It's that time of the year when we stop and reflect on what's good in our lives. When we realize that we got it pretty good, all things considered, and we are thankful. This year it occured to me that not only do I have a lot to be thankful for as an individual, I have an awful lot to be thankful for as a film fan. There's a lot to complain about in our current movie landscape, but there's also an awful lot to be happy about. This little list is an accounting of some of the things I see in the world of cinema in 2013 that makes me really goddamned happy, and very, very thankful.
The RIse of VOD
Not many years ago small films were only available to people in New York and Los Angeles. Every now and again a film would break out and go wider, maybe hitting ten or twenty markets, but for film fans outside of those major movie centers it was hopeless. The rise of VOD has changed all of that. Yeah, it's always better to see a movie in a movie theater, but VOD has brought small films to movielovers everywhere at the same time, allowing everybody to be in on the conversation about the most interesting festival and indie films while the talk is still fresh.
For fans of weird movies, VOD is even more of a boon. The economics of distributing bizarre, offbeat genre films has changed. VOD is the new drive-in theater, drawing people in with exploitative titles and misleading cover art. It warms my heart.
Our Nerd Dreams Have Come True
The Avengers starred in one of the biggest movies of all time. Science fiction isn't just making it to the big screen, it's the dominant form of blockbuster. Christopher Nolan is making a hard scifi movie and Darren Aronofsky is making a Biblical epic that treats Judeo-Christianity like Greek myth. The biggest movie in America right now a dystopian action movie about overthrowing systems of control. It's crazy that this is what we have on our big screens, and I love it. Yeah, I wish some of these movies were better. I wish the Spider-Man films were good, I wish that DC had its act together onscreen, I wish there wasn't a Star Trek Into Darkness. But stop focusing on the negative for a minute and realize how incredible the nerd-wave is. In 1999 we were blown away when Neo flew off at the end of The Matrix - now we have gods flying between dimensions in movies that your mom loves.
Annapurna Pictures Exists
Megan Ellison is the most important person in film today. She has taken her personal wealth and put it behind some of the best filmmakers alive and has been allowing them to make the movies they want to make with budgets that will help them realize their visions. She's bankrolled Paul Thomas Anderson and Spike Jonze, Kathryn Bigelow and Harmony Korine. The fact that Annapurna is behind it is the only reason I'm excited about the Terminator reboot. When they write the history of the 10s, Megan Ellison will be a key player. When we look back at these years as some of the best ever, we're going to call it the Annapurna Era.
They're Making Great Movies Again
Annapurna isn't alone. 2013 has been a terrific year for real movies for real people. I love the nerd stuff and the blockbusters, but my cinematic diet requires much more than that. And I'm getting lots of quality at the movies these days. 12 Years A Slave, Captain Phillips, Spectacular Now, Blue Jasmine... what a year. These are all amazing films, and they're all smart and well-made and treat audiences like adults. Then there is the incredible run of documentaries - Room 237, The Act of Killing, Blackfish, 20 Feet From Stardom - that inspire, educate and, yes, entertain. If you think 2013 has been a bad year at the movies you've been going to see the wrong movies.
There's Girl Power Brewing
Maybe I'm being a little premature, but I have a lot of hope. One of the biggest movies of 2013 starred a woman. This weekend the top spots at the box office will be occupied by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen, both films with fierce, awesome female leads. The idea that 'girl movies' have to be romcoms is falling away, and it's become more and more obvious that a woman in the lead doesn't keep all the boys out of the yard. Meanwhile the Marvel movies are as influenced by the female fanbase as the male, and I suspect we're going to see some equality in that universe come Phase Three. We're not all the way there when it comes to women in film, but we're making progress. Let's be thankful for that.