Oscar predictions

Happy Oscar Eve! I had to hold back my predictions until today because I wrote about them for MostlyFilm, so rather than me writing them all out again, you should go on over there to check them out.  And then come back tomorrow evening, where we’ll be liveblogging it again, and I’ll be very stressed and irritable. It’ll be fun!

lady bird


“Boy, I hate how it looks”

I’m going to be writing MostlyFilm’s Oscars Predictions again* this year and although I will do it under my own name and so can be as partisan and opinionated as I like, I just need to get the following rant out of my system beforehand. Feel free to look away now. There be spoilers ahead for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, so you may prefer to look away for that reason. Whatever, just don’t read what follows, under any circumstances!

*If you look carefully, you’ll notice that I got all the important ones right last time.

On Sunday night, Three Billboards won Best Picture, Best British Picture (it isn’t, but the rules are weird), Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress for Frances McDormand and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell. It was a veritable sweep, only spoiled by losses to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape Of Water in Director, which everyone knew would happen, Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049 in Cinematography, which everyone hoped would happen, and Jonathan Amos for Baby Driver in Editing, which just goes to show that Edgar Wright could plop out a big poo on the red carpet and people would still defend him. (I haven’t seen Baby Driver.)

Anyway, I saw Three Billboards at its LFF premiere, in October. I’d been excited about it for months and as I settled into my seat I was prepared to laugh, to cry, to be thrilled and to be shocked.

No, wait. Actually, I was hoping for all those things, but I was prepared to be disappointed:

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What I mostly remember was that Frances McDormand was amazing, that the plot made no sense and that there was a scene where McDormand’s and Rockwell’s characters throw the n-word around which made me feel uncomfortable. I did laugh and I did cry and I seem to have come out happy enough:

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By the next day, I wasn’t so sure:

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I know it’s weird and self-indulgent of me to retrospectively analyse my tweets, but the thing is, Three Billboards doesn’t deserve three of its five BAFTA wins because it is a bad, badly-intentioned film that treats race horribly, and there is an argument circulating that people only started to view it that way once “activists” began complaining about it, and that the rest of us are lily-livered liberals who can’t bear to be thought of as on the wrong side, and so we’re all jumping on the bandwagon. Maybe we are, but I didn’t need to read Ira Madison to have a problem with it from the get-go, and if it’s true that the longer I think about it the worse I think it is, that’s just because I’ve had more time to think about it. In a world where black people are regularly murdered by the police, where Donald Trump is president, and where white kids can shoot a dozen people dead and be excused as “bullied” and “misunderstood”, you don’t get to make a film that uses racism as a subject for glib, wisecracking, slapstick. You earn the right to write about a difficult subject by making an effort to understand it, and McDonagh big fat didn’t bother. It’s the only bad thing about the film (if you ignore the plot), but it’s BAD ENOUGH BY ITSELF that the rest of it doesn’t matter. And no, adding a couple of peripheral black characters who do and say nothing that isn’t the barest “will this do?” version of screenwriting doesn’t solve the problem.

Also not an excuse: that he didn’t mean it, it’s not central to the movie, he’s British and they don’t really have racism there (I have genuinely heard this). You don’t have to be racist on purpose to be racist! It’s like nobody’s even SEEN Get Out.

Talking of which, I will be sooooooo angry if this film beats Get Out to Best Picture. But don’t worry, it won’t. I won’t spoil you for the official predictions post (which I think is happening on Oscars weekend itself), but even if I thought Three Billboards would win I wouldn’t predict it, because I still believe in a world where good things happen to good people, and last year it totally worked, apart from the whole envelope thing.

Advent song for Christmas Eve: River

This had to be our final choice just for the video, although it is also a beautiful song. But there’s nearly nothing more Christmassy than Christmas Peanuts, and Snoopy is obviously the best character of all and Snoopy ice skating is just about the best thing there has ever been, and even though this is a poor-quality video it’s still lovely to watch. But not so lovely that you won’t also be struck by the purity of Joni’s voice or the simple perfection of the song and arrangement.

Before I leave you to your preparations I would like to note that this wasn’t, in the end, a list of songs by my favourite women singer-songwriters, because some of my favourite women singer-songwriters simply never went near a Christmas song, so with apologies for the lack of Nina Simone, Joans Baez and Armatrading, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, Laura Nyro, Sheryl Crow, Amy Winehouse and Taylor Swift, I will be posting a playlist later today of all the songs we’ve had that are on Spotify, and maybe some extras just for fun. Merry Christmas! I have high hopes for 2018, you guys.

Advent song for December 23: Joy To The World


Some singer-songwriters are celebrated for both skills, and others seem only to be known as singers. I can’t decide whether in the case of Aretha Franklin this is due to plain old discrimination, or whether it’s because her voice is so sensational that there isn’t time to appreciate her as a songwriter. But she is both (she wrote Think, which is also her actual best song), and an arranger to boot.

I have a burgeoning theory as to why women singer-songwriters in general, and women singer-songwriters of colour in particular, have written so few Christmas songs, but it’s not fully-formed yet so I’ll save it for another day. When you sing like this, though, you can sing anyone’s songs, even when they’re eighteenth-century hymns.

Advent song for December 22: [A version of] Fairytale of New York

So here’s the thing. This was on the list from the start, but although I love Kirsty (and she has an extra connection with Christmas in my mind, because my parents once spent Christmas morning with Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl, although I was too teenagedly grumpy to join them), I never used to love this song. I don’t know why: probably for the same reason I don’t much like Withnail And I and am ambivalent about seeing Hamilton next week, which is that when other people like something too much, it puts me right off.

Anyway, somehow over the years I got to like it a bit, maybe enough to not press “skip” when it came on, and since this year is about amazing singer-songwriters and Kirsty absolutely was one, it was an obvious pick for a late-December slot. And then a couple of days ago I saw these tweets from Justin Myers, aka The Guyliner:

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…and I thought, OH YEAH. You know when you realise something so blindingly obvious that you’re ashamed that it never occurred to you before? Well, THAT.

And it seems Kirsty felt the same way, because when she performed the song live in later years, she changed the words. So that’s the version we will listen to today, and I’m going back to hitting “skip” next time the original plays, because if 2017 has taught us anything it’s that the only way to combat inequality and injustice is to listen to the voices of those who are affected and change our behaviour accordingly. Also, look at Kirsty in her Christmas jumper and sunglasses and nineties hair! She’s so fricking awesome.

Advent song for December 21: We Three Kings

I’ve got a double-bill for you today, because I’ve run out space and I haven’t run out of Phenomenal Women. And there is something genuinely glorious about the fact that Deborah Harry (with Blondie) and Patti Smith have both recorded versions of We Three Kings, and that they are so completely different. Patti’s is much, much weirder, but showcases more of what is unique and thrilling about her, whereas the Blondie version is just a big rock’n’roll singalong, although I do like what they’ve done with the way the verses end, which is different but not in a jarring way.

All together, now!

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying/Sealed in a stone-cold tomb ♬

…Merry Christmas!

Advent song for December 20: 2000 Miles

Did I say we’d have a happy song today? Sorry, that wasn’t exactly true. I guess it’s happier than Le Noel de la Rue, but that’s not saying much. Instead of being about starving homeless children, this is about missing someone at Christmas. And we’ve all done that. Tomorrow’s song is more interesting than happy but after that it cheers RIGHT UP, I promise.

Advent song for December 19: Le Noël de la rue

I hope you don’t speak French, because this song is really sad. I mean, you can tell it’s sad even if you don’t speak French, especially by the time you get to the end. But it’s also quite beautiful, and if you listen carefully you will also hear Il est né, le divin Enfant insinuate its way into this Frenchest of Christmas songs by the Frenchest of chanteuses-parolieres, and sometimes Christmas is about being cold, sad and lonely rather than warm and well-fed and if this makes you feel despair don’t worry, we’ll be warm and well-fed again tomorrow. After all, as John Ruskin said, unless it was Lady Gaga; “light deprived of all shadows ceases to be enjoyed as light”.

Advent song for December 17: How Wild The Wind Blows

Here’s something out of the ordinary. Molly Drake was a poet and musician whose work was never published in her lifetime, and only came to a wider audience when it was uncovered as part of a documentary on her more famous son Nick in 2000, seven years after Molly’s death. This is a winter song, rather than a Christmas song, but I’m still allowing it because it’s lovely, and also – if you know Nick Drake’s music at all – shows what an influence his mother had on his own songwriting. I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but from the comfort of my sofa I can tell you that at least in SE10, it’s definitely a wintry sort of a Sunday, so I suggest you have a cup of tea and a mince pie while you listen.

Advent song for December 16: Silent Night

Here’s what we’re going to do. Before you scroll down and watch the video, I want you to listen to a snippet of the audio version and see if you can tell who it is, because her voice is so distinctive that I think if you’ve ever heard her sing you’ll know right away. Don’t peek!



NOW you can scroll down.

OF COURSE it’s Stevie Nicks, who recorded her version of Silent Night as part of volume 5 of the A Very Special Christmas series of compilations, which were recorded by various artists to benefit what used to be called the Special Olympics. You should probably listen to the version I linked above, but I’ve also found a live video of Stevie performing it with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and since he is also one of my favourites and we lost him MUCH TOO SOON earlier this year, I’ve picked this one instead. Hey, why not listen to them both? It’s Saturday and like me, you’ve probably got no chores or shopping to do.