Alternative fact of the day: what if the sluggish, irritating, and impersonal experience of bureaucracy (from your local DMV to the IRS) is actually a centuries-long conspiracy by Republicans to undermine the popularity of big government? What if conservatives bred sleeper agents, like the Bene Gesserit of Dune, to populate all the ticket counters and administrative cubicles of America and inflict slow, heartless suffering on their fellow citizens for a hundred years, up to the point that we can hardly imagine government giving us anything but chest pain? What if, now, we’ll never truly recover what our government could have been?

In other news, the Oscar nominations came out, and here are my first thoughts on the major categories:

  • Best Picture: Mostly a good list though I am really disappointed that The Handmaiden isn’t here or anywhere else. Especially glad Arrival and Hell or High Water have the nods. This one will likely be the only place where Moonlight can upset La La Land, which I hope it does.
  • Best Actress: I haven’t seen Elle, but of the others I think Emma Stone has got to win it for simply flooring me in every scene with her presence. Natalie Portman didn’t have nearly as difficult of a role (but was very good in it), and Ruth Negga was charming but underutilized. Amy Adams seems to be missing but I think her role was relatively undemanding as well. I actually would have loved to see Hailee Steinfeld get a nod for Edge of Seventeen.
  • Best Actor: Given Ryan Gosling was the weak link of La La Land, I really don’t think he should win this. Denzel Washington was great in Fences, but this hands down needs to go to Casey Affleck for the most heartbreaking performance of 2016. I would have liked to see Tom Hanks replace Andrew Garfield on this list.
  • Best Director: I think Damien Chazelle will win this one as the visionary of the year. Park Chan Wook deserves to replace Mel Gibson here.
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: All of the nominees had excellent performances, with Michelle Williams pulling off the most in the shortest amount of screen time, but I think Viola Davis was the absolute stunner in Fences.
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: I actually think Mahershala Ali was sub-par compared to so many other great supporting actors in Moonlight, especially the final two actors, Andre Holland and Trevante Rhodes. Aaron Taylor-Johnson deserves the spotlight over Michael Shannon from Nocturnal Animals, and this would have been a great category to give Everybody Wants Some!! a nod for excellent acting, particularly Glen Powell. But of this list, I think Jeff Bridges should win it for Hell or High Water.
  • Best Foreign Film: Have only seen A Man Called Ove, but basically just frustrated that The Handmaiden was snubbed. I am looking forward to seeing Toni Erdmann and The Salesman.
  • Best Animated Feature Film: For me it’s got to be Zootopia. Surprised that Finding Dory is not on the list, as well as anime Your Name.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: For pure power, this one should go to Moonlight.
  • Best Original Screenplay: Almost certainly will go to La La Land, but I think Hell or High Water deserves it as well for some excellent dialogue.
  • Best Original Song: I do love Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, and would love to see him win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, but I think it’s likely the Oscar will go to La La Land for “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. I’m also disappointed that “Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street isn’t on here.
  • Best Original Score: La La Land will win (of course), but I actually was really impressed by the score from Jackie.
  • Best Cinematography: Jackie was snubbed here, along with The Handmaiden. I haven’t seen Silence, but otherwise I think Moonlight’s cinematography was far superior to La La Land.
  • Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book should probably win this one. As I’ve said before, I really didn’t enjoy the CGI characters in Rogue One. Kubo and the Two Strings has a well-deserved second nomination here.

Also, I just finished Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you love astrophysics, virtual reality (a la Ready Player One), alternative history (the only acceptable type of alternative fact), and political commentary at a universal scale, go read this. Extra points for being a fresh Chinese voice in the annals of sci-fi greats. Now I’m reading Anthony Doerr’s About Grace in time for his talk at Stanford in two weeks. So far it’s far inferior to All The Light We Cannot See, almost painstakingly so.

This Thursday night I’m heading home for a day at ESRI Learning Center followed by the first Chinese New Year back home in a long time. Hit me up if you’re in town over the weekend and want to catch up.


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