Monday, March 11th, 2024

1

The Oscars Was the Bomb

My teenaged kids came upstairs for the Oscars telecast and sat on either side of me on the couch. And that's where they stayed. They watched the whole show. The Oscars should win an Oscar for that alone. Neither of them made a move from the monologue to the moment when Al Pacino oddly announced the Best Picture award (my son: "Isn't he supposed to read the nominees?" my daughter: "Who's that?"). Jimmy Kimmel was smooth, relaxed, and pitch perfect as he helmed one of the best Academy Awards in years. The evening started off on a feel-good note as Paul Giamatti escorted Da'vine Joy Randolph up to the podium and then cried during her acceptance speech, and it just stayed feel good and entertaining throughout. "Not only was this year's crop of Best Picture nominees one of the best we've had in eons, but the often self-serious award show's ceremony was warm-hearted, hilarious, and enjoyable enough to melt even the most cynical award-show hater." 7 winners and 0 losers from the surprisingly delightful 2024 Oscars. Speaking of 7, that's how many statues Oppenheimer, the night's big winner, took home. If you haven't seen it, Oppenheimer is a sci-fi fantasy that imagines a fictional country where most Americans are opposed to fascism and believe in science.

+ Here's the full list of winners.

+ Robert Downey Jr's first nomination came thirty years ago. That was followed by "a series of arrests for drug-related charges and a year in prison." His win for Best Supporting Actor caps off one of the great Hollywood comeback stories. Dan Diamond has the backstory on the man Downey Jr portrayed in WaPo (Gift Article): The true, dramatic story of Robert Downey Jr.'s ‘Oppenheimer' villain. "Lewis Strauss's Senate confirmation battle was far more complicated and historically significant than depicted in the film."

+ "This is the first Oscar in Ukrainian history, and I'm honored. Probably I will be the first director on this stage to say I wish I'd never made this film, I wish to be able to exchange this to Russia never attacking Ukraine." 20 Days in Mariupol' wins best documentary Oscar, a first for AP and PBS' ‘Frontline'. You can watch the documentary on YouTube.

+ Ryan Gosling is remarkably handsome. He's famous. He's talented. And ugh, he's also funny and a great singer, as he provided the night's best moment with a live performance of I'm Just Ken, alongside Slash and Mark Ronson. On social media, his wife, the actress Eva Mendes, wrote: "You took Ken all the way to the Oscars, RG. Now come home, we need to put the kids to bed." On behalf of every dude on the planet I say, yes, Ryan, please go home!

+ Billie Eilish gave a great perfomance and became the youngest person with two Oscars.

+ If Ryan Gosling made me realize I need to work on my appearance, my acting, and my singing, John Cena made me realize I've got to start working on my pecs. (In retrospect, the five decades of diet cheat days wasn't the best idea.) In case you're wondering, he wasn't totally nude. Wrestlezone (I dig deep for these stories, folks): John Cena Wasn't Really Naked At The Oscars.

+ Apple and Netflix combined for 32 nominations, but walked away with only one win. (Don't worry, they'll survive.)

+ It was a remarkably drama-free night of drama, with one exception. A predictable one. Jonathan Glazer's Oscar Speech Becomes Latest Battleground In Israel-Gaza Conflict.

+ Here are a few things the cameras missed.

+ The Oscars 2024 Red Carpet Arrivals Gallery (not that you're into stuff like that).

+ And finally, one the night's few unscripted moments came when Jimmy Kimmel read Donald Trump's realtime review of his hosting performance. Kimmel followed the review by expressing surprise that Trump was watching the show: "Isn't it past your jailtime?" The NYT called the line a Jab. Yeah, and the movie Oppenheimer was about the creation of a firecracker. The line was funny, but it was also a worse than jail moment for Trump when a roomful of the celebrities he's spent a lifetime trying to get accepted by laughed at him with utter contempt while he was back at Mar-a-Lago spending some quality time with Roger Stone. The Oscars should one of those events when all Americans can gather around their TV sets and just have a good time together. Looks like that's gonna take one more election. In the words of Michael Corleone, "We'll get there Pop, we'll get there."

2

Playing with a Kenn Dahl

"On a Thursday morning in June for example, the car had been driven 7.33 miles in 18 minutes; there had been two rapid accelerations and two incidents of hard braking." That's just one detail about Kenn Dahl's driving. His insurance company knows that and a lot more. But he never opted into sharing this information. His car manufacturer sold it to LexisNexis who sold it to his insurance company. Kashmir Hill in the NYT (Gift Article): Automakers Are Sharing Consumers' Driving Behavior With Insurance Companies. (In addition to having his driving info shared without permission, what a time to be named Kenn Dahl...)

3

Wag the Dogg

"They agreed that, amid the thousands of reactions to ChatGPT, one of the most refreshingly candid assessments came from Snoop Dogg, during an onstage interview. Crowley pulled up the transcript and read aloud. 'This is not safe, 'cause the A.I.s got their own minds, and these motherf-ckers are gonna start doing their own shit,' Snoop said, paraphrasing an A.I.-safety argument. 'Sh-t, what the f-ck?'" What the f-ck is indeed the question of our era. Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker: Among the A.I. Doomsayers. "Some people think machine intelligence will transform humanity for the better. Others fear it may destroy us. Who will decide our fate?"

+ WSJ (Gift Article): Underdog Who Beat Biden in American Samoa Used AI in Election Campaign.

4

The Parent Tap

"Parents are distressingly aware of the distractions and the mental health issues associated with smartphones and social media. But teachers say parents might not realize how much those struggles play out at school. One culprit? Mom and Dad themselves, whose stream-of-consciousness questions add to a climate of constant interruption and distraction from learning." AP: Why you should stop texting your kids at school. (But I'm lonely...)

5

Extra, Extra

Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight: "Russia appears on track to produce nearly three times more artillery munitions than the US and Europe, a key advantage ahead of what is expected to be another Russian offensive in Ukraine later this year." Meanwhile, the House continues its weaponized incompetence. Back at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had his meeting with one of the authoritarians he idolizes: Viktor Orban, who explained: "He will not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war. That is why the war will end."

+ With Friends Like These... "Divisions between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu burst out into the open again over the weekend as the two traded barbs in interviews over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza."

+ A Port in the Storm: "The result underscores a political tilt to the far right across Europe. Portugal, which only returned to democracy after the fall of a fascist dictatorship 50 years ago, had long been considered immune to the rise of right-wing populism across the continent, which is expected to result in gains for far-right parties in European elections in June." Portugal's conservatives win election as far-right surges.

+ Grilling Barbecue: "In interviews, he poses as a God-fearing Caribbean Robin Hood and celebrates freedom fighters and agitators including Fidel Castro, Thomas Sankara and Malcolm X. 'I like Martin Luther King, too,' the Haitian gang boss Jimmy Chérizier told the New Yorker journalist Jon Lee Anderson when they met last year. 'But he didn't like fighting with guns, and I fight with guns.'" Is the feared gang boss ‘Barbecue' now the most powerful man in Haiti?

+ That's a S'moré: "The problem was scale. Smashmallows were designed to look like an artisanal, boutique product, but that wasn't enough for Sebastiani: He wanted to manufacture billions of them, to build a company that would bestride Candyland like a squishy colossus. That meant he had to grow fast and figure out the engineering on the fly — the classic entrepreneurial strategy of Silicon Valley. When it works, you get Tesla; when it doesn't, you get Theranos. This is the story of the Theranos of marshmallows." S'more! S'more! His artisanal marshmallows were the greatest. Then he tried to scale them.

+ Number One Son: Interesting interview by David Marchese in the NYT (Gift Article): Jeremy Strong Isn't Sure He Knows Who He Is. "Listen, there was a moment when the show ended where I felt a profound sense of, Was this the thing? Was this the event of my life?" (I felt that way after my first blog post. And the answer was probably yes.)

+ March 11: Four years ago today the world began to shut down. As it did, Trump continued to downplay the virus and Fox News execs prepared an internal email announcing the implementation of several safety measures, including a directive that any staff member who was able to work from home should begin doing so. Their viewers received no such warnings. On air, the lies about the virus continued apace. At least in this one way, it was just another Wednesday. Are you better off today than you were four years ago? Are you kidding...

6

Bottom of the News

Even with the Oscars being broadcast, Scarlett Johansson gave the performance of the weekend with her parody of Katie Britt's SOTU response.