By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 24, 2011 at 2:39PM
It's the last Thursday of November, which can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving. And while Playlist members include two Canadians, an Australian, a pair of Limeys and a globe-trotting Irishwoman, we're still mostly made up of U.S. citizens who'll be tucking into turkey today, and we're totally on board with the whole giving thanks part of the holiday. We didn't learn American punctuation for nothing, you know?
Writing about movies is a great job. But it's hard to deny that there are times it becomes a bit of a grind. The depressing string of announcements of board game adaptations and remakes, the head-spinning series of offer and shortlist stories, the Twitter fights, and worst of all, the reams of terrible films; the months that can go by without anything making our brains fire and our hearts swell. When "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1," the worst of a dreadful series, is breaking box-office records, in a year when even worse films like "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" have made more money than the GDP of second world countries, it's easy to lose the faith.
And yet somehow, it doesn't happen. After a slow start, 2011 has actually been a pretty great year for the movies, and, while we'll been discussing it in much more detail in the closing weeks of the year, it seems an appropriate time to spread a little optimism. Not least this weekend, where a veritable feast of quality films are opening; two top-flight family films, in "The Muppets" and "Arthur Christmas," two joyous celebrations of the artform itself in "Hugo" and "The Artist" (not to mention the solid "My Week With Marilyn"), a ferociously smart adult drama from a great director in "A Dangerous Method," and a briliant, gritty indie with a storming central performance in "Rampart." All released within a couple of days of each other.
As such, today of all days, it seems appropriate to give a little thanks. Thanks that Martin Scorsese is able to raise money for a $200 million celebration of the early days of cinema, and that it turned out as beautifully as "Hugo" did. That the director, alongside contemporaries Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, are as keen to embrace new technologies and styles as any hungry film-school grad, even in their 60s and 70s. That a film as heartwarming, funny and meticulously crafted as "The Artist" can be taken to the bosom of audiences and critics alike. That Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller and James Bobin, or Rupert Wyatt, or J.J. Abrams were able to prove that 'reboot' doesn't have to be a dirty word. That stars like George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt can use their cachet to help smart filmmakers make brilliant films, rather than cashing easy paychecks. That producers like Scott Rudin and Megan Ellison will fight against the tide, to fund killer material from talented people.
We're thankful that however political and shifty the Oscars can be, a film as tough and uncompromising as "Rampart" can be in the race. That Steve McQueen was able to make "Shame," that it could be known for its astonishing artistry, rather than any half-baked controversy, and that Fox Searchlight are battling for it, despite an NC-17 rating. That domestic film festivals like SXSW and Sundance continue to discover and push talent, every single year, like Sean Durkin, Dee Rees, Ben Wheatley and Andrew Haigh, people who'll be making great films for a long time to come. That international film festivals give a spotlight to amazing filmmakers around the world, from the Dardennes Brothers and Pedro Almodovar to Asghar Farhadi, Sion Sono and Giorgos Lanthimios. That distributors and exhibitors in the U.S. and elsewhere are committed to getting those films seen by as many as people as possible.
We're grateful that people like Pedro Almodovar and Lars Von Trier continue to write brilliant roles for women while so many others are content to simply include 'the girlfriend' part, and that a film like "Bridesmaids," patronized by so many, can be both consistently hilarious and a gigantic success. That directors like Nicolas Winding Refn, Cary Fukunaga, Steven Soderbergh and Michael Winterbottom endeavor to make each film as different as possible from the last, never coming close to resting on their laurels. That, as we wrote earlier in the year, the last twelve months have shown that, however pessimistic some get, there are huge audiences out there for smart, grown-up films, and that pandering to the lowest common denominator isn't the only way to make money. That readers such as yourself love the same movies that we love, and choose to frequent our dusty little corner of the internet.
And perhaps more than anything else, we're excited that 2012 could be even better than this year, and that new films are on the way from (deep breath) Paul Thomas Anderson, Andrew Dominik, Wes Anderson, David O Russell, Terrence Malick, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Haneke, Christopher Nolan, John Hillcoat, Steve McQueen, Tony Gilroy, Baz Luhrmann, Pixar, Steven Soderbergh, Andrew Stanton, Nicolas Winding Refn, the Coen Brothers, David Cronenberg, The Wachowski Brothers, Judd Apatow, Kathryn Bigelow, Rian Johnson, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, Wong Kar-Wai, Jeff Nicholas, Ramin Bahrani, Park Chan-Wook, Olivier Assayas, Ken Loach, Carlos Reygadas, James Gray, Xavier Dolan, Laurent Cantet, Abbas Kiarostami, Emir Kusturica, Matteo Garrone and Hou Hsiao Hsien, along with many, many others that even we aren't aware of yet.
We're not saying there won't be dark times ahead. There will always be bad films, and always have been. But there will always be great ones too (and we hope they'll always be able to seen on 35mm film, as great as the advantages of digital production and projection can be). We're more excited about, and in love with, the movies, than ever before, and that's something to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Go and take in a picture show over the weekend.
-- The Playlist Team