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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #60 – #51

After Moon Safari, Air were (at least briefly) mandatory entry-level indie listening, slotted alongside Belle and Sebastian and Elliott Smith; I grew up on them.

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #60 - #51

60. William Shatner, “Common People” (Has Been, 2004)

It’s impossible to overstate how important Elliott Smith was to me from, say, ages 16-20. I was an awkward and unsociable post-adolescent, unable to sort out the teen angst from the real problems. I realized my faux-depression was immature and self-indulgent; that’s part of the reason I liked Smith so much, because he conveyed the same tension. Here was a guy writing beautifully-organized, impeccably arranged pop songs, only to fuck them all up with lyrical self-pity despite being old enough to know better. This isn’t necessarily how I feel about his work now (he had legitimate trauma to process)—but yes, there was a deliberately bratty depression thrown in there for good measure, which I dug. (Cf. “Looking Over My Shoulder”: “All I want to do is write another sonic fuck you.”) And then he killed himself and I went into mourning for two weeks, more or less. I went to a magnet high school that (Austin being Austin) might as well have been Indie Rock High, all bright middle-class white kids with collegiate music taste; his suicide was announced on Pitchfork at 8am, and by noon people who were normally friendly but distant were asking me if I was OK. I wasn’t; I was being a stupid 17-year-old, sure, but Smith’s work meant more to me than, say, most members of my immediate family.

Fast forward one year later, when the posthumous From A Basement On a Hill was getting released; I was now at NYU, but still kind of thinking like a high-schooler. I called an acquaintance and—for the first and almost certainly last time in my life—marched off to the Virgin Megastore to snap up a copy at the midnight sale. I got anticipatorily anxious in case it didn’t live up to his back catalogue, since this was all the new material left as far as I knew. As it turned out, the album was a mess—by far his worst, put together according to his not-very-clear wishes (“Ostriches and Chriping,” a negligible ambient wash, probably isn’t even his song). That same week, William Shatner put out his album, and it was better; Pitchfork’s back-to-back reviews, initially sacrilegious-seeming, were accurate. And this became strangely heartening.

There’s about seven really good tracks on Has Been, which is as much as anyone can ask for on an album that should’ve just been a queasy novelty; as a bonus, it’s the best thing Ben Folds has ever done with his mostly wasted talent. “Common People” is probably Pulp’s greatest achievement, as epic as “Baby O’Riley” but way less simplistic lyrically (class warfare in the post-Thatcher age, etc.), harnessing appropriately cheap keyboards to an unstoppably anthemic chorus. Shatner had apparently never heard it before Folds brought it to him. He might have actually taken the time to study and understand what he’s saying, or he might be bluffing and applying his signature weird reading patterns indiscriminately, but it doesn’t matter; his reading of the song is no less histrionic than Jarvis Cocker’s. Instrumentally, it’s not bad at all: Folds scrubs it down to clean, sharp keyboards and drums. What really sells it is Joe Jackson belting out the chorus in a proper way Shatner’s incapable of. The net result is a New Wave icon, ‘90s semi-alternative brat and 60-something relic uniting to affirm that this one song is, indeed, a masterpiece. The song itself is aces; the cover proves how easy it is to love it even if you’re not a lower-class Brit seething with class resentment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRPa0GhxGUs


59. Air, “Playground Love” (The Virgin Suicides, 2000)

After Moon Safari, Air were (at least briefly) mandatory entry-level indie listening, slotted alongside Belle and Sebastian and Elliott Smith; I grew up on them. Since then, their fetishization of smoothness has becomes less fashionable. That’s a shame, partly because they’ve never gotten boring and partly because they’re far more perverse than people give them credit for. Like rogue auteurists, Air seem to operate on a “one for us, one for them” principle—“them” being an audience that can’t hang with 10,000 Hz Legend’s baroque eccentricities or Pocket Symphony’s seeming desire to be nothing more than an extremely leisurely way to calibrate your equalizer. And when they’re pandering, they’re the best; few could deny the charms of Safari or Talkie Walkie. “Playground Love” splits the difference between their two modes; it goes down smooth enough, but it’s also hilariously sleazy, featuring a porno-worthy sax solo. It’s seductive, but it also knows precisely how transparent its motives are, working both as make-out song and a repudiation of the whole idea of the “make-out song.” As with many bands here, I could’ve chosen quite a few other Air songs (“The Vagabond” is the best Beck song Beck didn’t write; ditto “Somewhere Between Waking and Dreaming” for The Divine Comedy), but this is the song that most neatly splits the difference between their populist and exclusionary modes. Also, it’s better than the entirety of The Virgin Suicides, the movie, which has to count for something.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cip115EaWLk


58. Brakes, “Heard About Your Band” (Give Blood, 2005)

This is neither the first nor last meta-song about music on here, but it’s probably the only song in musical history (now or ever) to name-check Electrelane. It’s one-and-a-half minutes that remind me why I hate going to shows. “Heard about your band, I couldn’t help it you were screaming in my ear. Coked up arsehole, waiting for the Liars.” Either you get it or you don’t (if you don’t, you’re kind of lucky). For what it’s worth, Brakes’s cover of “Jackson” is indelible as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qubBPBdHXAU


57. Ying Yang Twins ft. Trick Daddy, “What’s Happnin!” (Me & My Brother, 2003)

For a sex-obsessed Atlanta rap duo with not a whole lot else on their minds, the Ying Yang Twins managed to turn people’s heads way more times than you’d expect. There was “Whistle While You Twurk,” where they somehow got away with appropriating (and corrupting) Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and “Wait (The Whisper Song),” which in its own way took rap beats as far as Missy Elliott, coasting nothing besides a weird tweaked bass-drum frequency that slides up and down while the twins whisper something the lady “might want to hear”: “Wait til you see my dick.” (Apparently the Twins think a random guy walking up to you and whispering “I’m gonna beat that pussy up” without so much as a by-your-leave are among things the ladies enjoy.) But my favorite song of theirs is the undeniably business-as-usual “What’s Happnin!” Not a whole lot happens in this song, which belongs to the genre I don’t quite get of violent-threats-as-party-jam. There’s a lot of nonsense: one of the Twins (lord knows I can’t tell them apart vocally) tells us he still likes to play with his Tonka Toys. He sleeps with his gun. If you don’t believe him, ask his mother (and lo and behold, there she is in the video). Mostly it’s about the chorus: “BOOM! IT’S ON! THIS NIGGA WILL ROCK YOUR DOME! BITCH, WHAT’S HAPPNIN’!” Now: does this resonate with my personal experience? Not one bit. Is it an awesome way to get shamefully pumped up? Absolutely. Is the video absolutely hilarious, consisting of nothing more than fights on a football field, on a basketball court and in a boxing ring while an enormously obese man cheers on the action? Yes. Yes it is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td4XmEh7Ya0


56. The Libertines, “Don’t Look Back Into The Sun” (single, 2003)

Ideologically, Britpop was basically a load of shit, a lot of half-digested notions about Britishness filtered through a sensibility that was The Kinks without the complexity; it also led musicians into some dangerous, potentially xenophobic places. Musically, though, there’s a few albums from the ‘90s that hold up like, say, everything Blur did from 1993-1997 or Oasis’ first two albums. (I can love both and still sleep peacefully at night.) I was enormously obsessed with all the stuff for a long time in high school; I didn’t just have those albums, but a lot of the shitty ones as well. I’ve heard Suede’s first album; I even had an album by jj72, who I guarantee no one else remembers. In the UK, there are still bands putting out 3-minute guitar songs with thick accents, but they’re all pretty terrible (hence the useful term “landfill indie,” which really should be adopted stateside). The Libertines were the last band in this vein to be any good; on Up The Bracket, they were phenomenal. Shamelessly derivative and filled with the kind of energy that proved Pete Doherty didn’t really need to be on drugs in the first place, it made sentiments like “There are fewer more distressing sights than that of an Englishman in a baseball cap” make you want to agree, even if you really didn’t.

For their two albums, The Libertines worked with The Clash’s Mick Jones, who made them record live as much as humanly possible; the results were amazing on their first album and sporadically brilliant (but often messy) on their second and final album. For their radio singles, though, The Libertines turned to Bernard Butler. Butler—of the oft-moronic, aforementioned Suede—may be kind of a lousy songwriter, but he’s become a terrific producer over the years. Basically what Butler does is fine-tune every sound to a manipulative, compressed sheen that’s really no different in spirit from what Mutt Lange did for Shania Twain, but it’s so polished you don’t mind being manipulated. The release of momentarily being a slick band (as opposed to live performers getting it right while keeping the energy going) parodically freed up The Libertines to eulogize themselves as they were breaking down. “Don’t Look Back Into The Sun” tells you to keep racing, but it’s really closer to their last hurrah than they could’ve guessed. It kind of gives me chills. And then Britpop’s last afterbirth was over; the Arctic Monkeys never meant anything to me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g207eTzVw0


55. Sparks, “Suburban Homeboy” (Lil’ Beethoven, 2002)

Sparks have been around since 1970, and they still have the remarkable ability to annoy people just as intensely as the day they emerged; I love them, but I keep them in the privacy of my home. Play a Sparks song for most people, and their faces contort in pain; they assume I’m being ironic/masochistic. (OK, not this time.) Sparks’ aughts consisted largely of minimal keyboard loops, four repetitions at a time, bringing literal minimalism and chorale structure to bear on the pop song, tied to sardonic lyrics, the whole thing somewhere between theory and musical theater. “Suburban Homeboy,” on the face of it, should be an embarrassment: two fiftysomething men mocking hip-hop fans. But they’re not out of touch; they know precisely what they’re mocking (the dreaded, increasingly standard suburban white boy blasting Jay-Z in his SUV on the way to Friday’s football game and discussing how he relates to it), and they skewer it with relentless precision. Over a song that sounds like an Oklahoma! reject, the brothers Mael nicely dissect the psychology of someone who can say, with a straight face “My caddy and me, he looks just like Jay-Z.” A time capsule of a moment that sounds nothing like its moment—or any other moment, really.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFP4aByUfxA


54. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, “House Fire” (Broom, 2005)

It used to be that bands would hang tight locally until they were good enough to blow up and go national; nowadays, I’m not even sure what a “local band” might still be. (They grow up so fast! Or fade into nothingness. Local jam bands don’t count.) The impeccably collegiate Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin came from Portland and burst in 2005, at the moment when print music journalism was making its last stand; they got the best of print media and blog buzz at the same time, before the blog world accelerated everyone’s timetable. Presumably long out of school, SSLYBY’s terrific Broom nonetheless sounded like smart indie rock for grad students bumming around a liberal arts college town: they make propositions of marriage for after their thesis is done, they go on road trips, they “smoke all night” and “cough all day” because they’re young and think/know they can still quit. “House Fire” is a pretty simple metaphor (burning house as relationship), done with an understated wistfulness that’s hard to deny (certainly better than Charlie Kaufman managed), livened halfway-through by a strong guitar solo that kicks things up into a higher gear without getting immodest. It sounds like what it is: Dudes recording in their house, because they can and it’s the time of their life to do such things. (That I never got the chance is maybe my biggest regret about leaving Austin.) And yes: in case you’re wondering, they did eventually play in Moscow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60ihVk8_W-4


53. Scissor Sisters, “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” (Scissor Sisters, 2004)

On paper, Scissor Sisters were not really My Thing, a group of hard-partying gay club kids singing about transsexuals and crystal meth. Their debut album, though, was super-fun ‘70s pastiche regardless of where the lyrics were coming from: I made it thirty seconds into the first song from their follow-up (“I Don’t Feel Like Dancing,” which sounds like seriously methed-up ABBA) to realize how relatively calm they were the first time time around. Their self-titled debut splits evenly between the rocking and the balladeering; “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” is the best of the latter category. The lyrics are the kind that read badly printed (“it can’t come quickly enough/And now you’ve spent your life/Waiting for this moment/And when you finally saw it come it/Passed you by and left you so defeated”) but scan really well after a night that’s gone downhill fast. It’s a farewell to fast-receding youth, but (perhaps more movingly) it’s really a song from someone young and wasted, who thinks a nebulous “it” is all over after a particularly bad night. (Alternately, they could just be perpetual drama queens, which is totally possible.) Worth noting: Both their debut and Franz Ferdinand’s came out one week apart in the UK. FF broke the US, but SS cracked the UK; band chiasmus in action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FW2BhtxcYg


52. Brendan Benson, “Jet Lag” (Lapalco, 2002)

“Jet Lag” is one of the best kiss-off songs of the decade, but it comes from an incongruous place. The talented Mr. Benson had, it’s true, been chewed up and spat back out by the major label system, but that didn’t make him any different from Clipse, Wilco, Spoon et al.—comparatively experimental groups that found new life with indie support. Benson, though, wasn’t remotely experimental; he just had the misfortune to be obsessed with twisty-but-hooky songs. He noted (in an interview I remember but can’t find) that he was screwed in the mid-90s because label execs complained his songs had no choruses. Which was ridiculous: There were pretty much three in each song, just never repeated. Each discrete part was that catchy. And, for whatever reason, mainstream radio America and indie nation can agree on one thing: Songs with no ambitions besides being sugary earworms are a bad thing, no matter how intelligently executed. AllMusic coined the unwieldy, largely unused term “Pop Underground,” which proved useful and suitably self-loathing. To wit:

”…power-pop that came after the original golden age of power-pop in the ‘70s and very early ‘80s. The main difference is time period, so Pop Underground is still distinguished by power-pop’s hallmarks—sweet British Invasion melodies and harmonies, ringing but muscular guitars. Yet because Pop Underground extends the life of a form whose most vital stages of development are past—and a form that was already classicist to begin with, at that—its artists either update the formula with contemporary twists, or simply re-create that formula to the best of their ability.”

Such retro-fetishization has never been a problem for the blues-rock purists, because that’s “tradition” and “authenticity”; in contrast, emulating Big Star apparently mostly means you’re retarded. Fine. Benson’s songs were about as innovative as they come in the arrangements department; as “Jet Lag” lurches into its chorus, the formerly trad acoustic guitar/vocals are joined by a deranged chorus of deep-voiced chanters and whistlers, an initially unnerving effect. What Benson’s saying, though, is very clear: “My precious generation is wasting their time/And behind their backs/I’m slipping through the cracks.” And why? Because we hate hooks. Nearly half of Lapalco was co-written with Jason Falkner, a clever multi-instrumentalist and talented songwriter who was, at the time, a bigger deal, doing session gigs with Air, Beck et al.; Benson’s climactic piss-take was solely his own, but it was also a dispatch on behalf of an entire genre. Ironically, Benson’s career was eventually resurrected by mega-fan Jack White, who drafted him into The Raconteurs, transforming him from struggling cult hero to That Guy Who Plays Next To Jack White. But he earned the money for sure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT9PAa7t11w


51. Aimee Mann, “The Fall Of The World’s Own Optimist” (Bachelor No. 2, 2000)

Aimee Mann’s songs can often be boring (in the way that makes “well-crafted” pejorative), but her work with Jon Brion on the Magnolia soundtrack anchored said “well-crafted” songs to innovative, melodically restless production, some of which carried over to Bachelor No. 2. This song (oddly enough, co-written with Elvis Costello—I can’t really hear it) is perfect mope music (i.e., Mann’s entire career), down to the very title. Which doesn’t make it distinguishable from most of the songs on this list, but the chorus (“Hey kids, look at this/It’s the fall of the world’s own optimist”) gets stuck in my head on a pretty regular basis whenever I’m bummed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyQlFpofGkA

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

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Who Killed My Father Is Heartbreaking but Prone to Pat Sociological Analysis

Édouard Louis’s latest is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts.

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Who Killed My Father

Author Édouard Louis’s father has been an important figure in each of his previous works, even when he’s never seen or mostly at the periphery (as in The History of Violence). With his latest, Who Killed My Father, Louis finally turns to directly examining his most important, damaged relationship. Both in his previous books and interviews, Louis has repeatedly acknowledged this broken relationship, largely stemming from the author’s open homosexuality. Alongside this, Louis’s prior works have circled around a number of themes to which he returns here: the French political and working classes, the small-town prejudices that surrounded his upbringing and drove a closeted homosexual boy to escape to more cosmopolitan Paris, and the role of state power in producing social and physical illness.

With Who Killed My Father, Louis invites inevitable comparisons to Abdellah Taïa, another talented French writer who’s also gay and largely estranged from his place of origin, and also primarily an autobiographical novelist. Like Louis, Taïa incorporates his complicated relationship with a parent into several of his books. Taïa also connects that relationship, his writing, and his experience with the society he left behind in Morocco and the one he found in France. But what distinguishes his writing in, for example, Infidels or Salvation Army from that of Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father is a strong sense of meaning. Taïa incorporates his relationship with his mother, M’Barka, to convey something more meaningful and developed.

Louis begins down this same road before clumsily inserting a political tract at the end of Who Killed My Father that doesn’t knit as effortlessly with parts one and two. The book situates Louis’s relationship with his father front and center as compared to his previous work. It’s clear that he’s exposing the painfulness of their relationship for the purpose of speaking about political power and its physical and social toll on those who don’t possess it, but Who Killed My Father stumbles in conveying its message adequately.

Louis’s account of his father’s suffering and violence toward those around him is both painful and sharp. Who Killed My Father is strongest when Louis is demonstrating his father’s most private acts of kindness, as when the father gives Louis a copy of Titanic for his birthday after trying to convince him to ask for a more “masculine” gift. After Louis realizes that his carefully planned tribute to the pop band Aqua at a family dinner has embarrassed his father, the man reassures Louis that “it’s nothing.” In the book’s first and strongest part, Louis expounds not only on the relationship with his father, but also excavates what might have made his father the man he grew up with. At one point, he recounts finding a photograph of his father in women’s clothes—undoubtedly some adolescent joke, but also inconceivable from the man who insisted to his son that men should never act like girls.

Regrettably, part one ends with a trite conclusion that says everything and nothing at the same time. In part two, the story attempts to braid together all the malignant threads of Louis’s family narrative. Louis recalls igniting a violent outburst between his father and older brother as a result of his mother shaming him for acting too much like a girl (“faggot” is what some others in the neighborhood more precisely call him). The insinuation hurts and angers him so much that he betrays his mother’s confidence on another family secret, setting loose a new wave of violence. Part two is short and important to moving Who Killed My Father toward some wider evaluation of the questions Louis begins the book with, but it ultimately fails to find its footing by pivoting in part three to an unearned polemic against the political classes.

Who Killed My Father is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate (except in brief moments of tenderness) through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts, but the book at its weakest when trying to ham-handedly force this narrative into some broad theorizing about power and society and structural violence. Part one aligned beautifully with a narrative of meaning more comparable to Taïa at his best. Unfortunately, the story quickly falls apart when Jacques Chirac is indicted for destroying Louis’s father’s body through changes in health care coverage. It’s not that the questions Louis ends with aren’t necessary and important ones; it’s that there’s so little threading the narrative together into anything cohesive. What was the point of the first two-thirds of the book? His father was cruel, occasionally loving, but never mind because the state is killing him? The life of the poor is one of abject powerlessness against an unremittingly powerful and callous “ruling class”?

Louis deserves credit for the attempt to tie it all together into some grander commentary on the political class and its ambivalence, but the conclusion is simultaneously glib and condescending. Perhaps Louis didn’t intend it, but the book’s conclusion drains away responsibility for the cruelty and bigotry of those like his father, and patronizes them as with a quick How could we expect any better of the noble, working poor? Is it the state’s or the ruling class’s subjugation of his father’s body that’s somehow also responsible for his inability to sympathize with gays or immigrants? Of course, the poor are subjugated by the rich and Louis has written more meaningfully about the implications of that relationship elsewhere. But in Who Killed My Father, he inadvertently demonstrates that the answer isn’t to sanctify them any more than it is to demonize them.

Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father is now available from New Directions.

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Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 30

To celebrate this sacred anniversary, we’re taking a look back at the single’s evolution over the last three decades.

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Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 25

This week Madonna’s iconic hit “Like a Prayer” turns 30. The song is, by all accounts, her most broadly beloved contribution to the pop-music canon, landing at #7 on our list of the Best Singles of the 1980s. Even the singer’s most ardent critics can’t help but bow at the altar of this gospel-infused conflation of spiritual and sexual ecstasy, a song that helped transform Madge from ‘80s pop tart to bona fide icon. To celebrate this sacred anniversary, we’re taking a look back at the single’s evolution over the last three decades.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 3, 2014.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x2z_rY1Fjk

Pepsi Commercial

Following a teaser that aired during the 31st Annual Grammy Awards in January of 1989, Madonna premiered “Like a Prayer” in a Pepsi commercial during The Cosby Show, the #1 rated series on U.S. television at the time. Part of a $5 million sponsorship deal with the soft-drink company, the ad, titled “Make a Wish,” was an innocuous bit of nostalgia that would soon be eclipsed by the scandal surrounding the single’s forthcoming music video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79fzeNUqQbQ

Music Video

Madonna dances in front of burning crosses and kisses a black saint in a church pew in this modern morality tale about racial profiling and pious guilt, prompting both the religious right and cultural critics, like bell hooks, to cry foul. Eventually, the mounting outrage caused Pepsi to pull out of their multi-million dollar deal with the Queen of Pop. The singer’s response was coyly defiant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Xvjnay4kS8

Blond Ambition Tour

Madonna’s first live incarnation of “Like a Prayer” was also her best. Sure, her voice was raw and unrefined (“Life is a misstaree, eve’one mus stan alone,” she heaves), but her 1990 tour performances of the song displayed a rapturous, almost possessed quality that she’s never been able to recapture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4vSbVWm6F8

Mad’House Cover

Dutch Eurotrash group Mad’House’s claim to fame is their blasphemous take on “Like a Prayer” from 2002. The glorified Madonna cover band’s version is stripped of the original’s nuance and soul, a tacky, mechanical shell of a dance track. Regrettably, this is the version you’re most likely to hear on Top 40 radio today. (Only slightly less heretical, the cast of Glee’s rendition of the song peaked at #27 in 2010.)


MTV On Stage & On the Record

Then notorious for forsaking her older material, Madonna dusted off “Like a Prayer” in 2003 during the promotion of her album American Life. Thirteen years after her last live performance of the song, even Madonna’s comparatively reedier voice and noticeably more limited range couldn’t diminish its enduring magic.


Sticky & Sweet Tour

After performing crowd-pleasing but relatively anemic versions of “Like a Prayer” during her Re-Invention Tour in 2004 and Live 8 in 2005, Madonna reinvented the song for her Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008, using elements of Mack’s “Feels Like Home” for an amped-up techno mash-up.


Super Bowl XLVI

Madonna closed her record-breaking Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in 2012 with “Like a Prayer,” and though she wasn’t singing live, it was the closest she’s ever gotten to her ecstatic Blond Ambition performances. (For those lamenting the lip-synching, she would go on to reprise this version of the song, completely live, during her MDNA Tour later that year.) And if there were any doubt, a stadium of nearly 70,000 football fans waving flashlights and singing along is a testament to the song’s transcendent, all-encompassing appeal. The performance’s final message of “World Peace” seemed attainable, if only for a brief moment.


Met Gala 2018

Last year, Madonna dusted off her old chestnut for an epic performance at Vogue magazine’s annual Met Gala. The event’s theme was “Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” which seemed tailor-made for both the Queen of Pop and “Like a Prayer.” Madonna slowly descended the steps of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in a shroud, flanked on both sides by a choir of monks, as she sang a Gregorian-inspired rendition of the pop classic. The performance also featured a portion of a new song, “Beautiful Game,” and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

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Oscars 2019: Complete Winners List

The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS. Which isn’t to say that the ceremony wasn’t without its surprises. For one, whoever decided to capture Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s performance of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born in one single take that would end with the pair sitting side by side, rapt in each other and framed in Bergman-esque repose, should hereby be responsible for every Oscar ceremony moving forward.

For some, though not us, Green Book’s victory for best picture came as surprise. As our own Eric Henderson put it in his prediction: “Those attacking the film from every conceivable angle have also ignored the one that matters to most people: the pleasure principle. Can anyone blame Hollywood for getting its back up on behalf of a laughably old-fashioned but seamlessly mounted road movie-cum-buddy pic that reassures people that the world they’re leaving is better than the one they found? That’s, as they say, the future that liberals and Oscar want.”

In the end, the awards went down more or less as expected, with the only real shock of the evening being Oliva Colman’s stunning upset over Glenn Close in the best actress race. (Glenn, we hope you are on the phone right now trying to get that Sunset Boulevard remake to finally happen.) Black Panther proved more indomitable than expected, winning in three categories (none of which we predicted), and Free Solo pulling a victory over RBG that was the first big sign of the evening that, then and now, AMPAS members vote above all else with their guts.

See below for the full list of winners from the 2019 Oscars.

Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book (WINNER)
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Director
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (WINNER)
Adam McKay, Vice

Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Actress
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book (WINNER)
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (WINNER)
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee (WINNER)
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

Original Screenplay
The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly (WINNER)
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

Foreign Language Film
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico) (WINNER)
Shoplifters (Japan)

Documentary Feature
Free Solo, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (WINNER)
Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross
Minding the Gap, Bing Liu
Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki
RBG, Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Animated Feature
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman (WINNER)

Cinematography
Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón (WINNER)
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Film Editing
BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman (WINNER)
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin

Production Design
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler (WINNER)
First Man, Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre and Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enrı́quez

Original Score
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman

Original Song
All The Stars from Black Panther by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
I’ll Fight from RBG by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
The Place Where Lost Things Go from Mary Poppins Returns by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Shallow from A Star Is Born by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Costume Design
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter (WINNER)
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War, Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, and Daniel Sudick
Christopher Robin, Chris Lawrence, Mike Eames, Theo Jones, and Chris Corbould
First Man, Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, and J.D. Schwalm (WINNER)
Ready Player One, Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler, and David Shirk
Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Dominic Tuohy

Sound Mixing
Black Panther, Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor, and Peter Devlin
Bohemian Rhapsody, Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, and John Casali (WINNER)
First Man, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee, and Mary H. Ellis
Roma, Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan, and José Antonio García
A Star Is Born, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder, and Steve Morrow

Sound Editing
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst (WINNER)
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay

Makeup and Hairstyling
Border, Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
Mary Queen of Scots, Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher, and Jessica Brooks
Vice, Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia Dehaney (WINNER)

Live Action Short Film
Detainment, Vincent Lambe
Fauve, Jeremy Comte
Marguerite, Marianne Farley
Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Skin, Guy Nattiv (WINNER)

Documentary Short Subject
Black Sheep, Ed Perkins
End Game, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Lifeboat, Skye Fitzgerald
A Night at the Garden, Marshall Curry
Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi (WINNER)

Animated Short
Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden and David Fine
Bao, Domee Shi (WINNER)
Late Afternoon, Louise Bagnall
One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
Weekends, Trevor Jimenez

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