The Perfect Victim

This was actually written in summer 2018 after actor Terry Crews’ testimony before the US Senate re his sexual assault by an agent at a Hollywood event. It never found a  home but I decided to share it here, as a follow-up to conversations I’ve had in this space re #metoo because, unfortunately, not much has changed.

On the subject of sex crimes, it is said, and it is true, that there is no ‘perfect victim’, but when actor Terry Crews said during his June 26th 2018 Senate testimony “I knew I had to be the example”, he underscored that in some uncomfortable ways he is the ‘perfect victim’ to illuminate certain shortcomings in the culture post #metoo.

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The #metoo movement exploded in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the super producer’s subsequent fall, and when Crews made the decision to add his voice, it was with the awareness that survivors are often not believed or are shamed. “I wanted these survivors to know that I believed them, I supported them, and that this happened to me too.” Since coming forward, Crews has been a persistent voice across media – and through the courts where he has brought action against his alleged assaulter, and now through lending his voice to legislation in support of sexual assault survivors – on the subject of “toxic masculinity”, speaking to the macho default that has other some men ostracizing, shaming him, and calling him weak.

On his show Brooklyn 99 and in films like, recently, Deadpool 2 and The Expendables film franchise from which he has walked away after being pressed by the producers to be silent on his assault, Crews is the epitome of masculinity. “I’m not a small nor insecure man,” he said.  Yet, the very thing that makes people like rapper and Power producer Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson troll Crews, implying that he was is less than a man, after his Senate testimony, his impressive physicality, is the thing that makes him the perfect counter-point to comfortable narratives about victimhood.

Crews is a big man, who by his own testimony was courageous enough to be vulnerable and authentic in a culture – the culture at large, and the culture of Hollywood more specifically – that discourages these traits in men. Moreover, he is a black man in a culture that attaches danger to blackness.

Crews said that his size and race did factor in to how he responded in the moment when allegedly groped without his permission at an industry event by a Hollywood power player, agent Adam Venit. He noted that he had seen, growing up in Flint, Michigan, the fate of black men conditioned to respond in anger – that fate, prison or death. Working in Hollywood since the end of his NFL career, Crews was mindful that Hollywood has its own built in power dynamics given that it’s a place where people go to pursue dreams, with some, usually men, holding the key to those dreams. Mindful as well that “as a black man in America, you only have a few shots at success”, and that to allow oneself to be provoked in to violence – even if one is not the aggressor – would be to risk not just his dreams but potentially his freedom and his life.

“My wife (Rebecca King-Crews) for years prepared me…she trained me,” Crews said, “if this situation happens, let’s leave. And the training worked.” He spoke to the feelings of shame he felt after the assault and of the ways others have tried to shame him since speaking out, but of feeling emboldened to lend his voice, alongside rape survivor Amanda Nguyen, co-drafter of the Survivors Bill of Rights and founder of RISE, to legislation to increase protections for sexual assault survivors.

What makes Crews’ story perfect in this moment, something Crews understands having spoken to the gaslighting of victims, is in illuminating that sexual assault can happen to anyone –anyone can be vulnerable, no matter their size, because it’s about power, and that society still provides safe haven for abusers – answering the other question about why survivors tend to be reticent about coming forward.

“I sit in this committee just as an example because a lot of people don’t believe a person like me can be victimized,” Crews said, adding, however that “since I came forward with my story I have had thousands and thousands of men come to me and say #metoo”.

Crews, as imperfect as any victim, because, in case it needs to be said, there is no perfect victim, and victims shouldn’t have to be perfect to be believed and supported, continues to dialogue on this issue, singling out black women for their support and tangling with his loudest critics (because even if his very size and strength prove that it’s not all about size and strength, some simply don’t want to get it). The conversation continues.

 

 

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About the Cushion Club Reading Club for Kids in Antigua & Barbuda

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Cushion Club, 2019.

It occurs to me that I’ve never really written about the Cushion Club here on my Jhohadli blog (which is about my writing and professional journey, and whatever else I feel like talking about) – though I’ve written on it many times on the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize blog (the platform for the programme I started in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and a literary hub for our islands) and on Antiguanice.com (which continues to generously share its online real estate with community projects like ours), not to mention the reading club’s media updates. But there are some new developments I wanted to share and it feels about time that I did some of the sharing over here as Cushion Club was for many years second only to Wadadli Pen as my primary volunteer project – and though I am no longer a regular reader, I am a Cushion Clubber for life.

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Cushion Club, 2008.

The Club started in the late 1990s, let’s say 97, and it has moved around a lot in the years since and the volunteers have changed (Barbara Arrindell, Joanne Massiah, among the volunteers in the early years) and changed again (Teacher Elizee, Daydre, Asha, Ina, etc.) over time (not to mention the very guest readers we would invite in), but it is still providing reading adventures for children – still Saturdays (10:30 a.m. – 12 noon), currently out of the UWI Open Campus (Antigua and Barbuda).

Caption: some of our visitors and volunteers through the years.

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Cushion Club, visiting writer/reader Chadd Cumberbatch; 2010.

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Cushion Club, visiting reader/Chief Librarian Dorothea Nelson; 2009.

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Cushion Club (one of the early volunteers, Ms. Henry with the kids including one of my nieces pictured far right); 2004.

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Cushion Club, w/Cedric and Ina (and one of my nephews, in red, and nieces, far left); 2010.

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Cushion Club w/Juania Elizee; 2008.

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Cushion Club w/guest presenter/dramatist/educator Kanika Simpson-Davis; 2013.

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Cushion Club w/guest/author Floree Williams; 2008.

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Cushion Club w/guest/writer Joy Lawrence; 2009.

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Cushion Club, w/guests/Girl Guides; 2008.

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Cushion Club w/guest/visiting author Patricia Harrington; 2008.

I became a volunteer, probably around 2003, I really wasn’t keeping count but I’m 98 percent sure it was before I launched Wadadli Pen as I remember running Wadadli Pen writing workshops out of the Cushion Club space when we were still at the Senior Centre in Gambles. It wasn’t always easy – there were Saturdays when I had to work, or chauffeur my niece or my mom, or go to a class I was taking (which was tricky especially as parents rarely picked their kids up on time) – but I stuck with it for many years (about 10 give or take), long enough that I saw kids I met in primary school grow up. I remember reading Jane Eyre (?) my first few weeks with Desonee who was in primary school at the time and is now a teacher. Crazy.

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Cushion Club, Zuri and Zoe, 2004 – one of these is in college and one is in law school.

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Cushion Club, 2006 with Velonie (one of my nieces), Shonell, and Latisha.

Another of my early kids Latisha is now a volunteer herself – and a recent university graduate – who is very much about the branding, and has set the Club up with a social media presence – here and here. And she has other plans. I like the new energy coming in to the Club to support the work being done by our most consistent volunteer from the Club’s earliest years to present Cedric Holder. It is Cedric who has expanded what the Club does – the field trips (from field trips to visiting other reading clubs to attending spelling bees and lit fest type events), the give back (sponsoring a humanities prize for Buckley’s Primary, a summer read challenge prize collabo with Wadadli Pen, a prize for the junior section of Wadadli Pen Challenge in the Club’s name for instance), among other things.

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Cushion Club, Cedric presenting the Club prize to a Buckley’s Primary student; 2005.

But as I was reminded on my most recent visit, it’s kids in a space, listening and reading, and playing word games (I used to enjoy re-purposing games from my own childhood such as Concentration and Red Light Green Light into word games for the kids, and the kids always loved our spelling and social studies/current events competitions) – we always tried to make it fun. And, of course, reading to them with the vigour (and many voices) I did at home with my niece, helped me get more comfortable with public reading because there’s no self-consciousness, only a desire to make the story come alive for them. And I’ve said before that I tested the story that would become my picture book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure out on the Club kids – plus one of the schools I visited – but I remember specifically asking the Club kids what they thought of it. Their response helped.

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At the Spelling Bee with one of my nieces (right) and one of my Cushion Club kids, 2009.

So they have helped me as I have helped them. It’s actually heart-filling when I run in to them as young adults – like how are they so grown.  But then my own nieces and nephews whom I used to take to the Club with me (some of them pictured above) are also now grown so it makes sense. I have learned that mentorship chooses you more than you choose it, and so I embrace the ones who see me as their mentor, auntie, big sister, whatever they want to call me – and thank whatever spirit led me to volunteer with the Club for the opportunity to serve. I still serve though I’m not a Club regular anymore – mostly I’m the one who does the media announcements and keeps up with the Club correspondence, that sort of thing (the club email by the way is cushionclub@yahoo.com).

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Cushion Clubbers, 2008.

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Cushion Club, 2008…sharing this one because that’s another of my nephews in my arms…speaking of grown, he’s getting ready to enter secondary school soon.

Recently, the Club had a visitor (Mags) who found us – actually I’m not sure how she found us but on the eve of her visit to the island she offered to get some books for us (we’re always reaching out for fresh and interesting kid friendly books) and to stop by (we always love having fresh faces, visiting or volunteering as a regular). She’s not the first to reach out to us this way but it’s her email after her visit (plus Latisha’s recent efforts on social media) that prompted this Cushion Club post. She wrote:

Good morning Cedric.

I just wanted to say a big thank you to you for my visit to the Cushion Club yesterday.

I thoroughly enjoyed the morning, meeting you all and learning all about the club.

What a fantastic service you are providing for the children. I was amazed, The Cushion Club is so much more than a reading club. In addition to all the information and knowledge you are passing over in a fun way, you are also teaching invaluable life skills.

A special thank you to all the children, to you and to Latisha, you made me feel so welcome.

Kind regards

Mags

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Cushion Club, 2013 (Latisha volunteering).

Thank you, Mags, for visiting and also for affirming the work of the Club. Cedric, a National Youth Award winner for his service to the Cushion Club, is doing God’s work with his persistent commitment – even now that his own son (who was a wee one when I started volunteering) is grown and graduated from secondary school (and there’s no reason for him to still be as committed as he is…but he is. And what Mags described is exactly what the Club has been about all these years, and newest regular volunteer Latisha is one of the best examples of that.

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As a Cushion Club volunteer, Cedric is invited from time to time to volunteer read at lit events and schools.

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Cedric and son, Cushion Club, 2008.

 

She’s Royal #8

Preamble: After last week’s visit to the Scottish highlands, the She’s Royal series (spotlighting female royals I think Hollywood should consider) returns to America, the original Americans.

She’s Royal #8:

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Lozen

Her Story: Sister of prominent Apache chief, Victorio, Lozen was a warrior, with a gift for strategy, and medicine woman. Victorio is quoted in Will Roscoe’s Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America as saying, “Lozen is my right hand. Strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy, Lozen is a shield to her people.” Lozen, a two-spirit, whose romantic partner was a woman named Dahteste, sat alongside her brother in council meetings and participated in warrior ceremonies.  Throughout her life, which began in the 1840s, her people’s main adversary was the US government as it encroached on their land. Lozen was credited with her ability to anticipate where the enemy would be, and plan a counter-attack or re-locate as a matter of survival. Still the Chiricahua Apache lost nearly half their people in skirmishes with the US and Mexico, and were corralled unto reservations by 1870. They escaped in 1877 and continued to fight. After her brother was killed in battle in 1880, Lozen would go on to ride with the legendary Geronimo until his surrender. She was imprisoned with other Apache leaders and died, in confinement, of tuberculosis roughly two years later in 1889. It’s worth noting that Lozen, an apache war title for one who has taken horses in battle, is not her birth name; that has been lost to history. What hasn’t been lost is the anecdotal accounts of her exploits such as the one of her escorting a mother and newborn through hostile territory across the Chihuahuan Desert from Mexico to the Mescalero Apache Reservation with nothing but a rifle, a knife, and three days’ food supply. When she had to bring down a longhorn for food, she did so with only a knife, not wanting to give away their position by using her gun. She stole horses for herself and the mother, dodging gunfire – and even managed to make off with one soldier’s saddle, rifle, ammo, blanket, canteen, and shirt.

Possible casting: When I first drafted this, after some research, because, to my dis-credit, I don’t know many indigenous actresses, I thought maybe Q’orianka Kilcher, because my research suggested that she is a known Hollywood entity. But recently I saw an image of Lynnette Haozous who is a part Chiricahua Apache actor/activist who has actually played Lozen in an independent documentary film and thought …her.
Next up: Jamaica’s Queen.

This is a books post

… specifically a my books post (yes, one of those shameful/shameless plug alerts you’ve heard about); read on or not at your own discretion…but how’s this, I’ll drop at least one new tidbit/bit of inside knowledge about the writing or publishing of each book (and as I type this even I don’t know what I’m going to say). We’re on a slippery gangplank, guys; we’re in this together. Let’s do this.

Children’s picture books
Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure + its Spanish language edition ¡Perdida! Una Aventura en el mar Caribe (publisher Caribbean Reads Publishing, Caribbean/USA)

Tidbit: So you may know that the book is an anthropomorphic tale of an Arctic seal stranded in the Caribbean sea, and was inspired by actual events. Well, as a Caribbean girl I didn’t know a lot about seals (outside of Happy Feet, which I loved), so I researched and found, among other things, that seals are semi-aquatic creatures classified as pinnipeds (meaning, they have fin feet or literally winged feet). So, in the original draft of this story, I called baby seals mini-pinnies, which I think you’ll agree was too cute by far even for a children’s book.

Best of Books

With Grace (publisher Little Bell Caribbean, Caribbean/USA)

Tidbit: With Grace is the first book I published without pursuing publication – is that the definition of making it? (Ha! I wish) I wasn’t even considering making it in to a book. I had mentioned it on my blog after it won honourable mention as a short story and Mario, an independent writer/publisher I knew reached out with “Joanne, I would love to read With Grace. May I?” and then after reading it responded with “Could not wait. Just finished. Loved it.” This was in the wee hours of the night, and I may have cried a little but I was so joyful especially with his detailed explanation of why he loved it: “Traditional elements of the fairy tale and 100% Caribbean. I say it as the highest praise. The have and have nots, the illegitimate child, mango as central to us as apples to Europe, how treating a tree (a person, an animal) can make it thrive or wilt, the obeah, the song, generosity rewarded, selfishness punished, sisters: two sides of a coin, isolation and privilege corrupting the soul… and a fairie. Again, loved it.  I think you got a winner.
Let’s talk about the possibility of publishing…Thanks for such a beautiful, well thought, and meaningful story.” The path to publication has never been so emotional – in a positive way – for me.

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In the case of both Lost! and Grace, I became a children’s author five books in without planning to (though I had been branded as such for many years due to the publishing marketplace’s broad strokes and my first book being The Boy from Willow Bend).

Teen/Young Adult books
The Boy from Willow Bend (publisher Hansib, UK)

Tidbit: The original title for this book was Swamp Boy…due to the lily pond that was one of main character Vere’s meditation spaces. I think you’ll agree with me that it was too generic and set up the wrong expectation (horror, maybe?).

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Musical Youth (publisher Caribbean Reads Publishing, Caribbean/USA)

Tidbit: This is the first and only book I wrote consciously thinking about genre (notwithstanding that The Boy from Willow Bend, due to the age of the character, falls into this sub-genre, it was written without consciousness of genre just as the story of a boy) as I wrote it in a two week burst of writing in direct response to the call for submissions to the Burt award for teen/young adult Caribbean fiction; and I remember the editing experience as being particularly frustrating and challenging with a tight, though perhaps not the tightest, turnaround. Sometimes I wish I had more time with it, sometimes I think the tightness and intensity of both the writing and editing of it (and the fact that I wrestled with it) made it the book it is, and, though I’ll always think I can make it better I can make it better about everything I write probably, I can’t knock that.

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Adult contemporary fiction
Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings (publisher Insomniac, Canada)

Tidbit: A convent school student in Dominica posted an online review of the original edition of Dancing which I discovered years later. She wrote, “Dancing Nude in the Moonlight is a story of love between cultures. It goes in depth into the hardships and tensions of immigrant life in Antigua, where people from the Dominican Republic are greeted with much suspicion and hostility. Yet, though the languages and ambitions of the Antiguans and Dominicana differ, the culture and religion of these countries have much in common. The writer of this novel, Joanne C. Hillhouse, clearly wrote this novel for readers of romance. Not only that, but she seeks to evoke the themes of racism and love in this novel. …  When the Antiguan Michael meets Selena it is love at first sight for him, but Selena has been too deeply hurt by misplaced love in the past and Michael must take his time to ‘woo’ her with much understanding.” It was a surprise and a bit of irony to discover that a Catholic school in Dominica had been reading or teaching the book considering that one teacher’s attempt to teach it in Antigua met with backlash (but then I was also ‘called to the principal’s office for Willow Bend’ so maybe not so surprising).

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Oh Gad! (publisher Simon & Schuster, USA)

Tidbit: This one is currently out of print; and I haven’t quite figured out if/when/how it has a future yet but I’m mentioning it because it is one of my books (actually my third published book, my first book represented by an agent, and the first book for which I earned both an advance and royalties of any significance), so it did open doors and have its success; including positive critical attention in Caribbean Vistas, The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, The American Scholar, Literary Hub, NPR, and other places, and because of it I even landed on a course list at Hunter College in the US. I will always be grateful for the doors it opened and the love it received from the readers. But it is an example of the uncertain fortunes of the publishing world. And, as I have reclaimed rights and had books return to print three times now, I know its future is still unwritten.

New Stories

The Night the World Ended in The Caribbean Writer Volume 32
Evening Ritual in The New Daughters of Africa

Tidbit: I had to re-read The Night the World Ended on receiving notice of its acceptance to remember writing it much less submitting it (even though I do track my submissions); it was written post hurricane Irma and I was in a bit of a fugue when I wrote it…but it all came back to me as I read it in an exhilarating reminder of how therapeutic writing can be. Evening Ritual, meanwhile, started one night in the Museum – I saw a picture that inspired a story that linked women working in the sugar plantation economy with women working in the tourism resort economy, but, as written, it felt forced and disjointed as was pointed out to me by one response from a journal to which I submitted it…I ended up separating the parts (which was perhaps the easy way out) and the part set in modern times became this story that, with some editing from one of my mentors, the person who suggested me to the Daughters editor in the first place, was selected from the three stories I submitted for consideration. It wasn’t even the one I was rooting for and it still feels like a part of a greater whole, but I’m delighted that as an independent, self-contained work it found a place in this global collection.

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So I’m sharing my books because, obviously, I am about helping them to find new readers; and I’m sharing the tidbits to give a little insight to this bumpy journey that is The Writing Life. Ask me anything…I can’t promise to answer but, if I do, I promise to be truthful.

Finally, I want to thank book reviewers, book media, book bloggers, book buyers, book stores, and especially book readers; you have literally thousands of books to choose so, as a Caribbean author, writing to the world, I thank you for considering me as you continue to expand the diverse offerings on your shelves.

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Joanne C Hillhouse Books

 

 

 

 

What’s ‘Oscar Worthy’?

This is my follow up to my previous Award season post and that’s a half-legit-half-sarcastic question. Because I often see it associated with commentary about Black Panther – the talking out of both sides of your mouth commentary that goes, yes, it’s good for diversity but is it good artistically. To which I say, hell, yeah, watch Ruth Carter’s breakdown of the work that went in to the costume design (linked in the original post), check out Ryan Coogler’s notes on a scene, observe the world building, the character building – the way it gives an antagonist credible motivation that impacts the character arc of the protagonist in a way that changes the world he inhabits, and yes the cultural impact (all black everything cracking the exclusive billion dollar club, becoming a global phenomenon – so much for black films not travelling, winning acclaim and awards as a legitimately well told story, inspiring young ones, and sparking meaningful dialogue about the black experience on the continent and in the so-called new world and the fractured relationship between the two), and then miss me with your faux concern about it pulling down the Academy with its comic book cooties.

Art is art right? And if a piece of work’s artistic merit is undeniable, why step on it because it’s in a genre you find juvenile or lacking in gravitas. It’s the Get Out scenario from last year all over again – the I don’t like horror or horror is not to be taken seriously narrative (so what it’s not just horror of the slasher fic variety, so what it’s more social commentary and satire than jump scares … not to mention really well written). To me, talking books for a minute, that’s like dismissing Marlon James’ Brief History of Seven Killings as ‘mere’ crime fiction, Stephen King’s Misery (not to mention the Dark Tower series, and more I could mention) as ‘mere’ pop fiction, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as ‘mere’ romance, Marlon James’ upcoming Dark Star Trilogy as ‘mere’ fantasy… as if any work of art can’t exist as part of a genre (yes, hitting those genre notes) while being a legit work of art. There are some that don’t and there are some that do, but if you’re the type to dismiss a work of art without examining or engaging with it first, or, after engaging with it refuse to treat it as a serious work of art based purely on its genre, well, then…you and Bill Maher can do you…but I don’t want to live in such a narrow world.

Because in my world, there are tons of ‘Oscar Worthy’ films, e.g. Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station and arguably Creed, before Black Panther, which have been totally overlooked. Hell, in a world where Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X exists, this is Spike Lee’s first best director Oscar nomination. How, Sway? We know how. Films have been overlooked for reasons other than merit since the beginning of the Oscars – for not being in the right place at the right time (i.e. not having the money to be seen by and potentially enchant voters), for being on the margins (due to race or gender or any number of other factors), for being too unsettling (too boundary pushing not mainstream or feelgood or ‘relatable’ enough), for being too genre (genres, ick!), for existing in that blindspot where they don’t even see you even when you’re exceptional and not necessarily even then. For instance, as much as the Academy loves British period costume dramas, did Belle (or at least actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw or director Amma Asante) get a second look from Academy voters back in 2013? Let’s not act like every Oscar winner to now was the best performance of the year. It’s a subjective reality, it’s about being on somebody’s radar, and sometimes, every now and again, the best gets it…but there are many who don’t even get seen. So until we can engage with that reality, miss me with your ‘Oscar Worthy’ arguments.

Rant over. Okay? Because I don’t have the time to list all of the overlooked performances over the years; there isn’t enough space in these internets.

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to see more of the top contending films of 2018, I’m going to give my picks for the categories I care about and who I think will probably actually win.

Best Picture: Of the eight nominees, I’ve seen four – Black Panther, Blackkklansman, Green Book, and Roma. This means I haven’t seen Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born, The Favourite, or Vice (I have thoughts but I won’t comment on what I haven’t seen). As for what I have seen. You already know how I feel about Black Panther and I think Blackkklansman is really well done as well, tonally, the most daring given the dark subject matter. And that ending, didn’t expect tears but they showed up anyway. Green Book was entertaining (great performances by Viggo and Mahershala and Viggo’s wife) but, in terms of its handling of race, hits the predictable beats and as a biopic centres the sidekick (there are reasons why, while many, not all, mainstream critics love it, mostly black viewers and critics have issues that they can’t or don’t want to see). Roma was slow to begin but really visually poetic and beautifully engaging as it went on. I think Roma will win and I’m okay with that, as it’s one of my favourites of the year, though I’d be happy with a Blackkklansman win and elated with a Black Panther win.

Best Actor in a Leading Role: I’ll abstain…because I just don’t care enough about any of these choices… but Christian Bale or Rami Malek will probably win, Rami has been cleaning up but the movie has a Bryan Singer problem, so we’ll see.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: A rich category but, easily, I’m rooting for Glenn Close. I have seen The Wife so this isn’t just a lifetime achievement for me (though you have to admit that after a career that includes The Big Chill, Maxie, Fatal Attraction, Reversal of Fortune, Dangerous Liaisons etc. – roles in non-‘Oscar worthy’ films like What Happened to Monday and Guardians of the Galaxy – and many performances I haven’t really seen but which are critically acclaimed like The World According to Garp, The Natural, Hamlet, and Albert Nobbs, she’s way past due). It’s not about previous snubs, it’s about a nuanced, layered, quiet and compelling performance of a woman overlooked (and isn’t that just perfect). The film itself is a bit tepid overall in my opinion, but she is its strong centre, so just give her her Oscar already.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: It bugs me that Adam Driver is nominated and John David Washington (who does really good work here – listen to his vocal mannerisms, for one) isn’t; it reminds me of that SNL sketch. Though Topher Grace with his convincing turn as David Duke is arguably a snub as well. But I’d be happy with a win for Adam so that the win goes to Blakkklansman over Green Book BUT Mahershala will win and I can’t be mad because I love Mahershala and because it was a great performance in that he fully inhabited his character, imbuing him with dignity and an undercurrent of vulnerability … it’s just unfortunate that he is a supporting character in a movie ostensibly about the experience of a black man travelling down south using the book (the green book) that black people used to travel the American south as safely as they could. But it’s all about point of view and the movie was written by the son of the Viggo character and skews to his pov. I still feel like we haven’t seen Dr. Don Shirley fully but Mahershala rendered him as fully as he could within the script he was given.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Okay, so I haven’t seen If Beale Street could talk but I have been following Regina King’s career since 227. I am happy for her and I hope she wins; that’s all I’ll say. Good thing I don’t have an actual vote. As to who will win, she might or if Roma sweeps Marina de Tavira might.

Best Animated Feature Film: I’ve only seen Into the Spiderverse…and I feel enthusiastic in my support of it for the win. It was so nimbly done in the way it moves between the different aesthetics without ever making me feel lost (and I’m not a Spiderman-stan, not by far). I like the humor of it and the action, and the stakes for the characters, great story, inventive use of animation, distinctive characterization and voice work; plus it was just enjoyable in a way no animated feature has been for me since maybe the Lego movie which was completely overlooked the year it came out (talking about Oscar snubs).

Best Cinematography: I would liked to have seen Steve McQueen’s Widows (which had strong and overlooked performances) included here because I do like what he did visually in terms of his shot choices and how they served the story in addition to it just being a sleek and beautiful looking film. I would like to have seen Rachel Morrison wedge a foot in to this boy’s club that is awards season (especially when it comes to the below the line nominees) because she is consistently good and Black Panther was visually stunning. But twas not to be. Of the available choices, I think Roma is the easy win here – I like how shots get uncomfortably personal in terms of what they focus on and in terms of how they hold the shot but also when the story demands it has a view which positions the smaller, more intimate story, visually, within the larger societal issues happening around it without commenting overtly on those larger issues. It speaks to the way life is happening around us all the time even as our gaze is turned toward our own issues. All of that plus the quality of the black and white and how it seems like the perfect film for that aesthetic choice. And then there’s that shot at the beach near the end, that long pan out in to the water, the tension in the silence and the movement and the increasingly rowdy waves and the uncertainty. Well done.

Best Costume Design: I’m going to be legit mad if Black Panther doesn’t get this. Back when I thought Black Panther didn’t stand a chance of being taken seriously as a nominee, I was rooting for a nomination for Ruth Carter for the research and the detail she put in to creating a world, a world has a culture and a history, and with each article of clothing she made Wakanda feel lived in – and she managed to honour the tradition of Afrocentrism while creating something that was Afro-future inspired in its originality and modernity and sense of you haven’t seen this yet til now. Seriously, she earned this Oscar.

Directing: Broken record alert, I would like to have seen Ryan Coogler nominated for visioning an original and inspired narrative and steering the ship that is Black Panther and I do think the Russo Brothers did a good job bringing balance and tension to a character-overloaded project like Avengers: Infinity War but two comic book movies in a year would have been wishful thinking. And for another year the Academy has decided that there are no women directors worthy of merit – no Debra Granik for Leave No Trace which I thought was an effectively atmospheric, character-driven, and emotion-stirring film, for one (though she’s not the only one who should have gotten a look). So, in the land of reality/how things are, can Spike finally get an Oscar already? Or is that too much realness – are folks still mad that Mookie busted the window of the Italian pizza place after Radio Raheim was strangled to death by the police setting off a riot- do they still not get that (get the festering rage that speaks to and Spike’s prescience in documenting that in film)? Spike is one of the definitive filmmakers of our time with signature moves like his trademark double dolly shot. and this is his first freaking best director Oscar nomination. Time to correct that. Beyond that and specific to Blackkklansman there’s a level of clarity and focus some of his other works are accused of lacking, and energy and tone to it that just makes for great and engaging cinema, while never losing sight of the stakes then and, unfortunately, now. Alfonso Cuarón might take this and I can’t argue with it though the film does have some pacing issues in my view.

Film Editing: I would say Blackkklansman makes a good case for itself here, for instance, in that car chase sequence which is reminiscent of 70s cinema but at the same time uses the chase to ramp up the tension in things happening outside of that moment. So let’s hope the Academy sees what I saw. I saw one critic lauding Green Book and dismissing Blackkklansman as a mediocre effort…seriously? compare the editing work on both of these if nothing else…one lines up the shots pretty much as you’d expect and one keeps you on your toes and yet never loses the narrative through-line.

Music Original Score and Best Song: I’m going to link these because though I love music I don’t have a lot to say about either of these. A Star is Born’s Shallow by Gaga seems like the frontrunner and the only other song I know is All the Stars by Kendrick Lamara and Sza which I liked well enough but didn’t love…but I actually think the Black Panther score was an integral part of its world building with its use of African and Afrocentric rhythms and sounds to amp up the excitement or layer the mood…but it wasn’t perhaps a standout as some of the more iconic scores of all time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was overlooked. That said, I have no clue who will win for score.

Production Design: I’m glad to see Hannah Bleacher get a nod for her world building in Black Panther – I believe the first black woman to do so, and I hope she wins.

Sound Editing: I’m rooting for A Quiet Place to win this one (and it’s a shame Emily Blunt who won the SAG for her role in this was overlooked for an Academy nomination – kind of a reverse Regina King, since King didn’t rate a SAG nom for If Beale Street Could Talk but is a favourite for the Oscar). The whole movie is about sound and it uses sound and silence well in telling that story.

Visual Effects: Avengers Infinity War would be my pick but First Man which, from several accounts was overlooked for Score, might get a win here…right?

Writing (Adapted, Original): I’d like to say something but I can’t say much not having seen many of the nominees and of the ones I have seen (Roma, Green Book, Blackkklansman), I’m not sure the writing is their strongest point and Green Book especially has issues as I’ve said. I am surprised to see A Star is Born which is about the fourth adaptation…does it really separate itself from the previous versions that significantly? So I don’t know…which is your pick for best written (original and/or adapted) screenplay? You know which screenplay was truly original for me this year? Sorry to Bother You…I’ve literally never seen anything like that film before; an imperfect but boundary-pushing script.

Everyone has their faves, of course. See the full list of nominations and let me know your faves, predictions, and snubs in the comments. For my part, I’m way more excited about this year’s show where there seems to be a lot more uncertainty than last year where the same people kept winning over and over and over. Let’s see what happens.

Blog Update (31.01.19)

I’m linking this one up with Kathryn at Book Date’s Reading Month in Review – following the template established by her. So.

Total books read this month: 8

Finished up the Storm Limited Series (3-6) and updated my review post in Blogger on Books; a Giant Sized X-Men in which the team’s second line comes together for the first time to fight an island and free the front line X-Men; On this Island The Natives – an illustrated touristy book about Bermuda (a gift); The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books (the 2018 edition); and Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker. So a mix of comic books and what Bill Maher would call real books.

New to Me Authors: Dale Butler and Lindsey George (the Bermudian writer and illustrator)

Reading Challenge Update: I don’t do reading challenges.

Reading Club Update: I’m no longer an active book club member.

Outside reading highlights: Well this was my birthday month so even when it was very very bad, it was …still my birthday month. Plus I got to chat up my book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight with Emma the Bookworm; and share a couple of poems on Angles of Light, a radio programme in the UK.

I’ve seen into the Spiderverse, Blackkklansman, Roma, and The Wife as I continue to make my way through the 2019 Oscar nominees (new post on the Oscars race coming soon no doubt – you know I like to make my predictions).

Lots more to the see-saw but stopping there.

Top Books for January: Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker – read my review.

Looking forward to reading in February: I want to finish any of the books I’m reading. Beyond that, I don’t really make dates with books; I like to be surprised.

Incoming Books: Nothing incoming.

And well, it’s it and that’s that…I …think… Yep, that’s my reading month.

 

She’s Royal #7

Preamble: Last week was Queen Mary in the Caribbean, now we go to the Scottish highlands.

She’s Royal #7:

agnesLady Agnes Randolph (Black Agnes)

Her Story: Known as the defender of Dunbar, this Scottish (warrior) princess held off against a British attack in 1338. Maybe they thought that with her husband absent, it would have been easy to get her to surrender; instead she met their rocks with arrows, their battering ram with boulders, and their aggression with determination. Bribery and starving her out didn’t work; at one point, they even brought her brother before the castle threatening his life if she did not surrender – remember when Jamie Lannister tried a similar move against the Blackfish during the siege at the Riverrun in Game of Thrones? Well, like that irascible warrior, Black Agnes was unmoved by this threat. It ended better for her than it did Brynden Tully as eventually, as word spread, other Scots rallied to her aid and the invading army retreated in humiliation and defeat. The siege had lasted 19 weeks.

Possible casting: Apparently, she was nicknamed Black Agnes due to her dark hair and colouring…and, of course, a Scottish actress is preferable…so, Rose Leslie? Okay, she’s not dark of hair and colouring but she is Scottish and played a popular (and similarly stubborn) character (Ygritte) on Game of Thrones (so seems fitting).
Next: an Apache warrior princess.