All sports except for boxing and MMA bore the living tits off of me, so football is never my choice for screen entertainment during Thanksgivingtime. No, Thanksgivingtime isn’t a word like Christmastime is, but it should be. Yes. Anyhoo, if you’re looking to watch something during Thanksgivingtime, here are a few recommendations.
The Endless: An indie film of no fixed genre, The Endless tells the story of Aaron and Justin, two men who claim to have escaped a UFO-style cult ten years ago, and are having trouble adjusting to today’s world. When they get a package from the cult they left, they return to the compound to see how things have fared over the last decade. What’s great about good indie films like The Endless is that they’re imaginative in a way that corporate-produced Hollywood genre movies can’t quite match, with rare exceptions. You’ll find a lot of sticks-with-you visuals and terrific bits of storytelling in The Endless, and the mistakes it makes don’t distract from the overall quality of the production. There’s weird stuff, there’s funny stuff, there’s even some family stuff, and it works, for the most part. Trust me. I’m not wrong about a lot.
American Vandal: If you’ve seen multi-episode true crime shows like Making a Murderer or The Keepers, you have to watch American Vandal. It’s a pitch-perfect parody of true crime programs, from the close-up profile interviews and hours of B-roll to the multiple plot lines and red herrings. The first season deals with the investigation of a prank in which someone spray-painted penises on the teachers’ cars in a local high school’s parking lot, so you know where the humor is going. It’s both an eerily realistic dissection of the high school ecosystem and a deconstruction of the true crime genre. Season two addresses a different crime, this one committed by someone called The Turd Burglar. Social media and its attendant dangers/pitfalls get skewered here, with both hilarious and disgusting results. Both seasons are engrossing and incredibly well made.
First Reformed: Horribly flawed but impossible to look away from, First Reformed is a Paul Schrader movie that focuses on Ethan Hawke as Reverend Toller, the priest of a small church known more for its history than its holiness. Toller is a man with a haunted past and a terribly grim present, and he’s too conflicted to like but too human to hate. Everything’s bleak and stark and cold and meticulously placed, making it a visual masterpiece that you have to watch in awe. The performances couldn’t be better, adding to the film’s visual perfection. And yet the story’s muddled, the plot’s unclear, and the message is hackneyed. It tackles the issue of faith imperfectly at best, and misses the mark on deeper themes. What bothered me most was the ending, summed up by the director himself: “I don’t know what the ending is.” I’m not a movie director, but I am a fiction writer and an adult, and I say that that’s unfair to the audience. If we trust you with our time and attention, you owe us a proper story. I’m not saying that every ending has to be cut-and-dried, but if you don’t know how it ends and you made it, you’re betraying our trust. Don’t do that. I’ve written my share of open-ended endings, but I always knew how they do and should end. You may feel differently. Watch the movie and let me know what you think.
Happy Thanksgiving! And start using the term Thanksgivingtime so I don’t look like too much of a ding-dong.