Ah, Thanksgiving! A holiday that was seemingly tailor-made for binge-watching, complete with plenty of family and friends to consume mass quantities of both media and tasty meals alongside. But Thanksgiving is also built for reflection, and we here at IndieWire are very happy that the media landscape has afforded us plenty of things to be grateful for, even in the midst of all kinds of cultural and political upheaval: Movies aren’t dead; the biopic is very much alive; on-screen representation is finally taking a turn; some of our most beloved TV duo are back together on the small screen; and 2017 is looking very bright indeed. The list goes on and on.
In celebration of Thanksgiving, the IndieWire team has come together to offer up some of our personal reflections on the movies, shows, trends and creators we are most grateful for this year. Check out our testimonials below, and share your own thoughts in the comment section below. And, of course, a very happy holiday to you and yours.
Dana Harris (Editor-in-Chief): All of Us
I am grateful that I get to lead a team of excellent journalists who are passionate about supporting, celebrating, and defending art, and those who make it. It’s a multifaceted privilege: Our work is writing about great movies, TV, and other formats that are busy being born, which is a rarified position in itself. But in the current political climate, the gratitude becomes even more acute.
Eric Kohn (Deputy Editor and Chief Critic): The Movies of the Moment
This may sound insensitive at a challenging moment in American history, but I’m thankful for living through uneasy times of tremendous institutional change, because it intensifies our awareness of how art can address the world. I have been seeing the rich themes of social activism, political turmoil and survival under dire circumstances more vividly than ever in much contemporary cinema that captures our sudden age of anxiety. Everything from “Neruda” to “Barry” reflects the essence of speaking truth to power, dealing with the ensuing chaos, and finding solace in the valiant quest to improve the world. You’ll find those themes in “Jackie” and “Certain Women” and “Operation Avalanche” and “Weiner.” They’re implied by the struggles of the characters in “Moonlight,” “American Honey” and “Manchester By the Sea.” There will be many more examples in the very near future. No matter what happens in the next few years, we’ll still have the movies to help us sort it out.
Michael Schneider (Executive Editor): The Best Late Night Has to Offer
It looks like it’s going to be a long four years for Americans who still believe in liberty, justice, equality, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That’s why I’m thankful for Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. While the mainstream media struggles to figure out how to cover a new Trump administration — and so far seems to be too willing to normalize the white supremacists who hide behind the term “alt-right” — it’s the politically-minded comedians behind many of TV’s key talk shows that will at least be emboldened to call things out when they need to be called out. Jon Stewart may have left us, but the writers and producers behind “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” have stepped up. And if that doesn’t help, I’m also thankful for wine. Lots and lots of wine.
Anne Thompson (Editor at Large): The (Real) Rise of Women in Hollywood
While Hillary didn’t get back to the White House, women in Hollywood are making slow but steady progress, applying the Bechdel Test to film roles, walking away from unequal paydays, and speaking out about their role in Hollywood. Amy Adams opened “Arrival” with Jeremy Renner happily playing a supporting role, Emily Blunt carried “The Girl on the Train,” and Jessica Chastain took the risk of playing the brash and fearlessly ambitious “Miss Sloane.” Hailee Steinfeld laid bare the pain and funnybone of an intense adolescent in “The Edge of Seventeen,” written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. Kate Beckinsale cooly sashayed through Jane Austen and Whit Stillman’s “Love & Friendship.” As a colonel determined to blast some nasty terrorists to hell, Helen Mirren outmaneuvered her male superiors in “Eye in the Sky.” Isabelle Huppert reminded us of what film acting is as a woman who is raped and refuses to be a victim in “Elle.” Emma Stone sings and dances and acts her heart out in “La La Land.” And Andrea Arnold won her third jury prize at Cannes for her first film shot in America, “American Honey”– maybe one day she’ll get the Palme d’Or.
William Earl (Digital Director): Horror Directors Elevated Their Craft — and Scares Followed
2016 has been a banner year for fun, scary, and creative twists in horror, and bold visionaries behind the camera paid off for both critics and audiences alike. My top film of the year so far is Nicolas Winding Refn’s divisive nutso nightmare “The Neon Demon,” which is destined to be a camp classic. Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper” dropped indie queen Kristen Stewart into the middle of a trippy ghost story that stuck with me long after seeing it at NYFF. The deaf protagonist of Mike Flanagan’s “Hush” turned a home invasion thriller into a sensory experience. David Sandberg’s “Lights Out” tinkered with the most basic fear — darkness — and created one of the year’s standout crowded movie theater experiences. Even sturdy genre films — Jaume Collet-Serra’s “The Shallows” (sharks!), James Wan’s “The Conjuring 2” (haunted houses!), and Flanagan’s “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (Ouija boards!) — devoted so much precision to their craft that gorehounds like me couldn’t help but smile. The good news is this renaissance shows no signs of stopping, as 2017 titles like Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Gore Verbinski’s “A Cure for Wellness” dropped unexpectedly terrifying and off-kilter trailers.
Amazon Studios/Broad Green Pictures
Kate Erbland (Film Editor): That Movies Aren’t Dead, Not Even A Little Bit, Not Even Close
Hilariously, if you Google the term “movies are dead,” the search engine returns over 83,000,000 results. Ouch. It’s a tough assertion to swallow for movie fans alone, but as a movie fan who does this stuff for a living? Double ouch. But movies aren’t dead. They’re not even close to it. Sure, there are plenty of new ways to consume films, and goodness knows that television offerings are better than ever, but the movies soldier on, and 2016 has given plenty of proof that they’re not just still breathing, but they’re thriving in the process. This year has offered up so many wonderful, rich, wild, out of the box feature films that even taken on their own merits would happily nullify any assumptions that film needs some kind of resuscitation. From “Moonlight” to “Jackie,” “20th Century Women” to “Paterson,” “Cameraperson” to “Don’t Think Twice,” “Manchester By the Sea” to “Toni Erdmann” and every possible offering in between, the movies live now, more than ever.
Liz Shannon Miller (TV Editor): A Plethora of Distractions
We might be looking at a garbage fire of a year ahead, but there’s also a lot of awesome television coming in 2017, for which I am profoundly thankful. “Marvel’s The Defenders,” Hulu’s adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a new season of “Sherlock”… My list of shows to look forward to is pretty long, and I may spend a lot of time over the next few months looking at it.
Chris O’Falt (Filmmaker Toolkit Editor): The Craft of “Moonlight”
By itself, Barry Jenkins’ story and feel for his characters would have made “Moonlight” one of the better films this year. What we’ve come to expect from indies like “Moonlight,” working on incredibly compressed shooting schedules, is they are shot with improvised handheld naturalism. Yet from James Laxton’s high contrast, rich color palette photography, to Nicholas Brittel’s chopped-and-screwed score that mixes wonderfully with the film’s subjective sound design, to casting directors Yesi Ramirez’s ability to see past physical likeness and established persona, to Jenkins’ precise and poetic use of film language, “Moonlight” is one of the best crafted films of the year. Each choice is incredibly bold, yet perfectly in sync with Jenkins’ cinematic vision of Chiron’s world. I’m thankful for this movie itself, which has meant so much to so many of us, but most importantly “Moonlight” is a vital reminder to American Independent filmmakers that realistic portrayals of people living on the margins don’t need to lazily rest on realism.
Hanh Nguyen (Senior Editor): TV Duos With Crazy Chemistry Reunited
There is something magical about seeing two people on our screens who work well together reunite after years apart. It’s invigorating and comforting all at once. After nearly 10 years away from Stars Hollow, one of TV’s most endearing mother and daughter duos came back with Netflix’s “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” which changed my feelings about TV revivals completely (sorry, not sorry “Fuller House”). Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel) gave us the argumentative yet bracing family reunion we needed for this holiday season. Also, I cannot thank VH1 enough for bringing us “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.” Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg are a delightful duo I had forgotten I had loved when I first saw them cooking together years ago. Their contrasting backgrounds, aesthetics and lingo make their domestic harmony all the sweeter. While our nation and families are currently so divided, witnessing this incongruous friendship that defies the odds gives me “high” hopes… and the munchies.
David Ehrlich (Senior Film Critic): A24
I’ve always been an outspoken cheerleader for A24 as a distributor (to the point where people I’ve never met regularly joke that I’m on their payroll), and this year I got to join the rest of the world in becoming a fan of A24 as something more. With “Moonlight,” their first self-funded production, A24 became a full-fledged movie studio that’s capable of shepherding a project from conception to release, and they did it with a film that perfectly illustrates why that’s such good news. Not only is “Moonlight” a mild critical hit (it was 412% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the last time I checked), its commercial success epitomizes what A24 does better than anyone else: Taking bold, inclusive, forward-thinking stories and connecting them to a diverse audience. With a 2016 slate that also included gems like “The Lobster,” “The Witch,” “Swiss Army Man,” “American Honey,” “20th Century Women,” and more, A24 continues to be a beacon of hope at a time when most people talk about cinema like it has a terminal disease.
Ben Travers (TV Critic): Our “Dear Readers”
From time to time and with varying degrees of sincerity, overly devout IndieWire readers have perhaps noticed a direct nod to them in a few choice articles by yours truly. “Dear readers” is a phrase employed with the intention of speaking specifically to those who follow IndieWire on a regular basis, and while sometimes I address you kind, diverse and growing lot with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, let me say — on this day of thanks — that we do so sincerely appreciate your attention, time and insight. Thank you for repeatedly seeking out our voice in the vast sea of entertainment coverage. We’re here for you, dear readers, and because of you. Happy Thanksgiving.
Steve Greene (Special Projects Editor): The Toronto International Film Festival
Going to Toronto is becoming one of my annual highlights and this year’s trip reaffirmed my faith in passionate audiences. “Raw” was my first TIFF Midnight screening and I don’t want to miss another one as long as I’m able to go back to the festival. Between the perfectly timed responses to the pre-screening promos (I’ll never be able to think about those typewriter ads without hearing the entire theater scream “NO!!!”) and the ideal level of in-movie feedback, I couldn’t have asked for a better inaugural experience. (And yes, there was indeed an ambulance outside the theater when I left.) After catching a Monday night Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre too, I can now say that whether you’re watching movies or a baseball game, you’re hard-pressed to find a better crowd than Torontonians. In the months and years to come, I’m thankful that we’ll have similar opportunities here in the States to come together as a community and draw on our shared love of film. The standard theatrical models may be changing, but as long as big groups of people still gather in one place to watch a movie, that’s always something to celebrate.
Zack Sharf (Social Media Editor): Pablo Larrain, Who Proves Biopics Can Still Be Daring
The biopic has become almost a parody of itself in recent years as an awards-baiting genre with roles for actors who want to show off a dramatic transformation (see “The Theory of Everything,” “The Imitation Game,” “The Iron Lady,” “Dallas Buyers Club”). But this year, Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín bucked tradition with two of the most daring films I’ve seen in years: “Neruda” and “Jackie.” They’re biopics, sure, but they’re also deep dives into their subjects’ very souls and legacies. The former turns the life of the poet Pablo Neruda into one of his very own surrealist historical poems. The latter presents a stream-of-consciousness narrative as a way to break all of our pre-conceived notions of the iconic First Lady. Larraín has singlehandedly made biopics feel new again with these films. One constructs its subject using the very narrative intricacies he was known for. The other deconstructs its subject by unlocking parts of her mind we didn’t know were there. Let’s hope the genre is always this masterful moving forward.
Graham Winfrey (Film Reporter): New Movie Theaters in New York City
The year 2016 got off to a rocky start for New York cinephiles with the announcement in January that the iconic Ziegfeld theater was closing down after 47 years, but there have been plenty of new developments to be thankful for since then. The opening of the two-screen Metrograph in March brought classic films and new releases to the Lower East Side, as did Brooklyn’s seven-screen Alamo Drafthouse in October. Downtown Manhattan’s brand new dine-in luxury theater iPic is also showing Netflix originals and studio movies on its eight screens. The addition of new theaters comes as the IFC Center is preparing for a major renovation that will more than double its number of screens (from 5 to 11) and Landmark Theaters plans an ambitious new eight-screen theater complex for Midtown Manhattan. Hopefully this growth trend will continue in 2017 and beyond.
Jude Dry (Digital Critic): #BlackLivesMatter, And So Does Representation
Money talks in this industry, and Hollywood is finally listening. Though always too late to the party, 2016 will go down as the year inclusivity became the law of the land in media. Not only did Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon steal every scene in “Ghostbusters,” but they do it weekly on “Saturday Night Live” as well. Never in the history of that program have there been so many female cast members, not to mention that one is an out lesbian and two are African American. Samantha Bee knocks satirical news out of the park every week, proving she can fill the shoes of John Stewart and Steven Colbert just fine, thank you very much. (With a little help from outspoken feminist and anti-racist John Oliver). Donald Glover transformed comedy with “Atlanta,” and Issa Rae became the first black woman to helm a show on HBO. On the primetime side, “Black-ish,” “Empire,” and “Jane The Virgin” brings dynamic, fabulous, and funny women of color into average Americans’ homes every night. And the ratings are on fire.
On the film side, “Moonlight” proved that art always beats artifice, and no amount of shiny blockbuster battle scenes can compare to understated, complex, cinematic storytelling. Too often movies re-package the same tired stories, about people who all look the same. Whiteness and maleness is so ubiquitous most people don’t even notice, until a masterpiece like “Moonlight” comes along. Those who feel uneducated about the ongoing civil rights struggle in this country can start with the moving and eye-opening documentaries “13th” and “I Am Not Your Negro.” May the commercial success of these projects deliver a wake-up call to filmmakers and executives — audiences are hungry for new stories. It’s time we let others speak.