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Links for the Day: The Death of Adulthood in American Culture, Bill Hader Interview, Robert Christgau: Expert Witness, The Strength of Robin Williams, & More

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Links for the Day: The Death of Adulthood in American Culture, Bill Hader Interview, Robert Christgau: Expert Witness, The Strength of Robin Williams, & More

1. “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” A.O. Scott on Tony Soprano, Walter White and Don Draper, the last of the patriarchs.

“The widespread hunch that Mad Men will end with its hero’s death is what you might call overdetermined. It does not arise only from the internal logic of the narrative itself, but is also a product of cultural expectations. Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the era not just of mad men, but also of sad men and, above all, bad men. Don is at once the heir and precursor to Tony Soprano (fig. 2), that avatar of masculine entitlement who fended off threats to the alpha-dog status he had inherited and worked hard to maintain. Walter White, the protagonist of Breaking Bad, struggled, early on, with his own emasculation and then triumphantly (and sociopathically) reasserted the mastery that the world had contrived to deny him. The monstrousness of these men was inseparable from their charisma, and sometimes it was hard to tell if we were supposed to be rooting for them or recoiling in horror. We were invited to participate in their self-delusions and to see through them, to marvel at the mask of masculine competence even as we watched it slip or turn ugly. Their deaths were (and will be) a culmination and a conclusion: Tony, Walter and Don are the last of the patriarchs.”

2. “Bill Hader Can Make You Cry.” Amy Nicholson interviews on the SNL star about his role in The Skeleton Twins.

“Lorne Michaels must not have been too surprised when Hader left the show to try to play it straight. After all, during Hader’s audition, instead of going for oversized laughs, he did dead-on impressions of Al Pacino and James Mason. Impressions became his special skill, but amid the broad mania of the show, he made a point of doing them perfectly. ’I would find the rhythm,” says Hader. ’I would try to talk the way that people actually talk.’”

3. “Robert Christgau: Expert Witness.” The Story Till Now.

“Because I was finishing a book when Microsoft shut me down, for a while I stopped grading albums altogether, but soon I found myself writing up a few for my own mental clarity. This kind of judgment is the gut and backbone, not just of my work but of my fandom—by the time I’m done writing a capsule, I know and understand the record in a way I didn’t before, which readies me to revisit it in the future. This work is time-consuming, but also so much part of my life that I was thinking about blogging capsules gratis until Medium called. That said, getting paid has lit a fire under me as it usually does — I’ve been buckling down to a decision whenever I had a few hours ever since Medium took me on.”

4. “The Strength of Robin Williams.” Yesterday, thinking of Robin Williams made Matt Zoller Seitz feel better.

“Some of these head-on confrontations with mortality were nearly great (The Fisher King and Garp are strewn with Grim Reaper-type images and figures), others were good (Vietnam, and Awakenings, in which Williams plays a recessive and melancholy doctor trying to rescue patients from a kind of living death) and others were horrid (the allegedly inspirational Patch Adams, in which Williams’ character seems to think that laughter is not just the best medicine but a substitute for it, strip-mines our affection for him). But the philosophical and emotional through line is consistent and, sadly, impossible to miss. On some level he must’ve known that there is no point, none whatsoever, to suffering except to get through it and tell other people what you went through and how they can cope with it, if they haven’t figured out already—or to just listen; to be there, in the deepest sense, for somebody else.”

5. “25 Comic-Book Movies That (Thankfully) Never Happened.” As we prepare for a deluge of superhero movies over the next few years, console yourself with the knowledge that the following films thankfully got away.

“Years before Zack Snyder finally managed to bring Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s beloved series to the big screen in 2010, The Matrix producer Joel Silver had the great idea to bring on Terry Gilliam to do the same thing. That it didn’t happen came down to a number of reasons, not least of which being that Gilliam himself believed the movie unfilmable—this from a man who has spent more than a decade trying to bring a Don Quixote movie to the screen. Instead, the project fell into a hibernation so deep that it took nearly two decades and numerous other directors to eventually get it into theaters.”

Video of the Day: The trailer for this year’s New York Film Festival:

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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