Oscars and dystopian design 

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Cinema is a lot of fun but it doesn't feel like it will save the world. Abstract: The Art of Design might, because design dictates our relationship with the world around us. A mix of creativity and humanity, design affects almost every aspect of life — from the homes we live in to the shoes we wear to almost everything our eyeball sees that isn't a rock, tree, lake or glacier. Design is everything, and yet good design seems so natural we usually don't even notice it. Until we do, and after bingeing on Netflix's newest series it's hard not to be at least a bit optimistic about the future.

Abstract: The Art of Design follows eight different designers as they reflect on past successes and work towards the next. With episodes on photography, typography, automobile design, and Air Jordan shoe dynasty mastermind Tinker Hatfield, the series is diverse, but has enough commonalities running throughout that binge-watching will add extra value.

There is a certain (geekier) demographic who will love this series (we also went ape-shit for Gary Hustwit's Design Triology) but even the surliest viewer will be drawn into the charisma of Platon Antoniou, the photographer who has shot every important world figure of our time, from presidents to celebrities to conflict victims in the Congo. How do you tell Vladimir Putin or Moammar Gadhafi to tilt his head to the left and look like he means it? Platon knows.

The most optimistic episode features the innovative creations of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. With private gardens and crazy angles, his apartment blocks resemble the floating human oasis we see in dystopian sci-fi flicks like Wall-E or Prometheus. Ingels' stuff is great because we know the Earth is gonna reject us sooner or later, but his designs make it look like some of us (the privileged) may just survive long enough to see the rebuild.

At the Village 8 this week, Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck as a brooding Boston janitor who loses his brother and has to return to his smalltown home to deal with a grim past, while also dealing with his new role as the sole guardian of his bro's son. It's Oscar bait (Affleck is the front runner for Best Actor, and there is Best Picture talk), but it's also a pretty damn good film. Matt Damon is listed as a producer on this one, and Oscar handicappers may wonder if the critical panning of The Great Wall might play a role with voters (like that time Eddie Murphy shoulda won an statue for Dreamgirls, but Norbit was in theatres the whole time). Hollywood loves new money though, and The Great Wall draws a direct line into all that Chinese movie money... so maybe Damon gets a pass?

The Oscars pop off this weekend (Feb. 26). Here are some guesses:

Best Picture

La La Land will probably take it (even though it's a film about work/money over love) but it should probably go to Moonlight.

Best Actresss

Almost always the tightest race, but I say give it to Emma Stone, so someone from Superbad has one (Jonah Hill is 0-2).

Animated Feature

Kubo is better, but Zootopia takes it this year.


Did Hollywood's hard-on for one-shot takes climax with Birdman? Even if it didn't, La La Land's old-school look will sucker them in.

Original Screenplay

I prefer both Manchester by the Sea and Hell or High Water over La La Land, but the smart money is on the musical.

Production Design

La La Land wins again, but Hail, Caesar! was better.

Visual Effects

The Jungle Book wins. Kubo and the Two Strings was nominated here as well for Best Animated Film for the seamless mix of papercraft stop-motion and computer animation. But that monkey king with Christopher Walken's eyes is hard to beat.

Best Foreign Film

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is likely unable to attend the 2017 Oscars due to U.S. President Donald Trump's stupid Muslim travel ban, but hopefully that won't stop voters from awarding his The Salesman a statue.

Best Original Song

Please gods, anything but that Justin Timberlake earworm puke-fest from the Trolls movie. If that wins, humanity is doomed and all the Design in the world won't help.


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