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Adam Sandler: from critical laughingstock to Oscar favorite | Culture

In a scene from Hustle, the basketball drama that has become the most watched Netflix film worldwide since its June 3 premiere, the character played by Juancho Hernangómez rehearses his triple shot. In front of him, his scout-turned-coach, played by Adam Sandler, tries to distract him: “Your mother is a whore!” “Your sweat smells like piss!” The test is meant to make the young man overcome his weak point: his irascible response to his opponents’ insults, which on the court cause him to falter. “You got to be an iceberg out there, all floating around, and sharp, and taking down ships,” the coach says.

The actor knows what he is talking about. Since the beginning of his career, Adam Sandler has grown accustomed to receiving vitriolic critical reviews. Now, those critics witness Sandler securing one commercial success after another. His exclusive agreement with Netflix has earned him $420 million since 2015. The attacks continue, but Sandler is still there. Like an iceberg.

Hustle has not provoked the usual response. The film has received overwhelming acclaim from critics: Rotten Tomatoes gives it an approval rating of 92%, the highest ever for a Sandler film. Reviews have particularly praised the performance of its protagonist, and some already place him on the list of favorites for the next awards season. The New York comedian experienced this previously with Uncut Gems (2019), when he won, among others, the Best Actor award at the Independent Spirit Awards. He jokingly threatened to make a film that was “bad on purpose” if he didn’t also win the Oscar.

Adam Sandler, during a screening of 'Claw' in Philadelphia on June 7.
Adam Sandler, during a screening of ‘Claw’ in Philadelphia on June 7.Lisa Lake (Getty Images for Netflix)

Sandler did not receive so much as an Oscar nomination for the role, but he has not kept his word. Journalists including Indiewire’s David Ehrlich have spoken of Hustle as a film far removed from the actor’s usual offering, with “more in common with ‘Jerry Maguire’ and ‘The Way Back’ than it does any of the other Happy Madison [Sandler’s company] productions.” Despite the change in register, Adam Sandler’s ardent fans will note the film’s commonalities with his comedies.

The plot centers on the process of managing emotions. That alone sets up Hustle as a counterpoint to the archetype behind Sandler’s early humor: the figure of the immature man who has violent outbursts when things go wrong. The relationship between Sandler’s and Hernangómez’s character recalls Sandler’s Happy Gilmore. In the 1996 film, a teacher played by Carl Weathers tries to teach young Sandler to manage his temper in order to help him become a golf champion.

“Criticism insists on separating them because it is a more serious, adult, apparently deeper approach. But that’s not the case,” says critic Roberto Alcover Oti, who coordinated the book Adam Sandler: La infancia infinita, a 2015 critical collection on Sandler’s work. “It is difficult not to see the adult player from The Longest Yard, the figure of the scout in Hustle,” says Alcover Oti, referring to the 2005 comedy in which Sandler played a football player in prison. “In his last stage, mainly as a result of the Grown Ups saga [2010-2013], Sandler has reflected, always humorously, on his late-adolescent heroes’ hard journey to maturity. And that is what Hustle is about.”

Against the “cynical assholes”

In the climactic trial of Big Daddy (1999), the boy adopted by Sandler’s character summarizes what he learned from the man: “he taught me that Styx was one of the greatest American rock bands, and they only got a bad rep because most critics are cynical assholes.” Sandler’s character then decides to prove his maturity by offering to be questioned by his biggest critic: his own father. The catharsis of the exchange drives the audience members to tearfully call their parents and reconcile. It is a scene definitely not suitable for “cynical assholes.”

Sandra Bullock and Adam Sandler at the MTV Video Music Awards gala at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 1994.
Sandra Bullock and Adam Sandler at the MTV Video Music Awards gala at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 1994.Jeff Kravitz (FilmMagic)

The film encapsulates an essential element in its protagonist’s oeuvre: the outcasts’ victory over the system. The main character, a downright bum, is supported in court by a gang of outsiders, including a drunk, a beggar, an immigrant and several homosexual friends. And another frequent theme is that of family, also key in Hustle. In La infancia infinita, Alcover Oti highlights how Click (2006) leads to the understanding that “a narcissistic choice of existence can only lead to oblivion and loneliness,” while Grown Ups depicts the “lost paradise” of childhood as something that “can be enjoyed again through children.”

In the book, Oti also argues that Sandler’s celebrated dramatic characters, in films such as Punch-Drunk Love (2002) or Funny People (2009), can be “understood as dark, sorrowful, realistic versions of his usual figures.” In the former, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Sandler plays a perpetually nervous character who falls in love while struggling to make his way through a hostile world. Some have come to interpret it as an indie version of Superman, but Anderson, director of titles such as Magnolia and Licorice Pizza, has always maintained that he wanted to make “an Adam Sandler arthouse film.”

“There is just one Adam Saldner, who both sublimates his desire for success and cannot stop expressing the human side of it,” Roberto Alcover Oti tells ICON, referring to how the archetype varies in different films. In the book, he wonders whether the actor’s critical and public acceptance is due to his characters’ being self-destructives, rather than effortlessly achieving success. “Perhaps we feel closer to those fragile, loser archetypes, or perhaps we find it hard to project ourselves onto someone who turns their defects into virtues in order to succeed, since we don’t always achieve that,” he reflects.

In his acceptance speech for the Independent Spirit Award in 2020, Adam Sandler thanked critics for the effort to “pretend” not to hate him “for five minutes.” And he claimed independent film as “a big part” of his filmography, “from my first film, a fearless look into the American education system through the eyes of a privileged sociopath by the name of Billy fucking Madison to my searing exploration of American college football and its manipulation of socially-challenged athletes like Mister Bobby Bouchet [The Waterboy, 1998].” It remains to be seen whether Hustle will allow Sandler to collect new statuettes six months from now. For now, with the success of his Netflix movie, these are unfortunate times for those who can’t stand to see Sandler succeed.

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On second thought, it is funny: Comedians and philosophers find common ground | Culture

Spanish comedians Ignatius Farray and Inés Hernand perform at the Teatro Infanta Isabel in Madrid on January 13, 2022.
Spanish comedians Ignatius Farray and Inés Hernand perform at the Teatro Infanta Isabel in Madrid on January 13, 2022.Aldara Zarraoa (GETTY IMAGES)

Humor can open doors to new worlds and new ways of thinking. This is true now, as it was true before: contrary to popular belief, philosophers have used and studied laughter for centuries. “Philosophy was created as a response to ancient tragedy, and has many connections with the comic,” explains Lydia Amir, professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University. In books like Philosophy, Humor, and the Human Condition: Taking Ridicule Seriously (2019) and Humor and the Good Life in Modern Philosophy (2015), Amir uncovers a largely forgotten philosophical lineage, in which Socrates poisons himself to mock his executioners, and Plato, famous for expelling comedians from the Republic, defines true comedy as that which unmasks one’s own ignorance.

Along Amir’s guided journey, we learn that Aristotle considered the proper use of laughter a social virtue, and catalogued true wit as the hallmark of a free and honorable person; that the Cynics wandered the streets in broad daylight, holding out a lantern to “search for an honest man;” and that Epicurus advised us to laugh, philosophize and take care of our home, all at the same time.

During the Renaissance, Erasmus wrote a book of jokes. And for Montaigne — who claimed that absurdity was “a uniformly distributed property” — humor allows us to contemplate matters under a new light, which in turn can help us understand how all things have different aspects and different shades. For his part, Spinoza saw in laughter a careful attempt, not to mock, but to understand human passions; while Kant described it as “an affect resulting from the sudden transformation of a heightened expectation into nothing.”

According to Amir, the gradual split between philosophy and humor occurred when the former became increasingly enclosed in the confines of the academy, and as a discipline, opted for rationality and a focus on analytical clarity. “Humor is, in essence, ambiguous, and that’s why we chose to leave laughter aside when it came to philosophizing,” Amir explained, in a telephone interview with EL PAÍS.

Now, however, academia appears to be opening its doors to humor. This spring, the Complutense University of Madrid, the Panamerican University in Mexico City, and the University of Kent in England have all hosted academic gatherings on the topic of philosophy and humor. “Traditionally, laughter was considered a matter of popular interest — like emotions: far from the purity of philosophy — but now the discipline is starting to come down off that pedestal,” explains Javier Vilanova, professor of Logic and Theoretical Philosophy at the Complutense University. “The old intellectual prejudice against humor is giving way to an interest in its cognitive and pedagogical strategies, in how we might learn to think through philosophical laughter,” adds Saleta de Salvador Agra, a professor in Philosophy of Language at the same university.

The initiative has been well received by students — an unsurprising development, considering humor’s unique power as a tool of communication, and also, perhaps, given the popularity of the figure of the comedian, who, as Vilanova puts it, analyzes everyday life and takes contradictions to “to the point of absurdity and collapse.”

The success of stand-up comedy offers a good example of Vilanova’s point: A person with a microphone, on a stage, who in a kind of collective catharsis can make an audience laugh using a dose of crude anti-establishment criticism, and poking fun at the everyday miseries of human existence. George Carlin, a star of the genre, used to say that comedy is the popular exploration of truth. Spanish comedian Ignatius Farray tends to agree: “The three fields that focus on searching for truth are philosophy, comedy and crime novels, but, as Socrates knew, and as his method teaches, truth can only be called truth when it emerges out of cooperative dialogue.”

For Farray, author of Meditaciones (2022), the public pays for admission to a stand-up show so that they can peer into the abyss and listen to a comedian say out loud the things we often dare not face ourselves. A bit like philosophers who seek knowledge in solitude. In that space, we are pushed to go “a little past our limits, to find new spaces of freedom, to do the dirty work,” he says.

During that encounter, issues that challenge us as a community can be laid out on the table, like when the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby spoke about the brutal violence she suffered in her homeland for being a lesbian: “I took everything I knew about comedy, cut it up, and created a monster from that corpse,” she told EL PAÍS’s Jaime Rubio Hancock.

With merciless humor, comedians can show us how we are being racist without knowing it, why we never learn from our mistakes, or how to face death. As Farray does, when he points to the “unresolved existential tension” between him and death, and jokes that on his tombstone he plans to write, “I could see it coming,” and that to trick death, just before that fatal hour, he plans to “play dead” so that death will hesitate, as if to say: “Do I have the wrong guy? Am I shaking the same hand twice?”

I read Kierkegaard

For years, the Spanish comedic duo Faemino and Cansado have made audiences erupt in laughter with their celebrated skit: “Qué va, qué va, qué va, yo leo a Kierkegaard (”Hey now, come on, I read Kierkegaard!”). The refrain gets at something deeper than a good laugh. As the Danish philosopher once wrote: “When I was young, I forgot how to laugh… when I was older, I opened my eyes and beheld reality, at which I began to laugh, and since then, I have not stopped laughing.”

For Kierkegaard, the tragic and the comic are ultimately the same thing: a contradiction. While the former is painful, however, the latter is an incongruity seen in perspective and, therefore, painless. In this way, the person who views something with a sense of humor can find a way out: the person is aware of the contradiction, and doesn’t know what to do about it, but is also no longer tormented by it.

Along these same lines, Amir proposes an ethics of compassion through humor: her thesis is that in human beings, all desires contradict each other, and are incongruent with reality, which leads to a tragic situation where we react with complete rigidity. The comic sensibility, on the other hand, knows how to see and live with duality and contradiction. “Realizing this irresolvable incoherence can bring us peace,” says Amir, who invites us all to adopt a self-reflective posture, by ridiculing ourselves (“but gently, and with forgiveness”). A form of salvation — precarious, holy — just within our reach.

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Exploring the Beauty of European Union (EU) Countries: A Comprehensive Guide

By Angela Harper – Contributor ‘Voice of EU

Are you planning a memorable trip to Europe? With rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and iconic landmarks, EU countries offer a wealth of opportunities for tourists to immerse themselves in history, indulge in culinary delights, and bask in natural beauty. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the top destinations, hidden gems, and practical tips to ensure your European adventure is nothing short of extraordinary.

Discover the Top European Union (EU) Destinations

a) Paris, France:

The City of Lights captivates visitors with its iconic Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and charming streets of Montmartre.

b) Rome, Italy:

Step back in time and explore ancient ruins like the Colosseum, Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica, and the stunning Trevi Fountain.

c) Barcelona, Spain:

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of this Catalan city, with architectural marvels like Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia and the lively Las Ramblas.

d) Amsterdam, Netherlands:

Experience the charm of Amsterdam’s canal-laced streets, visit the Van Gogh Museum, and take a leisurely bike ride through the city.

e) Prague, Czech Republic:

Marvel at the fairytale-like architecture of Prague Castle, wander through the historic Old Town, and soak in the atmosphere of the Charles Bridge.

PLANNING A TRIP TO ITALY?: Americans in Italy: Your Comprehensive Guide for a Memorable Visit

Unveiling Hidden Gems in the European Union (EU) Countries:

a) Porto, Portugal:

Explore the picturesque streets of this coastal city, indulge in Port wine tastings, and admire the stunning Douro River.

b) Dubrovnik, Croatia:

Discover the medieval charm of the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” with its fortified walls, labyrinthine streets, and breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea.

c) Reykjavik, Iceland:

Immerse yourself in Iceland’s natural wonders, including the mesmerizing Northern Lights, geothermal spas, and stunning waterfalls.

d) Bruges, Belgium:

Step into a fairytale as you wander through Bruges’ medieval streets, indulge in delectable chocolate, and take a boat ride along the picturesque canals.

e) Salzburg, Austria:

Experience the musical legacy of Mozart, explore the captivating Hohensalzburg Fortress, and marvel at the breathtaking Alpine scenery.

Practical Tips for European Union (EU) Travel:

a) Visa Requirements:

Check the visa requirements for your specific EU destination and ensure all necessary documentation is in order.

b) Transportation:

Plan your transportation in advance, whether it’s by train, plane, or bus, to optimize your travel within the EU.

c) Local Customs:

Familiarize yourself with the customs and etiquette of the countries you plan to visit to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience.

d) Currency Exchange:

Be aware of the local currency in each EU country and consider using a travel-friendly credit card or obtaining some local currency for convenience.

e) Travel Insurance:

Protect yourself with comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost belongings.

VISIT THESE PLACES: Exploring Europe: 19 Best Places to Visit in 2023

Exploring History & Culture:

Embarking on a European Union (EU) adventure is a dream come true for travelers seeking a captivating blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From the iconic landmarks of Paris and Rome to the hidden gems of Porto and Reykjavik, the EU offers an array of destinations to satisfy every wanderlust. With proper planning, visa requirements, and practical tips in mind, your European journey is bound to be an unforgettable experience. So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the beauty of the EU, and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

In this digital age, planning your EU trip has never been easier. Research popular travel websites, blogs, and forums to gather insights from fellow travelers who have explored the region. Take advantage of online booking platforms to secure the best deals on flights, accommodations, and tours.

When it comes to accommodations, the EU offers a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. Whether you prefer luxurious hotels, cozy bed and breakfasts, or budget-friendly hostels, there is something for everyone. Consider staying in centrally located accommodations to maximize your time and convenience.

While exploring the EU countries, don’t miss the opportunity to savor the local cuisine. Each country within the EU boasts its own culinary specialties and flavors. Indulge in delectable French pastries, Italian pasta and pizza, Spanish tapas, and Belgian waffles. Venture off the beaten path to discover hidden local eateries, where you can experience authentic regional dishes.

As you traverse through the EU, be sure to immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture. Attend festivals, art exhibitions, and live performances to witness the creative spirit of each country. Engage with locals, learn a few basic phrases of the local language, and embrace the unique customs and traditions of the region.


Safety is paramount while traveling, so ensure you have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost belongings. Familiarize yourself with emergency contact numbers and keep important documents and copies of your passport in a secure place.

The EU countries offer a seamless travel experience within its member countries, with easy border crossings and efficient transportation networks. Take advantage of the extensive train systems, which provide an excellent way to explore multiple destinations within the EU. Consider purchasing a Eurail pass for unlimited travel across participating countries.

Embarking on a EU adventure is an exciting and enriching experience. With its rich history, diverse cultures, and stunning landscapes, the EU offers endless possibilities for exploration. By planning ahead, embracing the local culture, and staying informed, you can make the most of your EU trip. Get ready to create lifelong memories as you discover the captivating beauty of the European Union. Bon voyage!

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Spain’s New Housing Law May Worsen Looming Rental Crisis: OPINION

By Jennifer Lutz

The new law, which took effect in May, is the government’s attempt to harness rapidly rising rents. But strong provisions for long-term leases leave a magic loophole – mid-term rentals. Add to that, the newly launched digital nomad visa, and Spain’s major cities are on pace for a major housing crisis.

The experts seem to agree and many have been outspoken against the new law. The General Council of Economists believes that the new rules will exclude families with fewer economic resources from the rental market.

“Any measure that creates uncertainty or is detrimental to supply, only further aggravates the problem”, José García Montalvo, professor of Economics at Pompeu Fabra University told Spanish news site NIUS. Many believe that the real problem of the housing market in Spain is the lack of rental supply.

According to property portal Idealista, from February 2022 to February 2023 the annual rental increase was 23 percent in Málaga, 20 percent in Barcelona, 19 percent in Valencia, 18 percent in Palma de Mallorca and 11 percent in Madrid.

In 2023, prices continue to climb, and local wages don’t keep pace. According to the latest data available, the average salary in Barcelona is €2,693 per month and the minimum is €1,080 per month, while the Housing Secretariat of the Generalitat states that the average monthly rent in the city is at a record €1,077.

Meanwhile, foreign investors are buying homes in record numbers – 21.2 percent of local sales in 2023. Many of these buyers hope to capitalise on the influx of high earners with remote jobs; the Spanish Housing Law does little to stop them and may even incentivise them.

A foreign resident in Barcelona, who asked to remain unnamed, was discussing a recent purchase in Poblenou, a beach-adjacent neighbourhood once favoured by artists, now filled with young foreigners and professionals looking for converted lofts and specialty coffee.

The owner is quite happy; she’s renting the flat for €2,500 a month, profiting from tourists flocking to Barcelona for the summer. A real estate agent asks if she has a license for short-term rentals. She doesn’t; Barcelona’s ex-Mayor Ada Colau banned new applications for tourist licences back in 2016. No problem, the owner will rent her flat on a mid-term lease.

You’ll see these flats listed on housing sites, like Idealista, as “32 days to 11 months.” Anything longer qualifies as a long-term lease, which gives the renter a right to stay for five years (seven years if the landlord is a company) with tightly regulated rent increases and protections from evictions. Mid-term leases are also advertised as short-term leases, medium-length leases, holiday homes, and seasonal rentals.

Renting in Spain is getting more expensive than ever. Photo: Duncan Kidd / Unsplash

Under Spain’s new housing law, regulations for long-term rentals are even stricter, making mid-term rentals more appealing to landlords eager to benefit from high earners moving to Barcelona on digital nomad visas.

Whereas rent increases on long-term rentals are capped at 2 percent for 2023 and at 3 percent in 2024, landlords can set new prices each time they rent a flat to a new tenant.

Midterm-term leases aren’t subject to provisions in the Housing Law, allowing for the classification of “stressed residential markets,” which limit the price of new rentals in areas where rents exceed the average household income by 30 percent. Nor are midterms leases subject to new provisions offering lease extensions to tenants in a “vulnerable” situation.

The eviction process has also become more difficult and arduous, forcing landlords to attempt arbitration with tenants and ending evictions at unscheduled dates and times, another thing less worrisome with mid-term leases for foreigners.

With a growing market of professionals, the Poblenou landlord will have no problem finding highly-paid digital nomads to rent her flat. “With the new law, no one is giving long-term leases; they’re not interesting,” she says. “You can’t raise the rent and you can’t kick out the tenant. With a mid-term rental, you can.”

That’s not to say mid-term leases are completely unregulated; they’re meant to be the exception, rather than the rule, and landlords must have a certain rationale for offering them, such as a tenant being in Barcelona for a short work contract, study abroad etc.

These terms and reasons should be stipulated in the contract but often landlords and the agencies that specialise in these seasonal rentals take advantage, utilising mid-term leases to side-step housing laws meant to guarantee fair and accessible housing to residents.

Landlords continue to charge higher rents and the agency profits from fees paid with each new contract. And while Spain’s new Housing Law stipulates that landlords (not tenants) must pay the agency fees for long-term rentals, tenants must pay the fees for short-term rentals.

Although the new law aims to increase affordable housing, it motivates landlords to avoid long-term leases altogether, catering not to residents, but to foreigners able to pay higher prices.

Already there is a big shortage of long-term leases offered on rental platforms. Search “mid-term rental” and you’ll also notice several agencies advertising investment opportunities, selling owners on the opportunity to make high returns with “higher quality tenants”.

It’s not that Spanish Housing Law forgot about mid-term rentals, leaving an accidental loophole, rather, it delays resolving the problem. The law’s fifth additional provision establishes the constitution of a working group to improve the regulation of seasonal contracts. As legislators debate future resolutions, renters continue to suffer while landlords and rental agencies profit.

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