I said yesterday that I don’t listen to much music, which is true but it means that when I have a few days of listening to something obsessively, which I do do, it always ends up as that year’s top song on my Spotify history. The only song to have topped the list in multiple years is ABBA’s My Love, My Life, which I snobbishly lost interest in slightly after it featured in Mamma Mia 2 (which I haven’t seen) but it is an incredible song and you should listen to it today if you don’t know it.
This year that slot is occupied by Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which I listened to over and over again after it was used to dazzling effect in the opening credits sequence for Rocketman, the part-biopic, part-musical-fantasy version of Elton’s life which came out earlier this year. I should admit that I was also a bit obsessed with the film; an obsession which petered out a little after I read his autobiography (also this year; the Elton John publicity machine has excelled itself promoting his goodbye tour which yes, I am also going to) and discovered his actual life was quite a lot funnier and more interesting than the movie (but you should still see the movie).
Anyway this isn’t one of my absolute favourite Christmas singles, although the interlude at 1:57 is glorious, but I do love the video, so today you must watch as well as listen, please. (Nothing in particular happens; it’s just Elton doing Elton.)
Today’s good news should serve as a reminder, among other things, that everything going to shit here doesn’t mean everything going to shit everywhere. In Mexico, some of the poorest families in the state of Tabasco are starting to move into flood-resistant 3D-printed houses which can be built for $4000 in 48 hours. Back when I thought I might be interested in academic research in the future of housing on a planet with reducing resources and an increasing population, I don’t think I’d have ever imagined this as a possibility. (In the event, I got a job in a bookshop instead.)
…but maybe not just yet. I am amazed and inspired by the people who, mere hours after the worst possible election outcome, are already planning and campaigning for what’s next. I will get back up again, but as of today I’m officially ignoring the real world and retreating into two weeks of friends, family and food, ready to face 2020 with a new vision (see what I did there) and resolution (and again).
And music, of course. Most of the year I don’t really listen to music, because I can’t do that and something else at the same time and there’s almost always something else to be doing. (It’s why I like film scores and soundtracks so much, because you can listen to them and watch a film at the same time.) But at Christmas I am all about the music. This morning my brother Will sent the siblings a Spotify link to an album of the carols we used to listen to when we were small, and I have shut out the worst of today by being transported back to the nineteen eighties (which has happened in more ways than one, I suppose). So I’m going to swap today’s planned song with one I had earmarked for next week and bring you back in time with me to 1982 and the original (Peter Auty, not Aled Jones) version of Walking In The Air. It’s not exactly happy, given how The Snowman ends, but it makes ME happy, so it still counts.
What sort of a Christmas person are you? Are you fully prepped and settling in for a weekend of mince pies and mulled wine? Or are you thinking about making a start on your Christmas shopping? I hope it’s the former, because you will need to pay this video your full attention for its entire five minutes and twelve seconds in order to appreciate everything about it. If their video for Boots was beautiful, The Killers’ collaboration with Dawes (and Irving Berlin) three years later, its video featuring Owen Wilson and Harry Dean Stanton and filmed, animated and edited by students at Brigham Young University, is the shining pinnacle of their charitable Christmas efforts and it really deserves not to be on in the background while you do something else, so make yourself a hot chocolate with marshmallows in, turn the volume up high and settle in.
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!
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:
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:
By the next day, I wasn’t so sure:
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.
I said EYE was excited and that you SHOULD be, not that you WOULD be. But you should, because this song is adorable, and the animation that accompanies it even more so (if you have quarter of an hour to spare you should go and watch the full-length version). This wasn’t a Christmas number one, because in the same year it was released Band Aid and Wham’s Last Christmas occupied the number one and two slots, which seems reasonable, but it did make it to number three – and all three songs, having occupied the top of the charts in 1984, attained the peculiar feat of re-entering the charts a year later, so that Christmas 1985 sounded almost exactly like Christmas 1984, if you weren’t listening carefully. Only with extra Aled Jones. Happy last weekend before Christmas!
So much drumming. I like this one, though, because it sounds ever so slightly like the best song from the second-best* Christmas film of all, Mud’s Lonely This Christmas. This, like last week’s Little Drummer Boy, is from Ringo’s 1999 album I Wanna Be Santa Claus – an album with which I fear we will all be better-acquainted by Christmas Eve.
*The second-best Christmas film of all is of course Bernard and the Genie, which is only slightly easier to find than the best Christmas film of all, Until The Lights Come Back, which you will only be able to watch by coming over to my house on Christmas Eve (or importing it at great expense from Hong Kong).
I have a whole bunch of stuff to tell you about, but I keep accidentally going on holiday and not having time. In the meantime, though, here is a review I wrote of a film called Touchy Feely for those nice people over at MostlyFilm.
For the third year in a row, I will be attempting to stay up as late as possible this coming Saturday night in order to adjust my body clock such that I can liveblog the Oscars for MostlyFilm, and wonder again why they can’t hold the ceremony in New York or, ideally, London, so as to make the task less arduous for us European filmwatchers. Traditionally I have enlisted the assistance of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks to keep me going, but what also helps is having an investment in the outcome and since YET AGAIN I haven’t been nominated in a single category, I am reduced to trying to beat my record for the highest number of correct predictions. And in order to stop me cheating, I am bringing you along for the ride…
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street
This is, I’m sure, between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, and I think the latter will win because being accidentally turned into a slave in real life beats losing a fictional daughter in the heartstring-tugging stakes.
Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Matthew McConaughey ought to win; Chiwetel Ejiofor will, which I am also OK with because he is a Palace fan and we rarely win anything. (Leo, whom I love, is fantastic in WOWS, but it’s not a fantastic film and his character is so desperately unsympathetic that I don’t think he has a chance.)
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Philips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
This is a really strong category. I’d be happy with a win for Abdi or Cooper, but Jared Leto‘s turn as Rayon in DBC is a career-best piece of loveliness and I hope he takes it. I would also like to point out that had Behind The Candelabra been eligible for Oscar nominations, Matt Damon and Rob Lowe would both have deserved nods in this category, as would Michael Douglas in Leading Actor.
Nominees: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave), Julia Roberts (August, Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)
I didn’t love J-Law in American Hustle. Or maybe I mean I didn’t love her as much as I love her in Silver Linings Notebook or Real Life™ – but she will win this regardless.
Nominees: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises
From the buzz it’s generated among under-eights of my acquaintance, I’m saying Frozen.
Nominees: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners
I can’t imagine a world in which this won’t go to Gravity.
Nominees: The Grandmaster, American Hustle, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years A Slave
It should be nominated for hair and makeup but since it isn’t, I think American Hustle will take this one instead.
Nominees: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street)
Cuarón will lose out on Best Picture but I think he’ll pip McQueen to the winning post in this category.
Nominees: The Act Of Killing, Cutie And The Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet From Stardom
I will admit to not having had the guts to watch The Act Of Killing when I had the opportunity, but everything I’ve heard and read about it makes me think it has to win out here.
Nominees: CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall
How far ahead of the ceremony does voting happen? Only the cynic in me wants to say that since Alice Herz-Sommer, the 110-year-old holocaust survivor who is the subject of The Lady In Number 6, has just died, the already-good chances that it would win have just improved.
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave
Gravity is so sparse and elegant and beautiful that again, I can’t imagine it not winning here.
Foreign Language Film
Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture, Omar
Right, so, uh, I was going to predict a win for Blue Is The Warmest Colour but I’ve just noticed it hasn’t been nominated. So in the absence of any other information I will employ my traditional method of closing my eyes and stabbing at the screen, which gives me The Broken Circle Breakdown. You heard it here first.
(One rule I have when I make my predictions, by the way, is that I can’t go googling for betting odds or anyone else’s views. It has to be based on my own knowledge. Which is why I am often wrong!)
Makeup and Hair
Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger
I’ve only seen one of these, but Jared Leto is so breathtakingly beautiful in Dallas Buyers Club that I hope it wins. Mainly, though, I just hope Jackass doesn’t. There is a time and a place for Jackass, and the Oscars ain’t it.
Nominees: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks
The rules are, when someone you know is nominated you have to say them. Now, nobody I know is nominated in this category, but someone I know knows someone who is, and so I’m going for Gravity (which also has a really good score).
Nominees: Happy (Despicable Me 2), Let It Go (Frozen), The Moon Song (Her), Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom)
Yeah, I haven’t heard any of these. Also, when was Tangled? There’s a good song in that. Let’s say Frozen.
Nominees: American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her, 12 Years A Slave
Well actually this should definitely go to The Great Gatsby, but I think Gravity will win.
Nominees: Feral, Get A Horse!, Mr Hublot, Possessions, Room On The Broom
Cough. Well, Get A Horse! has the best name, right?
Live Action Short
Nominees: Aquel No Era Yo, Avant Que De Tour Perdre, Helium, Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?, The Voorman Problem
I wonder whether you tick a box or have to write in your answers, when you vote? Because nobody’s going to take the time to write out Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? by hand if they don’t have to. But it’s bound to be checkboxes, isn’t it? So let’s go with that. One day, when I grow up, I will be a person who watches the short films ahead of the Oscars (or even afterwards).
Nominees: All Is Lost, Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Lone Survivor
Nominees: Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor
I think Gravity will take both of these.
Nominees: Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness
I can’t remember whether the argument over possible or desirable punctuation in the name of the latest Star Trek movie came to a conclusion, so I’m leaving it out rather than get it wrong and risk the wrath of…well, you know. Obviously this will also go to Gravity.
Nominees: Before Midnight, Captain Philips, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street
Before Midnight is an adaptation? Who knew? Well, the Academy, it would appear. I’m racing through these last few categories not because I want to go to bed, although I do, but because I think there’s barely any debate to be had about most of them. 12 Years A Slave will win this.
Nominees: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska
Whether he did or whether he didn’t, Woody will take this for Blue Jasmine, although I would give it to Dallas Buyers Club. But for some reason, nobody asked me. I know!
I am alive and bursting with things to write about just as soon as I get the time, but while you’re waiting here is a piece in Mostly Film where a bunch of people including me write about their favourite holiday films. Actually, I’m not certain that the one I chose is my favourite holiday film, but I had more to say about it than I did about my secret real favourite, which is Cocktail. And if you need more cheering up on this greyish Monday morning, here are the Beach Boys in all their eighties glory: