“Women Are Talking, But is the Academy Listening?” Edition
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Speaker 1: I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is the slate culture. Gabfest Women are talking, but is the academy listening? Addition? It’s Wednesday, January 25th, 2023. On today’s show, Women Talking is the new feature from writer director Sarah Polley. It tells the story of a group of men and women coming to grips with a gruesome act of sexual violation, which points to a probable history of it. And debating whether to take the radical step to leave the only community that they’ve ever known. It stars Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara. It’s a marvelous ensemble cast. And then The Traitors is a pulpy, campy reality competition show. It has, if nothing else, it has one huge thing going for it. It’s hosted by the wonderful Alan Cumming, the Scottish actor, and will be joined by Slate’s own Carl Wilson Wilson to discuss his wonderful reaction to the TV show.
Speaker 1: And finally, I, for one, would like to welcome our new A.I. overlords Speak of Simpsons references. Right that you like go to over and over. I’ll never forget Kent Brockman and the Insect overlords. Anyway, mine is in reference to chat bot GPT, which the Gabfest crew tried. Joining me today is Julia Turner, who’s the deputy managing editor of the LA Times. Hey, Julia.
Speaker 2: Hi, Steve.
Speaker 1: And we’ve got Dana Stevens, the film critic from Slate. Hey, Dana.
Speaker 3: Hey. Hey, Steve.
Speaker 1: I should say I’ve got this kind of scraggly, handsome timbre to my voice right now because I’m just getting over COVID. But I think I can power through this. Let’s have some fun. Let’s make a show.
Speaker 1: All right. Well, women talking. It’s the latest feature from Sarah Polley. The movie is based on a novel that was itself inspired by a real event. The real event was a group of Mennonite women living in a very isolated rural community in Bolivia, discovered that they had been drugged and then raped in the middle of the night while in a deep, unnatural sleep. The novel was inspired by that event. It’s in no way a sort of faithful nonfiction like retelling of it Here in the movie. It’s been transposed to Canada, but in reality it’s kind of an allegorical nowhere that is also everywhere.
Speaker 1: The women have been left to themselves for a few days with the men in the city to bail out the perps. So the women sit in a hayloft free to debate their possible courses of action. What follows is an exemplary proceeding of deliberative democracy, a cathartic group therapy session, and a kind of total existential and political reckoning. The movie stars Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara and Ben Whishaw is the one man in the cast. He’s August the schoolteacher who, because the women have been strategically kept totally illiterate, is there to take the minutes for the meeting.
Speaker 1: All right. Let’s listen to a clip. In this clip, you’ll hear a bunch of different voices. Frances McDormand is part of a very important framing device. She’s sort of the elder of the women who argues that women should forgive the men who’ve assaulted them. She gets a ton of pushback, most particularly from Salomé, played by Claire Foy. So let’s let’s have a listen.
Speaker 4: It is a part of our faith to forgive. We have always forgiven those who have wronged us. Why not now? Because now we know better. We will be excommunicated, forced to leave the colony in disgrace. If we do not forgive these men, and if we are excommunicated, we forfeit our place in heaven. How could any of you live with the fear of that? These are legitimate fears. How can we address them? The only important thing to establish is if we forgive the men so that we will be allowed to enter the gates of heaven. You can laugh all you like long, but we will be forced to leave the colony if we don’t forgive them. And how, Lord, when he arrives, find the women. If we aren’t in the colony, Jesus is able to return to life. Lived for thousands of years and then drop down to earth from heaven to scoop up his supporters, surely he’d also be able to locate a few women left on track. All right, I’ll stay on track. I cannot forgive them. I will never forgive them.
Speaker 1: Okay, Dana, let me let me start with you. So coming over the Newswire right now are the Oscar nominations good news, bad news for Sarah Palin’s movie. The film is nominated for best Picture, a huge triumph for a very, very small in terms of budget and PR film. It is also Polley is nominated herself for Best Adapted Screenplay, another wonderful honor. She’s not nominated for director. I would love to hear you speak briefly to that. And then I’m just curious, this is an extraordinary document, this movie, no matter how you look at it, I’m just dying to know what you made of it.
Speaker 3: I mean, what’s it to start with, the Oscars part, since we’re going to have that as our plus segment. We’ll get into it more then. I will just briefly say that that is this is seems to be part of a now established tradition that movies directed by women get recognized for everything but directing. And I think that reflects very poorly on the directors in the academy, who are the ones, of course, who not nominate that that category. Same thing happened to Greta Gerwig with little women a few years ago.
Speaker 3: But to turn to women talking itself, women talking is quite a complicated document. As you say, It’s based on in part on a real life event, which was then turned into a novel, which is then turned into this movie that is very weirdly stranded between genres and I think very deliberately so. That’s not a matter of, you know, not understanding what kind of movie it is, but of sort of creating its own genre, right. Where this is kind of a courtroom movie, a Socratic dialogue, which is a little bit with that clip that we listened to, you sounded like to me almost like a, you know, a classroom debate about something. It has a strangely kind of legalistic tone for a movie that’s about something as painful and raw as, you know, this incident of of mass drugging and mass rape that occurs in this community.
Speaker 3: And it’s a real acting tour de force for these actresses, but not necessarily because they get star turns, because it’s a huge ensemble cast. I mean, visually, this movie is pretty much a bunch of women sitting around a hayloft talking, Right. True to its title. And I think all of those scenes are fantastic and work incredibly well. I think a part of this movie that for me does not work as well is the framing thread that goes throughout the movie where we flashback in time. There’s a very bleached out and I think very overly aesthetic size looking image. And there’s this sort of Terrence Malick esque, almost poetic voiceover from some of the younger actors, the child and teen actors in the movie. While we see some kind of idyllic and sometimes not so idyllic images of the Mennonite community. I think that stuff is a little bit unnecessary and tonally off, but everything that happens in the hayloft is quite brilliant.
Speaker 3: This doesn’t quite make it onto my ten best movies of the year list because I’m not sure all of those aesthetic choices work. But it’s such a brave and unusual movie that I really think everyone should see it. I also think it’s the best MeToo movie that has been made yet, including Tarr. I think Tarr is a better film overall. It’s of greater achievement as a motion picture. But as far as an investigation of what that firestorm meant for our culture, I think this movie is smarter and stronger.
Speaker 1: What an interesting distinction. A better MeToo movie, but not a better film.
Speaker 1: Julia, what did you make of women talking?
Speaker 2: What I most loved about this film. Is the way in which it creates a literal space like this hayloft with with almost no men present for the women, to be honest with each other about how they’re processing their pain and to fight and to push and to have division and to not be united in solidarity, but to actually wrestle with the questions and wrestle, I think, in some of the most powerful moments of the film with their own culpability of having lived in this community and raise children in this community, knowing that this is happening, that something not right is happening, and to also consider the humanity and the.
Speaker 2: In some ways victimhood of the men in the system, too, like recognizing that these structures of power are a trap for everybody. And it’s just so. Deeply human and so far beyond where the cultural conversation is, where I think there’s sort of the. Reflexive clenching in response to the trauma of kind of publicly recognizing just how. Fact, life has been for women. Professionally. For how long? Professionally, personally, bodily otherwise. And how fucked it still remains in a in a post road world.
Speaker 2: Um, I’m also curious like whether we’re supposed to read this as a story or as an allegory. Like, is it a story or a fable? And does it matter? I think I eventually came around to feeling like maybe it doesn’t matter, but I found myself toggling back and forth, watching it in between, feeling like maybe that’s what all the chattering children are doing is kind of creating this dreamy lullaby, nursery rhyme world of fable and allegory, which allows the kind of heightened reality of the conversation to seem plausible and to be listened to. You know, those breaks give give you space for the conversation to sink in. But I agree that they didn’t work quite as well.
Speaker 1: Yeah. No, I mean, listen. First of all, let me preface my comments by saying me having an evaluative opinion about this movie is really beside the point. So. But I have a number.
Speaker 2: Of, Oh, yeah, you’re just supposed to sit in a corner and write down what data. And I think.
Speaker 1: You’re.
Speaker 3: The wish of our conversation.
Speaker 1: I take notes and I cry. Which is sort of the description of my role in the Gabfest as it is. Okay. So but that is to say, I have no opinions about this, so let me cast off my role as the Ben Whishaw of this discussion and voice them. I mean, a couple of different things. I mean, Julie, I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, this was this was I felt very stuck between is this is the highly specific situation in story or is it an allegory? I think it’s somewhat purposely occupies that ambiguous space because obviously these are these they’re voicing some ancient set of virtually at this point, existential truths about what it’s like to be women in a patriarchal society, the virtually, you know, universal condition of social arrangements for all of time.
Speaker 1: And I admired this movie boundlessly. I like that the really complicated issues of how do you reconstitute yourself once you leave? Have you have you denuded yourself of that which made you what you were is abuse so into the weave of your own being that to try to remove it but not. The tissue of your self also is incredibly powerful, and it’s addressed with the specificity and rigor in this movie that I found remarkable. The question of the complicity of men in abuse. The question of how. Change and reform. Must include the participation of men and and and a kind of total change in being on our part as much as anybody’s is necessary.
Speaker 1: I will say that as a man, a landing spot of Ben Whishaw as a kind of male ideal is a bit of a hard sell. He’s a astonishingly passive and benign figure that I don’t know that many male viewers are going to identify with as an enticement to change. I thought he was a somewhat weak advertisement for a post feminine male self. That said, this movie is like an urgent movie for people to go seek out and watch and think through.
Speaker 2: I actually think the question of what men should do, I don’t know that the Ben Whishaw character. Is presented as the model. Exactly. Or like the model of what the eventual reality is, I think. I think it’s more a model Of what? What it looks like to listen. Which doesn’t mean you never get to talk, you know?
Speaker 1: Oh, no. And what it.
Speaker 2: Looks like to really listen in a way that like that felt more to me the role in the film rather than like, you know, we are all been with us now.
Speaker 1: No, absolutely. No, no, no. I completely agree with that.
Speaker 1: Dana, can you button us on this? What what are your final thoughts here?
Speaker 3: One final comment I would make on on something that women talking does that’s unusual and I think admirable and very much in tune with its democratic egalitarian thrust as a story is that it is a true ensemble cast. I mean, it has some stars in it. Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, even Frances McDormand, although she’s in a very small role, and Ben Whishaw, of course. But it feels like everyone’s voices of equal importance, including the kids who are in the hayloft and, you know, the lesser known to me, at least lesser known actresses.
Speaker 3: There’s a wonderful, wonderful older actress named Sheila McCarthy, who’s just fantastic and gets some great moments. I love that this movie is is truly about everyone getting a voice and having a moment to speak. And there’s not really anyone that you can pull out and say this is the star or even the kind of outstanding performance of the movie. Because, you know, Julia, you were saying that that Ben Whishaw plays this role of the listener in terms of, you know, the man relating to the to the women, but all of the women as well, who often disagree very deeply. I mean, this is not just a movie about female solidarity. They have They have, as you heard in that clip, very fiercely different ideas about how to deal with this horrible situation they find themselves in. And I just love that the movie gives equal an almost neutral time to all of those voices.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, it recognizes that. The truth is multifaceted and it’s just so it’s really wise. It’s like a really wise movie. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a hard sell, but it. It should be. I really loved this.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Hear, hear. Okay. Women talking. Please seek it out. All right, let’s. Let’s move on. All right, before we go any further, this is typically the moment in the podcast we discuss business. Dana, I’m sure we have some. What? What do you got?
Speaker 3: Steve We have one big juicy item of business to start with, which is that we want to announce Big.
Speaker 1: A juicy I love big juicy business.
Speaker 3: Let’s do it. This is really big and juicy for us. This I think it could it could change the future of the culture Gabfest, which could change everything. For our first item of business, we want to announce that we are hiring. Specifically, we are hiring a production assistant for our show. This is a really important role for us. It’s one that’s been filled by a lot of really talented people who’ve gone on to do amazing things and who will be running the world someday.
Speaker 3: The production assistant for the Slate Culture Gabfest comes up with ideas for topics to help us decide what we’re talking about each week. They join our planning call every week and they create a research document every week to help us prepare for our recordings. This job requires a time commitment of about 10 to 12 hours a week.
Speaker 3: The starting wage will be $20 per hour or possibly more, based on your experience. And we’re based in New York City, so we would love to hire someone who we can occasionally see in person. But remote candidates will also be considered.
Speaker 3: If you would like to apply to be the production assistant for the Slate Culture Gabfest, please send us a cover letter explaining why you want the job and also include two topics that you’d like to hear us discuss on a future episode. You can send this cover letter to Culture Gabfest assistant at gmail.com. Once again, that’s culture Gabfest assistant. No punctuation there. At gmail.com. We’ll make sure to post that email address on the show page as well and we will look for your emails to roll in. Our second item of business is just to tell you about today’s Slate Plus segment. This week we’re going to talk about the Oscar nominations for this year, which were just released a couple of hours before we recorded yesterday. We will discuss surprises, disappointments and the ongoing question of how much, if at all, any of this matters. If you’re a Slate Plus member, please make sure to stick around for that conversation at the end of the show. And if you’re not a Slate Plus member, as always, you can sign up at Slate.com slash culture plus.
Speaker 3: Okay, Steve. Announcements over back to the show.
Speaker 1: All right. Well, the traders is a huge hit for Peacock right now. It’s a weird, gothic, campy reality competition show. It’s based on a Dutch and a British precedent. The American iteration is hosted by the peerless one, Alan Cumming, the Scottish actor. He’s hosting a mix of reality TV stars and wannabes at a Highland Castle. By day, the contestants compete in the usual silly reality TV games. At night, though, the secretly designated traders, quote unquote, murder a couple of the other participants. The idea is for everyone to try to figure out who the covertly malevolent ones are among them. Let’s listen to a clip. Here’s Mr. Cumming himself, the host addressing the contestants in episode one.
Speaker 4: I wonder how far all of you would go for a quarter of $1,000,000. Everyone here was hand-picked as you all have the potential to be a traitor, but only some of you will take that course. Take a look into the eyes of the people around you. Some of them will betray you. Somewhat. Some may murder you. You may murder them. Exciting, isn’t it?
Speaker 5: I mean.
Speaker 1: I can we all agree that nobody pirouettes more flatteringly on the way to a paycheck than Alan Cumming. I mean, it’s just it’s just.
Speaker 3: You have to picture that too. It’s all delivered in matchy matchy tableau chanteuse and plaid tartans draped across his body. I don’t think he’s worn a kilt yet, but I’m sure he’s on his way there.
Speaker 2: No, he was a kilt in the first episode.
Speaker 3: Oh, does he? Oh, I think I think the Tamar Chanters impressed me so much. They drowned it out. But yes, he is thoroughly woollen and tartan. Nice. All right.
Speaker 1: Guys, guys, we’re having too much fun. We have been introduced. Our guest is Carl Wilson, the music critic for Slate, of course, and very good old friend of this program. Carl, welcome back.
Speaker 5: Hello. Thank you.
Speaker 1: Among the bigger surprises here is you’re it. You’re a traitor. You’re covertly malevolent. You’re actually a reality TV fan, but of a very, very narrow sort. Why don’t you explain to us your attraction to this particular sort of show and its and its foreign precedents and variance?
Speaker 5: Yeah. So a, generally, I’m not really a reality TV fan, particularly the the strain of reality TV that I usually cleave to is some kind of like narrowly scaled space competition, you know, from great British Bake Off to various kind of like Project Runway to. You know there was a glassblowing show on Netflix a couple of years.
Speaker 3: We talked about it. We did yeah show yeah.
Speaker 5: Like basically anything where people are competing with some kind of generally humble skill and you get to watch them make things. However, the traders is based very much in its concept in what are known as social deduction games, which are basically parlor games of the ilk of mafia and werewolf and secret Hitler. And the thing they’re all variations on the same idea which have these kinds of like there are secret fifth column like agents among you who under cover of darkness which is you know a cycle of the game will eliminate or murder the innocents among the players. And the goal of the game is for people to root out who those people are.
Speaker 5: And at a point in the 2000s, Mafia got introduced to a friend circle of mine by somebody who’d played it at an artist retreat or something at the time. And it became kind of a central social activity, which is now very fondly remembered among that group of people, even though we don’t all see each other very much. And when we do, we don’t play that game anymore.
Speaker 5: But that as soon as I heard that there was a TV program based on this, I felt incredibly compelled to watch it. And the first thing that I watched was the UK version, which came out in December competing against the World Cup for viewers for the first little while and gradually became a word of mouth phenomenon in the UK and really, really, really took off there. And when you watch it, you realize why, Because it’s the most adorable, chaotic, insane bit of television I’ve seen in a long, long time.
Speaker 5: And when it was over, I simply had to have more. And I found out that there was an Australian version. So I found online how I could watch the Australian version. Then I found out that the original program was a Dutch program called the Four Others, which premiered a couple of years ago, and I found a fan subtitled version online. So I watched the first season of that and then the American version came out. So I’ve now watched four international versions of the traders and found myself with this kind of of just. Expertise born of born of a weakness and obsessiveness. So I had to write an article about.
Speaker 3: Karl, since we have only prepped for this by watching some of the American traitors. I have to ask you, in particular, the English one that first made you fall in love with it, what it had that was different. Because I have to say that with the exception of that deliciously hammy tartan clad Alan Cumming framing, I don’t really see what sets this apart from your average. I didn’t come here to make friends reality show, but I gather that that has to do with the way the American one was cast as a kind of all star team of stars from other reality shows.
Speaker 5: Exactly. The international versions overall don’t really feel like reality TV in the sense that they’re not really casts of people who seem to be preening for some kind of long term television career. They doesn’t seem like people breaking into the entertainment business and certainly not into our reality TV business so much.
Speaker 5: And the UK version particularly has it has an incredibly diverse cast in terms of age and class. You know, they range from like students in their early twenties to a like 70 something grand and people with disabilities and people from all walks of life in terms of region and job and all of that. And what ends up playing out is that they’re on one level doing this competition and throwing themselves into it with an incredible kind of blind gusto that completely obviates the fact that they have no real strategy or any understanding of how this is going to work out.
Speaker 5: But at the same time, there’s also like an underlying creed of of there. They’re kind of a bunch of exiles who form this community because they’ve been thrown together into this Scottish castle for two weeks and they have nobody else and they don’t have phones and any Internet access. So they just all fall in love with each other and become each other’s best friends at the same time. But I do think that the reality TV’s so-called stars on the American version really undermine it. And it feels like there are two different games going on rather than one big one.
Speaker 2: I was so.
Speaker 3: Excited to like.
Speaker 2: This show because I did not go through a phase of my life where my friend group played Mafia all the time, but that’s like only an accident of a butterfly wing, you know? Like I was deeply ripe for such a such a chunk of life, you know? And on the occasions when I have played those games, they’re incredibly fun to play because they allow you to perform. They allow you to play with lying. They allow you to indulge in thinking about how you are perceived instead of, you know, it being supposed to be an interested in such shallow matters.
Speaker 2: And I almost had the reverse experience of watching this show that I did, watching The Last of US, where, you know, which took something that is interactive and that is experienced through a first person encounter with a bunch of gameplay mechanisms and works. And this one I felt like did the opposite where I was like, I don’t. I don’t feel allied enough with any of your base personalities to get interested. And now you’re contorting those personalities like it’s it’s just too crowded at the beginning. And then as it moves along. I don’t know. I do want to just pour one out for, like, the lost cause of American reality TV. And I didn’t watch any clips of the British, but I feel like I can imagine the British one from being a British Bake Off fan. Where you’re right, they do cast these like normies and set them up for you to kind of fall in love with them a little bit.
Speaker 2: And I remember when we spoke about Jersey Shore like nearly 15 years ago on this show and felt like it was actually kind of anthropologically showing us a specific slice of Americana, which may I wonder if that opinion holds up. But like so I was just bummed, like I would have loved to see this with. A slightly more anthropological approach and sort of the promise of reality TV, which is that it makes us watch like documented human behavior all the time, which should be amazing, but instead just gives us these like preening, you know, people kind of straining to become a reaction gif with with extensions and like, we couldn’t get into it. We wish we could invite Alan Cumming over 40 to just do that, and that would be what I would take away from the show.
Speaker 1: Am I getting at something here by saying that that that these shows have a weird kind of traction and dare I say it, relevance because there is some analogy to. What constitutes real life now, for better and for worse. So they’re Darwinian, they’re lurid, they’re about both self selling and undermining others, even as you pretend to work with them. And it’s finally a competition with effectively one or a very limited set of winners. And it’s a desperate attempt to grab cash and become famous. I mean, it’s sort of all the things that American life of maybe always been, but heightened recently by social media.
Speaker 1: So you’re trying to keep this analogy to known experience intact while also trying to refresh the genre and keep it from becoming rote and routine and trying to topple previous such shows. So you’re sort of lengthening the thread without trying to snap it in some sense by going to meta and at this one is very smart in its premise. In that way it sort of has bumped everything up to the next highest power, but just the sheer conventionality of this format as it can deuces to these worst human affects and emotions like paranoia, you know, competitive family, you know, being sort of famished competitively and fame famished and backbiting and stabbing. I get it. We’re a capitalist society. We’re ultra Darwinian and have been for a while. I mean, God. But part of me just thinks. Is it? Am I just naive to think that this could go too far? And the thread snaps and people are like, Actually, I’m cultivating. I mean, I don’t know, whatever. Like, I’m withdrawing.
Speaker 2: Could go too far. Could go too far. Didn’t you live through the Trump presidency? Like, I know.
Speaker 1: I know exactly where on the far side of the Trump presidency, we’ve had the like, you know, nip blues, ultra or whatever. We’ve had the like. This is where it goes. It’s not harmless. It’s not met. It’s not postmodern. It’s not Warhol. Actually, where it goes is like, you know, fucking fascism and, you know, social collapse. Like. Like, do we really want to keep echoing? Like. Like why do we keep sending the echo around the chamber? Like, that’s, you know, I don’t know a babbling, but do people want to withdraw only, I mean like I could turn away was my point.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 2: I mean, I guess we’ll get to this when we talk about chat GPT next but like. I had this perverse response to that of of this simulacra of humanity just makes humanity more valuable. And I have that a little bit with reality TV. Although, you know, the the ratings for the most popular reality TV competitions maybe challenge that Pollyanna view of mine. I will say I don’t know of the American ratings for this are so great. It’s on Peacock. It was all dumped at once. It has been pretty well-reviewed, surprisingly to me, having not seen some of it. But I don’t I haven’t actually seen any viewership numbers from Peacock even of the like most watched. So I don’t I don’t have a sense yet of the American one being a sensation on the level that the British one was in the UK.
Speaker 5: I would say that, you know, the UK version, if anybody is willing to take a flier on it, just whatever your reaction to the American version does a weird thing where it comes out the other end of the rabbit hole and becomes weirdly life affirming at the end. And it’s somehow it doesn’t it doesn’t display the Darwinian as totally I think that is something in the format in that compared to most reality shows, it doesn’t really play out as a popularity contest in exactly the same way because the game mechanics are weird and it also kind of devolves to survival of the unfair test because if anybody starts seeming too smart or too strategic at the game, the the traders kill them.
Speaker 5: And so what you end up with is like the most kind of like doe eyed, gentle people at the end scene being dragged toward the toward the finish line by like usually one or two, like very clever, good lying traders and that and that, that and tableau always each time it arrives in in each of the versions feels to be like, you know, at once at once a very bleak metaphor and at the same time some kind of like comfort food with this soul. And it’s that paradox that I find kind of compelling about the whole thing.
Speaker 1: So you’re saying Dana’s the killer?
Speaker 2: No, I think Dana goes home with the with the quarter million bucks with death.
Speaker 1: We all knew this from the first episode of this show. Anyway, Karl, as always, is a huge pleasure to have you on. Next time, maybe we’ll talk music. But I have to say, you outside of your wheelhouse is every bit as delightful.
Speaker 5: Thank you. I was so glad to be here.
Speaker 1: All right. In the long and storied tradition of the gab, first team trying a relatively new technology live on air. Well, we’re going to discuss chat GPT. It’s a chat bot developed by a company called Open Air. It is sort of what it sounds like. It’s an AI program, but it seems to have made quite a leap in a capacity to respond in a recognizably human and fluid way, conversational way to questions. It’s capable of writing a decently cogent college style essay.
Speaker 1: It can solve complex science and math problems, and it seems to have made the kind of sci fi leap in its ability to code, which of course in everyone’s like fearful sci fi, paranoid imagination means it. Can kudzu like begin to replicate itself? We won’t get into that today. Hopefully we won’t release the blob or the thing or the whatever. We’re just going to ask it questions and see what it does and also maybe discuss the implications of it a little bit. All right. Anyone have like a fun prompt to get us going?
Speaker 2: Well, I mean, I don’t know that this is the most fun one, but it feels like the greatest panic has been induced in the halls of academe, where professors are like, How the hell am I going to know whether my students are not just getting GPT to write all their papers? So let’s do write a five paragraph essay about the Wordsworth poem. My heart leaps up when I behold. All right. So we’ve got My heart leaps up as a poem written by William Wordsworth in 1802. The poem reflects on the joy and beauty of nature and how it can bring a sense of wonder and honor to the observer. The speaker of the poem observes how whenever he sees a rainbow, his heart, quote, leaps up with joy and he feels a sense of connection to the natural world. The poem central theme is the idea of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Speaker 3: In conclusion, My Heart Leaps Up is a powerful poem that explores the themes of nature, wonder and continuity through the use of vivid imagery and language. Yet this would get what grade would this get in a in a, I don’t know, high school or freshman in college English class? Do you guys think.
Speaker 1: It’s probably, what, a B plus A minus? I don’t know. It doesn’t it doesn’t have any, like, extra, right? It’s it’s like it. This one really sounds to me like a I wrote it. Whereas I asked last night, I asked the program to compare Aristotle’s poetics to Nietzsche’s birth of tragedy. And I think it produced a kind of a a quality paper for a sophomore at a top college. I was I was floored. I thought, this is an end game here.
Speaker 3: You know, I had exactly the opposite experience playing with it last night. I entered some pretty simple things, sort of, you know, film criticism type questions, among others. Just things that I thought I that were that it required evaluative language, which it sounds like your your prompt did as well. Steve And there were some just factual impossibilities that occurred in the responses it came up with.
Speaker 3: One of the things I asked because it was the eve of the Oscar nominations is why didn’t Citizen Kane win best picture? Because this is a long standing, you know, sort of film historical debate, like what else was going on that year. And, you know, what does it mean that what was unquestionably the most influential movie of 1941 did not win Best Picture? And the answer that it came up with, well, there were several paragraphs, but here’s here’s just the bizarre moment in it. Another reason that I chat, but says is that the film faced strong competition from other films that were released in 1941, such as How Green Was My Valley and Suspicion, which were both awarded the Best Picture Oscar that year. So clearly there’s some logical fallacy in there that they chat, but I didn’t see.
Speaker 3: Then I asked it What was Buster Keaton’s life like? Something that, you know, obviously I have a lot of thoughts and opinions about. And another factual impossibility or simple counterfactual thing popped up, which is it says Keaton’s career went into decline in the 1930s. True, as the advent of sound films and his own alcoholism took its toll. True, he struggled to find work, and his final starring role was in the Scarlet Empress 1934. Now, not only did he not star in the Scarlet Empress, he wasn’t in it at all. That’s the Marlene Dietrich movie that has nothing to do with Buster Keaton. So somehow when you ask, I think when you ask historical questions, the chat bot might just be folding in things from some other database about film. I mean, that’s just a movie that exists in 1934 that has nothing to do with my question. So I wonder if any of you found things like that as you were playing with it.
Speaker 2: Well, I asked it to write my Wikipedia page and it said it was the current editor of the New York Times Book Review.
Speaker 3: So maybe it knows something you don’t.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s sort of a ways to use it. One is to like, ask it to tell us facts, which I think is a reasonable use of it. Like, there was an interesting story in The New York Times about how Google is freaking out about this because it’s so good. It puts pressure on them to make the Google search experience closer to this. But if they do that and it just tells you the right answer immediately, you won’t have to click through a bunch of the ads that are responsible for its revenue. You are on your way to getting that answer.
Speaker 2: And so Google has actually had this technology for a long time and in fact made a bunch of the technology that this is based on, but, you know, may now be pressured to deploy it more readily or risk getting leapfrogged by other outlets in terms of the quest for information. But to me, the information was really, you know, kind of transparently shoddy and thin, but good enough to make you appreciate how quickly it could get.
Speaker 2: Excellent. I think in terms of of of that the precision of the information. But I also thought the way in which it’s echoing language types and trying to write in the manner of different, you know, different things is is fun and is not yet a killer app, but again, is sort of creepily good enough that it makes you wonder where it could go. So I asked it to write a musical about California’s drought and water shortage in the style of Hamilton. And hear me see if I can find this.
Speaker 3: That is such a great prompt, Julia. Wish I had thought of these ideas of of asking it to do something in the voice of something else. That’s a really, really cool.
Speaker 2: That I think that’s like what it’s really good of like that’s it’s better at echoing voices than it is at conveying information, I think. So act one, Scene one California 2020. The stage is set as a barren landscape with a few scattered trees and a dry riverbed. The characters enter dressed in modern clothing, with the few wearing old fashioned costumes to represent California’s history. Opening number. Water.
Speaker 2: Water. Everywhere. Ensemble. Water. Water. Everywhere. But not a drop to drink. California is in a crisis. The droughts on the brink. We’ve got to take action before it’s too late. We’ve got to save our water before it’s too late to change our fate. Scene one. Governor’s office. Governor Newson spoken. The state is in a crisis. My team. We need to find a solution to this drought before it’s too late.
Speaker 2: You know, I mean, hilarious. Also, like, not at all. Very much like Hamilton particularly. So it. I don’t know. It was sort of interesting to see. It reminded me of those kind of Hollywood and old West towns where there’s a very thin paper facade on the front, but no real house behind it. Like the info seems thin and the ability to mimic us seems then, but again, impressive enough that if this is the guy that first crawled out of the ooze, it does make you wonder what it’s going to be doing in one or two or five or 12 years or months or weeks, honestly.
Speaker 3: It immediately made me think about plagiarism in academia. I don’t know what kind of safeguard there would be against that and how searchable, you know, all of the many, many prompts that have been entered in these chat bots are by other people. But you know, those that that Wordsworth essay was, as we all agreed, completely passable as a fine kind of undergraduate essay. So are these just going to result in rampant untraceable plagiarism or are people talking about that?
Speaker 1: I mean, I think the quick answer is yes, absolutely. There’s a ton of hand-wringing about it. I mean, just looking at the Chronicle of Higher ed or whatever, as there would be, and I certainly as a person who used to, you know, teach and to and various other things as a graduate student, like it’s yeah, it’s a little bone chilling at the same time, you know.
Speaker 1: I think the thing that you’re trying to teach young people, both as interpreters of literature or culture and as writers, is a degree of originality tied to something distinct about their own personality and a somewhat generic sounding essay that, you know, flows forth relatively fluidly in good English and hits all the main points, you know, ought never be much more than a B-plus. Anyway, I mean, I think that there ought to be some discernable premium in the grading on the ability to actually be yourself as a writer and carry forth your judgments and personality in your own writing in a way that I really don’t think is going to be possible for these devices to mimic.
Speaker 1: Period. I mean, I think ever I mean, I think the thing that makes us my understanding of how this works is that it just has an unbelievably quick sifting capacity over unbelievably vast amounts of extant material on the Internet from which it can piece together process, blend and produce a facsimile of, you know, a sort of synthesis. And of course, it’s going to be able to do that. It’s just doing what computers have already done just better, quicker, faster and with more.
Speaker 1: But there’s still a leap like, you know, I mean, far be it from me to be the, you know, you know, humanist anachronism, you know, flogging the same three talking points over and over again. But there, you know, human individuality, human personality, human spontaneity or spontaneity are inextricably linked to the leap that machines won’t be able to make is from a competent seeming essay on Wordsworth or Shakespeare to being Shakespeare or Wordsworth. And the question is, as even a high school student producing an essay, isn’t there some part of that student you’re trying to get to be more like Shakespeare? Wordsworth.
Speaker 1: So I don’t know. I mean, I the real let me put it this way. Let’s not take the real danger, which is that all of these qualities that I just enumerated as human are now being stricken from the curriculum altogether. But the death of the humanities, a problem that cannot cannot be scapegoated to the enhanced capacities of computers.
Speaker 2: I guess I had the feeling playing with this. That it just made.
Speaker 3: The specificity of.
Speaker 2: Human thought all the more valuable. I mean, I had to do a ton. I had to write television episodes. I had to write a condolence note. I asked it to invite someone out to dinner using new slang. And I wrote, Yo dog, you down to grab some grub with me. Tonight, I’m thinking of hitting up that new spot in town, and I’d be straight up hyped if you came when it’s going to be live. Trust me. So what do you say? You want to go with me and chow down on some fire food? Which is like, wait for that text to be incoming to your inboxes.
Speaker 3: I remember going out to dinner with that chat, but it sounds like a very irritating companion.
Speaker 2: You know, the thing that he wrote that was most persuasive was press releases. And I do think if I worked in PR, I would be concerned like I had it. Write a press release about the launch of Jennifer Aniston’s SmartWater campaign. And I mean, it wrote just like verbatim. I think what I get in my inbox and delete 20 gazillion of every day. There just is so much garbage language in the world, right? Like. Mm. We are all great appreciator of language. We appreciate the precision of its use, the creativity of its use, the power of its use. I mean, we just spent, you know, time praising women, talking a movie that is about how language can free us and change us and move us forward.
Speaker 2: Right. And yet there is like a gigantic war online right now between words and images. And images are already winning. And, you know, if what the Internet becomes full of is even more of these kind of garbage sentences that, yes, have some semantic meaning but have no spark of thought in them, I worry that the kind of eyeglasses response to language will be even more prevalent.
Speaker 2: On the other hand, I think it will only enhance the power of. Of kind of load bearing language like weight lifting language, levered language that’s actually conveying unique and original human sentiment, thought, feeling and wisdom to move us and sway us. So I don’t know. I weirdly came out of this hopeful and feeling like the computer has nothing on humankind, which I know is just act one of the movie. So color me, color me a naive red shirt in the in the coming. I was.
Speaker 1: Oh, my God, here comes the digital cards. You all right? So I would love to hear from our listeners on this. Is this something you toy with, play with? You have thoughts on the relationship between, you know garbage in and human spontaneity out. We’d love to hear them. Let’s move on.
Speaker 1: All right. Now is the moment in our podcast when we endorse Dana. What? What do you have?
Speaker 3: Steve My endorsement this week is inspired by the Oscar nominations to some extent in that it riffs on one of the movies that was nominated for Best Documentary. If you remember last year we talked about Fire of Love, that documentary about the married volcanologists who spent their lives and eventually gave their lives to the study of volcanoes and filming volcanoes and recording, you know, eruptions of magma, etc. that was this popular and beloved documentary of last year, directed by Sarah Dosa. And it was just nominated for Best Documentary. It’s on that list.
Speaker 3: But there is a better documentary about those same two married volcanologists from last year, and it’s directed by Werner Herzog, who, as it turns out, was making a documentary from the same trove of archival material at the same time as Sara Dosa. That must have been a real drag for both of them to realize that there was competition about this very unusual niche subject for a documentary coming onto the market. But Herzog’s documentary came out second and never played in theaters. I don’t think it went straight to streaming, and so it was much less talked about because it was sort of like, We’ve already done the married French volcanologist.
Speaker 3: But surprise, surprise, Werner Herzog’s documentary is a better version of the same material. It’s very different, too. Even if you liked Fire of Love, which I did with some reservations. I think this is worth worth watching to see how tonally different the treatment of very similar material and some of the exact same clips can be. It’s Herzog in his sort of somber elegiac mode, rather than the more playful voiceover narration that he can do sometimes that’s often parodied. And for the last half hour or so of the movie, there’s almost no narration at all. There’s just this sense of awe and silence as we’re witnessing these incredible and really beautiful explosions and eruptions of magma. It’s called the Fire Within. Not to be confused with fire of love. Sara Doses take on the same material and whether or not you even know what I’m talking about when I talk about the married volcanologist documentary Wars of 2022, I recommend that you go to Amazon and stream the Herzog because it’s just it’s really a fantastic documentary.
Speaker 1: That I’m very excited to see that great, great endorsement.
Speaker 1: Julia, what do you have?
Speaker 2: I would like to endorse the third season of Never Have I Ever, which I believe I praised before. I think we may have talked about its first season, but I just went back and watched its third season, which came out earlier this year or sorry, last year. And it’s such a good show. Like I do feel sometimes that we take for granted. Or I at least take for granted just the variety of stuff getting made. And it’s just kind of a classic teen show. It’s a high school show. It’s a, you know, comedy dramedy. It’s got crushes, it’s got friends, it’s got foibles, it’s got academic competition and burgeoning sexuality.
Speaker 2: And, you know, the first season was really about grief in a pretty beautiful and profound way. But it’s a incredibly smart and sweet show about growing up. But the people it follows are a, you know, really diverse assortment of folks in the San Fernando Valley. And I just love it. It’s really worth your time and attention. It’s it’s a sweet little morsel, but it’s really worth your time.
Speaker 1: Love it. Okay. Well, I’m so late to every party I exist, like way down the stream of culture, I suppose, is a function of my, like, temperament or age, whatever it is.
Speaker 3: As a culture podcast host should do you.
Speaker 1: I know I’d like to leave the Vanguard to others. It’s it’s it’s overbooked. But so two things. One thing that I’m like so comically late on and I’ll say virtually nothing about, I’m finally watching Better Call Saul binged while I was locked down with COVID. I’m now at the end only of season two and it is not doing what I thought it was going to do based on the pilot and based on just the idea that it’s a prequel to Breaking Bad. It is such a distinct show and super quickly, I thought I was on the cutting edge of this one. I’m not.
Speaker 1: Kelefa Senna at The New Yorker wrote a really good piece a couple of years ago about this guy. Sam Gendel Green Deal is an L.A. jazz young L.A. jazz guy with a dgaf attitude towards even the music that he makes in a weird way. But it is it listen to the record. I mean, in terms of putting on music like and this is I mean, I actually think this is what Sam Gendel is going for, is it’s not an insult. Like he doesn’t want a reverential, you know, jazz like, oh, I’m listening to jazz now attitude. I mean, I think you can put it on and ignore, like let it be ambient. It has this sort of trippy, weird ambient sound, but the album is called Blueblue all one word Blueblue The word blue twice, but formed into one word is just an amazing record.
Speaker 1: I love it. It’s so unfamiliar and bewitching. Check this record out. I really mean it. Julia, thank you so much. This is fun.
Speaker 2: Thank you.
Speaker 1: Dana, as always, a total pledge.
Speaker 3: It was a joy.
Speaker 1: You’ll find links to some of the things we talked about today on our show page that Slate.com slash culture first. You can email us at Culture Fest at Slate.com. Our introductory music is by the wonderful composer Nicholas Patel. Our production assistant is Yesica Balderrama. A producer is Cameron Drews for Dana Stevens Julia Turner and shout out Carl Wilson for his cameo. Thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you very soon, I hope.
Speaker 2: And no end. Welcome to this segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest. Today we talk about the fresh off the presses Oscar nominations announced very early this morning. We’ve got everything everywhere all at once. Leading the pack with 11 nominations, followed by Netflix’s version of All Quiet on the Western Front and the Banshees of in a share in with Nine and Elvis with eight. The kind of silent advanced of all quiet on the Western Front is obviously one story this morning. But Dana, I’ll start with you. What are your major surprises, heartbreaks, delights or other thoughts about this year’s crop of names?
Speaker 3: I mean, as always, I will disappoint by not being incredibly emotionally invested in what is nominated for what I already did. I think mentioned maybe my major point of irritation, but not really surprise, which is that Sarah Polley was shut out of the best director category, which doesn’t so much have to do with, you know, me thinking that women talking was one of the best movies of the year. It’s it’s more the fact that she was recognized in so many other categories and shut out there. It’s this strange imbalance. Same thing that happened to Greta Gerwig a few years ago with little women. But that has more to do with, you know, concerns about the directorial wing of the Academy, which is who nominates the directors.
Speaker 3: Then a general complaint about the nominations. In general, they seem kind of expected to me like Top Gun is the, you know, representative popular movie that now sort of has to appear in the best picture lineup but will almost certainly not win it. Triangle of Sadness did extremely well, which seems a little surprising. I think we should see that movie and talk about it very soon for this show, because it figures not only in best foreign film, but in best picture, which, you know, maybe that’s a little wedge opened up by Parasite, that foreign movies can start infiltrating that category a bit more. But in general, these nominations make me happy about seeing good work get recognized. It seems like Banshees have in a Sharon, which was one of my favorite movies of the year. And I think you guys really liked it too. And we talked about it has gotten lots of love and appreciation.
Speaker 3: So is everything everywhere? I mean, there’s there was this talk in the run up to the nominations about whether Jamie Lee Curtis or Stephanie Shue would get the supporting nomination from that movie. It turns out they both did, which probably means they’ll divide the vote. But it is kind of nice for them both to get recognition, which I think they both really deserved. Yeah, I mean, maybe I’ll I’ll throw it to you guys. Do you have any more fist shaking feelings? I think I think I’m kind of burned out on being a person who gets upset that movies I loved are not on the list because that ends up being almost a backhanded compliment. Steve raise a crusty fist at the sky.
Speaker 1: It just that salutary exercise with the Nobel Prize of literature when it comes out every year of going back and looking at the 100 years of them getting a substantially wrong 80 to 90% of the time. It’s the same thing with the Oscars. I think it’s an important ritual. I think good works should be recognized. That happens more in the nomination phase, the final beauty contest part of it. I mean, we we’ve heard for years about how gamed it is behind the scene. It’s hard to take it that seriously. It so exaggerates its own importance. And it’s just I don’t know. There are a lot of reasons to have a skeptical distance to the whole process.
Speaker 1: You know, that said, like, typically, I feel like I have a rooting interest every year, Like just this thing I’d love to see recognized or something. As with three billboards that I thought would be a total travesty to to win. And thankfully, there was a 11th hour backlash against that movie and even beyond it not winning. I think people sort of recognized that it was a mawkish race fable that was deserved to be a thing of the past.
Speaker 1: But, you know, I’m trying very hard, Julia, to look at this and think, oh, I would be just kind of outraged if this or it would just prove my thesis about these preposterous awards. If X didn’t win, Why? And I’m not coming up with a lot. I mean, you know, I in part because of the Zadie Smith essay, Tara is just a movie that I can’t shake.
Speaker 1: You know, the Fable Moon so surprised me on the upside. I thought I was going to speak of mawkish, not just hate, you know, It is a towering monument to Spielbergian self-regard. I actually thought he made a surprise. You know, I’ll give you a snub that probably no one is going to mention, but I really sincerely mean it. Why? Seth Rogen couldn’t maybe was he consider anyone consider him for supporting. There’s you know, he’s a linchpin of that movie that that story is really covertly about, you know, her sort of heartbreaking relationship with him. And, you know, Seth Rogen does great work in that movie of a kind that’s very hard to recognize.
Speaker 1: Right. It doesn’t involve it doesn’t involve a certain kind of style of acting that tends to be award, you know, magnetic. But I don’t think any of these great picks. Best Pictures is a great movie. You know, just be a tune. Snap off the broadcast forever. If the if if the Top Gun won, it would just be preposterous. You know, I’ve sort of feeling like everything everywhere, all at once is going to get this just tons of momentum and kind of go very far with the awards.
Speaker 1: I mean, and once again, Julia, one of the thing as a kind of generalized throw is, is, you know, there’s just this discrepancy. It’s weird. This discrepancy opened up during the heyday of Sundance, of the awarded movies and the massive blockbusters that got wider and wider and wider, like the esoteric, not the esoteric, but the less commercially viable movies got better and better and better as an adult level. You know, qualities just sort of migrated entirely into them out of necessity, because the Mid-budget Hollywood picture aimed at adults died effectively and the blockbusters got more high conceptual and IP based until finally it was just very hard to find a movie that united, you know, quality and commercial legs, you know, in an old fashioned way for which people pined.
Speaker 1: But what’s happened, weirdly, is that thanks to streaming TV and a very variety of other factors, independent cinema is not thriving. I mean, there are select titles, but, you know, think about we just rapturously discussed women talking. I mean, I think it’s done less than $1 million cumulative business. I mean, in a world of avatars, like it’s just a nonexistent entity and even in the world of streaming. Right. We’re very, very. Serious and ambitious. Product gets sent to a very wide audience. So I don’t know, what do I look at here? And I think, you know, I, I, I’m, I’m at a loss. I’m a total loss to care. Am I right or wrong in that. Oh carry content for banshees of. In in a sheer and would be my I would love to see her win. I thought she did something really special in a film that was kind of overblown.
Speaker 2: Yeah I mean I think if you look at the broad list of nominees this year, the fact that there are so many nominations and I think plausible nominations for Black Panther, Avatar and Top Gun is interesting. Like, this is a year in which there have been box office hits. Contra 2020 and 2021 are largely contra. And, you know, there are some possible performances there. I mean, Carrie Collins recognition is great. I think there is a consensus that Angela Bassett is the considered the favorite for that slot. And I think that was an extraordinary performance in a big and popular film. So it will be interesting to see how that race shakes out.
Speaker 2: There were a couple other surprises in the acting categories. I think there was a big push for Danielle Deadwyler of TIL Not a film we’ve talked about, and she did not receive a nomination. Neither did Viola Davis for a woman king. So some some really great black female performances not recognized.
Speaker 2: And then there were some surprise appearances. Andrea Riseborough was is one of the nominees for actress in a leading role. This is for a movie to Leslie, which got barely any attention, and there was kind of a grassroots campaign by the actress, wife of the director to just get all of her, you know, voting academy friends to watch it seemingly over the last couple of months. I think more will be reported about that in the coming weeks. But the fact that this kind of non professional PR campaign worked is interesting and will raise interesting questions about the nomination process.
Speaker 2: It was a delight to see Paul Mescal in the acting category. A lot of folks had said that we might see Tom Cruise in that list, Steve. So, you know, maybe you can can take a breath of gratitude for avoiding that terrible fate. But, you know, I think we all agreed the Paul Mescal performance in that very small movie was really extraordinary. And it’s great to see him honored for that and to think of all that’s ahead. And I think there was a lot of excitement about Brian Tyree Henry and cause we’re getting a supporting actor nod.
Speaker 2: But, you know, really very few black nominees in the acting categories this year, which I think is is worth note. I mean, I will say that my amnesty for Avatar only continues to see them grow. So it received only four nominations, but one of them was for visual effects, a.k.a. all of the twigs and branches that covered the sexy fish lady’s boobs. So I’ll be rooting hard against that one. But that’s, that’s my main, main villain of the of the week so far.
Speaker 2: But I’m curious, Dana, sort of you know, the Oscars are essentially a gigantic annual advertisement for how great movies are, which, you know, possibly argues that they are more necessary at a moment when movies are less of a habitual entertainment for bigger swaths of America, or is an argument for them being even less necessary than they ever were if they ever were? I’m curious how you’re feeling about the state of the Oscars and its role in the film landscape this year.
Speaker 3: Yeah, I think you’re right, Julie. I mean, just in the larger sense that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a big ad for movies, right? And for itself and is kind of a machine for sustaining the prestige that its trophies confer on the people that win them. So, you know, it’s always a sort of nostalgic event when you when you watch the Oscars, even if it’s all about very modern movies, that it and it’s trying to reach toward the future and reform the membership and so forth. I mean, the mere existence of this 100 year old institution is kind of a vote for movies as as we once knew them on big screens.
Speaker 3: So I guess I am curious to see in the spectacle of the Oscars this year, which is going to be airing on March 12th, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it when it does. How the future of movies will be handled. You know, sort of what what sort of acts they’ll bring onto stage or montages will be shown or, you know, tributes will be given to cinema in the post-COVID, or at least enough toward the end of COVID that we have theaters again kind of era. I know that for me, those those Oscars during COVID that tried to be and also after MeToo, quite frankly, that tried to be toned down and tried to be anti Oscar and, you know, sort of tried to make the event less glitzy and less special felt to me like they were capitulating in some way. This idea that, you know, movies are coming to an end and it’s all becoming one big streaming blob of content, and it seems like it’s on the Academy this year to try to make that feel different. And I don’t know how exactly how that happens.
Speaker 2: I know they’re working on it. So we shall see. You know, the the flip side of this lap last year is. You know, there was a lot. The slap was both a travesty and the academy sort of handling of it and allowing Will Smith to just stay in the theater and be honored after literally hitting someone is just even more disgusting by the minute as you think about it. And to the degree that you’re still thinking about it, however subversively it was also without being planned or desired or plotted at all.
Speaker 2: And you know, people who work with the academy spaces just blanched. I mean, it’s almost like Voldemort, like they don’t speak of it. You know, you don’t say if you say the word slap like they cringe, you know, So there’s no kind of craven appreciation of it that set up remotely visible. It did remind America that it’s a big live event, like a sports game where anything could happen. And live events are the thing that does still work on TV. So there is sort of the potential there. I mean, I do I feel that Tom Cruise will drop from a wire into it like they I mean, maybe not without the acting, but at least I think with six nominations, it’s enough. He’s going to like scale the Burj Khalifa and like, bring it to the Dolby Theatre. He’s going to, you know, parkour through the audience like, you know, Tom Cruise is going to like, break an ankle in the Oscars. That is my prediction. So you’re ready for that?
Speaker 3: My my deepest dream, honestly, is that there are musical performances with songs which there always should be at the Oscars. It’s a travesty when there aren’t and that one of them should be the two guys from RR. I don’t know if we’ve you guys have seen that movie dancing the not to not to dance together.
Speaker 2: MM Yeah. And you know with with Rihanna and Lady Gaga also nominated that definitely creates a lot of pressure to to give good attention to the songs in the performances and of course not to only highlight the two pop megastars. So I expect we will see we’ll see music stunts. I don’t know. I think it’s I think it’ll be an interesting show.
Speaker 3: Oh, wait, I have another wish. I want to see Marcel the Shell presenting an award or doing some kind of speech where he’s on top of the podium in his actual size and you just see a tiny little shell. I’m very pleased that that that made it into the best animated feature, even though I know it’ll never win. It’s just nice representation for little homemade movies.
Speaker 2: For shells, For shells. It’s good to have, you know, just Asian representation.
Speaker 3: Shells.
Speaker 2: Exactly. All right. Well, we will be eagerly attending the Oscar countdown. I think we are about six weeks out now, and we will do our annual Culture Gabfest Oscar countdown. We will watch our way through the major movies we have not yet seen. I think Triangle of Sadness will definitely be a good one. I’m curious about your Mo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and we’ve got to get our heads around this German version of All Quiet on the Western Front, which really slid into the second place position without a ton of coverage. So shades of 1917, a couple of years ago maybe. But we’ll we’ll give that attention if there is an Oscar film or performance that you really want to hear. Our thoughts on that we have not yet discussed, please email us at Culture Fest at Slate.com and we will watch our way through. Thank you so much for being Slate Plus members for supporting our journalism and this show and for listening. We’ll see you next week.