Joyce Carol Oates sure tweets a lot about the Fabelmans

He Blond The author has become Twitter’s most staunch critic of Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Photos: Getty Images

Joyce Carol Oates has decided that she should be a film critic. Not professionally, of course. At 84, she still publishes a novel almost every year, with her latest, 48 clues about my sister’s disappearance, arriving in March. No, instead Oates has become a pro bono critic on Twitter, where tastemakers and trolls are on display in perfect disharmony. People strive to make a living in this line of work, but she’s giving away her brainpower for free.

A small sampling of the film-related shots Oates is dishing out to his 224,000 followers: He recently called out Hitchcock overrated” because his movies feel too contrived. Everything everywhere at once is he “more tedious” Y “the worst pretentious movie” she has ever seen. She accused Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise of being “misunderstood” in it “worked, tenseEyes wide Shut. kill bill is “Very foolish,” Johnny guitar is “just awful“, The end of Taxi driver is “ragged,” empire of light Features Olivia Colman better roleY Not is uninspired.

These opinions are just that: opinions. They are valid and sometimes elegantly expressed, which is admirable given that she is as prolific a Twitterer as she is a novelist. But in recent weeks, Oates seems to have taken her opposition to a whole new level over a specific movie. Since Christmas, she has tweeted at least a dozen times about her distaste for Steven Spielberg’s work. The Fabelmans. Many Twitter addicts agree that saying something once just doesn’t work, but this is unusual volume even for her.

In fact, Oates has involved all of Spielberg’s filmography, saying that “it pushes[s] on the ribs repeatedly, to make sure you haven’t missed the point. (A rich argument from the author of Blonda semi-fictional account of Marilyn Monroe that emphasizes, with excruciating frankness, just how troubled and relatively joyless the Hollywood legend’s life could have been).

Does Oates have a vendetta against Spielberg, whose film rivals Andrew Dominik’s polarizing adaptation of Blond in the ongoing Oscar race? (Some forecasters thought Ana de Armas could evict The FabelmansMichelle Williams from the shortlist, but they were wrong: Both women made the cut on Tuesday. Oates retweeted someone demanding that she congratulate of arms.) Or has Oates simply been bombarded by Twitter like so many of us, convinced that her thoughts should be heard all day and every day?

Puck, a website that covers Hollywood and other institutions of power, called Oates’ apparent rancor “the biggest Oscar surprise this season.” I asked a Netflix awards strategist if anyone associated with Blond encouraged Oates to tweet about The Fabelmans, but did not respond. When I asked his publicist at HarperCollins if Oates would elaborate on his feelings for Spielberg and if his tweets were meant to draw attention to BlondOscars, said she was not available for comment.

anti-fabelmans crusade started on December 26 when he wrote: “The Fabelmans It’s certainly an amazing movie… not as much as the reviews indicate. It’s almost aggressively slow and irresolute; Serious issues resolved as in sitcom. ugliness of antisemitism neatly resolved. determined to be a ‘feel good’ movie for the holidays(?)”. It’s okay, sure. She may be in the minority, but Oates isn’t the only one who doesn’t like her. The Fabelmansand his assessment is as fair as any other.

But since then, Oates has gone on a tirade. She called The Fabelmansremarkably mediocre” and compared it to “a made-for-TV sequence of scenes with over-the-top acting” and “stupid dialogue”. The only scene she liked was the one with David Lynch playing John Ford, although at least we can all agree that is best scene More than once, he has criticized Spielberg’s choice to have his teenage avatar, Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), humanize (or at least manipulate perceived humanity) an anti-Semitic thug in the graduation day movie. what does it do about The Fabelmans End. This is a turning point for Sammy, the pivotal moment when he realizes that a director has the power to reinterpret reality. But rather than see it as a complex way for the character—and Spielberg, by extension, given the film’s memoir backstory—to cope with difficulties, Oates saying turned the filmmaker into a “slavish sycophant.”

Spielberg’s skepticism of Oates did not begin with The Fabelmans, any. She anticipated “missteps” in its West Side Story remake months before its release, and in 2018 said a photo of Spielberg in front of an animatronic dinosaur at the Jurassic Park set was a “barbaric” reflection of how badly the world needs “conservation laws”. she then told him news week that the latter was a joke, but how were we to know? Oates’ Twitter feed will tell you that he hardly ever jokes.

All of this has made Oates’s online persona resemble a cartoon from Film Twitter. Every now and then someone tweets about how Spielberg (or Hitchcock or Scorsese or Wes Anderson or *insert any acclaimed filmmaker here*) is so overrated, implying that anyone who likes that person’s work is subject to zombified groupthink. If you enjoy the engagement that inflammatory tweets invite, I guess it’s hard to stop doing them.

But the author also shares many opinions favorable to Film Twitter: she loves Andrei Tarkovsky, Luis Buñuel, blue velvet, The pianoand the casting of Meryl Streep in the next season of Only murders in the building. Oates doesn’t think of his tweets as “set in stone,” as he told Bustle. last year. “It’s more like you’re talking, like you’re talking to your friend on the phone. It always amazes me when someone cares.”

If only he had been talking to a single friend on the phone instead of 224,000 strangers on the internet when he tweeted, for example, that people in Mississippi don’t read. As for Oates’ Spielberg comment, it’s as self-aggrandizing and short-lived as anything on Twitter. But after six decades of dark and bold books that made her a literary lion, a side job as the most banal form of train wreck modern society has to offer, the hyperonline troll, feels like a step down.

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