Just under 2000 words about the 90th Academy Awards (The Oscars (sexist much?)), which is being held in 2018 for films of 2017


Vague memories from the recesses of my mind of Billy Crystal dragging onto the stage an elephantine, supine Oscar statuette. David Letterman doing an excruciating bit where he said “Uma”, “Oprah” a coupla times and then the punchline was “Keanu”, presaging the niche if oddly evergreen people-dying-on-YouTube phenomenon. Whoopi Goldberg subtly reminding the audience that she had already won a gold knickknack (the first quarter of an extraordinary EGOT) by telling the nominees to relax, she’s been there. I vividly remember Gladiator and Chicago winning Best Picture but I have no recollection of Steve Martin’s involvement (might be all the Nurofens Plus I was taking back then or it might all the Nurofens Plus Steve Martin’s career was taking). Hugh Jackman unsuccessfully turning the event into a backdoor pilot (that’s not what you think it is) for a Viva Laughlin spinoff. James Franco and Anne Hathaway doing what I thought was a fairly passable convincing the world they are essential film acting celebrity people. Seth Macfarrlllllaaaannnnneee (sorry I vomited a little there). The otherwise insanely talented Neil Patrick Harris magically making his appeal disappear during a 12th Century Monastically tone deaf exercise in amateur prestidigitation. Jimmy Kimmel praising Mel Gibson for looking great and then opining that the Scientology is really working out for him.

I have a sincere and uncynical love for the Oscars, not unlike the Boy Scouts of America’s apolitical love of civic duty and service, before Donald Trump arrived at their 2017 jamboree to humiliate two of his Secretaries and humourlessly recount a wildly inappropriate anecdote about a construction industry business associate they couldn’t possible have heard of who made a tremendous amount of money and then purchased a big, beautiful yacht to sail out into international waters and have, one assumes, orgies of some paraphilia or another — Trump didn’t actualise the finer details — but “you’re Boy Scouts but you know life”. That digression doesn’t really have anything to do with the Oscars but I just love that little episode in this mind-boggling time to be alive. Luckily, though some have meanly tried, no Trumpesque force of nauseating piliferous orange vitriol has managed to shatter my heretofore infrangible adoration.

The 2018 Academy Awards — often referred to by their sexist cognomen the Oscars — is on Monday 5 March 2018 from 12pm in Sydney. I always take a day of annual leave and watch the ceremony live with a smile on face, fingers on my Twitter keys and prandial delights signifying the Best Picture nominees on my tongue. Here is the division of labour for this year’s 9-course cine degustation:


A post shared by Patrick Avenell (@patrickavenell) on

And here is my ranking of the nine films going for the big one (a fun challenge is to match the picture to the comestible supra):

Darkest Hour was a good film but because of that ridiculous scene on the train towards the denouement, I hope it wins nothing and, retrospectively, (spoilers for World War II) I am almost tempted to give the Axis Powers the War too. That scene was so hard to watch some of the champagne passed my oesophagus for the second time. I really woulda preferred I, Tonya to snatch that last nomination, though I really wouldn’t have enjoyed eating knock-off brand chocolate-enameled vanilla ice cream sticks, being dairy avoidant and all.

Dunkirk was absolutely terrific for so many reasons — the strafing, Harry Styles, the continuation of Mark Rylance’s unforeseen career renaissance, the jam sandwiches, the granular recreation of Dunkirk (altho it wasn’t as uniquely original as some film writers have suggested, weirdly forgetting Atonement’s outstanding beachmaking) — but the whole time thing didn’t work, only adding to the confusion smithed from all the non-1D characters looking the same, sharing a hive mind vanilla personality and being completely unrelatable.

The Post had all the journalistic self-importance that I only ever saw bad cover versions of during my decade on the craft, and Tom Hanks’ film daughter (incidentally, Tom Hanks’ life son Colin has blocked me on Twitter) was cuteness made corporeal selling lemonade to the griseous hacks, yet it still felt a little like Spielberg-manque than Spielberg-superb; all the characters hamming it up with that eye-rollingly tedious American breed of sincerity, like they were draped in an invisible oriflamme of stars and stripes. Time to time I genuinely wonder if some Academy voters never actually watch the films so they just write in Meryl Street for the actress categories assuming she’s done something worthyish.

The internet has doubled in size discussing Get Out. Some of it has been gnomic but most of it incisive and enlightening. This genre-bending horror-comedy satire was released in February 2017, which is unheard of for a genuine Oscar competitor, so the artful handling of its campaign deserves a marketing award. Jordan Peele’s contribution to the 2017 cultural discussion cannot be understated. Costing only around $4 million to make, Get Out has raked up $176 million, making it second only to Dunkirk among the Big 9, ensuring that a lot of difficult truths about this counterfeit post-race America were conveyed. The picture that most lends itself intertextual study (that Froot Loops scene [please visualise a (sic) in the Instagram above] is the most indelible cinematic metaphor since the girl in the red coat); its multiple nominations are the clearest sign yet that the Academy’s response to the #OscarsSoWhite backlash is starting the germinate a new generation of recognition. Of course black people are defined by more than their skin colour, just like LGBTQI+ people are more than simply letters on a Scrabble rack, but one feels that a lot of African Americans will be cheering on Get Out, not unlike me cheering on Call Me By Your Name, but one must inure themselves to the reality that these films are only likely to score gilded trinkets in the screenplay categories.

Three of the past four Best Director winners have been Mexicans. That blows my mind! Guillermo del Toro is a genuine auteur, or so I am led to believe, as from his oeuvre I have only seen The Shape of Water, for which he will surely make it four out of the last five. Sally Hawkins was amazing as the speechless custodian who egg-woos then fucks an Amazon swamp monster capable of curing baldness. Marlee Matlin and Holly Hunter have previously won Best Actress for nonplussed roles so their is a clear form line, but I’m a little bit miffed that Richard Jenkins, who is fine, snatched Michael Stuhlbarg’s slot and Octavia Spencer, who is fine, purloined Michelle Williams’ fifth loss.

Clinton Murray Hader (Ebbing, MO) Surf Snow Monopoly — that’s a rebus! — came closest to Get Out infiltrating the zeitgeist. People are actually gussying up their own billboards in the style of Mildred Hayes (seriously, how could you name a character under 95 Mildred?) to motorway shame venal politicians who have nailed themselves to a cruciform AR-15 or heterotrophically weak Prime Ministers trying to limp a Brexit they grotesquely championed across the line (I couldn’t find a link for this but I saw it on Twitter so you will have to take me on trust). It’s called Three Billboarding: a scrumptious verb neologism. A cleverer wag than me hated this film and in a memorable call back to The West Wing summarised their disinclination with the invective “the whole film screamed ‘crime, boy, I dunno'” or words to that effect (again, please take me on trust). I laughed the whole way through, was completely absorbed by Frances McDormand’s powerful portrayal, and wasn’t particularly alert to all the racism, homophobia and mid-rib dinner consumption anti-little-people sentiments that I have since read reams and reams about, nearly all of it admirably persuasive. My cognitive dissonance aside, this is my prediction for several big above-the-line envelope controversies.

I have a friend named M who I love dearly and for her birthday several years back I third-wheeled it avec her common law husband to the Dendy on Oxford Street (the clean one) to see Frances Ha. Greta Gerwig has been my fantasy hetero life partner ever since so expectations were NorCal sequoia sized for Lady Bird. As a good Catholic boy → bad atheist man I delighted in this rarish excursion into the female bildungsroman subgenre, redolent as it was of much of my schooling, though I must admit to never egressing out of a moving car or snacking on unconsecrated communion wafers. It breaks my heart to soothsay an empty handed absqualation for Greta, Saoirse Ronan (brilliant in everything, especially Ed Sheeran music videos) and Laurie Metcalf (very funny, forsooth, but was playing a character with cloudy motivation, which had to be explained to me by one of M’s close friends who, it goes without saying, is another wag much cleverer than me).

I wouldn’t wish my internal diacritic upon my worst enemy, such is the Lincoln-Douglas level of my back and forth viz otherwise easy decisions like how many apples per day is a responsible number and where the line is for psychopathic levels of peristalsis interdicting eating. But sometimes it amuses me, and it is good to be able to amuse yourself if you are borderline unlovable, like when my treasonous psyche ruminated on how thrilled PTA and DDL musta been when they arrived at and then settled on Reynolds for the sartorially suave proto genius protagonist of Phantom Thread. One of the great dark comedies of the age and a visually delicious entry into the broadly high quality albeit narrow Food Film sub-subgenre, 👻👚 absorbs the viewer from bacon and eggs for breakfast to mushroom omelette for dinner. Did you know Lesley Manville, on-screen sister to, conscious of and business partner with Reynolds, was married to Gary Oldman for like 20 minutes during the 80s? No idea if there has been any rapprochement but the possibility of seeing two Oscar-bearing exes fielding awkward questions is simply irresistible! Alas, there will only be one winner among the estranged duo and suffice to say it will be the wrong one.

Patrick. Patrick. Patrick. James Ivory and his partner Ishmail Merchant (vale!) spent 44 years making some of the most boring films a 10-year-old can be forced to watch by his erudite older cousin. That was when he was a spritely 70-year-old. The dude is now almost 90 and must be aiming to be the last living piece of ivory on the planet, what with Glenn McGrath and Eric + Donald Trump Junior’s shameful trophy hunting proclivities. He’s up for adapting André Aciman’s intellectually sprawling but desultory novel of glowing up in northern Italy ca 1985: lazy afternoons spent lounging by the pool, playing beach volleyball, masturbating into peaches, eating peaches, sexy dancing to Psychedelic Furs and positioning yourself near the toilet so you can watch your boyfriend’s excrement extrude from anus to bowl in a scene I found absolutely disgusting but maybe I am just a prude? Ivory deserves an adaptation Oscar simply for omitting that little gastric vignette from this deeply affecting fairytale. I actually saw this film twice at the pictures, something I don’t do often, and the first time I was scandalised by how miscast Armie Hammer was but the second time I understood and appreciated the boisterousness he was infusing into the courting, closeted grad student object of Elio’s affection, even if I do tend to spend all of every Hammer film trying to figure out what accent he is doing. Sufjan Stevens, whose name I refuse pronounce correctly, furnished two original songs to underscore two of the more sentimental but never corny scenes, the first is a frolic (Mystery of Love, my #11 song of 2017) and the second a facial flame (Visions of Gideon, my #23 song of 2017). James Ivory to win on his fourth attempt and Sufjan Stevens to win on his first would be splendiferous, resigned though I am to that lazy drivel from The Greatest Showman interloping on my thoughts and prayers. Call Me By Your Name and I’ll call you by mine.

Patrick’s predix:


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