Food Critics and the Oscars: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Bebeto Mathews / AP

Who Gets to Be a Restaurant Critic?
Navneet Alang | Eater
“Most food criticism is defined by a single word: should. It is almost impossible to encounter a review that doesn’t either explicitly or implicitly judge what is on a plate by a standard of what should be: whether cacio e pepe is sufficiently al dente, tonkotsu ramen broth unctuous enough, or a late-night bistro appropriately lit. This is of course true of all kinds of criticism. But food in particular tends to locate its ‘should’ in generally absolutist calls to authority, whether that is authenticity (is this how they make it?), tradition (is this how they used to make it?), or, more generously, the coherence of a chef’s vision (is this what she truly wants to make?).”

What We Lose When We Give Awards to Men Like Casey Affleck
Sady Doyle | Elle
“The standard objection to excluding men like Affleck, Polanski, or Gibson from the entertainment industry is that it's ‘philistine’; excluding any great artist means we get less art, and anyway, penalties should be dealt out by courts, not bosses. Yet as Affleck becomes more successful, he becomes more of a financial asset to the people he works with—meaning they're more inclined to protect him and less inclined to give his accusers a fair hearing, because dealing justly with the accusations will endanger the bottom line.”

When Joan Didion Visited the South
Christian Lorentzen | Vulture
“Casting the South as a foil for the West, Didion is seeking out a counter-America unleveled by defense contractors, agribusiness, and corporate media. ‘I guess you think southerners are somewhat anachronistic,’ an old friend had told her, and there’s something wishful about her sense of the South as a beacon for the American future. There’s also something circumscribed about her interactions with Southerners.”

Why Get Out Is the Best Movie Made About American Slavery
Steven Thrasher | Esquire
“Peele doesn’t allow white liberals to view the theft of black bodies in a faraway frame of an Antebellum Southern plantation, nor to blame crude Trump supporters. Instead, Get Out blames the theft on contemporary, Northern white Obamaniacs. American liberalism, not just Trumpism, continues to make race by way of bodily theft.”

Love, Life, and Loss: Reflecting on the Process of Sampha
Lynette Nylander | i-D
“Working with Kanye West and seeing the confidence he had in his work gave Sampha the confidence to begin work on Process. Written over the course of two years, Sampha wrote 40 songs before, ‘like chipping at an ice block,’ he whittled them down to a succinct 10 tracks. His lyrics are never literal, they instead tell a story within a story, building on layered metaphors and abstract sonography to emotionally capture your heart from the very first beat.”

How Emmanuel Carrère Reinvented Nonfiction
Wyatt Mason | The New York Times Magazine
“Questions of right and wrong, of kindness and cruelty, of good and evil, animate literary history, so much so that it would be difficult to find a lasting work of narrative art that doesn’t engage, in some essential way, with how we behave and what makes us behave as we do. Carrère’s case has become notable in that history because of how differently he has posed those questions.”

Future Shock at the Met?
Andrea K. Scott | The New Yorker
“Maybe the timing of the announcement of Campbell’s resignation is fitting. This isn’t news about art, after all; it’s news about money and back-channel politics, and about a storied institution having turned a blind eye to the art of its time for too long, which ensnared that institution in its own game of catch-up.”

How the Oscars Flub Demonstrated the Limits of Black Graciousness
Bim Adewumni | BuzzFeed
“Michelle Obama’s incredibly succinct and quotable election season sound bite ‘when they go low, we go high’ is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we have that grace, the kind that elevates us to a relatively higher plane of existence, where transgressions are borne and shaken off so we can continue to glide through life. But in reality, the most apt retort to that well-meaning and almost superhuman exhortation came from the writer Kashana Cauley: ‘When they go low, we lower the bar.’”

In Defense of Cultural Criticism in Trump’s America
Josephine Livingstone | The New Republic
“Another bad approach to the arts under extreme conditions is the philosophy of escapism. Transportation via art—film, painting, novel—always has its place. The word ecstasy derives from the idea of standing outside oneself. Ecstatic experiences of art are necessary for our survival. But in times of fear and uncertainty the consumer of art can become a consumerist.”

Hndrxx Is the Best Drake Album Future Ever Made
Micah Peters | The Ringer
Hndrxx is a very Drake album indeed — from the sultry, overcast production right on down to the damn, actions really do be having consequences revelations about relationships. But let’s be 1,000 percent clear: This is not an album Drake could’ve made.”