Opinion: The Latest Reports from the Washington Posts “Act Four”


Here are the latest Opinion posts from the Washington Post’s “Act Four”

Chris Rock, Justice for Flint and why we still have ‘real things to protest’

By the time the Academy Awards aired on Sunday, I’d spent three hours live-streaming Justice for Flint, a concert and fundraiser that film directors Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler helped organize. DuVernay, whose “Selma” took home one statue for best song last year, and Coogler, whose white lead, Sylvester Stallone, was nominated for “Creed” this
Despite Chris Rock’s best efforts, the 2016 Oscars were still pretty white
Chris Rock started out the 2016 Academy Awards with a tart–and instantly-debated–monologue about race and the Academy Awards, the inevitable and necessary response to the second year in a row which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated an all-white slate of actors and actresses for its top performance awards. But for all that


2016 Academy Awards: The Act Four Live Chat
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This is why it’s so hard to host the Academy Awards

On Sunday night, I’ll be hosting a special edition of the Act Four Live Chat during the airing of the Academy Awards. Come hang out, starting at 7 p.m.! It’ll be fun. Whatever movies or actors are up for big awards at the Academy Awards from year to year, one idea about the biggest night
Our relationship with TV is messed up. It’s time for a change.

I’ve been writing about pop culture full time for five years and part time for seven, and during that time, I’ve noticed something strange. There is a growing consensus that television has finally come of age as a medium and that the huge profusion of new television shows includes many gems. But at the same
If you want teens to read more, don’t treat reading like a boring obligation

Nobody told me that Feb. 22 through 29 had been designated as “Panic About the Teens Week,” though I guess it’s so obvious what’s going on that an announcement isn’t required. First, Knopf published Nancy Jo Sales’s alarmist book “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers.” Now, the New Yorker’s David Denby has filed
The Academy Award nominees for Best Picture paint a conflicted portrait of America
At this time of national uncertainty—as a “short-fingered vulgarian” looks to win the presidential nomination of one major political party without ever capturing more than 50 percent of the vote in any of its primaries; as a socialist who honeymooned with the Soviets and a paranoid email scofflaw battle it out for the other party’s
We are not going to solve Hollywood’s diversity crisis simply by documenting that it exists

In the run-up to an Academy Awards ceremony where an all-white slate of acting nominees ramped up the long-simmering discussion of diversity in the entertainment industry to a full rolling boil, there have been a number of prominent illustrations of just how rigid the movie and television businesses can be. The Media, Diversity and Social
Americans should stop taking the Oscars for granted

Yesterday in the Boston Globe, my Twitter friend, the marvelous movie critic Glenn Kenny, filed a highly sensible brief in favor of the idea that we should care less about the Academy Awards. “I admit there are movies that I’m passionate about to the extent that when I see them nominated, I’ll root for them. But at
‘American Girls’ wants to protect teenagers. Instead, it scapegoats girls.
Nancy Jo Sales’s “American Girls” is the latest entrant in a genre of literature and non-fiction that might best be described as Girls In Crisis. The category includes everything from “Go Ask Alice,” Beatrice Sparks’s 1971 facsimile of the diary of a teenage girl descending into drug addiction; to the 1994 book “Reviving Ophelia,” which
‘Love’ proves that prestige comedies have become as cliche as anti-hero dramas
“Love,” a new Netflix series from Judd Apatow and Lesley Arfin that premiered on Friday, didn’t do very much for me, personally: With so many fictional misanthropes on offer at present, it takes a very special one to compete for my attention. And the awkward couple of “Love,” Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), a satellite radio producer,
How Lady Edith became the hero of ‘Downton Abbey’
This piece discusses the plot of the Feb. 21 episode of “Downton Abbey.” As we approach the end of “Downton Abbey,” this doughty and sometimes delightful British import feels much the same as it did when it began airing in 2010: handsome, tied up in arcane plots about village governance, and celebrating the plot of
Anita Hill for Supreme Court? Kesha’s sexual assault case might change your mind.
Last week, the singer Kesha suffered a defeat in court when a New York judge refused her request to be released from her contract with Kemosabe Records, a label owned by Sony. Contract disputes aren’t uncommon in the entertainment business, but this one has attracted national attention because of the reasons Kesha has asked to be


Stop trying to expose Harper Lee’s secrets, and listen to her work

Early in “Mockingbird,” Charles Shields’s 2006 biography of Harper Lee, he quotes at length from the description of “To Kill a Mockingbird” the Literary Guild provided to readers when Lee’s debut novel was selected for its book club. “The great mystery of the neighborhood was the Radley home,” Literary Guild editor John Beechcroft wrote. “Gloomy, always
The Jesse Owens biopic ‘Race’ argues that sports are always political

Though Hollywood has a baffling tendency to ignore African American viewers and African American actors for much of the rest of the year, February and Black History Month tend to bring a respectful, though not transcendent, movie or two about great African Americans, most of them men, from the past. This year’s great man is
Social media takes Black History Month beyond the classroom
As child in 1980s Baltimore, observing Black History Month seemed relatively easy. Each year, my public school teachers would provide handouts about leaders and icons — the same ones annually, of course: Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, and if a teacher were feeling edgy, Malcolm X. They’d supplement the handouts with filmstrips and videos.
ABC just forced out Paul Lee, who championed diversity as the network’s president

Being the president of a television network can be a perilous job, particularly in the age of what FX President John Landgraf has deemed “peak TV”: fighting for television audiences when there are hundreds of shows on the air and alternative outlets such as Netflix and Amazon are in the mix can be a downright
I dread what will happen when America finally elects a woman president
I was born in 1984, the year Walter Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro to join him on the Democratic ticket, making her the first woman to contend for the presidency or vice presidency with the backing of a major party. I watched Hillary Clinton give her concession speech in 2008. I was covering the Republican National
In Antonin Scalia, the arts had a passionate patron–and defender
I was surprised at how hard the death of Justice Antonin Scalia hit me. The unexpected passing of the man who is almost indisputably the most important intellectual figure on the high court in the past 30 years was a shock, for certain. As a man of the right, I am certainly apprehensive about what
Fifty years later, America still can’t understand the Black Panthers
At the beginning of Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” former party member Ericka Huggins tells the story off the blind men and the elephant. Each man touches a different part of the creature and comes away with a different impression of what he’s dealing with: a warm wall, a snake, a
The liberation of ‘Downton Abbey’s’ Mr. Molesley

This post discusses the plot of the Feb. 14 episode of “Downton Abbey.” Over the past couple of years, “Downton Abbey” fell out of my viewing rotation, pushed aside by the sheer volume of new programming competing for my attention and column space, and my sense that it was telling the same story over and
Five music scenes that would make for better TV shows than ‘Vinyl’
On Sunday, HBO premieres “Vinyl,” Terence Winter’s tiresome new show about the ’70s rock scene in New York City. “Vinyl” stars Bobby Cannavale as Richie Finestra, a record executive with a nose for cocaine, a wife he doesn’t sufficiently appreciate and a professional crossroads; at this rate, cable television will make a personalized show about the mid-life crisis of
The surprising optimism of Michael Moore’s ‘Where to Invade Next’

In the middle of the lead crisis in his home town of Flint, Mich., and a hotly contested Democratic primary, the last thing you might expect from the crusading filmmaker Michael Moore is optimism. But not only is “Where to Invade Next,” which opens this weekend, a vote of confidence in America at odds with
Chris Rock’s long record of advocacy for black actresses
Though he isn’t immediately associated with them, Chris Rock has done quite a few romantic comedies over the course of his acting career. I know because, sucker that I am for the genre, I’ve seen most of them. In “Down to Earth,” his 2001 remake of 1978’s “Heaven Can Wait,” he vies for Regina King’s affections.
‘Hail, Caesar!’ is the Coen Brothers’ version of the New Testament
This post discusses plot points from “Hail, Caesar!” (2016) and “A Serious Man” (2009). The latest film from brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, “Hail, Caesar!,” is a surprising movie in several ways, but none more so than its almost explicitly religious nature. Both a modest critique and unexpected appreciation for the golden age of the
Yes, it’s okay to make movies about white people
Last week, as “Hail, Caesar!” — the Coen Brothers lovely, loving look at Hollywood’s post-World War II studio system — arrived in theaters, Joel and Ethan Coen found themselves facing sharp questions about diversity in their movies, and sharp judgment for their responses. “Take any particular actor or writer or filmmaker, and you go, ‘Your
The dumb way conservatives try to discredit Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

It’s early in another new year, which means that someone, somewhere, must be trying to discredit Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Last January, it was perpetual presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who wrote that while he admired Knowles-Carter’s talent, he felt she was being steered in an unseemly direction by her unscrupulous husband. “Jay-Z is a very shrewd businessman,
How censorship works in Vladimir Putin’s Russia

Russia can be a murderously difficult place to do independent journalism; the killing of reporter and activist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 ought to have made that manifestly clear. But journalism isn’t the only kind of speech that’s under threat in Russia. A new report from PEN America makes it clear how a confluence of laws
Macklemore’s ‘White Privilege II’ is all politics, no art
The Seattle-based hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have long had a sharp ear for progressive politics — sharper, it might be said, than their actual musical instincts. And last week, their work may have reached its apotheosis in the release of “White Privilege II.” It’s a song intended to capture the political moment in


The Oscars can’t change until the rest of the movie industry does
Last week, when Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced a set of plans to make her organization meaningfully more diverse, she declared that “The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up.” That’s a worthy sentiment, especially in an industry as diffuse as the
Fox’s ‘Lucifer’ somehow manages to make the Devil seem mundane
Whatever else he is, or whatever other name he goes by, the Devil is supposed to be fascinating. And because sin takes a different form in every generation, part of that mesmerizing quality is supposed to come from what the Devil tells us about ourselves. In ancient Alexandria, the Devil stood in for early Christian heretics, while


Why conservatives should back plans to make the Oscars more diverse

As readers of this blog are undoubtedly aware, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has, for the second year running, nominated no men or women of color for any of the four acting categories. As a result of this snub, African American luminaries have voiced their displeasure: Spike Lee denounced the lack of


‘The Godfather’ made Abe Vigoda iconic, but ‘Fish’ let him be hugely lovable
Since Abe Vigoda’s passing on Tuesday at the age of 94, his role as Detective Phil Fish on “Barney Miller” has been cited as one of his most memorable performances. It’s true; next to “The Godfather,” Fish is the role many first recall when thinking of Vigoda’s long career in characters. It’s the one I remember


When Han and Leia or Mulder and Scully break up, why does it hurt so much?

2016 is young, but already, the year in pop culture is full of epic relationship drama. The latest edition of “The Bachelor” is afoot, complete with crazy eyes and stripteases, and next week, FX is premiering its own account of the death of Nicole Brown Simpson in “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” the first installment
Kanye West is a sexist. That’s why I love his music.

One of the draws of Twitter has been the way it seems to lower barriers between the very famous and the people who are enthralled by them. But the same tool that lets stars have lovely, spontaneous interactions with their fans also means that feuds that once might have been private, or at least conducted via
No more reboots: What ‘Star Wars’ and Marvel could learn from a cult comic

I yield no pride of place to anyone in my love of “Star Wars,” and I’m quite fond of (most) of the Marvel movies and television shows that have been produced on Disney’s watch. But as both a fan and a critic, I’ve looked at the spectacular success of these franchises with both excitement and
How ‘Mercy Street’ pulled off an intense surgery scene
This post discusses “The Uniform,” the Jan. 31 episode of “Mercy Street.” PBS has been selling “Mercy Street,” its new drama about a Civil War hospital in Alexandria, as a replacement for “Downton Abbey,” its dependable British drama, completely with changing times, new roles for women and cross-class conflict. But “Mercy Street” breaks away from “Downton Abbey”
This Black History Month, watch these 5 movies from early Hollywood
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a slate of acting nominees for the 2016 Oscars that was all white, it added fuel to the flame of a fierce debate about diversity in American pop culture and sparked an attempt to make the Academy’s membership look more like the audiences for the
To understand Michael Jackson and his skin, you have to go beyond race

In these increasingly politically aware days, it’s rare to find a pop culture project that seems explicitly designed to be fed into the buzz-saw of Internet commentary. But rare doesn’t mean never. And last week, Sky Arts, a relatively obscure TV channel, increased its profile by orders of magnitude when it announced that Joseph Fiennes,


Why America is still haunted by the O.J. Simpson trial
The O.J. Simpson trial is a powerful generational marker. As my colleague Hank Stuever writes in his review of the first installment of FX’s new “American Crime Story” anthology series, which follows on the success of showrunner Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story,” “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” assumes “that anyone under 30 is only vaguely aware that,
The terrible, meaningless way our politicians talk about culture
The presidential campaign trail always intersects with pop culture, and the 2016 race has been no exception. Scott Walker tried to use the unofficial “Star Wars” holiday May the 4th to bolster his flagging presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton snuck into Chipotle for a burrito bowl and campaigned with “Girls” creator Lena Dunham, just one of
Lady Gaga is no David Bowie
After the dust settles on the disconcerting news of a celebrity’s death, one of the things fans begin to wonder is: Who will pay him adequate public tribute? Before long, awards shows — with their inevitable “In Memoriam” montages — spring to mind. Depending on the show and the scale of the deceased’s fame, a slideshow photo may
Hollywood’s problems portraying religion go way beyond Islam and Muslims
When President Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday in his first visit to a mosque during his presidency, he issued a sharp rebuke to the entertainment industry. “Part of what we have to do is to lift up the contributions of the Muslim-American community not when there’s a problem, but all the
In ‘Hail, Caesar!’ the Coens deliver a sly, delightful response to outrage culture
This piece discusses some of the plot of “Hail, Caesar!” though not the major twist, which deserves to be experienced with as little foreknowledge as is possible. I don’t know quite what I expected from Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Hail, Caesar!” other than gorgeous visual tributes to a prior age of Hollywood and the delights
‘The Hateful Eight’ is only as misogynistic as history itself
It was with some amusement that I noticed the following disclaimer attached to the product description for a forthcoming series of action figures based on characters from Quentin Tarantino’s latest opus, “The Hateful Eight”: “These action figures are intended to be representations of their movie counterparts, and should not be construed as social or political
The ‘funniest thing’ Adam McKay has ever heard? Hollywood is liberal.
Adapting “The Big Short,” Michael Lewis’s dense book about the housing bubble and financial crisis, for the big screen ought to have been an impossible task. But Adam McKay, whose always slyly political comedies have become blunter as the years have gone on, pulled it off, making a movie that, believe it or not, is


It’s time for the NFL to invite Janet Jackson back to the Super Bowl
During Sunday night’s Super Bowl halftime show, the producers flashed back through the years of iconic musical performances. The 2016 Super Bowl was the 50th anniversary of the big game, and though in the early years the featured musical act tended to be a college marching band, popular music acts became a more consistent part of
‘Billions’ and ‘The Big Short’ ask queasy questions about wealth and virtue
With income inequality dominating the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and billionaire Donald Trump touting his fortune as evidence of his virtue on the stump in the Republican race, America is awash in difficult conversations about money. And in this environment, I’ve found myself returning to Adam McKay’s Oscar-nominated film about the financial crisis,

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