Late last night Lana Del Rey dropped the nostalgic music video for “Freak,” the latest single from last year's Honeymoon. It's no big secret that the singer is enamored with all things past, and the clip, co-starring Father John Misty, is a hazy, drug-dosed trip back to 1960s California. In her 2012 song “Gods & Monsters,” Del Rey conjured Jim Morrison, and she resurrects him again here via Misty, who does an uncanny Lizard King impression. The pair drinks Kool-Aid, drops a tab of acid, and is soon joined by the girls from Del Rey's “Music to Watch Boys to” video. The 11-minute clip then segues from “Freak” into Debussy's “Clair de Lune” as the group of would-be lovers float angelically underwater for over five minutes. Watch the video below:
When deliberating over how we expected the general field to go down this year, the question was never trying to figure out why Taylor Swift would win. Rather, it was: How could she not win? It may seem like eons ago in this current era of welcoming Adele to our collective heaving bosom to the tune of eight million albums, but for a brief while her publicists were doing a pretty bang-up job of selling the entire industry on Swift as their cute, crossover savior. The sentiment of “How many Grammys can we give you?” hangs thick in the air despite her nomination haul of seven seeming rather paltry against Kendrick Lamar's 11.
20th Century Fox
The spectacular flame-out of Steve Jobs from this year's Oscar race was depressing for once again illuminating the media complicity, mainly among those particularly susceptible full-time pundits who are perversely unaware of just how much their groupthink influences the industry's own, that goes into turning this dog-and-pony show, year in and year out, into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once the frontrunner for best picture, the Danny Boyle film saw its Oscar ambitions stymied not so much by its underperformance at the box office, but instead by the million unnecessary think pieces debating the potential costs of said underperformance.
Rather than run with the narrative that Steve Jobs, like the Apple brand in its nascent years, was an underappreciated commodity, that it would not be hurt by its box-office failure any more than, say, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker was, pundits stopped cheerleading for the film because they convinced themselves it was no longer fashionable to do so. (Being right, after all, is the modus operandi of the average pundit's investment in any given year's Oscar race.) And because the hearts and minds of the industry, at least its ears, are privy to how films go up like stocks on the countless charts published on sites like GoldDerby, a challenger quickly became an also-ran.
Michael Bérubé's The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter How Understanding Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way We Read is that rare book that manages to speak to its specialized academic audience while imagining and addressing a much broader readership. Bérubé, who's the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, has crafted an accessible, if still rigorous, study of the way fiction grapples with intellectual disability.
“Representations of disability are ubiquitous,” he states in his opening sentence, “far more prevalent and pervasive than (almost) anybody realizes.” Take Disney's Dumbo: You maybe wouldn't use the language of disability to describe the oversized ears of the titular elephant, but at the heart of the 1941 film is a message about overcoming—embracing even—one's differences in order to succeed. By the end of Bérubé's book, you're likely to start spotting the way disability is often used as a trope in films as diverse as Minority Report, Total Recall, and Mad Max: Fury Road. But Bérubé wants to push us further than merely understanding the ubiquity of disability in pop culture. This is especially important as disability (both physical and intellectual) is often used as a metaphor or character trait in popular art, significant only in the way it teaches us something about a story or a character with rarely any nuance with regard to the disability itself.
If voters had decided Best New Artist in the weeks following the release of Meghan Trainor's debut, Title, the innocuous blond pop star would have been an easy bet. With four Top 20 singles and an all-time best seller in “All About That Bass,” Trainor possessed the mainstream success and general likability synonymous with this category. In recent months, however, Trainor's star has waned (marred by feminist critiques of both “All About that Bass” and “Dear Future Husband”), leaving room for a surprise victor.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Pixar's Inside Out is going to win the Oscar, and more or less deserves it. With that out of the way, let's at least take a moment to tip our hat to the Academy for generating a slate that not only managed to avoid any movie with a number in its title, but also including only one entirely computer-animated film. Whether it's evidence of a crisis of conscience in the industry or just a transitory blip in the space-time continuum, it's worth noting that the Annie Awards, whose love affair with Pixar seemingly ended with Up, just went ham for Inside Out, delivering it a robust 10 awards. Then again, maybe it's simply a question of quality outing the competition, given Inside Out slayed the studio's other heavily nominated 2015 effort,
The Land Before Time The Good Dinosaur, and Don Hertzfeldt's stunning World of Tomorrow pushed past Sanjay's Super Team for a surprise win (an outcome we don't see Oscar replicating, much as we'd like to).
Tonight's episode of The X-Files, “Home Again,” pivots on two narratives, one of which is promising and occasionally quite chilling. The first, which has social reverberations that suggest a fusion of Candyman and Land of the Dead, follows a group of bureaucrats and politicians in Philadelphia as they're brutally murdered by a large, looming, albino entity that resembles the “Slender Man” of online urban legend, who leaves no footprints and who drips pus and maggots everywhere he goes, though his telltale signature is a used Band-Aid that's left on the scene of every crime, which strangely leaves no discernable genetic material. A homeless person calls this creature the “Band-Aid Nose Man” (John DeSantis), saying this name with an impression of awe that subtly affirms this avenger as a possible champion of the disenfranchised.
Beginning tomorrow, we're predicting the winners in the so-called Big Four categories at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, airing Monday, September 15th on CBS. Kendrick Lamar is nominated for a whopping 11 awards, besting Eminem for the rapper with the single most nods in one night, and second only to Michael Jackson, who was nominated for 12 awards back in 1984. Of course, Lamar will have to compete with Taylor Swift, Alabama Shakes (pictured above), Kanye West, and more. We're kicking things off with our picks in some of the smaller genre categories, including the usual suspects—dance, rock, R&B, and rap—as well as musical theater (the opening number from hip-hop-infused frontrunner Hamilton will be broadcast live from Broadway during the show). Keep an eye on our predictions all this week to see how we think things will shake out!
Sony Pictures Classics
We could make a case for Ciro Guerra's visually ravishing Embrace of the Serpent, a black-and-white allegory of paradise lost shrouded in the dark shadows of colonialism, about two white scientists and their 40-year relationship to an Amazonian shaman, but you would laugh at us. Or Tobias Lindholm's schematic but well-acted A War, for how one man's frenzied nosedive into the muck of war is put under a court of law's vigilant microscope, except it rarely strikes the overwrought motions that are typically anointed here. Two coming-of-age films set in the Arab world, Theeb and Mustang, may benefit from stoking voters' righteous emotions, but then we remind ourselves of Son of Saul's existence here and even Mustang's fairy-tale-like exhibition of five sisters literally and figuratively imprisoned by Islamic orthodoxy begins to feel like a hard sell.
Beyoncé is many things, but subtle isn't one of them. “Stop shooting us,” reads graffiti on a wall in the music video for the R&B singer's new single, “Formation,” intercut with scenes of a boy in a black hoodie facing off against a line of riot police with nothing but his dance moves. But the clip, directed by Melina Matsoukas, is much more than simply an audio-visual manifestation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Doubling as a tribute to New Orleans, the video opens with a pointed shot of Beyoncé standing atop a New Orleans Police Department car submerged in floodwater, and it dips even further back into our country's racially charged history to ask, via a fake newspaper titled The Truth, “What is the real legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and why was a revolutionary recast as an acceptable Negro leader?”