The Best Oscar of Last Night Was the Screenplay Award for “Her”

Today presents a blogging problem: The news cycle is devoted almost entirely to events in Ukraine—as it should be—and I’ve already probably said more about this than I should. I don’t have any special expertise in the area, and I really hate the phenomenon of instant expertise that takes hold of pundits everywhere whenever something like this happens. I’m keenly aware of all the big underlying issues—Russia’s long cultural ties to Ukraine; the eastward spread of NATO and the EU; anti-Russian sentiment in Kiev; the weakness of Russia’s military; Putin’s one-note thuggishness; Ukraine’s endemic corruption and its internal fights over who gets to profit from the Russian gas trade; etc. etc.—and also keenly aware that a bare knowledge of all this stuff doesn’t really make me worth reading on the subject. For what it’s worth, I’ve already made a prediction that Putin will stop at Crimea because (a) the Russian army doesn’t have the strength to do much more, and (b) Putin isn’t willing to pay the price both in military and diplomatic terms for a broader intervention in eastern Ukraine. But I could be wildly wrong. Who knows?

So then, what should I write about today? I’m not sure, though I imagine that I’ll end up writing more about Ukraine despite everything I just said.

In the meantime, how about a nice Oscars thread? No? Oh come on. I’ll toss out a provocation to get everyone started: the best award of the night was the Best Original Screenplay win for Her. Not because it was my favorite movie of the year or anything, but because it was the first screenplay in ages that genuinely surprised me. Not in the sense of a last-minute twist that comes out of nowhere—that’s common enough—but in the sense of a narrative that shifted directions smoothly and naturally into something much more interesting than I thought it would be. The art of Hollywood screenwriting has deteriorated so badly that this doesn’t happen very often anymore. I won’t say more in case you haven’t seen the movie and still plan to, but feel free to discuss in comments.

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