Trolling the Oscars: Why None of These Movies Deserve to Win Best Picture

Welcome to the internet, where all of my opinions are right. You know what’s so great about being able to log into a CMS account and self-publish my thoughts and ideas? No matter how I actually feel, everything I write online comes across as completely sincere and competent, even when the things I write are neither of those things! It’s a brave new world we’re living in, when tweets can be art and art can be criticized by any person with an idea for a clever hashtag. Naturally, it’s time to harness this power by showing you exactly why none of the nine nominees for Best Picture deserve to win a goddamn thing. Let’s go!

Amour

Oh, come on. You didn’t see Amour. You know how I know this? Because I didn’t see Amour. I didn’t see this movie because I could just call my grandparents and ask them to speak to me in French for two hours. At least the phone call would be free! And hey, maybe I’d get twenty bucks out of it or somewhere, whereas Amour would cost me at least thirteen dollars and bring with it a lot of emotional anxiety. Anyway, this movie should not win, but I kind of wish it would if only so I can quickly take screenshots of midwestern teenagers tweeting about how they don’t know what Amour is. That’s how blogging works!

Argo

Ugh, Argo. Argofuckyourself, indeed, Argo! The major point about Argo was that Ben Affleck can direct a movie, which comes as a surprise to literally no one because he has already directed two movies that people liked a lot. The other reason Argo was made was so Ben Affleck could take off his shirt in another movie. Oh, and you know another thing that sucked about Argo? The fact that none of the women in Argo were allowed to speak to each other on camera. Sorry, Clea Duvall; you get to be in a Big Motion Picture, but you may only open your mouth when in the presence of Victor Garber. And don’t you dare make eye contact with Ben Affleck! 

Beasts of the Southern Wild

I do love a movie with a precocious child as much as the next guy, but how awkward do you feel about the fact that some white people from New York City went down to New Orleans to make a movie about magical negroes? I’m surprised there weren’t any animated bears and foxes floating along the river, or that those giant titular beasts didn’t burst into "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." 

Django Unchained

This one is simple: Django Unchained should not win Best Picture because it is not Jackie Brown and Jackie Brown is the only Quentin Tarantino movie that deserves to win Best Picture. 

Les Misérables

A friend of mine described this movie with the following: "It was like in acting classes when one person started crying and then everyone else in class cried harder and louder and uglier." This is one of the few movies in which everyone was dead at the end and I thought, "You know what? I’m OK with this." That is until the ghost of Anne Hathaway showed up again with that chopped-off hair and sad dress, which made me depressed. I really hate that it’s a known fact that your apperance when you die is what you’ll look like in Heaven. Really sucks for people who get run over by trucks, huh? 

Life of Pi

Spoiler alert: Pi is the tiger, and the tiger is Pi, and the eggman is Paul, I think, and maybe we ought to remake Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band but with 3D CGI, but I’m getting distracted. Life of Pi is a cartoon movie for adults who are still making their way through Oprah’s Book Club.

Lincoln

Oh, I’m sorry, is this category called Best Way to Nap? Lincoln was terrible. Remember how fun TV miniseries used to be? They were long, yes, but they were campy as hell, had a lot of awkward sex not normally seen during primetime, and were stuffed with lots of recognizable people who were not really famous but still possessed a certain level celebrity that you’d still be excited if you saw them on the street. Lincoln was just a really expensive TV-miniseries, but without the sex. Or the fun. And with overwritten dialogue by Tony Kushner. I got a screener of Lincoln, and it’s best uses so far have been as a coaster and as a substitute for Ambien.

Silver Linings Playbook

I can’t for the life of me figure out why people love this movie so much. Is it because we’re so desperate to see Ben Stiller act in a dramatic performance that we could substitute in Bradley Cooper and just go with it? Is it because it’s nice to see Julia Stiles back in action? Is it because of Jacki Weaver saying "crabby snacks and homemades?" Is it because of Dancing With the Stars? Is it because As Good as It Gets was too subtle and we needed a subpar version of that to really hone in the idea of what mental illness is? Or is it because everyone is crazy? If everyone is crazy, no one is crazy. 

Zero Dark Thirty

JUST KIDDING! While you were all being emotionally waterboarded by the rest of what Hollywood had to offer, you guys completely missed the fact that this was the best movie of the year. Jessica Chastain! She could act circles around everyone else on this planet, and she wouldn’t be exhausted because she’s, like, a healthy vegan. And you know she’s on track for world domination. GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE. it doesn’t even matter if this loses to, say, Argo, because Kathryn Bigelow will have her revenge on all of you. Especially you, Ben Affleck. 

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Today We Are All Presidents

Traditionally, there are only three ways to celebrate Presidents’ Day: the first is to buy a new or certified pre-owned automobile. The second would be to sample the favorite cocktails of some former commanders-in-chief: for example, did you know Hoover was considered the inventor of the “Gibson” martini, which features onions instead of olives? The third choice: become president of your own life, for a day.

This can be accomplished in all sorts of ways. Maybe you send a revised budget proposal to the debt collector hounding you about those student loans. Or veto your boss’ latest policy change on time permitted for lunch, and issue an executive order making all the Girl Scout cookies in the break room fair game. No senate in the world would override that decision.

But because you’re not really the president, there are no checks on your political power! Go ahead, unilaterally arm yourself with staplers and spitballs before declaring war on the IT department—they’ll never see the preemptive strike coming. Afterward, enjoy the spoils of office-wide conquest and reward your allies with cushy, ornamental jobs—like “in-house efficiency consultant.” Then kick back and wait to be reelected!

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‘Argo’ Wins BAFTA for Best Picture, Best Director

While you were watching the Grammys, the BAFTAs, the U.K. version of the Oscars, was aired on BBC America. And hoo boy, what a mess of an awards show. I didn’t watch it, so I can only imagine the British humour happening all over the place, but I can tell you that I’ve got a pretty stiff upper lip this morning as I look at the list of winners. Argo won Best Picture and Best Director. Ben Affleck. The best director. Of the year! Ben Affleck is a better director than Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, et al. None of those chumps can possibly live up to the magnificent director Ben Affleck. Also, both Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain lost out to Emmanuelle Riva for Amour. Christolph Waltz won for Django Unchained, and Daniel Day-Lewis surprised no one when he won another award for Lincoln. And, of course, little Annie Hathaway likely annoyed people in England, too, with her insincerity upon winning Best Supporting Actress.

The full list of winners below, via EW.

Best Film: Argo
Best Director: Ben Affleck, Argo
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Best Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook
Best British Film: Skyfall
Best Film Not in the English Language: Amour
Best Animated Film: Brave
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Editing: William Goldenberg, Argo
Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Best Original Music: Thomas Newman, Skyfall
Best Make-Up & Hair: Lisa Wescott, Les Misérables
Best Visual Effects: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, Donald R. Elliott, Life of Pi
Best Production Design: Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson, Les Misérables
Best Sound: Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst, Les Misérables
Best British Debut: Bart Layton and Dimitri Doganis, The Imposter
Orange Rising Star Award: Juno Temple
Best Animated Short: The Making of Longbird
Best Live-Action Short: Swimmer

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This Is an Alexandre Desplat Appreciation Post

Best Original Score, for most, is one of those categories at the Golden Globes (and, by proxy, the Academy Awards) that you just kind of gloss over. Many of the same names cycle annually as nominees (John Williams, Gustavo Santaolalla, the Danna brothers, etc.) and it usually falls by the wayside to its more popular, eclectic cousin, Best Original Song, this weird and wonderful space responsible for Oscars for “Blame Canada” and Three Six Mafia (and a lot of snubs we found unfortunate). Last night, Mychael Danna, who scored the tigers-and-shipwrecks tale Life of Pi, took home the Globe for his lovely score, but today, we salute another workhorse of film composition.

You know who had a great year in award-fodder movies? Alexandre Desplat. Sure, Danna got the win and the Oscars love John Williams and biopics so the big one will probably go to Lincoln, and it’s just an honor to be nominated what are these awards anyway etc., but dude was pretty much killing it this whole time, and it was about time he got his own appreciation post.

 For sheer volume of work alone, all the writing and rehearsing and recording for three of the most acclaimed movies of 2012, as well as some others. Did he sleep at all? Did he remember to bathe? Or was he just so immersed in quickening the pulse of Argo armed with ouds and beats and some a cappella that would have been tacky in most places but worked here? Or was he too busy cultivating that stomach-dropping, ominous feel for Zero Dark Thirty, or giving Wes Anderson another earworm of a leitmotif for Moonrise Kingdom? A score is everything, and for three of the most celebrated filmmakers of the year and the three most celebrated films, there was only one composer for the job.

Desplat has been nominated five times for Best Original Score for the Oscars and has gone 1-for-6 with Golden Globes. This may not be his year, but he’s a winner in our hearts. Listen to some choice selections from Moonrise Kingdom, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty below.  

 

Which One of These Old White Guys Will Win Another Oscar?

Happy Oscar Nominations Day! Did you wake up early to watch Seth McFarland and Emma Stone announce the nominees? Can you think of a quirkier couple to do so? Here’s the run-down: they only bothered to come up with nine movies to nominate for Best Picture, they figured Kathryn Bigelow didn’t need any more nominations (probably because of Bridesmaids solving feminism or something last year), and Jessica Chastain with the Julliard degree is up against a nine-year-old. But most importantly: five old white men are gunning for another Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category. Who will it be?!

Will it be Alan Arkin, showing his range after winning for playing a grumpy, foul-mouthed grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine with his brilliant turn as a grumpy, foul-mouthed film producer in Argo? How about Robert De Niro, who in Silver Linings Playbook gave us the best performance of an old man with OCD tendencies since Jack Nicholson won for As Good As It Gets? Then there’s Philip Seymour Hoffman, who famously raised his voice and twisted his eyeglasses a few times for his Oscar-winning turn as Truman Capote, this time playing L. Rob Hubbard (basically) with his natural, deep voice in The Master. Or will it be Chrisoph Waltz, bringing levity and humor to the American slave trade in the same way he made it OK to finally laugh at—and with—Nazis.

Personally, I think it’s going to be Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln. You see, he sleeps with his black maid (spoiler alert, I guess, although I still refuse to see Lincoln). Remember when he won an Oscar for The Fugitive and said, “I don’t care,” right before Harrison Ford jumped out of that dam? That was a good movie. Hell, just give him another one. Who cares.

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Director’s Guild Award Nominations Fall Short

Well, the Director’s Guild nominations have come in, and they’ve proved to be entirely predictable. Not a surprise in the house. And that isn’t to say the directors nominated aren’t deserving and that their films don’t merit acclaim but come on, there are so many brilliant films being made and so many talented people at work, that although awards don’t mean everything, it’s just slightly disheartening to see the scope of praise be so narrow.

The nominees are:
Ben Affleck, Argo
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty

But aren’t we missing something? Sure, Django Unchained could have been about 40 minutes shorter, but Quentin Tarantino most definitely deserves accolades for his cinematic achievements. He knows how to craft something that’s universally entertaining while always staying true to his heavily-rooted obsessions and idiosyncrasies as a filmmaker, while coining his own take on an old genre. And what about David O. Russell? Silver Linings Playbook was a heartfelt and challenging film, and if we’re talking purely of directorial skill, he managed to get incredibly nuanced, passionate, and sincere performances out of his actors while crafting something wonderfully enjoyable. Um, not to mention P.T. Anderson for The Master, which was basically a master class on how to direct your actors and build a mise en scène.

I’m hoping the Academy Award nominations will provide a bit more excitement in terms of choices, but that’s always a toss up. The Director’s Guild Award winners will be announcement on Saturday, February 2nd at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

Stage and Screen Actor Lee Pace Talks Shop

Lee Pace had me at “Hello.” Or, rather, the film equivalent, which was 2006’s The Fall. Spectacularly strange and visually arresting, that movie made an instant devotee out of me. Though the tall, dark, and handsome actor had been in the biz for a few years prior to this weird and wonderful discovery, I’ve followed the 33-year-old’s trajectory ever since—and re-watched The Fall more than a few times.

Fast forward to 2012, which has been especially packed for Pace, featuring roles in Lincoln, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Indeed, it’s safe to say that he’s had a good year, especially considering all three titles hit theaters (for all intents and purposes) simultaneously. This triple whammy of sorts simply must bode well on the success scale. 

From indie flicks like A Single Man and Ceremony, to blockbuster franchises, this guy’s got that special something that attracts casting directors and keeps crowds captivated. Beyond the big screen, New Yorkers can currently catch Pace as Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini in Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, a play directed by Walter Bobbie with performances through January 13 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Age audiences are granted a backstage pass to listen in and look on, taking in behind-the-scenes goings-on during opening night of Bellini’s last opera, I Puritani, at the ThéâtreItalien in Paris. Part comedy, part drama, the two-and-a-half-hour-long performance paints a living picture of what it might have been like to be there. 

The charming and approachable Pace was sweet enough to take time before taking the stage recently to talk about a few things. From his privileged yet hectic career to memorable moments, from his stance on New York to his “heartthrob” status, Pace provides a refreshingly sincere look at his life. 

So, you’ve had a super busy year…
It has been a busy year. I’m really feeling it now that the year’s coming to an end. These movies came out this past month and now we[’re] doing eight shows a week [for Golden Age]. It’s been a lot of work, so I’ll to be looking forward to a quiet new year. But, it’s been great. It’s good to be busy. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. Good characters to play and good people to work with. There’s been a lot of that this year, so I couldn’t be more grateful.

Is there any reprieve during the holiday?
Theater schedules through the holidays are relentless. I guess I figured we’d still be doing eight shows a week, but it’s tough. There’s so many shows. But, it’s good. It’s a privilege to be able to do the show for people. That people want to come is awesome.  

Given your recent roster, are there any standout moments of 2012?
Shooting scenes with Steven Spielberg in the Congress (sic) [for Lincoln], that was pretty incredible. Big scenes, lots of extras, a couple cameras moving. You really feel like, Wow, I’ll remember this. It kinda doesn’t get better than this. Then, I went to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit for a couple months. To be on those sets, which [were] equally incredible, and to collaborate on and play a character that is the product of so many people’s imaginations—Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and the costume designers—[was] very, very special. 

Any funny stories that you recall?
Funny things happened, but I always forget them. I am such an idiot. 

[Laughs] Okay, any instances on stage where you feel compelled to burst out laughing?
We really like each other a lot. All of the guys [in Golden Age] shar[e] a dressing room. We have so much fun during the half hour, talking. Ethan Phillips is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he keeps us going all through the half hour, so there are times I’ll look at him on stage and remember a joke he told and I have a hard time not laughing. 

I can imagine. What’s it like portraying a real life character versus a fictional one?
Both Fernando Wood [of Lincoln] and [Bellini of] Golden Age are based on real men. You want to have a certain respect for who they were. You want to find a connection to the real person. Understand them from an actor’s point of view, which is different from a historian’s point of view and different from a writer’s point of view. 

For sure.
In Golden Age, it’s a character. It isn’t a biopic of Bellini. This is a work of art. Terrence McNally is using the character to tell a story. I see it as my job to connect the dots between Terrence and me and Bellini, who wrote this beautiful music. I tried to figure out what it was about him, who he was, the details. There’s so many things that go into making a character.

I bet. Your Bellini also displays distinct mannerisms, tending to twitch and putter a bunch…
[Laughs] Twitch and putter. I’ll remember that tonight when I’m twitching and puttering. [Laughs]

It’s not intended as an insult!
No, he is very twitchy and putter-y. Where I started with my research was listening to the music and really trying to understand that music and believe that that music was coming out of me, that I’d written it. Before I started, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to create something like that, to write music as complicated as this music. Just trying to get myself into that headspace, being backstage listening to it, that’s where I really started working out the physicality and how I moved. It kind of grew from that, so that the nervous energy finds its way into keeping the beat with the opera. He’s not a neurotic man. He’s concerned about how this artistic effort is going to be received by a discerning audience of people that he respects. He wants to do something that will be meaningful to them. It’s all about the music. He takes this opera that he has created extremely seriously. 

As you do your own work…
On the good days! No, I do. When you work with people like Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, you see how they take it seriously. It’s meaningful. They’re so talented. On set with Steven Spielberg, everyone felt how much that story meant to him, the story of the 16th president. Everyone on that set felt it and [was] inspired by it. And that’s how we all found ourselves on his page, because he’s inspiring. 

Wish I could have been there! So, theater versus film? Is there one you prefer?
They’re very, very different. I can’t say I prefer either one because I love both for different reasons. In film, you have very little time to get it right. And it’s not even about getting it right, because it’s important to let go of that way of thinking about it. You get what you get and move onto the next setup, onto the next scene. On stage, George C. Wolfe, who directed me in [the play] The Normal Heart, called it the actors’ revenge, because you have to step onstage every night and tell the story yourself. You just have to do it yourself. 

In a movie, you turn over your performance to the director and the editors to edit and to layer in sound and everything else that makes the performance emotional or funny or whatever. In theater, you have to land the jokes yourself. You have to understand what’s funny about it. You have to kind of feel the audience. What they’re about on any given night. With a movie, you don’t have that. You can’t do that. In The Hobbit, we can’t feel what the house is going to be like before we do it. 

Of course not. So, onto something still loftier, what’s been the greatest challenge of your career?
If I could name a challenge, it would be laughable compared to the challenges so many other people face. It’s the “funnest” job in the world. I guess the biggest challenge I could say these days is just taking it seriously. When you’re in your thirties, the parts get good for men. You get really interesting characters. That’s what I’ve noticed. Complicated men dealing with complicated things. Seeing that there’s so [much] more to investigate about the way people are, and communicat[ing] those things to an audience, that’s the challenge. You want [the] stories to be good and you want them to be truthful and that’s a challenge. 

Seeing as this is an NYC-centric outlet, where exactly are you based?
I’ve been living here while I do the play. But, I live outside the city now. I live up in the country. It was a new move. I’d lived [in New York City] for a long time, since I was 17. 

How do you like living off-island?
I like it a lot. I love New York City. I’ve spent my adult life in New York City. I have a really complicated relationship with New York City, as every New Yorker does. You can’t go through almost 15 years [here] and not have a complicated relationship with it. Part of that relationship is, I’m going to take a little break and live in the country. [Laughs]

I hear that. Lastly, any thoughts on being considered by some to be heartthrob, a sex symbol?
Oh god no. What does that mean? I have no comment about that. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s news to me. 

E-Voting Turns Out to Be a Mess for The Academy

In a shocking revelation, everything, in fact, is not easier when done online. This year, The Academy ventured down the e-voting route for the Oscars and apparently, everything is going swimmingly! Just kidding. Apparently, it’s a "disaster." It seems that Academy members, as wise as they are of course, are "forgetting or misusing passwords," claiming the passwords don’t work and are having general problems simply navigating the site. I mean, I was already planning on snoozing and/or drinking my way through this year’s Les Mis/Lincoln/The Hobbit sweep but I suppose this solidifies my plans.

The voting, which began on December 17th and will continue until the 3rd of January, is facing problems that are "worse than feared." Much like most self-created passwords, the Academy members were required to create one that, "must be no shorter than eight characters and no longer than 16; it must include at least one alpha and one numeric character; and it must include one special character, such as !, @, # or $," which apparently is so difficult, "it’s easier to break into the CIA." E-voting and the advancement of technology is great for efficiency and all but when "more than a few members don’t even have computers and/or know how to use the Internet," like, what the hell were you thinking? But you know, it’s just Hollywood after all—this isn’t a Presidential race. However, when billions of dollars go into these pictures a year, if there’s going to be a competition, it should be a fair one, right? 

Whatever, here’s the video Robert Evans had Mike Nichols shoot and direct of him in 1969 to help save Paramount with the promise of Love Story and The Godfather—which were nomniated for about a million Oscars between the two. Let’s just go back and live in that paper-balloted time.

Who Will Be Snubbed At Next Year’s Oscars?

We are knee-deep in Awards Season, and with this morning’s announcement of the Golden Globe nominations, it seems clear that we have a predictable Oscars race on our hands. Blah blah blah Lincoln Argo Zero Dark Thirty Silver Linings Playbook, blah blah blah Anne Hathaway Joaquin Phoenix Jessica Chastain Daniel Day-Lewis. Every year there are a handful of folks who seem to go unnoticed in the wake of the heavy-hitters and the PR campaigns behind those bigger, obvious Oscar-baiting movies. Here’s a list of actors who are worth a second look. 

Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild

An audience favorite over the summer, the film has probably suffered in the awards race because it was released so early in the year. (If it’s on DVD by Christmas, odds are the academy will ignore it.) Sure, "independent movies" seem to do well at the Oscars, but… HA HA HA, just kidding. What, did you think it’s the ’90s all of a sudden? This scrappy little favorite is full of surprising turns from unprofessional, untrained actors, and, let’s face it, they’ve handed out enough awards to people of color in the last few years, so you should expect the five nominees for Best Actor to be from movies like Argo, The Master, Lincoln, et cetera. It’s a shame, however, because Henry’s performance broke my heart. Let’s just hope he continues with this late-in-life acting career and shows up in a few more movies.

Kirsten Dunst, Bachelorette

Let’s face it: Kirsten Dunst should have been nominated last year for her brilliant and dark role in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Luckily, that setback didn’t stop her. As Regan, a viciously mean maid of honor, Dunst made a welcome return to the world of comedy. What Bachelorette offered, compared to other female-driven comedy, was an underlying meanness and bite and is woefully lacking (see, for example, Bridesmaids, which received accolades for its gross-out humor rather than its believability). Writer-director Leslye Headland examined more about wedding culture and modern womanhood in an hour and a half than most people (both men and women) can fit into two hours. Holding it all together, though, was Dunst’s pitch-perfect combination of toughness and vulnerability, a combination not usually seen so openly on film. 

Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Films made for and about teenagers are rarely any good. Even those John Hughes movies from the ’80s were more goofy than serious (with the exception, possibly, of The Breakfast Club). I was dubious about The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but was really blown away with writer-director Stephen Chbosky’s ability to translate his novel. The film treats its characters like adults rather than patronizing them. Miller’s Patrick could have easily filled the Manic Dream Pixie Gay role—existing solely to bring the main character “out of his shell” by way of flamboyance and zingers. Instead, Perks allows its audience to see Patrick as a three-dimensional character by bringing out his own frustrations and needs. Miller delivers an astounding performance so early in his career that deserves to be recognized at next spring’s ceremony.

Ann Dowd, Compliance

It’s no surprise that middle-aged actresses are pigeonholed into supporting roles that lack any real substance. It’s even worse for character actors who don’t fit into the mainstream ideal of a leading lady. Compliance’s Ann Dowd, who has a long career of smaller roles in big movies (see if you can spot her in films like Philadelphia and Garden State), finally received great notice for Craig Zobel’s meditation on human behavior, earning a Best Supporting Actress award from the National Board of Review and a nod at the Independent Spirit Awards. Will she squeeze it alongside names like Helen Hunt and Anne Hathaway at the Oscars? It’s possible, but it seems unlikely. 

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