So That Was Unexpected: Oscar Reactions 2017

E: Um, okay.

Sorry to take so long in my response, but it’s been crazy at work and at home.  Family birthdays, school orientations, religious holidays, huge work events.  You’d laugh if I told you the thing I’ve done this week.  (All wholesome, but a little nutty.)

In general, that Oscar cast was funny and enjoyable.  Jimmy Kimmel was largely terrific.  His monologue was hilarious (Meryl Streep! discrimination!)  I could have done without the mean tweets, and the tour bus gag went on a little long, but it was hilarious.  The music and the opening sizzled.  Most of the categories went the way I thought they would.  I loved the montages of previous winners before all the acting awards, and was heartened/amused to see how fiercely the editors emphasized Oscar winners of color.  I think each montage started that way.  There were a few exciting wins, a few good speeches (emotional, political but not off-puttingly political), some great clothes, great music, a charming host, Hunger Games-like parashutes.  And then there was the weird, wild finish.

No, it was weird enough to keep me up for another few hours Sunday night, baking (because what else do you do when the world goes crazy?).  After a little time to dissect it all, I’d like to run down my thoughts – what I got wrong, what I got right, and why.   Why is the most interesting question of all.

Because seriously. If you made this stuff up, no one would believe you.  But with the rest of the world going crazy, why should the Oscars be any different?

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Dear Hollywood, Let’s Talk About Living Your Politics

C: Hey there, Hollywood. Did you know a lot of people think you’re “too liberal”? One’s another writer for this blog, in fact. But I gotta say: I’m not seeing it when it comes to this Casey Affleck situation.

E’s the prediction guru around here, but I have one rock-solid prediction for the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony: we’re going to hear some statements made against Trump. You know, the guy who sexually harassed women who worked with him, made them feel deeply uncomfortable and belittled, came on to them despite them being married or not interested, touched them without their permission, and used his star power to get away with it all. Just like your front-running Best Actor nominee.

From football to politics, this culture has a history of overlooking men’s treatment of women because we like what they’re doing otherwise. Despite the fact that jobs like, say, being the star of a movie or the president of a country can’t actually be accomplished without working with women — women whose hard work in supporting positions is essential to the overall success of the undertaking — we still manage to class misogyny and harassment as side-issues, not relevant to the man’s accomplishment.

No one is questioning that Affleck gave a great performance. But every year, some great performances don’t take home an Oscar. That award, by the way, is “Best Actor,” not “Best Performance.” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, what makes a good actor in your eyes? What ideal will you hold up for the American public to admire?

Hollywood, I hope you change your mind about this. Because Constance Wu is perfectly right to say that “Casey Affleck’s win will be a nod to Trump.” And your inevitable statements at this year’s award ceremony about equality, acceptance, respect, and love will ring a little false on that account.

 

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TV actress Constance Wu: on point regarding hair + this issue

Questions I Have After Watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

C: Since I saw this movie yesterday, my brain’s been aswirl with pressing questions, like a dark smoky cloud with random flashes in it. Short of twitterbombing J.K. Rowling, this post seemed like the best way to alleviate that pressure.

Advanced Warning: all I’ve got here are questions, not answers, so buckle up for some heavy mental turbulence. (No, I’m not bothering with a spoiler warning. If you wanted to avoid spoilers, why did you even click on a post with this title? That one’s on you.)

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  1. Is this business about “physiological differences” between wizards and Muggles* (a) straight-up midichlorian bullcrap, or (b) faulty 1920s wizard science? I’d like B to be correct as I don’t see how it makes any sense, what with Muggleborns being a thing, and since the idea that wizards are a slightly different species sounds straight out of a Grindelwald or Voldemort propaganda poster. But, if I’ve learned anything from reading and watching a lot of historical fiction, it’s that all the good people in the past had Correct Modern Ideas and only bad guys held Outdated Notions. Newt’s the one who says this, so that’s unfortunately a point for Explanation A.
  2. Is being a Legilimens like being a Metamorphmagus? In other words, is it a special skill you can be born with, that other wizards can use spellwork to approximate? That’s the best explanation I could come up with for why Queenie could just read people’s minds — sometimes could not help reading minds — even though in the books, Legilimency was presented as a thing you do with a wand and an incantation.
  3. Why Newt Scamander so bad at catching (and keeping) fantastic beasts? I mean, I get that this is the driving plot of the movie, but seriously. He is the Beasts Guy. He literally wrote (or will write) the book on them. He should probably have a case with locks that work. He should probably not be climbing a chandelier to chase a niffler instead of using his dang wand.
  4. Speaking of fantastic beasts: at what point does their intelligence make them not so much beasts as people? I’m thinking particularly of bowtruckles here, since Newt has several conversations with the one who spends most of the movie in his pocket. In the original Fantastic Beasts textbook, Rowling mentions a few that talk, IIRC. How is intelligence measured in this world? At what point does a “beast” or “creature” qualify for status as a non-human people group e.g. centaurs, goblins, or mermaids? Or is there even a legal distinction there? This whole gray area is so rife with potential problems and abuses! (Update: This is addressed at length in the introduction to the original Fantastic Beasts publication from 2001. Yay, answers! Short version: it’s complicated.)
  5. Speaking of which, what is the deal with goblins in this movie? For starters, I’m not 100% sure who was a goblin and who wasn’t (the nightclub singer, for instance?). But I’m pretty sure the shady nightclub owner was a goblin, keeping up the pattern that all goblins Rowling’s characters have dealings with turn out to shady backstabbers. So they’re a race of gold-loving shady backstabbers? Problematic, Rowling.
  6. Was that elevator operator a free house elf? Because he was definitely wearing a snazzy little uniform — a.k.a. clothes. I sort of love the idea that maybe there is a free elf community in 1920s New York, but I also wonder if it was just a mistake (or he was another species). We only got a quick glimpse.
  7. Was Ariana Dumbledore an Obscurial? I went back and reread the relevant section of Deathly Hallows and it seems possible, though she only started repressing her powers after being attacked by Muggles. She was 14 when she accidentally killed her mother** which would make her older than the recorded Obscurials mentioned in Fantastic Beasts, but they kept her condition a secret so that doesn’t mean she wasn’t.
  8. Can adult wizards stop using their powers? Is the Obscurus only something that happens if you are a kid and prone to uncontrolled magical outbursts? The only case in point I can think of is Merope, and she died, but more of childbirth and being sad I think, so that doesn’t really prove anything.
  9. How is there only one wizarding school for all of North America? You think Hogwarts has staffing problems — just try hiring professors for a school with 10,000 teen wizards.
  10. Were they making a statement by having the two leads be so awkward? Whether it’s how the parts were written, or how Eddie Redmayne (Newt) and Katherine Waterston (Tina) acted and were directed, both came across as extremely socially awkward, timid, and just odd. Obviously this wasn’t by accident, but I’m wondering about the purpose behind this atypical choice. Was this a way of differentiating them from the original, confident and extroverted HP trio? Or going even further, a kind of “awkward people can be heroes too” message? (Like, “what if Neville and Luna were the stars of HP?” If so, props because that sounds great.)
  11. Why did the rain only affect Jacob when he stepped out in it, while seeming to work on people just looking out the window? If only people who touched the rainwater had their memories wiped, MACUSA would still have a pretty big problem on their hands at the end of the movie. (Also, what about government wizards who were out in the rain? Wizards aren’t immune to Obliviation!)
  12. Related: Why the heck did they let Jacob erase his memories? When you see injustice, you don’t just say “okay, I guess that’s how it’s got to be.” Newt has already established that he thinks the New Yorkers have a backwards attitude toward No-majs. The sisters clearly came around to this viewpoint. We know that in Britain, some Muggles are allowed to know about the wizarding world (family of Muggleborns, romantic partners, etc.). I always hate the fantasy trope of “now you must forget the magic thing, or your humdrum life will be ruined,” but here it literally feels like kowtowing to bigotry!

As I hope is already clear to those who know me, I truly enjoyed this movie. But these questions need answers. And no, I will not just go look it up on Pottermore. It’s time for some old-fashioned close reading and theory-spinning, people!

*I’m going to keep calling them Muggles unless I need to refer to the U.S. wizards’ attitude towards non-magical people, because at this point I just can’t get used to “No-maj.”
**Dumbledore’s mom: one of the thousands of Victorian women named Kendra. Um, sure, Rowling.

November 2016 Movie Preview: Part Deux

E: Sorry for the delay, friends — after a fraught election week and all, we’re belatedly bringing you the rest of November’s movie offerings. Also, all three siblings have gone since last we wrote — and you know what?  Despite my dread, Trolls was pretty enjoyable.

M: And C and I separately saw Doctor Strange, which is not the best Marvel movie ever, but despite that is quite entertaining.

E: As with November’s first week, there are some pretty fine offerings to be had.  If you’re looking for a distraction, your multiplex can definitely accommodate you for a few hours.

C: There’s also a fair bit of random garbage, but yeah, some strong contenders too — one of which I already have tickets for. And if you all don’t know that’s Fantastic Beasts, you don’t know me.

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Fall 2016 Television Preview: Sunday

E: Welcome to the best night on TV, the night when cable pulls out all the stops.  Want prestige adaptations?  We’ve got ’em. Costume dramas?  You’re on.  Movie stars?  Check.

C: And I… don’t think I watch anything on Sundays. I’m the low-brow one on this gang, I guess.

M: Something tells me I’ll give you a run for your money there. In Thursday’s post we mentioned how that night has fallen off as the most competitive, best night on TV. Well, Sundays was always up there, now it’s the king of the hill (though, not Hank Hill). But it’s become a weird hill. NBC has football (which until about 5 years ago was on ESPN), CBS decided to go with a slate of similar-but-different, law enforcement-y procedurals, with acronym-happy NCIS:LA, Madam Secretary and Elementary. FOX, as it has for years, has gone all comedy on Sunday, and ABC is kind of schizophrenic, with the fantasty-ish Once Upon a Time, followed by the very heavy Secrets and Lies, and ends with the extremely soapy Quantico. What a weird night.

E: Two things you won’t get this fall? Game of Thrones (it’s such a long wait until April) and The Good Wife (sigh).

M: Poor E, her long-time favorite show has come to an end. Was it at least a satisfying end?

E: Confession time: I have still not actually watched the final two episodes.

M and C: WHAAAT!?  whaaatminion

E: I know.

C: Okay but seriously, that is shocking.

M: Like, “end of The Sixth Sense if you hadn’t heard there was a twist” shocking.

E: I know! I was really glad they were ending it (boy it got really dark and unsatisfying in later seasons, even though it still gave us the most brilliant, topical cases of the week and the most vivid characterizations on television), and I was glad it went out on the creators’ terms, but I don’t know.  It’s too emotionally fraught.  What if I don’t like it?  I heard mixed reviews, and I just could not — still cannot — bring myself to watch.

C: Well, I can’t say I don’t sympathize. I’ve given up on some of the shows I was the most emotionally invested in because I couldn’t handle the loss of the things I liked about it. But, you know, usually with a season or two left, not two episodes. Poor E 😦 Continue reading

Fall 2016 Television Preview: Friday

M: Ahhh, Friday: once a TV graveyard, now an odd mix of the “pity-move” where shows get sent before they get cancelled, and steady medium ratings earners. In other words, shows that aren’t going to get great ratings but, without costing too much, keep enough eyeballs (and advertisers) that the networks are willing to keep renewing them, yet aren’t willing to move them to more popular nights.

E: Friday Nights: lower your expectations.

C: I think Fridays have been like that for a while now, actually.

M: Yes, didn’t mean to imply that was brand new, just newer. There was also a trend (started by Grimm a few years back) of spooky shows on Fridays that seems to have come to an end, at least on the broadcast nets. However, this year there are some interesting new offerings.

C: I’d say it started with The X-Files… but maybe that wasn’t a trend so much as a lone beacon of Spooky in the night.

M: X-Files spent most of it’s life on Sundays, though.

C: Now a waning Vampire Diaries is trying to be that beacon…

E: Huh — I hadn’t noticed the lack of spooky programming, but you’re quite right.  Is that just happening now?

M: Seems to be.

E: Friday night’s the night I catch up on the TV I watch with my kids, so I’m never watching live, personally.

M: In past years we had combined Friday and Saturday.  However, in a development this year, it appears that the nets have given up on Saturdays completely, so we’re just mentioning one BBC America show…

E: And one cartoon, because my family is all about it!

M: …but that’s it for Saturday. So we’re not giving it a whole post, as we didn’t feel the need to tell you that most of the nets are showing news magazines and college football (including the very narcissistic-ally titled “FOX Sports Saturday: FOX College Football“).

C: LOL. What channel is that on, I wonder?

E: I haven’t a clue – but I can tell you that our other previews are here: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Again, new shows are in blue, red asterisks (*) mean we’re watching. Continue reading

Fall 2016 Television Preview: Thursday

M: Remember when Thursday nights were the hands-down dominant TV night? Well, now there’s not a lot that even looks interesting to me here.

E: And I’m sure that’s nothing to do with the fact that it’s a soap-heavy night.

M: There have been a lot of factors going into that (Shonda *bleeping* Rhimes, shows that ran their course and ended, DVR’s, the advent of Thursday Night Football, etc), but what’s left is a slate of shows most of which are either past their prime (Grey’s, Supernatural), never had a prime (How To Get Away With Murder, Legends of Tomorrow, Mom) or are new shows the nets are hoping will become the next big thing (Pitch, Pure Genius, Great Indoors, Good Place). There are still a few big shows like Big Bang, for example, but that’s not even on Thursdays until mid-fall.

E: Several other popular shows have delayed their premieres until 2017: Scandal will return after star Kerry Washington’s maternity leave, and Bones has 12 episodes to finish up the series.  So we’re not covering them.

C: And we already discussed Big Bang. In case you need to catch up, here are the links to the previews of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

E: Also, if you see a show in blue that means it’s new this season, and a red asterisk (*) mean one of us will be watching. Continue reading