Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/28/18)

The Afterlife of Pablo Escobar

Why Build Kenya’s First Coal Plant? Hint: Think China

The new stone age – how crystals became a magical style trend

One of the World’s Most Irreplaceable Books Was Used as a Cutting Board

Zoo Tinder – how technology is helping animals hook up

Oscar Project 2018: Faces Places

Movie: Faces Places

I was NOT looking forward to this documentary from the descriptions I've read, but it wound but being completely charming and engaging. It's about French director Agnes Varda (now in her 80s, with failing eyesight) traveling around France with young photographer JR, turning portraits of people they meet into giant murals. Along the way, they get the stories of factory workers, waitresses, dock workers, farmers, and more, often detailing the way that life in various industries is changing. It's a fascinating look at French life, and the relationship between Varda and JR is touching and compelling.

Availability: Available for digital purchase.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Feature): Yes. It didn't deal with a Big Issue the way the other nominees here did, but it was just so GOOD.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This is another case that's partially just "not for me" - I like most Marvel movies to varying extents but have never been able to get into this flavor. I don't like the humor and don't care about the plot. But while I just felt kind of meh about the first Guardians, I thought this one was actively bad - and I talked to a few friends who liked the first movie and they agreed that this one was not good. So! I do not recommend it!

Availability: Streaming on Netflix.

Nominated In:
Visual Effects: Nah.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: The Silent Child

Movie: The Silent Child

This British short film is about a young Deaf girl living in isolation until a social worker starts teaching her to sign - which opens up her world until her complicated family intervenes. I LOVED this; I'd happily read a novel or watch a whole limited series of it. It was extremely well done, and illuminates an important issue. They provided statistics on how many Deaf children are put into mainstream classrooms with no support, and it's horrifying.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Live Action): Definitely.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/28/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: The Eleven O'Clock, A Fantastic Woman, Baby Driver

U.N. Links North Korea to Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program

Xi Jinping May Be President for Life. What Will Happen to China?

No Bail Hearings for Detained Immigrants, Supreme Court Rules

Trump’s Idea of Arming Teachers Is Crazy but Clarifying

Sounds normal: The Professor At The Center Of The Trump-Russia Probe Boasted To His Girlfriend In Ukraine That He Was Friends With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Tempers Flare as Panama Hotel Owners Try to Oust Trump Company

Well that's worrisome: Slovak Journalist Found Shot to Death at Home

California green lights fully driverless cars for testing on public roads

Ooh, look at the Fahrenheit 451 teaser!

I'm dying to try one of these: The Seductive Confinement of a Weighted Blanket in an Anxious Time

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/27/18)

Wow: Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand

Icelandic language battles threat of 'digital extinction'

These pictures! Snow Falls in Rome, and the Eternal City Takes a Holiday

Moneyball for movies: Data science and AI in Hollywood

Five lost cities of the world

Oscar Project 2018: Baby Driver

Movie: Baby Driver

This was one of those movies that I thought was probably doing a great job at what it was trying to do, but it just wasn't really for me. But if you like this kind of thing, you'll like it! I will say that Ansel Elgort was GREAT in it - I had no idea I liked him so much! - and that it was very well-made, especially the editing and the soundtrack. It was all very slick and shiny and fun.

Availability: Available for rental or purchase.

Nominated In:
Film Editing: ABSOLUTELY.

Sound Editing: Sure.

Sound Mixing: Sure.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: A Fantastic Woman

Movie: A Fantastic Woman

This Chilean film is the story of a young trans woman dealing with her boyfriend's sudden death and her own treatment by his family and the state. This is such a vital story to tell, and the movie itself is just wonderful - well-written, great acting, beautifully shot. Definitely try to see this one if you get the chance.

Availability: In limited release.

Nominated In:
Foreign Language Film: Absolutely. This was great.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: The Eleven O'Clock

Movie: The Eleven O'Clock

This short about a psychiatrist treating a patient whose delusion is that he is a psychiatrist had a twist that was pretty predictable, but it was still hilarious and well-acted. Definitely the lightest of the live action shorts this year.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Live Action): Sure.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/27/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: DeKalb Elementary, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Blade Runner 2049

Supreme Court Turns Down Trump’s Appeal in ‘Dreamers’ Case

Donald Trump's Russia Accomplices

Angela Merkel Starts Grooming Successors, and One Stands Out

Ughhh whyyyy: Levi Sanders makes it official, he’s a candidate for NH’s 1st District House seat

2018! ‘Clueless’ Star Stacey Dash Files to Run for Congress in California

The donation part is good but UGH to the "women are intimidated" stuff: Diageo Introduces ‘Jane Walker’ Scotch in Bid to Attract Women

The Iceman Cometh Out

Ugh, I'm sure I'll give in and subscribe eventually: Turner’s FilmStruck Adds Warner Bros. Classic Films, As Warner Archive Service Winds Down

MILK BATTLES: Former Olympians to Air Regional PSA During Closing Ceremonies Urging Athletes to Give Up Milk

Well, this story took a turn: 50 Cent admits in bankruptcy document that he never actually owned any bitcoin

Monday, February 26, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/26/18)

I love them: As Medals Pile Up, Norway Worries: Are We Winning Too Much?

Todd VanDerWerff's take on this is interesting: The case for and against every Oscars Best Picture nominee

The Fug Girls make a lot of good points here: How About We Don't Expect Meghan Markle & Kate Middleton To Get Along

What Really Happened on Easter Island?

North Korea’s graphic artistry – in pictures

Oscar Project 2018: Blade Runner 2049

Movie: Blade Runner 2049

This did some interesting things but, like the first movie, it just never really grabbed me the way the book did. The world-building is fascinating, though - I keep wanting to know more, but a different more than they give us. This went on FOREVER and felt a bit meandering and that decreased the impact of what actually happened, I think. The performances were good, though.

Availability: Available to rent or purchase.

Nominated In:
Cinematography: Sure.

Production Design: Yes, definitely. The creation of this world was the primary strength here.

Sound Editing: Sure.

Sound Mixing: Sure.

Visual Effects: Yes! They were great.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Movie: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

This sounded like something I'd like, in theory, but it was just . . . not good. It somehow managed to be boring and occasionally difficult to follow at the same time, and I say that as someone who a. LIKES boring stuff and b. is pretty good at following plots. It's about a civil rights lawyer who has a crisis of faith when his longtime business partner dies, but the way this was done made him very unsympathetic without actually making him interesting in any way, and I need at least one of the two. (Preferably interesting. I don't care if your characters are likable as long as they intrigue me.) The pacing was weird, the writing was weird . . . just bleh.

Availability: Available to rent or buy.

Nominated In:
Actor in a Leading Role: No. I can't even give a "he did well with what he was given" here. It was all a mess and the acting felt like part of that.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: DeKalb Elementary

Movie: DeKalb Elementary

This short film is about a school shooting - it's going to win, I assume, because of the timing - and it does an AMAZING job of creating tension. I could barely make myself sit through it. Unfortunately, it also has a terrible message - basically, that mass shooters just need people to be NICE to them and if a shooter is successful it's because the targets didn't say they loved him. As he was trying to kill them. Now, this film is based on a specific real incident, and I get that it's mirroring what happened there. And it's great that he was stopped in that case! But it seems really irresponsible to hold that up as a model of how it "should" go and therefore kind of blame victims. It just left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Short Film (Live Action): Ehhh. It was well-made but, well, see my issue above.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/26/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week!

2 Weeks After Trump Blocked It, Democrats’ Rebuttal of G.O.P. Memo Is Released

Russian spies hacked the Olympics and tried to make it look like North Korea did it, U.S. officials say

And speaking of the next Olympics... China Moves to Let Xi Stay in Power by Abolishing Term Limit

105 Nigerian Girls are Missing Because Donald Trump is a Racist Idiot

Of course: The Trump administration is quietly helping states defund Planned Parenthood

This nonsense enrages me: Feinstein loses California Democratic Party’s endorsement

AS DOES THIS: Bernie Sanders promoted false story on reporting Russian trolls

Winter Olympians Face Same Brain Injury Risks as Boxers and Football Players

Yay! Michelle Obama’s Memoir to Arrive in November

Heh, I love her: Chrissy Teigen Tweets About Bringing 'Emotional Support Casserole' On Flight

Friday, February 23, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/23/18)

This is lovely: The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon

Perfect: If Literature's "Complicated Men" Were on Tinder

I'm excited to finally see this show, and Todd's take is great: 2018’s hottest show debuted in 1994. It’s called ER, and it’s awesome.

Finding Produce in Alaska’s Long Winter Takes Wiles and Luck

Ooh, here are 538's data-driven (obviously) Oscar predictions.

Oscar Project 2018: The Breadwinner

Movie: The Breadwinner

This animated feature (based on a children's book) is the story of a young girl in Afghanistan who pretends to be a boy in order to help support her family after her father is arrested by the Taliban. It's a lovely film, both heartbreaking and life-affirming. It does a very good job of illustrating life under the Taliban in a way that's appropriate for children but doesn't sugarcoat things.

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

Nominated In:
Animated Feature Film: Yes - it's a beautiful rendition of a moving, important story.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Knife Skills

Movie: Knife Skills

This documentary short is about the founding of a restaurant in Cleveland that aspires to be a world-class French restaurant - and is also staffed almost entirely by people recently out of prison. It's an interesting, worthwhile project, and the film does a pretty good job of showcasing the good it does while not ignoring the problems and trainees who didn't work out. And it's certainly fun to watch (some of the) people with no cooking experience discover that they love restaurant life. The deadline of the restaurant opening gives this nice momentum.

Availability: Available for rental or purchase. Find out how to see all the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Short Subject): Sure.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/23/18)

OKAY, time for some happy Friday links.

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Heroin(e), Strong Island, On Body and Soul

Oh yay! Olympic commentators Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir to host Closing Ceremony for NBC

PERFECT: Jesus Christ Superstar Live: Power's Brandon Victor Dixon Cast as Judas (I love how hilariously on the nose it is to cast Aaron Burr as Judas.)

Cool: Penguin Is Opening Up a Women Author-Only Pop-Up Shop

Ha! Queen and Anna Wintour in London Fashion Week front row

!! Oreo hopes to see ‘Pokemon Go’ success in its own scavenger hunt AR game

This is fun: See What It Actually Looks Like Inside the Olympic Village

These Canadians got a visit from an Olympics-loving moose

Beach House releases a very good, very Beach House song

Lucky Charms is adding unicorn marshmallows!

Haha, this cheese site I read is starting a feature about hot people who make cheese called Hunks of Cheese.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/22/18)

A Literary Road Trip Into the Heart of Russia

At The Winter Olympics, Robots Are Here To Help. But Don't Assume They Work All Hours

Fascinating: Pakistan's white-picket fences

I'm not sure I want my tea disrupted: Tea-Brewing Hasn’t Changed In 100 Years. These Tea Crystals Could Change That

I love Ellie Marney's books and now I'm very excited for the next one: I left my childhood cult behind, but not the cynicism it instilled in me

Oscar Project 2018: On Body and Soul

Movie: On Body and Soul

This Hungarian film is an unconventional romance about misfit coworkers at a slaughterhouse who realize they are sharing dreams in which they are deer. It's both disturbing and enchanting; I was skeptical based on the description but wound up being totally drawn in. It's bloody and WEIRD and funny and sort of heartwarming, all at once; the characters are very distinctive and allowed to just be themselves without too much explanation.

Availability: Streaming on Netflix.

Nominated In:
Foreign Language Film: Sure. This was fascinating.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Strong Island

Movie: Strong Island

In this documentary, filmmaker Yance Ford investigates her brother's murder and why the judicial system let his killer go free, as well as examining the role of race and showing the lasting effects the murder had on their family. The details of the case were a bit confusing at times - I wished I had a thorough article about the case as background reading - but what Ford did wonderfully was just letting her own grief and that of her family show through. It was uncomfortable to watch and would have seemed exploitative if it weren't her own story, but since it was her story it was the perfect way to make the audience confront the aftermath of the crime.

Availability: Streaming on Netflix.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Feature): Sure. It was an interesting way of approaching the material.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Heroin(e)

Movie: Heroin(e)

Heroin(e) is a fascinating, important short documentary about three women fighting the opioid epidemic in Huntingdon, West Virginia, where the overdose rate is ten times the national average. It follows a fire department deputy chief, a drug court judge, and a volunteer who works with prostitutes as they use a mix of normal and unconventional methods to try to help addicts. It's grim, obviously, but also extremely hopeful, and these women are doing amazing work.

Availability: Streaming on Netflix. Find out how to see all the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Short Subject): Absolutely. This is my pick this year.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/22/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Edith+Eddie, Last Men in Aleppo, Loving Vincent

The Assad regime just launched the bloodiest attack in Syria in the past 3 years

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Year in Hate is always worth a read, and notable this year: for the first time they've added male supremacist groups.

This is great: More Than Twice As Many Women Are Running For Congress In 2018 Compared With 2016

After Florida School Shooting, Russian ‘Bot’ Army Pounced

Donald Trump Jr.’s tour through India is staggeringly corrupt

100s of USA swimmers were sexually abused for decades and the people in charge knew and ignored it, investigation finds

Welp: Women better represented in Victorian novels than modern, finds study

You're on notice after the last one, Disney: Disney Planning Another 'Muppets' Reboot for Its Streaming Service

The Russian Train Stop That Serves One Schoolgirl

Kepler Astronomers Discover Treasure Trove of New Exoplanets

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/21/18)

A chilling, important piece by a friend of Kim Wall: The Final, Terrible Voyage of the Nautilus

And a heartbreaking story about grief and the Olympics: "I Haven't Moved On"

Okay, something cheerful! Mallory Ortberg Asks Author Jasmine Guillory a Bunch of Questions

HEAR, HEAR: The Case Against Open Kitchens

Thank These Master Alchemists for the Magic of Alcohol

Oscar Project 2018: Loving Vincent

Movie: Loving Vincent

This is a sort of animated documentary about the son of Van Gogh's friend who tries to deliver a letter from Van Gogh to his brother after both of them have died and then gets pulled into trying to figure out what happened in the last few weeks of the artist's life. (The accuracy of his conclusions is pretty debatable, but that's not really the point.) I was pretty skeptical of a documentary done in animation mimicking Van Gogh's style, but it was gorgeous and I was completely drawn in. The great voice cast didn't hurt, either. This is a charming meditation on life and love and art and death and the limits of our understanding of other people.

Availability: Available to rent or buy.

Nominated In:
Animated Feature Film: Yep! This was gorgeous and inventive.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Last Men in Aleppo

Movie: Last Men in Aleppo

This documentary from the PBS POV series follows the White Helmets, a group of Syrian volunteers who rescue people and recover bodies from bombed buildings. I've followed the conflict in Syria in the news, of course, but this look at it from the inside was fascinating and made it much more real to me. This is pretty grim and violent, obviously - they do not shy away from showing dead bodies and other awful things - but it's definitely worth watching if you can handle it, and the violence is mingled with the heroism of these men and moments of humor and normal life as they play with their kids and attend weddings and try to figure out what to tell their parents about what they're doing.

Availability: Streaming on Netflix. Also available to rent or buy.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Feature): Absolutely. This was a compelling and very informative look at one of the worst conflicts going on in the world right now.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Edith+Eddie

Movie: Edith+Eddie

This short documentary is about an interracial couple who met and married in their 90s, and were subsequently separated by the woman's daughter (after a legal battle with her other daughter, who wanted her mother to stay in her house with her husband) and a state-appointed guardian. It starts as a sweet romance and then becomes a showcase for the way the rights of older people are taken away from them. There are, obviously, important issues of mental competence to be considered in allowing nonagenarians to make their own decisions, but at least from the way this case was presented in the film, the daughter's motives (she wanted to sell her mother's house) were never really considered and the state-appointed guardian knew virtually nothing about the case. It was heartbreaking.

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Short Subject): Sure. It looks at an important issue in a compelling, personal way.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/21/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Logan

The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments

Despicable: Former Congressman joins smear campaign against students who survived Parkland massacre

Progress? Maybe? Republican Senator to Introduce Bill Calling for Background Checks on All Commercial Gun Sales

The most 2018 of headlines: Bon Iver’s Manager Is Trying to Unseat the Congressman From Real World

In Ukraine, Corruption Is Now Undermining the Military

Glad my mayor is part of this: U.S. mayors ask EPA not to repeal Clean Power Plan in new letter

This made me cry: Thirty-six minutes after the gold medal was won, the Olympics happened

Interesting: They're doing a 50th anniversary Golden Man Booker Prize.

Last Men in Aleppo Team Collecting After-party Invites to Beat Travel Ban

Ancient DNA sheds light on what happened to the Taino, the native Caribbeans

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Afternoon Tea (2/20/18)

This is fascinating but honestly my main takeaway from stories about adventurers (especially those with families, and who aren't doing important research or anything) is always how breathtakingly selfish they are: The White Darkness

Why These Sisters Are Representing Competing Countries at the Olympics

An interesting piece about YouTube and celebrity: Like and Subscribe

How ‘Lolita’ Freed Me From My Own Humbert

How the Capones Strong-Armed Their Way Into the Dairy Business

Oscar Project 2018: Logan

Movie: Logan

This was much more serious and brutal than I usually expect from a Marvel movie... which is probably part of why I liked it so much. I didn't know much about it going in and was very impressed with the concept, the writing, the acting, all of it. (Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both obviously ALWAYS GREAT but child actress Dafne Keen was amazing here.) I'm sure if you're a person who is interested in this you've already seen it at this point and don't need MY recommendations, but: it was really good!

Availability: Currently on demand from HBO. Also available for purchase.

Nominated In:
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Sure - the writing was a lot of what made this more interesting to me than most superhero movies are. (Fun fact: It's the first nominee in this category based on a comic!)

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Movie: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

This documentary tells the story of the only company criminally indicted in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crisis - a small family bank headquartered in Chinatown. It does a great job of explaining what actually happened with the mortgages while interrogating the role that race played in the prosecution and showing the fascinating family dynamics of the family that founded the bank. I came away from it without being QUITE convinced that they were totally innocent, but this did completely convince me that it was unfair that they were the only ones indicted.

Availability: Streaming on Amazon Prime.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Feature): Sure. This was informative while telling a good story,

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Oscar Project 2018: Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Movie: Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405

This documentary short is about the life and work of Mindy Alper, an artist living with mental illness. I was less interested in it at first, because it seemed like such a smaller, more personal subject than the other documentaries, but it drew me in as it slowly uncovered Alper's story (and her incredible art).

Availability: Find out how to see the shorts here.

Nominated In:
Documentary (Short Subject): Sure. Very well done.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (2/20/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project posts: Traffic Stop, The Florida Project, The Insult

Former Trump aide Richard Gates to plead guilty; agrees to testify against Manafort, sources say

Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity

Awesome: Jacinda Ardern becomes first New Zealand PM to march in gay pride parade

I understand what they mean but can anyone ever be STUNNED by Russian doping? Olympic curling world stunned by Russian doping scandal

Oh, I was wondering how this worked! Beyoncé Songs Come to the Olympics. But Who Pays for the Rights?

Change is terrible: MLB Introduces New Pace Of Play Rules Limiting All Those Damn Mound Visits

Stop Saying Breast Milk Is Free

Whoa: This Roman 'gate to hell' killed its victims with a cloud of deadly carbon dioxide

Artwork hidden under Picasso painting revealed by x-ray

I've started using Do Not Disturb much more liberally recently and it's GREAT: Turn on 'Do Not Disturb' During the Day to Be More Productive

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