Weekend Reads (Mar 18): The Oscars, “Naatu Naatu,” Japanese Surf Rock, U2, The Cure
Recommended weekend reading material for March 18, 2023.
Note to paying subscribers: If you haven’t already, be sure to check out this month’s podcast episode, in which I talk about one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands: “September Brings the Autumn Dawn” by Hood. Podcast episodes are just one of the perks that paying subscribers get.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Everything Everywhere All at Once was the big winner at this year’s Oscars, taking home seven awards including “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” and “Best Actress” for Michelle Yeoh. Alissa Wilkinson considers how a really trippy indie film received the year’s biggest awards.
[I]t’s reasonable to wonder if some of the love for Everything Everywhere All at Once from the Academy — which still sees itself, for better or worse, as the guardians and promoters of the American film industry — has to do with excitement. There’s the fun of seeing people like Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who’ve worked their whole lives with far less recognition than they deserve, win awards all season long. There’s the exhilaration of proving that, contrary to popular Hollywood wisdom, American audiences are ready and eager to see a film that’s partly in Mandarin and Cantonese, that is about an immigrant family, and that doesn’t have a familiar property (or, indeed, anything familiar at all) behind it.
But there’s also the fact that this is a movie with an original, inventive screenplay that mashes up genres and managed to make a huge profit on a modest investment. Wouldn’t that be worth voting for? If a movie like this can earn money and plaudits, does it represent Hollywood’s future, or maybe its salvation?
Walter Chaw writes about his complicated relationship with Ke Huy Quan, who won the Oscar for “Best Supporting Actor.”
I blamed Quan, Gedde Watanabe, Pat Morita, and any number of other Asian-American actors for perpetuating these constructed stereotypes. The internalized racism I carry has made me despise the way I look, the way I sound, the way I communicate. These men drew too much attention to the things I hated about myself and, of course, as the only examples of Asian-American men in the mainstream, I was immediately associated with them. When Asian-American basketball player Jeremy Lin set the world on fire for a little while with the New York Knicks, Ben & Jerry’s made a special ice cream to honor him, the chief ingredient being a fortune cookie. We are helpless to the bias we carry, unexamined, with us. The problem with limited, stereotypical representation in films written by, produced, and directed by white men, is there is no commensurately popular corrective in the all of the well of Tinseltown’s century of images. I tried to run from Asian associations. I never dated Asian women. I avoided making Asian friends. It’s harder after all for two to hide than one. And then, as an adult, married with children, I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom again with my wife and, with her help, began to see him, and Quan, differently. I began to see myself differently.
I also highly recommend reading Chaw’s heartfelt review of Everything Everywhere All at Once.
And what the heck… here’s my review of Everything Everywhere All at Once, too.
As you can probably see, Everything Everywhere All at Once inspires a lot of thoughts because it juggles a lot of things: sci-fi comedy, existential melodrama, immigrant struggles, family dysfunctions. It’s maximalist cinema par excellence, a perfect example of an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to filmmaking made by a very passionate, creative, and unconventional crew. It’s ambitious and bizarre, raunchy and deeply moving, nonsensical and thought-provoking — and totally unlike anything else you’re likely to see all year long.
As happy as I was to see Everything Everywhere All at Once’s success, I was even happier to see RRR’s “Naatu Naatu” win the “Best Original Song” Oscar after a show-stopping performance featuring singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava.
If you’re curious, here are the song’s lyrics in English. The lyrics were inspired by writer Chandrabose’s childhood memories of growing up in a small village.
Another bit of “Naatu Naatu” trivia: The film’s elaborate dance sequence was filmed in front of the Presidential Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine just months before Russia’s invasion.
Brendan Fraser won “Best Actor” for his performance as a morbidly obese man in The Whale. Lindy West is having none of it, however.
The Whale is not a real fat person telling their own raw story with all the complexities and contradictions of lived experience. Charlie is a fictional character created by a thin person, a fantasy of fat squalor, a confirmation that we “do this” to ourselves: that we gorge buckets of chicken like mindless beasts, that we never see the world, never let the sun warm our bodies, never step into the sea, never make art, never feel human touch, never truly live. Portrayals like this steal from us in two directions: we are denied both the freedom to enjoy food and to have complicated relationships with it. I suppose my criticism boils down to this: a fat person, even one with a life identical to Charlie’s, could never have made The Whale. It is fundamentally not of us and therefore incurably untrue.
Stephanie Goodman recounts the best and worst moments of the 2023 Oscars. I know I’m not the only one who got a little choked up during Ke Huy Quan’s acceptance speech.
The Oscars can often vacillate between insidery navel-gazing and a ho-hum march toward best picture, but occasionally an acceptance speech cuts through the noise with authenticity. On Sunday, those emotional words came from a teary-eyed Ke Huy Quan, 51, whose supporting actor Oscar was the stuff of dreams.
Meanwhile, over on Pitchfork, Matthew Strauss highlights the Oscars’ best and worst musical moments.
Bandcamp’s Patrick St. Michel reflects on the career of Takeshi Terauchi, aka Japan’s Surf Rock God.
Whether by himself or with one of the many bands he led, Takeshi created hundreds of songs centered around the [electric guitar], some being more straightforward surf rock cuts to attempts at seeing if Beethoven could go electric, too. Even as he aged and popular music chased new trends, Takeshi still commanded a loyal following of fans born post-World War II chasing that thrill of youth through six strings. “Takeshi went beyond genre in his music, incorporating elements of Japanese folk songs and classical music,” Tadayoshi Mizukawa, current executive producer of King Label Creative Headquarters, an arm of Japan’s famed King Records, and a close friend of Takeshi’s for 15 years before his death in 2021.
U2 just released Songs of Surrender, which features new recordings of 40 classic U2 songs. To mark the occasion, The AV Club compiled their own list of the band’s 40 greatest songs. For instance, “New Year’s Day” comes in at #12.
Opening with a piano ringing out as bright and clear as the sun on freshly fallen snow, “New Year’s Day” carries an urgency that’s nearly cinematic: its stark, expansive soundscape provides a wide vista for Bono, whose lyrics were inspired by the Polish Solidarity movement. “New Year’s Day” doesn’t feel specifically political yet it does feel galvanizing, playing a bit like a rallying call to arms.
After expressing frustration with Ticketmaster charging incredibly high ticket fees for their upcoming North American tour, The Cure’s Robert Smith got them to offer partial refunds.
The Cure’s frontman took to Twitter to announce, in his typical all-caps, that fans who bought the lowest-priced tickets to any of the band’s North American dates — some of those tickets have been priced as low as $20 — through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system will receive a $10-per-ticket refund, and anyone who bought tickets at any other price level this week will receive a $5-per-ticket refund.
Robert Smith: Goth icon, musical genius, defeater of Barbra Streisand, and champion of the people.
Related: Simon Price explores “A Forest,” arguably The Cure’s signature song.
Earlier this week, actor Lance Reddick died unexpectedly of natural causes; he was 60 years old. Reddick starred in numerous movies and TV series, including the John Wick films, The Wire, Bosch and Lost. He also voiced Commander Zavala in the Destiny video games, and players paid tribute to the actor in the game.
Destiny players are mourning Reddick’s passing in a different way, by visiting his character, Commander Zavala, en masse in the Tower in Destiny 2. Players are hugging, saluting, or simply sitting in silence side-by-side in the game’s main social space, offering tributes to the character and the man who voiced him.
Social media has given rise to a particular breed of “influencer” who shares all manner of details about their childrens’ lives: mundane, embarrassing, and otherwise. What happens, however, when those kids no longer want every detail of their lives streamed, recorded, and posted for millions of strangers to see?
Claire, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, has never known a life that doesn’t include a camera being pointed in her direction. The first time she went viral, she was a toddler. When the family’s channel started to rake in the views, Claire says both her parents left their jobs because the revenue from the YouTube channel was enough to support the family and to land them a nicer house and new car. “That’s not fair that I have to support everyone,” she said. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am].” Once, she told her dad she didn’t want to do YouTube videos anymore and he told her they would have to move out of their house and her parents would have to go back to work, leaving no money for “nice things.”
Jason Kottke — one of the world’s most well-known and influential bloggers — reflected on 25 years of blogging and being online.
My love for the web has ebbed and flowed in the years since, but mainly it’s persisted — so much so that as of today, I’ve been writing kottke.org for 25 years. A little context for just how long that is: kottke.org is older than Google. 25 years is more than half of my life, spanning four decades (the 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s) and around 40,000 posts — almost cartoonishly long for a medium optimized for impermanence. What follows is my (relatively brief) attempt to explain where kottke.org came from and why it’s still going.
This post from 2008 highlights how kottke.org has evolved over the years.
My own blog, Opus, turned 25 last year. Sometimes, it seems really bizarre that I’ve been doing this “blogger” thing for so long (like Kottke, more than half of my life). And other times, it seems like the most natural thing in the world that it’s become such a big part of my identity.
Here’s a fun web history lesson: Version One is a gallery showcasing the first versions of popular sites, including Github, Linkedin, Netflix, and Twitter.
Via Frontend Focus.
Related: Version Museum is another gallery that shows the evolution of popular websites (e.g., Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google) over the years. It also includes visual histories of operating systems, applications, and games.
From the Blog
Last month, I highlighted some of the best movies available, for free, on Hoopla, a streaming services that works with your library card. This week, I highlighted some of the best comics and graphic novels that can be found on Hoopla, including titles from Marvel and DC as well as Image, Dark Horse, and BOOM! Studios (to name but a few publishers).
This post is available to everyone (so feel free to share it). However, paying subscribers also get access to exclusives including playlists, podcasts, and sneak previews. If you’d like to receive those exclusives — and support my writing on Opus — then become a paid subscriber today for just $5/month or $50/year.