1. “Oscar Voter Reveals Brutally Honest Ballot.” One cranky member of the Academy’s directors branch talks THR’s Scott Feinberg through his picks.
“American Hustle is light years better than anything else. There is nothing but sharp cuts and rhythm in the movie—there is not a wasted frame. Captain Phillips is, to me, the chickenshit way of editing; it’s usually done because you’re terrified of boring the audience, so you keep cutting, and it actually becomes unbelievably tedious and headache-inducing, and it’s not the way the mind perceives reality, either. And 12 Years a Slave had about 15 to 20 minutes of sluggish, boring stuff that I would have ripped out.”
2. “Why Pompeii Doesn’t Blow.” Rearview: Why the critically maligned box office flop is the latest evidence for Paul W.S. Anderson’s rise to the top tier of vulgar auteurs.
“Now, chances are that when you turn around to shush those rude patrons yapping away behind you during your screening of Pompeii, it won’t be a conversation about pessimism and precluded revolt that you’ve interrupted. And in fairness to [Paul W.S.] Anderson’s champions, most of them praise the director not on any highfalutin philosophical grounds, but rather for his spatially coherent action sequences staged with a minimum of the shaky-cam aesthetics and nerve-jangling editing that have become the dominant m.o. of the post-MTV Hollywood blockbuster. Or, as [Nick] Pinkerton deftly puts it, ’the too-common hurly-burly that’s meant to disguise the fact that there was no scene there in the first place.’”
3. “Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: The Missing Science.” Helen Epstein reveals the reasons for President Yoweri Museveni’s singing the country’s anti-gay law, then mulls over a certain Darwinian puzzle.
“[President Yoweri] Museveni claims that he decided to sign the bill into law because he concluded there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is determined by a person’s genes, and is therefore ’deviant’ behavior. Psychiatrists at the American Psychiatric Association, citing studies showing that identical twins are more likely to share a homosexual identity than fraternal ones are, maintained that sexual preference is partly genetic. But a team of Ugandan doctors assembled by the Health Ministry argued that since homosexuals tend to produce few if any offspring, a ’gay’ gene could never be maintained in human populations, so being gay must be voluntary. Museveni sided with Uganda’s government-convened doctors. ’There is no scientific proof yet that people are homosexuals by genetics,’ Museveni said in an official statement before he signed the bill into law. ’It is on the strength of that I am going to sign the bill.’”
4. “Oscar Chat 2014, Part II: Actors.” Two critics with a hunger for nuance and an appreciation for “spectacular trash” sort through the Academy’s Actor nominees.
“I definitely wish Joaquin Phoenix was one of the five in contention. I have to wonder if the people complaining about Scarlett Johansson’s faceless Oscar snub are really responding to Johansson’s vocal emoting, or if they’re responding to how her words play out across Phoenix’s face. As with Sandra Bullock and Gravity, Phoenix’s performance makes you rethink how performances are constructed and how they work. In this case Phoenix really is called upon to complete Johansson’s performance. Of course that’s true whenever you put two characters in a dialogue scene, but here that dynamic is deconstructed, and Phoenix has to ’embody’ Johansson in ways I’ve never seen an actor do before.”
5. “My embarrassing picture went viral.” When strangers mocked me for my weight, it was a lesson in Internet cruelty, mean girls—and fighting back.
“In the months since, my attitude toward these throwaway images of mockery on the Internet has changed. I no longer find them funny. Each one of those people is a real human being, a real person whose world imploded the day they found themselves to be a punch line on a giant stage. I speak up whenever a friend gets a cheap laugh from one of these sites. I ask one simple question: ’Why do you think this is funny?’ Very few have a good answer. Mostly they just say, ’I don’t know.’ Reminding people of our shared humanity hasn’t exactly made me popular, but it feels like the right thing to do. I know what it’s like to be the person in that horrible photograph. I can’t inflict such pain on someone else.”
Video of the Day: Funny or Die sends up Blue Is the Warmest Color and its critics:
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