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Links for the Day: Historians on Obama’s Legacy, The Counterfeit Oscar Acting Style, Flying Lotus’s “Coronus, the Terminator” Video, & More

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Links for the Day: Historians on Obama’s Legacy, The Counterfeit Oscar Acting Style, Flying Lotus’s “Coronus, the Terminator” Video, & More

1. “53 Historians Weigh In on Barack Obama’s Legacy.” Below is the response from Thomas Powers, authors of The Killing of Crazy Horse.

“One theme dominates American history from its origins to this morning’s news—the consequences, and how to deal with them, of the importation into the United States of Africans as slaves. President Barack Obama is not a descendant of slaves, but he is black, and that fact has unloosed or perhaps only illuminated a renewed white political resistance to racial equality that future historians will record as the third phase of the struggle by white Americans to retain political and social control. The first phase, centering on the question of slavery, extended from the counting of black slaves as three-fifths of a man in the Constitution of 1787 through ratification of the 13th Amendment banning slavery in 1865. The second phase, triggered by white shock at the social revolution implicit in the end of slavery, centered on white use of vigilante terror and control of the courts to deny political and civil rights for black Americans. Soon after the civil-rights acts of the 1960s ended the second phase, a third emerged, triggered by white shock at the fact of black legal and political equality. The first line of white defense in each phase has been denial—denial in the first phase that slavery was cruel, exploitive, and wrong, and denial in the second phase that lynching, Jim Crow laws, and whites-only primaries were intended to control African-Americans. In the third phase, it is denied that implacable Republican hostility to Obama has anything to do with race; that the all-Republican South, like the all-Democratic South which preceded it, is primarily an instrument of white control; that voter-ID laws are aimed at blocking votes by blacks and Hispanics, and that the predominance of white men voting Republican (64 percent in the midterm elections) is explained by race. History suggests that it takes roughly 50 years for denial to run its course; after that, everybody will know what the struggle is about, and no historian will blame it on Obama.”

2. “The Holocaust film that was too shocking to show.” In 1945, overseen by Alfred Hitchcock, a crack team of British film-makers went to Germany to document the horror of the concentration camps. Despite being hailed as a masterpiece, the film was never shown. Now, in a documentary called Night Will Fall, the full story of its creation and suppression is being told.

“[Sidney] Bernstein assembled a remarkable team, including the future Labour cabinet minister Richard Crossman, who wrote the film’s lyrical script, and Alfred Hitchcock, who flew in from Hollywood to advise Bernstein on its structure. They set to work on a documentary entitled German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. As they worked, reels of film kept arriving, sent by British, American and Soviet combat and newsreel cameramen from 11 camps, including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. As well as the dead, the footage showed starved survivors and human remains in ovens. In one piece of film, from Majdanek concentration camp, we see huge bags containing human hair. Collected from the murdered, it would have been carefully sorted and weighed. ’Nothing was wasted,’ says the narrator. ’Even teeth were taken out of their mouth.’ Bernstein’s film then cuts to a large pile of spectacles. ’If one man in 10 wears spectacles,’ we are asked, ’how many does this heap represent?’”

3. “Confessions/Observations of an Awards Season Skeptic, Part One.” How Glenn Kenny was compelled to stop worrying and be okay with the Golden Globes.

“But there’s something to be said, if not for shallowness, then for the ability to relax into the climaxes of awards season rather than stress about what the Globe results mean for the narrative. This, I suppose, will be the task of all manner of self-appointed ’gurus,’ self-proclaimed reluctant prognosticators, ostensibly dispassionate industry analysts, and many more as various Guild and non-Guild awards ceremonies disperse various and sundry tea leaves prior to the big night less than eight weeks from now—The Oscars. The showbiz pundits whose job it is to predict sure things and/or front-runners might normally be flummoxed by the way the movie awards at the Globes were fanned out. The generosity itself was sufficient to make one suspect it was deliberate, for the sake of an entertaining show: a little love for ’Serious Indie One,’ a little for ’Serious Indie Two with Movie Stars In The Cast,’ a little love for ’Comedic Quirky Indie’…okay, so, trending: ’No Love For Blockbusters, and, Surprisingly or Perhaps Disturbingly, Little Love For Socially Conscious Drama.’”

4. “David Hall (1937–2014).” For Artforum, Leo Goldsmith remembers the pioneering video artist, who died last year.

“Hall’s work regards video as a distinct medium with unique formal properties—its paradoxical mix of the immaterial video signal and the boxy, wood-paneled television set, its ubiquity in public and domestic spaces, its seeming intractability as an art commodity. But it also allowed Hall to explore aesthetic concerns for a brief period in a broadcast medium. While working with Barbara Steveni’s Artist Placement Group in 1971, Hall was commissioned to make TV Interruptions, ten works that screened unannounced and uncredited on Scottish television. These include some of Hall’s most iconic images, including one of a burning TV set, and another that shows a running faucet that seems to slowly fill the television monitor with water. All of the TV Interruptions play with dead air and decontextualization—alien to the television format to this day—but they do so with surreal humor and a careful sense of the monitor’s dimensions and physicality. Tap Piece, as the latter ’interruption’ was later titled, wouldn’t work projected on a gallery wall. (This past fall, Tate Britain organized an installation of these works on monitors, which coincidentally opened the week of Hall’s death.)”

5. “The Counterfeit Oscar Acting Style.” Richard Brody on Julianne Moore and Jennifer Aniston’s performances in Still Alice and Cake, respectively.

“Moore and Aniston, excellent actors, cut their performances to the pseudo-refined scope of the drama. They map their expressions one-to-one to the needs of each scene. They’re virtuosi who are here misdirected to turn ballades and fantasies into drawing-room miniatures. Moore’s subtlety is a natural register; her formidable technique is utterly internalized. For Aniston, whose comic gifts are hard to stifle, the mode is uneasy, and she seems constantly on the verge of breaking out; her technique involves a self-restraint that she imposes on herself, and that effortful self-mastery is part of what wins acclaim. Moore shows off the graceful ease with which she can work hard; Aniston shows off the fierce effort with which she achieves graceful ease. They play each scene with restrained and unambiguous precision, as if filling out each moment of screen time by clicking out cinemoticons. Neither actor—and neither movie—ever comes close to letting go.”

Video of the Day: The video for Flying Lotus’s “Coronus, the Terminator”:

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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