George Saunders is one of the most democratic of great modern writers. His story collections concern disappointed Americans stuck in thankless stations of life, and can be appreciated by such Americans, as the stories are written in satiric, empathetic, tightly coiled prose that sails off the page, propelled by hidden rhythms that are outwardly heartbreaking and inwardly brilliant and vice versa. To paraphrase Ratatouille, the author is implicitly saying that anyone can cook or, in this case, experience the transcendent illumination and sense of understanding and purpose that's provided by art. (Last summer, Saunders even wrote a stirring and perceptive portrait of Donald J. Trump's supporters, taking them on their own terms while rejecting said terms, somehow simultaneously.)
The gods must have heard my prayer. Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, “Hostiles and Calamities,” takes a break from the hatchet-faced military strategizing and obligatory slicing and dicing that's lately dominated the show to look at Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Sanctuary, that Dantean dystopia with an Orwellian name. The death count isn't quite zero in this episode, but Dr. Carson's (R. Keith Harris) Holocaust-evoking demise feels anything but titillating or gratuitous. And, for the first time I can remember, not a single walker is whacked, though one does lose its bottom half, along with some gooey innards, as part of its slow slide toward total disintegration.
The first words spoken in the opening credits for Homeland's sixth season are from Gil Scott-Heron's 1970 song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”: “The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things and see that there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.” This is the central conceit of tonight's episode, “The Return,” in which almost every protagonist challenges the convenient narratives being fed to them and comes to accept a new and radical point of view.
This is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2017 Academy Awards with links to individual articles.
Picture: La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Original Screenplay: La La Land
Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Foreign Language: The Salesman
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
Animated Feature Film: Zootopia
Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Animated Short: Piper
Live Action Short: Enemies Within
Film Editing: La La Land
Production Design: La La Land
Cinematography: La La Land
Costume Design: La La Land
Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
Score: La La Land
Song: “City of Stars,” La La Land
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
It should've surprised no one that Hollywood was interested in remaking the Oscar-nominated Toni Erdmann with Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig, and certainly not for the same reasons that catapulted the film to the top of our list of the best films of 2016. Spending the last month grimly assessing the chances of La La Land to not only tie but potentially surpass the all-time record for Oscar wins, we couldn't seem to get the hallmark moment from writer-director Maren Ade's masterpiece out of the back of our heads.
Sandra Hüller's Ines Conradi, a marginalized and harried cog in the machine of global capitalism, reaches a crisis point in her father's deprogramming campaign. Staring down the option of assessing her personal responsibility or picking up the musical cue that her Yamaha DX7-tinkling father, Winfried (played by Peter Simonischek), is throwing her way, she submits, howling through the all-time song-of-myself anthem: “Because the greatest love of all is happening to me/The greatest love of all is easy to achieve/Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all!” If ever a foreign film somehow lucked into a temperature read of Hollywood's state of mind, this one did.
Oscar voting ended on February 21, and usually in the last few days one can tell where a film stands—and, in some cases, always stood—from news items related to where the allegiances of certain voters lie. When actors like Mark Duplass lobby in favor of Moonlight, encouraging Oscar voters to contemplate what a best picture victory would “mean” for the Barry Jenkins film, he's acknowledging both the cultural moment in which Moonlight was fostered and its uphill battle against the received wisdom that La La Land has been the best picture favorite since the start of the awards season.
Not every category seems to have cleared the decks for a La La Land rampage. But some slates have aroused our suspicions. We can't say we'd be surprised if a whisper campaign was launched against Arianne Phillips, whose work on Tom Ford's lurid and only borderline defensible Nocturnal Animals practically flashes dollar signs up on the screen whenever Amy Adams starts crying. We're willing to bet Mary Zophres missed out on landing a nomination for her whimsical work in the Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar! as a result of Beverly Hills gerrymandering. It's a certainty that Marlon Boyce and Margot Wilson missed the secret society meeting that would've ensured The Dressmaker its rightful representation here, owing to the literal-mindedness of certain Oscar voters. And word has it that Jo Sang-kyeong accidentally spilled her amuse-bouche all over Harvey Weinstein's lapel last November, and rumor was immediately put out that her work on The Handmaiden was not to make the final five. All of these alternative facts were brought to you by the same piece of our collective consciousness that can't get over the idea of double-digit Oscar wins for La La Land, which incidentally is the same zone experiencing the cognitive dissonance of being put in a position to root for the radical un-reimagining of Jackie O's pillbox hat, as it's the only viable alternative to halt Emma Stone's twirly yellow dress in its tracks.
This is your annual reminder that Eric Henderson and I slap each other silly every year until one of us screams “Auntie Roo!” and accepts the degradation of writing about this category. Because there's only so many ways one can say that the average Academy member can't tell the difference between sound mixing and sound editing, but when they're caught between a show tune and so much sturm und drang, they know where to draw the line in the sand. Or, rather, there are enough techies in the Academy who can tell the difference between sound mixing and editing that a maelstrom like La La Land is unable to get by here simply on sheer force of will. And while we would like to think that enough of these techies will tilt the scales in favor of Arrival and its densely layered aural environment, history favors the most earth-shattering sounds here, however artificially they've been fabricated, and Hacksaw Ridge is the more predictable choice for anyone in the La La Land fan club with at least enough sense to not obligatorily check off the film's name in all of its 14 nominated categories.
If the political underpinnings of Katy Perry's new single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” were too subtle for some, she made sure to put a fine point on her message at last week's Grammy Awards, concluding her impressively choreographed debut performance of the song with a projection of the preamble of the United States Constitution. The new music video for the track is notably less pointed, offered up with more than a spoonful of the sugary, colorful imagery we've come to expect from Perry.
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.