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Links for the Day: Why The Big Bang Theory Is the Number One Show on TV, Memos to Hollywood, The Rise of the Bespoke TV Series, & More

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Links for the Day: Why The Big Bang Theory Is the Number One Show on TV, Memos to Hollywood, The Rise of the Bespoke TV Series, & More

1. “Why Are 23.4 Million People Watching The Big Bang Theory?” Why the show is the most popular comedy on television.

Big Bang is a multi-camera sitcom, shot with a studio audience, in a time of mostly single-camera shows. ’It’s supply and demand,’ says Weinman. ’There’s a high demand for multi-camera—it’s intimate and creates the illusion that there’s nothing between you and the characters—and right now the supply is low. Fans of Seinfeld and Friends, what do they have besides Big Bang?’ CBS reruns of Big Bang reach more viewers than new episodes of single-cam shows Parks and Recreation, Community, and The Mindy Project combined.”

2. “Memos to Hollywood.” Critics Weigh In on Patriarchy and the Vanished Film Print.

“In January Paramount Pictures became the first major studio to stop releasing movies on film in the United States. The other majors are expected to follow suit soon, now that they’ve forced most theaters in the country to go digital because of its nominal ease of use and cost. For many viewers, this may not be a big deal because, for them, a movie is a movie is a movie, whether film or digital. And the history of home video rental suggests that a lot of people are perfectly happy to watch degraded imagery as long as they like the story. For some of us, though, the changeover is an unfolding tragedy and an unnecessary one. Because this isn’t about a superior technology; this is about the industry’s greed and continued shortsightedness. Banishing film to the dustbin of history may not change cinema—unless of course it does.”

3. “MFA vs. POC.” Junot Díaz calls for more diversity in fiction.

“Some of you understand completely. And some of you ask: Too white…how? Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all. Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that ’race discussions’ were exactly the discussion a serious writer should not be having.”

4. “Rise of the Bespoke TV Series.” Matt Zoller Seitz on how the bespoke TV series is the new black.

“The mini-series–anthology is already looking like TV’s next big thing, in part because it removes many of the remaining barriers to drawing film talent. Shorter seasons cure artists’ fear of being trapped in the gilded cage of a long-running hit: Acclaimed director Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre) signed on to helm all eight episodes of True Detective, and Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson agreed to star, because the show’s eight-and-out structure let them walk away without causing any problems. The mini-series–anthology model also lessens performance anxiety: Producers, writers, and actors don’t have to worry about prolonging a story beyond its natural end point or reviving a withering show, because every season finale is a prelude to a reboot. Season three of American Horror Story, for example, was a witches’ brew of bad ideas, but we don’t mind too much because it’s a one-off. There’s no pressure on creators Murphy and Brad Falchuk to dig themselves out of a hole; they can just leave the hole where it is and put their energy into making season four as good as one and two. They could even pull a True Detective and hire a horror auteur like Wes Craven or John Carpenter to oversee all 13 chapters.”

5. “Jennifer Lawrence Responds to Esquire’s Concerns About Her Drinking.” Not really, but one imagines it would read similar to this if he had.

“So. Neddy. Honey. Writer/Dude! You said, ’Babe, let’s talk.’ And by all means, let’s! And if we’re going to talk, can we talk about how you said ’Babe, let’s talk?’ If you weren’t a big, fancy writer for a well-respected men’s magazine that puts out a yearly ’Women We Love’ issue where every sentence begins with the word ’because’ and ends with a paean to a body part, I might think you were trying to be, like, mock retro, like, ’Let’s pretend that we’re pretending to be ‘70s and smoking our girlfriend’s Mores in a bathrobe with our dick hanging out,’ or some other meaningless layering of irony popular with those who have no true instinct for how to use the English language. But that’s not you. You’re no amateur.”

Video of the Day: SNL’s trailer for The Beygency:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGxe83lXgJg
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Awards

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.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

“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

Could Win: Roma or BlacKkKlansman

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

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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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