The “Toppling Teddy Roosevelt” Edition

Listen to this episode

S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: I’m Stephen Metcalf, and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest toppling Teddy Roosevelt, Ed.. It’s Wednesday, June 24th, 2020. On today’s show, The Five Bloods is the latest Spike Lee movie. It tells the story of four black veterans returning to present day Vietnam, where their bodies and spirits were all but broken, as one of them says, fighting an immoral war for rights. We didn’t have. And then the twilight of the idols. Here we are. Confederate statues are being torn down by protesters as a long overdue blow. Some say, I would say, against the legacy of treason and hate, for which Trump just vowed it’s coming over the wires. Criminal retribution. We’ll be joined by New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie to discuss. And finally, still need comfort. Maybe we need it more than ever.

Advertisement

S1: So Julia delivered it this week with her pick center stage for a comfort movie, a dance movie to end all dance movies from the year 2000. I cannot wait to talk about it. Joining me today is Julia Turner, who’s the deputy managing editor of the L.A. Times. Julia, hello. Hello. Hello. And of course, Dana Stevens, who’s the film critic for Slate eCom. Hey. Hey, Stephen. Shall we dig in? Everyone ready? Ready? All right. Awesome. The Five Bloods tells the story of four black ex servicemen returning to present day Vietnam, a place that nearly destroyed them. Okay. But as Spike Lee’s movie makes abundantly an excruciatingly clear, it was really the empire known as America that set upon their bodies and spirits, forcing them to fight a war that White Middle-Class Children had skipped out on. And for a country that otherwise granted them almost no, if not no dignity and then almost more brutally to live forever after with the trauma and neglect of having fought it. Now they’ve returned four of them. That is played by Delroy Lindo, Clark Peters, Isaiah Whitlock Junior and Norm Lewis. There is a fifth blood, their beloved and heroic squad leader, Norman, who was killed in Vietnam on a recon mission. The five of them men on before have returned to the jungle to reckon with what they found and lost there. I do not want to spoil it, but let’s just say it’s part epic filmmaking, part documentary pastiche, part history lesson, part glorious harangue, therefore. Okay, all Spike Lee. The movie also stars Chadwick Boseman as Norman. Melanie TRV, Johnny Negotiation and Jonathan Majors, he of Last Black Man in San Francisco. Awesome to see him again.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Let’s listen to a clip of Biddle’s Gazy Rambo movies. Yeah, like them. She’s gotta be fucking kidding me, man. Him in that walker Texas Ranger. I send them the best out there. Todd saves an imaginary deal on the weird motherfuckers trying to go back and win the Vietnam War. I would be the first headline if there was a think about a real hero. What about blood sample ballot? That man jumped on a grenade and saved his blood life. And he was the first brother to be awarded the Medal of Honor. 18 years old. Look, I love you on all that shit, but I know that nobody wants you to die for them.

Advertisement

S1: I read the sign. You better thank. Dan, let me start with you. Spike Lee has made his Vietnam epic, I’d say, but instead of Gimme Shelter playing, as you know, bombs fall out of American helicopters. We hear Marvin Gaye. We often hear Marvin Gaye, the vocal tract, isolated vocal track of some Marvin Gaye protest songs, i.e., Spike Lee really made his Vietnam epic. Would you make a move?

S4: Oh, man. There’s so much I feel like we need to devote the whole show just to this movie just because there’s so much to say about it. It’s two and a half hours long, right? It’s sprawling and shaggy. Even that little clip we heard, you can hear at least two of the different tones that it strikes and that it, you know, really freely moves between, which is that that clip starts out as this sort of bucket list style, you know, Cottagers on a Journey kind of comedy, which is a lot of this movie to a lot of, you know, repartee and banter among these four old guys with this bond. There’s sort of a lot of character comedy to kick it off. But then there’s this didacticism that pops up in the middle of it. It’s really sometimes extremely direct. Like, for example, when they mentioned Milton Olive and identify him as the first black recipient of a Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. Spike, there’s a picture of him, a photograph of him. And I think even maybe his his name is and dates on the screen or something like that. And throughout the movie has this kind of toggle between almost, you know, African-American studies, history lesson and, you know, heist movie adventure, sort of treasure of the Sierra Madre style journey, which, by the way, this movie references really explicitly in several scenes. It’s apparently Spike Lee’s favorite movie, the John Houston film, about something similar in a way. Right. These people in search of a buried treasure and how the search for the treasure kind of turns them against each other. So, yeah, I mean, that’s just two of the movies that I mentioned. There’s the bucket list side. There’s the didactic side. But there’s so much more that I’m sure that we’ll get to. There’s moments when it’s a flat out war movie. And, of course, there’s the the flashback sequences and the structure that will get into these sort of two temporal zones that it runs in.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: All right, Julia, as I understand it, in the development phase of the movie, it was two separate scripts. It was a script with white protagonists, a way more straightforward adventure, epic. It was set, as I understand it, to be directed by Oliver Stone about going back into the jungle for treasure. And it was combined with a script written by Spike Lee and a writing partner about, you know, the agonizing subject of black servicemen in Vietnam and both the legacy of that, both the experience of it in flashbacks, as Dana says at the time, and the experience sentence on those, you know, absolutely tormented psyches of of specifically black men who fought in the war. What do you make of it? Did it cohere for you? What would you make of it as a film?

Advertisement

S5: I really loved this movie, although it is like a treasure chest stuffed full with, like, too many things, the wrong shapes, and you can’t really figure out how they all fit into it. But I had an experience watching it that I almost never have watching anything right now, which is like the second it started, I was like, I’m putting down my phone like and I you know, I mean, in general, I try to not be looking at other stuff while I watch stuff, especially the stuff we talk about here that I usually have to, like, forcibly put my phone in another room to avoid the like to screen like, oh, let me just see what’s happening on Twitter. And I just felt compelled by it for all it’s bagginess and it’s ranging genius. And it’s 20 different things in the thing quality. I don’t know. I just wanted to be in its company and I wanted to be in its vision. And maybe it’s just that at this particular moment in history, having a good sit down with Spike Lee and letting him remix some history and some cinematic history for you felt like a really valuable way to spend my time that I’d felt very compelled by it. For all that it structurally is probably not what you would like teach in a screenwriting course.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Yeah, I. I come out. I think we’re where you do, Julia. It’s, I mean, it’s a Spike Lee movie, so it is shaggy, didactic, melodramatic and in this instance quite violent. But, you know, at the heart of it all are these. I think is or these performances as yoked to Lee’s vision. And especially there’s Delroy Lindo as Paul. And the movie in some sense is about the broken mind of Paul. He’s the one of the four who’s most. Whose psyche is most destroyed by the effects of having fought in the war. And as a consequence, he’s deeply paranoid about everything that’s happening around him. And as his son indicates, you know, play by Jonathan Major as a son indicates, you know, his mind is really legitimately slipping. And the tragedy of the movie is that he’s actually right. Right. That that his paranoia turns out to have keenly understood exactly how the world is working and how the script is always that they get fucked in the end. And. You need. A big, capacious, incoherent. Incredibly angry movie to give you the reality of that psyche in its. Decomposition and to tell the story of the historical story of how you end up. Breaking a man like Paul and Linda is just a great American actor. And to see him given this part and do with it what he did is just astonishing. And I loved Last Black Man in San Francisco. It’s a movie I’ve really pushed on people. And I’m I I hope this is an indication that Spike Lee loved it, too, for casting, you know, majors in this movie because he’s right. I just think he’s amazing in it. The one thing I have to bring up, though, the manic pixie mind diffuser played by the French actress, that is a serious misstep. Melanie Terry does what with it, what she can. But there are even odd moments where she seems to laugh and smile at the lines that she’s forced to say. In a way, that’s the one part where the glorious messiness of the movie becomes slightly inglorious. But otherwise, you know, it’s is a Spike Lee movie. It’s meant to overwhelm you in a way. And, you know, and one thing I’ll say very quickly, too, is he joins Tarantino and and Schaus Ezzy in having been given, you know, a very, very large canvas on which to paint this kind of a picture. And there is a there’s a kind of wonderful thing that the filmmakers of that stature are being given that opportunity. And he certainly took it and did something extraordinary.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: Steve, I have a couple responses to that one. I’m glad that you called out the manic pixie bomb diffuser girl. But in general, I would say that women and Spike Lee movies are not usually the most richly written characters. And, you know, this is obviously a war movie about four dudes going back to to their combat experience. So it’s going to exclude female characters for that reason. But the women that do appear around the edges in this movie, I think all to some degree play a manic pixie, smiling, sweet, supportive role.

S6: And that’s something to be remarked on. So I’m glad you did that. As for the huge sprawling canvas and maybe this goes back to what Julie was saying about wanting to put her phone down and focus, I felt a lot of sadness seeing this movie that it didn’t get to open in theaters as it was meant to, because it’s such an immersive and big kind of experience and it does so much with the screen. Right. I mean, we haven’t mentioned just sort of what this movie looks like, but there’s all this cinematic kind of playfulness is sort of the wrong word because it happens for reasons that aren’t necessarily playful. But the aspect ratio of this movie is always changing to indicate what timeframe we’re in. Right. That’s one way that we know that we’re in the past in Vietnam rather than the present. But the reason that he needs to have tricks like the aspect ratio changing to clue you in on what time from here it is, because he doesn’t D.H. his actors digitally, nor does he cast younger actors as them. And that just seems like a big thing that we haven’t mentioned yet, that when we see the for old codgers back in the day and in those scenes, you will also see Chadwick Boseman, who is their comrade, that they’re going back in part two to find his remains. He’s young Chevy Bozeman is still, you know, the age that he would have been when they were fighting. But they’re all old and it only takes a couple scenes to get used to that. And once you do, it’s just it seems like the most simple yet profound decision on Spike Lee’s part. Right. I mean, just seeing their more grizzled faces alongside the face of this guy who never made it out.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: Yeah. I mean, it’s just the scope of it. I mean, it’s another case where Spike Lee pitched this movie all around town and the only people who would fund it was Netflix. And it’s a case where the economics of streaming allowed a brilliant director a bigger canvas than he might have gotten otherwise. And even Spike Lee said that in some ways, the decision to have the older actors in the flashback scenes was like, I knew they wouldn’t give me the extra hundred billion to do the dating. You know, unsaid in his quote on this was that they gave Marty Scorsese. But, you know, the notion that when you’re thinking about the past, you’re kind of projecting your present self into the past. And the people didn’t get to live to have a present self kind of frozen in time. Turns out to be really powerful choice. But it’s also a choice with economics behind it, of course. But no, I loved that. And the other. I mean, there’s so many great actors in this movie, but Delroy Lindo, whom I’ve recently been spending a lot of time with in the company of the Good Fight, is just as good as everybody is saying. So extraordinary in this. And as someone who is being mentioned as an Oscar contender and we’ll get to this in our plus segment about the postponement of the Oscars till April. But I do hope that this movie coming out when it happens, doesn’t absent him from the conversation when the words roll back around. I mean, I would just send people to watch this because it’s just really good to be in Spike Lee’s brain for a few hours at this particular moment in time. But hey, did not like the score at all. The Marvin Gaye stuff was amazing. But the score seemed really like I did not get what the score was doing. And then in reading a bunch of reviews after I saw it, the score seem kind of hokey to me. And like over loud and over present. And then I read all these reviews that were like terrorist Terence Blanchard’s remarkable score. So Dana Score was school me? Am I a dope? I just I, I, I didn’t like it.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S6: Well, you know me, I like a sparely used score. I mean, to me it was just that it was to present at times. I almost thought and maybe this is what people are saying is brilliant about it and I just didn’t pick up on this. But maybe it was things ironically or something. Right. I mean, there’s moments that they’re doing things that are extremely unheroic and it’s scored to heroic music that are funny, like there’s a use of Ride of the Valkyries, right. The Vikner piece made famous by the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now. And and they’re kind of paddling down this river in a river boat. And there’s is a very coddler moment where nothing violent or exciting is happening. But that music is playing and that’s a fun. You said music, as Steve said, lifting just Marvin Gaye’s voice out of what’s going on without any of the background is such a beautiful choice. And it sounds almost like like a gospel singer or something when he’s when he’s isolated like that. But you’re right. When the symphonic score kicks in. It always felt like it was just cluttering up the works to me. And perhaps what was intended was here is a big symphonic war movie style score for this, a typical war movie that’s exploding various stereotypes. But to me, that music just felt like it was part of the stereotype. So I tend to agree. All right. Slightly vindicated in my distaste.

Advertisement

S1: All right. Well, the movie is the Five Bloods, it’s on Netflix streaming it. It’s an amazing experience. And watch it and tell us what you thought about Hakeem moving on. All right, before we go any further, of course, we talk about business roughly around now in the podcast. Dana, what are you up?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S7: Just a couple items. First of all, we wanted to remind you all about summer stretch. This is our annual feature where we devote a whole show to listeners sourced music. And you can send us songs that you love to have in your earbuds when starting along on a summer day, socially isolated from your friends, but enjoying their company nonetheless. And we will compile those into a Spotify playlist, make that available to you. And after we’ve had a while to get familiar with it, we will discuss our favorites with Slate’s beloved pop critic and billboard chart expert XML Envy. This is always one of our favorite shows of the year to record. And it’s because you’ve sent us a great song. So please send your favorite summer songs to Culture Fest at Slate ICOM for something. The subject line about summer stretched, you know, music for the Strutt list, et cetera, so that we know where to compile it and we will let you know when that episode happens. I think it’ll probably be sometime in the next month. Another upcoming episode will be our discussion of the book The Great Influenza by John Barry, which is a history of the 1918 flu pandemic. We thought that that might help us understand something about the current moment we’re living through. And, you know, it’s just it’s something that is a huge part of American history that I, for one, had never been taught or learned anything about. So if you want to buy the Great Influenza by John Barry or check it out from your library, you can get it as an e-book and get as an audio book. And we’ll all discuss it sometime later this summer. I’m being vague because it’s a big ass book and I’m not sure when we’re going to finish it. But so far, it’s it’s been really good. And for our Slate Plus segment today, we’re going to talk about the Oscars. The Academy just announced that they’re pushing the awards ceremony to April later than it’s ever been making the entire movie season. A strange jumble. We don’t know what movies will be released when, whether they will open in theaters, if anyone will go to theaters to see them. And in general, you know, the pandemic is screwed with everything. And one of the things it screwed with is the movie industry. So with Julia’s help as someone who edits entertainment coverage for the Los Angeles Times, we are going to try to understand what it means that the Oscars are now in April to hear segments like that and to get ad free podcasts. Of course, you can sign up for Slate. Plus our membership program. As we’ve been mentioning for the last few shows, the current crisis has caused a real budget crunch. It’s late. It’s caused a reduction in spending. Pay cuts for people. They’re now doing a work share program, trying to figure out different ways that we can keep turning out the best journalism we can under some really adverse conditions. So Slate plus memberships are really important to us right now. If you want to support Slate podcasts and all of the journalism on this website, you can sign up for Slate plus membership at Slate dot com slash culture.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S8: Plus, once again, you’ll get ad free podcasts, exclusive, plus only content and lots of other benefits to explore. Sign up at Slate Icon Slash Culture Plus. All right, Steve. Back to the show.

S1: Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee, statues are either coming down or being, let’s just say, added to improved instead of vandalized. News is breaking. The Teddy Roosevelt is being taken off the steps of the Natural History Museum. And just now, this morning, as we record, Andrew Jackson, Trump’s favorite president, was set upon near the White House, provoking Trump to threaten long jail terms. We’re now joined by Slate veteran, a New York Times columnist, Jamelle Bouie. Hey, Jamal. Welcome back to the podcast.

S9: Hello. Thank you for having me.

S1: Yeah. It’s great to have you back. You opened your recent column about the statues with the following sentence. And I’d love to have you explicated a little more for our listeners. It doesn’t necessarily follow that a nationwide protest over police brutality would, for some, become a reason to take action against Confederate statues and other controversial monuments. You go on to explain why it does follow in a way.

S9: Yeah, I mean, if you’re looking at these protests super narrowly, then, you know, a Statue of Liberty Lee doesn’t really have much to do with police brutality. But I think if you’re looking at these protests thematically, that they’re not simply about George Floyd, but they’re they’re not even simply about Black Lives Matter and a larger movement. But they’re very much about trying to challenge a version of American history, trying to challenge a sort of conception of American life that is narrow and exclusive and does not have room for black Americans, does not have room for Native Americans, doesn’t have room for all sorts of other groups then. Yeah. Robert, at least that is a totally natural target, right. Because those monuments don’t they’re not history. Right? They don’t they don’t educate anyone about anything. They’re very much memorialization and they’re memorialization people for causes that we rightfully see as wrong and evil and with no place in the public sphere.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: And as you point out that there is a history to these statues, it doesn’t have to do with the founding of the Civil War. It has everything to do with when those statues were erected and put into the public spaces that they’re now in there. And when you know that history, you know that they’re about the birthright privilege of whites, especially over public spaces in this country.

S10: Right. So you mentioned that the Teddy Roosevelt statue that is been removed from a museum museum. I cannot recall the moment history museum. Right. You look at that statue and it’s not the statue isn’t of Teddy Roosevelt, the comforter conservationist.

S9: It’s not a statue of Teddy Roosevelt. The trustbuster. Right. It’s a statue of Teddy Roosevelt on a horse leading in submissive pose, a Native American and a black person. It’s like very clearly the statue of Teddy Roosevelt, the imperialists who believe that whites had sort of were going to dominate the world. And part of his, you know, part of his ideology was that this was well and good and it’s totally good to take them statue. That’s like those are not values we want to honor. And to when I see in these conversations claims that this is some kind of attack on history, it’s just it just doesn’t jive. And that’s setting aside the fact as well, that at a time when many of these monuments and memorials were put up, large parts of the public weren’t part of the polity. Right. They didn’t have any input on what the what the community was going to memorialize, even though they were part of that community.

S6: Yeah. Jamal, reading you and just having noticed it in the couple weeks since you you published this essay, how this is sort of wading out in concentric circles.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S11: Right. It started out with the Confederate statues in the South and then moved to Christopher Columbus figure from a completely different history. And then, you know, now we’re seeing Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson. I think there was even a George Washington Monument that was either taken down or defaced somewhere. And it’s really made me think about the status of public art as a way of propping up power and the way that, you know, when we see footage of another country being, quote, liberated. Right. I mean, when we went into Iraq, there was that iconic piece of footage of statue of Saddam Hussein being torn down or you see, you know, Soviet statues being torn down. It just seems like the moment that we’re in, which feels like a revolutionary moment, is all about toppling these these figures. And then just last night, I was reading a great Twitter thread about Goodson Borglum, the sculptor who made Mount Rushmore, and the fact that he was allied with the KKK and was this kind of white supremacist, which I had no idea about. I mean, I was aware that that is a controversial piece of public art because it’s on sacred land, et cetera. But I didn’t know that it was so directly connected with white supremacy. So I’m wondering how you see those circles widening out and whether you think there’s going to be a real debate about, you know, what public art is for in the wake of this sort of thing?

S10: I. Keep thinking about and returning to as this expands to figures like Washington or grant people who I would probably end up defending public art of I think of this bit from Dave Chappelle’s 2004 special. And he is imagining a conversation between him and a friend where they go back in time and they see George Washington and his friend, who is white, says, hey, Dave, look, it’s George Washington, the father of our country. What a great man. And Dave says, oh, shit, look at this, George Washington and runs because he’s afraid of being enslaved. And I think that that bit sort of captures really in a really concise way how the people we venerate in public space have these and always have had these incredibly contested legacies. And what makes this present moment different than 50 years ago or hundred years ago is that people who had been excluded from the conversation now have an opportunity to actually contest those legacy is in the public space and make a claim about what ought to be in the public space. I think to a degree, what we’re seeing is what integration looks like. And integration isn’t simply the incorporation of people into a pre-existing story, but it is an attempt to integrate two separate stories and understandings of the country. And when it comes to a Washington or Grant, I think that means that there are going to be a lot of people who say, you know, for as much as you want to honor Washington for obvious things, I don’t I cannot look past the fact that he was a slave owner his entire life, that he actively pursued enslaved people, that he sold and slave people that he participated in, something which he knew at the time was wrong and against the values he expressed. I think what that means isn’t if if you’re someone who feels uncomfortable with the tearing down of statues, that’s, I think, valid and all right. But I think it means we should understand that all this is going to be heavily contested in the contestation, isn’t necessarily going to look, you know, civil and orderly. It’s going to be disruptive and messy, in part reflecting the fact that many of these things were put up in moments for which people who were on the outside would say, oh, that’s disruptive and messy for us because we’re the excluded.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: Right. I mean, one thing that’s really been hard for me in trying to empathize with the people who are freaking out about the statues coming down is just the statue of the human political figure from the past as a form of public art is like not a form of public art I can get excited about anyway. I mean, they’re always sort of political statements as pieces of art, as aesthetic things like I. Have you ever been moved by looking at a statue of a human form, standing on a pedestal, staring into the middle distance like and maybe that’s just my interior modernist and I’m more moved by shapes than human forms. But anyway, I’ve been not full of sympathy for the people who are sad that the monuments are coming down and the physicality of it and the act of changing the landscape. Seems like a really powerful way to mark what I am hopeful is a broadening of the conversation about racial equality and inequality in this country, because making it physical and making it present and actually changing the landscape of the world feels feels like it aligns with the broader message of the moment, which is that. History compounds injustice and that the structural. Inequities that build up over time and the decades of people who’ve walked past the statues of Lee, that changing those things, even if it is symbolic that that is in and of itself a powerful symbol and it says powerful a symbol as putting the statue up in the first place.

S12: Know, I think that’s right. And one of the things I would like to see happen in terms of the conversation is for people to really think critically about whether we want monuments, memorials to singular individuals in the first place. There’s there’s simply no especially the kinds of people would be honoring generally presidents, you know, lawmakers of various sorts. There’s no way to do that in an uncomplicated way, if ever, where it happened. But some protesters knockdown that bust of Ulysses S. Grant. I think Grant is a figure for which you can have a lot of admiration. Someone who, you know, even by the standards of the time, had his head and heart in the right place, defeated the Confederacy, enforce civil rights laws, crush the Klan in its first iteration, like there’s that’s a record that one looking for a more inclusive version of U.S. history should be proud of. On the other hand, it’s true Grant owned and enslaved person. He manumitted him very quickly. But you cannot avoid the fact that Grant helped spearhead the Indian wars short of facilitating the expansion of the U.S. into territory, not own, and facilitating the killing of a lot of people. If you are a Native American, Grant’s record does not look so great. If you’re gonna put up a statue of Grant, how exactly do you contextualize that? Because the very act of putting up a statue of this person on a pedestal suggests that the person’s legacy is something that is uncomplicated, but it’s not. And I would like to see folks grapple with. Do we need these sorts of things to begin with? Not that we have to take all of them down. But if we’re thinking about future monuments and memorials, why not moralize and build monuments to events, right. To things that, you know, involve more than one person to things, to movements, to to things that really, I think, better capture what were aspiring for. We erect these things and are it’s much more in keeping with kind of the fact that this is a democratic country built on the collective action of individual who my favorite memorials ever is in D.C. and it’s the African-American Civil War Memorial at the African-American Civil War Museum. And it’s just a small, small ish statue of a group of black union army soldiers. And it very much communicates a sense that this was a collective struggle. And that, to me is a much more compelling form of memorialisation than, you know, a singular black soldier or, you know, a statue of Abraham Lincoln.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: To me, I wanted to ask you, because you’ve written so much about Grant in particular. But in general, about this subject, there was a huge shift which you’ve written about from what was called the Dunning’s school, sort of to the Foner school. I mean, a lot of people have written about reconstruction, but it’s a total a total shift in the history in historiography surrounding reconstruction. That story got retold in a new and completely vital and much more empirical way. But in the last five years, I’ve detected another shift maybe, which is that it’s a total lack of embarrassment about saying the North did not defeat the South in the civil war. The United States of America defeated treasonous who deserved to be hanged. And absent that kind of truth and reconciliation, we live in a kind of awful moral muddle about what that war was, almost as if it didn’t resolve in the proper way because of redemption, the failure of, you know, ultimate failure of reconstruction at the hand of white violence and and redemption. Is that. Am I. Am I right? Is this is about the last five years that that has become a much more widespread spread view of the end of the civil war?

S12: I have a couple theories about this one. I’ve written about others I haven’t as much. The one I’ve written about is that I very much think that views of Grant specifically, but this period probably rise and fall in tune with where the country is. And in moments of deep reaction, we often go to the kind of, you know, not quasi Dunninger school reconciliation focused. View of the war as a tragic mistake. Good men on all sides. That sort of thing. And in moments of rising concern with racial justice, we tend to go towards the you know, this was a war for emancipation. This was a war against against tyranny. And I think we’re in the latter moment, sort of even as our national politics are very much shaped by racial reaction. It’s clear that the level of ordinary people. There’s been a a sea change in attitudes when it comes to racial justice in that I think is powering this more uncomplicated view. I think I haven’t written about and there’s there’s two parts to this. The first is that we’re in some sense returning to the view of the war that emerged in the aftermath of the war. I think that for the 20 years after the Civil War, this was how people thought of the civil war, at least in the north and at least among African-Americans, that this was a war not just to save the union, but it was a war to destroy slavery. It was a war to defend democracy for the world. There’s a great book called The Calls of All Nations, which is an international history of the Civil War. And it very much focuses on how international observers understood the war very much as not just a localized conflict in the Americas, but really kind of this is the test of what a democracy could last in that that people at the time understood that if you want sort of contemporary sources, Magdeburg, Canterbury at the time, sources on this. Karl Marx’s journalistic writing on the Civil War is really great. I’m exactly this. He was a correspondent for a London paper and wrote very extensively about the Civil War, its causes. And then so I think we’re kind of returning to an older view of this. And then as well, recent scholarship has just been, you know, really explored. These dimensions of the war has really explored the extent to which enslaved people and freed blacks and free blacks were really one of the driving forces behind the war, becoming a war for emancipation. I wrote about this last week that if you are reading Civil War scholarship from the last three decades, which I guess is like recent in terms of academia here, it’s very much an emphasis on how enslaved people were, the ones who forced this war onto the path that it took. Do you have all this you know, this stuff happening from above? From below that? I think you’re right. Steve is is driving segment of the public toward this. I call it kind of nationalistic view of the civil war. Maybe a unionist view is less like inflammatory a way of putting that. But yeah.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: So having said that, I don’t care about any statues of humans on horses and have have a hard time finding sympathy. I will confess to this group for having had a twinge when I read about Teddy Roosevelt this morning, not because I care a ton about Teddy Roosevelt, but because the American Natural History Museum in New York is just like a palace for people with children in New York. I’ve spent hours there every weekend. I will stipulate I never went past that statue because it’s not stroller accessible. I only went in around the side door and been aware that there is a Teddy Roosevelt statue in front, but I’ve never looked at it. And so, you know, just feeling sentimental about the Natural History Museum as a place.

S6: I had a twinge of like, oh, gosh, they’re going to change it. What about the dinosaurs?

S5: And then, of course, Jamal, the second you actually described the statue and I call it a photo of it, which I don’t really remember what it looks like. Like it’s not even just the statue to someone with who had problematic policies and views. It’s like a racist statue just in as an object. And, of course, it should come down. But what would you say to people who are having a queasy twinge or say, oh? Well, of course, slavery was bad, but what about history? What what would you tell them to do? 25 themselves?

S12: I think I would say that the twinge is understandable, that there’s nothing wrong with seeing something part of a landscape change and being conflicted about that or even thinking I don’t I don’t like the fact that it’s changing and especially if it’s changing by way of people tearing it down. I also understand and sympathize with people who for whom that that’s deeply uncomfortable. The thing I would say not to mitigate it, but just to things to keep in mind are, first of all, again, you know, I think a lot of Americans have this idea that American democracy has been this orderly process. But you read it, you read about, you know, mobs in the seventeen eighties and seventeen nineties. You know, you read about. Fact that American democracy in the 19th century, especially before the Civil War, was more or less like a series of like organized mob actions. You think about the fact that mass politics throughout this country’s entire history has been extremely messy and disorderly. And then you look at what’s happening now in that context, and it’s kind of typical. It’s not something we haven’t seen before. It’s not it’s fine to find it objectionable, but it’s also not some sea change in how Americans are behaving. So just as people to keep that in mind and keep in mind as well, that especially with regards to Confederate monuments, which were erected at times when a large you know, here in Charlottesville, for example, Charlottesville, Virginia, we have the rapidly famous property Lee Monument. And when that was erected in 1924, most of Charlotte’s Hall is African-American and none of those people could participate in the political process. And so it’s important to consider as well that be attempt to remove these things is as much about an integrated polity, making a statement about what it thinks ought to be more analyses about anything else. I don’t think you can to sways people’s discomfort, but I think you can try to put what’s happening in context and also appeal to their value to larger values. Right. Do you want, you know, a bunch of your fellow citizens look at this thing and they don’t see such a beautiful piece of art. They don’t see someone to look up to. They see someone who fought for a cause to keep their ancestors or people like them in in perpetual bondage. Do you really want that to be in the public landscape or do you want something more inclusive? Even that’s something that’s more inclusive is just a pedestal without the statue.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S13: Well, Jamal, as always, it’s just the total pleasure to have you on the show. And thank you so much for coming on. This was great.

S10: Thank you for having me. It is.

S14: I always I always enjoy jumping in the chat.

S1: Center stage is a movie from the year 2000. An American teen dance drama follows a cohort of young aspires to American ballet greatness. They’ve all freshly matriculated at the American Ballet Academy, a loosely fictionalized version of ABC. We’re led to assume, I think, in New York City at the movie stars, Peter Gallagher, Amanda shows Zoe Saldana and Sasha with that skill, among others. It’s part theme, part flash dance. It’s sort of all itself, though, I’d say, you know, it features a dance man from hell. Smart mouth with a heart of gold, apple cheeked, innocent from what feels like the Midwest is some talk of Indiana there. And it certainly does not skimp on either the dancing or the cheese. Let’s listen to a clip. Let’s be honest.

S15: You’re not like most of the girls here.

S16: Your technique is nowhere near works. Hey, newsflash, there’s one to being a great dancer and perfect technique. Try dancing Swan Lake with God. I’m like, you’re really smart. If you send in your application now, you can get into a good college. Go to college. I want to dance. Soto Cheese is what you want to a special bitch academy or something. I’m just trying to be honest. In my opinion, that’s what friends do. Tell each other the truth. I guess that explains why you have so many friends.

S15: If anyone asks, I’m in the library, OK?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Julia, I’m going to start with you. But if you don’t mind, I’m just going to read out the reactions I had to this movie as they went along, in my words. Oh, God. Here we go. Can I play this one and a half times speed, please? Hold on. Hold on. Is this a sex parable about tight hips? Questionmark. All this movie’s sweet. Oh, M.G., am I cry. Mark, I love. I love this movie. I thought Mama dance that I. I completely fell for this movie. You were in the not only not in the hot seat, you were in the cool seat in the House. Tell me why this movie comforts you.

S5: Why. Why does this movie comfort me? Well, I was in my late teens, I think when the 90s dance movie, but maybe early 20s. I can remember there was like a spate of dance movies. There was a brief heyday of dance movies in the late 90s and early aughts with Save the Last Dance and step up and step up to the streets and center stage. And just in general, it was a good moment for teen movies and then it was a good moment for that subset of the teen movie. Hot Teens get together and figure out how to make out with each other while dancing, which is really the only way to improve upon the teen movie. And I was sort of a completist and I love them all. And this movie, I just loved it. And my sister and I watched it like 40 times. Watching it again, I loved it just as much as ever. And I would pinpoint its charms in a couple of key factors. One is every other person in it is a terrible actor, like just truly just just barely getting the line readings out. Mostly the people who aren’t great actors are good dancers, and that’s why they’ve been chosen, although not to a one. Sometimes they just seem to be just bad actors, but don’t bring necessarily specific dancing skills to the role. Because they emphasized dancing in the casting. I think the dance scenes are pretty good. Now, I’m not a dancer and I’m curious for Dana, who I know is also dance maybe. And for her evaluation of this. But, you know, in casting people like Ethan Stiefel and real, you know, real ballerinas and Bellary nose and and dancers the scenes that the dance scenes really carry. And in any like sport competition and movie, the reeler, you can make the dance stuff or the or the competition stuff. The sport the better. And this movie is like strongly emphasizes the dance over the acting. Second, all the actors who can actually act in the movie. You know, Peter Gallagher and Donna Murphy, who plays like a just wonderful, demanding, exacting ballet mistress. You can kind of see them. It’s almost like a dance, right? Like they kind of have to extend their actory leanness in a way that makes the unacted chilliness of the other people in the scenes, that doesn’t show them up too much and kind of makes it work. And there’s just sort of like a generosity and funny balance in those scenes that I love. And then all the romantic plots are just so dim and bubbly. And I just love it. I can’t really defend it, but I love it. Dana Dance, afficionado, what do you make of this?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S6: Had you seen it before? No, I’d never seen it. I’m so grateful. I wish that I had seen it at the time because for one thing, I would have made my daughter watch it with me because, you know, she’s a performer, mainly singer and actor, but also dancer, and is about to go to a performing arts school which is located around the corner from where this was mainly filmed, which was near Juilliard and Lincoln Center, etc.. So it has just that side. I mean, just sort of seeing that world. But it hit so many other of my sweet spots. I mean, it’s a dance movie.

S17: It has actual dance in it, right, where you can see the actor’s feet and you know that they are really doing the dancing and it’s not a double dancing for them and entire sequences are shown. So if you don’t want if you don’t like ballet, you’re definitely not going to like this movie, because when they put on a show at the end, you see not the whole show, but, you know, several of the of the segments in real time. So I really appreciated the quality of the dancing and the way that it was filmed.

S6: But also, I’m just so grateful, Julia, that you gave us a movie with low conflict, low stakes, where the big question is sort of like who’s going to get into the company? And, you know, who’s going to end up with Jim, the nice guy who isn’t a dancer. And just as you say, just these very goofy, sweet love stories where, you know, nobody’s about to die. And, you know, I mean, just everything in the world right now is so heavy that I utterly, utterly understand this is a comfort escape movie. But I know that I will be watching this again because it’s it’s like beautiful wallpaper. I mean, who can resist just watching dancers break in their shoes? That segment alone I could watch all day watching them, you know, take a file to their toe shoes and beat them against door is to try to soften them up. It’s just so good.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Yeah, no, it’s exactly it’s like a weird combination of authenticity. The cornpone sort of charmingly wooden acting, superlative superlative dancing. I mean, it just it really blew me away on that score. I am a total dance to the thing that my youngest daughter takes seriously as ballet. And, you know, she’s done it for 10 years now. I guess she’s 14. She’s on point. She has to break in the shoes. She’s got to burn the shoes and the special strategic way. But I don’t quite understand. And she’s dance Claire in The Nutcracker. I mean, this has been a huge, huge part of my life. And so I do not aspire to judge this movie critically. I just loved watching it. I know she had seen it already, but it was like I was watching her with her. And so this system is like emotional. It’s weird. It’s it’s it’s anyway. But one thing I would say is that some of the comfort and innocence the movie comes from, it’s a pre 9/11 movie and it’s a pre 9/11 movie about young people in New York City. And that story just can’t ever be told again in the same way. I mean, maybe one day, but not not in the foreseeable future. I mean, you know, this is a relic of a time when a you know, you could make a movie about young people in New York City utterly without a kind of horrible pathos or irony as a coping mechanism for what’s been lost, you know, which really, thanks to The Daily Show and various other things, became the go to coping mechanism for a public life. That’s a total shambles. And so, of course, watching a movie like this now is totally comforting. In addition to the fact that it hits all of these genre rhythms without an ounce of irony, the bad acting almost in a weird way helps its authenticity or at least its earnestness and makes that earnest earnestness feel. Quite, quite believable.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S17: Yes, Steve, I had not consciously thought of 9/11 as a marker while watching it, but I did think about how long ago the year 2000 seemed and what a different world the movie seemed to be taking place in. And I think the main thing that I felt was missing from the world that we would live in now and in movie about young dancers coming to New York is social media and phones, you know, smartphones. I mean, there was the idea that there was all this intrigue and hooking up and the kind of teen romance angle and that there was there was nobody texting or sexting each other and that they were all just kind of walking down the street having conversations. I mean, it just makes you realize in 20 years how profoundly the world and also the landscape of New York has changed. I noticed that the theater they perform in, which is in fact the theater that New York City Ballet performs in, was still called the New York State Theatre, which is still what I call it, because it’s now named after David Coke. And I refuse to say his name in connection with that great theater, but it made me think about, yeah. How the capital has changed the landscape of New York since then, of course, 9/11. I mean, just the entire world has turned around. And yet it’s the year 2000. It wasn’t that long ago. Yeah.

S5: I had not thought about the New York Yoenis, but it’s as grounded in New York as in the dance world. And I think that’s part of its charm. And then I do there is just the writing, is there? There are so many lines in here that I know by heart in the way that, you know, any movie that’s a comfort movie a little bit by heart. But like, you know, that line from the clip we heard about, would you go to a special bitch academy? Like, there’s just there’s a lot of good, bad, good, bad quotables in here which were fun to revisit. Julia. Yes.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Whatever you feel, just dance. OK. Just promise me that this movie, in my estimation, segue was perfectly into Roadhouse, the Sweezy joint this way.

S6: Greatest movie ever made. Oh my God. That is such a great idea.

S1: I know we might have to.

S17: When my pick comes around, I mean, I can’t bend from my. I’m so happy about. I pick this week that I can’t I can’t switch to roadhouse, but I will trust that you’ll bring it bring it to us in the future. Got it. Deal. What’s your pick, Dana? All right. Well, my take is actually something that Julia suggested a little bit occupies the place that center stage probably does for her, where I think, well, that may be special to me, but do I really want to inflicted on others? But here we go. I’ve been flicked in and it is from 1996, directed by John Debarment Twister, one of the great. Yeah. One of the great disaster movies of our time and really one of those movies that just so, so perfectly tows the line between camp corniness and actual goodness, you can find it on Amazon Prime. And I’m sure it’s streaming lots of other places, too. But really, who are you if you don’t own a hard physical copy of the of the great film Twister?

S14: All right. Dance the shit out of it, that’s all. All right. Moving on.

S1: All right. Now is the moment into the podcast where we endorse Dana. What do you have?

S6: You know what? I’m actually I had I had an endorsement that is somewhat evergreen that I’m going to wait for a future week because I was inspired when we had that conversation with Jamal today in our segment on Confederate statues to endorse something that every week. I think I should endorse this because it’s really wonderful. And that is Jamelle Bouie is newsletter. Do either of you subscribe to it?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: I do not know, but I. But I will. I will.

S17: I think you can do it through the times, but it’s not a times publication is just, you know, his own private newsletter. And I’m sure you guys both know that Janell’s great at social media. Right. I mean, he has a wonderful Instagram. He puts up his own photographs that he takes with analog cameras. He puts up lots of recipes. He’s it seems like a great cook. And his newsletters about all those things. There’s just that there’s a lot of newsletters I subscribe to. And like when I read them, but getting them is sort of a drag. I don’t actually love the form of the email newsletter, even from a writer that you really like and you want to follow. There’s just something tiresome about email, right? And having to open another email. But Janell’s I never fail to open. It comes at the end of the week. And he has a very stable format, which I appreciate, where he sort of starts off with a little mini essay about what’s going on that week. Then he links to any work that he’s published. Then he puts up some photographs that he’s taken maybe around town or some photographs he’s taken in the past. And then at the bottom, he has a recipe. And when it arrives, it just always feels like at the end of the week, I believe he sends it on on Fridays. And, you know, maybe I’ll cook Janelle’s recipe. There’s just something really homey and sweet about his newsletter. And it’s also really newsy and with links to other people’s writing as well. So apparently you can get to it through the Times website. So we’ll put a link there on the show page for this week.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Superb. Julia, what do you have?

S5: OK, my endorsement is for those of you out there with families trying to figure out how to occupy your summers, there is the card game, you know, very good beginner card game for kids before they learn about card cards. They make waterproof. You know, the cards are like little flexible linen, laminated plastic chits, and they all hang on like a key ring. So essentially, you can bring, you know, to the beach or like put it in the backyard, slip and slide and somehow play, you know, while damp. And I didn’t think this was a function I needed in my life before I had kids the age I had, I never really felt the need to play, you know, at all, much less to play it slightly wet. But it weirdly comes in handy, waterproof, you know. That’s my endorsement.

S1: Well, this week I’m going to endorse two things that I’ve been meaning to go to for forever and finally have started. I’m not very far into either one, but I am so totally, totally captivated. I can tell. I mean, I love them both unreservedly. The first is finally Dan Kois broke me down. I’m 120 pages into Wolf Hall. It is so now so good. It’s so good. I mean, I can’t. Among its many pleasures. I mean, first of all, the language is incredible. The plotting, the characterisations, the world, the whole thing. It was masterly, a minister’s absolute complete masterpiece of historical fiction, literary fiction. But to me, almost as exhilarating as the idea. Over a million people bought this thing. Did they really read it and loved it? I mean it, apparently, right? I mean, it’s a phenomenon. It is a global phenomenon. So the answer is yes. But, you know, for every time your heart in your life, your heart has sunk. What is popular, you know, and what isn’t? That this has been a global bestsellers. Just remarkable. I mean, she’s just Mantell is a genius. She’s writing at the highest level. It’s it’s actually not that easy to follow. I mean, I don’t want to put anybody off of it. But it’s not as though I don’t find myself rereading paragraphs or going back to the. The the the key at the beginning of it.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: Which whole genealogy chart. Yeah. Yeah. I tried to read it in Kindle on a vacation and it was like terrible because you need to read it in print where you can dallier the chart at the beginning. I mean again I only read the first one in part because it was a thick enough read that I felt like I needed a proper, you know, uninterrupted week to really get lost in the world and say, I haven’t read the followups, but I definitely intend to do as soon as those uninterrupted weeks arrive that I’m that I’ve been waiting for.

S1: Oh, yes. They were right around the corner for you, I’m sure. But then the other is the is the French television show, the bureau. Have you either of you dived into this little. Oh, my God. This is so again, I’m only two episodes in, but I wish I’d heard about it. And then the Times did something on it was clear the time was time to cut. Time to come to check it out. It is so good. It’s a French spy thriller. But to me, the hook is in addition to just being incredibly beautifully and sharply directed. And the performances are wonderful. The actors are tremendous. It’s very sexy, but it’s based on many, many Real-Life accounts of what it is to work for the the director general for external security, the DG, whatever of France like their equivalent of the CIA. And so it has this incredible air of authenticity that this is the actual procedural. Every tiny little procedural nicety of being in this security service seems to be authentically represented in the show. Whether it is or isn’t, I don’t know. But to a viewer, it certainly feels as though they did massively did their homework, and apparently they did. Additionally, it has that thing that Lucara does, which is you understand that everything people in a work environment like that say and do. Is both strategic. Could signal anyone of a number of things about their status as an agent, a double agent, a triple agent or a person with any kind of private agenda, unannounced agenda, and is a chess move in a longstanding careerist battle with others in such a workplace? I mean, it’s a meticulous workplace drama. I just couldn’t love it more. I mean, I feel as though I’m embarking on something that will be the equivalent of all the great, you know, multi season TV shows out there. And it’s from the French, right? I mean, that’s the other thing. I mean, how often do they make great TV, even though one loves to be plunged back into sexiness of the French mind and world? So the bureau so far, I am completely, completely captivated by it. All right. Two good, Rex.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S13: All right. Well, thanks, Dana. Thank you, Steve. Thanks, Julia. Thank you, Steve. You’ll find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page, that Slate dot com slash culture fest. I love it. I really do love it when you e-mail us at Culture, posted Slocomb. I hope I’m not too far behind on responding. I typically do. I really try this week to catch up. But please do drop us a note there. Interact with us on Twitter. It’s our feed is at Slate Kulp Fest. Our producer is Cameron Drus. Our production assistant is Rachel Allen for Dana Stevens and Julie Turner. I’m Stephen Metcalf. Thank you very much for joining us. Stay safe and we will see you.

S6: Hello and welcome to the slots police segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest.

S5: It is June 2020, which means it’s time to talk about the Oscars. Not because we are starting Oscar season unusually early, but because Oscar season has just announced that it is moving itself unusually late. The Oscars announced that they are moving to April 25th, 2021. This year they were in early February. So that’s an additional two and a half months of Oscar season, hoping to make up for this strange lost year for films with closed theaters and production shut down. The moving of the Oscars has caused award season planning pandemonium. Now the Golden Globes are moving. Dana. I’m curious if any of your critical bodies are moving their awards. You know, festivals like Toronto Intel You Ride, which happened around Labor Day and are typically considered the kickoff of Oscar season, are now like eight months ahead of the Oscars and people wonder whether they’ll be relevant. Dana, the Oscars have moved. What does it mean and what do you think?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S6: I don’t know. I was going to ask you, you’re the entertainment editor. I mean, as you know, I try to spend most of the year not thinking about the Oscars and then have to have that one month or so where it’s like all anyone talks about or cares about. I mean, I guess to me the extension mainly seems like it means like Oscar season is going to be so endless. Right. I mean, I feel like just to keep 2020 in 2020, they shouldn’t have done this. Right. Just roll those other movies over to the next year. But obviously, other movies are slotted for that place for next year. And budgets are at stake. And, you know, huge marketing campaigns are waiting for the big Oscar movies to be rolled out. But there’s something for people who resist the Oscars as the structuring element of the industry and the movie year. It’s almost a relief to imagine voting without having to think about those big movies. And that is exactly what the critics groups I’m in are debating about. There was just a long e-mail thread yesterday with various ideas. You know, should we let the Oscars dictate what we’re gonna do and also vote in April or whenever they’re going to show? I think almost everyone rejected that idea. You know, do we just only talk about movies that were released in theaters before COVA? That doesn’t give us a very wide slate of movies to talk about. But there are certainly some good ones. I think most critics are in agreement that films intended to be released theatrically that were then released digitally because of Kovik, like the Spike Lee movie we talked about today would be on the slate. But what about how how do you differentiate that? Right. Whether something was made for television or not? I mean, all of these boundaries that are already breaking down have now been definitively broken by this strange movie year. And everyone’s trying to figure out how to deal with it. And it seems to me that it’s going to end up being that there’s sort of an extended awards season that has a first chapter. Right, where different guilds and critics groups give awards to a certain group of movies. But we’re not going to be able to see probably these big things that they’re keeping under wraps until the beginning of the new year. So those movies will be completely left out of the conversation. That, of course, then throws everything out of balance because movies that we will think of as 2021 movies will have been treated by the Oscars as 20/20 movies. I don’t know. I mean, I know that everyone complains about everything the academy does, but this to me seems like a mistake. And it seems like it’s skewing toward, you know, the big so-called Oscar bait movies, as opposed to smaller and more interesting things that might get to get more attention. They might be they might benefit the industry. Right.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: Were they to be recognized instead at when when we first when shelter in Place first began, we ran a special issue in the L.A. Times about the future of film. And in it had a couple theories on the future of the Oscars before this announcement was even made. Justin Chang, our critic, had a great piece that was like, what if we just did the Oscars for the movies that are out so far this year? I believe the headline was First Cow for Best Picture is one of the possibilities for for for an Oscar season based on, you know, just the just the scant pre pre year. I mean, to the point that there’s two different classes of awardees, Dana. This is what TV has been for years. Right. The two major TV awards are the Emmys, which happen in September, and then the Golden Globes, which awards TV shows in early January. And they have completely different eligibility dates at the Emmys. Dates are like summer to summer and the Globes dates are calendar year. And so in a funny way, that has made for less of a sense of kind of momentum in TV awards season than there is with Oscar awards season where it’s like, OK, it’s this one cohort and all of these different voting bodies vote on this one cohort and then, you know, you get the ultimate crowning winner at the end with the Oscars, whereas with TV, it’s just like everybody’s always getting some kind of TV award. But, oh, well, for this one, there wasn’t a season in that window and there is not. And then also, of course, TV shows. Multiple cracks if they are more than one season. So. I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like the end of the world for it to be a slightly more disorderly set of cohorts for one year for Oscars, and it will be interesting to see what’s gained and lost by that. One interesting possibility, I think, is that the way the festivals intersect with the Oscars is a part of Oscar Cannes campaigning and contending that has become more visible to me since I took on this role. And, you know, Sundance, which has been a festival for the debut of any filmmakers for the acquisition of potentially interesting movies made outside the system, has not. But, you know, it’s sort of been too late in the schedule to be a major Oscar player will now be like very well timed relative to the Oscars to be a place to bring potential Oscar bait. So that will be interesting to see. It’ll be interesting to see where we are in the world and whether film festivals are happening in, you know, January or early 2021. But am I the kind of rhythms of it? I think we’ll be fascinating to watch. Steve, do you have a dog in this fight?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: I, I, I don’t really. But I have maybe a meta dog in this fight, which is just, you know, the analogy for me would be sports. Right. I mean, the rhythm of the year, the calendar year as it relates to the Oscars is totally meaningless to me. I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t really have a sense of what comes out. I mean, I understand how the movie calendar is dictated by the Oscar calendar, whatever I mean, but it just doesn’t it hasn’t entered my own circadian, you know, whatever seasonal rhythm. But sports has and sports has disappeared. And so the question to me about sports was, I think to be analogized to things like the Oscars is these things that we’re in the process of being somewhat killed off by millennials, that a new generation of viewers hadn’t really, you know, attached to them in the way that their boomer elders have improbabilities, don’t have a habit of sitting for hours and watching TV passively as a social media generation, but also just like corrosively skeptical of anything they inherit from their elders, as they should be. You know, they were already in the process of perhaps long term war, long term going down the tubes. Will they go down the tubes when someone like me realizes other is just an addictive rhythm to sports that once they’re gone, like I kind of lose the addictive rhythm of it, like, oh, that is the time of day that I check the box score. Now is when I flip on the radio broadcast of the mouth. So were you know, now is when I go to the blog and rail against James Dolan’s inept, you know, corrupt, you know, mismanagement of the great legacy of the New York Knicks, you know, or whatever. And it’s like it’s kind of out of my system and this open question of like how you go back to it. And, you know, Dana, for example, you’re just completely appropriately skeptical of the whole, you know, ritual of the Oscars to begin with. And it’s just gonna be interesting. I mean, professionally, you sort of have to engage with it whatever form it takes. But I’m just curious whether it sort of starts to ebb out of the system more quickly because it’s been ebbing out of the system anyway, in a weird way.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: Yeah. I mean, I suppose that a beneficial for the industry and certainly for movie critics and their enjoyment of the movie year effect of this might be that the Oscars become less important. That is very hard to imagine the industry not doing everything it possibly can to prop up the importance of the Oscars. And you’re right, Julia, that the way that things are structured right now, it sort of feels like the end of the year is this race. Everybody’s, you know, I mean, it’s literally the Oscar race, but it’s also everybody’s sort of racing to to to make their lists and give their awards, et cetera, all as this kind of warm up to this big event. And maybe if that structure, that very kind of, you know, Oscar centric fellow Oscar centric structure was torn down, there would be room for something new and interesting to emerge. But I mean, that’s just seems to be what the pandemic is doing to every industry. Right. Is just like, well, screwed everything up and turned it completely upside down. But who knows what will grow in the rubble?

S5: Yeah, I mean, I think like I think the Oscars will return like theatrical moviegoing in the movie industry broadly. We shall see. That’s just such a generational pastime. And. It’s not what a lot of young people want to do. So we’ll see how that changes the economics of what gets made and then what gets awarded. I think we’ll be its own fascination. All right. Slate plus listeners. Thank you so much for supporting Slate and its work and for listening to this bonus segment of our show. We’ll see you next week.