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Links for the Day: Why Leonardo DiCaprio Didn’t Win the Oscar, Why Hollywood Thinks Atheism Is Bad for Business, Kent Jones on Auteur Theory, & More

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Links for the Day: Why Leonardo DiCaprio Didn’t Win the Oscar, Why Hollywood Thinks Atheism Is Bad for Business, Kent Jones on Auteur Theory, & More

1. “Why Leonardo DiCaprio Didn’t Win the Oscar.” James S. Murphy believes cool guys don’t win Oscars.

“Although modern coolness emerged out of jazz and spread through popular music, the movies brought cool to the masses by giving audiences unparalleled access to it. Where else can you sit and stare at cool people for hours? The movies have been good to cool, and cool has been good to the movies. So why is it that so few of the actors who have embodied cool have ever won the Academy Award for best actor? Consider these icons of cool, all of them non-winners: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, and Tom Cruise. Paul Newman and Humphrey Bogart won late in their careers, after age had worn away some of their cool. Two other cool winners, Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, each received one of their two awards in their fifties.”

2. “Why Hollywood Thinks Atheism Is Bad for Business.” In this country we still care more about catering to religious sensibilities, even in liberal Hollywood, than we do about encouraging the open questioning of the claims of the faithful.

“But Matthew McConaughey’s words of gratitude are far from the only sign that God is, in fact, alive and well in Hollywood. This month, major movie studios are doing more evangelizing than Pat Robertson, with the release of two bibilical blockbusters. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which arrives in theatres at the end of March, dramatizes the famously incredible story of a man and his ark, while the unambiguously titled Son of God, released last week, provides the umpteenth dramatization of the bibilical story of Jesus. For those that like their religion more saccharine, April will bring Heaven Is for Real, the film adaptation of the best-seller about a young boy who, after nearly dying on the operating table, convinces his family that he actually visited heaven during surgery. The evidence? He describes his experience in terms that bear a remarkable resemblance to the visions of heaven he had likely been exposed to at home.”

3. “Critical Condition.” From the Politique des Auteurs to the Auteur Theory to plain old auteurism, how clear a picture of actual movies are we receiving?

“I think that Farber’s passionate involvement in the actual practice of criticism precluded any genuine investment in partisanship or polemics, and that’s doubly true of Bazin. Paradoxically, this means that the cinema’s two greatest critics are outliers in what we now call film culture, a by-product of the Politique des Auteurs, streamlined for American use into the Auteur Theory, and finally trodden down and flattened over the decades into plain old auteurism. Their names are constantly mentioned and their most famous pieces are frequently cited and invoked, but rarely in terms of their relevance to contemporary affairs, least of all the lucid objections they raised to the auteurist idea at its inception.”

4. “Trigger Happy.” The “trigger warning” has spread from blogs to college classes. Can it be stopped?

“The headline above would, if some readers had their way, include a ’trigger warning’—a disclaimer to alert you that this article contains potentially traumatic subject matter. Such warnings, which are most commonly applied to discussions about rape, sexual abuse, and mental illness, have appeared on message boards since the early days of the Web. Some consider them an irksome tic of the blogosphere’s most hypersensitive fringes, and yet they’ve spread from feminist forums and social media to sites as large as the The Huffington Post. Now, the trigger warning is gaining momentum beyond the Internet—at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities.”

5. “A Train, a Narrow Trestle and 60 Seconds to Escape.” How Midnight Rider Victim Sarah Jones Lost Her Life.

“Before Gilliard knew it, the train was upon her. She found herself clinging to one of the girders. But the blast of pressure and wind from the train’s passing ripped Gilliard’s left arm away from her body and straight into the train. It snapped like a stick. With one hand still on the girder, Gilliard looked down and saw bone sticking out of her sweater. And then she saw blood. She grabbed a sheet that had come loose from the mattress and wrapped her bleeding arm inside it. With the train howling past just inches behind her, Gilliard threw herself onto two metal wires that stretched between the girders and along the gangplank, thrust her head out over the river below and shut her eyes. ’I saw my life, my kids, my family, all of it before me,’ she says. ’I was sure I was going to die.’”

Video of the Day: Odie Henderson interviews Rosie Perez about her memoir Unpredictable Life:

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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