1. “Kalief Browder, 1993–2015.” Browder, who was held at Rikers Island for three years without trial, committed suicide on Saturday at his parents’ home in the Bronx.
“He was driven by the same motive that led him to talk to me for the first time, a year earlier. He wanted the public to know what he had gone through, so that nobody else would have to endure the same ordeals. His willingness to tell his story publicly—and his ability to recount it with great insight—ultimately helped persuade Mayor Bill de Blasio to try to reform the city’s court system and end the sort of excessive delays that kept him in jail for so long. Browder’s story also caught the attention of Rand Paul, who began talking about him on the campaign trail. Jay Z met with Browder after watching the videos. Rosie O’Donnell invited him on The View last year and recently had him over for dinner. Browder could be a very private person, and he told almost nobody about meeting O’Donnell or Jay Z. However, in a picture taken of him with Jay Z, who draped an arm around his shoulders, Browder looked euphoric.”
2. “Adjusting to a World that Won’t Laugh with You.” A.O. Scott argues that we’re suffering through a crisis of comedy.
“It’s no good longing for a simpler age, though it is possible to imagine that once upon a time things were clearer. Through the middle decades of the 20th century, people went to hear jokes in places that were segregated by race, taste and gender. The guys at a stag smoker could guffaw at dirty jokes about women without the awkwardness of having real women present. Racist humor could flow freely at country clubs where the only black faces belonged to waiters and caddies. With a few exceptions, African-American humorists plied their trade on the chiltlin circuit, and Jews mostly stuck to the borscht belt. Television enforced these divisions and also upheld puritanical standards of decency. But as it tried to expand and homogenize a broad, fractured audience, the medium also helped to loosen old, restrictive customs. The wider American public was introduced to Flip Wilson and George Carlin, Joan Rivers and Richard Pryor. On TV, those comedians could be simultaneously countercultural and mainstream. And if they sometimes pushed against the walls of the box, getting into trouble for being too risqué or too political, their new fans knew that outside that box—in concert or on a record, for a clued-in crowd or a basement full of your friends—they could push even further.”
3. “Jean Harlow: Bombshell.” Over at Chiseler, a tribute to the movie icon by Dan Callahan.
“’I want to be free, I want to be gay and have fun!’ Harlow says in Hell’s Angels, leaning back happily on a couch to be admired. ’Life’s short, and I want to live while I’m alive.’ No bra, no panties, no problem! Her smile is so open, so inviting, as if to say, ’Come on, let’s enjoy ourselves,’ and she wants to take that enjoyment to the limit, and beyond that limit. Harlow in Hell’s Angels is the kind of person who will make out with you in a bar and won’t care how many people are watching. In fact, she obviously gets a kick out of being watched, in the bar on screen and from the dark of the movie theater, because that attention adds to her pleasure.”
4. “Kickstarting Abel Ferrara’s Siberia.” For Fandor, Adam Cook speaks with the filmmaker about his new project.
“We’re not so open-ended that we’re just throwing dreams out one after another, it’s a story structure that came to me out of the blue, it’s outside the box for us. It takes place in iconic nature. It begins in Jack London wilderness, with snow, Willem [Dafoe] is working at a café, serving coffee to whoever comes by on dogsleds. Then we start realizing you’re privy to the reality of this but you’re also going inside Willem as a character. Instead of Willem playing a character, he very much is the character. Anyways, we begin in Jack London-ville, but the script moves kind of like an odyssey, something between The Odyssey and Alice in Wonderland, by dogsled. He ends up in mythical settings, not a specific time, he’s traveling into the desert, magical countryside.”
5. “Bourdain finds Budapest a visual, culinary delight.” Last week’s episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown was extraordinarily framed around the work of Vilmos Zsigmond.
“If you’ve been following the show for any period of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a hopeless cinematography geek. That everybody who works on the show is a cinematography geek, that we’re the type of people who, in their spare time, sit around talking about directors of photography we love, films whose looks we are inspired by, and whenever possible emulate (if not outright rip off). It’s expected of the people who work with me. If you don’t know who Greg Toland is—or Vittorio Storaro or Chris Doyle, chances are you’re not going to make it on the Parts Unknown road crew. That’s the kind of nerdy, dysfunctional, annoying people we really are. So all of us were super-geeked about the gentleman who agreed to take us back to Hungary, the country of his birth, and walk us through some of the locations that figured heavily in the past. His name is Vilmos Zsigmond, and he is the cinematographer responsible for some of the most strikingly beautiful, iconic images in the history of film.”
Video of the Day: A clip from the documentary Listen to Me Marlon:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and to converse in the comments section.
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.
On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)
Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.
As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.
Will Win: Green Book
Could Win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed
Watch: Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Starring Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, Gets First Trailer
Joanna Hogg has been flying under the radar for some time, but that’s poised to change in a big way.
British film director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg, whose impeccably crafted 2013 film Exhibition we praised on these pages for its “disarming mixture of the remarkable and the banal,” has been flying under the radar for the better part of her career. But that’s poised to change in a big way with the release of her latest film, The Souvenir, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s world premiere at the festival, A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired its U.S. and U.K. distribution rights, respectively. Below is the official description of the film:
A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.
And below is the film’s first trailer:
A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.
Given what Eric wrote about the sound editing category yesterday, it now behooves me to not beat around the bush here. Also, it’s my birthday, and there are better things for me to do today than count all the ways that Eric and I talk ourselves out of correct guesses in the two sound categories, as well as step on each other’s toes throughout the entirety of our Oscar-prediction cycle. In short, it’s very noisy. Which is how Oscar likes it when it comes to sound, though maybe not as much the case with sound mixing, where the spoils quite often go to best picture nominees that also happen to be musicals (Les Misérables) or musical-adjacent (Whiplash). Only two films fit that bill this year, and since 2019 is already making a concerted effort to top 2018 as the worst year ever, there’s no reason to believe that the scarcely fat-bottomed mixing of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody will take this in a walk, for appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore.
Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Could Win: A Star Is Born
Should Win: First Man