This one is for all the marbles

There’s a tweet thread I haven’t been able to get out of my head recently. It comes from Brynn Tannehill, who recently expanded her viral thread into an entire article for Dame magazine. You can read the whole thread here but I’ve also reproduced some of the text below:

The more I write about this, the more it becomes plain: if Biden loses, 2020 will be the last remotely free and fair election we have for decades, and certainly my lifetime.

We are in the middle of an autocratic attempt, and it looks so much like Hungary’s. The courts are being packed with loyalists. Most state legislatures in swing states are gerrymandered beyond belief. The executive branch is gaining unitary power. The Dept of Justice is blatantly selectively applying the law to favor the autocrat. IGs are being destroyed. AGs are being replaced. Congress is no longer a check on corruption, as the Senate has been captured by Trump loyalists. RBG is in bad shape. Ditto Breyer. Hybrid regimes (competitive authoritarianism) are remarkably stable. This is why 2020 is for all the marbles.

This is why I have no use for people who whinge about Biden/Harris not being far enough left for their tastes. They are under the mistaken belief that if Biden loses, they will have another chance to elect people that are far enough left for their liking.

The truth is, if Biden/Harris lose, there isn’t going to be an opportunity to elect someone they like in their lifetime. Not without secession of blue states. That’s the only plausible scenario I can come up with after the autocratic breakthrough. The people who study autocracy are all singing the same tune: American Democracy is not strong enough to survive another 4 years. The guardrails are already almost completely down. This is entirely consistent with how others have fallen in the post-Cold War period. […]

Beware, be warned, or don’t. Because once this election comes and goes, if Donald J. Trump is still President on January 21st, 2021, We’re Fucked. Democracy in America is not coming back. In most states, your vote no longer matters. We are rapidly approaching it at a federal level.

The thread does a great job of summarizing the direness of the situation but also pointing out the bizarre delusion that many people seem to be laboring under: That being dissatisfied with Biden and holding out for a better candidate in the future is a viable option to effect change.

The truth of the matter is that America is already operating under minoritarian rule. Increasingly, the makeup of our government no longer represents the will of the people, as gerrymandering and the electoral college continue to entrench the GOP despite the fact that Democrats have won the popular vote and lost twice in the last five elections. Soon, the work of these institutions will be complete.

Over at Eudaimonia, Umair Haque makes a similar case in his ominously titled piece, “We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.” Haque warns that all the signs of authoritarianism we’ve witnessed in other countries are happening right here in the U.S. We just don’t have experience in recognizing them:

America already has an ISIS, a Taliban, an SS waiting to be born. A group of young men willing to do violence at the drop of a hat, because they’ve been brainwashed into hating. The demagogue has blamed hated minorities and advocates of democracy and peace for those young men’s stunted life chances, and they believe him. That’s exactly what an ISIS is, what a Taliban is, what an SS is. The only thing left to do by an authoritarian is to formalize it.

But when radicalized young men are killing people they have been taught to hate by demagogues right in the open, on the streets — a society has reached the beginnings of sectarian violence, the kind familiar in the Islamic world, and is at the end of democracy’s road.

On Instagram, filmmaker Ava Duvernay wrote an excellent summation of the situation on the occasion of Kamala Harris’s nomination to the Democratic ticket:

There is no debate anymore. There’s no room for it in my book. We either make this happen. Or literally, more of us perish. People are dying. Someone I love died. This virus is real. If it hasn’t visited your doorstep, it will. Oh but, Kamala did this or she didn’t do that. I hear you. I know. And I don’t care. Because what she DIDN’T DO is abandon citizens in a pandemic, rip babies from their mother’s arms at the border, send federal troops to terrorize protestors, manufacture new ways to suppress Black and Brown votes, actively disrespect Indigenous people and land, traffic in white supremacist rhetoric in an effort to stir racist violence at every turn, attempt to dismantle most American democratic systems of checks and balance, degrade women all day everyday, infect the Supreme Court with another misogynist hack, demolish America’s standing on climate, actively cultivate and further white supremacist structures and systems across all aspects of American daily life. I mean, that’s what she DIDN’T do.

So I don’t wanna hear anything bad about her. It doesn’t matter to me. Vote them in and then let’s hold them accountable. Anything other than that is insanity. It’s ego. It’s against our own interests. It’s selfish. It’s disrespectful to our elders. It’s nonsense. It’s talking to hear yourself talk. This is a matter of life or death. We need all our energy focused. This is a fight for more than can be expressed here. There is no debate anymore. Not for me anyway.

Some citizens believe that one’s vote is a sacred thing. That one most vote for a candidate that represents one’s true beliefs and that it’s a violation of one’s obligations to compromise in any way.

It’s a perfectly valid way of approaching voting but it’s not one I subscribe to. I think you should vote to effect a specific outcome. And all the available evidence we have indicates that voting for Biden offers us the best opportunity to continue our democracy and achieve an outcome that’s closest to what progressives actually desire.

I hope everyone who’s undecided will wake up and decide the same thing. This one is for all the marbles.

A few things I’ve made recently:

Some other things worth checking out on the internet:

How you can help me make more stuff

This week, I launched a Patreon page to support my work.

I’ve been creating podcasts and videos on the internet for 13 years. During that time, I’ve been blessed to garner a small fanbase of people who support what I do, both financially and emotionally. While my life has gone through many changes during that time, I’ve continued to crank out content as quickly as humanly possible.

Balancing a full time job and all my extracurricular activities has always been delicate. My approach thus far has been to essentially make things when I feel like it. But I’ve now reached a phase (and let’s be honest, an age) in my life when I need to be as thoughtful as possible about how to use my time.

In the past year, I’ve launched several podcasts (including my pride and joy, Culturally Relevant) on top of my existing commitments. I’ve grown my YouTube channel to 15K subscribers. I’ve also continued to do plenty of live broadcasts on Twitter/Periscope.

I generate zero revenue from these activities, but I’ve enjoyed doing pretty much all of them. I am happy with the communities that have sprung up around them and want to keep investing more time, resources, and energy into them.

I also want to make even more stuff. I want to have more interesting conversations. I want to create more videos. I want to hire a producer and an editor to help me. I want to be able to justify spending hours taking a look back at [insert your favorite TV show/film/soundtrack/etc.] when possible.

The question I’m asking the world with this Patreon is: How much do people out there want to invest in me? It’s a terrifying question to ask the internet. But it’s the answer I seek. I think there’s value in paying for things you want to invest in and that you want to see continue (I support multiple Patreons pages myself and find it to be a very satisfying experience).

Yes, there are some cool rewards, but ultimately it’s about supporting me as an artist, encouraging me to make more things, and giving me resources to do so. If you’ve enjoyed any of my tweets/writings/podcasts/videos, I hope you’ll consider it. Thanks.

Also, if you want to hear me talk about why I’m doing this, check out the latest episode of Culturally Relevant.

TL;DR: I’ve launched a Patreon and I’d be much obliged if you could support me and my passion projects. Thank you.

When Normality Is a Blessing

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The other day, I did something that would’ve been considered normal during any other time in my life: I went out to a movie.

Of course, it wasn’t at a movie theater (the vast majority of movie theaters in America are still closed). Instead, it was at a pop-up drive-in movie theater created by a local restaurant called Canlis. I vlogged the experience and you can watch the whole thing here:

In the Before Time, Canlis was a high-end restaurant offering spectacular views of the Seattle area from its location at the top of Aurora Avenue. In recent days, their owners have realized that Seattle doesn’t need a high-end restaurant right now, so they’ve launched a series of experiments to keep their workers in business while also serving the community.

While these initiatives (found on their website) are ephemeral and seemingly random, there’s one thing that unifies them all: A level of care and thoughtfulness that you rarely find in the service industry.

Typically, the people who go to Canlis are celebrating a major life event like a wedding, a birthday, an anniversary. But when we arrived for the drive-in movie along with about 50 other parties, I imagine that many of us were in a state of exhaustion. The quarantine has worn many of us down mentally and the ongoing slow-motion train wreck of the pandemic just saps whatever energy is left.

That’s why the entire experience was so rejuvenating. Just being in the presence of people who valued the customer experience while being understanding that we are living in a situation where we are all fearing for our lives. It had been awhile since we’d received that level of care.

Sometimes the things that we used to consider as normal can be a great blessing in times of distress. I hope you can still find some normal things to celebrate these days.

It’s been awhile since the last email update! (So what else is new?) Something I’ve been struggling with is how to balance my time between the email updates, my many podcasts, and my YouTube channel. Whenever I start focusing on one, the others start calling for my attention, and I feel as a result that I don’t make that much headway on any of them.

But I’ve started making short, quick-hit videos on my YouTube channel and hoping to keep that consistently, while updating this newsletter with shorter pieces that summarize all that I’ve been working on. We’ll see how it goes.

A few things I’ve been working on lately:

Other interesting things from around the web:

Most days

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‘For those of us who are privileged enough to work from home during the pandemic, the events of the past few months have really messed with the notion of time. Days blend into each other. The weekend, while still a much-needed source of rest, doesn’t feel demarcated from the rest of the week anymore. The things we used to look forward to — gatherings with friends, nights out on the town, opening weekends for blockbuster films — have all melted away. We’ve been left with the endless repetition of the daily routine.

The pandemic has had this strange effect of freezing our lives in place. Whatever financial position or professional status you’d achieved by February 2020? That’s basically what you’re going to be stuck with for awhile. The friends you had pre-COVID? If you’re lucky, they’ll still be around when this is all over (but you probably aren’t going to add to their ranks so much during this time).

Most days, I struggle to dream of a future where things get better. Where we’re allowed to dream again. Where people trust in each other, in the idea of truth, in the possibility of a government that is benevolent and that values science and expertise. This whole pandemic has been absolutely shattering.

But there is one thing I do think about. It’s this interview Larry Brilliant to Wired magazine not too long ago. For those of you who don’t know who Larry Brilliant is, he’s one of the scientists that worked to eradicate smallpox (check out his amazing TED talk on the subject here).

When asked whether he was scared or not, Brilliant responded:

I’m in the age group that has a one in seven mortality rate if I get it. If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention. But I’m not scared. I firmly believe that the steps that we’re taking will extend the time that it takes for the virus to make the rounds. I think that, in turn, will increase the likelihood that we will have a vaccine or we will have a prophylactic antiviral in time to cut off, reduce, or truncate the spread. Everybody needs to remember: This is not a zombie apocalypse. It’s not a mass extinction event.

“It’s not a mass extinction event.”

Yes, I will grant that if our bar for comfort right now is “the thing is not a mass extinction event,” things have truly gone off the rails. But for some reason I’ve often reflected on this sentence in recent days.

It often feels like the world is ending. For many people, the pain caused by the sickness or death of loved ones will be irreparable. The financial consequences of the pandemic will be with us for a generation.

But this is not a mass extinction event. It’s not an asteroid that’s going to wipe out all life on Earth. It’s not 28 Days Later. Humanity will survive this.

[It’ll also be up to us what type of society we want to live in afterwards. How much do we want to support the middle class? How do we want our cities to look? Do we still need restaurants? Concerts?]

In Seattle, the governor has announced a phased plan to re-open the economy. Slowly, we are seeing signs of life returning to our streets and our businesses. The farmer’s market has opened back up. Many restaurants I used to go to are now operational, albeit for pick-up/delivery only. It is a process that will take months, at the absolute bare minimum, but it is a process that has begun.

In The New Yorker, James Ross Gardner writes about what it feels like to live in Seattle right now:

For now, we stay at home and wait. And we watch other regions that are in the position we were in weeks before. The wave of casualties and economic destruction that first hit Seattle has long since rolled across the country, every city a replica of our empty, boarded-up own. But here, in the first U.S. state with a confirmed case, the first to log a death, there is cause, however modest, for optimism. We showed that there’s a way to slow the spread. That it could, in fact, be done. At the beginning of all this, at the start of March, as the death count climbed, and we stopped shaking hands and sitting in the same rooms together, I thought of Seattle as living in the laboratory of the nation’s future. I hoped I was wrong. Now I hope I’m right.

I hope so too.

A few other interesting things from around the web:

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Thanks for reading. If you enjoy my work, please consider sharing it on social media. Thank you.

Image credit: cottonbro from Pexels

The problem with falling behind

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After three months on  sabbatical, I recently returned to my job at Amazon. I’m fortunate to work for an organization and for colleagues who were so understanding and allowed me to have some time off.

I’d originally had plans to write a post summarizing all the stuff I did on my leave, but with the Coronavirus pandemic impacting us all in dramatic and unpredictable ways, it just didn’t feel like the right time to talk about how I’d used my sabbatical to try to lose weight, learn Photoshop, and make some podcasts. Who gives a crap?

So I froze. I put off the writing. I said I’d come back to it when I felt like it. Maybe when I had something profound and interesting to say.

But the problem with falling behind when you’re making stuff online is that that feeling of behind-ness is self-compounding.

It’s like forgetting to respond to a text or an email from a friend. The first few days, no big deal. A week later, you’re definitely going to need to apologize when you hit ‘send.’ By the time you’re a month in, you feel better off just pretending that text never existed. (For this reason, I support Reply All’s notion of an Email Debt Forgiveness Day).

Bottom line, I got so far behind that I didn’t see a path towards not being behind. Ultimately, the only way to get on that path was for me to sit down at my keyboard, accept my shame, and just bang something out, no matter how unsubstantial. So, that’s what this update is: My attempt to get back on a somewhat normal schedule with these posts.

One thing that I think this pandemic has really helped to crystallize is exactly what one’s standing is in relation to society. Doctors and medical personnel? Essential. The people who help you get your food and other important items? Super necessary.

People who write and podcast about movies and TV and the internet? Eh.

My colleague C. Robert Cargill recently described someone who works in Hollywood as “an entertainer when times are good and a distraction when times are bad.”

This pandemic is causing inconceivable horrors, inflicting pain, suffering, and destruction all around the world. Our medical system is under threat and our political institutions may never recover. But one side effect of this carnage is that it’s forced many of us to reconsider exactly what it is we are doing with our lives. What do we want to dedicate the majority of our days to? What do we want to build? What do we want to change? What are we willing to stand up for? How did we help others? Did we alleviate or accelerate people’s suffering? And also: How do we want to be remembered during this time?

The political tumult of the past few years have forced me to discard many of my life’s plans and opt instead for stability and safety as much as possible. The pandemic has accelerated those impulses even further. But in the midst of it, I want to keep challenging myself to constantly re-evaluate out how I can best spend my days. If there’s one thing we are all acutely aware of now, it’s that those days may be limited.

If you’ve read this far: Thanks for sticking with me, even despite my irregular updates! I’m really going to try to write more consistently, even if the updates are shorter, just because I find it valuable to have a way to communicate with y’all directly. I may even invest in a better platform that Tinyletter (looking at Substack, Revue, or perhaps a full-blown Mailchimp account).

While I haven’t been posting here very often, I’ve still been cranking out content all around the internet the past few months. Here are a few highlights.

  • I continue to publish Culturally Relevant each week, my podcast featuring interviews with filmmakers, artists, and writers. For the past month, I’ve been recording audio diaries reflecting on what it was like to live through this pandemic in Seattle, where one of the first outbreaks in the US occurred. But I also recently had one of my heroes on the show, Alan Yang, who joined to discuss his new Netflix film, Tigertail. Listen here.
  • Speaking of Alan Yang, he joined the Slashfilmcast to review Demolition Man. We also had Dan Trachtenberg on to discuss Judgment Night. And if you’re looking for our review of Tiger King, well, that’s right here.
  • I was honored to be profiled on Letterboxd recently. You can follow my account there, where I try to make fun reviews and lists.
  • Patrick H. Willems makes some great film-related YouTube videos and I’ve recently started recording video commentaries with him. Check them out on his second channel.
  • Speaking of YouTube, I’d gotten into a pretty good groove making YouTube videos for my YouTube channel. I was grateful to have Melissa Tamminga join me to review movies like The Invisible Man and Birds of Prey. And when she couldn’t join me, I’d tackle reviews myself like this one I made for Sonic The Hedgehog. On occasion, I’d make videos like this one about anti-Asian racism in the age of COVID (which I was grateful to see was picked up by NowThis). But the COVID pandemic not only blew a hole in my plan to review a new theatrical release each week (hard to do that when there are no theatrical releases anymore) — it also temporarily destroyed my desire to keep making videos. But I’ve already got some new ideas cooking and I really want to get back into the game. So hey, do me a favor and hit subscribe if you can. I’ll (eventually) make it worth your while.

Until next time, I hope everyone is staying well, staying safe, and staying indoors if it’s at all possible for you to do so. Thanks for doing your part for the collective good.

Photo credit: Burst, from Pexels


Starting today, I’ll be going on a three-month sabbatical from my full-time job at Amazon. Everything is fine – my overall health is okay and there are no family emergencies. Rather, I’m using the leave to focus on some personal projects, on my home life, and on improving my diet and exercise.

At this point, I’ve been at Amazon for 2.5 years. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, there’s a saying that’s common among employees that Amazon years are like “dog years” in that every year you work there feels much longer than it actually is. In my experience this is true, but only because of the sheer quantity of material you are able to learn, the responsibility that’s vested in you as an individual employee, and the amount of impact you are able to make. Overall, I’ve gotten a lot out of my time at Amazon and I feel extremely fortunate and privileged to work with such talented people who have been very understanding of my need to take this personal leave.

Beyond all the things I plan to do, it has been a challenge to maintain my job and all of my extracurricular activities. I’m hoping to use the next few months to take a step back and re-prioritize everything I’m working on so that I can return to work with renewed focus. But I’m also hoping it to use it to reconnect with old friends and meet new prospective collaborators (on that note: if we haven’t spoken in awhile, and/or you have a creative project to pitch me, now is the time to get in touch!)

There’s an old blog post I’ve been thinking a lot about recently over at Tim Urban’s Wait But Why, about visually dividing your life up into years/months/weeks.

Seeing life divided up like this can be both invigorating and terrifying. It’s scary because you realize how limited our time is and how each week is an inevitable step towards the bottom of that chart. But it can also be exciting, as Urban writes:

Both the week chart above and the life calendar are a reminder to me that this grid of empty boxes staring me in the face is mine. We tend to feel locked into whatever life we’re living, but this pallet of empty boxes can be absolutely whatever we want it to be. Everyone you know, everyone you admire, every hero in history—they did it all with that same grid of empty boxes.

The boxes can also be a reminder that life is forgiving. No matter what happens each week, you get a new fresh box to work with the next week. It makes me want to skip the New Year’s Resolutions—they never work anyway—and focus on making New Week’s Resolutions every Sunday night. Each blank box is an opportunity to crush the week—a good thing to remember.

“Every blank box is an opportunity to crush the week.” Let’s make the most of them. I’m going to try my best to do so during this leave and beyond.

If you want to follow my adventures over the next 11 weeks, I’d recommend:

A few other links from recent days:

The Top 10 Films of the Decade

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I recently invited film critic Tasha Robinson from The Next Picture Show podcast to join me on Culturally Relevant to count down our top 10 films of the decade. It can be difficult enough to count down one’s top 10 films of a given year, so asking a fellow critic to count down one’s top 10 of the decade is downright sadistic.

Nonetheless, I was grateful to Tasha for participating in this exercise with me. It was a clarifying experience, as it forced me to look back on the decade and consider not only which films I enjoyed the most, but which films I felt represented my decade in filmgoing. What films contained the ideas, the techniques, the themes, and the characters that I feel will make an indelible impression going forward?

I’ve listed my choices below, but you should listen to the podcast episode to get the full discussion, plus hear Tasha’s choices too.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 films of the 2010s:

10. Nightcrawler (2014) – No other film better captures the spirit of vulture capitalism that has come to define this decade. In Nightcrawler, a sociopath shows that by using some ingenuity and a take-no-prisoners approach he can accumulate wealth and power and destroy his enemies. It’s a chilling tale of how our society can shapes its contributing individuals and hone them to value profit above literally all else. Jake Gyllenhaal transforms into Louis Bloom, an always-hustling, cutthroat businessman, and Rene Russo is tremendous as the woman who ends up becoming vulnerable to his machinations.

9. The Raid 2 (AKA The Raid 2: Berandal)  – The Raid 2 is the Godfather 2 of action movies. It takes the scope of the first film and blows it up, while amping up the ambition and carnage of the action scenes tenfold. It’s rare in this day and age to get an action film that strives to be epic, where the emotions are meant to be as large and complex as the action choreography. I don’t know that this film achieves what it sets out to do but I’m so glad it tries. It’s my favorite action movie of the decade and that’s why it’s on my list at this spot.

8. Avengers: Endgame (2019) / Avengers (2012) (it’s a tie, which is cheating, but it’s my list, so…) – We are in the era of the extended universe, which is dominating both our box office and our cultural conversation. No other films have done a better job proving that you could have all these disparate characters combine into one movie, and do it in a way that was satisfying, enjoyable, even a must-see event. I still remember when the idea of any one of these characters getting their own films at all was a pipe dream, let alone teaming up. When Avengers proved it was in possible, I was in awe. When Avengers: Endgame proved you could tie it all up and bring this thing to a close, I was in tears. Lots of people are unhappy with what Marvel films have done to the cinematic landscape but regardless of where the MCU goes from here, I’ll always be grateful I was able to take this incredible journey with them this decade.

7. OJ: Made In AmericaOJ: Made in America is a towering work of documentary filmmkaing. No other documentary I saw this decade did a better job at unearthing footage that consistently made me say, “Wow, I can’t believe they got that.” But it’s not just the footage itself – director Ezra Edelman assembles it all in a compelling way that makes the outcome feel sadly, inevitable. There’s a reason the OJ Simpson case continues to retain such power up until this day. It symbolizes how we in America remain intensely divided and how the legacy of our past and present crimes around race can manifest themselves in our justice system in surprising and unfortunate ways. [Hey, at least I didn’t put Twin Peaks on my list.]

6. Before Midnight – I know it sounds naive and maybe even silly of me to say, but I I learned a lot about love from Richard Linklater’s Before series. Before Sunrise (1995) taught me about young love and how exciting and dynamic it is. Before Sunset (2004) taught me about the disappointments of middle age. And Before Midnight (2013) taught me about the miracle of companionship and what it takes for partners to survive in the long term. The film series spans 18 years in the lives of its characters as well as the actors portraying them, and it is a huge accomplishment in showing the evolution of a relationship on screen. Before Midnight puts a capper on the whole affair, bringing the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion while never straying from the grounded realism that made the series so memorable in the first place.

5. Parasite – I think one of the main themes of 2019 films has been this notion that we as a society need to grapple more with privilege. How much of it do we have, and what are its impacts and implications? This is something that Parasite does wonderfully, telling the story of a lower-class family who goes to work for an upper class one and all the tensions that result. There are twists and turns, and more than a handful of shocking moments. Beyond this, the film is impeccably composed with frames that are bursting with meaning. It’s the one film from 2019 that I feel pretty confident saying we’ll still be talking about 10 years from now.

4. Gravity – I think when we look back at this decade, Gravity is going to be one of the films that we will see as the most technologically groundbreaking. The film is nearly entirely CGI, but even to this day, I find the illusion to be complete. If you look at how this film was made, it’s a miracle that it works at all. A lot of the film was created with Sandra Bullock harnessed into a high-tech moving platform while LED lights were blasted at her to simulate the lighting conditions what the CG images would end up being. Bullock’s performance, as a woman who believes she has little to live for down on Earth, helps keep this space movie grounded.

There’s a line in the movie where the astronauts have lost communication with Houston and they start prefacing all their communications with “Houston in the Blind” because even though they can’t hear any responses they have faith people are listening. Director Alfonso Cuaron has said in interviews this is how he felt making this film, hoping blindly that his vision for this film would work on a fundamental level. We can all be grateful he took that leap because Gravity is thrilling filmmaking that manages to make us ponder mankind’s place for the universe.

3. Get Out – Jordan Peele has said that in the aftermath of Obama we were living in a post-racial lie — the idea that racism had somehow been solved because we had a black president. I think our real-life politics soon showed that that lie was temporary, but Get Out illustrated it in through a tense horror film that is thematically rich and interesting. The idea of white people wanting to take over the bodies of black people has so many parallels and so much resonance with modern day society that it’s literally scary. That’s the visceral terror that Get Out brought to life. It’s also a film that has made so many cultural contributions, including the concept of The Sunken Place or the quote, “I would’ve voted for Obama for a third term,”— the words of a performative ally. Get Out also represents this decade in low-budget filmmaking and a vindication of the Jason Blum method of production, in which you place many bets on low budget films, and not all of them hit. Get Out of course hit, landing over $175 MM in domestic box office, and it showed you could still get folks to the theater with an ambitious idea and flawless execution.

2. Under The SkinUnder the Skin is one of the most visually arresting movies I’ve ever seen. Jonathan Glazer has created a story that feels dreamlike and terrifying. But the film was also innovative from a filmmaking perspective. Glazer pioneered new camera technology to be able to film strangers in tight enclosed spaces, much of which was done with Scarlett Johansson literally just walking around and picking up guys on the street. Johansson herself delivers a bold, chilling performance as a woman whose body is used for ends beyond her control. Under the Skin is one of those rare films that makes you reflect on how cruel and inhumane our society might seem if viewed from the outside.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road – I can’t get away from it: Mad Max: Fury Road is still one of the most bold, spectacular pieces of action filmmaking. The stunts are jaw-dropping, the pacing is propulsive, and the performances by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are transformative. It’s relentlessly watchable and chilling in its depiction of a future in which natural resources are hoarded by a handful of malevolent forces — a plot which feels strangely relevant today. George Miller has created a masterpiece and action filmmakers will spend the next decade trying to best it.

Giving Thanks

“I think I kind of lost the thread of what you were doing with your life.”

Three years ago, I was catching up with a friend over lunch when she spoke these words to me. And reader, I agreed with her. I had recently left a lucrative job at Microsoft to try my hand at the world of startups, but things hadn’t exactly worked out like I’d hoped. So for awhile, I was adrift as I applied to jobs, trying to figure out what direction my life was heading in. At one point, I even created a “dream board” where I wrote all the different paths I could pursue onto index cards, tacked them onto a bulletin board, and ranked them based on their likelihood of success and the emotional satisfaction/financial benefits they might bring me (it’s an illuminating exercise that I’d recommend to anyone).

After much consideration, I’d decided that I wanted to give the corporate world at least one more shot. I felt like I still had much to learn, and I enjoy solving business problems and making an impact as part of a team.

When you live in Seattle, one of the most obvious places to work is Amazon, whose corporate headquarters is based in the South Lake Union neighborhood. I knew very little of what it was like to work there — only that their business prowess was formidable, their scope was sprawling, and their standards were incredibly high.

Over the course of several months, I applied for several jobs at Amazon. At most companies, when you are deemed worthy of an in-person interview, they bring you in for a full day’s of conversations with employees. Amazon is no different. I remember sitting in the lobby of one of Amazon’s buildings, waiting for a day of interviews to begin. I watched as hundreds of employees passed by, pressing their badges against the security turnstiles and stepped onto elevators that would whisk them up to their offices. It was a normal day for them, but for me, all I wanted was to see what was past those turnstiles, to understand what it was like to work at this company that had captured the loyalty of tens of millions of Americans.

I’d dedicated many days of preparation to every interview I participated in, and I was turned down more than once. But eventually, after a great deal of perseverance, I was hired.

I know that lots of people have different opinions about Amazon and certainly working there can have its ups and downs. But as I reflect on the past 2+ years of my life, I have so much gratitude for all the hyper-intelligent people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve been able to have, and all that I’ve been able to learn. Regardless of how things play out from this point, I have a much deeper understanding of my capabilities and what I want out of my life, as well as more resources to make those things happen. I have started to find the thread of my life again.

But what comes to mind today, on Thanksgiving Day 2019, is all the people that helped me to get to where I am.

As I was going through the process of getting hired, I realized that the one thing that was most important to my success was to find a group of people who believed in me. I was so lucky to have found them: people who dedicated time and resources to helping me prepare for my interviews; people who made connections with others that would prove invaluable in the future; people who helped me talk through all the different options and possibilities (Notably, my wife falls into all these categories and more. She’s  never stopped believing in me, even in my darkest hours). Everyone gave freely without expecting anything in return. In doing so, they earned a friend in me for life.

So as you reflect on the state of your life, as many do during this contemplative holiday period, I hope you’ll remember the people who’ve believed in you. Those who have cleared the way for you, supported you, and made sacrifices to get you where you are right now, even when you could give them absolutely nothing in return. And if you have a chance, maybe give them a call or a text and let them know how much they mean to you.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.