2) Grad School – About a month ago, I was informed that I had been accepted into the Hamline University MFA Program in Creative Writing. About a week ago, I enrolled in my first courses as a graduate student. My first class begins on January 31. While I plan on using that time to develop my critical writing abilities, I also hope to expand my writing skills well beyond criticism, from writing essays and memoirs to formulating a firmer understanding of nonfiction in general. Here’s hoping a year from now, the quality (and proliferation) of my work on this site will have improved significantly.
3) Film Misery Has Writers Smarter than Me – Perhaps it seems perfunctory as a Senior Editor to sing the praises of my colleagues, but I cannot possibly articulate how tremendously the addition of G Clark, Hilary and Duncan has exceeded my expectations of what this site could offer. But it’s not just our three new contributors who deserve praise – Davin and Vinny are supremely talented and idiosyncratic writers, and Phil is genuinely one of my favorite podcasters in the ridiculously saturated biz. And of course there’s tireless Alex, who continues to maintain and contribute superb content to Film Misery despite his new title as “Dad.”
4) David Edelstein – I consistently find myself eager to hear what the New York Magazine and Fresh Air film critic has to say about the next new release. I am eager not because I agree with his reviews – I usually don’t, and even when our thumbs are pointed in the same direction I find ample reason to object to his arguments – yet his fluid language and admittedly cogent arguments nonetheless render me unable to break free from his prose. Moralistic to a fault, yet consistently informed by a empathy both for the reader and for the filmmaking process, Mr. Edelstein is an always tough, always fair, and always engaging writer. He is proof that one need never agree with a film critic to trust their critical prowess.
5) The Little Things – Every holiday season during my childhood included my mother’s favorite and oft-repeated phrase “the best things come in small packages.” While I can’t say Mom’s sage advice has given me a truly holistic impulse to appreciate the little things in life, I’m beginning to realize that the most exciting and soulful things to come from the movies this year have come been relatively small in size. For example, perhaps the year’s most powerful performance has come from a 6-year-old girl. The most successful film in years from the director of Schindler’s List and Indiana Jones is an intimate, pared-down, political talk-fest. Two of 2012’s most powerful works – one from Hungary, the other from Turkey – found more meaning in the composition of their imagery than in their taciturn screenplays. In a year where even our superhero movies must be super-sized, I find myself now more than ever relishing the more miniscule of pleasures that cinema is capable of offering. It’s helped make this thoroughly mediocre movie year feel that much more tolerable.
1) Fatherhood – Regular readers/listeners of Film Misery are probably sick of me talking about becoming a dad, but it’s the most significant thing that has and probably will ever happen to me, so deal with it. Becoming a parent has undoubtedly changed the way that I watch movies. I first noticed this 2 months before my son was born when my wife and I were at the screening of Brave. For the first time both of us could remember, we found ourselves identifying with the parents in a Disney movie more than the child protagonists. Going back and revisiting other movies has brought the same curious phenomenon and the realization that my children will have an existence beyond my own, just as I have had one beyond my parents.
2) Netflix Watch Instantly – It has been increasingly difficult for me to make it to the movie theatre as often as before and it can even be challenging to get up and put in a DVD when a baby falls asleep on my chest. The fact that Netflix can stream directly to my Blu-Ray player, laptop, or iPad has been wonderful. I rarely finish a movie in one sitting these days, but with Netflix I can always pick up right where I left off. Their selection that is heavily stocked with classic and foreign films has been more than satisfactory for a movie buff like myself.
3) Movie Studio Public Relations People – Some of the most under-appreciated people in the film industry are the PR people that work at movie studios. These are the people sending dozens of press releases daily, setting up advanced screenings, and offering giveaways. I am shocked when I see other critics at screenings complain when a movie doesn’t start on time or rushing out as soon as the credits roll to avoid being asked for an immediate reaction. I am so grateful for every opportunity that is sent my way and I love hearing the excitement from these unsung PR heroes when I send them a link to our coverage of the movie they are promoting.
4) Movie Podcasts – My wife and I don’t have as much time to talk about movies these days and the people at my 9 to 5 job don’t watch the same types of movies as me. When there is no time to have in-depth movie conversations, the next best thing is to listen to other people doing just that. My personal favorite movie/culture podcasts are The Film Talk, The Cinephiliacs, Filmspotting, and Pop Culture Happy Hour. Also, be sure to listen to our very own Justin Jagoe on The Film Confessional.
5) Film Misery Writers – I have to echo Justin’s enthusiasm for the new writers that have joined Film Misery this year. G Clark, Duncan, and Hilary are tremendously smart and ambitious and have contributed some of the most interesting movie coverage that I have read anywhere on the internet. I also have to send an enormous “thank you” to Justin who really stepped up and helped keep this site running when I fell behind on my editorial duties. I would put the current team of Film Misery writers up against any site out there.
What about you? Share your reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving in the comments!