Quote for the Day: March 6th, 2022

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

120 Nominations. 23 Categories. 53 Films. One Big Night.

Did I really go through all of the nominations for this year’s Oscars to figure out which films received the most nominations? I did. This year, 53 different films have been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their cinematic excellence.

One question I ponder quite often when it comes to film is, “What separates a good film from a great film? A great film from an epic film?”

One question I ponder quite often when it comes to film is, “What separates a good film from a great film? A great film from an epic film?” Some of it boils down to personal taste, yes, but most cinephiles (yours truly included) would argue there are certain elements which comprise any film worth its stock, pun very much intended. The first and most important of these elements is cohesiveness. All the parts of a film must work in conjunction with one another to tell a certain story. You can have a great script but it’s worthless if you have mediocre actors reciting lines from it. You can have GOATs like Meryl Streep acting in your movie but if your script is subpar, no amount of Streeping will save it.

For me, a great film is a film where everything is not only in balance but complementary. There’s subtlety, nuance, and most important of all—craft.

For me, a great film is a film where everything is not only in balance but complementary. There’s subtlety, nuance, and most important of all—craft. A great actor can make you experience several different emotions in the same scene. A great set can transport you back through time. A great cinematographer can transcend time and space to make you see things in ways you’ve never seen them before. A score, crafted just so to ebb and flow within a film’s narrative, can emphasize elements that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

An epic film not only has all of the elements of a great film, but a certain je ne sais quoi that elevates it above the pack, that makes it timeless. An epic film is larger than life even when the story it’s telling is small in scope.

And an epic film? An epic film not only has all of the elements of a great film, but a certain je ne sais quoi that elevates it above the pack, that makes it timeless. An epic film is larger than life even when the story it’s telling is small in scope. It has a universality that makes it resonate with people from all walks of life, from all places and all times. When I think of epic films, I think of The Godfather. The Wizard of Oz. Gone with the Wind. Sunset Boulevard. Titanic. All of these have elements working in conjunction with one another, and all have not a small amount of magic cooked in for good measure. They quite possibly will outlast time, and rightfully so.

See below for a list of all the films nominated for an Academy Award this year. The number in parentheses beside each film indicates how many nominations it has received this Oscars season.

  • The Power of the Dog (12)
  • Dune (10)
  • Belfast (7)
  • West Side Story (7)
  • King Richard (6)
  • Don’t Look Up (4)
  • Drive My Car (4)
  • Nightmare Alley (4)
  • Being the Ricardos (3)
  • CODA (3)
  • Encanto (3)
  • Flee (3)
  • Licorice Pizza (3)
  • The Lost Daughter (3)
  • No Time to Die (3)
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth (3)
  • Cruella (2)
  • The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2)
  • Parallel Mothers (2)
  • tick, tick…Boom! (2)
  • The Worst Person in the World (2)
  • Affairs of the Art (1)
  • Ala Kachuu – Take and Run (1)
  • Ascension (1)
  • Attica (1)
  • Audible (1)
  • Bestia (1)
  • Boxballet (1)
  • Coming 2 America (1)
  • Cyrano (1)
  • The Dress (1)
  • Four Good Days (1)
  • Free Guy (1)
  • The Hand of God (1)
  • House of Gucci (1)
  • Lead Me Home (1)
  • The Long Goodbye (1)
  • Luca (1)
  • Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (1)
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines (1)
  • On My Mind (1)
  • Please Hold (1)
  • The Queen of Basketball (1)
  • Raya and the Last Dragon (1)
  • Robin Robin (1)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (1)
  • Spencer (1)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (1)
  • Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (1)
  • Three Songs for Benazir (1)
  • When We Were Bullies (1)
  • The Windshield Wiper (1)
  • Writing with Fire (1)

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, on March 27th, 2022.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Review: We Need to Talk About Cosby (2022); Directed by W. Kamau Bell

We Need to Talk About Cosby (2022); directed by W. Kamau Bell

I just finished watching W. Kamau Bell’s documentary miniseries We Need to Talk About Cosby. In it, Bell sits down with multiple people to discuss the life, legacy, and impact of Bill Cosby, and how his status as a convicted rapist alters his image for the millions of people who have loved and admired him. Bell’s interviewees include several of Cosby’s survivors, including Victoria Valentino, Lili Bernard, and Lise Lotte-Lublin; public intellectuals, cultural commentators, educators, and experts in various fields such as Marc Lamont Hill, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Kliph Nesteroff, Barbara Ziv, and Sonalee Rashatwar.

The Huxtables epitomized Black excellence for an entire generation of Americans. For Black people, they were a validation—they represented what was possible despite hundreds of years of systemic oppression and white supremacy.

At this point, after more than 60 women have come forward to credibly accuse Bill Cosby of rape and sexual assault, it would be intellectually dishonest, as well as morally reprehensible, for anyone to make attempts at character rehabilitation for Cosby. Like many people, I grew up watching The Cosby Show. I thought the Huxtables were funny, relatable, and cosmopolitan in a way that was accessible. Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable were people you wanted to know, whose approval you craved. Cliff was a reputable OB-GYN. Clair was a successful attorney. Their Brooklyn Heights brownstone was spacious yet cozy, with plenty of room for their boisterous and growing family. The Huxtables epitomized Black excellence for an entire generation of Americans. For Black people, they were a validation—they represented what was possible despite hundreds of years of systemic oppression and white supremacy.

They were Black and proud, but Black and proud in a way that was safe and palatable for white audiences.

They were sorely-needed representation on a screen that for too long had only shown one narrow-minded facet of Black existence. They weren’t telling a story of poverty or struggle or overcoming inequality. They weren’t caricatures or stereotypes. They were Black and proud, but Black and proud in a way that was safe and palatable for white audiences. For white people, the Huxtables provided a blueprint for connecting with Black people without having to contend directly with all of those messy racial feelings.

…he was someone who effected real change for Black people not just in the entertainment industry but in the wider public imagination, the collective consciousness of all Americans.

Now, I won’t pretend to have had the same feelings of admiration for Cosby that legions of Black folks had and that some may still have, because for people in the Black community he was more than just a symbol or an icon; he was someone who effected real change for Black people not just in the entertainment industry but in the wider public imagination, the collective consciousness of all Americans. His evocation of a Black family was one that resonated with audiences of all races, which is one of the reasons The Cosby Show was such a ratings success. It was so successful, in fact, that in addition to making Bill Cosby a household name, it also catapulted NBC from being the number three broadcasting network in America to being number one. Everyone wanted to watch the Huxtables, except of course for the women Bill Cosby was drugging and raping.

There’s lots of cringing, yes, and more than the occasional grimace. But there’s also lots of laughter and guarded smiles, covered up by hands clamped quickly over mouths. The lingering laughter Cosby is still able to elicit is accompanied by a powerful feeling of complicity and shame. The laughter, breaking through uninvited, makes you feel like a coconspirator in Cosby’s violent pathology.

Throughout the four-part docuseries, Bell intermittently has his interviewees watch clips of bits from Cosby’s stand-up shows or from episodes of The Cosby Show and then focuses in on their reactions. There’s lots of cringing, yes, and more than the occasional grimace. But there’s also lots of laughter and guarded smiles, covered up by hands clamped quickly over mouths. The lingering laughter Cosby is still able to elicit is accompanied by a powerful feeling of complicity and shame. The laughter, breaking through uninvited, makes you feel like a coconspirator in Cosby’s violent pathology. I found myself laughing hysterically at one clip featuring a now-famous conversation between Dr. Cliff Huxtable (Cosby) and his teenage son, Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). Theo is expressing his feelings of helplessness and agitation at not being able to measure up to the academic achievements of his doctor-father and lawyer-mother. On the surface, the scene is tender and heartwarming, because you think Theo’s plea to have his father’s unconditional love and acceptance will result in Cliff’s capitulation. Instead, Cliff tells Theo that’s the dumbest thing he’s ever heard and reiterates to Theo their expectations of him, which will never be anything short of excellence.

Their image is a mirage, their likability the result of a series of clever parlor tricks. They seize on a narrative of their own virtue and repeat it long enough to believe it themselves.

How do you separate the icon from the monster? And better yet, should you want to? It is easy to see how Bill Cosby was able to get away with his crimes for so long, and in a way he is still getting away with them. He is incredibly charismatic, naturally funny, and lovable. Unless you know. And now we all know. Part of what makes predators like Cosby so dangerous is their inherent likability. They draw you in with an image, that of someone who is eminently trustworthy: a person of impeccable character. Just below the surface, though, and sometimes closer than that, is their truth. Their image is a mirage, their likability the result of a series of clever parlor tricks. They seize on a narrative of their own virtue and repeat it long enough to believe it themselves.

We were all too eager to believe his lies, and with them he damned us.

Bill Cosby is just one man in a long line of powerful men throughout history who have wielded their power, status, and wealth to subjugate, violate, and silence women simply because they could. In that he is not unique. What is unique about Cosby is the fact that he was able to fool so many of us for so long that the vague whispers of his true nature went unheard by the vast majority of us. The clues are there, though. They’re in his comedy tapes and late-night talk show appearances. We were all too eager to believe his lies, and with them he damned us. The truths of these women, however, must supplant any warm feelings of nostalgia that might be conjured when reevaluating Cosby’s legacy. We owe that to them. The least we can do is listen and believe, but we should all do more. Every story we hear of sexual violence should embolden us to stop rape culture in its tracks, to hold our leaders and legislators accountable for the policies they enact. Any silence on our part, once we know the truth, makes us no better than the perpetrator.

Any silence on our part, once we know the truth, makes us no better than the perpetrator.

One of the worst things about rapists, other than the fact that they exist at all, is that their victims inherit what they themselves rarely possess: shame. When they do feel shame, it is often for having been caught, called out, and held accountable for their behavior. The shame they experience is not tied to the suffering they have engendered but rather their failure in ensuring it never saw the light of day. You see, shame would be a powerful force for good if it were felt by the right people for the right reasons. Shame, if it manifested much differently than it so often does, would mitigate against humanity’s worst impulses. Murderers, rapists, colonizers, dictators, fascists—all of these people could do with a good dose of shame. But shame has no power as a preventative measure when the people who have these inclinations to do harm, to enact violence on other people, are without guilt. Guilt and shame are not the same thing. You can feel shame, which is a minimizing and ugly feeling, without feeling as if you have done anything wrong. Unfortunately, victims of sexual violence often feel guilt and shame, because our culture places the onus of violence on the shoulders of the victim. What was she wearing? How much had she had to drink? Doesn’t she have a reputation for being, well, slutty? Why was she out that late at night? She was asking for it. You know how she gets when she drinks. She’s so flirty, any man would think he had an open invitation. A couple of cocktails and she’s three sheets in the wind. And people wonder why women are afraid to speak out?

When they [rapists] do feel shame, it is often for having been caught, called out, and held accountable for their behavior. The shame they experience is not tied to the suffering they have engendered but rather their failure in ensuring it never saw the light of day.

We Need to Talk About Cosby asks more questions than it answers. It rejects the simple conclusions characteristic of less complicated narratives and instead interrogates the story of Bill Cosby within the larger framework of American history, specifically Black American history, in the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges us, the viewers, to look rape culture in the face and to hold abusers accountable. Even when they’re our heroes. Perhaps even especially then.

It challenges us, the viewers, to look rape culture in the face and to hold abusers accountable. Even when they’re our heroes. Perhaps even especially then.

Many people have asked whether it is possible to separate the art from the artist. Is it possible to find beauty in the artistic creations of bad men and insist, as some would try to, that they (the works of art) sprang fully-formed (decontextualized and pure) from the head of the aggressor? I think that’s the wrong question to ask. Here are two things that we know to be true: one, Bill Cosby revolutionized the entertainment industry for Black performers and effected positive change for millions of Black Americans who watched and loved him on The Cosby Show; and two, he spent decades grooming, drugging, assaulting, raping, and silencing women who trusted and admired him. These facts exist in tandem. They are uncomfortable, to be sure, but it benefits no one, least of all his survivors, to try to mitigate his crimes based on the success of his career. We do not make it to Heaven based on our best moments. Perhaps the most succinct and pithy summary of Cosby’s life and career is given by Renée Graham, an associate editor and opinion columnist for The Boston Globe. In one part of her interview with W. Kamau Bell, she says that Cosby is “a rapist who had a successful TV show”. At the end of the day, it is as simple—and complicated—as that.

These facts exist in tandem. They are uncomfortable, to be sure, but it benefits no one, least of all his survivors, to try to mitigate his crimes based on the success of his career. We do not make it to Heaven based on our best moments.

We Need to Talk About Cosby is currently airing on Showtime on Sunday nights at 10:00 PM EST. It is also available to stream on various platforms, including Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Amazon Prime Video.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: January 22nd, 2022

The Wizard of Oz (1939); directed by Victor Fleming

Oh, but anyway, Toto, we’re home. Home! And this is my room, and you’re all here. And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and – oh, Auntie Em – there’s no place like home!

Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz (1939); directed by Victor Fleming

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: January 17th, 2022

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: December 5th, 2021

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: December 4th, 2021

Kathy Bates (Evelyn Couch) and Jessica Tandy (Ninny Threadgoode) in a promotional shot for Jon Avnet’s Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). Fair use.

I found out what the secret to life is: friends. Best friends.

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991); directed by Jon Avnet

Fried Green Tomatoes is one of my favorite movies of all time. As far as films go its got a little bit of something for everybody: adventure, romance, melodrama, and even a murder mystery! The secret’s in the sauce, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. It was made for a paltry sum of just $11 million, and while that’s quite a loot haul for the likes of Joe Schmoe on Main Street, for Hollywood that’s chump change. It grossed more than ten times that amount and proved once again that American audiences love a well-told Southern yarn, especially when the acting is as stellar as it is in Fried Green Tomatoes. I mean, talk about an embarrassment of riches, to have Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, and Mary-Louise Parker all in the same film—and as leads, no less!

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Ruth 1:16 (KJV)

One thing that was never discussed among my family members when we watched the film together is the lesbian love story at the heart of the film. Now mind you, the onscreen depiction is chaste, but anyone with eyes can clearly see the sparks that fly and the deep love that grows and endures between Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker). There are even none-too-subtle nods to a queer couple from the Bible itself: Naomi and Ruth. Now, I’m not interested in getting into a historical-theological debate with anyone regarding the canonically gay biblical couple, but perhaps any naysayers reading this would like to check out this excerpt from The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships.

…anyone with eyes can clearly see the sparks that fly and the deep love that grows and endures between Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker).

The same-sex love story at the heart of the larger narrative is frequently straight-washed and written off as simply a superlative example of a great friendship, and it is a story of a great friendship, but it’s also the story of a marriage, one that never received the validation it deserved and was never allowed the public expression it warranted simply because the married people were both women. You can call it what you want but I will call it what it is: love. No one can rightfully condemn it.

You can call it what you want but I will call it what it is: love. No one can rightfully condemn it.

The film won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film — Wide Release, as well as Oscar noms for Tandy and the adapted screenplay written by Fannie Flagg (who wrote the novel on which the film is based) and Carol Sobieski. There’s so much inside of it (both the film and its source material) to unpack for anyone willing to search it.

I know that I frequently use these “quotes posts” as jumping-off points for whatever tangent I feel like exploring that day, and I really appreciate those of you who are always willing to follow the bread crumbs with me. You have my love and sincerest thanks forever.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 29th, 2021

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 by Adrienne Rich

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
elsewhere

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb disgraced goes on doing

now diagram the sentence


2007

© 2011 Adrienne Rich. Today’s poem is taken from Rich’s collection Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2011 and was nominated for the National Book Award for Poetry.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 28th, 2021

There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933), while frequently excluded from mention in conversations surrounding early twentieth century American poetry, was critically acclaimed and lauded by both her peers and the public alike during her lifetime. Her deeply personal and heartfelt poems charted the changing inner landscape of a woman living through one of the most turbulent periods in American history, and we would do well to re-examine her impact on her contemporaries as well as her successors. You can read more about her life and work here.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 25th, 2021

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

© 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye. “Kindness” originally appeared as part of Nye’s collection Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, which was published by Eighth Mountain Press in 1995.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.