1. “In State of the Union Address, Obama Vows to Act Alone on the Economy” After five years of fractious political combat, President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday.
“The president’s appearance at the Capitol, with all the traditional pomp and anticipation punctuated by partisan standing ovations, came at a critical juncture as Mr. Obama seeks to define his remaining time in office. He touched on foreign policy, asserting that ’American diplomacy backed by the threat of force’ had forced Syria to give up chemical weapons and that ’American diplomacy backed by pressure’ had brought Iran to the negotiating table. And he repeated his plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan this year and threatened again to veto sanctions on Iran that disrupt his diplomatic efforts.” [For a full text of the speech, click here.]
2. “Meryl Streep vs. Pauline Kael.” Karina Longworth on the physicality of Streep and how it made the actress Kael’s bête noir.
“Or maybe she didn’t ’feel’ anything about Streep at all. These types of attacks were part of what would now be called the Pauline Kael brand, and as with anything branded, there was something soulless about their manufacture; they were not, Kael would say, motivated by personal animosity. In fact, Kael claimed to be surprised when her attacks on filmmakers or other critics were ever taken seriously or personally. Kellow uses the word ’detachment’ to describe Kael’s attack mode. Kael’s daughter Gina, at her mother’s funeral, was more specific—and more critical. Gina noted that Pauline ’truly believed that what she did was for everyone else’s good, and that because she meant well, she had no negative effects. She refused any consideration of that possibility and she denied any motivations or personal needs…This lack of introspection, self-awareness, restraint, or hesitation gave Pauline supreme freedom to speak up, to speak her mind, to find her honest voice. She turned her lack of self-awareness into a triumph.’”
3. “The 10 Best Movies Based on Unfilmable Books.” Sometimes cinema and fiction should not bed down together, but every so often the results are magical.
“At best, the feature film and the novel have been uneasy bedfellows that have never stopped commingling fluids. Often the latter can get ’adapted’ into the former without much straining, but the results have as much of a chance at disappointing both the reader and the filmgoer as it does delighting either. Some books should never be made into films—for reasons that vary from unfilmable first-person voice to postmodernist tropes that purposefully obliterate the diegetic illusion that films can hardly live without. But of course these books regularly get optioned and filmed in any case, often with hopeless results. The ’filmographies’ of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner—the holy trinity of American modernists, whose fragile words absolutely belong only on the page—are testament enough to the idea that cinema and fiction sometimes just should not bed down together. Joseph Strick turned James Joyce’s Ulysses into a movie in 1967, but arguably in name only. American filmmaker Alex Ross Perry dared to adapt Thomas Pynchon’s massive Gravity’s Rainbow into a micro-indie (Impolex, from 2009), but then again, it’s more like a brief, penny-budget daydream about the book than a filmization in any meaningful sense.”
4. ”The Long Day Closes: In His Own Good Time.” Michael Koresky on the Terence Davies classic.
“Concentrated as it is on a fleeting era in his life—the years that Davies has called his happiest, after the death of his father and before the acute terrors of puberty set in—The Long Day Closes is all about the moment as it’s experienced. It offers a cinematic lushness—of cinematography, set and sound design, music—that constitutes a sort of constant ecstasy. Davies’s personal obsessions, forged during childhood, are on majestic display here: the songs of Doris Day and Nat King Cole, the escape of the movies, the enveloping comfort of friendly neighbors, the camaraderie of holiday celebrations. ’Everything seemed fixed, and it was such a feeling of security that this is how it will be forever, and I really believed that,’ Davies said of this period. Yet there’s an underlying sadness encroaching on those joys, an awareness that it all must end. In The Long Day Closes, we’re essentially seeing the world through the eyes of a child alive to its sensations, yet whose astonishment is bridled by the wisdom of a middle-aged man aware of its disappointments. The effect is an almost unbearable poignancy..”
5. “Bombast #125.” Nick Pinkerton spends a day at his local multiplex.
“Lone Survivor is a death-trip movie—the opening, in which a wounded Luttrell is airlifted out of combat, combined with the giveaway title, leaves no doubt as to the predestined outcome of Operation Red Wings. (In this and its fetishization of flayed martyr flesh it resembles The Passion of the Christ, though follow-up Apocalypto proves Mel Gibson far more gifted than Berg as a pedal-to-the-metal action filmmaker.) While Lone Survivor is ostensibly a paean to the SEALs’ combat expertise, the film doesn’t do anything to comprehensibly showcase that expertise in a firefight situation. Yoking his film to an experiential style in which illegibility denotes truth, Berg gives us no perspective as to how the SEALs’ elite training gives them a fighting edge. All we learn is that SEALs, even when Swiss-cheesed with bullet holes, consistently shoot straighter than the other guys, and are chained together by an unbreakable code of honor. We also learn that Taliban fighters are filled with what looks to be delicious strawberry jam, popping like so many pastry confections as they waltz into the line of fire. It’s numbing stuff, enough so that you can make a game of looking for thing to admire: Playing one of the doomed three, Wahlberg’s Contraband co-star, Ben Foster, embodies mean country boy tenacity. He also has to deliver the line ’Shah killed twenty marines last week,’ a statement that is not, if you want to split hairs, actually Based on a True Anything.”
Video of the Day: The international trailer for David Gordon Green’s Joe:
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 email@example.com and to converse in the comments section.
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.
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
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.
“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
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman
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.
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