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Links for the Day: Dave Eggers’s “The Alaska of Giants and Gods,” All-American Girl at 20, A Better Way to Think About the Genre Debate, & More

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Links for the Day: Dave Eggers’s “The Alaska of Giants and Gods,” All-American Girl at 20, A Better Way to Think About the Genre Debate, & More

1. “Dave Eggers’s ’The Alaska of Giants and Gods.’” The author’s short story concerns a woman who shows up in Alaska with her two kids, determined to find someone bold, someone of substance.

“She’d piled them into this rented R.V. and driven off, no plan in mind. The manufacturers had named the vehicle the Chateau, but that was thirty years ago, and now it was falling apart and dangerous to its passengers and to all who shared the highway with it. But after a day on the road her kids seemed fine with the crumbling machine, the close quarters, the chaos. Her kids were strange but good. There was Paul, seven years old, a gentle, slow-moving boy with the cold caring eyes of an ice priest. He was far more reasonable and kind and wise than his mother, but then there was Ana, only four, a constant threat to the social contract. She was a black-eyed animal with a burst of irrationally red hair and a knack for assessing the most breakable object in any room and then breaking it.”

2. All-American Girl at 20.” For the Los Angeles Review of Books, E. Alex Jung on the evolution of Asian Americans on TV.

“After all, if race is a structure through which we relate to one another, this setup prevents us from imagining a world where whiteness doesn’t dominate the frame. [The Mindy Project’s] Dr. Lahiri’s ethnicity is always something negative—a misperception to be corrected, something unruly to be managed. It is something that gets in the way of her personhood. Her character joked that the reason why her driver’s license lists her as blonde and blue-eyed is because she thinks it should be ’aspirational.’ The show takes this sensibility to heart. This is why, as heavy-handed as it may be, it’s important to point out that Dr. Lahiri has only dated white men on the show (seriously, here’s a list), because dating white and wealthy is the ultimate form of wish fulfillment.”

3. Hou Hsiao-hsien, Anthologized.” For Fandor, Michael Pattison on how Hou’s cinema is, like Taiwan itself, created from aesthetic flux and assimilation, cultural openness and deep sensitivity.

“That there are no less than ninety-nine film stills used to illustrate the thirty-three-page introduction to Hou Hsiao-hsien, the first English-language critical anthology published on the Taiwanese filmmaker, indicates just how ’visual’ the director’s style is. All films are definitionally ’visual,’ of course, but as is repeatedly argued in this insightful tome, Hou’s cinema seems to be exceptionally so: since making his debut feature Cute Girl in 1980, he has continued to consciously set new challenges for himself and his cinematographers, resulting in visually interpretable works of staggering image density and cinematographic depth. Collecting and editing a volume such as this is no easy task; to his credit, Richard I. Suchenski has amassed a body of essays from critics, academics and Hou’s collaborators that is as insightful about Taiwan as it is about the director’s working methods.”

4. “A Better Way to Think About the Genre Debate.” For The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman talks in a clear-headed way about genre and Station Eleven.

Station Eleven, in other words, turns out not to be a genre novel so much as a novel about genre. Unlike Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which asked what would remain after the collapse of culture, Station Eleven asks how culture gets put together again. It imagines a future in which art, shorn of the distractions of celebrity, pedigree, and class, might find a new equilibrium. The old distinctions could be forgotten; a comic book could be as influential as Shakespeare. It’s hard to imagine a novel more perfectly suited, in both form and content, to this literary moment. For a while now, it’s looked as though we might be headed toward a total collapse of the genre system. We’ve already been contemplating the genre apocalypse that Station Eleven imagines.”

5. “Everybody Must Get Stoned.” For Film Comment, Howard Hampton on Inherent Vice.

“Warning: viewers of Paul Thomas Anderson’s exacting, faithful, remarkably personalized, and occasionally unbalanced adaptation of Inherent Vice could experience an array of side effects. This rapid-fire yet meditatively paced channeling of Thomas Pynchon’s psychedelic private-eye novel may induce symptoms including but not limited to: acid-wash flashbacks, secondary potheadiness, disconsolate erections, feverish irony, confounded expectations, involuntary double-takes, and euphoric disorientation. (Extreme hairstyles on display may also trigger PTSD episodes.) Consult your local astrologer if symptoms persist…”

Video of the Day: Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal on Charlie Rose:

Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to ed@slantmagazine.com and to converse in the comments section.

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Awards

Oscars 2019: Who Will Win? Who Should Win? Our Final Predictions

No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them.

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Roma
Photo: Netflix

No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits. Across the last 24 days, Ed Gonzalez and I have mulled over the academy’s existential crisis and how it’s polluted this year’s Oscar race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again. We’re spent, and while we don’t know if we have it in us to do this next year, we just might give it another go if Oscar proves us wrong on Sunday in more than just one category.

Below are our final Oscar predictions. Want more? Click on the individual articles for our justifications and more, including who we think should win in all 24 categories.

Picture: Green Book
Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Original Screenplay: Green Book
Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Foreign Language: Roma
Documentary Feature: RBG
Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence
Animated Short: Weekends
Live Action Short: Skin
Film Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Production Design: The Favourite
Cinematography: Cold War
Costume Design: The Favourite
Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Song: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
Sound Editing: First Man
Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Visual Effects: First Man

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Picture

The industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

“I’m hyperventilating a little. If I fall over pick me up because I’ve got something to say,” deadpanned Frances McDormand upon winning her best actress Oscar last year. From her lips to Hollywood’s ears. No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits.

But first, as McDormand herself called for during her speech, “a moment of perspective.” A crop of articles have popped up over the last two weeks looking back at the brutal showdown between Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare In Love at the 1999 Academy Awards, when Harvey Weinstein was at the height of his nefarious powers. Every retrospective piece accepts as common wisdom that it was probably the most obnoxious awards season in history, one that indeed set the stage for every grinding assault we’ve paid witness to ever since. But did anyone two decades ago have to endure dozens of weekly Oscar podcasters and hundreds of underpaid web writers musing, “What do the Academy Awards want to be moving forward, exactly? Who should voters represent in this fractured media environment, exactly?” How much whiskey we can safely use to wash down our Lexapro, exactly?

Amid the fox-in-a-henhouse milieu of ceaseless moral outrage serving as this awards season’s backdrop, and amid the self-obsessed entertainers now wrestling with the idea that they now have to be “content providers,” all anyone seems concerned about is what an Oscar means in the future, and whether next year’s versions of Black Panther and Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody have a seat at the table. What everyone’s forgetting is what the Oscars have always been. In other words, the industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again, and Oscar’s clearly splintered voting blocs may become ground zero for a Make the Academy Great Again watershed.

In 1956, the Oscars took a turn toward small, quotidian, neo-realish movies, awarding Marty the top prize. The correction was swift and sure the following year, with a full slate of elephantine epics underlining the movie industry’s intimidation at the new threat of television. Moonlight’s shocking triumph two years ago was similarly answered by the safe, whimsical The Shape of Water, a choice that reaffirmed the academy’s commitment to politically innocuous liberalism in artistically conservative digs. Call us cynical, but we know which of the last couple go-arounds feels like the real academy. Which is why so many are banking on the formally dazzling humanism of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and so few on the vital, merciless fury of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.

And even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the academy’s new members, there’s that righteous, reactionary fervor in the air against those attempting to “cancel” Green Book. 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.

Will Win: Green Book

Could Win: Roma or BlacKkKlansman

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

After walking back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing here.

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BlacKkKlansman
Photo: Focus Features

Eric and I have done a good job this year of only selectively stealing each other’s behind-the-scenes jokes. We have, though, not been polite about stepping on each other’s toes in other ways. Okay, maybe just Eric, who in his impeccable take on the original screenplay free-for-all detailed how the guilds this year have almost willfully gone out of their way to “not tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film.” Case in point: Can You Ever Forgive Me? winning the WGA’s adapted screenplay trophy over presumed Oscar frontrunner BlacKkKlansman. A glitch in the matrix? We think so. Eric and I are still in agreement that the race for best picture this year is pretty wide open, though maybe a little less so in the wake of what seemed like an easy win for the Spike Lee joint. Nevertheless, we all know that there’s no Oscar narrative more powerful than “it’s about goddamn time,” and it was so powerful this year that even the diversity-challenged BAFTAs got the memo, giving their adapted screenplay prize to Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. To bamboozle Lee at this point would, admittedly, be so very 2019, but given that it’s walked back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing.

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Could Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

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