I don’t plan on working very hard today, but one thing I can do is write a themed listicle, or else these blogging slacks wouldn’t be worth their pleats. We cover a lot of the negative here on FilmDrunk, but Thanksgiving, as the title might suggest, is a time for giving thanks. For being grateful for what you have and expressing the appreciation for things you too often take for granted.
This being a movie site, I thought I’d offer you, in no particular order, the 10 movie-related things that I’m most thankful for this year. Feel free to add your own in the comments! (I don’t actually care, but hey, interactivity!)
1. The December Movie Season
In addition to Jesus’s birthday (or at least, the day we celebrate Jesus’s birth in order to properly co-opt the pagan tree-dancing festival), this December brings us a new Martin Scorsese movie, a new Spike Jonze movie, a new Coen Brothers movie, a new David O. Russell movie, and a new Alexander Payne movie (it opened in November in a few territories but I’m still counting it), not to mention Out of the Furnace and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Sheesh, did I miss any? Even if they all turn out shitty, how awesome is that? Even people who like Peter Jackson’s three-hour elf porn snoozefests have something to be happy about.
Who could’ve guessed back when he was making Fool’s Gold with Kate Hudson that Matthew McConaughey would, in 2012-2014, become a sought after actor who picks great projects? I sure as hell didn’t. But between Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, Magic Mike, Killer Joe, and hopefully Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar, and True Detective, the dude is on an epic tear. My only question is how, when he was stuck out on that island with no food in Mud, he still found time to shave his chest. It’s a McConaughey miracle.
3. Megan Ellison
It seems like a very small thing, but having someone in the movie business who actually seems to take pride in the product they’re selling and not just the money it makes is a rare and beautiful thing (oh, is it her daddy’s money? DON’T CARE.). In her young career she’s already had a hand in bringing us True Grit, The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly, Spring Breakers, The Spectacular Now, and the upcoming Her, American Hustle, and Foxcatcher. I mean, she’s helped get so many good movies made that I almost forgive her for The Bling Ring and Inside the Mind of Charles Swan (no more Coppola kid movies, plz, Megan).
4. Lars Von Trier
A rack focus shot of semen dripping down a woman’s leg that transitions to her father on his deathbed? Lars, you perverted Danish genius. Do I want to watch a full four or five hours of Lars’ porn comedy epic? I’m not sure. But as Hansel might say, “The fact that he’s making it? I respect that.”
I don’t throw around the word “life-changing” very often as it relates to movies, but Act of Killing is honestly the closest I’ve seen. There’s good, and then there’s once-in-a-lifetime good.
6. The Characters James Franco Has Played This Year
All credit to my friend Eric Snider for pointing this out, but this pleases me to no end:
Alien, Gator Bodine, The Wizard of Oz, Hugh Hefner, and James Franco. I love that. It’s so perfectly James Franco. Also, did I mention “Gator Bodine” was a character written by Sylvester Stallone, for a Jason Statham movie? Homefront damn near deserves its own separate entry.
7. That Not Every Acclaimed Film Was Directed by a White Dude This Year
Historically, the academy tends to like their race movies directed by white dudes, depicting racism being solved by white people – Crash, The Blind Side, Mississippi Burning, A Time To Kill, The Help, etc. etc. etc. Who knows what will happen at the Oscars, but at least some black directors got their critical due this year, but it Lee Daniels for The Butler, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, or Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station. I know I’m the lead dissenting voice on 12 Years a Slave (and I stand by that), but I’d still rather see a black director try to work through his own historical issues than have some white kid fresh out of NYU do it for him like usual.
8. Premium Scripted Television
It’s good to know that while network TV is a horror show and the History Channel is like watching an old man slowly lose his marbles (“I dunno, we thought it was cute when grandpa was super into WWII, but lately he just sits around muttering about ghosts and bigfoot…”), the pay channels continue to bring it. I have minor gripes with Homeland an even minorer gripes with Masters of Sex, but God damn, Homeland, Masters of Sex, Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound and Down, and Ja’Mie crushed it so hard this year that I nearly forgot to count the days until Game of Thrones comes back. And good God, True Detective looks incredible. It really sucks that we don’t have those everyone’s-seen-it cultural touchstones to bring us together as a society anymore, but as long as we’re going to be a completely fractured broken mirror of divisiveness, it’s nice that my particular niche demo has some pretty great TV, full of nudity, wit, and artistic merit while the drop out Walmart shoppers are off sack-tapping each other watching duck hunters play grabass or whatever the hell that show is about. Yeah, that was one of the nose-thumbingest culture-snob sentences I’ve ever written, but I’m typing this from Fresno right now so I’m allowed.
9. The Death of Bad 3D and Shakey Cam
When the final numbers were in, Catching Fire didn’t quite set the record for all-time openings for non 3D films, falling just $2.5 million behind the Dark Knight Rises and a hair behind The Dark Knight. Still, Chris Nolan was a big-time auteur with the clout to tell the studio no on 3D, even though they no doubt desperately wanted those premium-priced tickets to pad their numbers. It’s kind of a big deal that a tentpole sequel with a no-name director (Francis Lawrence) like Catching Fire said no to pointless 3D. Meanwhile, directors who still want to try to do something new with 3D, like Cuarón did with Gravity, were rewarded by the market (with 3D accounting for 80% of Gravity’s record opening weekend). I could stand to do without 3D altogether, but at least it feels like we’re almost to the point where supply isn’t trying to dictate demand.
10. Marvel Nearly Killing the Dark-and-Gritty Superhero Era
Because he’s so good at what he does, Christopher Nolan kind of tricked everyone into thinking that dour, gritty, depressive superheroes were what people wanted to see for a few years there. Done right, the dark superhero movie can be great, but it was a bad trend. These are still buff dudes in capes beating people up we’re talking about here, you know. Marvel, meanwhile, put out an Iron Man movie with a comedic villain that was full of Shane Black one-liners, and a Thor movie that was almost a Three Stooges sketch. Oh right, remember when these were fun!? Thank you for reminding us, Marvel, even though you are owned by Disney and you’re probably the devil.