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Links for the Day: How Empire Became a Breakout Hit, A.O. Scott Interviews Ava DuVernay, Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer, & More

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Links for the Day: How Empire Became a Breakout Hit, A.O. Scott Interviews Ava DuVernay, Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer, & More

1. “Five Reasons Why Fox’s Empire Has Become a Breakout Hit.” Inkoo Kang explains in The Village Voice.

“The idea that Cookie and Lucious rose from the bottom of the Bronx to a mansion in Manhattan is an American Dream come wildly, ostentatiously true: They had the talent and put in the hustle to go all the way to the top. But all that happened before the start of the show, which is more interested in whether such outrageous success can be maintained. Lucious has put his company in great jeopardy by preparing it for an IPO launch, which invites intense public scrutiny. It’s essentially a double-or-nothing bet on his life’s work. And if much of the American mythos is about how every generation does better than its parents, here, again, we see Empire’s skepticism toward the ability to build something and have it last. For the last two decades, Lucious has built a dynasty, not a family—so much that fratricide is an ongoing plotline on the show. Somewhere out there, Ozymandias is laughing.”

2. “Ava DuVernay Didn’t See the Reaction to Selma Coming.” A.O. Scott interviews the filmmaker.

“Nobody was thinking about Lyndon Johnson. If I was thinking about any issues around representation and any kind of pushback, it was gonna be King. We were showing King, living and breathing, having an ego, smoking. And so I didn’t think twice about L.B.J., because as far as I’m concerned what I portrayed is what I feel about L.B.J. Yes, he was a hero, but he was a reluctant hero.”

3. “America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching: When 237 People Were Murdered In Arkansas.” In 1919, in the wake of World War I, black sharecroppers unionized in Arkansas, unleashing a wave of white vigilantism and mass murder that left 237 people dead.

“The root cause of 1919’s violence was the reassertion of white supremacy after World War I. Disfranchisement, Jim Crow laws, and biased police forces and courts had stripped African-Americans of many of their constitutional rights and created deepset economic, social, and political inequities. Blacks who defied the rules and traditions of white supremacy risked personal ruin (being banished from their hometowns was one punishment), bodily harm (beatings and whippings), and death. In just five months in 1919, from January to May, more than 20 lynch mobs murdered two dozen African-Americans. One of these victims was a black veteran killed for refusing to stop wearing his Army uniform. Lynchers took pride in their actions, often posing for photographs at the scenes of their crimes; few were ever charged, let alone convicted. Mob violence helped protect the racial status quo.”

4. “My Own Life.” Oliver Sacks on learning he has terminal cancer.

“Here I depart from Hume. While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions. And yet, one line from [David] Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: ’It is difficult,’ he wrote, ’to be more detached from life than I am at present.’ Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.”

5. “Why the film with the most first place votes might not win best picture.” Glenn Whipp, for the Los Angeles Times, explains the screwy logic of AMPAS’s preferential voting system.

“The Oscar winner for best picture Sunday night probably won’t be the movie that the majority of voters put atop their ballots. That’s because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences uses a preferential voting system, one adopted six years ago when it expanded the best picture category from five movies to as many as 10. The system aims to ensure that the film with the broadest support wins—which isn’t necessarily the film that gets the most first-place votes. ’It is counterintuitive,’ says Brian Cullinan, one of two partners with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers who will be tallying the ballots this week after Tuesday’s voting deadline. ’Often, it’s the movie listed third, fourth or fifth on a great many ballots that ends up winning. That’s hard for people to understand.’”

Video of the Day: Reverse Shot’s Eric Hynes chats with Steve James:

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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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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