Well folks, we made it all the way to Thanksgiving in a year that seems like a concoction you’d throw into the blender if you wanted to freak people out and make them sick. That’s what 2020 has been. Who would have ever thought it would go like this — or that it would end like this. It feels like we’ve been through a long voyage across a stormy sea. We’ve finally made landfall and now we’re crawling towards a craggy beach, gasping for breath.
I don’t know about you, but no other year has ever made me miss the movies and even Oscar season like the one we’ve just endured. George Bailey figured out that it was a Wonderful Life once he saw the alternative when that life was taken from him. And so it is with the Oscars — complain about them though we do, once it seemed like it all might be taken away, that’s when we appreciate it all the more.
Don’t you miss movie theaters? Don’t you miss getting swallowed up by a mile-wide screen in a pitch black room with idiots texting a few seats away — yes, even that. The smell of popcorn, the sound of soda and sloshing ice. Packages of candy being carefully pried open. I even miss people talking in movies. And being around other people in movies. These things that used to bug me seem like that loose finial on the newel post in George Bailey’s house that keeps falling off and once drove him insane — he now kisses because he missed it so much.
We can give thanks this year and sincerely mean it. Thanks for what we have even though it isn’t what we’re used to having. We can be thankful we’re still alive, those of us who were lucky enough to have made it through so far. We can be thankful that we are part of an industry that still believes in CINEMA. No, it isn’t perfect. Yes, it’s become a machine for making profit off sure things and international blockbusters. And yes, the Oscars are an increasingly insular bottleneck that serves the elite and is need of an expansion to include more people from all across this country. But still, the movies. The MOVIES.
Most of us in this game are lucky enough to have movies handed to us for free. In a few short weeks, most of you will be able to watch them the same way we’re watching them — streaming online. Where formerly so many movie lovers had to wait months for the movies to arrive, they will all be made available not too long from now. Who knows when actual theaters will open. We can only hope they survive this.
It’s been hard for me to watch what the film critics did to Hillbilly Elegy. Hard because I know the story of JD Vance. I also know that to his family it was a big deal he wrote a book. A bigger deal that the movie got made and many of them nearly fainted upon sight when they saw Glenn Close in costume because she looked so much like his grandma. I don’t think the critics considered that, nor did they consider how much of people’s lives went into making that movie or any movie. Where it used to be a dozen or so voices that would consider each film carefully, now it’s a hivemind with its own ecosystem. Critics need to build their online cred and many of them are simply too afraid to step out of line and stand apart.
Sure, many of them might not have liked the movie but the way they dug in with a steak knife was among the things that truly bothered me this year. Ditto the insta-reaction to David Fincher’s magnificent Mank, a film that requires more attention than just a casual one-off, hot-take impression. Like all of his films just one viewing is never going to cover it. But that’s why Fincher’s films stand the test of time. No movie that you can get on first go ’round ever really will. The best of them demand that you build a relationship in watching the movie — like Casablanca. Like It’s a Wonderful Life.
So many films this year that we’ve somehow collected to represent the year in film are dazzlers in one way or another. There is an abundance of women behind the camera, especially writer/directors like Chloe Zhao, Sofia Coppola, Emerald Fennell. Regina King revealed herself to be a talented director with One Night in Miami. George C. Wolfe’s brilliant Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will join Lee Daniels’ The People vs. Billie Holiday as two films about black American icons made by gay black directors and starring black artists. I would imagine there is much to celebrate all around — all the way on the left and all the way on the right. As long as we remember that there is room for both.
I would like to thank you dear readers, some of whom have been coming to this site over 20 years. That in itself is mind-boggling. Life is kind of absurd at times and trust me, as you get older it gets even more absurd but the fact that a grad school drop-out, single mother like me, with no money, built a website from scratch that people still visit after 20 years to read what I have to say? That is not nothing. So thank you.
And our Awards Daily staff – how to even begin. Ryan and Clarence and Mark field so many email breakouts about things I’ve forgotten or requests for proofreading. They’ve somehow put up with me during this very strange period of this site and this country. They’re good eggs and the site is all the better for them. And the TV crew – still the most charming AD has to offer – Joey and Megan and Jalal and Jordan and David and Shadan and Kevin. Our far-flung correspondents in London and Berlin, Paddy and Zhuo-Ning. Our Oscar ballot specialist Dr Rob.
This site has always been more than a website. It’s been a community. A revolving door of people from all over the world arriving here for various reasons to congregate and commiserate because we all love movies and want to see the movies we love win awards.
I will always stand up for those who have the courage to make art at a time when art is being scrutinized and picked apart in ways it never has been. To make art anyway, to throw it out there for people to find and see — that takes more courage than I will ever have. I am grateful for those who still feel like it’s worth it, even though it seems to get harder and harder every year.
I hope you all have some kind of wonderful Thanksgiving that reminds you this is a life still worth living, in a country and planet still worth fighting for, and an industry that still begins every year anew in hopes of producing films that reach people — not just critics — but actual people who still need stories the way they always have.
Here’s to art. Here’s to film. Here’s to the Oscars. Here’s to all of you. Here’s to living one more day. And here’s to the future.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.