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Let’s Play “Guess the Black Person,” Academy Awards Edition (UPDATED, Tuesday)

The other day, when I was editing Tom’s Oscar Predictions post, I suggested that he might want to make a funny about the Academy’s sterling track record of recognizing black talent. Wikipediaing “Black Academy Award Nominees,” I control-’F'-ed “2010″ to see how they were celebrating the talents of black America this year, and, well, I just never would have guessed the ONE name (out of, what, 200 or so major nominees?) that popped up. Have you guessed? Well you’re wrong. Because apparently the ONE black person nominated for an Academy Award this year was Hailee Steinfeld, better known as the little (white) girl who’s at the center of pretty much all of the scenes in True Grit, which I guess translates to three-fifths of the scenes using the Academy’s rubric, which is why it makes sense that she was ghettoized to the Supporting Actress category? I’d been wondering about that.

Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate the Academy and the North American film industry in general, for…. um…. not using RACIST affirmative action? (Because as everyone knows it’s not exclusion that’s racist, but affirmative action). Look, Academy, you made Clarence Thomas smile.


UPDATE (11 a.m., Tuesday): I thought I’d relay a back and forth I’ve been having with a commenter on this post on Reddit. Hopefully it clarifies any ambiguities anyone might have had about what the intended takeaway from this post was:

Redditor: I fail to see why this is important. If there weren’t any good films put out there with black actors, then there aren’t going to be any nominees. Hate to say, but Tyler Perry isn’t exactly Oscar material.

Me: But why aren’t there any good films out there with black actors? Anyone that’s seen the Wire know that there are plenty “out there.”

Him: There are many reasons why an actor would turn down work. Prior engagements, salary requirements, etc might cause issues. Just because there was one movie this year that featured a “black” actress (who looks very much white, so I am putting that in quotes) doesn’t mean that next year there won’t be predominantly black actors next year. It goes with the natural ebb and flow of the business. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to cause a stink to get their names in the papers, and helps propagate the racial intolerance across this country. As bad as it is for a white man to get promoted over a black man for his skin color, it is just as bad for a white man to get attacked or passed over for promotion because of his skin.

The issue here isn’t the academy, the issue here is shitty ass internet bloggers are trying to get their names out there, so they make a non-issue out into something that seems catastrophic. Oh no, lets call Al Sharpton because this year a good, black actor didn’t want to work on the right project.

Me: Yeah, total non-representation in a data set of 200 of 12% of the American population just wreaks of being the result of “actors turning down work.” You seriously don’t think this is symptomatic of a deep-rooted cultural problem in America? I totally agree that the Academy should nominate actors for the best performances of the year, but there is something rotten in the state of Denmark (where Denmark is the larger cultural equation).

PS – Did you even read the post? If not, read the last paragraph. If yes, reread the last paragraph.

Him: I read it, and it’s pretty obvious as to what it is. Reread my post, and you will see that I called it out for what it is- bullshit.

12% of the american population may be black, but those 12% aren’t in film. Those 12% aren’t putting the kind of work in to get close to being oscar worthy.

Why don’t we go ahead and complain about all the other actors and actresses that don’t get recognized -ever- by the academy? Oh yeah, because their work is shit.

Me: Your argument is that the world and the academy are a meritocracy? You crazy.

Him: No, my argument is that to be recognized for doing good work, you have to do good work.

I don’t get a plaque for showing up to work every day. Fuck, I don’t even get a raise for showing up to work on a daily basis.

Could we see more black actors in better roles? Sure. Is that going to happen without black actors taking whatever paycheck they get (AKA Madea goes to the drive thru)? Hell no.

Me: Ya. Your life is really hard. Nigger please.

UPDATE: Okay, so I realized that I made a bit of a leap there that might have been a bit hard to follow. My point was that:

(a) Your whole position (even if you don’t realize it) is still premised on the idea that the world tends towards being “fair” (whatever that means)

(b) One can only believe what is not blatantly, undeniably contradicted by one’s own experience.

(c) People that have hard lives know that the idea that the world tends towards being fair is contradicted all over the place in the world, because they’re the ones that get smacked in the face by these contradictions, and therefore…

(d) You’ve had the privilege of not really having a life that’s all that hard. Whatever sucks about it /is/ largely your own doing.

But you can’t be faulted for not having a hard life. That’s not your fault. What you can be faulted for is failing to cultivate the imagination to see that your experience is far from a universal one.

There were no black people nominated by the Academy this year, because, yes, there were disproportinatly few prominent roles in “serious” movies that called for a black person. Why? Because middle, upper middle, and upper class people (aka people with money) don’t tend to buy shit that’s about black people, whether it’s good or bad. If there isn’t a clear market for something among the people with money, it’s going to be hard to get the money together to finance a product. Don’t believe me that this happens? A nice little case study is the ratings difference between the “white” season of the wire (season 2), and the subsequent even better but black season of the wire (season 3). That’s just one example.

The laziness and poor decision making of black actors are far from the primary factors here. And frankly, it’s racist as hell of you to suggest that they are.

So far that last comment has gotten a downvote but no response. To be fair, I only added the update this morning.


America’s last WWI vet dies at age 110


As reported by various news outlets, including BBC News, Frank Buckles — the last living American to have fought in World War One — died last weekend at his home in West Virginia. His death came a mere four weeks after his 110th birthday — and a mere 94 years after he first lied about his age in order to join the fight overseas in The War to End All Wars.

In case math isn’t your strong suit (i.e., you’re an American secondary school student), that means that young Buckles voluntarily — even eagerly, according to reports — enlisted in our armed services at the tender age of 16 in order to risk life and Limburger to defend the world from Europe’s Central Powers (a.k.a., yesteryear’s “Axis of Evil”).

I don’t know about you, but when I was 16, the most pressing matter on my mind was how to get a clearer signal on the scrambled porn channel.

So here’s to you, young Buckles. I hope you finally get that war memorial you’ve been advocating for. After all, if anyone has waited long enough, it’s you.


Weather Report: Portland, Oregon

“Got a cigarette by chance, Boss?” The kid steps through the train from behind me, puffing steam. I look up and shake a no. My brain automatically tallies up the time since my last smoke – two years? Two-and-a-half? Something like that. I was — just 15 minutes ago — strolling behind a fellow with a lit cigarette, matching my stride to his for a brief moment, in order to sniff the sweet-scented air that he trailed in his wake. This kid on the MAX doesn’t understand the significance of his question. He sucks his teeth at me and moves to the other end of the car.

It’s pleasantly warm in here. They heat these trains. It’s like a public service that they provide along with the cheap transportation.  I appreciate it. It’s fuckin’ cold outside. Waiting for the train, I stood on the platform with my back to the wind, facing down the stream of traffic. I watched a bicycle pass a car on the right, in the middle of an intersection, over the slick, metal MAX tracks. His flickering red tail-light was still visible two blocks away. That seems pretty safe.

The doors open at each stop and the fluid that moistens my eyeballs freezes in the icy blast of outside air. I have to blink a few times to thaw them out.

All day today people were talking about snow. It was forecast for last night, but it didn’t come. The meteorologists called it for this evening, between four and five. It didn’t come then either. I heard someone say that they were predicting snow by ten o’clock tonight. It’s 9:54 now, and let me tell you… it’s not snowing, but it’s cold.

(image via)


The Week is Over


Here are some things that happened.

If you need anything else, I will be at the bar drinking myself into a coma.


Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Swap Wives. Or something.

According to MSN, Beantown boy wonders Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (along with Ben’s younger brother Casey — a.k.a., Affleck 2.0) are currently collaborating on a new movie called The Trade, based on — of all things — the Yankees.

Well, okay, not the Yankees, per se, but rather former Yankees’ pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson. And what’s so movie-worthy about Kekich and Peterson — two southpaws who enjoyed but a single All-Star game selection between them? Only the fact that, one day in the early 1970s, they decided to swap wives.

Like this, but, you know, fo’ realz.


According to the story (and not surprisingly),

Kekich is panic-stricken. He has moved away and has a new identity. He is freaked out that those working on the movie found out where he is. He isn’t too keen on having the scandal dredged up again after all this time.

Peterson, on the other hand — though not cited in the article — probably isn’t as worried about his family finding out about his sordid past. Why? Well, as it turns out, he and Kekich’s former wife, Susanne, are still married. No word on whether they’re still swinging, but as the Black-Eyed Peas might say, I’ve got a feeling…

(Top image via Best Movies Ever. Or Film Drunk. Whatever. The point is, somebody stole it from somebody and I stole it from them.)


Happy Birthday to George Harrison, the Dreamiest Beatle

He is, of course, dead, but he would’ve been 68 today.


Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was Probably Mellower when He Sold Drugs

Now this? This is something I did not know (h/t Atrios):

Perhaps the most pivotal day of Daniels’ four years at Princeton was May 14, 1970 — the day of the drug arrest that Daniels thought would sully his political future. Officers found enough marijuana in his room to fill two size 12 shoe boxes, reports of the incident say. He and the other inhabitants of the room were also charged with possession of LSD and prescription drugs without a prescription. Daniels and his two roommates in 111 Cuyler Hall, Marc Stuart ’71 and Richard Stockton ’71, were arrested and, after plea bargaining, Daniels eventually escaped with a $350 fine for “maintaining a common nuisance.”

Two size 12 shoe boxes stuffed with reefer is a lot of fucking reefer. At least a half pound, maybe more. Under current Indiana drug laws, if Daniels were found to be in possession of that much reefer he would be charged with a Class D felony and face a prison sentence of anywhere from six months to three years. And this is being rather generous for a couple of reasons! For one, it discounts all of the acid and pills he and his bros were dropping all the time during their tenure at Princeton. For another, I’m assuming that being caught with the drugs on a college campus would not constitute being within 1000 feet of a school, which would otherwise push it up to a Class C felony (jail time: four to eight years). Though I very well could be wrong!

Here’s what Daniels told the Daily Princetonian on Monday about his arrest forty years ago:

Read the rest of this entry »


Winter’s Bone Will Get Robbed at the Oscars

We know what’s going to happen. The Oscar is going to go to Natalie Portman. She has it sewn up, even after appearing in every bad movie this winter, one of which was with Ashton Kutcher. And while Black Swan was a pretty nifty movie with some dazzling performances, costumes, and visual effects, not to mention some of the creepiest locations I’ve ever seen (I’m scared of all theatre basements, but the basement at Lincoln Center seems especially terrifying), it was nowhere near as good as Winter’s Bone. Jennifer Lawrence has been nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her turn as seventeen-year-old badass Ree Dolly, but she won’t win it. And this would outrage me — if I actually thought that Oscars go to those who deserve them.

The story is both epic and intimate, a classic film noir detective story and a quietly disturbing family drama. Ree is a teenager in the Ozarks, looking after her younger siblings and her mentally unstable mother while her father is off cooking meth and jumping bail. When the bondsman comes to take their land, Ree is given a week to find him. As she hunts down her old man, she encounters some incredibly terrifying folks in the criminal underworld and tries to convince her uncle, the equally fearsome Teardrop Dolly, to help her out. The story proceeds in noir-ish fashion until the gut-wrenching conclusion that finds Ree in a rowboat with the two scariest looking women in all of Missouri. I don’t want to say any more. You simply have to see it, but fair warning: you will feel slightly haunted when it’s all over.

Ree Dolly is unlike any character I have ever seen depicted in film. She’s an Ozarkian samurai — relentless, indomitable, stoic. Every part of this movie will stay with you long after the credits roll, but Ree will stick with you for weeks, like a feverish chill that you can’t shake. There is something in her eyes that is just devastating; Jennifer Lawrence truly gave the performance of a lifetime.

Winter’s Bone is damn near flawless: beautifully shot, well-written, and anchored by Lawrence’s unflinching portrayal of Ree. Director Debra Granik and cinematographer Michael McDonough have even managed to make the region itself into a character: cold, hard, dark, and foreboding, which adds such great depth to the film. This film is a testimony of how impoverished regions like the Ozarks are particularly brutal on women. The movie is nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture; unfortunately, it probably won’t win any of them. It’s also a shame that Granik wasn’t nominated for Best Director. Nonetheless, I find it rather awesome that Winter’s Bone was written, directed, and produced by an all-female team. As Loretta Lynn could probably tell you, a woman has a special insight into how it feels to chase down a no-good man, and the kind of guts and resolve required to do so. I wish women filmmakers like Granik made more movies like Winter’s Bone, and that the Academy would start to recognize them.


Update (from Ben): Check out this really neat documentary on the lives and self-identities of many of the native Ozarkians cast in the film (it’s a free iTunes download).


“Do You Want to Have Sex?” is not a Good Pick-up Line

Steven Pinker explains the dynamics of the games we play with language, and why asking someone up to your apartment for coffee is more likely to get you laid than asking someone up to your apartment for sex. This is cognitive psychology at its finest.

(via Notion’s Capital)


This is Nifty

If you are ever lost in a canoe in the Pacific Northwest, this is the map for you (click image to enlarge):

(via Kottke)

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