Normally, around this time of year, I would be lodging many complaints about who was nominated at the Oscars: too white, too male, too many white male biopics. But this is not a normal year in any sense. Most of the traditional Oscar bait was pushed off until we can see it in theaters again, which means that most of the nominees are more indie, and, in my opinion, more deserving than usual. Stories that usually wouldn’t gain traction with the Academy–movies made by and about women, biopics about lesser-known and more radical pockets of history, smaller stories about fringe subcultures and the lives of American immigrants–are now set to sweep the Oscars on Sunday night.Continue reading →
It’s time for the Oscars again! And wow, is it a weird race this year. On the one hand, we have a genre movie like Black Panther, which is more than deserving but would never have gotten nominated a few years ago, and Roma, an arthouse darling by an auteur director that would be a lock for Best Picture/Director if the movie industry weren’t so angry at Netflix. And then we have the old standbys–a retrograde racial reconciliation fantasy, a couple of mediocre biopics, and the requisite movie-about-show-business that the Academy historically loves. So who knows?
We got every major category correct last year, but it was also a much more standard and predictable race. So here are our predictions–and our choices–but honestly, it’s anyone’s game at this point.
PSA: Similar to last year—when I watched all the nominees except Dunkirk—I have not watched Vice. I hold a real grudge against Adam Mckay after the Margot Robbie bathtub scene in The Big Short, and I am not overly impressed by prosthetic makeup, so I don’t think it would change anything. Continue reading →
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Will win: Shape of Water
Should win: Get Out
Since the Oscar voting uses a ranking system to pick the winner, the movie that wins won’t be the one loved by the most people, but the one liked or admired by the most people. This year, that’s definitely Shape of Water, a romantic fantasy with a well-realized director’s vision and a wonderful leading performance. It’s strange to call a fish-fucking film “Oscar bait,” but it is, in its way: auteur director, lead performance by a non-disabled person playing a disabled person, and a story that feels daring without actually challenging anyone’s worldview.
Stylus writes about Echo and the Bunnymen‘s eerie–and apropos–“Villiers Terrace.”
EW‘s Fall Book Preview, including Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, Elena Ferrante’s “dark and eerie” tale of a doll abandoned on a beach, and Margaret Atwood’s comic about a part-bird, part-cat superhero.
Variety‘s list of most anticipated movies this Oscar season, including Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence starrer Passengers, Derek Cianfrance’s Light Between Oceans–starring real-life couple Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender–and Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.
Speaking of Arrival, it’s getting RAVE reviews out of Venice. Here’s our favorite, from The Playlist.
You’re the Worst came back this week! We’ll be posting coverage of the premiere shortly, but for now, here’s Stephen Falk on the characters’ unsuitability for parenthood and the “traumatic” romantic experiences of the writers.
[Saying “I love you” is] never a mutual thing, it’s always one person says it. But yeah, in the writer’s room, we tell a lot of personal stories, and I do remember, yes, a lot of stories of saying it and getting a “thanks” back, or something horrible like that. All the writers have a lot of romantic trauma in our past, so there’s a lot to mine in that room.
Did you think Kafka made up the hunger artist idea? I did, but Atlas Obscura revealed that this was actually a long-running obsession in Europe.
The Razzies have come under fire in recent years for being an opportunistic, publicity-hounding sham that doesn’t add anything new to the conversation, or even manage to be funny. Rather than effectively satirizing “legitimate” award shows like the Oscars, they’ve become known for taking in-poor-taste potshots at easy targets, beating each year’s dead horse until it’s really, really, really dead.
And what’s an easier mark than Fifty Shades of Grey? Both the book series and the 2015 film are embarrassing blemishes on our culture, appallingly sexist and mind-numbingly inane pornos that reinforce damaging stereotypes and actively encourage young women to seek–and try to “save”–abusive partners. So naturally, it received no less than six Razzie nominations, pretty much every single one for which it was eligible. Continue reading →
As a 2008 college graduate who entered adult life in the middle of the country’s downward spiral into recession, I found The Big Short extremely depressing. In its detailed depiction of the machinations of the collapse, it reminded me at every turn of how much misfortune and fear were suffered by regular Americans due to the greed and blindness of the self-declared “best and brightest.” And its sardonic portrayal of how the system righted itself and kept going, without any significant reform, while everyone else suffered, reminded me of the great disappointment of the bailout. Reforms were gutted, while the banks deemed “too big to fail” got rescued with almost no consequences to themselves. Meanwhile, individuals all over the country got evicted. Filed for bankruptcy. Lived in fear.
The Big Short examines a slice of this vast injustice, but from a point of view so narrowly focused that it risks celebrating the exact culture it’s critiquing. Meanwhile, The Hunger Games—seemingly so removed from such pragmatic issues as credit default swaps—presents a luminous alternative to the shortcomings of The Big Short.
Fair warning: I’m going to assume everyone has had a chance to see these movies if they’re going to, and discuss them in full beneath the cut.
The Revenant is one of the most visually resplendent films I’ve ever seen, capturing the wilderness of the early 19th century Louisiana Purchase with an almost painful loveliness and staging its unrelenting violence with confidence and restraint. Unfortunately, beneath the flashy visuals and exemplary performances lies a boilerplate revenge story that is empty of heart, soul, and psychological insight. Cinematography aside, it plays like a particularly sophomoric superhero movie, explicitly stating its (exceedingly trite) themes left and right and eschewing any meaningful character development for the sake of a gratuitously satisfying kill shot.
(It also doesn’t help that there were no female characters of consequence. What can I say? I get bored in movies where women get raped and killed but don’t get to speak.)
In the first half of Emma Donoghue’s meticulously psychological Room, the character of Ma is just that—she’s a mother. She’s a near-saintly, self-sacrificing angel who unfailingly thinks of everything and always knows how to make everything better. She’s also not a person in her own right, but that’s the entire point, as the story is told from her five-year-old son’s perspective. To him, she is just “Ma,” because he’s never known her to be anything else. Continue reading →