Oscars, the Race so Far

I’ve seen very few films this year. So, let’s do this, my marginally informed take on the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globe Award nominations, and this year’s Oscar hopefuls. I’m not doing the other guild and critics awards though I acknowledge that they may carry more weight than certainly the GGs. This is not that serious – just another movie lovers ramblings.

For Cast in a Motion Picture/Best Picture the leading contenders seem to be Black Panther, Blackklansman, A Star is Born, Crazy Rich Asians, and Bohemian Rhapsody as these are the five with both SAG and GG noms (I’m not doing that comedy-drama split that the GGs do), while If Beale Street could Talk, The Favorite, Vice, Green Book, and Mary Poppins Returns are also in the conversation. Of these, I’ve seen only Black Panther with plans to watch Blakklansman, If Beale Street could Talk, Crazy Rich Asians, and because I like the actors possibly The Favorite and Green Book. I’m least interested in Vice (no thanks) and A Star is Born (sorry) though buzz has the latter getting all the awards. I thought Sorry to Bother You (a truly bizarre but deeply thought provoking film) and Widows (a complex drama masked as a heist film) might be in the mix as well, certainly for cast in the case of the latter. But no. So I’m rooting for Black Panther – which I loved so much I saw it twice – though I know the odds are long (super hero film and all). I do hope it gets a costume nod for the Oscars though because it deserves it. It’s certainly my picture and dopest cast of the year.

For Best Actor, leading contender seems to be Bradley Cooper, with Rami Malek and John David Washington at his heels, and Christian Bale and Viggo Mortenson getting strong looks as well. Bradley or Rami seem to have the buzz, Viggo and Christian should never be counted out; but how crazy would it be if Denzel’s son won? I can’t speak yet to the quality of any of these performances, only the quality of the actors and they’re all good. Too soon to call for me.

Best Actress favourites seem to be Lady Gaga…and then everybody else (including Glenn Close, Melissa McCarthy, Emily Blunt, and Olivia Coleman) in the running. I’m rooting for Glenn Glose who should have won this by now (pick a role) but not as an Al Pacino make up Oscar because though I haven’t yet seen The Wife, it’s been on my to-watch list since I saw the trailer which is more than I can say for the other films in the running. A note re Emily Blunt, this nom is for Mary Poppins Returns. I didn’t grow up on Mary Poppins (the Julie Andrews on holiday rotation where I am when I was growing up was The Sound of Music) – so I’m kind of meh on a character I was never into returning. But she also has a supporting actress nom for A Quiet Place which perplexes me, not because I don’t think a horror film performance is ‘Oscar worthy’ or whatever but because I saw and liked A Quiet Place and…if she wasn’t the female lead in that film, who was? Do not say the daughter.

The Best supporting actress race is between Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz (who pretty much cancel each other out, right?) for The Favorite, and Amy Adams (Vice). I wanted to see the Reginas (Hall for Support the Girls) in there but only Regina King picked up a nom (a GG) for If Beale Street Could Talk. Come on, Brenda, it’s not over yet! But if Amy Adams finally picked up an Oscar (after losing out for so many deserving performances), I wouldn’t be mad.

The Best supporting actor race seems to be between Mahershala Ali, Timothee Chalemet, Richard E. Grant, and Adam Driver. Yes, from the previews, Green Book seems a bit Driving Miss Daisy, a bit white savior-y but Mahershala! Mahershala! Mahershala!

That’s where the overlap ends but let’s look at the GGs best screenplay and best director nods. Roma, The Favorite, If Beale Street Could Talk, Vice, Green Book are in the running for screenplay; and I’m leaning toward If Beale Street Could Talk mostly because the source material is by James Baldwin.  But if the academy wants to be really boundary pushing give a nod in this category to Sorry to Bother You. For director, they have Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuaron, Peter Farrelly, Spike Lee, and Adam McKay. I think these are interesting choices. It would be good to see Spike get one after the Do the Right Thing snub, Peter Farrelly (of the Farrelly brothers is definitely stepping outside of his usual zone and that’s always interesting), it’s a first for Bradley and though I’ve heard some criticisms of the third act from all accounts it’s a solid first. I would’ve squeezed Steve McQueen in there for Widows (he made some really interesting choices on that film – a film by the way – huge sidebar alert – in which I found the reaction/reviews broke down in interesting ways along race+gender lines – my unofficial tally of professional and amateur reviewers on youtube, and I watched a few, finding that the critics liked it as did black female amateur and professional reviewers but men of colour were leaning toward not and other men, mixed – not sure what it means except men seemed disappointed there wasn’t more heist and seemed uncomfortable with the interracial love scenes, and women appreciated the character work and the layers of complexity vis-à-vis character dynamics and social commentary, and the chemistry and the performances – Viola Davis being a boss as usual, Daniel Kaluuya being frighteningly menacing, Elizabeth Dibecki getting a lot of praise as well, though for me Michelle Rodriquez took the boldest and most vulnerable turn from her previous work making her my dark horse awards nom hopeful) ***SPOILER ALERT**** and I wouldn’t count Barry Jenkins out for If Beale Street Could Talk. I know Ryan Coogler is a long shot but for my money he hasn’t made a misstep yet and he did interesting things with the super hero genre. I thought Michael B. Jordan might even be in the best supporting actor conversation if very marginally because of Hollywood’s genre bias. The question I’m left with though is where the women at…are we really saying there are no ‘Oscar Worthy’ film directed by women this year. The only female-helmed films I saw on the nominee lists for the GGs or SAGs was Mary Queen of Scots by Josie Rourke (an acting nod for Margot Robbie). I saw and liked Leave no Trace by Debra Granik but that doesn’t seem to have created any kind of stir (and it did have some pacing issues). Think there’s any chance that Skate Kitchen by Janelle Moselle might pick up even a cinematography award? – and I’m not just saying that because the cinematographer is Antiguan-Barbudan Shabier Kirchner.

I’ll say this though, Hollywood has a ways to go in terms of opportunities in front and especially behind the camera for women and people of colour, and not to mention women of colour. It feels like they still have to be exceptional to be seen when others are allowed to be …good. Listen to Robert Townsend talking recently about his struggles getting now classic films like Hollywood Shuffle and The Five Heartbeats (for which he’s made a making of doc he hopes will be in Oscar contention) made.

“There was a part of me that was dying as an artist. I told Keenan, because we had both had bad auditions, and I said Keenan we need to make our own movies. I said, we can’t wait on Hollywood to tell our stories. And that’s when I started to create Hollywood Shuffle. I shot it in 12 days. When I ran out of money, I used a credit card. The film was done for $100,000 and then eventually it made close to $10,000,000 and that’s how I was launched.”

It’s clear Hollywood – for all that it tells the stories that move the culture – seems to still be coming from behind when it comes to really making change (and seeing the world though a multiplicity of lenses).

As for me, this is just some preliminary musings; hopefully I’ll see more of the contenders between now and then, and have more informed speculation.

 

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Book News

No, not a new book from me (I wish!), but some news about books from the other blog mostly.

1, A post about a new book out of St. Lucia due in 2019 and called Saint Lucian Writers and Writing: an Author Index of Published Works of Poetry, Prose, Drama 1933-2018 compiled and edited by John Robert Lee with a foreword by Dr. Antonia Macdonald. St. Lucia is so consistently committed to research and documentation re its arts. If only…

2, A post about Trinidad-Guyanese author Ian McDonald’s Antigua-Barbuda connection and his new collection. It was also the Wadadli Pen Blog Post of the Week on my public facebook page.

3, A post lamenting the slow response to the #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda book of the year readers choice challenge and the hope that y’all are reading and getting ready to vote. Voting closes March 2019.

4, A post linking to Zing (the LIAT inflight magazine’s) listing of 25 books for children and teen readers. One of mine, Musical Youth, made the list.

musical_youth_nov1-e1415925946338

lost spanish cover 2

5, not on my blog, but my last book, children’s picture book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure’s, a picture book, and its Spanish edition Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, got a shout out on America-based Jamaican author Geoffrey Philp’s blog. Thanks, Geoffrey.

with Geoffrey PhilpThis didn’t start out as a Meme post but I’m going to add it to It’s Monday, What are You Reading? So in the spirit of that meme…

What am I read last week?

*voice of Brain from Pinky and the Brain* why, the same thing I read last week. Yep, still reading Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal. I had a bit of fun with it this week as part of the Wondrous Words Wednesday Meme<—check that out. Seriously, check it out. So, anyway, I’m 230 pages in and I’m into it. But I do have a couple of client editing projects as well on the reading schedule (and just wrapped another one); so it will take however long it takes. So, that also covers…

What I’m reading now.

Up Next…

The books by my bed are … the books by my bed. The ones I’m most looking forward to continuing  are Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker and The Black Rose by Tananrive Due, which I really had expected to finish a long time ago (maybe finishing that should be my hill to climb before the end of the year. Tick tock, right?

Finally, Last Week’s Post.

In the interest of paying it forward, I’ll share a post I enjoyed reading last week Weekend Wrap Up #66 by Jo’s Book Blog, mostly because she reminded me that I want to check out that new movie Dumplin (haven’t read the book but the trailer was funny).

 

Language + the Self

This Ted talk shook loose a memory of a conversation with a white American man who did/does charitable work in the region about The Way We Talk (to reference the book by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joy Lawrence breaking down, well the way we talk…and other Antiguan folkways).

As with most Antiguans and Barbudans, and Caribbean people, really, I move in and out of that home/heart/nation language and English (the standard), depending on the context.

Sidebar: A recent overheard conversation – one woman to another – “yuh ah go back ah work?” – other woman in response – “dem lucky!” This tickled me because really how do you express that in standard English, that “dem lucky!” – “hell to the no” maybe? – oh, wait, that’s not standard English either, is it? But no “they would be fortunate if that happened because I have my business to take care of; so, no, I will not be returning to work today” doesn’t quite cut it either; some things only find fullness of expression in our heart language (yes, I calling it language; let the linguists linguist, ah so we talk).

I had by the time of my interaction with the gentleman mentioned earlier written pieces in defence of this ‘dialect’ (a whole series explaining why it was not just bad English at one point). It was odd, this conversation, because he and I were really meeting for the first time and he commented on what he perceived as the limited range of expression of this heart language. For context, consider that this ‘limited’ language is my first language. Consider that variations of it is the first language of people up and down our archipelago of Caribbean islands, French, English, Spanish, Dutch etc., depending on which European country colonized the island and the origins of the primarily African people, of different tribes with their own languages, who were brought to those islands largely by force and, while trying to hold on to something of themselves under duress, had to shape a new identity from these larger influences and other factors, like the indigenous influences and the influences of the migratory populations who would arrive later. Limited? A rich, thick, tasty pepperpot more like.

Was his assumption arrogant? Sortofmaybeyes…but it was also curious and I decided to be patient. I remember telling him something along the lines of the language, like any language, having the vocabulary it needs (language is functional after all) and it is dynamic (meaning that it continues to adapt to the needs of its population). I’m not sure if I directed him to pick up a copy of The Way We Talk and Other Antiguan Folkways, which talks about the origins of some of the words in our vernacular, as well as the constructions of those words to make sentences, that communicate meaning that is understood by other speakers with the tools and frame of reference to decode that language. See, it works like other languages – and though we had been colonized into thinking badly of it, it served us well. My own mental shift on this topic probably began in my undergrad years, reading Dr. Carolyn Cooper’s columns written in both standard English and Jamaican patois. I was not used to seeing any variation of the largely oral Caribbean creole we all grew up speaking, in our various island variations, written down. And back then the only patois I knew was what the Dominicans (not Dominican Republic) in my family spoke. It was a French based creole much like our English based creole but we saw it (patois) as its own thing and called what we spoke dialect (and it was common to hear “speak properly” if you spoke that dialect out of turn). But the times they are a-changing. Dr. Cooper still writes her column in both English and Jamaican – could she do that if one lacked the range to express itself as fully as the other? There is a dictionary of Caribbean English, online data resources of Caribbean creole, a Bible in Caribbean creole, and it (the creole, not the bible) is included in A-level communications courses and texts (which now fall under the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Examinations Council). I use ‘dialect’ liberally in my creative writings, and I taught those Advanced level communications courses at more than one institution, at one point.

These developments represent shifts in our understanding of our Caribbean creole language/s – that it has a vocabulary, an origin, an orthography, a construction, a standard along with its sub-regional variations.

And that’s a good thing, because per the video, which prompted this reflection, the other thing to be considered is how language shapes the way you think on so many levels – from geography to humor to emotions to gender to crime and punishment, so much hinges on that – and understanding that is a step closer to understanding the self.

Antigua and Barbuda in Verse

I just responded to a request for a poem about Antigua and Barbuda – I get requests like that from time to time, on account of being a writer and, possibly, on account of my voluntary work with the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, which suggests that I’ve got some kind of finger on the pulse of what’s happening literarily in Wadadli. Not sure about that but I do do my best to catalogue our writings which allows me to be able to pass along not only a link to my poems, but to some of the other Antiguan and Barbudans who’ve published or presented verse (and non-verse) on industry platforms.

Having spent some time doing that, I thought I’d share it with you here so that you can discover these writers as well. The list is broken down alphabetically A – M and N – Z.

with Althea Romeo Mark and Brenda Lee Browne
(Three Antiguan and Barbudan poets/writers meeting up – Brenda Lee Browne, Althea Romeo Mark, and Joanne C. Hillhouse)

You’ll find on those lists publications like Althea Romeo-Marks Neighbour’s in the Wood Shack, Desiree’s Revenge, Flawless, Play-Mamas, and A Kind of Refuge/Living in Limbo in Womanspeak, 2013; Burdened in KRITYA Poetry Journal, 2012; Revolution and Reggae in Calabash, 2007 … what can I say, the Switzerland based writer has written and published a lot and not frivolous sh*t either. Check it out.

“Bokrah man
lashing whip ‘pon back.
Nager man
lashing whip ‘pon back
when slavery
done gone long time.”

You’ll also find Charlene Spencer’s Stranger from 2014’s The Caribbean Writer, Brenda Lee Browne’s Granny Cecelia’s Travelling Handbag from 2016’s Womanspeak, Tammi Browne-Bannister’s Wee Willie Winkle from 2015’s The Caribbean Writer and Coo Yah from 2014’s Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters. Shout out to Tammi.

“He ate each and every kidney, tantalizing his classmates with every suck, pick, slurp and lick. Their mouths watered and their eyes followed the golden juices that gushed down his hands.”

Peep also a discovery, George W. Edwards’ Folklore from Antigua and Barbuda, circa 1921, and finds like Shakeema Edwards, someone who came through the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge and published Diaspora and That Laugh in 2014’s Tongues of the Ocean, which I had the opportunity to edit.

You have warriors like Linisa George whose In the Closet was part of BBC’s Poetry Postcards series in 2014, Clifton Joseph’s I remember Back Home and Slo Mo at Words Aloud in 2007, Edgar Lake’s Walcott Reads to Brodsky’s Godmother in 2007’s Calabash, to Kimolisa Mings turning the fairytale on its head with Little Red Hoodie in 2014’s Tongues of the Ocean.

I’m listed, too; from 2004’s Rhythms and Ah Write! in The Caribbean Writer to 2011’s At Sea in Munyori to 2016’s Game Changer in Moko, and others.

“Essie is flamboyant as ever; her full and curvy frame hugged up by a red bustier straight out of a burlesque show, black leather pants, and dangerously (sexy, she would say) red heels that still only bring her up to Claudette’s chin. Claudette is also in black, tall and svelte in a black strappy ankle-length maxi dress, black combat boots and a black beaded cloche hat someone like Louise Brooks might have worn during the jazz era; her red-red lip stick and the red beading in the fitted cap, the only pop of colour. Essie had given the whole get-up an eye roll when she’d picked her up. Claudette had done her own mental eye roll at the way her friend, enviably comfortable in her own skin, still doesn’t get the concept of size-appropriate clothing.”

Click the links in this post, if so inclined, and read a bit of Antigua and Barbuda in verse. Oh and remember to vote for the Wadadli Pen Readers Choice Book of the Year #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda

Wondrous Words Wednesday – New Word, Old Worlds

I thought I’d try the BermudaOnion’s Wondrous Words Wednesday (what? me? procrastinate?). I actually do have a word that jumped out at me from (read-in-progress) Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal. Set in Jane Austen times, the book mimics in some ways the literary style and sense and sensibility of the times of which it writes. Which is how you end up with a word like…

Inexpressibles.

Jane and Vincent have been set upon by corsairs (we’ll come back to that word in a minute) en route to Venice and robbed of everything except the clothes on their backs. Once they’ve secured some funds, re-outfitting themselves is one of the first orders of business – shirts, trousers, coats, cravats (back in a minute)…and inexpressibles. Get the jist?

idris-elba-c-600
(not Vincent)

Well, maybe Collins can clear it up for you. Inexpressibles is obsolete British slang for underwear. Obsolete for now making it right  in time for 1817 (the year in which the book is set).

An alternate definition of inexpressibles specific to the Regency era is a style of breeches/trousers both popular and scandalous (according to this post): from description sounding kinda like tights that leave little to the imagination …worn as pants.

As for corsairs, they were pirates, and cravats were neckwear that pre-dated the necktie. So there you have it, not one word but three words…for which you have no practical use in 2018.

unnamed.jpg
(not a cravat)

You’re welcome.

Site updates – Services.

I did some tweaking to a couple of my jobs pages; so it seemed a good time to remind whomever it may concern…

I offer writing, editing, critiquing, training, coaching, consulting services. Here’s a breakdown. You do not need to be local to me to access those services.

I have been fortunate to receive positive feedback from clients and workshop participants, which I share only to help you decide if I’m the right service provider for you.

Latest sample feedback (this concerns the Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop series but is applicable to my coaching, mentoring, workshopping, tutoring, teaching services in general):

“I am really confident about writing now. I have been doing so well since I started it has grabbed the attention of my employers and colleagues… This workshop was really intriguing. I learnt a lot of things (of which) I had no knowledge. Joanne is also a fantastic teacher. ”

Here’s more.

Thanks. Remember, also to check out the latest installment of CREATIVE SPACE, an opportunity, if you’re a business operating in Antigua and Barbuda to boost your brand while boosting local arts and culture. Finally, my books may be just the thing for the book lover on your list – they include children’s picture books, teen/young adult fiction, and adult literature.

Thanks for reading.

Have a good one.

 

Could go on and on the full has never been told

I don’t want to dwell on the suffering side of Ignatius Sancho’s experience but researching him, just following a thread of curiousity after learning about him elsewhere, it occurred to me that one of the realities of the slave ship along the Middle Passage I’d never ever ever considered was the children born en route. F#ck. That just makes it a million times worse. Sigh. Could go on and on the full has never been told .

Here’s an excerpt from the British Library online archives: “According to Jekyll’s biography, Sancho was born in around 1729 on a slave ship en route from Guinea to the Spanish West Indies. Though this origin story is often repeated, Sancho wrote in his letters that he was born in Africa (Vol. 2, Letter LXVII, 6 June 1780). Sancho grew up an orphan: Jekyll writes that his mother died when he was an infant, and his father committed suicide rather than live in enslavement. Around the age of two, Sancho was taken to London, where he was forced to work as a slave for three sisters at a house in Greenwich. As an adult, Sancho wrote: ‘the first part of my life was rather unlucky, as I was placed in a family who judged ignorance the best and only security for obedience’ (Vol. 1, Letter XXXV, July 1766). During this time he met John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu, who encouraged his education and gave him books to read. After the duke’s death, Sancho ran away from the house in Greenwich and persuaded the duke’s widow to employ him. Sancho would work in the Montagu household for the next 20 years, serving as Mary Montagu’s butler until the Duchess’s death in 1751, and then as valet to George Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu, until 1773.”

Moving beyond this sad beginning, and this might be what I came across initially, I don’t remember, he was the first Black person to vote in the British elections.

“In 1758 Sancho married Anne Osborne, a West Indian woman with whom he had seven children. After Sancho left the Montagu household, the couple opened a grocery store in Westminster, where Sancho, by then a well-known cultural figure, maintained an active social and literary life until his death in 1780. As a financially independent male householder, Sancho became eligible to vote and did so in 1774 and again just before his death in 1780. He was the first person of African descent to vote in a British general election. He is also the first known person of African descent to have an obituary published in British newspapers.”

That obit would have included his four published musical compositions and his many writings on culture (including his anti-slavery writings) among other accomplishments.

“Only after his death did Sancho’s letters reach a large public readership when they were collected and published in 1782 as The Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African. The two-volume collection sold well and delivered to a wide audience Sancho’s reflections on slavery and empire, as well as his own vexed experiences as a highly educated person of African origin living in London towards the end of the 18th century.” Why am I sharing this? Just because. Here is Ignatius Sancho’s full entry in the British Library online archives.

Hollywood or BBC, we need a film, stat!