Month: January 2016

#Oscarzzzz

Another year, another chilly January day spent complaining about Oscar nominations. Yes, the Oscars are so white – but even more so, broadly speaking, this year’s choices are restrained, safe, and kind of boring.

What I’m wondering is why we’re even bothering to be angry. You’re wasting all that good outrage. Get back online and find a useful outlet for it. Because it is just not worth getting angry about the Academy any more.

 

We all know what an Oscar-winning English-language film looks like. We know the performances that get nominated, the common themes, the style of cinematography. We know the politics of it. It’s an annual tradition, a game to see who can guess all of the winners, and who will wear the best dress, and how terrible the host(s) will be.

This is because it has been going for eighty-eight years. Can you imagine it? It’s older than my grandmother. It predates the Second World War, and plenty of other wars besides it. It has honoured many incredible artists and films that are still as beloved today.

But the film industry has changed completely since my granny’s day. Filmmaking used to be so expensive that it was the preserve of the big studios, and all that pomp and ceremony would reflect that. Lush, well-funded films would win, as they do today, because they would have been the most professionally made.

Now, the industry is far more democratic. Cheaper and more readily accessible equipment, advice and support have allowed more and more people to capture a video that ever before – just think about how many videos you’ve taken on your phone, and the different platforms you have to share them. Online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have allowed lesser-known filmmakers to exhibit their work, with ever-growing audiences for independent films. Beasts of No Nation, one of my favourite films of 2015, was the first feature film produced by a streaming service. Sean Baker’s excellent Tangerine was not even captured on a camera – it was shot entirely on two iPhone 5Ss.  In short, our idea of what even constitutes a “film” isn’t even the same as it was five or ten years ago, let alone the business behind it.

It’s bizarre that the Oscars haven’t adapted to these changes, and instead consistently adhere to the same patterns year on year. Yes, non-white actors may get nominations, or even awards – provided they are nobly tolerating something dreadful (e.g. slavery – thanks for helping me work through white liberal guilt, guys!), rather than driving a film forward. Last year’s Best Picture nominations were all about white men shouting, this year, they’re fighting against injustice/financial collapse/bears.

Both of the films mentioned above have received strong support for Oscar nominations, and there has been considerable grumbling that they were “snubbed”, as everyone insists on saying about great films not nominated for an Academy Award. In my opinion, this would be the least appropriate way to recognise the achievements of the cast and crew behind these two films. Raw, exciting, experimental filmmaking doesn’t get an Oscar, nor do marginalised voices or controversial storylines. If you want to see these films win prizes, go to Berlinale, or Sundance, or any of the independent film festivals.

We should stop believing in the silly, outdated idea that Oscars go to the best films of the year. They go to big, expensive films with well-known casts and certain established conventions. So don’t expect to see your favourite, queer indie number on that list, nor expect Idris Elba or Kitana Kiki Rodriquez’s names to get read out at that podium – but they’re all the better for it.
Ed: my granny, for the record, has always loved Alfred Hitchcock and thoroughly enjoyed Pulp Fiction. Just so you know. She’s great.

Body Call

bodycall

My body called up one morning.

“Hiyaa! Just wanted to see if you were free for a chat? I know you’re busy, so don’t worry if not, but I just really think we need to have a think about how you’re doing?”

I was really busy at the time – I was working more shifts at the cinema, about four or five times a week, and I had people to catch up with outside of that. I said I’d call it back.

A couple of weeks later, it rang again.

“Hey gurrrrrl, how ya doing? Free for that chat yet?”

Oh my GOD. No, no I wasn’t free! I was up to my eyeballs in a film project which meant I was getting four hours’ sleep a night and having a daily freak out about what had inevitably been forgotten or hadn’t been done, and all I could do was keep myself standing with a potent combination of instant coffee and Ritz biscuits.

“Okay ladyfriend, I get it, I understand. Just, uh… just let me know when you’re about. Look after yourself.”

I found a missed call from it a couple of weeks later, but no message. The film project was done, so I was back at work, and volunteering in an art gallery, and catching up with everyone I’d had to ignore during filming – so I was going out every night I wasn’t working past 9pm, whether with close friends or vague acquaintances. Yeah, I was tired, but I’d take it slowly next weekend, or stay in with my parents, or something.

And one day, when I had had yet another night with four hours’ sleep, after getting drunk with my family, I took the bizarre and extreme decision to begin my day with 100 squats before getting into a cold shower. That’s when my body really lost it.

Holy f*cking sh*te!!! What are you trying to do to me?! What did I do to deserve this, you sadistic freak?! What in the hell is wrong with you?!”

Turns out, you can only put off these things for so long, and I had the novel experience of a seizure that morning.

We’re in the habit now of ignoring our bodies. They’re fleshy and embarrassing. They’re cumbersome. They’re pretty much the opposite of all Apple products. But we’re depriving ourselves of sleep, we’re depriving ourselves of food, and we’re working ourselves into the ground. When we can be up for work and for play 24/7 thanks to the almighty Internet, and the fact that no one is allowed to actually turn their phones off anymore (when did this happen?), it means sleep is kind of a weekly treat. This is especially the case for twenty- and thirty-somethings, who are now expected to balance early career efforts, with looking for partners, with going out, with exercise, with working on Project Self.

In all of this, the body becomes a hindrance. It’s already too fat or thin or weirdly-shaped, so it’s normally either problem or a suffix to the word “bikini”. But then it makes these boring demands of you to feed it plants and protein and carbs (you can’t actually go without those). It wants to be left alone, to do nothing, for 33.33% of your life. Think of all the TV you could watch in that time! 

After my seizure, I chilled out for two weeks, got a bitch of a cold, and then more or less went back to normal, going to follow up brain scans and appointments around shifts at work, often in my uniform. But clearly, I still am not quite okay, because last week I was told by my neurologist in no uncertain terms that unless I make a real effort to get the amount of sleep and consume the amount of drinks that a normal human should, or I will get another visit from the Seizure Fairy. In short – I have to listen to my body.

Because really, even if you can ignore it for however long, it does know best. It tells you when you’re hungry and thirsty and hurt and horny. Your body knows, and tells you in your own language, not your friend’s body, or your mum’s body, or the freaky digital body on WebMD.

It’s not like your phone – it has to be switched off at nighttime. But you do have to listen to it when it rings.

Something kinda hit me today.

David Bowie has died, as I’m sure you well know by now, and it is very sad. The usual things have happened following the death of a person of renown: the family comment, the tweets of support, the Prime Minister blathering about himself as a teenager. And as I write this, I am listening to the Diamond Dogs album (my favourite) and I am able to play and replay, as I do so often, the howls of a man I have never met. I can hear him take gasps of breath. I can hear the sibilance of his teeth. It’s very intimate, the relationships we have with singers we listen to frequently, and it makes us feel close to them in a rare and unusual way.

When I spoke to my 21-year-old brother about the news, he said, “it’s the most shocking celebrity death I’ve experienced.” Although I agreed with him, in that I’ve not felt this way about the death of someone famous before, the phrase rankled me a bit, as “most shocking celebrity death” sounds like a shady sidebar ad, or something from a magazine cover. “Celebrity” is somehow a seedy word, it smacks of tacky endorsed perfume. It seems too broad, too cheap, too universal – there are A lists and B lists and Z lists with celebrities, and David Bowie, although he is known and beloved all over the world, isn’t broad, cheap or universal.

David Bowie was – is – an icon; I don’t believe the word really applies to anyone else in quite the same way. As anyone fortunate enough to see the V&A exhibition David Bowie Is a few years ago, he far exceeds the category of “musician”. He interweaves music, film and fashion, of genders, of art, which make him belong to the public and to 20th Century culture in a way other artists have not. We get more than the sounds of his voice on the radio, we got his image, reinvented over again. He exceeds the regimented passing of time – because he was never passé, he was never outdated, he always had something new, exciting and experimental, as we can well hear in his very last and latest album Blackstar. 

David Bowie did weird things. Weird, amazing things, which captured  the imagination of the public, and evolved with each decade. He wrote songs about outer space, before the Moon landing. He wrote songs about sexual ambiguity. He wrote songs about dystopic futures. He practically invented his own language, finding inspiration from the juxtaposition of nouns across newspaper columns.* But for all their weirdness, his songs were hits. He made misfits mainstream. This skinny young bloke from Brixton made himself into an alien, a being that defied all existing conventions, paving the way for so many artists, rebels, scary monsters, and pretty things after him. 

* David Bowie talks about his Verbasizer programme in the 1997 video Inspirations : https://youtu.be/H7Sgq0XoxPw

New Year’s Resolutions

 

  1. Eat more vegetables
  2. Drink less wine
  3. Do more exercise
  4. Get everywhere on time
  5. Don’t go out so much
  6. See your parents more
  7. Give guys a chance!
  8. Be less of a whore
  9. Be more generous
  10. Spend less money
  11. Be more sophisticated
  12. Be more funny
  13. Be more patient
  14. Make yourself heard
  15. Take more pride in your appearance
  16. CHANGE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF, YOU DUMB SLUT
  17. Follow your dreams.

 

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Wishing you a Super Sweet ’16!