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Links for the Day: Tom Perrotta Interview, Justin Bieber: A Case Study in Growing Up Cosseted and Feral, Horrible Histories: Works by John McGrath, & More

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Links for the Day: Tom Perrotta Interview, Justin Bieber: A Case Study in Growing Up Cosseted and Feral, Horrible Histories: Works by John McGrath, & More

1. “Tom Perrotta Interview.” Joel Keller interviews the Leftovers creator on how he and Damon Lindelof made his book darker for HBO.

“Look, if you want to know what happened, if that’s why you’re watching the show, you’re going to hate it because it’s not about that. It’s about how people live in the face of a mystery that is not going to be solved. It’s three years and scientists and studies say, ’We don’t know.’ There’s no religion that can explain it. And they’ve almost stopped talking about it because there’s nothing to be said. I felt like this Malaysian airliner that disappeared this year was an interesting case study on that. For about a month, it was in the news every day. CNN couldn’t stop talking about it. And what they did was just have various experts and journalists just spin whatever theory they could think of. That’s what the human mind does when it’s confronted with a question that can’t be answered is spin out crazy theories. And I think that that’s what’s going on in The Leftovers. This thing has happened, nobody can explain it and what the story is about is what people do when confronted with this gigantic hole in their understanding of the world. “

2. “Justin Bieber: A Case Study in Growing Up Cosseted and Feral.” Vanessa Grigoriadis on Bieber and his part in the theater of fame.

“Bieber is an essential player, and beneficiary, of the low-culture fixation of the moment: whether child stars, those entitled, overpaid—yet also tragic and pitiful—figures can make it across the wobbly bridge to adulthood without falling in the choppy waters below. This is a kinky national ritual, our current form of pop-culture sadism. You can call it whatever you want—the collective ethos of a nation of Puritans trying to assuage sexual anxiety; a secular society combating a fear of death by torturing a cast of teenage voodoo dolls; or, at the least, a coded language communicating parental discomfort with our own children’s growing up—but you can’t deny that it’s a totally bizarre obsession, one that could happen only in the youth-obsessed, fame-hungry, prudish and pornish land of America.”

3. “At the Death House Door.” Filmmaker’s Brandon Harris interviews Steve James on Life Itself.

“From the get-go he was instantly accessible. That’s a remarkable thing in my experience. I mean, I’ve had good luck with people over the years getting to a place of intimate connection, but usually it takes a while. Almost from the start, he knew what was required and made a decision to do it. He knows filmmaking, he knows what’s involved, he’s a journalist himself. It’s like all of those things conspired in a great way for him to let go. For instance that first suction scene, that’s one of the first things I shot. And Chaz wasn’t there, which is why we got it. Because at that point, she did not want that. He didn’t even blink. And then he had the presence of mind to send me an email later to say, ’Great stuff, you got something today, nobody gets to see suction.’”

4. “Horrible Histories: Works by John McGrath.” Michael Pattison on the pro-Scottish independence arguments from beyond the grave at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Border Warfare’s politics couldn’t be clearer. At two and a half hours, it’s a succinct and persuasive argument for Scottish independence. Utilising the full scale of the Tramway, with stages set up around its perimeter and without a fixed seating arrangement for the audience, McGrath both dissolves and duplicates the traditional proscenium by placing cameras among his audience, and by occasionally filming the audience responding to the action, with actors alternating their address between live viewers and the immortalising lens. The effect is at once distancing and participatory—infectiously so. Through this and several other McGrath screenings at EIFF could be heard murmurs of approval and spontaneous applause from those for whom Scottish independence remains a remarkably simple matter about a nation’s inalienable right to autonomy. As one character puts it: ’We were feeling desire for the freedom of our nation.’”

5. “25 Thoughts on the 25th Anniversary of the Seinfeld Premiere.” Some yada-yada-ing from Grantland’s Andy Greenwald.

Seinfeld premiered 25 years ago as The Seinfeld Chronicles. I remember this because I was watching. It was a hot summer and I was at my grandparents’ house in northeastern Pennsylvania. Because there was little else to do, I often read TV Guide like a magazine. (Why it took me another two decades to start writing about television is a question for another day or my therapist.) This made me a savvy enough viewer, even then, to realize it was strange for a new sitcom to be premiering in July. And I was properly disoriented by what I saw. It wasn’t that the rhythms of that pilot were particularly unique—watch the opening scene now and it feels positively Jurassic, with the slow declarations and the cheerfully theatrical reactions to every tepid zinger. What felt strange about the show, from the very first moments, was that it appeared to be in no particular hurry to get anywhere or do anything. There was something about a girl (there was always something about a girl), but her identity, her arrival, her very existence all seemed secondary to Jerry and George’s conversation about laundry and decaf coffee.”

Video of the Day: Vashi Nedomansky takes two scenes from John Carpenter’s The Thing and laysdown the storyboards next to the shots in the final edit of the film:

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: 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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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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