Monday, February 19, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/19/18)

Is There a Smarter Way to Think About Sexual Assault on Campus?

Black Panther Is a Marvel Movie Superpowered by Its Ideas

Adam Rippon’s Costume Designer Tells All

Philosophers are building ethical algorithms to help control self-driving cars

In Praise of Alistair MacLean and the Male Romance

Oscar Project 2018: The Insult

Movie: The Insult

This is the Lebanese nominee for Foreign Language Film, and it's a riveting courtroom drama centered on an altercation between a Lebanese Christian man and a Palestinian refugee. This was completely compelling both as a story in and of itself and as a window into the complicated religious and political situation in Lebanon, and it definitely made me want to learn more about the country's history.

Availability: Currently in some theaters and opening in more soon.

Nominated In:
Foreign Language Film: Absolutely. This was a compelling narrative with great acting that told an important story about its country.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: The Florida Project


This is a fascinating, moving story of a child living a precarious life at a motel in the shadow of Walt Disney World. It paints a complex picture of this world of poverty and danger and love and joy, and the child actors, especially, do an amazing job. Unfortunately, I loved it right up to the last scene, which undercut a lot of the rest of the movie for me.

Availability: In a few theaters, and available for purchase/rental.

Nominated In:
Actor in a Supporting Role: YES DEFINITELY. Willem Dafoe is great here as the motel manager.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Traffic Stop

Movie: Traffic Stop

This short documentary is about an African American teacher and dancer who is stopped in a routine traffic stop that quickly escalates into violence from a police officer. This is SUCH important subject matter and it very much deserves attention, but I didn't think this execution was quite up to the caliber of the rest of the field. I get that they wanted to focus on this one woman's story, but it would have been a more powerful statement if they linked it to some information and statistics about similar cases. Basically, it needed context beyond "this person didn't deserve this." (Which she didn't!)

Availability: This was made by HBO and has a bunch of upcoming TV air times, starting tonight at 8pm ET, so check your listings. It's also available on HBO Now/Go to stream. Find out how to see all the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Short Subject): Uh... yeah, okay, but I don't think it should win.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/19/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

Last February, Trump signed a bill making it easier for people with mental illness to buy guns

The Security Clearance Situation in the White House Is Bonkers

A widening conflict between herdsmen and farmers is redefining Nigeria’s geopolitics

! The FDA Has Approved the First Blood Test for Concussions

Very interesting, from Dahlia Lithwick: The Judicious RBG

'Last Men in Aleppo' Team Prevented From Attending Oscars

Whoa: Museum Employee’s Will Points to a Long-Lost Klimt Drawing

Laser scanning reveals 'lost' ancient Mexican city 'had as many buildings as Manhattan'

Step Into Your New Virtual Office

I hope it's as bonkers as her description of her life in her book: Netflix Orders Reality Show From Organization Guru Marie Kondo

Friday, February 16, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/16/18)

This kid gives good profile: The Arrival of Timothée Chalamet

Plagiarism Software Unveils a New Source for 11 of Shakespeare’s Plays

FASCINATING: How Laundry Gets Done at the Olympics

God, minerals and mud: thousands flock to Fiji's 'miracle spring'

I'll have to try these: Katharine Hepburn’s brownies are as badass as she was

Oscar Project 2018: Revolting Rhymes: Part I

Movie: Revolting Rhymes: Part I

This is a fun fairy tale remix based on a book by Roald Dahl and featuring a great voice cast including Dominic West and Tamsin Greig. It's clever and funny, and nicely balances being relatively kid-friendly with references and jokes clearly aimed at the adults in the audience.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here. You can also buy this one.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Animated): Sure. This was entertaining and well-executed.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Kong: Skull Island

Movie: Kong: Skull Island

I am not a monster movie person at all, so I was expecting this to be firmly in the "not for me" category, but I wound up really enjoying it! I loved the historical setting and how it incorporated interrogations of the purpose of war and what defines an enemy. The cast was good and the writing was quite fun at times. (Also, the Heart of Darkness references were hilarious.) If you're looking for an entertaining popcorn movie, you could do much worse.

Availability: On HBO On Demand but only through the weekend, so go quickly! Also available for purchase.

Nominated In:
Visual Effects: Yep! They were great.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: I, Tonya

Movie: I, Tonya

Oh hey, timely with the Olympics and all! The attack on Nancy Kerrigan is one of those childhood news stories I remember VERY clearly but was not as aware of the details as I would have been had such a thing happened now, when I read a zillion news stories every day. I thought this movie did a great job of providing a lot of context for Tonya Harding's life without exonerating her or downplaying her culpability, and Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan were both great in the leading roles - including in the current-day interview sections, which provided a great framework for the whole thing. It was also, of course, extremely funny; I understand why some viewers are objecting that this humor sort of erases Nancy Kerrigan's actual victimization from the narrative, but this wasn't her story (I'd watch her story too!) and overall this movie worked for me.

Availability: In theaters.

Nominated In:
Actress in a Leading Role: Absolutely. Margot Robbie did a wonderful job of inhabiting the familiar character of Tonya Harding without making it feel like a caricature or impersonation.

Actress in a Supporting Role: I hate to say this, because I love Allison Janney and would never begrudge her an award, but... I would not give her this. She did a good job with what she was given, but this was an extremely stylized one-note role with very little nuance or complexity.

Film Editing: Yes, definitely. All the skating was REALLY well done, as was the rest of it in general.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/16/18)

PHEW, we made it to Friday. Time for some happy links.

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: LOU and Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Love this: Finnish team knits together at Winter Olympics

Get Out is returning to theaters for free on President's Day

On the Come Up: Angie Thomas unveils the striking cover for her next book

!! Muppet Babies: Renee Elise Goldsberry Sings Reboot's Theme Song

Canadian ice carver creates magical Harry Potter scene in front yard

New Little Women trailer!

The Fug Girls have compiled a post of great black watch tartan items and it's VERY DANGEROUS.

Oooh, this classic Bach movie is returning to theaters.

14 Nail Polish Colors You'll Be Wearing All Spring

This is very pretty and soothing: Thank God, It’s Time For Oscar de la Renta

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/15/18)

I was waiting for someone to write about the theology of this show and I'm so glad it was Laura Turner: Are You There, God? It's Me, The Good Place.

Fascinating: Finding a Lost Strain of Rice, and Clues to Slave Cooking

In Post-Taliban Kabul, Haircuts Are an Expression of Freedom

Remembering Nicanor Parra, the Almost Immortal Chilean Poet

The Presbyterian Roots of Ice Hockey in North Korea

Oscar Project 2018: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Movie: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I'm a pretty casual Star Wars fan, and/but I liked this quite a lot. My one quibble was that it dragged a bit in places and I thought it could have been tightened up, but I really liked the story and especially the interrogation of the "charming rogue hero" archetype, as well as the weight it put on choice over destiny.

Availability: Still in a few theaters.

Nominated In:
Music (Original Score): I will really never say John Williams DOESN'T deserve a nomination, but more specifically, I thought this score did a great job of incorporating familiar themes while sounding fresh and appropriate for this movie.

Sound Editing: Yep!

Sound Mixing: Yep!

Visual Effects: Yes, absolutely.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: LOU

Movie: LOU

This Pixar short is about a sort of monster-spirit of a school lost and found box who teaches a bully how to be better. It's very cute and fun to watch and has a nice, if somewhat simplistic, lesson. It's definitely more kid-friendly than the previous three nominees I've written about in this category. It's not groundbreaking, but it's solid.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here. This one is also available from Amazon.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Animated): Sure! This was fun and well-executed.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/15/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Mudbound and Garden Party

U.S. May Seek to Put Pakistan on Terrorism-Finance List

Saving DREAMers is only this hard because Donald Trump has made it this hard

3 Trump properties posted 144 openings for seasonal jobs. Only one went to a US worker.

After Religious Clash in India, Rumors Create a False ‘Martyr’

Good: ‘Maze Runner’ Author Is Dropped by Agent Amid Sexual Misconduct Claims

Whoa: Jamaican bobsleighers face Olympic drama after ‘destructive’ coach quits

The Future Is (a Little More) Female at the New York Philharmonic

This guy. Duck Boot-Loving Man Sues L.L. Bean, Says He's 'Harmed' By Stricter Return Policy

!!!!! The CW is expanding programming to Sunday nights this fall

Eee, I loved this book: ‘The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society’ Trailer: Lily James Writes About WWII

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/14/18)

Believe it or not, this is COMPLETELY FASCINATING: Why Paper Jams Persist

I didn't love them last time but this Olympics they've really settled in and are providing very useful analysis: How Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski Became the Most Iconic Duo in Figure Skating

A nice Valentine's Day read: How I Fell In Love With Love Stories

The Jesus we’ve inherited from centuries of Christian art is a lie

The Forgotten History of New York’s Bagel Famines

Oscar Project 2018: Garden Party

Movie: Garden Party

This is about amphibians exploring a deserted very fancy house and eventually uncovering the reason for the desertion. Honestly, I didn't really LIKE it much, but I definitely ADMIRE it - the art is just a MARVEL here.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Animated): Uh... yes. As I said, it wasn't really to my personal taste, but it was EXTREMELY well done.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Mudbound

Movie: Mudbound

This film about intertwined white and black families in rural Mississippi during and after World War II was very very good, using small family stories to illuminate larger social issues - it reminded me of a less white The Best Years of Our Lives. I thought Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell were the standouts here as the two veterans who return home during the movie, though Carey Mulligan is also great as always, and the entire cast is solid. This is a pretty serious, fairly grim movie, but it's very well done and deals with important content, and if you like World War II-era movies and/or movies about race it's definitely worth a watch.

Availability: Streaming on Netflix.

Nominated In:
Actress in a Supporting Role: Mary J. Blige did a good job here, but this role didn't particularly stand out to me.

Cinematography: Sure. It was extremely well done, and I believe Rachel Morrison would be the first woman to win this.

Music (Original Song): Nah. I liked the movie but this SONG did not grab me at all.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Sure. Not my first choice in this particular group of nominees, but it deserves the nomination.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/14/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Negative Space, Get Out, The Square

You don't say: Russian Threat To Elections To Persist Through 2018, Spy Bosses Warn Congress

These people are so evil: The Education Department Says It Won't Act On Transgender Student Bathroom Access

New Poll Finds That Everyone Is Miserable, for Some Reason

Tough but fair: Pack of Lions Ate a Poacher, Left Only His Head

One of the Oscar documentary shorts dealt with this and it was fascinating: Naloxone, the medicine helping fight the opioid crisis, explained

Is Pennsylvania blue or red now? This election obsessive might know.

Here's a fun map to track the Olympic medals.

Huh: Firefly canon to expand with series of original books

Ooh, I loved this book: ‘Downton Abbey’ Producer Carnival Films Adapting ‘The Awkward Age’ For The BBC

Human Skulls Mounted on Stakes Found at 8,000-Year-Old Burial Site in Sweden

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/13/18)

Elizabeth Chambers, Emerging Lifestyle Guru for the Instagram Generation (Her Instagram is indeed a delight and I made one of her cookie recipes last night and it's GREAT.)

Warning: This will ALSO make you want cookies: Parle-G: It Me

Whoa: The Michigan town where only Christians are allowed to buy houses

How archaeologists discovered an ancient Assyrian city – and lost it again

A Peek at Famous Readers’ Borrowing Records From a Private New York Library

Oscar Project 2018: The Square

Movie: The Square

It's been over a week since I saw The Square and I still haven't decided whether I thought it was great or kind of just nonsense, or both? Either way, it was certainly interesting. It's the story of a curator at a modern art museum at Sweden and the way a bunch of things that happen in his life make him examine his beliefs about community and social responsibility, but that sounds very staid and this is in fact WILD and very compelling. (Also, both Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West pop up as English-speaking foreigners!)

Availability: In a few theaters, but pretty hard to find, unfortunately.

Nominated In:
Foreign Language Film: Sure. It's well-made and fascinating and I keep thinking about it.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Get Out

Movie: Get Out

I'm of slightly mixed feelings here! Get Out was definitely an important movie and I'm very glad that it got made and got attention and prompted discussion. It's very good. I'm not sure it's quite great; I'm pretty much okay with its nominations but it's not my first choice in any category. I think the discussion around this movie is starting to conflate "it has the most important message" with "it is the best movie"; these are two very different measures and I, personally, think that the message should be considered in award evaluation but that it shouldn't trump all else.

Let me also say that I am not a horror fan but I didn't find this particularly scary - and I was almost entirely unspoiled - so if you've been hesitating for that reason, you're probably okay.

Availability: It's back in some theaters, currently on HBO On Demand, and available for purchase.

Nominated In:
Best Picture: Hmm. I'm not mad that it was nominated, but I don't think it was quite at the level that deserves this award.

Actor in a Leading Role: Sure. Daniel Kaluuya did a really great job here, especially in how he portrayed his quiet growing alarm at what was happening around him.

Directing: Sure.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Hm, I guess. I thought the concept was more interesting than the writing itself, but I wouldn't be MAD if it won.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Negative Space

Movie: Negative Space

This uses beautiful, inventive stop-motion animation to tell a simple story that's both funny and moving. In order words, it's EXACTLY what I want from an animated short. Definitely my favorite this year. (I'm not telling you much because I think it's best experienced as a delightful surprise.)

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Animated): YES YES YES.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/13/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Dear Basketball, Beauty and the Beast, Molly's Game

This is both evil and deeply stupid, which... par for the course, I guess: Trump pitches plan to replace food stamps with food boxes

Meanwhile here in New Hampshire: Instructor Out After Denying Australia Is Country

Obama Portraits Blend Paint and Politics, and Fact and Fiction

A Murder Trial Stirs Emotions About Canada’s Relations With Indigenous Population

I am SO excited for her: Mirai Nagasu is now the first US woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics

And this was awesome too: Teen Olympian Overslept, Lost Coat, Said F*ck on TV, and Won U.S.'s First Gold of 2018

The ALA Youth Media Awards - the biggest awards in kids'/YA publishing - happened yesterday and the winners list is pretty great.

Oooh: Vox’s new daily podcast, Today, Explained, launches February 19

Cheddar Man: DNA shows early Briton had dark skin

Here’s Why Parents Are Furious at the New Peter Rabbit Movie

Monday, February 12, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/12/18)

I haven't read her books yet but this absolutely made me want to: An American Novelist: It's Time for Tayari Jones

Scandinavian Women Do Not Have It All

Taking back control: how a remote island in Alaska tackled domestic abuse

The Bible as Literature, Literature as Scripture

The Book That Spooked the South

Oscar Project 2018: Molly's Game

Movie: Molly's Game

This was based on the true story of the FBI's targeting of a young woman who ran huge poker games, but I loved it despite my NEGATIVE interest in poker or gambling, which is a testament to Sorkin's writing as well as the amazing performances by Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. I'd have given them both acting nominations as well. Even though I didn't care about poker itself, it was refreshing seeing a movie centered on a woman's career that did not have a romantic plot at all. (Not that I don't love a good love story, but they don't need to be everywhere!) This was clever and just a ton of fun to watch, even if you already know the outlines of the case.

Availability: It's back in theaters!

Nominated In:
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Yep! I love virtually every word Aaron Sorkin has ever written. I realize this is a character flaw on my part.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Beauty and the Beast

Movie: Beauty and the Beast

The animated Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie and I love the cast of this new version, so I was very excited about it, but wound up a little underwhelmed. It was fine, but it wasn't enchanting or transportive like the original. Maybe my expectations were too high. Still a fun watch, though!

Availability: Streaming on Netflix!

Nominated In:
Costume Design: Yes! The costumes were gorgeous and intricate AND did a very good job of mirroring the animated version but working on their own.

Production Design: My answer here is pretty much the same as the above, actually. This movie did a great job of creating a world that was recognizably that of the original but also expanded and richer.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Dear Basketball

Movie: Dear Basketball

The entire content here: "I'm Kobe Bryant and I'm the best at basketball and basketball is great." Seriously. That's it. It just feels like an ad for... himself, I guess? It's not trying to be inspirational; it's literally just his personal feelings about being naturally great at something he loves. (Hilariously, he spells this out by insisting in the narrative itself that it isn't about following your dreams or working toward goals. Be careful, kids, wouldn't want to find this accidentally motivational rather than understanding that it's about how exceptional one person is!) It would be a fine ad for Watch Kobe's Final Season On ESPN or whatever, but as a film it's very tonally odd.

Aside from the content: the art style is one I personally don't love, but it's perfectly proficient at what it's trying to do.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here. You can also stream this one on Go90 here.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Animated): Nah. This didn't have anything interesting to say, and the art wasn't good enough to make up for that.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/12/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

This is fascinating and horrifying: Many Say He’s the Least Qualified Lawyer Ever to Lead a Guantánamo Case. He Agrees.

Trump’s History of Defending Men Accused of Hurting Women

Trickle Down: The Republican corruption in Washington has rolled down to the states.

How Chechnya’s Leader Got Banned from Facebook and Instagram

Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks

Discovery of Windsor Neolithic monument excites archaeologists

Ooh, this is about Jewish women in the Resistance: Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners Picks Up World War II Drama

Scientists Find Evidence of Thousands of Planets in Distant Galaxy

You can now play with Spotify’s recommendation algorithm in your browser

Whoa: 'The Killing' Stars Joel Kinnaman, Mireille Enos Reunite to Topline Amazon's 'Hanna' TV Series

Friday, February 9, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/9/18)

June Thomas is completely right: The Winter Olympics Are the Best Olympics

The Mesmerizing Spectacle of North Korea’s “Army of Beauties” at the Winter Olympics

This is a fascinating look at the racial narratives around witchcraft: White Magic

I'm not sure I've ever seen a Bergman film, so this seems useful! A Beginner’s Guide to Ingmar Bergman

Top 10 books about the Scottish Highlands and Islands

Oscar Project 2018: Coco

Movie: Coco

Aw, I LOVED this one - it had completely breathtaking artwork, funny, clever writing, a good story with some fun twists, memorable characters, and a nice message. It's the story of a Mexican boy who loves music even though his family forbids it; on the Day of the Dead he accidentally travels to the afterlife and learns a lot about his family and himself and what matters as he has various adventures trying to get back home. Just a joy to watch.

Availability: It's back/still in theaters and ALSO releasing digitally on Tuesday.

Nominated In:
Animated Feature Film: Yes yes yes. It was a high-quality all-around delight.

Music (Original Song): Honestly, I loved the music theme here in general, but . . . this specific song didn't really do it for me.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Victoria & Abdul

Movie: Victoria & Abdul

I love Judi Dench, and Ali Fazal was great here too, and I love historical movies, but this was... not great. It tried to be the story of how Queen Victoria's worldview was opened in some ways by her relationship with a servant from India, but it barely even tried to grapple with the ways that this (didn't) affect her general colonialist outlook and ways of governing. So it was a touching enough personal story, but gave itself a lot of credit for being "multicultural" while remaining blithely unaware of its context.

Availability: You can rent or buy digitally or on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Nominated In:
Costume Design: Sure.

Makeup and Hairstyling: Enh? They were fine but did not strike me as great.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/9/18)

PHEW. We made it to Friday. Time for some happy links!

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: All the Money in the World and Lady Bird.

New emoji are coming. Knitting! Llama! Jigsaw puzzle!

Hee: Paper Tiger: UK police end up in standoff with stuffed toy

In other important news stories: Missouri woman finds neighbor's dog riding pony

HAHAHA: Here’s What Black Panthers Are Saying About Critics

Rarely Seen Photographs Reveal the Gilded Age Glory of the Frick When It Was a Private Home

Did you know there's a Connecticut cheese trail???

Kate Middleton Hit Prince William in the Face With a Massive Snowball

...okay, I want these royals-inspired lipsticks.

Ooh, look at Disneyland Paris in the snow.

I didn't know apothecary drawers were something I could buy on Amazon but now I want them desperately.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/8/18)

This is fascinating: How Muslim Women Use Fashion To Exert Political Influence

'I really want to find it before I die': why are we so fascinated by lost books?

This Mutant Crayfish Clones Itself, and It’s Taking Over Europe

Prescribing Mindfulness Allows Doctors to Ignore Legitimate Female Pain

Huh: A Banana Grown At Subzero Temps Also Has An Edible Peel

Oscar Project 2018: All the Money in the World

Movie: All the Money in the World

This movie itself was overshadowed by the events around it - after sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey were made public, he was dropped from the (basically complete) movie and recast with Christopher Plummer, who then got the movie's one nomination here. Those reshoots were VERY quick considering how much of the movie he was in. (Oh, and then there was the resulting secondary story about Mark Wahlberg demanding lots of money for doing the reshoots, while Michelle Williams and everyone else did it for free.)

But my points is - ASIDE from all that, I really enjoyed this! You have to like movies about Rich People Being Terrible, which I do; if that IS your thing, this is a great blend of that and crime thriller. It was watchable and engaging and just a lot of fun. I'd have added a nomination for Michelle Williams for Actress in a Leading Role. Oh, and Production Design.

Availability: It's still in a FEW theaters.

Nominated In:
Actor in a Supporting Role: Sure. Plummer was great here, as you'd expect, and I think he did much better than Spacey possibly could have done anyway.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Lady Bird

Movie: Lady Bird

This was such a quietly great movie, perfectly recreating a specific time and place and feeling of adolescence. I've seen it criticized as only interesting to young women (which... is that terrible? Lots of things are only interesting to one demographic!), but I went with my dad and he liked it too, so obviously those people are just being stupid. The thing I particularly liked here were the complex relationships (among family members, friends, romantic interests) - almost all of them were multidimensional. And the writing was simultaneously hilarious and resonant.

Availability: It's back in some theaters!

Nominated In:
Best Picture: Not my favorite, but this was very very good, and certainly belongs in the group.

Actress in a Leading Role: Sure. Saoirse Ronan was great here.

Actress in a Supporting Role: YES. Laurie Metcalf gave such an amazing, nuanced performance.

Directing: Yep, sure.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Definitely. The writing was so precise and evocative.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/8/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: The Boss Baby and Darkest Hour

Interesting: Irish court refuses man's extradition because of Brexit

FEMA Contract Called for 30 Million Meals for Puerto Ricans. 50,000 Were Delivered.

Dahlia Lithwick, great as always: The Courts Are Not a Noble and Purifying Refuge

America’s ISIS Jihadists Were Largely Duds

Donald Trump’s Very Soviet Fixation on Applause

This is great news: Teen Vogue Taps Samhita Mukhopadhyay as Executive Editor

Doctors given approval for UK's first 'three-person babies'

Ancient Grave With Skeletons Arranged in Bizarre Spiral Formation Discovered in Mexico

Marvel’s Black Panther will speak this real African language

Lifetime Has Found Their Prince Harry & Meghan Markle

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/7/18)

Frank Ocean Interviewed Timothee Chalamet and it is a DELIGHT.

The C.E.O. Who Called Trump a Racist (and Sold a Lot of Spice Mix)

The Slick Science of Making Olympic Snow and Ice

For the Love of Independence: Romance Authors Are Literature’s Unsung Heroines

Gowns, Wurst and Protesters: It’s Ball Season in Vienna

Oscar Project 2018: Darkest Hour

Movie: Darkest Hour

There's been a bunch of backlash to this movie of the "Churchill was a racist imperialist so we shouldn't have movies about him!" type. This is nonsense and these people are wrong. We should, of course, look at historical figures in as nuanced a manner as possible; this movie does better than many depictions at this, but there's still some work to do. But just saying Churchill was awful and we shouldn't pay attention to his accomplishments doesn't help anyone. It's important to keep in mind that, just as good people can do bad things, people who are problematic can do very good, important things. You don't have to like Churchill but he DID beat Hitler and that's KIND OF IMPORTANT, come on.

Anyway! I liked this! Of course I did! It's probably thoroughly a "you'll like it if you like this kind of thing" movie and I do, in fact, like this kind of thing quite a lot.

Availability: Still hanging out in theaters!

Nominated In:
Best Picture: Not my first choice, but a solidly really good film about an extremely important moment in history. I wouldn't be mad if it won.

Actor in a Leading Role: Yes, Oldman did a really wonderful job here of transforming himself into Churchill without making it feel like a caricature.

Cinematography: Yep. The way it was filmed made me think both "this is gorgeous" and "this is so INTERESTING" several times.

Costume Design: Sure. I'm always a sucker for meticulous period pieces.

Makeup and Hairstyling: YES. I knew I was watching Gary Oldman, and yet I could not keep that fact fixed in my mind because the Churchill makeup (as well as his acting) was so good.

Production Design: Yep. It did a great job of creating this moment in time, from the war rooms to the palace to the streets and underground.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: The Boss Baby

Movie: The Boss Baby

From the ads this looks terrible, and guess what? It was terrible! I know, of course, that I am not the target audience for a children's movie, but that isn't an excuse for lazy, boring offerings. Good children's movies are enjoyable by all ages. This was not. (And according to a sampling of my Twitter buddies, kids don't like it either.) It's not funny or clever or moving or... anything. It's about babies trying to destroy puppies. The puppies aren't even cute.

Availability: Streaming on Netflix.

Nominated In:
Animated Feature Film: No! I don't watch a lot of animated features but I am COMPLETELY CONVINCED there was something better they could have nominated here.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/7/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Icarus and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Germany coalition talks: Merkel's conservatives and SPD 'clinch deal'

Here's some good context for that: Fear and Loathing in the Bundestag

Of course: Justice Dept. Office to Make Legal Aid More Accessible Is Quietly Closed

How evil: Trump Evangelical Advisor: No Need for Flu Shots When You Can 'Inoculate Yourself With the Word of God'

What It May Take to Strike a Segregationist’s Name From a Georgia Bridge: Hundreds of Girl Scouts

Falcon Heavy, in a Roar of Thunder, Carries SpaceX’s Ambition Into Orbit

A Primer on the Four Olympic Events Debuting in Pyeongchang

Whoa: Exclusive: Laser Scans Reveal Maya "Megalopolis" Below Guatemalan Jungle

Hmmmm: 'Game of Thrones' Creators to Write New 'Star Wars' Film Series

Ooh, royal jewel drama: Romania Looking for Queen Marie's Lost Jewels

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/6/18)

This is fascinating: African Deportations Are Creating a Religious Controversy in Israel

In the Premier League, there’s money for everything except workers

How Did Salt And Pepper Become The Soulmates Of Western Cuisine?

The Book That Colored Charles Darwin's World

Salons and seagulls: the golden age of ocean liners – in pictures

Oscar Project 2018: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Movie: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This was a divisive nominee this year, and I'm firmly on the "NOPE" side. This had its interesting moments but I just didn't think it was that good. And more importantly, it used violence toward women and black men in a simplistic way in order to redeem racist, sexist white men who never really had to reckon with their actions or beliefs. There are definitely thoughtful ways to deal with these themes, but this didn't seem to put in the work, and it wants to get points for "addressing" cops killing black men and the lack of justice for rape victims without really... doing much. And, again, at heart it's all about redeeming the white men, not about the marginalized crime victims themselves. Just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Availability: This has been in theaters seemingly forever and will apparently never leave, presumably just to spite me.

Nominated In:
Best Picture: No, thank you.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Woody Harrelson - was fine! I have no issues with his acting; he didn't write the thing.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Sam Rockwell - fine I guess? Not great!

Actress in a Leading Role: I know Frances McDormand is the favorite here and, again, I think she did a good job with what she was given, but I wouldn't say she was great, and the part was much less interesting than at least two of the other nominees in the category.

Film Editing: Meh. Whatever. Didn't strike me as particularly good nor bad.

Music (Original Score): I literally do not remember a single note of this score.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Please god no.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Icarus

Movie: Icarus

Documentary Icarus starts out with the filmmaker - an elite amateur cyclist - trying to test, using himself as an example, whether any athlete could beat drug tests the way Lance Armstrong did. And then it spirals madly, because he's advised to get the help of a specific Russian doctor... who turns out to be at the center of the Russian state-sponsored Olympic doping scandal that breaks as the project is going on. So the topic shifts, obviously, and the filmmaker is pulled into the story in very thought-provoking - and dangerous - ways. This is definitely worth a watch, especially in an Olympic month!

Availability: Icarus is streaming on Netflix!

Nominated In:
Documentary (Feature): Yes, sure. This was a fascinatingly made movie about an interesting, important, and timely subject.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/6/18)

Yesterday's Oscar project posts: The Disaster Artist and Dunkirk

To Counter Russia, U.S. Signals Nuclear Arms Are Back in a Big Way

“Unprecedented”: 9 historians on why Trump’s war with the FBI is so stunning

After Years of Investigation, a Sudden Folding of the Case Against Menendez

Awesome: O Canada: Senate backs gender-neutral changes to national anthem

Good: Larry Nassar Sentenced To Additional 40 To 125 Years In Prison

Wow, good for them: Fox's 'Hate U Give' Actor Dropped From Movie After Racially Charged Remarks (And for those of you who haven't been following this - this movie is explicitly about the Black Lives Matter movement and this actor was found to have racist videos on YouTube, so.)

So sad: ‘Frasier’ Star John Mahoney Dies at 77 If you haven't seen Broken Hearts Club, you should.

Oooh, I really like the Solo trailer!

Where NASA Put a Parking Lot, Dinosaurs and Mammals Once Crossed Paths

USEFUL: How to Get Rid of Those Annoying Mac Update Notifications

Monday, February 5, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/5/18)

This change is obviously great but also this whole story about people who work there is super interesting: Medieval Times Goes Modern, Replacing Its Kings With Queens

Why a 150-year-old kidnapping case has Catholics arguing today

This sounds fascinating: The Novel That Imagined a Nazi Future, Before WWII Even Began

1918 Brought an Armistice, but Also a World of Death (Cheery! Sorry. It's interesting!)

Whoa: Bidding on the Ritz: Paris hotel auctions furniture – in pictures

Oscar Project 2018: Dunkirk

Movie: Dunkirk

I loved this, of course - someone very well-meaning said to me the other day "How many World War II movies do you NEED?" and obviously my answer was "Me personally? ALL OF THEM." I love the Dunkirk story and complicatedly constructed narratives and I went and saw it on 70mm IMAX and it was just an amazing experience. I thought that the relative lack of CHARACTER versus other aspects worked well for this movie, as a stand-in for so many British soldiers, but I think that might be why it's not getting more awards attention.

Availability: It's available to buy or rent, and it's also back in a few theaters because of its nominations.

Nominated In:
Best Picture: This is probably my #2 choice this year and definitely deserves the nomination. It is a FEAT and also feels like a meaningful movie, not just technical showiness.

Cinematography: Absolutely. There was some amazing stuff in here.

Directing: This is the main category I really hope this wins. The whole concept and execution here was so INTERESTING and made well-worn ground feel novel; this was so different from other WWII movies.

Film Editing: Yep!

Music (Original Score): Sure!

Production Design: Definitely.

Sound Editing: Yep!

Sound Mixing: Yep!

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: The Disaster Artist

Movie: The Disaster Artist

I'm not a fan of The Room - though I read about it and watched some clips ahead of time so I wasn't walking into this blind - so I realize I am not the target audience for this movie. I was expecting "not for me." I was NOT expecting to passionately hate it! I think my main issue with the whole concept of this movie was not that The Room was bad, because whatever, but that the whole project of The Disaster Artist seemed to be to celebrate Wiseau treating the people around him terribly. Now, there are certainly many interesting stories to tell about awful people, but the way this went about it was way too adulatory for me.

Availability: You may be able to find it in a few theaters ahead of the Oscars, but it's mostly gone from theaters and not available for purchase yet.

Nominated In:
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): If this self-indulgent nonsense beats James Ivory AND Aaron Sorkin in this category, I will burn down the entire world.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/5/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

As Strongmen Steamroll Their Opponents, U.S. Is Silent

If Trump acted normal, he’d be an unpopular president with an unpopular agenda

Was Your Seafood Caught With Slave Labor? New Database Helps Retailers Combat Abuse

What’s Behind MoviePass’s Latest Power Moves?

J. Crew put a size 20 label on size 14/16 jeans and people applauded them

Formula One Will Finally Stop Using Grid Girls This Season

Whoa: After 400 years lost, 'cursed' novel of Spain's imperial age is finally published

'Floating 3D printing' brings sci-fi-style projections closer

This sounds fun: Chef's Table: Pastry will bring dessert to Netflix

Found: A Medieval Knife That Was Used Like an Eraser

Friday, February 2, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/2/18)

In case you don't want to do any more work this Friday, here's a juicy true crime longread: Dead Wake

I LOVE maps in books: Charting the Geography of Classic Literature

LET'S GO: In Iceland, There’s a Word for an Ice Cream Road Trip. Here’s Where to Ísbíltúr This Winter

Around the World in 14,000 ‘Do Not Disturb’ Signs

End your Friday afternoon with a whole bunch of pictures of Animals on the Playing Field.

Oscar Project 2018: The Greatest Showman

Movie: The Greatest Showman

This wasn't a great or even very good movie by any means, but if you're the kind of person who enjoys traditional singing-and-dancing musicals, as I am, it's thoroughly entertaining. I'm always a sucker for stories about people determined to create their own worlds with mixed triumphal and tragic results, and I'm more receptive to heartwarming messages in family musicals than dramas. Singing-and-dancing Hugh Jackman is my favorite Hugh Jackman, and I hope the literal handoff in this movie means that Zac Efron will ditch the dumb comedies and embrace his true calling.

Availability: A few weeks ago this seemed like it was on its way out of theaters, but it's hanging in for now, so you still have time to find it.

Nominated In:
Music (Original Song): Sure! I'm not sure "This Is Me" is actually my favorite song from the movie - that's probably "The Other Side" - but in general the songs were nice traditional musical numbers and I want more of that in movies.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/2/18)

Boy do we need a break for some happy links this Friday!

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar post: I loved Phantom Thread.

A good post to start your Friday: Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet Dance in the Streets of Italy With Call Me by Your Name Fans

Elena Ferrante's first Guardian column is up! (I finally started reading My Brilliant Friend this week. In Italian, so it's gonna take me a while.)

Whee, my friends doing awesome things: Cassandra Clare Launches 'One-Shot' Publishing Collaborative

This is very interesting and the Brits among you may be able to make some of these events! Suffragette cities: events to mark the centenary of voting rights for women

Not surprising but still delightful: Royals: They're just like us: The Royal Family Have Their Own WhatsApp Group

In other royals news, this is fun but I'm sorry this lady had to delete her Instagram because of it: Kate Middleton's Hairdresser Instagrams What She Packs For A Royal Tour With The Duchess

Amazing: Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle Went to a Michelangelo Exhibit and Thought It Was Radical

It me, as the kids say: My Self-Care Is Just Me Sorting Myself Into Ravenclaw Over and Over Again

I just BOUGHT a bag of this description so I shouldn't even look at this: 15 Office-Friendly Bags That Are Big Enough to Hold Your Laptop (I actually considered the Kate Spade one listed there but I wanted something that zipped, so I wound up at the Coach outlet and am very happy with my choice.)

Nothing has ever been more For Me than THE MATH OF MEDIEVAL TIMES.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/1/18)

A good read especially if you've seen The Post: The Untold Story of the Pentagon Papers Co-Conspirators

This book was fascinating: Naomi Alderman on the World That Yielded ‘The Power’

The radical — but gentle — faith of Mister Rogers

I know his hits but knew nothing of this story: Teen Idol Frankie Lymon’s Tragic Rise and Fall Tells the Truth About 1950s America

How Carob Traumatized a Generation

Oscar Project 2018: Phantom Thread

Movie: Phantom Thread

This looked enjoyable from the trailers - pretty clothes! dramatic relationships! - but it wound up being far more interesting than I expected, which is always a DELIGHT. The plot went somewhere I didn't quite expect, and the two main characters were more complex than I'd feared. (I don't want to spoil, but it was less straightforwardly "great man and his muse" than I'd expected.) But mostly, the whole thing was just put together and executed wonderfully - the writing, the acting, the set design, the score, the cinematography, everything.

I thought this should have been nominated in Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, and Sound Mixing as well.

Availability: Not quite everywhere, but in lots of theaters and more starting tomorrow.

Nominated In:
Best Picture: Yeah, sure. Not my first choice in this particular set of nominees, but this was just all-around great and is absolutely deserving.

Actor in a Leading Role: Sure. Daniel Day-Lewis was great at creating a character simultaneously ridiculous and totally believable, charismatic and infuriating.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Nah. Lesley Manville was fine (as Daniel Day-Lewis' character's sister) but the role wasn't particularly complex or nuanced, and she didn't do anything to particularly stand out in my mind.

Costume Design: Yep. This feels like kinda a gimme for a fashion movie, but the clothes are gorgeous and this is definitely deserved.

Directing: Sure! Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed so it's a little hard for me to separate, but I think he did both parts very well and there's a very strong vision and Thing He's Trying To Do here.

Music (Original Score): YES YES YES. The score is great and interesting and fits the movie perfectly, and really added a lot to the viewing experience. I'm listening to it RIGHT NOW.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/1/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar post: The Post

Train Carrying GOP Lawmakers Hits Garbage Truck In Virginia (SOMEONE DIED so the obvious comment isn't, ah, appropriate here.)

F.B.I. Condemns Push to Release Secret Republican Memo

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, C.D.C. Director, Resigns Over Tobacco and Other Investments

Hillary Clinton wrote about her decision in 2008 to punish but not fire someone accused of harassment and it's very well-reasoned and thoughtful. GOOD THING SHE'S NOT IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING, huh?

This sounds... dangerous: Russian jet flies within 5 feet of US Navy plane, Pentagon says

Of COURSE he is: Greg Gianforte, politician who assaulted reporter, to lead communications workshop

Whoa: Japan's Fujifilm to take over Xerox in $6.1 billion deal, create JV

!!! Scientists discover ‘the holy grail of dinosaurs’ in Africa

It's finally happening! Julian Fellowes’ ‘The Gilded Age’ Drama Series Set For 2019 Launch On NBC

Found: An 800-Year-Old Chess Piece