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Links for the Day: The 100 Best Simpsons Episodes, The Only One: A Talk With Shonda Rhimes, J. Hoberman on Hou Hsiao-hsien and NYFF ’68 Edition, & More

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Links for the Day: The 100 Best Simpsons Episodes, The Only One: A Talk With Shonda Rhimes, J. Hoberman on Hou Hsiao-hsien and NYFF ‘68 Edition, & More

1. “The 100 Best Simpsons Episodes to Stream.” As part of Vulture’s Streaming Week, staffers, including Matt Zoller Seitz, have assembled the 100 essential Simpsons episodes.

“Arriving near the end of season two, ’Lisa’s Substitute’ was one of the best early Simpsons episodes to operate almost entirely in ’sweet’ mode (though it has its share of pop-culture references, such as Miss Krabappel trying to seduce Mr. Bergstrom à la Hoffman’s breakthrough The Graduate). It’s uncharacteristically reserved, and its final sequence—which finds Homer realizing some of his flaws as a dad and reaching out to his daughter to the extent that he can—is genuinely touching. This is also the first Simpsons episode in regular run to compact its opening credits and cut straight to the couch gag (in this case, a repeat of the one from season two’s ’Itchy and Scratchy and Marge,’ in which the family enters the living room and finds the couch missing).”

2. “The Only One.” Linda Holmes talks with Shonda Rhimes.

“One of the great manifestations of privilege for white guys who run television shows is that they rarely have to talk about this stuff on an institutional level. For the most part, as long as their shows have at least one character of color, they may be asked about particular happenings or portrayals on their own shows, but the fact that they are part of a system that turns out show after show about white guys doesn’t come up in every conversation. People who are making the same kind of television that’s already being made are usually left alone to make it. It’s people like Shonda Rhimes who are asked, over and over again, to occupy time they could be spending talking about characters and shows, building their own narratives about their ambitions and careers, sitting on the stage at the Smithsonian, talking about diversity issues they’ve addressed in their work. They are the ones asked to agree yet again that it’s not really OK that, as Maureen Ryan reported at the Huffington Post this spring, HBO at the moment effectively doesn’t make shows with creators who are not white men. As Ryan pointed out, it’s necessary but beside the point to press individual creators (like Nic Pizzolatto of True Detective) about their portrayals of women, for instance, when it prevents a broader conversation about television as a whole.”

3. “An Article on Shonda Rhimes Rightly Causes a Furor.” Margaret Sullivan of the Times admits, tacitly, of the dangers of editing while white.

“I have asked Ms. Stanley for further comment (she has said that her intentions were misunderstood, and seemed to blame the Twitter culture for that, with a reference to 140 characters), and asked her to describe her interactions with Times editors before the article was published. I have also asked the culture editor, Danielle Mattoon, to discuss the article and the editing process. And I have asked Mr. Baquet for comment. There are some big questions here—about diversity, about editing procedures and about how The Times deals with stories about women and race. They are worth exploring in depth. This is a preliminary post, and I’ll be adding to it later today, or posting again. But I’ll say this much: The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was—at best—astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.”

4. “NYFF: The 1968 Edition.” More than 40 years ago, J. Hoberman scammed himself a NYFF press badge in order to write about the festival. This is what he wrote.

“Yes, I know. I was a teenaged know-it-all, as well as a rabid soixante-huitard, a serious pothead, occasional speed freak, and fanatical cinephile. I spent the summer of 1968, between my sophomore and junior years at Harpur College (aka SUNY Binghamton), in Berkeley, crashing on people’s couches, and hitchhiking when I felt like it to North Beach where I had a menial job in the Ramparts magazine mailroom. My ’supervisor’ was an ex-Digger who didn’t believe in paying for anything and had a scam for everything. When I got back to New York, I came up with my own scam, writing to the Film Society of Lincoln Center on behalf of a non-existent film magazine (the ’Harpur Film Journal’ or some such) and securing press credentials to cover the 1968 New York Film Festival. Incredibly, this ruse worked three times, even though I never bothered to furnish the festival press office with anything even resembling clippings. At least once, however, I wrote a festival report—a 10-page single-spaced screed run off on a mimeograph machine, and distributed at one of the Harpur Film Society’s fall presentations, where it most likely wound up on the floor beneath the auditorium seats.”

5. “Taiwan’s Master Timekeeper.” And here’s J. Hoberman, in the present, on Hou Hsiao-hsien.

“When I interviewed Hou many years ago in Tapei we met at his preferred spot, a Japanese style teahouse—a marked contrast to the ’Chicago-style’ burger joint chosen by Hou’s leading contemporary Edward Yang. Unlike the gregarious Yang, whose masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day (1991) concerns Taiwan’s ’American’ period, immersed in high school turf wars and imported Elvis worship, Hou was reserved and modest, preferring to speak through a translator although he clearly understood English. He disliked travel, he told me, and was critical of Taiwanese investors who, rather than support Taiwanese films, preferred to put their money in Hong Kong or mainland productions: ’It’s typical. People don’t value their roots here.’ Rather than talk movies, he preferred to explain the history of Cold War Taiwan.”

Video of the Day: Sarah Polley speaks with Greta Gerwig about Frances Ha:

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

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.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

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

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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.

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A24
Photo: A24

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9Al2nC0vzY

A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.

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20th Century Fox
Photo: 20th Century Fox

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

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