MCN Commentary & Analysis

Thankful 2019

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.

7 Responses to “Thankful 2019”

  1. MOVIEMAN says:

    I’m not sure what I think of the new format/layout.
    Most of the active threads in recent weeks have been erased–as well as all previous responses on the still existing blog posts.
    Hardly a rousing inducement to contribute.
    I’m guessing (hoping?) that it’s still a work in progress, and that adjustments will be made to make it as (relatively) user-friendly as the former MCN site.

  2. Ray Pride says:

    Archives are coming.

  3. djiggs says:

    Thank you, MCN crew and fearless leader David Poland. 20+ year reader hoping for another 20 years.

  4. cadavra says:

    And we’re thankful you’re back to doing what you do best. You have been greatly missed.

    Yeah, I’m not fond of the new format, either, and the new font is totes unattractive. But we’ll get used to it.

  5. palmtree says:

    I appreciate the return, and I agree…the format will become familiar with time. However, one aspect you mentioned is something that has always been lurking…your affinity for theater. I’m wondering if you might start to branch out into some reporting on Broadway. DP, you seem, to quote Sondheim again, a Broadway baby. I wouldn’t mind that as I love the theater as well and feel it’s a natural extension these days of Hollywood/celebrity culture. But whatever you decide, I’m glad you’re doing it.

  6. Jim K says:

    New layout is okay with me, especially as it is simply a way of asserting “this site is still a going, evolving concern” that someone is still keeping up. Anyway, good luck in 2020 DP, I admit it was like you hardly left but I enjoy reading your takes so that I’m glad you’re “back.”

  7. Bob Burns says:

    I am thankful for this site, which I have read just about every day for just about 18 years.

    I am also thankful you finally finished that cheeseburger.

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