S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest Organized Crime Edition. It’s Wednesday, April 21st. Twenty one on today’s show Collective is an astonishing documentary that begins with a fire in a Romanian nightclub, but takes us deep into a society defined by its political corruption. Its very deservedly up for two Oscars. And then the character Elliot Stabler is played by Christopher Maloney returns to the Law & Order franchise. This time it’s Law and Order. Organized Crime will be joined by June Thomas to discuss. And finally, Substory is the subscription newsletter platform that threatens to do to journalism what Uber has done for the taxi business, i.e. destroy it. We will discuss. Joining me today is Julia Turner, the deputy managing editor of the L.A. Times. Julia, hey, how are you? Hello. Hello. I can’t wait to talk all of these topics with you, but especially substract just so curious what an editor makes of it. And of course, Dana Stevens is the film critic of Slate. Hey, Dana. Hello, Stephen. Are we ready to dig in? Yeah, let’s do it. Cool. Let’s do it. On October 30th, 2015, a fire broke out in a popular Bucharest nightclub in the cell phone video of the event. The band, it’s a punk metal band, has to tell the audience that the fire is not part of their show. The words have barely escaped his mouth when the rafters above the crowd are awash in flame. And what follows is utter mayhem. Twenty seven died in the fire that night, but what happened next really shook Romanian society to the core were or should have. I mean, that’s an interesting question at the heart of this documentary, whether it whether it really did shake Romanians to the core. Another 37 victims died in the months that followed. A handful of journalists began to uncover the story of why exactly they did, only to discover that the burn units in which the patients were treated were crawling with lethal bacteria. They were totally inadequately prepared for this. And this was only the tip of an iceberg of a culture defined by corruption, nepotism and gangsterism. It reaches all the way up and all the way down Romanian society. This is an amazing film from the director, Alexander Nanao. The movie is obviously not in English. So we’re just going to play a brief clip of a crowd chanting the name of the remarkable journalist who began to uncover the story. His last name is Tonton. Dana, I have to say, was watching this movie, I’m so grateful that we now have this annual ritual of going through the Oscar nominees and this is just a movie I was so profoundly grateful to have seen. At one point, one of the journalists says the story is so mind blowing, I’m afraid we will look crazy. It is mind blowing, as is the movie. Talk a little bit about this film.
S2: Yeah, I’m really glad we’re talking about it, too, and I’m really glad that it’s getting this recognition. I seriously don’t see it winning an Oscar because I just think it’s too much of a downer. I don’t think there’s going to be enough Oscar voters that will be willing to put the screener in and watch it, knowing what it’s about. But, you know, Oscar Oscars, I mean, this is just one of the best nonfiction movies in years and years. And for some reason, what strikes me as we start our conversation is, is how perfect this movie’s title is. It really is a movie about group action, collective action and the power that that can have both for good and for evil. Right. I mean, it’s sort of about organized crime and cover ups, as you said, in the hospital system in Romania and in general and the government. It is also about this incredible team of investigative journalists at a sports journal. Right. I mean, part of why I think this this journalist told Enten, whose name you heard in the clip, is able to get into the situations that he can and get the access that he can is that he’s not taken as seriously as an investigative journalist from a ANANA sports paper. But, you know, it’s got this this element of a journalistic thriller almost that you’re watching behind the scenes as these reporters uncover these horrible, horrible, systemic abuses. And in spite of that level of ambition, there’s something really intimate about this movie. You always feel that you’re right there with whatever character you’re talking to, which is very often either a survivor of the fire or a relative of someone who died in the fire. So there’s a lot of very intimate and painful moments that we witness. But there’s no interviews. If you notice, there’s no sit down talking head style interviews. There’s no words that appear on the screen to explain to you what’s happening except for maybe, you know, some grabbing, some Kieran’s in the background or hearing something said on the news. You really are following everything through what’s happening on the ground at that moment. And that, to me, seems like something that’s that’s very specific to Romanian cinema at this moment. A lot of people compare this film when it came out, although it’s a non-fiction movie to the Romanian New Wave and to some of these movies that have come out in the last, I guess, 15 or 20 years from that country that are fiction films that have this documentary like style. Right. That have like a single handheld camera that’s following people very intimately through a space, as happens in this movie. And so there’s this strange combination of being, you know, utterly engrossed in these very personal stories and also feeling that a large, huge systemic story is being told at the same time. And the grace with which this filmmaker, who was also most of the time the cameraman following people around with his handheld camera, the grace with which he brings those things together, is it’s just crazy to witness. You have to watch this movie a couple times because once the first time is just for the sheer horror of the story. Right. And to get past some of the very, very difficult things you have to see. And then when you watch it that second time, you start to appreciate it as a as a craft, an object that was just put together with such such care and thought,
S1: yeah, Julia, I mean, I agree with just absolutely every syllable of that. What do you make of this film?
S3: I mean, I strongly recommend that all of our listeners go check it out. I’m glad that we prompted ourselves to do so for the show, because I’ve been hearing about this, you know, quote unquote, great Romanian journalism documentary for months. And despite, you know, both journalism and documentaries being areas of interest for me, I had not clicked it up until we agreed to talk about it. It’s for a tale with so much plot, like there’s a lot of plot. I mean, not to reduce the horrors of Iranian society to a narrative device, but like there are a lot of twists and turns and shocking events. And you could imagine a version of this story that was all about the what and not so much about the who, but the way that the film is made. It seems most curious about how to humans respond when faced with, you know, deep corruption, deep fear, deep societal dysfunction. And, you know, when a likely response might be nihilism or compliance, who are the people who respond otherwise and how does that happen? And that human curiosity to me is what moves it from just a camera that happened to be in a really interesting place. I didn’t know about it the right time to a really profound work.
S1: Hmm. I mean, I will say, Julia, I found this movie in some ways extremely hopeful, even though it’s quite obvious and dispiriting ways. It’s not hopeful at all. It’s it’s totally bleak, but hopeful in the following sense that, um, you know, I when you see a society that’s described by one person in the movie as. Corrupt to the core. I do think you’re inspired to begin to think quite seriously about what’s not corrupt, right? When you see a society that’s totally in civil or anti civil, you’re led in a very non decadent way to try to ask what makes a society, a civil society or a high functioning one. And this tiny little there are two really related oases of civility and functionality in this movie that just cannot bind up and form a living tissue and become, you know, come to define what the future of Romania might be. And that’s what the dark about the movie. But those oases are so moving. I mean, it’s this sports, you know, tabloid basically that because they devoted themselves to uncovering corruption in sports, which, by the way, is is rife in FIFA and other European sports bodies. You know, they have that gene. They have that DNA now as a team, almost like the spotlight team. So they were actually quite well prepared to take on this this specific corruption scandal. And then secondly, this technocratic civil servant with who’s young and has, you know, the proper levels of both merit and idealism to actually take over the job and try to reform the hospital system, you know, is brought in. And I don’t want to give anything away. Not that this is a movie about plot twists specifically. But, you know, they they are effectively at the end of the day, they fail to reform Romanian society. The task is just too massive. But it just repeatedly makes you ask, what is democracy, what is meritocracy, what is transparency? What is a free society? Why do I want to live in a free society? What exactly defines that freedom? And, you know, even if you can only walk away from this movie, defining it negatively is the absence of nepotism, kickbacks, syphoning on and on and on that in itself. To me, Dana, that’s an livening right?
S2: Well, I mean, I think the one thing that this movie demonstrates across different systems, right. Whether it’s the medical system or in journalism or in filmmaking, is that telling the truth and finding a way to tell the truth against enormous pressure from enormously powerful forces to cover up? The truth is incredibly powerful. I can I read a quote from the director, Alexander Nanao, about exactly this, because I think this this actually really touches on how this movie, if not hope, at least leaves us with some sense of of empowerment that goes beyond the actual story it’s telling. So this is an interview that the director gave early in twenty twenty, actually, after the film had just started to premiere. So before covid, before everything else. So the interviewer essentially asks, Nanao tries to make a connection between what’s happening in Romania and in other places. And his response is, what’s interesting about our film is that when we started filming it at the end of 2015, beginning of 2016, in a way, it was a local story. It was this populist government that lied about what they could do, but they could not do it. And they killed people by their decisions. It resembles very much the decisions your administration is now taking. OK, this is under Trump, but before covid. But then during the year we shot the film 2016, all these things came in like Brexit, which was a huge trauma for us in the whole of Europe and the election of Trump. Then you had Brazil with BOŞTINARU, so the whole world suddenly turned upside down. And with our story we thought, wait a minute, that’s really the story. It’s global. It’s not a Romanian story anymore. And that really, I think, happens to you when you’re seeing this movie I saw when Trump was still president, still around, you know, but we’re still we’re still in that era, obviously. And this question of, you know, what a health problem that’s being covered up by governmental authorities with enormous consequences is something that obviously reverberates all around the globe now. So it’s one of those examples of how telling a local story with incredible precision and truth almost immediately makes it kind of ripple out into being a story about something more.
S3: Yeah. And I also want to give Nanao props for I mean, long term listening to this show will know that I have like a hyper sensitive allergic reaction sometimes to documentaries that are presenting themselves as documents of the true facts of things, but clearly seem manipulated or biased or just cavalier with information in a way that would not fly in a newsroom. And this and I’m always trying to sort out like, how do I tell? Like, they don’t have a slide at the beginning where they explain, like the rules of journalism and or not journalism that they applied to this documentary. So you’re left to glean it from their choices. But the way that this film was put together, in part because of the lack of the talking heads and interstitials and inspires that trust, I mean, the whole point of it is about truth in the face of obfuscation. And you come away really believing in the integrity of the document that the filmmakers have created.
S1: Yeah, I agree, Dana, before we end the segment, I have to call back to the Christian Monju movie, Graduation, which the Romanian film, which is a feature film. Right, a fictional movie. And it’s it it gave you the same impression in a way of a society dominated by the bribe and the mentality of the bribe. And obviously, this is what this is a deeply felt issue for artists and filmmakers in Romania, what it’s like to live in such a society and just trying to come to grips with what it does over time that people’s humanity. I know you like his films.
S2: Yeah. Christian Wenju is who I was thinking of when I mentioned the Romanian New Wave and his his film. I mean, I think one of the great films of the 21st century so far, his film, four months, three weeks and two days. I’m not sure we ever talked about it on the podcast, but if there are any listeners who want to dive into that Romanian new wave, I would recommend starting with that one.
S1: All right. Well, the movie is collective. You can watch it on Hulu. We are in unison. And as hard as we ever have pounding the table on this one, I really I really think you should watch this film. And I’m hoping people voted for it for the Oscar because it could use that publicity bump. It’s just a morally urgent and beautifully made film about genuine heroes. All right. Moving on. All right, well, before we go any further, this is where we typically in the podcast talk about business. Dana, what do you have?
S2: Stephen, business today is simply to say that in Slate plus we’re going to be talking about the Oscars. The Oscar ceremony is this Sunday. It’s going to be a very unusual one. Obviously, it’s being filmed by Steven Soderbergh. It is not hosted. It’s partly virtual, partly PR. It’s being filmed in the L.A. Union Train Station. So there’s a lot to talk about. And Julia, as the editor of all the entertainment coverage for the L.A. Times, has a lot of inside scoops on Oscars. So we will talk about not only things that we might be rooting for or hoping to see at the Oscars, but just the ceremony itself and what it might be like in this strange covid year. If you’re a slate plus member, you’ll hear that at the end of our show. If you’re not a slate plus member, of course, you can sign up for that program at Slate Dotcom Culture. Plus, it costs only one dollar for your first month. And when you sign up, you will get ad free podcasts and plus only content like the bonus segment I just described and many other great benefits. Once again, you can learn about that and sign up at Slate Dotcom Culture Plus. And of course, if you already belong to Slate Plus and you have an idea for a future Slate plus segment, we love to get your emails at Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom. OK, Steve, what’s next?
S1: The Dick Wolf factory is something to behold, the show he created, Law and Order, ran for 20 seasons only to have its related spinoff, Cousin Law and Order Special Victims Unit, run 22 seasons. Now we have law and Order Organized Crime, which brings the character Elliot Stabler back onto the Law and Order mothership played by Christopher Maloney, who left the CVRD franchise, as I understand it, back in 2011 due to a contract dispute. But now now he’s back to discuss this. We are joined by Slate’s senior managing producer for podcasts, June Thomas. Hey, June. Welcome back.
S3: And Senior Law and Order correspondent.
S1: I think there are enough Seelow Duk Dong Joo and I have to confess that I I’m going to be slipping away for most of this segment because I think you and Julia have a lot to discuss here. Why don’t you introduce the clip?
S4: Well, first, I want to let people hear that the horror that is the music for this show. Now, the spinoffs from Law and Order have traditionally kind of riffed on the great classic music from the Oggi Law and Order. But Luke, as I like to call it, law and order, organized crime, justice is all it did was distend the music. No one in the world will ever hum this in the shower. Let’s hear it. I am reminded of nothing more than a very bad deejay who never can get the music to actually like Peak, and he just is like playing with you all night and never actually lets you release your your like never drops.
S3: The beat is the term,
S4: never drops the beat. That’s all that song.
S3: And I suggest that in a close reading of the problems with that score, you can diagnose all of the problems with Luke itself here. Here’s here’s here’s my close read. The main inspiration of that version of the theme to me seems to be the Game of Thrones theme with sort of the like kind of thrumming drone, sort of like piped sounds and I think. You know, the thing that is most jarring about law and order organized crime is that it is eight serialized episodes of television and prepare pretty many people who and many, many shows that offer us serialized episodes of crime television to which we delight as an audience. However, yes line or the Law and Order promised the law and order, brand, law and Order Housekeeping SEAL of Approval is not serialized television. It is like episodic. Here’s some weird crime this week. We are going to solve it or not and convict them or not. Well, our personal lives simmer tantalizingly in the background and the kind of tantalizing background simmer both works to carry you forward through the series and also disguises the fact that the sort of writing and characterization level of these shows doesn’t necessarily always stand up to a lot of deep personal character evolution like or, you know, the fact that it builds up in accretion over time is it is its own style that it does well. And that would be the other way to put that. And suddenly taking Elliot Stabler from a back burner simmer to total absence for nearly a decade to here’s just eight episodes of Elliot Stabler’s
S4: feelings like
S3: or six it might be six.
S4: Seven knows if it is a it is a
S3: it’s it’s not 22 now. And actually, let’s let’s listen to a clip of Malony as Stabler in full, intense flower here. He’s talking to the mob boss played by Dylan McDermott.
S5: And my job is to catch scumbag’s. There’s no doubt in my mind. You, Jack, those vaccines, vaccines that were meant for Harlem Hospital, for people who need them, the elderly, front line workers, folks who can’t afford to have a private doctor show up at their house with a vaccine shot in a glass of chardonnay.
S6: Why do you. I have to bury my father.
S5: Is there anything else, Detective? What’s your name again?
S4: I don’t fault Dick Wolf and all the the wolf, it is for bringing back Elliot Stabler. Christopher Maloney is a great actor. He looks amazing and, you know, fine. I don’t fault them one bit for bringing him back and, you know, accepting that gift that was delivered to them. But don’t call this law and order anything. There’s nothing to do with law and order except that he was once in Law and order special victims unit. That is all that has to do with law and order, you know, law and order. As for you, which is the sole remaining law and order in my heart has actually, you know, ebbs and flows. It depends who’s running the show that season. We’re back with Warren Light and Julie Martin, but especially Warren Light right now. And the show is great. The show is back to being a great show and it doesn’t quite ripped from the headlines with the frequency that it used to and certainly that the standard law and order used to. But it’s a good show and not only is a good show, it also exhibits quite a lot of subtlety. And one thing you will not find at all whatsoever in law and order, organized crime expert Luke, is any subtlety whatsoever. I mean, you can hear that even in the standard law and Order intro, let’s just hear the torture, the overemphasis that is this particular show’s introduction
S5: in the nation’s largest city, the vicious and violent members of the underworld are hunted by the detectives of the Organized Crime Control Bureau. These are their stories.
S1: Can I just jump in here with one comment, which is I’m not sure which pleases me more, the thought of June Thomas hitting the clubs in search of ecstatic thrills. Right. Or her singing the Law and Order theme song in the shower,
S4: in the shower and everywhere else. It’s actually always been my dream to to, like, run a club where all of the music are disco versions of TV theme tunes. And I will not be using this one. Let me tell you, I feel
S3: like the post pandemic boom times much heralded are your opportunity. June, I feel like this might be the moment for it. Dana, you’re not a big procedural watcher or a big Law and Order fan, but you do. You dipped into this. Tell us your impressions.
S2: Yeah, I mean, I hadn’t watched any version of law and order in a long time. And so to me, this is almost a weirdly nostalgic viewing experience in other ways. And it did show how TV has changed. And I want to get into the, you know, the propaganda debate and whether this show deals with it, interestingly or not, interestingly. But as far as just emotional response, I mean, what really struck me on watching these is that law and order is so heavily branded. It’s so familiar. Right. Those tunes that we just heard and that kind of you know, this is the big city introduction. They they they promised this experience that we’re all so familiar with it. It’s almost like a public utility that’s been flowing since 1990 when the first law and order aired. And there’s a comfort TV aspect to it even when it’s bad. So I curse you, June, because I was up until three a.m. last night watching. I went back and watched an SAORVIEW so I could see the crossover, you know, so I could see the reunion between Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler, the Mariska Hargitay and Chris Malony characters. And that never really happened. That wasn’t very satisfying. So then I watched every available episode of this new show. And and even though the whole time, yes, I was I was feeling, a, that the franchise was somewhat betrayed, if nothing else, by the lack of, you know, the order segment or at the end. Right. I mean, there’s there’s no longer a courtroom scene. And everyone, um, but, you know, also by the general shapelessness and the kind of heroic focus on the back story of Elliot Stabler, and yet at the same time, I felt like it was delivering me that that law and order comfort where I couldn’t stop watching. So I’m interested in how branding has made this show into something that we can all sort of settle comfortably into, even if we haven’t watched it in literally decades.
S4: That is part of television. I mean, you know, network television being the shadow of its former self has in many ways kind of come down to a series of branded shows. You know, I still in my mind, there is still only one law and order. But let’s just concede that there might be two for a little while. But, you know, there’s a bunch of NCIS is there’s a bunch of FBI, I believe there’s a bunch of Chicago’s which are like Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, like that’s what network television is now. And it’s very strange. But I think it does lean into the comfort aspect of procedurals, which is absolutely undeniable. So, yeah, it’s it’s very it’s very of the moment. I just wish that Eliot had taken his, you know, his his vengeance to Chicago where it would have, you know, fit in with the Chicago storyline’s a bit better. But I get why Christopher Meloni doesn’t want to decamp to Chicago. So, you know,
S3: to me, the great reason to watch both of these shows right now, Skyview with Stabler back in the universe and then Stabler’s Luuk is that he is a great character and is a great performance. But there’s now this fascinating subtext of both what’s going on between these two characters who abruptly, you know, Elliott abruptly broke contact with Olivia, didn’t tell her he was leaving and just disappeared from her life after being, as she says in the crossover episode, the most important person in her life for ten years. And then there’s the subtext of like, what are the opportunities for actors in Hollywood? Like Christopher Meloni, the actor decided after ten years of doing 22 episodes a season, like enough. If you’re going to make me if I’m going to spend my whole life this way, you need to pay me X. And they wouldn’t they couldn’t come to terms and he left. I mean, I don’t know the ins and outs, but I assume that is what is summarised by a contract dispute. And then he went off to avail himself of all the possibilities of prestige TV and have a fun scenery chewing role on Trueblood and, you know, explore his comic gifts and, you know, not show up ten months a year to do the same thing that he’s been doing. To me, the whole fascination of watching all of this is the like behind the scenes. It’s like, oh, okay. So Stabler like, abandons them for a decade, comes back. So I guess Malony, I mean here and he suddenly gets to just be. You know, in and out and do eight episodes of quote unquote, prestige TV or at least prestige style TV, which has like sort of better production design and seemingly better lighting and more location options like it. It feels unfair. He’s the one who left. Yeah. And obviously, a lot of prominent actors enjoy the flexibility of, quote unquote, doing TV, but only really signing on for for, you know, less work, less of your career and time taken up. So all of that subtext for me is like one of the great joys of both of these shows. And I think that both franchises are like punishing the Stabler character a little bit like. I agree that the depth with which they engage the was stabler a bad cop question is, you know, a little glib perhaps, but at least they’re engaging it. And it’s pretty fun to have him return instead of being the like admirable Clower next to Bensons idealist. Have everyone just be like, this guy’s a monster. What the
S4: Yeah, yeah.
S3: It’s fun.
S2: Maybe that brings us to the propaganda question I was going to ask to all of you. This is something we’ve talked about separately from law, law and order, just in general talking about, you know, this very, very tired trope, or there’s a whole bunch of them that go into this kind of show that starts off with the dead woman, as this series does. And, you know, then there’s the the angry white man who must avenge his love. And Christopher Moloney’s character is, you know, again and again in this show, talked about and seen as this rogue cop who goes outside the lines and, you know, does all kinds of ethically questionable things in the interest of getting the bad guys. And that is much more signposted in this show. And I’m wondering what you all thought of how this show walked that line. I mean, you certainly cannot accuse this show of not trying to deal with that question, at least in terms of, you know, Tyra, tiresomely expository dialogue that talks about it all the time. But it’s still enacting a lot of those very familiar scenarios.
S4: Yeah, it feels like reckoning with 101. And I guess we should be grateful for that. You know, it’s not just cops steaming in. It’s there’s there’s again, there’s very little complication. And that so that makes it very difficult to to praise it too much for me. But, yeah, I could get a little bit of credit. And I also don’t see how they could have brought back a character who we last saw 12 years ago. So we haven’t seen the water get a little warmed up every week. You know, he’s he’s just a frog who was put in boiling water. So, like, we it had to be dealt with, you know, because our last memory is of him being the guy that he was 12 years ago. So they had to do something. I don’t wanna give him too much credit, but, yeah, they’re they’re starting to reckon,
S3: well, and this is a place where the serialized nature of organized crime may give them room to play. And I will say for all that, the writing is histrionic. The cast of surrounding characters is great. In addition to the sergeant you mentioned, Tamara Taylor, Lead of Bones has a really interesting, complicated character. There’s just you know, the world is populated by some interesting people. And, you know, it’s very vulnerable and it’s only eight episodes. That’s the thing. It’s like on the one hand, the power dynamic of modern television goes to Stabler, Maloney. But on the other hand, like, well, if he is going to get the last laugh here, because there’s just going to be more of her story. So I will be watching.
S1: All right. Well, John, thanks as always for coming on the show. It’s always a total pleasure.
S4: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me.
S1: Substory is an online publishing platform for people with newsletters, its prominence is growing by leaps and bounds recently, mainly because some very high profile writers, such as Matt Yglesias and Glenn Greenwald, have migrated from their more traditional outlets entirely into the newsletter format. And along the way, they are winning big advances in Payday’s from substract, generating a lot of publicity for the site. This, some people say, plays into several potentially worrying trends the decline of traditional media, the death of the local newspaper, the newspaper, possibly in general. And some of us might have found a chilling or just come out and say, I find it chilling when the founders of subsects say it could someday, quote, be much larger than the newspaper business ever was. Much like the ride hailing industry in San Francisco is bigger than the taxi industry was before Lyft. An Uber. Julia, let me start with you. Is there a little electric finger of dismay running down your spine when you hear that sentence or now?
S3: I mean, perhaps the metaphor I’m about to share will reveal why journalists are so eager to leave newsrooms and editors. But, you know, the whole rise of substance, if you are a person who’s devoted several decades to being an editor and newsroom manager, is makes you feel like you’ve spent your life devoted to being a really great rake that can, like, rake leaves into beautiful, unattractive piles that people want to jump in. And and then the next generation is coming along and it’s like, no, a whirlwind is better. All the leaves should fly everywhere and people can run around chasing them on their own. You’re like, I thought my raking was useful. Like I may be too biased to properly.
S2: You stepped on your rake.
S3: Yes. I’ve been raked in the face of journalism for the last 20 or 30 years, has been getting a rake to the face every day and DEC is yet another rake. But to really mangle that metaphor. OK, so briefly, just a little description it for those of you who, quite understandably, have not been following the substory discourse, it’s a newsletter platform that allows writers to easily set up paid subscription newsletters. They offer a small percentage of the subscription to the platform in exchange for using the service. Voila. There is a second tier where subsect has been recruiting big name writers from newsrooms and other venues and in some instances offering them advances against their subscription earnings to, I think, encourage people to make the leap from steady salaries. And I think in one public example, because one of the things that he’s done on his website is share these details. Former Vox and Slate writer Matt Iglesias took a 250000 dollar advance to launch a substory, got so many sign ups for it that his newsletter is on track, according to some reporting, to earn eight hundred and sixty thousand dollars in a year. And because he took the advance, he’s sharing 85 percent of that revenue with the company rather than 10 percent. So if you’re a real star, you know, taking the advance doesn’t necessarily make sense. So those are those are some of the the broader details.
S2: Yeah, I’m glad you explained that, Julia, because even as someone who is way too much in the media sphere, I didn’t really understand this two tiered subsect system until researching it for this segment. And I understand now why there is a sense of of alarm about the future of journalism because of the brain drain factor, obviously, but also because of the lack of editorial oversight. I’m wondering, as an editor and somebody who spent your life in newsrooms with rakes, raking leaves, what alarms you most about the future of journalism when you look at the subsect model? And is there anything that seems like it might be promising for the future of journalism?
S3: Well, I mean, one thing I think it’s important to note is that this overall trend didn’t start with substract. Like what we’re talking about here is the rise of social media, which in many realms politics, celebrity journalism all over the place. Publishing has made it so that you no longer need to get a big, well-funded company to pay attention to you in order to have a platform. You can get a platform pretty easily and cheaply thanks to Silicon Valley. And then you can develop an independent audience on that platform and do with it what you will. So have the people who are successful on Substory are only successful because they already have followings on Twitter or Instagram or other places where they can reach tens or hundreds of thousands of people and tell them they should sign up for their substract. If you if you have not already been deploying a platform similar to Substory, you are much less able to take advantage of the model that Sestak is offering. I think the difference is that it’s one of the first and maybe easiest places and most suited to writers where you can. Monetize the attention that you’ve perhaps spent parts of the last decade cultivating, um, you know, I do think it’s dangerous for journalism because, you know, I mean, the collective is the name of the nightclub where the horrible incident transpired in in the Romanian film we just discussed. But journalism is a collective endeavor where, you know, some of the most ambitious work and the most civically important work and the most society changing work is not necessarily the work that has spent a lot of time cultivating a loyal audience for itself on Twitter or the work that is easily done, you know, without the resources of a big institution to to back you and support you and the lawyers and researchers and fact checkers and editors and colleagues and tipster’s and other people who can can help journalistic institutions have the impact that they need. So I think I mean, I have had a policy for the last couple of years of basically subscribing to anything that has a subscription model that I want to read something on. Um, and I have not toted up how much I spend in subscriptions to journalistic institutions, but they’re also screwed with a very few exceptions. And, you know, I when I think about, like the disposable income I spend on other stuff, like the notion of spending forty five bucks a year here and, you know, seventy five bucks a year there to help newsrooms exist is like a choice I have made. I have yet to pay for a single sub stack because I feel like. For two reasons, one is just consumer fatigue, like, I don’t know, I don’t want to be bothered. And my you know, when when reading arrives in my inbox, it feels like work. When I go sick, reading out on my phone in the Internet, it feels like pleasure. And it’s just all of these to dos clunking in my inbox. I do subscribe to a lot of free newsletters. I just the reading experience of a newsletter is not. Not super delightful to me. Um, wait, I’m just realizing there’s one newsletter I enjoy that may be a sub stack. That I might pay for, I read The Angler, which is a good Hollywood business newsletter. Hmm. All right. Well, I’m not sure I can categorically say that I subscribe to none, but I I sort of have had a practice of like, oh, I want to read something that you do. I will pay for your institution. And I have the opposite instinct with regard to subsectors where I’m like, oh, too bad that writer I like started the sub stack. I can’t read them anymore. Like, I just it feels sort of institutionally against interests, but, you know, but I’m like an institutionalist and like a team player and a loyalist and, you know, I thought I was gonna be a professor until I went to college and realized that I’m fundamentally a team animal. And like my instincts for, you know, the gathering of information and expressing of it, we’re better devoted to a newsroom context than a library, Carol, or a solitary desk somewhere. But, you know, you guys have both charted more independent lives of writing and thinking. And I don’t know, am I wrong? Like, I just again, I’m the Raque. Like, I feel like I have no authority to speak.
S1: I don’t like anything about this. I mean, not only is journalism at its best a collective enterprise I spotlight or or the Romanian film. Right. It takes editing, copy, editing the newsroom. It also takes mentoring. Right. If you don’t have a common space into which younger journalists, uh, enter populated by more senior people who’ve been doing it for a while, who role model for them and actually interact with them and tell them how to do it, what are you going to end up with? Just a totally glib, free floating commentary out of individual people who happen to have gotten enough attention on Twitter to start their individual sub stock at the point of going into journalism. And I you know, I hate to be so high minded, but, you know, the whole premise of journalism is poverty, wages and relative anonymity in the name of truth. And I think this just inverts that equation completely. The other thing I would say is that if you do the math on it, in one sense, it makes a ton of sense. If you’re Matt Yglesias, you only need to get ten or twenty thousand people. I mean, I say only, but, you know, ten or twenty thousand people paying you between 40 and 60 bucks a year is a ton of money in journalist, you know, salary terms. But that’s a tiny audience. Right? The whole I mean, it’s interesting that you have Matt Iglesias going into Substory where he’s willing to Silow himself and just sell himself for however many tens of thousands, tens of thousands of people. It is in order to get the payday. That’s a vastly diminished influence or reach compared to Ezra Klein, who co-founder of Vox, instead goes to The New York Times op ed page. I’m sure for a very handsome payday. He’s not going hungry, but it might not be, you know, a seven figure annual payday, whatever. But I just feel like the ultimate source of of poverty here is to the public conversation, because, you know, I no longer can in a semi casual way consume the thoughts of Matt Iglesias and then enter into an online or otherwise dialog about them. It’s, you know, it’s piebald. And I just I the idea of a common civic sphere may be a highly idealized one, but it’s not based, you know, only in platonic ideal of of of public conversation, democratic ideals of public conversation. It’s something some somewhat real about it. And, you know, you know, creating a highly individualized star system that’s paywall just kills that.
S2: I mean, as an old school blogger, this is this is sometimes been compared to. Right. The supposed golden age of blogging in the early 2000s, this this boom in newsletters. But as somebody who was sort of part of that group and went from that into actual institutional journalism, I cannot stand up for the company of substory. They sound a lot like ueber. They sound very exploitive and vampiric and like they’re not going to take this in a very collective direction to to reference our earlier discussion. But I will stand up for some of the values that some of the people who have migrated to substance have have cited in in choosing to go there. I mean, the entire thing is not made up of, you know, star writers getting six or seven figure salaries by any means. And in fact, you can have a free newsletter on subsect if you choose to, or you can make it partially free and have other content. That’s paywall. You can have all kinds of different models, which obviously the people that are doing it for little or no pay are subsidizing these people that are, you know, making making bank on it. And that’s not a fair system. But I do understand the stated motives of some of these writers who are are fleeing institutions where they feel like there is not a space for maybe more marginalized voices or for the niche audience that’s interested in their material, but that is not able to to get footing in a bigger publication. I think that there is a Democratic urge behind some of the people that are migrating there, even though the company is is exploiting that desire for for greater editorial freedom or, you know, to to explore a different space as a as a writer and journalist and turning it into a. World model, I agree with Julia also that newsletters are just not as fun to read, they’re not as freeing, and they don’t feel as much like the free exchange of information as reading something on a on a site that is, you know, that links out to other places and it doesn’t arrive in your inbox like a trap. And I think we’ve talked about this before, but I subscribe to many newsletters. I think some are on Substory. I think I started subscribing to most of them before substract was a thing. But there are definitely individual writers whose newsletters I pay for and there are very few of them that I regularly read. And I feel just like Julia does sort of guilty and strange about it. I would say, and I’ve said this before on the show, that the only newsletter I read every time it lands in my box is Jamelle Bouie, which is an institutional newsletter. It’s The New York Times that puts it together. I don’t know if he has an editor or not. There are lots of other writers who I admire tremendously. And when I read their newsletters, I enjoy them. But do I read them every time? No. And that has to do, I think, with the fact that they again arrive in your inbox, feel like work and it’s not exactly clear how they relate to the world outside.
S1: I just can’t imagine once you get to like one or two or three of these, you know, on a on a as a consumer, you’re just going to be spending so much money in order to get something even resembling the media diet that you had five years ago, because you could just go to Vox Slate, The Times, The Atlantic, you know, The New Yorker. I don’t know. I just this is the fogie in me. I just cannot see this trend continuing off into the future. But maybe it will.
S3: But I do. I mean, I do think this is a place where we’re we’re limited by our generational similarities in our analysis of this, because I do think. That there is a relationship to institutions that has just shifted, I mean, there was there’s an interesting debate on Twitter right now from Charlie Warzel, a sometime culture first guest and listener who just left The New York Times opinion page to launch a newsletter called Galaxy Brain and to be part of a collective discussion with some other subscribers called XYZ Channel. And, you know, he just got into a debate on Twitter with Vivian Schiller, a long time newsroom manager. You know, he he had put something in his newsletter which he then, quote, tweeted, trying to promote it on another platform. I will note saying, you know, that it’s that the longstanding relationship of Americans to work into workplaces is insidious and that if you invest your sense of personal identity and meaning in being part of a team, part of a collective, you know, having important relationships with your colleagues, you’re like a sucker of capitalism whose, you know, labor is being bent to a broader cause and who are essentially being exploited and manipulated. And Schiller, who’s I think closer to our generation, broadly defined, responded, I read this last night but did not recognize myself in it. Maybe it’s generational, but deep emotional attachment to work gives me great joy. Even when jobs have ended poorly, I still seek out that attachment and meaning and Warzel response. That’s where everyone is going to be different. There might be something going on generationally here. I honestly don’t know, but I think I don’t know. I mean, I think the suspicion of institutions, the suspicion of where capitalism has gotten us and the suspicion of that sense of like driving life, meaning from one’s relationship to one’s workplace, is that trend is not going anywhere either.
S1: So, yeah. Now, listen, we are in the midst of a huge cultural mutation when it comes to work, no doubt about it. And that is going to be a total revolution in thought and selfhood. But to think that, you know, the tech industry using, you know, morally neutral platforms that are basically entrepreneurial star systems. Right. Neutral media for entrepreneurial star systems is the answer to the depredations of capitalism. I really sincerely hope that young people don’t believe that because the number of people who are going to get chewed up and spit out by trends like this, as with Uber and Lyft, I mean, I really think the analogy there is probably pretty strong. Same thing is going to happen in Substory. You know, all hail to these people who can make these huge salaries. That’s great. Their multiples of what a journalist is accustomed to earning. But the idea that that that that is somehow transcendent of what’s belittling about capitalism for most of us is, to me, just literally insane. So we’ll have to see it play out. What can you do? I mean, it’s happening. It’s you know, you you know, you might as well curse the weather. I just really want to hear from our listeners, what do you subscribe to? Why do you subscribe to it? Do you feel a sense of loss now that Iglesias’s paywall or did you happily leap over it? Very, very, very curious to get to get feedback on this one. OK, moving on. All right, now is the moment in the podcast that we endorse Dana. What do you have?
S2: I have a really interesting documentary to endorse this week. It’s just one hour long. It’s on Vimeo and it’s called The Narcotic Farm. This is something that I mean, essentially this is sort of research for my book that fell by the wayside. That will probably end up as a footnote if that in the book. But I’m so happy that I went down the rabbit hole because it’s really, really interesting. So I was looking into addiction treatment and alcoholism treatment in the 1930s for writing about the dark years, the bad years that that Buster Keaton spent as an alcoholic and in various institutions for that. And I came across this institution that had nothing to do with him. But that just happened to start in 1935, which is the year that he finally got sober. And it’s just so interesting if either of you ever heard of the narcotic farm in Lexington, Kentucky, you
S2: so the narcotic farm was this institution that began in 1935. It ran until 1975. And it was attempting to be the sort of newer and more humane model for addiction treatment. But it was kind of this crazy ethical mess where it was at once a a prison. There were people that were, you know, addicts and offenders who were there serving sentences. And it was also a place that you could check in voluntarily and check out for for drug treatment. And it was this this huge farm with, you know, a working farm with livestock and growing its own food in the country near Lexington, Kentucky. And over the years, particularly, I think around the 1950s, it became this kind of center for drug subculture. I mean, rather than then reforming people, it was essentially serving as this this place for drugs to catch up on, you know, where best to score once they got outside the walls. It was also a place where all of these artists and musicians checked themselves in who were also addicts. So William Burroughs spent, I think, a few different sessions there. He wrote a book junkie that talks a lot about the place, a bunch of jazz musicians, including Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon and Chet Baker, all checked in there. And because it was an institution that was trying to offer other services besides just drug addiction treatment, it had like a house band. And apparently there was really good music there. There was really good food because they were growing all their own food. But at the same time, in the research wing of the institution, there were all these ethical abuses going on where essentially inmates were being paid in drugs, you know, to do all kinds of different experiments so that they could learn about addiction. So it’s just this crazy place that’s full of contradictions about how addiction was treated in the 20th century like no one knew how to cure it. So in a way, they were worsening the situation. But at the same time, you know, there was there were some real advances there in sort of humane treatment of addicts. Anyway, it’s a fascinating story. The building itself is really interesting and beautiful. And and this documentary just taught me so much about addiction. There’s a lot of interviews with people who either stayed there or worked there or both. Some of them are survivors of addiction who now work with addicts. All the talking head interviews are completely fascinating and funny. And it’s one of those documentaries that shows you exactly what you want to see when you want to see it uses its archival footage really well. No reenactments anyway. The Narcotic Farm. It’s a documentary in 2008. It’s on Vimeo for free and it’s directed by JP Olsen and Luke Walton. I hope people will watch it if they’re interested in any of those things I just referenced.
S1: That sounds really cool. I got to say, Julia, what do you have?
S3: Um, in the category of Delate, hopefully not too short. I finally got around to watching Party Down Much Beloved series from about 10 years ago, which when you watch it now, is just to who, who who’s who of incandescent comedic talents who have gone on to huge things since then. It was on Starz, which I think is why I didn’t see it at the time. It is about a catering service in Hollywood and L.A. populated by aspiring out of work actors and other people betwixt and between. And it’s just great. It’s just as great as you’ve ever heard. So if you haven’t gotten around to it, it’s easily available now on Hulu, quite enjoyable late pandemic stream. And I think lots of other people must be discovering it on Hulu, or at least there’s some data to show there’s an audience there because it was just announced a month ago. I think that they’re making some kind of follow up miniseries or special or showcase or something or other. So if you never got around to it like me, but you think it’s the sort of thing you might like, you definitely will have as many pleasures and I recommend.
S2: Oh, so good. Such a packed cast. It’s just crazy to watch that now.
S1: Well, throughout. I’m not familiar with it. So throw out some names. Who was who was on it.
S2: Oh, you tell me something. Adam Scott is on it. Who else.
S3: Julia, Adam Scott. Jane Lynch. Martin Starr. Lizzy Caplan. Ken Marino. I mean, it’s just, you know, Kristen Bell shows up. I think at some point it’s still the beginning of it. But Megan Mullally, like, there’s nobody’s in it who’s. Not a major comedic name, essentially. And the guest stars are crazy. I just watched an episode where, like Kevin Hart, J.K. Simmons, you know, it’s just it’s it’s jam packed with talent and comedic talent and well worth your time.
S1: That sounds very cool. OK, well, Dana, you and I feel like you and I are locked in this kind of, you know, battle to find ever more obscure, which your folk shunters is. And like I started with Vashti Bunyan, which I really thought set the bar very high. And you said, I see your Vashti Bunyan and I raise you Sybil by air and I love Sybil by air. But I see your Sybil by air and I raise you and Briggs. Do you know. And Briggs?
S2: No, not at all.
S1: So here’s the journey I took to end Briggs. There’s a song by Richard Thompson, the great English folk who’s still going strong but was part of Fairport Convention. I mean, really the genius behind Fairport Convention back in the 60s, just a tremendous singer songwriter and a guitar virtuoso and songwriter, you know, a song, a songwriter, songwriter to end all songwriters, songwriter. And he has a he has a song that’s actually I don’t think it’s all that old, certainly within the last four. Richard Thompson, not all that old in the last 15, 20 years, but maybe 10 called BS Wing. And it’s just he’s such an evocative storyteller and it’s about presumably about him and a young woman that he was close with in the 60s who was as delicate as abuse wing and who was know, thoroughly beautiful and talented, but somehow just too good for the world, who she was, everything. As a busway.
S6: So fine a but the wind might blow her away. She was a lost child. Well, she was wrong and what she said, as long as there’s
S1: no price on love is still. And it’s sort of traces the arc of their relationship and then his sense that maybe, you know, she’s been lost to time or whatever, turns out that song is about an actual woman and Brigs, who was part of the English folk revival in the 60s and was ethereally beautiful and so much so that all kinds of people wrote songs about her. Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Led Zeppelin wrote a song for her just to meet her, was to be completely transported, totally captivated by her charms. And she had the most anti commercial sensibility of, I think of anyone I’ve ever encountered who eventually did get committed to, you know, posterity via vinyl. You know, she she really felt like you shouldn’t even sing indoors. Right. You know, not only should you not record music, you shouldn’t even sing it indoors. Right. And it was meant to be sung outside. Right. I mean, she’s had this primal relationship to music, but in fact, they did corner her and get her to record a couple of albums. You can’t find one of them on Spotify, but there is a bunch of an Brigg’s on Spotify. I do find it completely mesmerizing. There are YouTube videos of her in her prime. One in particular will link to clearly just a creature of the spheres in some sense.
S6: One of. Thanks so much. Done by
S1: side, and then the other thing I would lead listeners to is she still around? And a few years ago, a Guardian journalist found her because so much of her music was being rediscovered and reissued. And this guy went and talked to her in the Scottish town of Oben, which presumably is where the whiskey comes from. And she just she’s still the same person. She’s like, you know, this album, which has become a total classic. Right. Like one of the great Lost and Exhumed classics. And she’s like, there aren’t any good songs on it. I mean, she just has, you know, and they’re like, oh, it’s so famously eerie. She says nothing to worry about it. As far as I’m concerned, I wasn’t tripping or anything. And she’s just a wonderful character now, much later in life. And has she kind of lived her principles, right? Well, I don’t think she feels as though she lost out on fame or money in the least little bit and would rather live kind of, you know, in tune with the crashing surf and the and the winds than the, you know, the music business. Anyway, highly recommended. Dana, I think you’ll like it.
S2: Wow. I mean, when you figure in the Scotland, I feel like she’s been she’s been crafted in the mind of Steve Metcalf and manifested in the universe wasn’t what’s the name of this album that she now says is nothing special?
S1: It’s a 1971 album called The Time Has Come that is not on Spotify. So you sort of have to tootle around. And, you know, there probably I think it’s on YouTube. You could listen to tracks from it on YouTube. But there’s other stuff on Spotify that’s quite good. But I mean, I don’t know. I mean, now Anne Briggs is the anti-hero. I don’t know what you can possibly come up with.
S2: Dig deep. I’m going to come up with somebody so obscure and ethereal that possibly I’m the only one on Earth who’s ever heard of her.
S1: I think you’re going to have to get Eurydice out of the underworld in order to beat empirics. Hate to say it. All right. Well, thanks, Dana.
S2: Thanks, Steve.
S3: Thanks, Julia. Thank you.
S1: You’ll find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page, that Slate Dotcom Culture Fest, and you can email us at Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom. And we do love it when you really do. Our intro music is by the wonderful Nick Brittelle. Our producer is Cameron Drus. Our production assistant is Rachel Allen. For Dana Stevens and Julia Turner, I’m Stephen Metcalf. Thank you so much for joining us. And we will see you soon.
S3: Hello and welcome to the Slate plus segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest. Today, we discussed that countdown to the Oscars, the most least anticipated event of the year. We love to make a big hullabaloo about the Oscars every year. As usual, this year we have gone back and watched a number of Oscar nominated films and caught up on the conversation in advance of the show, which this year as much later than usual. But they arrive in the context of just plummeting ratings for awards shows. The Golden Globes were way down. The Grammys were astronomically down. Award shows, as we know it, may be on the brink of extinction. And into this breach steps the Oscars, probably the awards show with the biggest platform and most credibility standing in a year where basically nobody but cineastes watched movies, which means that a lot of critics are pleased with the highly meritorious choices and a lot of society probably doesn’t care. How are you guys feeling about the Oscars? Dana, what are you expecting from this this year and what are your big questions about the big show?
S2: I mean, I’m probably more interested this year than in your average year because as you say, a lot of the nominees are unexpected. They’re things that might not have been nominated or noticed as much in a in a bigger splash, your year with open theaters and more blockbusters and a normal typical Oscar season like Nomad Land is looking like a real possibility to take best director and or best picture, which I don’t think is something that would have happened in a normal year. It just feels too much like a a small indie kind of movie to to have that kind of scope. But then when you think about the fact the last Oscars, right immediately pre covid last Oscars a little over a year ago was the parasite Oscars, then it gets kind of exciting to think about how, you know, the changing makeup of the academy and of the film landscape might shift things. So that stuff that’s actually interesting and good starts to be recognized. I think that’s probably too much to hope for from something like the Oscars. And the most we can do is hope that those movies at least get seen and talked about by more people. But it sounds kind of curious and fun to me this year. The fact that Soderbergh is one of the people behind making it, that they’re talking about making it in a sort of cinematic way, whatever that would mean. And most especially, I want to hear you on this, Julia. The fact that it’s shooting in Union Station, this, you know, legendarily beautiful building in Los Angeles, which I don’t know if you remember, but the three of us with Andy Bowers, the former executive producer of Slate podcasts, shared this wonderful moment at Union Station once when we were in L.A. and he took us on a tour there. But it’s a spectacular building and a really unusual place to have a ceremony. And that alone seems to make it worth watching for me. As usual, there’s no real movies that I’m super rooting for because I know that I’ll just be disappointed. And I sort of love liking the movies that don’t get awards. But there are a few things that I would like to see awarded and definitely a few that I would not like to see. So I’ll tune in for that.
S3: Oh, you got to name names, Dana. Were you who are you rooting against?
S2: I mean, I think anybody who follows my writing on Slate would probably know that it’s promising young woman. I mean, every season I end up with one movie without planning to I end up with one movie that’s sort of my enemy. And this year it’s sort of that movie, not because I think it’s terrible. I think it is flawed and a failure at what it tries to do. But I also think that it has been vastly over recognized and over rewarded. So in a way, it has become a little bit the joker for me this year, although I don’t think it’s as perniciously bad as as the Joker was. And so to watch that collect a whole bunch of awards and, you know, make a whole bunch of noise about what a feminist powerhouse movie it is, will probably scratch me the wrong way and make me annoyed. So that’s sort of my enemy movie. As far as the movie or performance I’m rooting for. I mean, there’s so many good ones. I would be happy to see almost every actor who’s up for anything get that award. It would be really fun to see a movie like collective, you know, get some some recognition, although as I said in the segment on that, I doubt it will happen. I think Amanda Seefried was great. And Mank, even though that’s not a great movie, I think it would be kind of fun to see her get an award. I think Chadwick Boseman will probably win and it will be beautiful to see if he does because his widow has been so gracious and so fantastic in the appearances she’s made over award season. I don’t know. I don’t have huge expectations, but for once it doesn’t feel like the same old big stodgy event that we always see in the Dolby Theatre every year.
S3: Steve, what are you anticipating?
S1: Well, first of all, I want to say that I loved and I love the not as perniciously bad as the Joker as your blurb or Poquoson. I want to see a poster so badly.
S2: I mean, if you want to read me, I’m promising young woman, just go go on Slate and read me. Forrest Wickman, our culture editor, encouraged me to go off as. I had gone off in several conversations with him, and so I fully went off on promising young woman and I’ve said what I have to say, you
S1: know what I mean? Here’s what I would say, Julia, is that is that the the film business vis a vis the Oscars has been confronting this problem for years now. And it’s it’s somewhat hidden this year because of covid, which is, you know, the very big commercial movies aren’t good enough to win the big awards and the movies that are don’t do a ton of commercial business. And that sort of that divergence has been going on, you know, arguably for a very long time. But it’s just become intense in the last few years. What are you going to recognize? I mean, this this exercise in totally gratuitous self flattery, that is the Oscars we could do away with it might be perfectly happy. Nonetheless, it’s confronted with something of a dilemma that hasn’t really figured out how to solve it this year. People aren’t going to the blockbuster mentality is out the window as of right now. People aren’t going to movie theaters anyway. So there’s no real basis for commercial comparison, you know, and when anyway, it just doesn’t. It’s a totally exceptional year in that regard. So almost everything is just it’s a total non blockbuster slate of movies. I am rooting very hard for certain things. I really don’t want Mac to win. I think Mac is a bogus movie top to bottom. It totally falsifies the facts under the pretense of telling you what they really were. I think it’s overwritten, it’s over.
S2: Everything over. Agree? I don’t, but it won’t. I doubt it will win much, except possibly that award.
S1: I mentioned so many nominees and that can sometimes be a bit of a bit of a sign. But the exception is Amanda Seyfried, who I think is transcendent. One really good thing about the movie, she totally deserves that. That award Dark Horse. I would love if Vinterberg won for another round. I kind of that movie has grown on me and grown on me. The more I talk about it and think about it, the more I think it is kind of a magnificent, as Julia said, sub tweet of of Danish drinking culture. And it’s just a courageously weird movie. I wouldn’t be I’d be, I have to say, equally happy if Chloe Zhao won it for Nomad Land. I think her directing on that movie, something I
S3: going to root for a man I’m sorry, Vanderburg is great, but like one woman has ever won an Oscar for director, like, OK, you have to take that back for closure.
S1: I 100 percent take that back, actually. I mean, I thought closure did something and this is my to Scalia on our our Nomad Land segment. I just didn’t think to say it at the time, which is that when you combine what are sort of semi documentary elements with fictional elements in a movie or and or non actors essentially playing themselves with actual actors, playing made up characters, how do you never goes together? I feel like that never, ever works. And yet she’s somehow something about her gentleness and I don’t know, just kind of, you know, I don’t know, just sort of just the most gentle and true style that lets things stand forth is what they are somehow blended those two things together. I would love it if she won. I’d be very happy if. No, Madeleine, when I love the movie this surprised me most this year was the father. I thought the father was just it was was unexpectedly true in some sense to the experience of of mind lost to the age. I mean, I thought, you know, I really want Chadwick Boseman to win for the reasons stated that you do. I the only person in my mind who competes for that award this year is is Anthony Hopkins, who just did something astonishing in that movie. Boseman is just transcendent and in that film. So, you know, uh, I agree with you. Promising young woman is just it’s very true to its rage and to a well-earned feminist rage out on the world. I don’t think it’s true to itself as a movie. I really liked sound of metal, you know? I mean, I just think there’s a lot of interesting good stuff this year. And I think that’s where I where I come out on most of it.
S3: I mean, to me, the bulk of the suspense this year is around the show and who’s going to watch it and whether awards shows are like a tenable part of the American cultural landscape going forward. And, you know, we won’t really know, like even if the ratings tank completely, it’s just such a weird year, it’ll be kind of a mulligan, like they’ll try again next year and for several years to come. You know, being able to convene just under 10 million viewers is still a lot, even if it’s not over twenty. Um, but. That’s my main question, because, you know, from the Los Angeles Times, we’ve been covering covering these awards, giving bodies, covering their efforts to reform and change, covering their efforts to take seriously the social critiques. And, you know, we’ve covered the spectacular failures of the and Golden Globes to do so. But the academy is really an institution that has been trying hard and sincerely and done a lot of work since the Oscars. So white campaign of several years ago. And you can see that reflected in the increasing internationalism of the voting body and things like the recognition of Vinterberg work for another round in parasite. I mean, parasite, we should note, made a, you know, quarter of a billion dollars. It was not an art house. It kind of nicely split the difference between meritorious and wildly popular. But, you know, this is an institution that certainly has its amusing missteps and stumbles and is prone to announcing categories and withdrawing them. And, you know, they’ve they’ve they they’re fun to cover because there’s always something going on, but there’s always something going on because they’re actually engaged in a serious process of trying to figure out what an awards show should be in this age. That I I that leaves that leaves me at least, you know, rooting for them to figure it out. And I also think I mean, just as the Grammys were pretty interesting this year for their differences, I think this show has the potential to be interesting to the Grammys were able to convene small groups of people. It wasn’t the total Xoom palooza of the Emmys and Golden Globes and that sort of hybrid and intimate quality in combination with the the three pretty interesting producers in the new location seem seem interesting to the point about Union Station. Beloved space seems great. We had a great column by Karoliina Miranda, who came on a few weeks ago to on our show suggesting that the music center in L.A. would have been a much better space with a lot of room and outdoor venues and all kinds of performing spaces. And certainly it’ll it’ll be interesting to watch. So all of my suspense is around the show. And then I am I do think that club closes out when would be exciting. And of course, I didn’t mean to suggest in my chiding you, Steve, that anybody should win any award based on their personal background. But it’s just the Oscar record around recognizing female directors is insanely atrocious and has been so intractable for so long. And she really she made it great. She just did such crazy things with that movie that I’m still pondering. So I am hopeful about that one. I do think the best picture race is interesting. And I guess the other performance I I’d mentioned for Best Actor is Riz Ahmed, who, you know, I just think that was a really sensitive, interesting performance. And there’s another one that I’d be excited to see get recognition in that group. So we shall see. All right. Thank you so much, sleepless listeners, for supporting Slate and its journalism for listening to our show. Will see you next week.