Death Reels, Movie Deals, Inclusion Rider Appeals | What We’re Watching & Reading

A belated but heartfelt post-Academy Awards telecast “What We’re Watching (& Reading)” column celebrates the people who make the movies and some women who died too soon.
It feels like six months (and 14 snowpocalypses) ago instead of several weeks since the Academy Awards on March 4, but shortly thereafter, I asked my “What We’re Watching (& Reading)” colleagues at LJ/School Library Journal and Junior Library Guild if they watched the Oscars, and how many of the nominated or winning films they’d seen before the show. After reading the varied responses from fellow editors Ellen Abrams, Meredith Schwartz, and Liz Gavril, plus wanting to notify the world we'd lost Thérèse DePrez (1965–2017), a great production designer, and Cynthia Heimel (1947–2018), a funny feminist writer, I decided on a slightly delayed recap. Belated congratulations to all the winners and happy spring to everyone. Ellen Abrams, WWR/W alumna Although going to the movies has gotten prohibitively expensive, after receiving and redeeming some holiday gift certificates, the spouse and I saw quite a raft of films this fall season. I loved Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird. It was so true to uneasy mother-daughter relationships and the difficulties of growing up and going out on your own. As to director Joe Wright's Darkest Hour, yes, Gary Oldman looks incredibly like Winston Churchill, but the subway scene was so obviously invented by the writer (Anthony McCarten) that it was impossible to enjoy that part. And as usual, the Brits defame the great FDR, so that was another knock against it.  I, Tonya was surprisingly good. Margot Robbie might have been a tad too old to play Tonya Harding, but her performance was great and the fabulous Allison Janney was amazing as her mother. I intensely disliked Phantom Thread and was disappointed not to like it, as I can't help but be ga-ga over Daniel Day-Lewis, and it is supposed to be his final film, but still...yecch!  And to those who have seen it, you know to what I refer. Even if all of the movies weren't to my liking, they were serious and thought provoking. By the way, Armando Iannucci's Death of Stalin, now in theaters, is funny, scary, and very entertaining. Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews I do watch the Oscars, rather religiously. This is mostly because I have a standing invitation to join my film fanatic friend John and other members of our film club, Nous Allons au Cinema, every year at chez John & Michael. Long ago, I worked with John and other Nousers at a theater/lighting/movie design magazine and the friendships continued though the jobs did not (John and I were laid off on the same day). I mention the magazine and the party for a specific reason: the death reel, this year accompanied by Eddie Vedder singing a Tom Petty song. (John, on the couch: Why is he singing a Tom Petty song? Chorus of party attendees: Because he died in 2017!) We were all dumbstruck when production designer Thérèse De Prez’s face flashed on screen while Vedder wailed and strummed. Long ago, when DePrez was finishing the 1950s Indianapolis-set film Going All the Way (starring one of my favorites, Jeremy Davies), John interviewed her for the mag. We all were charmed by this newcomer whose indie screen credits included Swoon, Todd Haynes’s 1993 short Dottie Gets Spanked, I Shot Andy Warhol, Living in Oblivion, and Summer of Sam. We would occasionally note her progress in designland: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a David Bowie tour, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. So it hit us hard that such a talent died so young. And I hate to say it, but we probably wouldn’t have known about Thérèse’s death if we hadn’t been watching the Oscars at John’s Chelsea apartment in the sky. Liz Gavril, Executive Editor, Elementary Division, JLG My big excitement about this year's Academy Awards was not the Oscars themselves but all the pre-Oscars moviegoing. Of the nominated best pictures, I had seen only Get Out, so I decided to buy the Regal Cinemas Oscar movie pass—you pay $35, and then just before the Oscars you have eight or nine days to see all nominated Best Pictures. This meant I had to see a movie a day (awarding myself with one day off), if I was going to see them all, and I vowed to see them all. It was an exciting—and stressful—week; I had to leave work “early” at 6:30 every evening, pray for no subway delays, and then try to get into the theater while the masses of people were lined up to see Black Panther. I enjoyed most everything that was nominated (except Dunkirk, but I think that’s because I’m not a war-movie person—I felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack from the first to last minute). I agreed with the general consensus that there was no clear front-runner for Best Picture, though I thought there were a lot of good films nominated, and I was impressed by a lot of great acting. After devoting so much time to watching the nominated films, of course I had to see the actual Oscars. We cut the cord on cable a few months ago, so we were counting on being able to stream the awards online. When that failed, I went into panic mode and signed up for a free trial of Hulu. We saw all but the first half hour, but after it was over, I felt like watching had been a waste of time. Every year I feel like I must watch, and then I regret it. C’est la vie. I loved going to the movies. Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor, LJ I didn’t watch the Oscars. I never do. I find there’s usually not much overlap between my taste in movies (primarily speculative fiction with a smattering of costume dramas) and the Oscar winners. However, I did hear about the prevailing theme of gender equity and specifically Frances McDormand's inclusion rider suggestion and I love it; it’s a concrete way for big stars to use their privilege to move the needle for everyone. It reminds me of actress Geena Davis’s argument that writers can make a difference by changing existing characters’ names to women’s names and specifying gender parity in crowd scenes. Of course, there is no One Weird Trick to Ending Sexism, but I feel like normalizing simple, actionable tools is a great step. As to what I’m reading this week: mostly Cynthia Heimel books I'd learned I’d missed, despite being a fan of hers since my college days, from her obituaries. Heimel was an outspoken feminist in general and in the context of her Hollywood screenwriting in particular. She was all about great outfits, solidarity with her girlfriends, and good one-liners—the only way I’d ever have wanted to watch the Oscars would have been if she were throwing the party and I had somehow lucked into an invitation.  

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