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Beauty And The Beast (#110 of 4)

Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

Focus Features

Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

That Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread spent more time on Oscar prognosticators’ shortlists as Untitled PTA London Fashion Film than it did under its actual title indicates that it probably had this award sewn up before anyone even laid eyes on it. In fact, one of the only things that would’ve given us pause about predicting it is the fact that Oscar voters have laid eyes on the ornate, complex, multi-faceted film, and now have to wrestle with their own realization that it’s far from just another runway processional. The other issue is that the last two times films explicitly centered around the world of fashion have competed in the costume design category that should’ve been a cakewalk for them, both ended up losing to regal frocks and fancy frills.

Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions Production Design

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Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions: Production Design

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions: Production Design

In a weird double-dipping twist of fate, the nominees behind Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour will be competing against themselves in two separate Oscar categories. That could spell hard luck for production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer (as it could also for costume designer Jacqueline Durran in her category). Still, production design winners have traditionally skewed more toward the plummy and the plush, and both of Greenwood and Spencer’s vehicles over-qualify in that regard. But neither film successfully amalgamates its overall look into the mise-en-scène itself; instead, both deploy their baroque sets to distract from the hollowness of their thematic surroundings. There’s an argument to be made that Blade Runner 2049 is guilty of the same, just on the other, more Film Twitter-friendly side of the coin. But we’re of the opinion that Dennis Gassner, a previous winner for Bugsy, actually finds cunning ways to walk back from the occasionally shallow excesses of the 1982 Ridley Scott original, adding gravity without sacrificing any dystopian opulence. (It’s the 2046 to the original’s In the Mood for Love, if you prefer.) The original Blade Runner infamously lost to Gandhi, and many other years would find us putting our money on Academy members voting to, like Quantum Leap’s Dr. Sam Beckett, put right what once went wrong. But not this year, which will see the AMPAS going back in time for entirely different reasons.

The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles

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The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles
The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles

If any single thread connected David Bowie’s now sadly completed half century-long musical journey, it was irrepressible restlessness. Bowie never, ever stopped exploring new musical avenues, which has historically been interpreted in one of two ways: that he was rock’s ultimate chameleon, refusing to be contented with any past success and constantly pushing himself to reach new heights, or that he was a shallow trend-hopping whore who parlayed a keen ear for ever-shifting popular music trends into commercial success.

If it’s ever permissible to call pop artists geniuses, then Bowie is indubitably among them; the fact that he managed to remain a giant of popular culture for decades while completely overhauling his sound every few years is a testament to that. To dismiss him as a mere copycat would be like calling the Boeing 747 a piece of hackwork because the Wright brothers existed. Marc Bolan may have been wearing makeup and playing glammy guitar first, but he didn’t come up with the invention that was Ziggy Stardust. Kraftwerk may have pioneered the cold, cerebral electronic aesthetic that influenced Bowie during his Berlin period, but they never wrote “Heroes.”

These 20 singles, not all of them chart hits, but invariably essential entries in the rock canon, span from Bowie’s first iconic song to enter the public consciousness in 1969 to the remarkable title track from his just barely pre-posthumous swan song, Blackstar, thus proving that his quest to turn and face the strange never ceased so long as there was a breath left in him. Jeremy Winograd

5 for the Day: Animated

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5 for the Day: Animated
5 for the Day: Animated

Being a kid in the 1970’s had its advantages, the least of which was not being responsible for the horrific clothing your parents made you wear. It was a time when cereal companies weren’t afraid to use the word “sugar” in their cereal names (“Super Sugar Crisp”, “Sugar Smacks”, “Sugar Pops”) because it accurately depicted what you were eating. Kool-Aid, also full of sugar, would bust through walls to quench your thirst, mentally preparing you to identify later with his fellow wall-buster, the Schlitz Malt Liquor bull. Unless you had a Coleco Telstar, you were happy to go outside and play the games Spike Lee used in the montage that opens Crooklyn. And cartoons were everywhere.

On the sixth day, God created man, and the three broadcast networks created cartoon junkies. Saturday mornings were filled with cheap-assed Hanna-Barbera cartoons, cheaper assed Filmation cartoons and shorts that used to play in theaters. The networks ran Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry shorts, neither of which were made for kids. The Looney Tunes looked awful by then, yet I wouldn’t realize it until I bought those remastered DVD’s. Meanwhile, “Schoolhouse Rock” taught me about math, grammar and history, even once saving me on an 11th grade U.S. History test years later.

At the (now landmark) Loews Jersey Theater, St. George slew the dragon in the clock at the top of the building, and every summer, I attended the Disney Summer Hit Parade. The Hit Parade was a way for Disney to get people to see their live action crap by pairing it with a classic Disney cartoon. The Loews Jersey was built in the 30’s, and looked a lot like Radio City Music Hall on the inside; the sound system was great and the screen and auditorium were huge. Even though the Disney classics looked a little raggedy by this time, I could still experience them as they were meant to be experienced. I fell in love with the animated form, even if I had to also endure Angela Lansbury in the days between her murderous turns in The Manchurian Candidate and Murder She Wrote. (Jessica Fletcher was killing all those people, you know.)

Today, we have entire cable channels devoted to cartoons. One of network TV’s longest-running series is a cartoon (The Simpsons). And each year, at least one of the top 10 grossers is a cartoon. Yet in terms of critical appreciation, most animation still gets sent to the back of the bus. So today’s “5 for the day” is devoted to full-length features that were more than just cartoons to me—features I return to often, primarily because of their visual style, but also because they offer themes, images and ideas that trump most live-action features, and break out of the ghetto in which animation so often finds itself committed.