Just a quick thanks to so many of you for your kind words about this weekend’s Academy Awards. While we didn’t win an Oscar, the entire experience was fantastic. As a journalist, my trip to Hollywood felt like being a stranger in a strange land — but it was worthwhile.
I had the opportunity to meet so many talented people, and not just meet them — but also talk to them about how we can continue building the movement for climate action. I also had the chance to use my five minutes of Hollywood notoriety to stand with hotel workers in their fight for their rights.
In all honesty, I never expected to be nominated for an Oscar much less win one, but after we were given the prestigious Writers Guild award for best original screenplay, I was told I had to write a short speech in the event lightning struck and we won (we didn't). Here's what I wrote down and had in my pocket:
I left this whole experience with two big takeaways — one that’s upsetting, and one that’s encouraging.
First, I believe Don't Look Up has become more relevant than ever — and that's terrifying.
The film was initially greeted by cheers from climate activists and scientists, who have felt ignored and marginalized amid a worsening crisis. That was great. But it was also met with derision from some critics who portrayed the movie as too over-the-top — even as our government makes the climate crisis worse while temperatures have been 70 degrees above normal in Antarctica.
This all crescendoed this weekend — the film’s message about distraction was reflected in how Oscar controversies generated so much more media attention and commentary than the collapse of a New York City-sized piece of the Antarctic ice shelf. (I actually missed the Will Smith shenanigans — I had stepped out for a quick drink at the bar with Adam McKay after we didn't win).
As I left Los Angeles yesterday, I wished the world of Don't Look Up was a fantastical fiction, but as Neil deGrasse Tyson said: "Everything I know about news-cycles, talk shows, social media, & politics tells me the film was instead a documentary."
But there is good news: The incredible success of Don’t Look Up tells us that there is a pent-up audience demand for films, television shows, podcasts, and journalism projects that wrestle with the scariest and most discomfiting issues of the day.
Think about it: Our film became the second most watched movie on the world’s largest streaming platform, won the Writers Guild’s award, was nominated for four Oscars, and directly boosted the climate movement. Along the way, I had the chance to use a national television appearance to hammer corporate media for its financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Taken together, this film has been one of the most successful projects I’ve ever been involved in — and that success suggests that lots and lots of people are hungry for content that does more than merely distract, entertain, and titillate. There is an appetite for content that holds power accountable.
That’s what we do here at The Lever every day with all of our climate and political reporting — and we can only do it thanks to readers’ ongoing support. Reader subscriptions and gifts in our tip jar fund our work and make our news operation possible.
Thanks again for all the kind words about the film — my hope is that it helps kick off a new era of media content that finally takes the climate crisis seriously.
Rock the boat,
P.S. Here are some pictures I snapped during the Oscar weekend. See if you can recognize everyone! And for a good time, watch this news clip about my parents coming to the Academy Awards with me.
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