BREAKING: Oscar performs a monster mash!


Full services resume tomorrow:
As expected, the monster movie/Cold War espionage thriller/romantic fairy tale won the Oscar for Best Picture last night.

At Slate, Aisha Harris sidesteps a minor point of interest:
HARRIS (3/5/18): At the conclusion of a typically long and mostly predictable ceremony, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, the Cold War–era fantasy about a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) whose love for a fishman disrupts the lives of her gay best friend and black co-worker, was crowned Best Picture. On the one hand, the win broke the mold: For the first time in Oscar’s 90-year history, a science-fiction film won in this category. Yet the movie’s triumph feels like a cold, scaly disappointment. It’s liked well enough by critics and audiences (this writer included), but in such a politically charged year, even the fish-monster sex movie feels boringly safe.
Personal opinions to the side, was The Shape of Water "liked well enough by critics?" As evidence, Harris links to Dana Stevens' original review for Slate, which wasn't a slam.

That said, The Shape of Water didn't make Stevens' top ten list, which included five runners-up. In fact, critics didn't seem to like the film a whole lot given the status it came to attain. For us, this remains a minor point of puzzlement and interest.

At any rate:

We'd planned to preview The Shape of Water's win before Friday's storm created so much chaos and confusion. Tomorrow, we start discussing the various shapes of Monster, and our floundering species' unhelpful need for same.

We'll start with what a monster the Times can be when its work doesn't make sense. Example:

Did this essay make sense to you? We'll admit that, to us, it pretty much didn't—except as an example of our eternal longing for Villain, a species resembling Monster.

Also for your consideration: Inkoo Kang says it's that same old leering sexploitation, from Jennifer Lawrence this time.

Could Kang possibly be right about that? At this point, even in this year, we'd have to guess that she is.


  1. Oscar is a bullshit prize, but the movie is not terrible.

    Anyway. Congratulation to Italian brothers and sisters on burying their lib-zombies. Deep, and most likely forever.

    Viva the Five Star movement, and viva the Trump movement.

    1. Viva Il Duce

    2. Trump voters from Red State America don't know and don't care what happens in Italy.

    3. Booman says:

      "But the Five Star Movement, which got the most votes, is a completely Putin-aligned political phenomenon. Putin has been pushing these fascist forces in elections throughout Europe as a way of weakening the European Union and NATO. Helping Trump and hurting Clinton were part of the same overall plan."

    4. Indeed, M5S is the greatest, and not only for causing spasms and foam at the mouth in lib-zombies.

      However, while it did get more votes than any other party, it didn't beat the right-wing coalition, unfortunately.

    5. MS-13 for President!

    6. Is that it? Where are my pet zombie-bots? Has Open Society, Inc. run out of money, or something?

    7. "Where are my pet zombie-bots?"

      Mostly in Congress, but some under indictment from Mueller.

  2. Why didn't Baig's essay make sense to Somerby? It made sense to me. Baig is saying that diversity programs have been used as a diversion, an excuse not to hire already sufficiently qualified women in underrepresented positions. She wants to see actual jobs materialize from this movement, not promises and not more discussions, workshops, shadowing programs. Jobs. She also says that the movement is changing Hollywood by giving women more confidence in their own abilities because they can realize they are not the only ones being passed over, thus it is the industry not their own lack of preparation to blame for their slow progress. That too is perfectly clear in her essay.

    Why doesn't Somerby recognize the clarity of these points? He perhaps finds a contradiction between the fact that she is working on films at an Indie level and perhaps then wonders what she is complaining about. Maybe he doesn't realize there is a difference between working on a shoestring, self-financing or pursuing grants and being hired by major production companies with appropriate resources, funded by HBO or Netflix. Creative people always find ways to work, but there are differences in how they do it and this essay is about breaking into the big time, not working on the fringes, something women have always done.

    Even someone like Mindy Kaling had difficulty finding work. She wrote and performed in a self-produced off-Broadway play "Matt and Ben," creating her own visibility for herself, before being hired elsewhere after her show became a hit.

    There are several movies appearing this month on Netflix about the National Lampoon and how it was an incubator for comedic talent. They all admit that, except for Gilda Radnor, the women were sex objects and the men had all the opportunities. Women were used to sell magazines, not to write them. Maybe that is what Somerby means in his gratuitous knock on Red Sparrow, which he pretends is some kind of feminist failure because Lawrence, always a loose cannon during interviews, makes some remark about getting her own back with her sex scenes. One woman making a bad film doesn't undo feminism in Hollywood.

    But today's post certainly reveals a lot of ambivalence about women in film. Even with all the sex on screen, women are underrepresented in terms of roles. If Somerby plans to spend this week knocking women's preparation, achievements, aspirations, he will only demonstrate why this movement is needed, illustrating the nature of the problem by his actions. I hope he will think twice before doing that.

    Maybe it is time to write a post about women's difficulties breaking into journalism. He can tell us why Dowd still has a job while the many talented women bloggers are not hired. Why Drum has a cushy position while Digby does not, for example.

    1. “Maybe that is what Somerby means in his gratuitous knock on Red Sparrow..”

      The “knock” was a link to a woman *gasp* who wrote a review of a movie, and he seems to agree with the author (me too, the movie as described sounds awful).

      He _didn’t_ like the NYT article by, again, a woman. Why is pretty hard to parse unless Bob explains himself. I thought the article itself was interesting.

      And it’s worth noting that Bob bashes Drum all the time. I’ve never heard him bash Digby, who is indeed worthy of MSM exposure. Dowd, not so much, and it’s precisely because she spouts corporo-politico narrative that she’s successful, and why Bob rightfully creams her. Digby would never make the cut, as they say. Who knows? Maybe Bob is a misogynist as you imply. I think it’s more misanthropy, which I sometimes struggle with as well. Just read some of the comments here and you know what I mean.

      As far as posts about women's difficulties breaking into journalism, he does that all the time – as a critic of their writing, not as women. At least that’s the way I see it, Perry. There are bigger fish to fry in the realm of women’s real and obvious oppression than Bob.


    2. Media critic Somerby may come across as incessantly critical at his blog which is largely devoted to media criticism but I don't see any imbalance in his work that tilts against women in the media. There are a lot of people who find engaging in identity outrage a "go to" type of discourse, much like others like to discuss the weather, and that's where this criticism on their part is coming from. That said, Leroy writes:

      >>> And it’s worth noting that Bob bashes Drum all the time. I’ve never heard him bash Digby, who is indeed worthy of MSM exposure. <<<

      Er, if you put "Digby" in the search box to found at the top of the right hand column on this very page and click you're taken to this LINK. Here are some passages from you'll find among the first several of Somerby's posts you'll find there:

      >>> As she quoted Governor Perry, Digby linked to this Washington Post news report. If you read its first five paragraphs, you can see that Digby was misrepresenting what Perry actually said....

      What Perry proposed may have been fairly dumb. For some reason, Digby seemed to feel the need to make it crazier, almost perverse.

      >>> ...One step down the lunacy ladder is the account offered by Digby in the post excerpted below. There’s a word for this kind of account—dishonest... <<<

      >>> In her post, Digby was playing the set-upon victim, as she increasingly likes to do; she pretended it wasn’t “fashionable” to make her statement, which was in fact simply fatuous. Politics is never about getting everyone to agree, and the Occupy movement’s insightful new math doesn’t mean that we are trying to win 99 percent agreement. It means that blue tribal members might approach reds with a broader perspective—might even help some reds come to see that they're part of the 99 too.

      Two days later, Digby was still boo-hooing and playing the victim....

      Somerby has gone after Digby quite often, especially for being a leading progblog tribalist.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. You know, Cmike, I almost pointed out that Digby had posted at Salon, but I felt my memory was faulty and didn’t take the time to confirm its dimness. I somehow confused her with Marcy Wheeler, Dog help me, when I wrote that. And the fact that Digby still posts at Salon is all the evidence one needs to confirm her tribalist (and no doubt profitable) angle. Though her work is not without merit.

      Thanks for the correction.


  3. "We'll admit that, to us, it pretty much didn't—except as an example of our eternal longing for Villain, a species resembling Monster."

    Somerby is planning to argue that men are now being portrayed as monsters because we have an eternal need to portray opponents as villains.

    So thin skinned! Women voice a legitimate complaint and men generalize from their specific issues to the eternal need for a bad guy. It isn't as if men were doing anything wrong, no, it is that we always need someone to play the bad guy. Poor men are now being victimized by our search for the monster in our lives. Forget feminism -- women need to be nicer to men!!

    I think I am going to be sick.

  4. "At Slate, Aisha Harris sidesteps a minor point of interest"

    Harris didn't really "sidestep" anything. She just disagrees with the Academy's choice for Best Picture. Since it's the Academy, i.e. movie professionals, who vote on this, there's no reason their choice should necessarily correlate with critics' choices.

    Now, *why* the Academy chose this film? We have no way of knowing. Perhaps Bob will tell us.

    Who knows why "Around the World In 80 Days" won in 1956?

    1. Who knows? I do. It represented a technical achievement because it was filmed on so many locations worldwide. It introduced Cantinflas, a major comedic star in Latin America, to American audiences. David Niven is a first-rate actor and the dialog and situations were engrossing and entertaining. Thus it was an ambitious film that succeeded. It was visually stunning at the time, in color and widescreen, making good use of technological advances. It had broad appeal and advanced the 50s goals of international unity and peace in a world disrupted by war, without being overtly political.

      Most older films look hokey in terms of production value and special effects. The acting holds up. This film was less dependent on acting because it was a big budget spectacle. So it will not appeal to people used to better production value. But that isn't a fair evaluation. It needs to be judged in the context of its time.

      You could say that it represents the first sci fi film to win a Best Picture Oscar because the book by H.G. Wells was sci fi when written.

    2. Interesting. Did you interview the Academy voters at the time? Were you on the Academy? Now, why did Shape of Water win?

    3. Minor slip here. Jules Verne, not H. G. Wells, wrote "Around the World in Eighty Days." Verne is seen as an "early science fiction" writer, i.e. "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

  5. "We'll start with what a monster the Times can be when its work doesn't make sense. "

    The work (that supposedly doesn't make sense) is an opinion piece by a young woman named Minhal Baig, and is not the work of the Times.

    But, for now, we must wait to find out what monsters Ms Baig is longing for.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Next time Bob goes off on a tangent about America's
    great dumbing down, remember how interested he still
    is in who brings home Oscar Gold.