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:
I should have posted this on Monday, but it took me two days to recover from staying up until 5.30am on Oscars night, liveblogging for Mostly Film. But I’m better now, you’ll be pleased to hear, so I’ve gone back and done the maths and I am delighted to be able to inform you that I did beat my 50% hit rate from last year, though not by much – I correctly predicted 15 of the 24 winners, which (I think, I’ve never been brilliant at sums) works out at 62.5%. The joy is tempered slightly – only slightly – by the fact that the beloved managed 19 out of 24, but I console myself with the knowledge that had I allowed myself to change my mind in the moments before some of the awards were announced, I would have done better (it was pretty obvious by halfway through the night that Jessica Chastain for actress, Lincoln for picture and Spielberg for director were all going to be off the mark, though I still wouldn’t have guessed at Ang Lee, even though I am glad he won because he’s so nice).
Anyway, that’s enough of that. On to the dresses! It wasn’t a standout year, I think. There was less beige than usual, but it was mostly replaced by bridal white (click on images to enlarge):
All of which made anyone who turned up in a bright colour look very daring, although it’s far to say that Jane Fonda’s choice was, in fact, pretty daring:
I had two favourites in the end. Jenna Dewan-Tatum is clearly one of those women who looks even better pregnant – look at her literally glowing in that picture at the top of the page! – and I love her dress, even though it’s the same as everyone else’s. But for me the very best combination of dress, hair, makeup and all-out movie-starry stunningness came from Jessica Chastain:
In a non-vintage year not just for frocks but for both the ceremony and the winners too, it’s good to know that there are still nominees who can turn up and knock it out of the park, even if they don’t go home with the prize.
Next year, though, I might take two days off work afterwards.
I know it’s really a New Year song, but I couldn’t resist the chance to include a clip from the best Christmas film of all, and if they can sing it on Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls, then so can we. Also, I visited Scotland for the first time as an adult this year and fell in love with it, so it feels entirely appropriate to finish up with a little bit of Burns.
If you haven’t seen It’s A Wonderful Life then cancel your plans for the rest of the day and go and watch it immediately. If you have, remember that the following clip will make you cry, so don’t watch it on the train or at the office (and what are you still doing at the office? Go home!).
<A pause while you recompose yourself>
Together, all these songs provide about an hour of music, which as it happens is about how long you’ll need to eat the main course of your Christmas lunch, so as a Christmas present to you, here is a Spotify playlist of them all. Sadly Song’s song from Korea isn’t on Spotify (at least, it probably is, but I have no idea what it’s called so I can’t check), so in its place England finally gets a look-in with the King’s singers rendition of Adam Lay Ybounden. The clip from It’s A Wonderful Life is a bit longer and I’ve had to use different versions of one or two of the songs, but otherwise it’s largely the list you’ve already seen and heard here. Happy Christmas!
(If the embedded version doesn’t work for you, here’s a boring old link.)
I’ve just got back from New York, the city where every street has a song named after it, and every vista is a still from a movie. So since I am yet to get over the jet lag and I took so many photos that I am overwhelmed at the thought of uploading them, here as a lazy alternative to a real blog post is a list of my favourite New York films. What are yours?
1. Annie Hall
I could have had any of about eight Woody Allen films, but Annie Hall is the best of them and one of the New Yorkiest, and Annie is the New Yorkiest heroine ever, despite being from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Also, it features my favourite ever line from a film, if I had to choose – you know, the one about the eggs*.
(Actually, I did have to choose my favourite line from a film recently, for work, but I thought the one about the eggs would make me look a little weird and neurotic, and I’ve only been there three months and I don’t need them to know that already. So I went for Sloane Peterson’s “Sooner or later, everybody goes to the zoo” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which sounds profound but, I think, isn’t.)
Like Annie Hall, would probably make the list of my favourite films ever (actually, so would about half of this list). After nearly thirty years (I know!), still perfect. And really a love poem to New York City, as implicit in its luscious locations as it is explicit in Winston Zeddemore’s “I love this town!”.
3. The Taking of Pelham 123
A proper thriller, set mostly in the bowels of Manhattan’s subway system, with occasional glimpses above ground, where the steam jets that shoot out at street level echo the spikes of tension that increase as the film goes on. If you haven’t seen it, rent it today (I am, in case you’re unsure, talking about the 1970s version and not the recent remake, which I have not seen).
4. King Kong
The 1933 version. Not entirely a New York film, but it makes the cut for that incredible final scene. I also quite liked the 1970s version, and even the Naomi Watts version was OK. It’s just a really really great story. But the Empire State Building was only two years old when they made the original, which adds an extra frisson to the battle between nature and mankind that lies at the heart of the film.
Not just because we have the same name, but because this is the sexiest, dreamiest, most elegant piece of noir you’ll ever see and because it offers a glimpse of high society in 1940s New York, which might just be the most glamorous time and place that ever was. As it happens, Laura is showing at the BFI on the Southbank until the end of next week, so if you live in or near London, do try to go.
6. Dog Day Afternoon
There are films which I think are exemplary, one-off pieces of film-making and which I might watch every couple of years (2001, Badlands) and films which I watch at every opportunity because I love them like you love your slippers, and most of all I love the characters (Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and then there are films which are both, and Dog Day Afternoon is one of them. Set on a hot, steamy day in Brooklyn, it tells a short but brilliant story which is laden with atmosphere, and it’s one of the films I always immediately lend to people who haven’t seen it, because it is a film everyone should see, today if possible.
7. Crocodile Dundee
There’s a dispoportionate number of 80s films in this list, but that’s because the 80s were an exciting time to be in New York City. When I first saw Crocodile Dundee I was half-entranced, half-terrified by the androgynous, highly-hairsprayed characters making up some of the supporting cast, but as an adult I just find them impossibly alluring, and it breaks my heart a little bit that I will never go clubbing in New York in the 1980s.
8. Coming to America
Like Crocodile Dundee, this film is better now than it was when it first came out, because it speaks so elequently and appealingly of a particular New York that doesn’t really exist any more. Plus, the mean Queens apartment that Prince Akeem rents now looks like a palace compared to the eggbox-sized spaces that people really live in. And, well, it’s just still funny.
9. Q: The Winged Serpent
Monster! In New York! I can’t tell you precisely why this is so good; you just have to watch it.
Slash was in competition with Big and Arthur for the tenth spot, because like those films it shows you the New York we all grew up with; the fantasy version of the city that we knew before we ever went there. But it wins because when I saw it I, too, thought “Madison” was a beautiful name for a girl, and couldn’t understand why Tom Hanks didn’t agree.
Not making the cut are films I love which use New York as their backdrop, but which aren’t really about New York (Synecdoche New York, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rope, The Apartment, Rear Window, West Side Story) and films which make New York look like the worst place in the world (Taxi Driver, Mean Streets). I also haven’t made room for Goodfellas, which would have been eleventh if I had been making a longer list.
* “I thought of that old joke, y’know… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because most of us… need the eggs.”