Split Decision: What We're Thankful for Film in 2018
Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!
This week’s question:
What are you thankful for in film this year?
Back in February, the first Split Decision asked: What film was the one we most anticipated this year? And I answered, We the Animals, Philadelphia native Jeremiah Zagar's adaptation of Justin Torres' novel. It is one of my favorite books, starring one of my favorite actors Raúl Castillo.
Well, We the Animals is also the film I'm most thankful for this year. It exceeded my high expectations--father/son stories are my emotional kryptonite--but I knew that Zagar and Castillo were perfectly suited to the task of bringing Justin Torres' work to the screen. They were recently rewarded with 5 Independent Spirit Award nominations for their efforts, which is gratifying. I am thankful that the film is getting the attention it deserves. It's a beautiful and impressionistic, and one of those films that demands--and benefits from--repeat viewings.
Moreover, I am thankful that I was able to meet and interview Zagar and Castillo at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, but also host them both at the post-screening Q&As in Philadelphia for the local premiere (and attend the afterparty). We the Animals was just released on video and DVD, and I can't wait to see it again. If you haven't seen it yet, see it now. You'll be grateful you did.
I'm thankful for repertoire film programs at independent theaters (and some big chains). I'm finding it's getting harder and harder for me to watch films at home, so I'm basically denying my lazy ass the opportunity to watch most classic films. Enter local theaters in the city and surrounding suburbs that recognize the importance and value in providing repetiore programming as a viable means of revenue and cultural preservation. Last week I watched Agnes Varda's One Sings, the Other Doesn't at International House’s Lightbox Film Center. This week I'm seeing Barbara Loden's Wanda at Bryn Mawr Film Institute. It's sad that I of course always knew these places existed, but rarely made the effort to support these screenings with my attendance. So a big thank you to all those theaters who continue to be there for me, providing quality programming of classic films, even when I'm not there for them.
I'm thankful a couple great filmmakers returned from the wilderness this year. Lynne Ramsey made her first movie in six years (You Were Never Really Here), Debra Granik made her first in eight (Leave No Trace). Art is going to take however long it takes, but Ramsey in particular is frustrating to wait for because you're mostly just sitting around while she deals with industry crap. A few years pass, she's set to make a Western with Natalie Portman... and then she doesn't show up to set on the first day of shooting because the studio wants too many changes. You read about what she's reading, things she's interested in adapting... and then a year later you see she's moved on to other ideas because the rights are weird. In ten years, we'll all just be happy Leave No Trace is a good movie, but living through those eight years since Winter's Bone, waiting for Debra Granik to get funding together for anything, was a slog. It can be thrilling watching an artist's filmography form in real-time, and I'm thankful I got to see two great writer-directors actually make films in 2018.
I am overwhelmingly grateful to the staff and volunteers of Philadelphia Asian American Film fest for creating the most diverse, inclusive, validating and engaging spaces for art, cinema and discourse. PAAFF gets better every single year, and the programming reflects an incredible complexity of intersectional identities as told by the ones who live them with timeliness, relevance and context. PAAFF combines film, panel discussions, musical performance and feasts into an adventurous and familial film festival that is just the right amount of rough-around-the-edges. I am particularly thankful to be included in this year's cast of volunteers, wherein I felt safe and accepted as a Gender Non-Conforming person and warmly appreciated. I cannot wait to pitch in again next year!!
I’m thankful for films that are grappling seriously with the state of the world right now- movies like First Reformed and Suspiria. Whether directly or indirectly, both are bringing up major elements of the last forty years of world problems, and letting us know that things won’t get better unless we do something about it. Who knows, we may not be able to prevent much of anything- but they are very welcome wake up calls nonetheless.
I'm thankful for a lot of things in the world of film this year, but the thing I'm genuinely most thankful for is this blog and the crew of movie misfits we have here watching, writing, and discussing movies together. We've collectively done a lot this year - moved to our own domain, bought new homes, started new jobs, began meaningful relationships. And through it all we've supported each other and celebrated our accomplishments together. Outside of the comfort of movies, this year has been hell, but we've all pushed each other to keep pressing on and put some meaning into the world and our lives. It's also been wonderful to see Hollywood take some large steps towards inclusion, especially behind the cameras, and I hope that that trend continues and that we can play our small part in encouraging studios to diversify the talent in their products. Happy Thanksgiving, Cinema76! I love you all and I can't wait to see where we are this time next year!
I’m grateful for a sequel to The Incredibles that didn’t suck and that John Gallagher Jr. is popping up in more movies.
Personally, I’m most thankful that the powers that be have put me into a situation that I’m able to see sooooo many movies in any given week. No longer do I find myself going “ahhh man, I wish I could’ve seen that.” Instead, I find myself going “I can’t believe I sat through that.” Small price to pay for such unprecedented access to the medium I love most.
Beyond my own cinematic greed, I’m most thankful that we live in a time where “there’s nothing new anymore” is no longer even remotely valid as a complaint. With endless platforms for streaming, in-theater subscription programs, and a recent push for the production of collectible physical media, there’s no limit to film access for cinephiles. And for filmmakers, the opportunities for movies of every flavor to find exhibition have increased exponentially. This is truly THE best time to be movie nerd.
Although the majority of the time spent in theaters is in the office, what I’m most thankful for the incredible support for the classics series at the Ritz. For all the years working in theaters, the shared passion that people have for films keeps me around. I love coming to the place where, everyone coming in the door, shares something in common with one another. Now, finally, I’m the one picking the movies. To have other people care about it is assuring and affirming that work being done in the theater still matters. So I just want to thank everyone who came out to see these old movies, everyone who given their time to introduce them (Dan, Gary, Ryan, a long list of professors) This has truly given me something to do at work.
Personally though, seeing A Long Day’s Journey into Night during the film festival was one of the best movie going experiences I’ve had in a long time. An experience that can’t be recreated at home. This, to me, has to be the future of our industry. A future classic, indeed.
—Andrew Heller, Ritz East
Everyone touched on a lot of the things I am thankful for this year. Like Jill, I have had the opportunity to see theatrical screenings of longtime favorites (Young Frankenstein, When Harry Met Sally, Yellow Submarine) as well as new-to-me films that I’ve loved (Army of Shadows, High Noon, Cleo from 5 to 7). I started to love movies because I love going to the movies, and that is alive and well, and seemingly stronger than ever if you know where to look. Seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey in IMAX after spending all day moving things into our new house was a challenge worth taking on for sure, and fundamentally changed the way I see that film.
I also got the opportunity to spend entire days at this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival, which had a great selection of films, and also allowed me the challenge of pushing myself harder than I ever had before in terms of seeing films and writing about them.
Another thing I am thankful for is that movies can still surprise me. I’ve always been pretty good about pre-judging films for my own taste. I’ve been better at pushing myself outside my comfort zone, especially when it comes to older films and the horror genre, which is great. But when a film like Teen Titans Go! to the Movies—a TV tie-in film in a saturated genre—can be one of the year’s best surprises, there are few feelings that compare.
And finally, I am especially thankful for everyone who writes with us here at Cinema76, and for the growing Philadelphia film community at large. For us nerds who like to sit alone in the dark and then write about movies, adding a social component has been a welcome improvement.