Film

Awardsmania, PopMatters-Style: Statuesque Begins Today

PopMatters is pleased to present our first-ever blog dedicated to covering awards races of all stripes: Statuesque.

PopMatters is pleased to present our first-ever blog dedicated to covering awards races of all stripes: Statuesque. We will discuss those candidates that we believe are worth a second look, as well as check out all of the major races as the film world's annual clamber for the gold begins, and the favorites -- and the failures -- begin to become clearer.

Our correspondents will argue passionately for their favorites, assess the trail of statues leading up to the holy grail of Oscar during film awards season, and of course compile an endless amount of lists in order to guide you toward's the season's finest gems (hint: there's a lot of good stuff missing from the overall conversation and we're here to highlight it!).

The impulse behind starting this venture was a shared love of the awards season and it's rich history, so below is one of our favorite Oscar moments: A true legend, Barbara Stanwyck took to the stage after many unsuccessful acting nominations as her film career began to come to an official end. Holding her statuette, she recalled acting with William Holden, who had recently died, and who had once saved her from being fired from a movie called Golden Boy. "He always wished that I would get an Oscar," she said choking back tears as the trophy gleamed. "And so tonight my golden boy, you've got your wish."

This emotional tribute from movie star to movie star is the stuff that Oscar dreams are made of, chief amongst the reasons we keep watching and coming back for more, hoping for one of those historic, triumphant moments to come around again, where the stars align to truly reward the best of the best.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

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Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

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South Pole Station is an unflinching yet loving look at family in all its forms.

The typical approach of the modern debut novel is to grab its audience's attention, to make a splash of the sort that gets its author noticed. This is how you get a book deal, this is how you quickly draw an audience -- books like Fight Club, The Kite Runner, even Harry Potter each went out of their way to draw in an audience, either through a defined sense of language, a heightened sense of realism, or an instant wash of wonder. South Pole Station is Ashley Shelby's debut, and its biggest success is its ability to take the opposite approach: rather than claw and scream for its reader's attention, it's content to seep into its reader's consciousness, slowly drawing that reader into a world that's simultaneously unfamiliar and totally believable.

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