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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# 7 great reads
Sitdown Sunday: Inside the competitive, cutthroat world of Oscar campaigning
Settle down in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. And the nominees are…

What does it take to be nominated for an Oscar? Meticulous planning, PR stunts, big budgets and a good strategist. This piece looks at what’s involved in campaigning for Academy Award glory.

(The New York Times Magazine, approx 20 mins reading time)

Oscar campaigns are often run by professional strategists, essentially a specialized breed of publicist. Their job begins as early as a year before the awards, sometimes before a film is even shot. They advise on which festival a film should premiere at, shape a campaign platform and hope that the film gains enough momentum to propel it into awards season. Sometimes several strategists work on a single film, and the war room of an Oscars campaign can grow to be as many as 10 or 20 people. All the stops along the campaign trail — screenings, events, other award shows — are an opportunity to workshop talking points and gauge the competition. And unlike the Golden Globes, which are voted on by 199 entertainment journalists, the Oscars electorate is a voting body of about 10,000 industry peers, which is nearly double what it was before the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that began in 2015.

2. One woman’s efforts to reform rape investigations

UK criminologist Betsy Stanko has spent the last two years conducting an investigation into the Metropolitan Police’s record on tackling sexual violence. This extraordinary piece explores what she found.

(The Guardian, approx 33 mins reading time)

What Stanko’s team found was alarming: investigations that focused on the victim (Was she drunk? Was she lying?); impossible workloads; inadequate training. The austerity years had seen an exodus of senior officers, and the new officers, most of them hired since 2020, had little understanding of how to investigate rape cases. In an interim report published in December 2022, Stanko’s team shared anonymised conversations with officers from four forces, including the Met. One recalled the junior colleague who asked a woman to swab herself vaginally, something that should be done by a forensic specialist; another said: “When a sexual offence job comes in, there’s almost like this panic of like, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’”

3. Reporting in exile

A look at how Russian journalists, who had to flee their country in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, are covering the conflict, and the distrust they face from the public.

(The New Yorker, approx 30 mins reading time)

TV Rain has a small studio and an adjacent room full of desks. A kitchen, which doubles as the makeup studio, connects to the Moscow Times. When I visited, Mikhail Fishman, who hosts a weekly current-affairs program, was recording his show. I last saw Fishman on March 1, 2022, TV Rain’s final day of regular broadcasting from Moscow. Afterward, Fishman and his partner, the Ukrainian-born journalist Yulia Taratuta, fled Russia with their four-year-old daughter, were denied entry to Georgia, spent a few weeks in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and then several months in Israel before landing in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam studio had recently been outfitted with TV Rain’s signature pink lighting and a new anchor desk. Fishman hadn’t realized that the camera would now see his feet; his black suède shoes looked worn and comfortable but not exactly telegenic.

4. Dyslexia 

How children with difficulty reading and writing in one language may not experience the same thing with another language, due to how our brain processes writing.

(BBC Future, approx 11 mins reading time)

Children with dyslexia typically struggle with that. They may not be able to say which sounds make up the word “hot”, how they differ from “hat”, and which word you get if you switch the “h” for a “p”. To this day, Alex (who prefers not to give his full name for privacy reasons) says he finds it hard to tell the difference between similar words such as “spear” and “spare”. He also finds reading aloud particularly tricky, as it involves an extra layer of phonological processing. That phonological difficulty is less of an issue in scripts with more picture-based characters, such as Japanese writing.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger

An in-depth profile of the man who has been Mr. Universe, the Terminator and the governor of California, as he looks back on his life after turning 75.

(The Atlantic, approx 36 mins reading time)

Emotionally, Schwarzenegger has always been a padlocked gym. But he’s felt a change lately, a more reflective shift. People close to him have noted a degree of openness, a desire to confide, that wasn’t present back when he was young and invincible. Schwarzenegger told me that he recently attended the premiere of the new Avatar film (directed by his old friend James Cameron) and found himself crying in the dark. Someone will tell a story and he’ll choke up out of nowhere. He asks himself: “Why did this have an impact on me today when it would have had none in the 1970s?”

6. Making the microchip

John Lanchester writes about the rise of the chip industry in Silicon and the so-called ‘chip wars’ between the US and China.

(The London Review of Books, approx 30 mins reading time)

Anyone with an interest in the history of technology will know who the first customer for new inventions tends to be. As the biophysicist Luca Turin once said to me, ‘the military are the only people who know how to fund research, because the military are the only people who really know how to waste money.’ Three days after the foundation of Fairchild Semiconductor, Sputnik 1 zoomed into orbit, and the company suddenly had its market. Nasa, tasked with overtaking the Soviet Union in the race for space, made the first significant order for Noyce’s new chip. Texas Instruments did most of its important early business with the US air force, which was looking for a way to increase the accuracy of its missiles. ‘Within a year, TI’s shipments to the air force accounted for 60 per cent of all dollars spent buying chips to date.’ By 1965, 72 per cent of all integrated circuits were being bought by the US Department of Defence.


In this audio longread from 2019, David Attenborough looks back at his career and the impact of climate change. You can read the text version here

(The Guardian, approx 38 mins listening time/27 mins reading time)

Despite the adulation, one charge has dogged Attenborough for decades. Critics argue that he has built himself a unique storytelling platform, only to fail to tell the most important story of all: the destructive impact of people on the planet. But one reason Attenborough has thrived on screen for seven decades is because he has always sensed how attitudes are changing, and moved with the times. For a long time, he maintained that his programmes must showcase the wonders of the natural world, and not speak of the human one. Now his newest series are filled with urgent messages about environmental destruction. Still, he resists the idea that he has changed; he prefers to say that it is the public mood that has transformed. After a lifetime of caution, almost despite himself, he has become a leading champion for action.

Note: The Journal generally selects stories that are not paywalled, but some might not be accessible if you have exceeded your free article limit on the site in question.

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