Reports that Lana Del Rey had hit the recording studio with both Emile Haynie (who co-produced much of the singer's 2012 album Born to Die) and Benny Blanco (best known for his work with Kesha and Katy Perry) suggested she might be putting a modern twist on the throwback sound that made her famous. The first taste of those sessions, though, sounds like more of the same, with Del Rey winsomely crooning about cool kids who are “young and in love” set to a minimalist but heady symphonic arrangement that's reliably, even comfortingly formulaic. “I get ready, I get all dressed up/To go nowhere in particular,” she sings on “Love,” as if describing an entire generation as well as her creative method.
So far as La La Land's Oscar chances in each category are concerned, there are only three statuses to assign: all sewed up, highly probable, and Ryan Gosling. And one of the main reasons that the middle status even exists at all is because of this category, where writer-director Damien Chazelle's song-and-dance trifle seems most conspicuously out of its league. Not that that will ultimately hurt the film. If anything, the presence of four other highly defensible nominees probably improves La La Land's odds, at least enough to make us feel more willing to take a gamble in a category that has admittedly tripped us up more often than almost any other in the past.
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is still uncharacteristically happy in “New Best Friend,” thanks to the group that he ran into at the end of last week's episode and forms an alliance with this week—and he hasn't even been told yet about the seaside community that Tara (Ma Masterson) encountered during her last supply run. Yet, even by the standards of The Walking Dead (whose characters often speak in aphorisms, if they say anything at all), this new group is theatrically taciturn. It's as if their response to the end of the world had been to devolve rapidly, losing the power of speech in the process. Their leader, Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), talks, like The Road Warrior's Lord Humungus, in the clipped monosyllables of a toddler, ordering a follower to escort Rick to the top of the trash pile by saying: “Show Rick up-up-up.”
In a perfectly logical and reasonable world, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) would immediately make the connection between the footage of the exploded Medina Medley van at the epicenter of an explosion in New York City and the photos he'd taken the night before, of the man across the street who he believes has been surveilling Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). But how much room is left for logic in the wake of a major terrorist attack?
Those who've been paying especial attention to the bylines attached to these articles may have noticed that I've largely predicted the categories in which La La Land isn't nominated. For the conspiracy theorists among you, let me be clear: My complete and utter ambivalence toward Damien Chazelle's film necessitated that I hand over the reins of the categories in which it is nominated to Eric Henderson, or we would have risked our rolling Oscar prediction coverage rousing the level of excitement of a Jeb Bush rally. And to those who've been relishing the shade Eric has been throwing at La La Land, I apologize, because I will not be taking Emma Stone to the library today.
No film has reached the current record for most Academy Awards won (11, at least for the next nine days) without also taking this award. Ben-Hur, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King all won it. And La La Land will win it. Even if the film weren't part of the sort of Oscar tsunami we haven't really seen much of in the last few decades, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow could've begun memorizing their acceptance speech the moment the nominations were announced. The category is littered with nominations for, as Ed quoted me as saying, “I gotta watch this now?!” movies both somehow inexplicably respectable (Hacksaw Ridge) and not (Template One: A Star Wars Simulacrum and 13 Hours: The Amount of Time Trump Voters Spent Typing the Word 'E-Mails' in Comment Sections Every Day in 2016). And, as we've correctly argued time and time again, musicals have a gam up in sound mixing, even when the musicals take such perpendicular form as in Ray or Whiplash. Only if voters start feeling a tinge of buyer's remorse this far down the ballot does Arrival have an outside chance, but we'd sooner expect real-life space squids to squirt us with circular Sanskrit.
A melancholy air blows through every haunted frame of Hong Sang-soo's On the Beach at Night Alone, and it's a feeling wholly appropriate to evoking the headspace of its main character, Young-hee (Kim Min-hee). A former actress currently taking a professional break after an affair with a married filmmaker ended badly, Young-hee is seen in the film's first part wandering around Hamburg with an older friend, Jee-young (Seo Young-hwa), talking about their romantic desires and regrets with remarkable frankness. And the second part sees Young-hee meeting with various friends back in her home city of Gangneung, in a series of scenes which reveal the character's volatile mix of burning resentment and brutal self-awareness.
We're at that point in our rolling Oscar prediction coverage when fatigue inevitably turns to exasperation. It certainly doesn't help that the near-clean sweep that La La Land looks to achieve on Oscar night is difficult to have to rationalize in one tech category after another without beating a dead horse. It's why, two days ago, Eric Henderson tried to get away with a two-line assessment of the best editing race that consisted of an obscure reference to an interlude from Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation that prominently features the word “edit” in it (a remnant of said reference remains in yesterday's published piece). It's also why I wanted to roll with nothing more than “LOL, La La Land” for today's column. But that would've been as lazy as the likely outcome of this race. As such, see below for a still from Hail, Caesar!
The elaborate visual gags. The sharply ironic one-liners. The astutely poised compositions. The willfully undemonstrative acting. Those have been the familiar signposts of Aki Kaurismäki's style since the Finnish auteur burst onto the world-cinema scene in the 1980s. And if his latest, The Other Side of Hope, feels as fresh as it does, it's because of the memorable set pieces, gags (like a restaurant employee wiping what turns out to be a nonexistent window), and grace notes that spring forth from within the confines of a familiar aesthetic template. The wry and wistful are intertwined throughout the film, as in a scene where a Syrian asylum seeker says, “I don't understand humor,” when a fake-ID creator asks him if he's a man or a woman.
We could do this as fast as Janet Jackson saying “Edit” by swiftly calling another La La Land win. Which, to be clear, we are because it will. Just not in anything resembling a walk. In the not-too-distant past, the film that won best picture would traditionally also win this category, with nearly the same hit-to-miss ratio as best director. But these aren't your father's tech categories anymore, thanks to the growing schism between yesterday's tradition-of-quality filmmaking and today's prestige-blockbuster product: Spotlight versus Mad Max: Fury Road; 12 Years a Slave versus Gravity; No Country for Old Men versus The Bourne Ultimatum. The picture-editing correlation only happened once in the last six Oscar ceremonies, and arguably residual sympathy for Argo's Ben Affleck not getting a nomination for best director could have been a factor in that film's triumph over Life of Pi.