Saturday, February 28, 2004
My 2004 Oscar predictions!!
Continuing my long-running tradition that started last year, it's time to post my Oscar predictions for 2004. First, however, let me confess that I'm just not into the Oscars this year as much as last year, for two reasons.
First, inexplicably, Salma Hayek was not nominated for her breathtaking performances in either Spy-Kids: 3D, or Once Upon a Time In Mexico. There is no justifiable explanation for this oversight. [Did you even see either of those films?--ed. Look, this is just a point of principle.] As a gesture of support, I feel obligated to post this picture of Ms. Hayek in protest:
Fight the power!!
Second, the truncated Oscar campaign season has taken a toll. When the Oscars were in late March, it permitted a less frenetic awards season. This year, BAM!! The Golden Globes, BAM!, the SAG awards, BAM!!, critics awards, BAM!!, the Oscars.
The logic behind this was to reduce the campaigning that goes on during awards season. Why, exactly, is this a bad thing? I say Hollywood needs more campaigning. It helps to build up excitement -- you know, like the off-season between the Red Sox and the Yankees.
So, without further ado, my predictions:
I agree with what David Edelstein and Lynda Obst say in Slate – LOTR has that mix of commercial epic and artistic achievement that’s tough for the Academy to ignore. The most serious competition, Lost in Translation, is the exact opposite, a purposefully small film. The Academy surprised me last year with some genuinely unconventional choices, but I’m playing it safe here.
Risking the wrath of LOTR devotees everywhere, let me say that while I liked the last one a great deal, the third film was the only one that seemed to drag. I thought it was going to end at least five times during the last half hour. Nemo, on the other hand, is equally beautiful to watch, but a more tightly constructed film.
It’s supposed to be between Penn and Bill Murray. The Academy still has a bias against comedians unless they go completely dramatic, and Murray was too funny in the role for voters to believe it to be that big of a stretch. Penn has been nominated several times before, and he’s due. Plus, Penn’s understated performance in 21 Grams will unconsciously bias Academy voters in favor of Penn.
I liked Murray’s performance in Lost in Translation, but not as much as I liked Penn’s in Mystic River, which ran the gamut in terms of emotion.
Theron has dominated the pre-Oscar awards, plus she suffered for her craft by putting on weight, shaving her eyebrows and wearing tons of unflattering makeup.
To be fair, I haven’t seen Monster, so the award might well be deserved. However, Watts’ performance as the grieving mother/junkie in 21 Grams blew me away. In a role that could have caused some actresses to overemote, Watts hit just the right note of dulled pain that the bereaved usually feel.
Best Supporting Actor:
I’ve noticed that Robbins’ performance tends to split critics between those who like to see GREAT ACTING! and those who believe that truly great acting should be so subtle that the viewer becomes absorbed into the story to the point where s/he doesn’t think, “Wow, Tim Robbins is great!” Academy voters tend to fall under the GREAT ACTING! school.
I thought Robbins was great in both senses -- as the movie went on, I thought less about Tim Robbins and more about his character, Davy. That said, there was one other performance this year that was better. Sarsgaard played Chuck Lane, the personally awkward editor who slowly ferrets out the deception of New Republic writer Stephen Glass. What’s great about the performance is that you can see Lane’s slow change from defending his reporter to suspecting the worst to believing the worst.
Best Supporting Actress:
Renee Zellweger will be this decade’s Joan Allen – always giving Oscar-caliber performances but never winning the Oscar. Plus, her not winning is the best way for the Academy to stick it to Harvey Weinstein.
Dorie was written for DeGeneres, but the character allowed her to display a range that wasn’t present in her previous work.
Jackson will win for the same reason that LOTR will win Best Picture.
On the basis of the whole trilogy, I’m inclined to want Jackson to win it as well. But Ray should be acknowledged for doing the near-impossible – telling a true story about a non-visual subject – magazine writing – and making it interesting while not distorting the facts.
POST-OSCAR UPDATE: Well, that was boring (except for the song by Will Ferrell and Jack Black). Laura at Apt. 11D has a pithy assessment of the show.
The déjà vu Democratic primary?
Tom Maguire draws an interesting parallel between the 2000 Democratic primary and the 2004 Democratic primary:
Of course, most of the candidates the media love -- John Anderson, Bruce Babbitt, Pete DuPont, John McCain -- get relegated to the dustbin of political history.
Why the political rhetoric about trade matters
There's a lot of rationalizations that are made during campaign seasons by the supporters of particular candidates. If someone gives a speech or takes a position that contradicts a supporter's beliefs, it's often rationalized that it's just a campaign tactic, and that once elected, the politician would never actually follow through.
This is often true -- look at Bill Clinton the candidate and Bill Clinton the president on matters related to trade, or Ronald Reagan tghe candidate versus Ronald Reagan the president on matters related to the Moral Majority.
However, this overlooks an important point, which is that the campaign rhetoric itself can badly degrade the political discourse on the topic in question. Politicians could be faced with "blowback" -- being compelled to carry out policies they disagree with because they've made rhetorical commitments that are costly to reverse. Another possibility is that the rhetoric reframes the debate entirely, making it impossible to mount a defense of an issue without seeming to be out of bounds.
Which is why Brad DeLong is dead-on when he writes:
Friday, February 27, 2004
Tyler Cowen is on a roll
Astute readers of danieldrezner.com may have detected a slight drop-off in posting productivity. This is due to a plethora of reasons, some of which will become clear in due course.
However, Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has been producing a steady stream of fascinating posts. There's one on the surprisingly high rate of return for Senator's stock portfolios, one on the economics of corporate downsizing [What's that?--ed. That's what everyone was freaking out about ten years ago during the jobless recovery. Go back and replace the word "downsizing" with "outsourcing" and "India" with "Japan" and the debate would look awfully familiar], and a review of recent outsourcing articles.
Just three years ago, Kenneth Scheve and Matthew Slaughter argued in Globalization and the Perceptions of American Workers that public support for globalization was strongly and positively correlated with education and income. That finding still holds, but the increasing hostility to an open economy has flattened out the relationship considerably.
[Why did this story make your jaw drop? Surely you're not surprised that protectionist sentiments increase during an economic downturn?--ed. What's surprising is not the trend but the magnitude of the effect at the upper end of the income distribution. This could be one clue as to why John Edwards did so well with affluent voters in Wisconsin even though his protectionist rhetoric seemed tailored towards lower-income voters.]
Thursday, February 26, 2004
The day Andrew Sullivan wishes he was me
UPDATE: Here's the Chicago Maroon report on the event.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
It's Greenspan week!!
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is a newsmaker -- whenever he opens his mouth, it makes the news (even if no one quite understands what he's saying). That said -- and I'll be willing to concede that this may be my imagination -- he seems to be opening his mouth quite a bit this week:
The more Greenspan clears his throat like this, the more the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is going to get nervous.
UPDATE: Hey, it wasn't just my imagination, according to the Chicago Tribune:
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Bush to gays: go f@$# yourselves -- and do it out of wedlock
I still don't think it will happen -- and just to be clear, I sure as hell don't think it should happen. [But the "voice of the people"?--ed. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the voice of the people would have supported a flag-burning amendment back in 1988, but that would have been an equally dumb-ass amendment. The Republic is still standing despite that non-action, by the way.]
A question -- is this a proposal that Bush genuinely believes in and is exploiting for political gain, or is this a proposal that Bush knows won't become law and is exploiting for political gain?
UPDATE: Good discussion!!
ANOTHER UPDATE: It goes without saying that Andrew Sullivan will be the place to go on this topic. This post makes an excellent point about the fact that the "full faith and credit" clause in the Constitution does not apply to marriage.
The controversial Sam Huntington
I was a post-doctoral fellow at Samuel Huntington's Olin Center for Strategic Studies at Harvard in 1996/97, when The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order first came out. Needless to say, it was a controversial book, and there was a lot of accusations made against Sam that were pretty much unfounded.
At the end of the year, Huntington presented his first draft of a paper arguing that Hispanic immigration into the United States is different from and more troubling than previous waves of immigration (which was an extension of his concluding chapter in Clash). At the end of the talk, all of the fellows looked at each other and agreed that once this was published, the brouhaha over Clash was going to look like a tea party.
Well, it's now published (or rather, part of it is published. All of it will be published in a book due out in May 2004 entitled, Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity). Huntington's article, "The Hispanic Challenge" takes up a large part of the March-April issue of Foreign Policy. I could pick a paragraph at random and it will inflame a lot of people, but I'm betting these two will be quoted ad nauseum within the next month:
I disagreed with Huntington about his Clash thesis, and I think he's wrong now. I'll be posting much more about this later. For now, let's just say that Huntington's thesis has some serious empirical problems and a few theoretical ones left over from the Clash book.
However, I want to close with two final interrelated thoughts. First, it would be dangerous to dismiss Huntington as some paleocon or crank -- he's neither. Read this Robert Kaplan biography of Huntington from the December 2001 Atlantic Monthly (one of the few things Kaplan has ever written that I agree with) to get a sense of Huntington's career.
Second, most of the commentariat want Huntington to be wrong. That doesn't mean that he actually is wrong. Beware those who simply brand the argument as offensive and dismiss it out of hand -- Huntington is way too smart to be rejected without a sober evaluation of his thesis and evidence.
UPDATE: David Glenn has a Chronical of Higher Education story about Huntington's article.
Monday, February 23, 2004
A very important post about... swimsuits
Slate's Josh Levin posts an amusing statistical summary of Sports Illustrated's 40th anniversary swimsuit issue:
In honor of Ms. Varekova's preference towards those of the geeky persuasion, it seems only fitting to reciprocate in kind by displaying danieldrezner.com's strong preference for supermodels who like geeks:
[Why not a picture of Rose as well?--ed. He clearly needs no additional advertising whatsoever. Besides Varekova was on his show this past Friday.]
UPDATE: D'oh!! Mickey Kaus beat me by a full day on this. Advantage: Kaus!!
Life as a Westerner in Jakarta
Jay Drezner reports on what it's like to work in Jakarta:
Where are the new jobs?
Virginia Postrel's story in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine takes a close look at where new jobs are being created -- and whether they show up in the payroll survey:
I'd say more about this story, but Bob McGrew beat me to my own narrative.
One semi-provocative thought, however. Most of the job categories mentioned in Postrel's essay have something of a 'feminine' cast to them. The job sector with the biggest job losses -- manufacturing -- has a decidedly masculine cast. It's undoubtedly difficult for workers to transition from manufacturing to services. Could gender barriers make the current economic transformation even more difficult for displaced workers?
UPDATE: Brad DeLong thinks these undercounts are insignificant:
See also here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Postrel responds.
There's another follow-up post here that's worth reading in full.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
The war on terror and civil liberties
Ethan Bronner has an essay in today's New York Times Book Review on the numerous tomes alleging that the War on Terror combined with John Ashcroft ''are responsible for some of the most egregious civil liberties violations in the history of our nation'' according to one of these books. Bronner does a nice job of putting these issues into the proper perspective:
Read the whole thing.
Yet another reason to procrastinate
That whole universe-collapsing-upon-itself fear I have on occasion appears to be unfounded.