Film and TV

Scandals, Closures and Borat: The Biggest Stories in Film This Year

That's future Gov. Matthew McConaughey to you.
That's future Gov. Matthew McConaughey to you. "Matthew McConaughey and Scott Rice host conversation with film director and screenwriter Jeff Nichols." by UT Moody College of Communication is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Movies will never be the same. The industry has been changing rapidly over the past several years, but the biggest development has been the antiquated notion of seeing new theatrical films in theaters. Maybe Parasite winning Best Picture was the last good thing to happen?

This was a big year for Dallas film, as the local cinema community adapted to the new (and not that exciting) world of living in a global pandemic. While much of the news is negative, there are highlights, too — and in the state of the world, great stories still have the power to bring people together.

You probably don’t want to relive 2020, but in case you need a quick recap, here are some of the biggest Dallas film news stories of the year.

Theaters close across Texas, then (sorta) reopen.
Are movie theaters open? Are they closed? It was a revolving door of answers, as some states allowed viewers to return to socially distanced screenings, while others were stricter. Texas was one of the first to reopen, but audiences were sparse and theater closures plenty. Texas-based theater chain Alamo Drafthouse closed its Dallas locations because of a lack of business.

The Cinestate scandal rocks the Dallas film community
Cinestate, the Dallas-based production company behind such films as Bone Tomahawk and Dragged Across Concrete, was thrust into controversy after a harrowing op-ed detailed sexual misconduct allegations against producer Adam Donaghey (dubbed the “Harvey Weinstein of Dallas”), and how the culture of harassment extended to other productions. News has been slow to follow, but film publications Fangoria and Birth.Movies.Death severed ties with Cinestate following the report.

Shithouse rocks SXSW
The cancellation of SXSW was one of the first major events taken off the calendar as a result of COVID-19, but the festival did its best to adjust by holding the film competition virtually. Winning the narrative feature competition was Shithouse, an independent college comedy directed, written, produced, and starring 23-year-old Dallas native Cooper Raiff.

Borat comes to Texas
Leave it to Sacha Baron Cohen to make a secret Borat sequel during a pandemic. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm left a lot of Texans feeling embarrassed, as Cohen hit the Galveston bay, brought on chaos at the Texas State Fair and talked to a Dallas plastic surgeon in the midst of his new adventure.

Drive-ins make a comeback
For movie fans looking for a way to see films on the big screen, drive-ins provided a safe and fun way to experience the power of the cinema. Local drive-ins offered the return of movie classics like Back to the Future, The Goonies and Jurassic Park, as well as limited new releases like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.

Jonathan Majors becomes a breakout star
Dallas actor Jonathan Majors was clearly one of the winners of 2020; between an acclaimed performance as Delroy Lindo’s son in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, a starring role in HBO’s wildly popular Lovecraft Country and the announcement that he’d be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the villainous Kang the Conqueror, Majors was one of the most exciting actors to watch this year.

The Vast of Night wows audiences

Amazon Prime’s science fiction thriller The Vast of Night became a bit of a sensation, as the film’s nostalgic Twilight Zone-style proved to be a worthwhile throwback to classic sci-fi adventure. The film, which was shot in Whitney, was released on Amazon Prime Video and in drive-in cinemas in May.

Cuties controversy leads to Texas court case
Controversy erupted over the Netflix film Cuties, which some saw as an exploitative and irresponsible sexualization of young girls. Various political figures, including Sen. Ted Cruz, lobbied Netflix for the removal of the film on the charges of child pornography, and a grand jury in Tyler County indicted Netflix in September.

Dazed and Confused reunion is a good time
We saw a whole lot of movie casts reunite for script reads in order to inspire people to get out to vote, but few were as entertaining as the Texas classic Dazed and Confused. Stars Matthew McConaughey, Rory Cochrane, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Joey Lauren Adams and director Richard Linklater led a fun evening that targeted Texas voters.

Matthew McConaughey gets political
Speaking of McConaughey, the Texas actor appeared in many headlines throughout the year, having co-starred in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen, appearing on a popular episode of The Joe Rogan Experience and releasing his autobiography Greenlights. McConaughey entered the political discourse too, as he was touted as a potential candidate for Texas governor and drew backlash for his comments that there are people “on that illiberal left that absolutely condescend, patronize, and are arrogant towards that other 50%."

The Deep is just as pathetic on The Boys
Maybe it was the hunger for blockbuster storytelling or our own aptitude for cynicism, but the violently satirical superhero series The Boys became one of the most-watched and discussed pop culture items this year. One of the highlights of the second season was the continued development of The Deep (played by Plano’s Chace Crawford), who is forced to join a Scientology-esque cult known as the Church of Collective after he’s kicked out of the superhero squad The Seven.

Festivals adapt to digital distribution
Film festivals did their best to provide solace to cinephiles in trying times, with fests like the Women Texas Film Festival, DocuFest, Thin Line Fest, VideoFest’s Alternative Fiction and others combining drive-ins and virtual screenings this year. Some theaters, like the Texas Theater’s Sunset Drive-In and The Forest Theater, held drive-in festival experiences for Dallas audiences.
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Liam Gaughan has been covering film and television since before he had a driver's license, and in addition to the Observer has been published in, Schmoes Know, Taste of Cinema and The Dallas Morning News. He enjoys checking classic films off of his watchlist and working on spec scripts.