Long-time readers know that one of our regular features is best picture predictions. This year we went 8/10, guessing that “Invictus” would be the apartheid movie nominated (it wasn’t; “District 9” was), and that “The Hangover” would be the movie picked to tell the mainstream, “Hey–we’re still cool” (it wasn’t; “The Blind Side” was). Since I just defended the melodrama yesterday, it will sound rather hypocritical of me to attack the selection of “The Blind Side,” but….there’s no reason that this movie should have been nominated for Best Picture, and its inclusion can only be considered as another attempt by dandified cosmopolitans to embrace tea party values.

Now, I like Sandra Bullock; “Speed” is easily one of the best action movies of the ’90s, and “The Net” truly captured the potential pratfalls of the internet age and our subsequent loss of privacy. I’m glad she was nominated for an Academy Award for leading actress since she clearly elevated what would have been a poor man’s “The Express” into a cultural phenomenon. But I can’t escape the feeling that one of three not-very-good-reasons led to TBS’ nomination: 1) academy members don’t watch enough movies to vote fully informed; 2) Hollywood is patting itself on the back for continuing to recycle plots and further their dominance of archetypal mythology; 3) An ill-founded embrace of populism.

Nominating “The Blind Side” is like Obama’s bank tax: you can defend it as smart policy given the circumstances, but the timing suggests an appeal to crowds for the sake of an appeal to crowds. Will more people watch the Oscars now? Probably–though the inclusion of movies like “Inglourious Basterds,” “Up,” and “Avatar” would have helped anyway. The Academy seems to be going full-press, hoping that a turn to big box-office films will salvage the midterms.

Blog stats are always depressing. Posts that make serious statements on the world around get little traffic, while those that are entirely inconsequential and happen to mention porn stars or cartoon redheads get loads of traffic (see here if you’re interested in la royaume des gros seins, Brandy Taylor, and here for posts about her cartoon counterpart, Jessica Rabbit).

Yet knowing this didn’t quite prepare me for the fact that the top post on YS today is Mandrake’s “2008 Watch: Why Barack Obama Will Not Be President,” a humor piece written about a year ago. There’s nothing serious about the piece, it’s more an assemblage of witticisms and not-quite witticisms. Nor is there anything topical about it; the jokes are a year old, and it’s premise is bunk.

Of course, that doesn’t stop people from googling “Barack Obama is not president,” or “obama not president,” and being sent here. I’m really not sure what these people expect to find. I don’t have proof that he’s not president, nor do I think that proof exists. On the contrary.

I love conspiracy theories. But even if you don’t believe he’s eligible to be president, he was still inaugurated. And even if today was nothing but simulacra, it was pretty good simulacra, at least third order, to the point where it doesn’t matter any more. The reality and fictionality of this situation would have merged and he’d still be our president. No, not even YS at our most Baudrillardian will endorse an Obama not president hypothesis.

So for those hoping to make YS an imagined community of Obama denialdom: sorry. He is our president and hopefully will be for a long time.

In the article “The New Yorker, a Magazine or a Club?” from Nouveaux Fragments du Puzzle American, written before a time when playboyclubhef.jpgcommunities were imagined, the author comes to the conclusion that though there is no such thing as a New Yorker club, “we may say…that all The New Yorker readers…form a virtual community which is unimaginable in the case of Time, Newsweek, and New York Magazine, the other magazine with a similar name.” This virtual community is contrasted with Playboy, a magazine that actually opened clubs around the country and thus allowed its readers to occupy a physical space with real membership and privileges of membership. Few magazines would dare to open such a club today (although Hustler is giving it a go), but perhaps one should. Now is a season when popular discussion of a film is more likely to focus on its box office prospects than on its critical merits, and a time when Americans are conflicted about whether their tastes should be reactionary (e.g. 80’s revivalism, Books, Christopher Hitchens, Yesterday’s Salad, and/or Hilary Clinton) or radical (2010’s futurism, Amazon Kindle/Sony E-Reader, Notwithabangbutawhimper, the upcoming spin-off New New Salad, and/or Barry Obama Joe Biden). Only one magazine reflects this delicate balance b/w postironicsnark-ism and our latent critical sensibilities. It is a time when we all belong to the same club: Entertainment Weekly.

Lo, such is the genius of The Shaw Report! Every week EW exploits our demands for newness with its dogged pursuit of not only the new-it-thing but the new-five-minutes-ago-thing and the new-out-thing. True, some may argue that only the cyclical demands of fashion keep this from being overly dependent on binaries, but those naysayers fail to appreciate the intertextuality at play. Though billed as an innocuous go at pop-insouciance, EW recalls the Shaw Report, the British Mandate’s inquiry into the 1929 Arab Riots in Palestine with every printing. There is no justice in the world of popularity, just as there is no justice in the Levant.

EW has also been a place where struggling authors can have their work published. Not too long ago, the magazine took a chance on an upstart long-hand writer named Stephen King, and gave him a column. Sure, they stuck his feuilleton at the back of the magazine, but the fact remains they gave him a shot. Read the rest of this entry »