the Oscars

The outcome in Egypt has also darkened Western perceptions of the possibility for political evolution in authoritarian states everywhere.

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The Best Film of the Year Has Just One Actor

"All Is Lost": Why Robert Redford deserves an Oscar

A thursday afternoon, late in August, in southwestern Colorado. It has rained and it will rain again. That “it” here, the weather, has a mind of its own, generous but perilous, too, because it can change so fast. The mud is dusky red. The air is thick and sour, like horseradish. Outside the small town, in hay meadows, a man is exercising two black Labrador dogs. They stretch out in the light like race horses before Muybridge had proved the tucking up of legs in animal locomotion, and then they turn over and roll in the damp grass.

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Director Haifaa al-Mansour insists Wadjda, her movie about a Saudi girl who marches to the beat of her own drum, which opens in the U.S. Friday, isn’t a “feminist film.” That may be why it’s such a good one.

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Nate Silver, the stat guru moving soon from The New York Times to ESPN/ABC, will cover sports, as he did early in his career. According to Politico’s Mike Allen, Silver will continue do politics, where he achieved fame and renown.

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The Oscars are odd. It’s just about the only reason left for having them; that and for the sake of the people who make red carpets. Every year when the nominations come out, there are three or four days of stories about the “surprises” and the people who were “snubbed.” So Tom Hooper and Kathryn Bigelow were overlooked, but Michael Haneke was remarked on. And Helen Hunt got a supporting actress nod for The Sessions. No, I’m not suggesting that she was undeserving—far from it.

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How the richness of technology led to the poverty of imagination in American film today.

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And The Award Goes To...

2011 wasn't the most interesting year for film, but it did have its moments: The silent film reasserted itself while Scorsese went 3D, Terrence Malick recreated the genesis of the universe and Maya Rudolph got diarrhea in a wedding dress. But how will these ambitious projects fare at the 84th Academy Awards show this Sunday night?

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You may recollect that at the Academy Awards show last year, the hosting job went to Anne Hathaway and James Franco. She was 29 and he was 33, and there was a vague hope that they were young and hot enough to pull in the junior crowd for the television marathon. It didn’t work: Franco seemed bored, while Hathaway was trying too hard. There was no chemistry between them, and very little fun. So this year the host was going to be Eddie Murphy, but he backed off when the producer’s job was withdrawn from Eddie’s chum, Brett Ratner, on account of anti-gay remarks.

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What’s the surest sign that the economic crisis is finally lifting and normalcy is in sight? We’re back to arguing about how the middle class is doing over the long sweep of history since the 1980s: Have they been dragged down by stagnating wages, high-end inequality, economic insecurity, and a greater chance that economic mobility will take them downward than up? Or is the middle class doing OK? This debate had been in hibernation for the last three years, while everyone except the top 1 percent took a beating.

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Since first seeing The Artist, I believed it was going to win Best Picture. It’s “different” without being challenging or difficult or worrying. The Artist could have been designed by a computer to appeal to anyone who has a sense of nostalgia for movie history. (And 54 percent of Academy voters are over sixty). It is also a light, entertaining picture in which froth passes for energy, and pat ironies are made to seem intelligent. I enjoyed it, until the moment I guessed how close it was to getting Best Picture.

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