| May 25, 2020
2019 has been one of the toughest years in my life.
But in the end, the simple facts are, I am pretty healthy, I have a wonderful family, and with the support of a lot of people, I am able to return to the work I have done for most of the last 22 years and find a place at the table. (I’m not sitting in the same spot… but gimme a minute.)
I am thankful for streaming. Whether it is Netflix or Criterion Channel or Amazon Prime or Broadway HD or Hulu or content streaming via cable networks or My Movies or Disney+ or, or, or… I am now able to leap into much of the grand history of cinema or the not-so-grand history of movie crap in an instant. And equally important to me, I am able to share it with my child.
I am thankful for movie theaters. All of them. Big and small, Conglomerate and indie. We are in a moment of turmoil about what the theatrical experience is and what it is supposed to be. But as Roger Ebert used to say, the cinema is about reverie. “A state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.” He used to use the word to attack the idea of digital projection in theaters. I couldn’t agree with him on that. I don’t really believe that the reverie state created by viewing 24 frames a second pulled through a classic projector is what changes us. It is the tacit agreement that we are going to put away everything else in our lives for a couple of hours and give ourselves over to the magic of this artform, whether to laugh like an idiot, cry like a baby or everything human in between. It IS the church of it.
I am thankful for Bong Joon-Ho and Ladj Ly and Almodóvar and Václav Marhoul and so many other filmmakers who keep making films in their native languages and then sharing them with we heathen in America. I believe that world cinema is steadily becoming world cinema thanks to streaming. And that may be because there is a generation that has developed the habit of putting subtitles on everything, including their native language. I look forward to the day that everything that finds some form of distribution in any country of the world, the genius and the junk, will be available on my TV here in Los Angeles.
I am thankful for all the filmmakers who keep making films that “they don’t make anymore.” Obviously, they do. What they don’t do (usually) is make those movies with wild, reckless budgets like they did for five years or so when DVD revenue made it almost impossible to lose money on a studio release. That time has ended. And streaming isn’t coming close to replacing it, no matter how much streamers are shelling out to make “movies.” Still, guys like Mangold and Mendes and Tarantino (yes, Tarantino) are still working in the space where the budgets aren’t micro, but also aren’t super-fat, and making audiences feel and think and experience stories as well as stories can be told.
I am thankful for all the people who “get” me, all the people who don’t, and all those stuck in between, flipping between inspiration and irritation, sometimes on a daily basis. Since I started The Hot Button in 1997, I have offered a mixture of fact and opinion. I will stand by the facts, once I find them, until I am bloody and broken. My opinions, not as much… after all, they are opinions. I love a good opinion fight. But it’s gotten harder and harder as people are able to live in their bunkers and not deal with serious challenges to the ideas they have embraced… so every challenge is treated as frivolous or immoral. This is bad for the evolution of ideas. Absolutism is the enemy of serious thought.
I usually make a list of people for whom I am thankful… but don’t feel like it this year. I have asked the counsel of people I respect and trust a lot this year. Almost no one has disappointed me. I have spent a very long time becoming whatever the hell I am to people, and like some of them, I am also susceptible to believing in moments and forgetting that I am just another person getting off of the train. (‘Tis the season to reference Sondheim.) I have been one of the luckiest people in the world for a very long time. I also bring quite a bit to the table. I am not big on measuring my position. In fact, my status sneaks up and surprises me often, positive and negative.
So thank YOU. You are reading this. And your attention is the most valuable commodity I could ever really ask of you. I promise to try not to take it for granted. I promise to try to be worthy of your time. I promise to tell you my truth and The Truth as indiscriminately as the privacy of and small kindness to others allows.
I love this industry. I love movies. I love television. I love theater. I love storytelling. I respect those who thrive in this insanity and even those who fail. There are all kinds of elements to ambition. But I find that for filmmakers (including everyone involved), even ugly ambitions include true passion for bringing some kind of truth to others. Because there are many easier ways to make a living or a fortune.
I am thankful to live the life of the mind. (If not quoting Sondheim, quoting the Coens does well for me.) And I am thankful to be relaunching MCN and mostly, myself, in this last third of my professional life.
May your 2020 be beyond your imagination… in the best way.
| May 25, 2020
| May 14, 2020
| May 12, 2020
Bilge Ebiri: "In the wake, are movie theaters, having long since lost their essential place in our culture, going to become relics of the past? Probably not. People are desperate to get out of the house, get their kids out of the house and get back to normal. “When this lifts, none of us are ever going to want to be anywhere close to our couch or our TV ever again,” predicts Richard Rushfield, who runs the popular film-industry newsletter The Ankler. “Our couch is going to have associations for us of this awful time.” One recent survey found that almost three out of four Americans said they missed going to movie theaters — which is significantly higher than the percentage of Americans who regularly went in the before times. New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis spoke for many of us when she wrote, “When at last we can go out again and be with one another, I hope that we flood cinemas, watching every single movie, from the most rarefied art film to the silliest Hollywood offering.”
| May 26, 2020
"In the world of performing arts, the coronavirus pandemic has already sunk summer. Now it is felling fall. Even as reopened barbershops, beaches and bookstores herald the resumption of economic life across America, concert promoters, theater presenters, orchestras and dance companies are ripping up their 2020 calendars and hoping 2021 will mark a new beginning. “I think 2020 is gone,” said Anna D. Shapiro, the artistic director of Chicago’s storied Steppenwolf Theater Company. “I’ll be stunned if we’re back in the theater.”
The Autumn That Is Not To Be: Live Producers Shut Down 2020
| May 26, 2020
"I meet Buscemi (he says it boo-sem-ee, not boo-shem-ee) for the first time at an airy Italian restaurant a short walk from his place. Neither of us knows it yet, but this cloudless March Wednesday is one of the last normal days on record, before New York City all but shuts down because of the coronavirus and we are collectively advised to confine ourselves to our apartments. As it turns out, my last sit-down restaurant meal until who knows when is this lunch, with Steve Fucking Buscemi. He has the spinach frittata."
| May 26, 2020
| December 13, 2019
| December 4, 2019
| December 4, 2019