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Look Upon My Predictions, Ye Pundits, and Despair: My Oscars 2019 Scorecard

People really seem to like Queen. I mean, I can dig one or two Queen songs, but…

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I don’t get it. That’s okay, though.

Let’s proceed to the actual scorecard. I’m counting it a win if either my Probable or Sleeper Predictions won. Does that give me an unfair double-shot of being right, and smug about it? Yes. It also gives me two chances to be wrong. So I think it’s fair. This is my scorecard. Go do your own predictions.

Best Picture:

What I Predicted:  The Favourite, with Black Panter as a Sleeper.

What Won: Green Book. Race stuff still trumps gender stuff.

Best Director:

What I Predicted: Spike Lee collecting Dues, with Yorgos Lanthimos as a Sleeper

Who Won: Alfonso Cuaron, for Roma. Foreign Language films are becoming safer than I realized.

Best Actress:

What I Predicted: Yalitza Aparicio, with Olivia Colman as a Sleeper

Who Won: Olivia Colman

Best Actor:

What I Predicted: Rami Malek, with Christian Bale as a Sleeper

Who Won: Rami Malek.

Best Supporting Actress:

What I PredictedRachel Weisz, with Regina King as a Sleeper

Who Won: Regina King

Best Supporting Actor:

What I Predicted: Mahershala Ali, with Richard E. Grant as a Sleeper

Who Won: Mahershala Ali

Best Animated Feature:

What I Predicted: Mirai, with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as a Sleeper

What Won: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. More important than this, however is my prediction, almost a year-old now, that Wes Anderson will not win an Oscar. The Academy does not love you, Wes. It never will. Your stuff is too cute for them.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

What I Predicted: If Beale Street Could Talk, with A Star is Born as a Sleeper

What Won: BlacKKlansman. They gave Spike Lee his Lifetime Achievement/Paid Your Dues award with a Screenplay Oscar? That’s cold. But it did give us our Political Grandstanding of the night, so that’s something.

Best Original Screenplay:

What I Predicted: Vice, with Greek Book as a Sleeper

What Won: Green Book. I really did not expect them to shut Vice out, but they did.

The Technical/Craft/Unimportant Awards did not provoke strong predictions from me, so I’ll just list my shots and whether they were right.

Cinematography: The Favourite Roma

Documentary Feature: RBG Free Solo

Documentary ShortPeriod. End of Sentence.

Live Action ShortDetainment Skin

Foreign Language FilmRoma

Film EditingBlacKkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody

Sound EditingA Quiet Place Bohemian Rhapsody

Sound Mixing : Bohemian Rhapsody

Production DesignBlack Panther

Original ScoreMary Poppins Returns Black Panther

Original Song: “All the Stars” “Shallow”

Makeup and HairVice

Costume DesignThe Favourite Black Panther

Visual EffectsFirst Man

Scorecard:

Correct predictions – 12

Incorrect predictions – 12

Conclusion: I am awesome at calling shots of an awards show I care nothing about, celebrating a collection of films I hardly saw any of.

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Rethinking President Grant

I don’t link much to National Review anymore, but the resurrection of the popular image of Ulysses S. Grant has been a cause of mine since I wrote a bad term paper about it in college.

A pertinent fact: Grant was one of the more popular presidents of his era, winning two lopsided elections and very nearly getting the nomination for a third term in 1880.

When you combine the popular vote with Professor Michael McDonald’s historical approximations of the turnout rate of eligible voters, Grant in 1868 won 42.6 percent of all eligible voters, the highest proportion in U.S. history; his 1872 reelection ranked sixth

Check the whole article out.

In Fact, The Hunt for Red October is Awesome.

I am largely unfamiliar with The Toast, but it seems to have a Buzzfeedy kind of feel, except it has articles instead of gifs. But I haven’t hit upon any obnoxious political content, so it can’t be Huffington Post. I started with one kind of article, and then I found Movie Yelling with Nicole and Mallory: The Hunt for Red October.

And it’s definitely watching two girls be very silly and hyperbolic about a movie. But it’s a great movie, and they’re right on a few key points:

  1. Alec Baldwin is, in fact, the greatest Jack Ryan that has ever been. I’m not a tremendous Alec Baldwin fan, either. In fact, I can’t even think of another movie I’ve seen him in that I would watch a second time (wait, he was in Beetlejuice, wasn’t he? I always forget that). But he nailed this one. The Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies are kind of plodding by comparison [In fact, If I’m being honest, I don’t much like Harrison Ford outside of his particularly narrow Han Solo/Indiana Jones oevre. He’s got too much anti-hero, too much fuck-this-shit-in-particular in him, to really be an earnest heroic type, yet for some reason he kept trying to be that, and it sucks. The only real exception to this is Witnesswhen he plays a cop charmed by the Amish, and even then he gets romantic with an Amish woman. Because of course he was. And before anyone mentions The Fugitive, that movie is entertaining because of Tommy Lee Jones and his gang of misfit cops, and for no other reason.]
  2. The cast in this movie is pretty damn good. All actors you’ve seen in other things, and none of them are embarrassing or off-putting. Tim Curry is completely believable as this great big true-believing Soviet dupe, but then Tim Curry is believable as pretty much everything he ever did. Dude had range. I rather enjoy Scott Glenn myself. The “Hey, I think someone fired a torpedo at us!”-“No shit, Buckwheat, get the fuck outta here!” exchange gets me every time. Also, he’s pretty badass with the whole “hardest part of playing chicken is knowing when to flinch” business. Which brings me to…
  3. Endlessly. Quotable.

    “And the singing, Captain?”
    “Let them Sing.”

    “I would have liked to have seen Montana”

    “When I was 12 years old, I helped my daddy build a bomb shelter in the backyard because some idiot parked a dozen warheads 90 miles off the coast of Florida. This thing could park a couple of hundred warheads off the coast of New York or Washington and no one would know anything about it until it was all over.”

    “That kid spent six months in traction, and another year learning to walk again. Did his fourth year from a hospital bed. Now it’s up to you, Charlie, but I might consider cuttin’ the kid a little slack.”

    “They’re pinging away with their active sonar, but they’re running at almost 30 knots. At that speed, they could run over my daughter’s stereo and not hear it.”

    “Then tell it right. Pavarotti was a tenor, Paganini was a composer.”

    “A Russian don’t take a dump without a plan.”

    “Oh yes it was. The man was patronizing you, and you stomped on him. In my opinion, he deserved it.”

    “Remember, chief. That torpedo did not self-destruct. You heard it hit the hull. And I…[shows identification]…was never here.”

    “Yuri… You’ve lost another submarine?”

    “Next time, Jack, write a goddamn memo.”

    That’s just off the top of my head.

  4. It’s perhaps the last great Sean Connery performance. He did stuff in the 90’s, but it was mostly big-budget schlock like The Rock. This had a taciturn passion to it, a real dramatic arc and gravitas. And If I wanna get meta for a second, I feel like getting a Scot to play a Lithuanian has an odd kind of logic to it. He is both utterly ensconsed in and utterly removed from the empire he serves, making him deeply dangerous to friend and foe alike. Which brings me to…
  5. No film gets the Cold War better than this one. Yeah, all you Dr. Strangelove fanboys, I said it. Come at me. Strangelove is a satire, and rather a low one. It has nothing to say beyond “Nucular weapons are Teh Dumbz LOL”. The joke is that these generals and statesman are tap-dancing around the End the World button, and woops! they step on it. Red October does the military and political leaders of both the USA and the USSR the courtesy of treating them like grownups, like men keenly aware that a false move means the end of the world, and trying to prevent that by any means necessary except giving the enemy an advantage. The paranoia, the sorrow at the labyrinthine nature of the conflict juxtaposed with the pride in playing it so well, the mutual fear and fascination with which Russians and Americans regarded each other for almost the entire second half of the last century, it’s all deftly woven into this potboiler action movie with nuclear submarines.

But that’s my point of view. It’s nice to see the younger generation appreciating it, too.

Economist Crunches Numbers, Makes Box Office Condemn “The Last Jedi”

This post by Captain Capitalism falls under the category of Interesting, With Caveat.

In essence, he calculates Box Office As a Percentage of GDP, to evaluate the relative success of the Star Wars Movies in 1977 vs. today.

Naturally, A New Hope tops the list, bringing in .035% of the US GDP.

Solo does the worst, at .0019% GDP.

The blogger/economist thus observes that “Kathleen Kennedy wiped out 95% of the Star Wars franchise value”.  He then twerks the numbers a bit more, and gives us a more conservative, mere 75%.

Which, as I said, is interesting, and certainly grist for the mill of those who want to make Kathleen Kennedy the Palpatine of Lucasfilm.

But.

We cannot know, at this point, if Solo was an outlier or not. The narrative – that fans boycotted Solo in protest of The Last Jedi, is commonplace, and indeed was argued on this very blog. But we can’t call it a trend yet. Solo had things wearing it down in addition to the reaction to Last Jedi, such as the fact that no one wanted it in the first place. If Episode IX returns to the mean, then that means: a) Solo tanking had nothing to do with any boycott, b) said boycott has run its course, or c) the fan base is gaining new members to replace the old ones. And any of those will mean that the conclusion – that Kathleen Kennedy destroyed Star Wars – will be inoperative.

Also, the data suggests that, Solo notwithstanding, The Disney films are doing about as well as the Prequels. Force Awakens more or less ties Phantom Menace at .011% GDP, while Rogue One and The Last Jedi do about the same as Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Now, it is absolutely damning with faint praise to defend the Disney SW films by saying “they’re doing as well as the Prequels”. But if that’s true, then as I’ve been saying, the real damage was done to the franchise 20 years ago, and Kathleen Kennedy is merely the golem operating under George Lucas’ ghostly hand.

If Episode IX does fail, then Kennedy will certain deserve opprobrium for taking a profitable if damaged franchise and driving a stake through its heart. But if it doesn’t, then we must all revise our narratives.

 

Anyone Who Refers to Themselves as Representing a “Community” is an Ass

Is that a Hasty Generalization or a Sweeping one? I lack the data to tell. I also don’t care that it’s illogical.

It’s how I feel, therefore it’s true.

What am I talking about?

This.

Long story, short, an author allowed internet bullies who spoke for the “community” to shame her into not publishing her book. The book in question had yet to be published. Doesn’t matter. It has been seized on, it has been denounced, it has been made to un-exist.

This is how we live now.

But but but, don’t I realize how damaging such a book could be, because it reifies this or doesn’t show proper respect to that? Don’t I realize how this book is Hitler? FOR SHAME.

I don’t care.

I also don’t care if you have claimed, at some point in your life, to speak for a “Community”, and you don’t think that you’re an ass, and you’re offended and you hate me now.

Good.

I’m glad you’re offended.

I’m glad I wrote something that pissed you off.

Welcome to the party, pal.

Because the long slow march of shrieking cretins who have debased every part of our culture has been pissing me off for a while. I haven’t said much about it, because what’s the point? Anyone who genuinely thinks that a fantasy novel which has as a hook the enslavement of magic-users is a thought-crime deserving of rage, anyone who applauds the destruction of art for the sake of their politics, is beyond persuasion. As Joseph Mills put it, a mob has reasons that reason knows nothing of.

But the flip side of that is, it genuinely does not matter if you try to meet them halfway, or if you flip them the bird. It is not possible to avoid being offensive any longer. No matter what you do, you’re going to piss off someone.

So I’m going to.

“Community” is a word used by bullies to give their unexamined premises and tendentious conclusions the false authority of societal need. It is a word utterly ruined, which sickens my heart whenever banally uttered by a smug imbecile. It is verbal diarrhea.

It’s also a pretty funny if preciously self-aware sit-com from the last decade. I still like it, but I don’t watch it much anymore. It’s gone now, and Archer is funnier, anyway.

I speak these words as an aspiring author myself, and I speak them as one who just realized that, if The Sword gets published, I’m going to make people angry.

I can’t predict why, exactly. But I can predict I will.

Because this is the world we live in now.

So I promise this: if no agent or publishing house wants it, I’m going to set up a crowd-funded launch. If someone persuades Indiegogo or whatever site I use to shut me down, I’ll find another one. If I get nowhere that way, I’ll put together the scratch for as big a self-pub launch as I can manage. If the trolls go after me on Amazon, I’ll find another way. I’ll mimeograph the damn thing and pass copies around like samizdata (is that an inapt use of that word? I don’t care).

I will not be stopped.

Because you are evil, and you deserve to have the thing that offends you shoved in your face.

I hope I make you cry.

(Hat Tip to Larry Correia, who, if you think I’m obnoxious, is an order of magnitude rantier and more offensive.)

Variety Buries the Lede About Disney’s Film Division

 

Walt Disney Studios had a much more magical earnings report than analysts had expected. The entertainment powerhouse behind Pixar, Marvel, and the world’s most trafficked theme parks logged earnings per share of $1.84, a 3% drop from $1.89 in the prior-year quarter. Disney also reported revenue of $15.3 billion, essentially flat with the year-ago period.…

The article is called No Star Wars, No Problem, and it’s true that Disney had a good quarter. But why?

The better-than-anticipated financial picture is attributable to higher broadcast revenues and the increased popularity of its parks, bright spots that off-set declines in Disney’s film division. The company faced difficult comparisons because it did not field any “Star Wars” sequel or spinoff during the holidays for the first time in four years. The lack of a “Star Wars” film also took a bite out of licensing profits.

Doesn’t that seem to suggest the opposite of the headline? The fact that other divisions of the company are covering for a loss does not mean that the loss is not there. How bad is the loss?

Disney’s film unit released the hits “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” during the final three months of 2018, as well as the box office bomb “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Film revenues for the quarter decreased 27% to $1.8 billion and segment operating income decreased 63% to $309 million.

That seems bad. And note something here. Of the three films released, two were sequels to existing properties (one a sequel to a film fifty years old). Those were the hits. The bomb was a re-imagining of “The Nutcracker” that no one wanted and was critically panned.

You know what didn’t get released?

Anything new.

Now for a year of live-action remakes of earlier films, more sequels, and comic book movies?

The Renaissance is over.