MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

What I’m Thankful For – 2008

When I wrote this column last year, I had just started at MCN and I suppose one of the things I’m most thankful for is that I’m still here. And what that means, really, is that I’m thankful for you, the reader, for sticking with me for my first year and a half on the job. Without you guys, who fill my inbox each week with support and criticism, this gig wouldn’t be half as much fun. And I hope you’ll still be around next year.

But without further ado and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to discuss some of the things that I’m most thankful for in the world of film this year.

First off, I’m thankful once again for Gus Van Sant. Not only did he blow me away with Paranoid Park, but I’m hearing that Milk is also one of the year’s best films. He is one of the few directors who could get away with making both a cryptic mood piece about a young skateboarder and a biopic about the first openly gay man elected to political office and not only make those films in the same year, but bring an artist’s eye to both. After Good Will Hunting, it seemed like he didn’t know quite what to do with his newfound clout but after making Gerry, it seemed to spark a creative resurgence in him and the fruits of that reinvigoration are paying off handsomely for us all.

I’m also thankful for Steven Soderbergh for having the guts to make a film like Che at all. A difficult, four-and-a-half-hour subtitled epic picture about a controversial figure is not anyone’s idea of a blockbuster, but Soderbergh managed to get millions of dollars to make it and he made no concessions.

I’m thankful for Kurt Kuenne and his wonderful documentary Dear Zachary, which is unfortunately ineligible for the Academy Awards. But that’s okay, this is a film that will live on long after most of the nominees for this year’s Oscars are forgotten. It’s a powerful, remarkable film that will devastate anybody who sees it.

I’m thankful for my discovery this year of the films of Lukas Moodysson. While I’m seeing the usual two hundred-plus new release films that I see every year, I always try to see the films on my list. In the span of a single day, I watched Moodysson’s first three films: Show Me Love,Together, and Lilya 4-ever. It was the single greatest movie-watching day I had in the past year, each film moving me in a different way. His next film, Mammoth, with Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams, has shot to the top of my must-see list for next year.

While I’m at it, I’m thankful for Swedish films in general. I caught up with a lot of Ingmar Bergman films like Smiles of a Summer Night and the uncut version of Fanny and Alexander and fell in love with the man all over again. Also, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is the most inventive vampire film I’ve seen in ages because it’s not really a vampire film at all. Alfredson is a filmmaker to watch and everyone should see the Swedish original before the Cloverfield team ruins it with a remake in 2010.

I’m thankful that this year has brought and will bring us films by extraordinary filmmakers likeGus Van Sant, Steven Soderbergh, Arnaud Desplechin, David Fincher, Spike Lee,Woody Allen, Jonathan Demme, Mike Leigh, Clint Eastwood, the Coens, Tarsem,Fernando Meirelles, Michael Haneke, Brad Anderson, Werner Herzog, John Patrick Shanley, Ron Howard, Marc Forster, Kimberly Peirce, David Gordon Green, Steven Spielberg, The Wachowskis, Harmony Korine, Neil LaBute, Ridley Scott, Michel Gondry, Doug Liman, Wong Kar Wai, Danny Boyle, Baz Luhrmann, David Mamet,Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, and Sam Mendes. Any year that brings us new works from all of those filmmakers can’t be a bad one.

I’m thankful for newer filmmakers like Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), Alex Holdridge (In Search of a Midnight Kiss), Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy) for making me take notice with their first or second film.

I’m thankful for Michelle Williams, who gives such a devastating performance in Wendy and Lucy without speaking very many lines at all. She is one of our finest young talents.

I’m thankful for Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who give two of the best performance of the year in Doubt. They are in a handful of scenes together and each one is devastating; it’s like watching Ali fight Tyson, a dream matchup of heavyweights who go toe-to-toe with one another, each elevating their game. In those scenes alone, they remind us why they are universally lauded.

I’m thankful that I still have a lot of films to see this year like Revolutionary Road and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I cannot wait to see those terrific actors, guided by masterful filmmakers.

I’m thankful for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, the only thing about that film that deserves the hype it has gotten.

I’m thankful for the performance of Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky. Both the film and her remarkable portrayal have grown on me enormously since I first saw it. Eddie Marsan gives able support, but those final scenes are all about her and her reactions to a precarious situation.

I’m thankful to Thomas McCarthy for giving Richard Jenkins the role he deserved in The Visitor. Ever since I saw him in Flirting With Disaster, I knew this man was capable of the brilliant performance he gave in McCarthy’s film. It is a classic portrayal because he elevates the entire film with his presence, remarkably subtle and absolutely fantastic.

I’m enormously thankful that I live in a world in which M. Night Shyamalan continues to make films. I thought the man was brilliant when he made Unbreakable and now I think he is brilliant in a completely different way for making the funniest film of the year, The Happening

I’m thankful that another Bourne film is in the pipeline, because it allows Matt Damon to headline difficult films like The Good Shepherd or the upcoming The Informant or Green Zone and show us why he’s one of the best actors currently working.

I’m thankful for Tom Cruise. However crazy the man may or may not be in his personal life is not for me to judge; what I care about is what is on the screen and the truth of the matter is that the man has never turned in a less than decent performance. And more often than not, he’s very good. So let’s give the man a break and enjoy what he puts on the screen because it’s usually some of the best stuff the studios churn out.

I’m thankful for Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Rachel Weisz. They are all beautiful, accented and enormously, unbelievably talented. These three are going to win a lot more awards in the next ten years and deservedly so.

I’m thankful for Pixar for making a film, in WALL-E, that made me realize that animated films can be better than almost any live-action ones. No film made me cry harder than the CGI love story about futuristic robots.

I’m thankful that the writer’s strike is behind us and I hope the actors don’t walk away next.

I’m thankful for the screenwriters that helped bring some wonderful stories to life this year likeJ. Michael Straczynski (Changeling) and Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married).

I’m enormously thankful for A Christmas Tale, Arnaud Desplechin’s masterpiece, the best new film I’ve seen this year.

I’m thankful that the election season is behind us because I won’t waste five hours a day toggling between five websites and can now focus on movies.

I’m thankful for Michael Kupferberg and Scott Feinstein for not only being good PR dudes, but good guys.

I’m thankful that Roger Ebert is still going strong.

I’m thankful for all the web-based film writers on other sites, people like Kristopher Tapley,Drew McWeeny, Sasha Stone, Anne Thompson, Stu VanAirsdale and Jeff Wells, who inspire me.

I’m also thankful for all my colleagues at MCN: Doug Pratt, Ray Pride, Gary Dretzka, Len Klady, and of course the two recent additions, Kim Voynar and Michael Wilmington. I cannot believe how lucky I am to be bylined on the same page as these talented folks.

I am thankful for the incomparable Laura Rooney, the managing editor of Movie City News, who is does a lot of the heavy lifting around these parts.

I am grateful and thankful for the great and wonderful David Poland. He took a shot on me about a year and a half ago, an unknown kid who sometimes berated him on his message board, and gave me a column and supported me when I made mistakes and grew as a writer. I cannot thank him enough for the opportunity.

I’m thankful for all the movies that I have not yet seen and all the ones that I probably will not see because there it means there is always something wonderful just beyond the horizon.

And of course, I am thankful for the two women in my life: my mother and my long-suffering girlfriend, for allowing me to talk about movies non-stop and allowing me to re-live my favorite films again by making these ladies watch them for the first time. The looks on their faces when they are watching some of the best movies — which I’ve already seen countless times — with fresh eyes is priceless.

– Noah Forrest
November 25, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 25 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon