Jeff Sneider is a whipsmart, fair-minded guy with that strange intestinal fortitude quality known to very few journos in this racket. Co-panelist Scott Mantz is also part of this fraternity, having showed his own form of courage a few months ago in that Hollywood Critics Association dust-up.

In the minds of woke hive-mind fanatics I am a “divisive” columnist, as Jeff notes, but I care deeply about films and the remnants of the film culture that used to prevail in this industry (i.e., more cinematic, less of an emphasis on political instruction), and at least I’m not some breezy, constantly smiling opportunist (those Noovies promos!) and zeitgeist cruiser like Perri Nemiroff, whose face freezes and whose eyes narrow into a skeptical squint when Sneider mentions me.

“Emotional” sometimes gets conflated with “divisive”. What I am, boiled down, is a devotional, storied (40 years and counting), richly seasoned, aspect ratio-attuned, well-travelled and still strongly relationshipped Film Catholic who’s (a) filing as passionately as always and loving the grind, (b) had a pretty great peak ride for nearly 30 years (early ‘90s to late teens) but (c) has also endured some fairly intense cash-flow trauma over the last three years due to woke fanaticism, hence Sneider’s use of the term “divisive.”

Excepting the sea-change event of embracing sobriety in March of ’12, I haven’t changed that much over the last 20 or 25 years. My film devotion has been steady and reverent since I got into this racket in the late ‘70s, and I still regard myself as a sensible center-left type, but there are some Robespierre loonies (especially those from the absolutist DEI brigade and the older-white-guy-hating #MeToo fringe vengeance squad) who began going over the waterfall in ‘18 and ‘19.

That mad fervor is starting to calm down as we speak. Will woke lunacy last as long as the rightwing Red Scare paranoia did in the ‘50s? Maybe but who knows? It’s very easy to just go along with the mob. Very few have spine or sand. Even I am doing whatever I can to groove along with the loonies — no point in getting into small slap fights that I can’t hope to win.

In sum I appreciate and admire Mr. Sneider’s fairness and his respect for my integrity. Yes, I sincerely meant it when I put Empire of Light at the top of my 2022 list. Ditto my other selections, 30 in all.

Bret Stephens, 10.19.20: