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Links for the Day: Robert Drew and Dick Smith R.I.P., Amy Nicholson vs. Lucy, Brian Eno on Gaza and the Loss of Civilization, & More

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Links for the Day: Robert Drew and Dick Smith R.I.P., Amy Nicholson vs. Lucy, Brian Eno on Gaza and the Loss of Civilization, & More

1. “Robert Drew, Cinema Verite Documentarian, Dies at 90.” His son Thatcher Drew confirmed he died on Wednesday at his home in Sharon, Connecticut.

“Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in Primary and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles, has died at age 90. His son Thatcher Drew confirmed he died Wednesday at his home in Sharon, Connecticut. Starting in 1960 with Primary, Mr. Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures. With filmmakers newly unburdened, nonfiction movies no longer had to be carefully staged and awkwardly narrated. Directors could work more like journalists, following their subjects for hours and days at a time and capturing revealing moments.”

2. “Love Female-Driven Movies? Stop Supporting Bad Ones Like Lucy.” Amy Nicholson asks us to take our enthusiasm for the Luc Besson film down a notch.

“You’d never call a male character a Strong Male Character. But replace female with male and the difference is clear: it’s the gulf between Michael Corleone and any role played by Steven Seagal. Can’t even tell Steven Seagal movies apart? That’s why. And for actresses, it’s the Grand Canyon between dimensional women like Mildred Pierce and the grim-faced Furies of modern Hollywood: Lucy, Maleficent, and even highbrow bores like Jessica Chastain’s Maya in Zero Dark Thirty. (Not to mention the seventh-billed actresses forced to play The Badass Girl in disposable action flicks.) These female roles aren’t well-rounded. They’re linear machines, and instead of describing who they are, we can only describe what they want: to punish the bad guys, to crush the king, to destroy Al Qaeda. And they’re not active—they’re reactive, each existing only to get unsmiling revenge on the man or group of men who’ve done them wrong.”

3. “Gaza and the Loss of Civilization.” Brian Eno writes David Byrne a letter.

“The America I know and like is compassionate, broadminded, creative, eclectic, tolerant and generous. You, my close American friends, symbolise those things for me. But which America is backing this horrible one-sided colonialist war? I can’t work it out: I know you’re not the only people like you, so how come all those voices aren’t heard or registered? How come it isn’t your spirit that most of the world now thinks of when it hears the word ’America’? How bad does it look when the one country which more than any other grounds its identity in notions of Liberty and Democracy then goes and puts its money exactly where its mouth isn’t and supports a ragingly racist theocracy?”

4. “What Happened to Original Movies Aimed at Adults?” Richard Brody ponders the question.

“The often-told story of the rise of the auteur is the discovery that artists—headed by Hitchcock, the master showman—lurked within the most mercantile provinces of Hollywood. And so they did; for that matter, they didn’t need young French critics to tell them that they were good. But once word got out, self-consciousness set in. The New Wave filmmakers worked within the mainstream of their national film industry (in fact, taking the place of the old guard, exactly as they had intended) without for a moment sacrificing their individuality to the system, just as the New Hollywood filmmakers did a decade later. Both the French and the American generations were glorious anachronisms from the very start, fulfilling and perpetuating classical artistic ideals in places that could hardly sustain them. The mainstream French film industry is, for the most part, kept going artificially, through a complex system of direct and indirect subsidies. Hollywood remains a business. The commercial realm places even less value on Hitchcockian-type imagination than the classic studios did, but the artistic realm of filmmaking now allows creators extraordinary freedom, even if it turns each new production into an uphill battle to exist. For the exceptional filmmaker, each film is an exception, each success a happy accident. It’s only the unflagging enthusiasm of independent producers, cinematic Medicis, that provides any sense of continuity, of normalcy. The big difference now, in other words, is that the gap between great and moderate success has grown. The authorial filmmaker is less likely to make a killing, and is fortunate to make a steady living. The diversified field of cinematic and paracinematic activities that Spike Lee works in seems likely to be the way of the future.”

5. “Full Bloom.” The complicated, endearing maturity of Blossom. Yes, Blossom.

“It’s still rare for sitcoms, even the good ones, to embrace ambiguity. But in episode after episode, Blossom ends where other shows would include one more clarifying beat. In the first episode of the second season, Blossom narrates a long story to her diary about the question of whether she went to second base with a boy named Jimmy. At the end of the episode, Blossom realizes that if she writes down what happened—whether she got to second base or not—it won’t be private. So she doesn’t. We never find out. In another episode, Blossom gets tricked into going to a dance with a geek. Worried about her social capital, she lies that she can’t go, and then feels so horrible about it she changes her mind. On a different show, her guilt would exonerate her, they’d go to the dance, and he might even turn out to be cute. On Blossom, the geek isn’t having it. ’Are you suffering from the delusion that you’re super cool?’ he asks. The episode ends with her confessing her guilt to her father, who reassures her that’s what makes her a good person: ’It’s a good sign you feel bad, it means you’re a good person. Really good people are miserable all the time,’ he says.”

Video of the Day: “Godfather of makeup” Dick Smith is dead at 92:

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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