When you’re young, you absorb pop culture and imagine what it will be like when you grow up, when your contemporaries will be the ones appearing on screens, singing through the radio and winning awards in televised ceremonies. Famous people are always older people and the media speaks to you, not for you. And then one day you get hit by something and you realize that your life is starting to make it into that very same realm of media; your moment in time is starting to crystallize. I was born in 1986. When I saw Antonio Campos’ Afterschool at MoMA toward the end of November, I felt like extremely specific experiences in my own life, extremely specific opinions I hold, had been thrown back at me through the prism of cinema like never before. My ideas about my generation had been vindicated, and Afterschool was the proof. I was watching a serious feature film by a director who began at NYU’s film school a mere two years before I did. My contemporaries were starting to join in the chorus of media that assaults us all.
Campos, who is now 25, worked on the script that became Afterschool throughout college, and had begun it earlier. He has said that it grew along with the times. Indeed. As Mike D’Angelo perhaps famously (time will tell) ended his review of the film, “this is how we live.” Afterschool follows Robert (Ezra Miller), a high schooler at a prep school in (presumably) New England, who unwittingly witnesses and videotapes the death by drug overdose of the school’s most popular girls, a pair of twins. Already having a difficult time at school, Rob is asked to help direct a memorial video to screen at a ceremony for the girls. The entire film is bathed in the glow of consumer-digital-and-video-technology-as-social-inhibitors-and-anomie-machines familiar from key works by Michael Haneke, Atom Egoyan, and David Cronenberg, among others. However, Campos’ presentation of this realm creates a portrait of technology’s relationship to social interaction and the understanding of oneself that resonates more strongly than in the works of the aforementioned filmmakers. This film could only have been made by a 25-year-old, a filmmaker who is among the first generation to truly live and breathe social networking and video-clip websites, as well as the Internet in general, while still in one’s developmental stages.
The following conversation between Campos and myself was conducted with a laptop computer taking up the countertop space between us, imposing itself on our conversation.
Do you feel like we’ve gotten to a place where we’re beginning to screw up all of the technological advances, the easily accessible yet powerful technological tools, that we have created in recent years?
I think it’s just beginning. When you think about where technology is heading—it’s going to keep going, and human beings are going to keep fucking it up. That’s just the natural progression. I really feel like we’re a generation obsessed with ourselves, watching ourselves, watching other people watch themselves and put themselves out there. In some ways, I feel like Afterschool is a present-day sci-fi film. In some ways, you could watch Afterschool as “what’s going on right now,” but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like what’s going on right now. It feels like a weird future. And again, I don’t know where it’s going to go, I just know that I look at things now and it’s troubling. I got caught up in it myself—in the process of researching and making the film I got very obsessed with this stuff. I kind of abandoned certain things—Facebook and MySpace. I don’t do Facebook anymore. I feel good about that. There’s a good deal of time that I would spend during the day doing these things that I don’t do anymore. I think most people just use Facebook to spy on other people. I used it to see what happened to all the girls in high school who I thought were hot. All of these things that don’t amount to anything but take up so much time, and again, it’s just this obsession with creating a celebrity around yourself. Which goes back to YouTube—the fascination with watching ourselves. There’s a difference between watching an action movie that has violence in it, and watching violence for entertainment, when the violence that you’re watching is real. The line between entertainment and reality gets blurry.
Three things come to mind. One. Hegel said that a good portrait of a person looks more like the subject than the person themself. That’s a lot like what you said about this being a sci-fi film—it looks more like today than today looks like today. Slavoj Žižek applied the same reasoning to Children of Men. Secondly, when you talk about Facebook and YouTube and whatnot, us being obsessed with ourselves, it seems tied into an ability these sites give us to revise ourselves, re-present ourselves, to fully control the way in which we present ourselves to our peers, by having total control over our Facebook profile or what videos we post of ourselves online. That is an interesting concept. And third, the idea of blurring the line between violence in cinema and simply footage of “real” violence—distinguishing between those two seems tricky, and I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on that discrepancy.
So much to talk about. The thing about today being more like today—it’s interesting, because people are always saying, in reaction to the film, “well, this is not what kids are like.” The film neglects this aspect of adolescence, but the film is not a documentary. You’re taking a microscope over one part of adolescent life and heightening the experience of one thing. I think that the film captures something that’s very much part of today, adolescence, coming of age in this kind of world, and it puts blinders onto all of the other stuff, so you can focus on that. I feel that when you strip away all the other stuff, there’s something being shown in the film about the truth of adolescence today, but in real life it’s being diluted by all the other things. It’s funny that you said the thing about Hegel, because Larry David always says that the Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm is much more like Larry David than Larry David is. It’s interesting, because people have criticized the film by saying that the performances are naturalistic, but not real. The thing is, it’s not reality, it’s a heightened sense of reality.
As far as Facebook and editing yourself goes—I think there’s something appealing about shaping yourself and editing yourself and presenting yourself to the world in the way that you want. I think we want to communicate who we are and get these things across quickly. With Facebook, it feels like you can—whether it’s via some bizarre angle of your face, or a photo of something else that represents who you are, and so on. You can choose these details of your life that sum up who you are. A Facebook profile says something about a person, but it doesn’t really say anything about who this person is. It’s interesting for me. I always feel like what we’re trying to do with the Internet is, we’re trying to give it a human element. We’re trying to infuse humanity into it. Trying to find the humanity within all this technology. And showing the footage, the difference in footage—well, there were some people who hadn’t seen the Saddam hanging, and they were really upset with me, that I showed that. They felt like, by coming to the film, I was forcing them to watch it.
Some were intrigued by the idea, saying that they were happy to watch it within the context of the film. And some people were not happy about it, saying that I didn’t have the right to put them in a place—there was one critic who said, does the film merit me being forced to watch this? And her answer was no. That’s interesting to me. On one hand, I assumed everyone had seen this thing because it was all over the Internet, one of the most watched videos – in one sense it was like 9/11, everyone had seen that footage. And this was all over the Internet, and you assume that everyone has seen these things, but they hadn’t. In some ways, I feel like you kind of should see this. I think it’s important to know what is out there. Everyone is seeing this. It’s international. I understand not going out and looking out for the brutal stuff, but something like that, I assumed that everyone had seen and should see. The fact that these things can be seen now is important.
Do you think there’s a difference between watching the video of Saddam hanging on CNN as opposed to watching it on YouTube?
That’s the thing, there isn’t a difference, really. There’s only a difference in perception. You think, oh, I’m seeing it on CNN, it’s in the context of a news story, but you’re still going to have the same reaction. There’s nothing they’re going to fill in to that story that’s going to make it more newsworthy. You’re still just watching someone get hanged. But I think there is a difference for people, still, and I don’t quite understand why. I feel like seeing it outside of CNN is better, without any sort of context.
When I was watching the opening of Afterschool, I was thinking about the way that when you have television, you can flip from channel to channel, and that reduces your ability to grasp what you’re watching. That is exponentially stronger with YouTube, when you can flip to any video you’d like at all, like in the beginning of your film, so everything becomes relative to everything you’ve watched just before, and you really lose any semblance of objectivity.
Well, the film was really focusing on the fact that YouTube is this kind of grab bag, and you can look at all of these things side by side. A baby playing, Saddam getting hung, seeing these things within seconds of one another.
Ultimate instant gratification. It’s perfect for the millennials.
Exactly. You always hear stories about how this is fucking up this generation in the workplace—like in that 60 Minutes segment where they talk about how they’re having to re-format the workplace.
Yeah, I saw that. And that point, in the context of your film, reminds me of how Mike D’Angelo noted something along the lines of the fact that this really is the film for this time, this era, about what it’s like to be a member of my generation.
And it’s about a fourteen year old boy. Fourteen year olds, twelve year olds, thirty-four year olds, fifty, everyone’s on Facebook. It is sort of touching on an aspect of this generation, but that term has gotten so broad. I don’t know what generation means anymore.
Was it a conscious decision, not to incorporate Facebook into the film?
I thought about doing something similar to what I did with Buy It Now. But there’s a limited amount of time I had, and I had to choose my focus. I felt like what I was doing with the videos—you could connect it to everything else. Rob has this obsession with watching himself, which you can tie back to Facebook. Facebook is a different beast, though. There wasn’t a way for me to deal with Facebook without it getting too sensational, trying to tell a story about what Facebook is. I really wanted to tell a story about the moving image, watching clips of ourselves. One could delve into Facebook in a different film.
I thought it was telling, where Rob says that the clips he watches are “little clips of things that seems real.” Reality is elsewhere for these kids, they live at this fantasy camp of a boarding school. Did you feel like the characters—Rob especially—were trying to feel something real? How did you view their struggle to reach reality?
The fact that you can see yourself doing these things—does that make it more real? The idea of the masturbation came from a friend of mine who told me that he masturbates in front of his camera. It was more about the idea that, if these things exist in video, does that make it more real? And Rob’s obsession with studying himself, and his obsession with feeling. A lot of the film was about him trying to feel the things that he sees in these videos in real life, whether it be death, sex, et cetera. I think he’s just trying to feel something. The idea of reality—reality just doesn’t seem real enough. The videos he watches seem realer, I think, than his own life. That’s part of why we’re obsessed with YouTube. Life has all of these moments, you know? It’s so complicated and long and the moments come and go, but you can go online and see these things, a baby laughing, it’s so heightened. I see my nephew laugh all the time, and it’s adorable, but there’s something so focused about seeing it in a 30 second clip.
That’s a very interesting way that I could describe Afterschool itself. I felt like it was a very heightened film. Perhaps because of it’s detachment. It’s so detached—not many camera movements, shallow depth of field, negative space dominates, so many static shots—and yet the film is extremely tense, living in a place of heightened tension.
You know, you have to trust in your script, and trust that if you allow the scenes to play out in a way that isn’t forced, that the pacing at which things are unraveling, which might be slow, but feels natural to me—natural, but a heightened sense of natural—the pacing is going to keep people on edge a bit. The negative space I think helps a lot. It was an idea that I started playing with in certain things I shot in high school. One critic called it “dismembering.” The idea of a wide close-up where the subject is such a tiny portion of the frame, and you have so much negative space. There’s something about holding back and taking your time and allowing things to exist outside the frame, and that creates a certain tension. And then the rest of the body comes in. It’s all about revealing, taking your time to let things unfold. When you’re telling a story, you always have to keep the bigger picture in your mind. You have to constantly remind people of what just happened. That has to set the tone. I really relied a lot on the actors to set the tone as well. And by shooting the film in a very particular way where we’re always watching—we’re often behind the action, or to the side, and when you’re watching, you feel like you might get caught watching. I feel like taking your time is a better way of creating tension than lots of cutting and moving quickly through story.
It is a very pronounced style, that you employ in the film, something in the realm of Michael Haneke and Bruno Dumont. Did you ever, in the editing process, question if perhaps you were pushing it a bit too hard?
Well, it’s a trial and error process, how long a shot can go on for. I’m aware of what’s going on, what is challenging. There were questions about, is this going on too long, am I losing momentum? But I wanted to hold, often, because I wanted to get to a certain action. Like a shot for a while where nothing happens, and then someone does something that’s great. When you’re doing this, letting scenes linger for so long, you have to be very selective in what you let linger and what you don’t, because the more you let linger, the more it dilutes the power of the lingering. In some films, it’s all about that, a film like Jeanne Dielman. But that is a different approach. Because there’s a lot of story in this film. And I want to be able to get to my story points, and get to them in a natural way, and have those points stick. I think Haneke is a master of that. Bruno Dumont relies a lot more on editing.
It was a lot less challenging for me to watch Afterschool than a slower Haneke film, or a Dumont film, and I think perhaps part of that is due to the fact that the first American filmmaker who takes a lot from Haneke and Dumont also brings a stronger sense of narrative to his film, which is appropriate, because strong narrative is such an American device. And I was wondering what your thoughts were on that, the way you used narrative.
I grew up on narrative cinema. Story is important to me. It’s become less and less complicated—the plot points are very simple—but you need the story. My favorite Haneke films are the ones that have a strong narrative—Code Unknown, Time of the Wolf, The Piano Teacher. Dumont—his stories are so simple. I think the extreme of this is Liverpool, by Lisandro Alonso. He’s against sex, against violence. His stories—it seems like it’s going to build up to something brutal, but it doesn’t get to that. It just kind of lingers. The film just lingers. Nothing happens. No climax. And it didn’t hit me until the next day. It’s a hypnotic film. I felt like I had dreamed it. My favorite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick, and I feel like story is very important to him, but he deals with story in a very economic way, especially in his later work. The experience of seeing the film trumps the story in a lot of ways. The story brings you through, but the real meat of the film is what you experience.
I call it “Trojan-horse narrative.”
Yeah, that’s a good term.
The narrative is just a means to an end. Moving on. The film is so pregnant with theme and potential meanings, and yet it never came across as didactic to me, mainly, I think, because of just how detached the style is. But did you ever take into consideration fears that perhaps someone might see the film and make a reductive statement like, it’s bad for young people to use the Internet so much because it alienates them? I mean, something of that is there, but it’s much more complicated, and the film isn’t judgmental in that way.
I didn’t feel like I was being didactic in the way I was telling the story because I was so ambiguous about certain things, so restrained, that it wouldn’t come across like that, and I didn’t want it to. My interest is more about presenting something, presenting it the way that I see it, and then letting you come up with your own interpretation. Wiseman was important for me in that way, because he has an opinion about the things that he’s documenting, obviously, but he’s just letting you see them. You’ll leave, and have a very clear idea of what his feelings are about it, but because he’s presented it in such a broad and restrained kind of way, you feel what he’s feeling. I think you can watch Afterschool and feel what I’m feeling about the subject, or you can feel a different way. Particularly, the character of Robert—you can feel sympathetic for him, or leave being disgusted by him, or a combination of both. That’s always been my idea. That was my goal, to leave everything open-ended. All I presented was—kids watching these clips, becoming obsessed with these clips, and in one instance, in a pathetic way, Robert tries to re-enact one of the things he sees. I don’t think that’s so sensational.
Where have you gotten that the film is sensationalistic?
Well, there have been a lot of people whose reactions are, Antonio, I get it, I get it.
That’s interesting. I didn’t feel that way, but I asked the question because I was wondering if you were worried that people would feel like it was judgmental in that way.
I didn’t worry about that when I was writing it, or making it, but I am aware that some people react in that way. I read the discussion that’s happened on Like Anna Karina’s Sweater, and the review. He really tore into it, and then in the discussion, everyone was going at each other. There was someone who said, “in Elephant, Gus Van Sant showed this, but he was saying, we’re so ridiculous that we would accept any one of these things as an explanation of why Columbine happened. But then, in Afterschool, Antonio Campos is trying to do the kind of thing Van Sant criticizes.” And the difference is that Gus Van Sant gets the benefit of the doubt, because he’s Gus Van Sant and I’m a first-time filmmaker who doesn’t know what he’s doing. I find that to be interesting. I wonder if the perception of Afterschool will be different three films later, if critics will come back to it and view it differently.
Let’s talk about the final scene for a moment. To me, it felt like the omnipresence of video, like you were manifesting that in a very clever manner. Is that part of what you were thinking about with that very clear decision, to have the cellphone video shot of Rob?
Well, there was a version of a film without the reverse shot, the shot where you see that there’s no one behind Rob. Someone said, one is psychological, and one is a mystery, and I didn’t entirely agree with that, but I thought it was an interesting way of looking at it. It only occurred to me very late in watching YouTube videos that I never knew who shot the videos. I never once thought, well, someone has to take out their camera, or phone, click video, click record, point, shoot, and stand there while this happens. You never think about the person behind the camera. It’s amazing to me. In news stories—no one ever talks about who shot the footage. That someone just decided to videotape this and put it on the Internet. There was always this question on the set—who shot this video? Who’s making these videos? In the end, it didn’t matter to me. It doesn’t really matter. Someone is—and someone isn’t. My theory was, well, if this can be anybody, if anyone has a cellphone with a camera on it, then it’s really nobody.
It’s as if video is at this extremely high level of being, and then to think about who is shooting the video just dirties it, makes it impure and brings it down to a lower level. The camera has so much power. The only scene where we really see Rob be assertive is the scene in the music room with Amy, where he tries to strangle her, but only after having grabbed the video camera. Video is power.
I think any filmmaker can relate to the idea that your camera is your safety net. Filmmakers in general are not the most secure people. There’s a reason why we’re kind of doing this thing, which is ridiculous, when we stop and think about it. There’s a safety behind the camera, and a power, and you are invisible. For that moment, you’re doing something which is bigger than yourself, and it empowers you. It gives you—it gives me this reason. And a purpose. That purpose allows me to become somebody else when I’m directing. The time I’m happiest is when I’m making a film. I think that the camera can be used as this way of making you invisible. And I think a lot of the people who get into video want to step out, want to become invisible. And I think Robert is empowered by having a camera.
The memorial video that Rob makes was interesting to me. What was going through your head when you put that video together?
I made that video. I edited it over the course of one night when I didn’t sleep. At 6 AM I grabbed my assistant director, who is also an editor. And Sean [Durkin, one of the producers] came in and we started going back and forth about it. It was—going back and forth to the stuff I was doing in high school—we were purposefully making it as if the person who made it had never used video software before. But the person making it, there’s also something off in the way he views the world. And there’s also an honesty there that you don’t find in the video that the school makes. In addition, it was an extension of the thing that Robert says in that therapy session—he likes things that seem real, that aren’t fake, and he’s obsessed with capturing these moments of authenticity.
Did you think Robert was trying to consciously send up the headmaster in some way?
I think so. But it’s funny, because I still feel like I’m trying to figure out Robert, to understand Robert in some way. I feel like by that point, there’s something brewing in him that’s just ready to explode. And this little moment he captures, where he sees this guy being a phony, he just has to put in there. It’s very passive-aggressive. It seemed like the kind of thing Robert would pick up on. But like I said, there’s a part of me still trying to figure out this kid, in the same way that I can’t figure myself out, why I do certain things. Actually, Bruno Dumont was the president of the jury for the Cannes Residence program the first time I submitted the script, and he rejected it. I had just finished the treatment, and I was in the semifinals. The question he asked me really stumped me—who is Robert? I didn’t know who Bruno Dumont was at the time, I just thought he was some angry French guy. And he asked me that question so early in the process, and I left that meeting, and I said, I don’t know who Robert is. Why do I need to know who Robert is? By the end of this film, I’ll be closer to figuring it out. But I don’t even know who I am. It was all so early in the game. That was the worst meeting of my life. I got in the next year. If I was just confident enough to say, I don’t know who he is, but maybe by the end of my writing here I’ll be closer to figuring that out—the minute I figured out Robert was in a video class, I had a better idea of who he was, what he was interested in. Who is someone is such a broad, unanswerable question.
He’s just a kid. He’s like any other kid. What’s interesting about him isn’t so much who he is as what it’s like to live in his world.
Exactly. In that last shot, when he’s looking at the camera, some people feel like it was the director wagging his finger at us. But for me, that shot, it’s the most human that boy has ever looked, the most vulnerable that he’s ever looked. I look at it and I go, he’s just a kid. No one around him seems to know what the hell’s going on. There’s no moral compass that makes any sense. In the end of all these films I’ve done about teenagers, it ends with the idea that these kids are just kids. A girl selling her virginity—they seem so mature, they seem like they know everything—The Last 15 is the same thing—it’s just this confused kid.
Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 30
To celebrate this sacred anniversary, we’re taking a look back at the single’s evolution over the last three decades.
This week Madonna’s iconic hit “Like a Prayer” turns 30. The song is, by all accounts, her most broadly beloved contribution to the pop-music canon, landing at #7 on our list of the Best Singles of the 1980s. Even the singer’s most ardent critics can’t help but bow at the altar of this gospel-infused conflation of spiritual and sexual ecstasy, a song that helped transform Madge from ‘80s pop tart to bona fide icon. To celebrate this sacred anniversary, we’re taking a look back at the single’s evolution over the last three decades.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 3, 2014.
Following a teaser that aired during the 31st Annual Grammy Awards in January of 1989, Madonna premiered “Like a Prayer” in a Pepsi commercial during The Cosby Show, the #1 rated series on U.S. television at the time. Part of a $5 million sponsorship deal with the soft-drink company, the ad, titled “Make a Wish,” was an innocuous bit of nostalgia that would soon be eclipsed by the scandal surrounding the single’s forthcoming music video.
Madonna dances in front of burning crosses and kisses a black saint in a church pew in this modern morality tale about racial profiling and pious guilt, prompting both the religious right and cultural critics, like bell hooks, to cry foul. Eventually, the mounting outrage caused Pepsi to pull out of their multi-million dollar deal with the Queen of Pop. The singer’s response was coyly defiant.
Blond Ambition Tour
Madonna’s first live incarnation of “Like a Prayer” was also her best. Sure, her voice was raw and unrefined (“Life is a misstaree, eve’one mus stan alone,” she heaves), but her 1990 tour performances of the song displayed a rapturous, almost possessed quality that she’s never been able to recapture.
Dutch Eurotrash group Mad’House’s claim to fame is their blasphemous take on “Like a Prayer” from 2002. The glorified Madonna cover band’s version is stripped of the original’s nuance and soul, a tacky, mechanical shell of a dance track. Regrettably, this is the version you’re most likely to hear on Top 40 radio today. (Only slightly less heretical, the cast of Glee’s rendition of the song peaked at #27 in 2010.)
MTV On Stage & On the Record
Then notorious for forsaking her older material, Madonna dusted off “Like a Prayer” in 2003 during the promotion of her album American Life. Thirteen years after her last live performance of the song, even Madonna’s comparatively reedier voice and noticeably more limited range couldn’t diminish its enduring magic.
Sticky & Sweet Tour
After performing crowd-pleasing but relatively anemic versions of “Like a Prayer” during her Re-Invention Tour in 2004 and Live 8 in 2005, Madonna reinvented the song for her Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008, using elements of Mack’s “Feels Like Home” for an amped-up techno mash-up.
Super Bowl XLVI
Madonna closed her record-breaking Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in 2012 with “Like a Prayer,” and though she wasn’t singing live, it was the closest she’s ever gotten to her ecstatic Blond Ambition performances. (For those lamenting the lip-synching, she would go on to reprise this version of the song, completely live, during her MDNA Tour later that year.) And if there were any doubt, a stadium of nearly 70,000 football fans waving flashlights and singing along is a testament to the song’s transcendent, all-encompassing appeal. The performance’s final message of “World Peace” seemed attainable, if only for a brief moment.
Met Gala 2018
Last year, Madonna dusted off her old chestnut for an epic performance at Vogue magazine’s annual Met Gala. The event’s theme was “Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” which seemed tailor-made for both the Queen of Pop and “Like a Prayer.” Madonna slowly descended the steps of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in a shroud, flanked on both sides by a choir of monks, as she sang a Gregorian-inspired rendition of the pop classic. The performance also featured a portion of a new song, “Beautiful Game,” and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Oscars 2019: Complete Winners List
The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS.
The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS. Which isn’t to say that the ceremony wasn’t without its surprises. For one, whoever decided to capture Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s performance of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born in one single take that would end with the pair sitting side by side, rapt in each other and framed in Bergman-esque repose, should hereby be responsible for every Oscar ceremony moving forward.
For some, though not us, Green Book’s victory for best picture came as surprise. As our own Eric Henderson put it in his prediction: “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.”
In the end, the awards went down more or less as expected, with the only real shock of the evening being Oliva Colman’s stunning upset over Glenn Close in the best actress race. (Glenn, we hope you are on the phone right now trying to get that Sunset Boulevard remake to finally happen.) Black Panther proved more indomitable than expected, winning in three categories (none of which we predicted), and Free Solo pulling a victory over RBG that was the first big sign of the evening that, then and now, AMPAS members vote above all else with their guts.
See below for the full list of winners from the 2019 Oscars.
Green Book (WINNER)
A Star Is Born
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (WINNER)
Adam McKay, Vice
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Mahershala Ali, Green Book (WINNER)
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (WINNER)
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee (WINNER)
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters
The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly (WINNER)
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay
Foreign Language Film
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico) (WINNER)
Free Solo, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (WINNER)
Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross
Minding the Gap, Bing Liu
Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki
RBG, Betsy West and Julie Cohen
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman (WINNER)
Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón (WINNER)
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique
BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman (WINNER)
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler (WINNER)
First Man, Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre and Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enrı́quez
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
All The Stars from Black Panther by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
I’ll Fight from RBG by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
The Place Where Lost Things Go from Mary Poppins Returns by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Shallow from A Star Is Born by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter (WINNER)
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne
Avengers: Infinity War, Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, and Daniel Sudick
Christopher Robin, Chris Lawrence, Mike Eames, Theo Jones, and Chris Corbould
First Man, Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, and J.D. Schwalm (WINNER)
Ready Player One, Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler, and David Shirk
Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Dominic Tuohy
Black Panther, Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor, and Peter Devlin
Bohemian Rhapsody, Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, and John Casali (WINNER)
First Man, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee, and Mary H. Ellis
Roma, Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan, and José Antonio García
A Star Is Born, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder, and Steve Morrow
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst (WINNER)
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay
Makeup and Hairstyling
Border, Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
Mary Queen of Scots, Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher, and Jessica Brooks
Vice, Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia Dehaney (WINNER)
Live Action Short Film
Detainment, Vincent Lambe
Fauve, Jeremy Comte
Marguerite, Marianne Farley
Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Skin, Guy Nattiv (WINNER)
Documentary Short Subject
Black Sheep, Ed Perkins
End Game, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Lifeboat, Skye Fitzgerald
A Night at the Garden, Marshall Curry
Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi (WINNER)
Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden and David Fine
Bao, Domee Shi (WINNER)
Late Afternoon, Louise Bagnall
One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
Weekends, Trevor Jimenez
Review: Someone Is in My House Showcases the Reach of David Lynch’s Obsessions
Lynch’s paintings are beautiful yet macabre, mysterious and rich in the tactility of the methods of their creation.
Though famous for being a filmmaker and co-creator of the TV series Twin Peaks, David Lynch works in many other mediums, including music, sculpture, photography, furniture-making, and painting, the last of which is the wellspring of his creativity. Lynch has painted since the 1960s, finding his voice among the ruinous squalor of a once-rough Philadelphia. Inspired by artists such as Francis Bacon, Lynch developed a style that’s rich in the irreconcilable contradictions that would drive his cinema. His paintings are beautiful yet macabre, mysterious and rich in the tactility of the methods of their creation.
At times, Lynch has been dismissed as a “celebrity painter” who nets prestigious exhibitions based on his fame as a filmmaker, as well as on the urge to utilize his other art as a kind of decoder ring for his films. These claims may be partially true, but this doesn’t mean that the art itself isn’t extraordinary, and there’s a concentrated effort underway to recalibrate Lynch’s reputation within pop culture. The documentary David Lynch: The Art Life featured hypnotic footage of Lynch in the studio of his Los Angeles home, smoking and creating new canvases. Last year, the book David Lynch: Nudes collected his empathetic, erotic, and astonishingly subjective photography of nude women. Now there’s David Lynch: Someone Is in My House, a gorgeous volume of Lynch’s painting, photography, sculpture, and short-film stills.
Someone Is in My House impresses one with the reach of Lynch’s ambitions and obsessions, affirming yet another contradiction of his art: that it’s vast yet repetitive and insular. Across the spectrum of over 250 stills, this volume spotlights the many techniques that Lynch utilizes. After perceptive essays by Lynch biographer Kristine McKenna, who places Lynch’s work in the context of legendary art at large, and Michael Chabon, who emphasizes Lynch’s grasp of the uncanny truth of the everyday, among others, Someone Is in My House offers a tour of Lynch’s work that’s divided by medium, starting with “Works on Paper” and continuing with “Painting/Mixed Media,” “Photography,” “Lamps,” and “Film and Video Stills.”
Each section is structured in chronological order, spanning five decades, so as to subtly assert Lynch’s ongoing evolution as an artist. The book ends with a brief biography, which will probably be well-known by anyone driven to buy it, and a list of Lynch’s exhibitions. If Someone Is in My House has one disappointment, it pertains to this structure, as a straightforward chronological organization of Lynch’s art might’ve more vividly emphasized the wild multi-pronged simultaneousness of his imagination. But this is a small issue, as this volume offers the gift of relative accessibility, allowing cinephiles and other aesthetes the opportunity to access a major and generally rarefied mine of Lynch’s workload.
To open Someone Is in My House is to plunge into landscapes of darkness inhabited by deformed humans and other creatures, who have distended, shrunken, or extended appendages, heads that are animalistic or brutalized, and bodies that are often either a collection of tumorous protuberances or are merely composed of a few lines like primitive stick figures. Among this darkness is bright color, usually red, which offers beautiful illumination that’s understood to exist at the cost of atrocity. Among darkness there’s a light of injury in other words, as Lynch is obsessed by the idea of people coming in contact with nightmarish entities and being destroyed or severely hurt in a manner that suggests enlightenment to be a kind of state of higher confusion.
In Lynch’s art, blood and other substances gush out of heads like geysers, and people’s faces are often twisted in knots of anxiety. As in his films, Lynch’s paintings are obsessed by the home as a symbol of our illusions of stability and how easily they can be violated. This art is surreal, in that it conforms to no requirements of literal representation, but it’s also overwhelmingly docudramatic in its emphasis on its own DNA. The lithographs on Japanese paper, for instance, which are some of the most starkly memorable of this book’s many unforgettable images, are driven in part by their sense of fragility. The ink appears to have been applied to the canvases in a frenzy, and seems as if it could quite easily be wiped away. Lynch’s multimedia work, particularly his mixtures of sculptures and paintings, are populated by lumpy figures that show the imprint of the artist’s fingerprints and are built from globs of materials, suggesting how easily they could be morphed again by another god. (Or by us, who could in turn by victimized by other gods such as Mr. Redman, a quasi-corporeal explosion of carnage that haunts Lynch’s oil and mixed media canvas of the same name.)
Lynch’s art is also driven by the preludes and aftermaths of events. In This Man Was Shot 0.9502 Seconds Ago, a phallic string of guts explodes out of a man with a characteristically vague and misshapen face—a Bacon-ish image that occurs against a symmetrical interior backdrop that would be at home in an Edward Hopper canvas. Acknowledging these influences, McKenna goes on to write one of the most profound things I’ve read about Lynch’s paintings: “They have a clumsy, accidental quality and come across as thwarted attempts to make oneself understood; they feel wrought rather than painted.” Rendering characters in the face of impending or concluding cataclysm, Lynch adapts techniques that mirror their awkwardness and alienation, and this chameleonic—at once assertive and self-effacing—style has probably been part of the reason for Lynch being taken somewhat for granted as an artist.
However, Lynch’s primitivism communicates robust emotional quandaries, especially an earnest yearning for a return to a normalcy that’s been shattered—a normalcy that never existed and which is embodied by houses that are composed of only a few skewed lines. These houses might be harbingers of nostalgia for Lynch’s characters, but they’re hollow or—in the case of Lynch’s lonely and forbiddingly poignant black-and-white photographs of snowmen—closed off and ridden with secrets that are impossible to know. Many Lynch characters also face their brutal reckonings with a becoming and majestic dignity, such as the nose-headed subject of an untitled 1971 pencil sketch.
Though Someone Is in My House is adamant that we take Lynch’s artwork on its own terms, without always connecting it to his films and TV, such an exercise isn’t entirely resistible. Lynch’s art clarifies to an extent what his films are also doing: valuing moments of privatized emotional experience, and often suspending plots in time so as to show how individual epiphanies can knock us off the course of our own “narrative”—that is to say, our lives.
Twin Peaks: The Return, which is clearly on Lynch’s mind in the art that’s included in this book from 2010 forward, is a collection of scenes and images that bind the existential cosmic with the domestic rituals of our lives. For most of us, finally connecting with a lost love at a coffee shop means more than considerations of the unknowable evil that may or may not pull the strings behind the curtains of eternity. Kyle MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper became unstuck in time because he took for granted the heaven of his kinship with the townsfolk of the hellish yet pastoral Twin Peaks. He failed to recognize what the subjects of many of Lynch’s paintings discover: that, to quote McKenna again, “Life happens through us, not because of us.” Throughout his career, Lynch has mined a vein of ecstatic powerlessness.
David Lynch: Someone Is in My House is now available from Prestel.
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