TRUTH AND TOWN: Why did Anthony Hopkins win?

TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2021

The logic of the Yale grads: Frankly, we've been open and honest about our recent sourcing.

Over the past several years, we've worked from an award-winning premise: "It's all anthropology now." 

Putting that another way, nothing is going  to halt our failing nation's slide toward the sea. It's all over now but the explaining. What makes us behave in these ways?

To achieve that act of explaining, we've turned to the insights of an array of major anthropologists.  In late-night seminars, they've discussed the wiring of our (badly-flawed) human brain, discussing the way that badly-flawed wiring helps explain our species' recent self-defeating behavior.

Are we humans "able to handle the truth?" According to these experts, that pretty much isn't the way we human beings are made.

Over the past dozen years, the inability to handle the truth has become amazingly apparent Over There, in the various towns where The Others live. 

They were told—and they believed—that Obama was born in Kenya. They've been told—and they believe—that Biden is in the White House thanks to a giant scam.

This morning, the Washington Post finally takes the advice we've offered for almost twenty years. It does so in Ashley Parker's news report about the latest manufactured false belief—the silly claim that President Biden is planning to rip the double-burgers right out of citizens' mouths.

(In the New York Times, the topic is cited in Paul Krugman's new column. We've said, for years, that it should be treated as front-page news when major figures mislead or misinform millions of people in the manner described.)

Parker's report isn't on the front page, but it's a darn good start. That said, here's the question we promised to raise this week:

Is it possible that the inability to handle the truth has now come for us here in Our Town? In large part because of our public thought leaders, are we now showing a similar inability to handle the truth?

It seems to us that the answer is yes, especially in matters involving gender and race. Here in Our Town, we're no longer handling the truth especially well—nor are we being asked to try.

Many facts are disappeared; other facts are invented. 

Irrelevant facts are heavily stressed.  Did we mention the fact that many facts are banished, sent away—disappeared?

In the face of these behaviors, we're left with Storyline and novelization—Storyline all the way down. In this morning's New York Times, Bret Stephens predicts that this behavior is going to produce a "coming liberal crack-up."

We can't say that Stephens is wrong. For today, though, let's keep it simple. Let's consider what the Yale grads have said.

The Yale grads to whom we refer are A.O. Scott and Wesley Morris, "chief film critic" and "critic at large" for the New York Times. In this morning's print editions, the gentleman discuss Sunday night's Oscar awards and the attendant telecast.

The ability to handle the truth does involve issues of fact—but it also involves issues of basic logic. 

Here in Our Town, are we able to handle logic? As this morning's colloquy starts, Scott is offering these remarks about the way the telecast ended, with Anthony Hopkins receiving this year's Best Actor award:

SCOTT (4/27/21): I’m trying to remember how I felt during most of the show, which was like a long, awkward but not entirely unenjoyable dinner party that I wasn’t sure I’d actually been invited to. But we have to start at the end. The only explanation is that Steven Soderbergh and the other producers of the telecast were, like many of us, confident that [the late] Chadwick Boseman would take best actor, and envisioned a concluding tableau of pride and pathos, combining grief and celebration. Even Joaquin Phoenix’s terse introductions of the best-actor nominees, after Renée Zellweger’s prose paeans to the best-actress contenders, seemed to set up a somber, sublime moment.

What happened was more than just anticlimactic. Hopkins’s award and the best-actress Oscar for Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), while both entirely defensible on the merits, also sent a message. The academy is only willing to go so far in the direction of the new. And apart from the “Nomadland” triumph for best picture (which we’ll get to), this seemed like a pretty standard Oscars, notwithstanding the weird format. The “edgy” movie (“Promising Young Woman”) gets a screenplay consolation prize, actors of color (Daniel Kaluuya, Yuh-Jung Youn) get supporting wins, but for the most part I’m reminded of the lyric to a song that Billie Holiday used to sing. “Them that’s got shall have. Them that’s not shall lose.” I guess that still is news.

Were you able to follow the Yale grad's encounter logic? His encounter went like this:

On the one hand, he says that Hopkins' selection as Best Actor was "entirely defensible on the merits." On the other hand, he says the selection "sent a message"—namely, "the academy is only willing to go so far in the direction of the new."

Everyone knows what he meant. Scott is saying that the academy is only willing to go so far in terms of giving awards to black actors.

"Them's that got shall have," he says, citing Billie Holliday, as he ends his mournful rumination. That's the message he's taken from a selection which, according to his own assessment,  was "entirely defensible on the merits."

Does that make any sense? Five actors were nominated for Best Actor. Is it possible that a narrow plurality of Academy voters simply thought that Hopkins' performance was somewhat better than Boseman's?

Apparently, no, it can't mean that—and this is precisely the mandated thinking that  Stephens critques in his column. Meanwhile, the other Yale grad chimes in instantly, offering this:

MORRIS (continuing directly): Strangely, sadly, yes. And yet of those five actors, it makes all the sense in world for Anthony Hopkins to have won. He’s titanic in “The Father.” His work there is like a fever dream of disorientation that was also probably in the average voter’s geriatric wheelhouse. Meanwhile, Chadwick Boseman—all of that unbridled zeal in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” came down to a promise that the academy couldn’t keep. And like Adele and Billie Eilish at the Grammys, Anthony Hopkins is left to atone for sins not of his making.

That, of course, becomes the problem with these presumed coronations, whether they’re aimed at Lauren Bacall, Glenn Close or the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. Oscars gonna Oscar. And when it comes to the academy’s enduring award practices, especially with respect to Black people and best acting, I’m not sure anybody can count on enough of 9,000 people to do even the cosmetic reparative work.

"Strangely, sadly, yes," Morris says, affirming a rumination which doesn't quite seem to make sense. 

Oddly, he then goes even further in praise of Hopkins' "titanic" performance. Or then again, maybe he doesn't, seeming to say that Hopkins nay have won because of the "geriatric" profile of the Academy's voters.

(In 2012, the median age of the Academy was said to be 62. Almost surely, the median age is lower today, given the Academy's substantial enlistment drives aimed at enrolling younger, more diverse members.)

Morris also seems to say that the voters should have done some "reparative work." Does that mean they should have voted for Boseman even if they thought that Hopkins' titanic performance was better?

Speaking very frankly, there's only one brand of logic on display in that colloquy between the Yale grads. We refer to the logic of fealty to preapproved Storyline. 

Everyone knows what the current Storyline is. The boys seem prepared to advance it, even as they seem to say that Hopkins actually deserved this (utterly pointless) prize.

Or something! It's quite hard to tell.

Her in Our Town, we're now constantly challenged by presentation like that. A basic question is involved:

Are we able to handle the truth? Are we prepared to stop and take note of the apparent absence of logic?

On a journalistic basis, the rationale underlying that exchange seems fairly clear:

Nothing we say has to make any sense, and no one is going to notice.

Rather, that's the rationale behind the exchange if we assume that anyone at the New York Times is able to direct himself to basic matters of logic or fact. International experts insist that this may not be the case.

Are we able to handle the truth in Our Town? Or is it nothing but Storyline now, even over here in Our Town?

Go ahead—review that exchange. To us, it makes little real sense.

Each participant came out of Yale, but disconsolate experts are telling us this:

Their brains are wired for Storyline! For that, and for little else!

Tomorrow: The Times discovers the shootings 


35 comments:

  1. "Over the past several years, we've worked from an award-winning premise: "It's all anthropology now." "

    This is a tautology. Anthropology is the study of people. Of course the study of humans is all about people. By definition.

    Somerby seems to want us all to think that anthropology is something bad. It isn't.

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  2. "Putting that another way, nothing is going to halt our failing nation's slide toward the sea."

    It isn't that we are sliding toward the sea as much as that the seas are rising. Hasn't Somerby heard of climate science?

    ReplyDelete
  3. "In late-night seminars, they've discussed the wiring of our (badly-flawed) human brain, discussing the way that badly-flawed wiring helps explain our species' recent self-defeating behavior."

    Anthropologists are not neuroscientists (the people who actually study brain wiring). Any thoughts anthropologists might have late at night over a jug of wine are guaranteed to be badly flawed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Are we humans "able to handle the truth?" According to these experts, that pretty much isn't the way we human beings are made."

    Actually, the more in touch with reality people can be, the better they function in the world. Functionality defines mental health vs illness. Those who are out of touch with reality tend to be mentally ill.

    Wherever Somerby is getting his ideas about human cognition (thinking) and truth, he is being badly misled. Personally, I think he is pulling this stuff out of his ass.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "In this morning's New York Times, Bret Stephens predicts that this behavior is going to produce a "coming liberal crack-up.""

    This is called wishful thinking.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Does that make any sense? Five actors were nominated for Best Actor. Is it possible that a narrow plurality of Academy voters simply thought that Hopkins' performance was somewhat better than Boseman's?"

    This is exactly what happened, because the winners are determined by votes.

    Scott's comment also makes sense because ALL of the nominees gave performances that would justify a win on the merits of their work. When you hold all things equal in terms of quality of acting, as tends to be the case, then other factors can influence the outcome besides outstanding acting. That is what Scott is saying, and it too makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, they're saying that some should have gotten more votes because they're Black.

      Delete
  7. "They were told—and they believed—that Obama was born in Kenya."

    They were told -- by Barry's own literary agent -- and they believed.

    What's so remarkable about it?

    Or do you, dear Bob, believe it's physically impossible to be born in Kenya? Not so, dear Bob. Hell, come to think of it: we've known people born in Kenya!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is physically impossible to be born in two places at once! Obama has a birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii -- and his mother ought to know.

      Delete
  8. Geriatric is an interesting word to be using in this context. Yes, Hopkins might appeal because he is closer to the age of the academy voters, but there was another problem with Boseman's performance. For much of the film, the dialect with difficult to understand for those not immersed in the black subculture. Much of it was spoken quickly, which is harder for older people to keep up with and understand, due to a decline in neural processing speed that is inevitable with age (becoming noticeable around age 40). Those who made the Ma Rainey film didn't bother taking the needs of the audience into consideration. Whether that is a directing flaw, a sound editing problem, or Boseman's problem, I think it affected the voting.

    This isn't a racial difficulty, because older people would have problems with films such as King Kong vs Godzilla too, where the dialog is buried in the clutter of special effects noise and also spoken too fast to decipher for older viewers.

    That said, I have no problem with anyone expressing disappointment that Boseman didn't win. That is what people do after the Oscars, especially if they were not rooting for the winner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But they're saying more than that. They're saying the Academy voters are not as evolved as they should be because they didn't vote for enough black people.

      Delete
    2. They are saying that non-black actors don't deserve to win because of their skin color.

      Delete
  9. Why is that discussion of movie awards necessarily reflecting "Our Town"?

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Black talents have been celebrated in Oscar history.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_black_Academy_Award_winners_and_nominees

    So why the fuss?

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Nothing we say has to make any sense, and no one is going to notice."

    At this point, we just look at the pictures. So the text can say anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This sounds cute and snarky, but it's inane. Sometimes it's best not to spout what pops into your head.

      Delete
  13. From Travis Gettys at Rawstory:

    "Right-wing extremists have long fled behind humor and irony to escape consequences for their hateful ideology, and that allowed some of them to hide in plain sight before Donald Trump's supporters tried to violently overturn his election loss.

    They've never made any secret of their efforts to use humor and irony as both a weapon and defense, and those tools also allow them to sell what might otherwise be considered toxic to potential converts, reported NPR.

    "Irony is so important for giving a lot of cover and plausible deniability for our views," said 22-year-old extremist Nick Fuentes in a video from last year.

    Fuentes specifically mentioned Holocaust denial -- or "revision," as he puts it -- as a topic he smuggles into conversations under the cover of irony, and he recently went on an extended violent and misogynistic rant about domestic abuse that he punctuated with a smirk toward the camera.

    "Just kidding!" he told viewers, after urging a viewer to violently "punish" his wife. "No, I'm kidding, of course. Just kidding. Just a joke.""

    --------------

    Somerby does this too. He uses a screen of irony or sarcasm when making bigoted remarks, giving himself plausible deniability for words that should not be spoken, such as his remark yesterday about the KKK.

    Lately, quite a bit of what Somerby says is not funny. Much of it appears to fit this description of being out-of-bounds with a wink and a nod to those who would say the same things and mean them literally. Mixed in with his gibberish about anthropologists and savants predicting doom for humanity, is a buried message that reeks of right-wing messaging. Then his conservative defenders come along in comments and claim he was just fooling around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You haven't been reading this blog lately. Everything you say is projection.

      Delete
  14. Nothing those film commenters said has anything to do with being Yale grads. Somerby seems to think that merely labeling someone as having gone to an Ivy League school is enough to discredit them as worthy human beings. This is pure anti-intellectualism, another kind of bigotry aimed at those with education. Somerby no doubt thinks he can get away with this because the upper classes used to be the only ones with college degrees, but that hasn't been true for several decades now. I see this as another swipe at the left, coming from right wing attitudes toward higher ed expressed by people like Dinesh D'Souza and David Horowitz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe he's saying that Yale's not too intellectual. It's just a hiring hall.

      Delete
  15. Lawyers Guns and Money blog has a series discussing Police Violence. Today, at the end of a post titled Are There Good Cops? Part 8, Eric Loomis says:

    "That so many white liberal commenters here are actively pro-police, as shown in yesterday’s thread on the issue, is absolutely shocking and outrageous, if not surprising. Whites love cops. They think that cops are ultimately good. They think that cops will protect them. This is white privilege in action. The cops are an actively malevolent force on society. If you don’t see that, that’s on you."

    Somerby needs to read this series and this message could have been written explicitly for him.

    https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/04/are-there-good-cops-part-8

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You honestly think cops are an "actively malevolent force"? That's more than a bit crazy.

      Even as hyperbole it's dumb.

      Delete
    2. That blog is as dumb and foolish as it gets.

      Delete
    3. Meh.
      That blog probably wasn't "Ready for the pop".

      Delete
    4. 9:50,
      They say "cops are an actively malevolent force", but when a counterfeit $20 bill breaks into their homes and attacks them, who do these hypocrites call?

      Delete
  16. From The Root:

    "However, according to TMZ, Chadwick’s brother Derrick has confirmed that he doesn’t consider the fact that Chadwick lost the Best Actor race at the 93rd Academy Awards to be a snub and assures us the family isn’t upset about it."

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ought oh! Doesn't fit the narrative!

    And so they shall be ignored. But if they felt the opposite, these Ivy League film critics would demand that each get a studio option deal.

    ReplyDelete
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