And the winner is….

 

It’s February already, and that means we’re in the middle of Oscar season, as several high-street window displays and charity shops get in on the big occasion.  And as is my wont, I’ve already watched several nominated films that are in the running for multiple awards come the big red carpet night of the 90th Academy Awards on March 4th. 

 

The Shape of Water, with the wonderfully quirky Sally Hawkins, is so unusual and beautifully filmed that it immediately accrued a slew of accolades, and fully deserving of the 13 nominations it received – but I fear Guillermo del Toro’s dreamy sci-fi tale about a woman who falls in love with the Creature from the Black Lagoon, is now being systematically picked apart by the media after recent accusations of plagiarism

 

And while I’ve no problem with Gary Oldman winning the best actor in a prosthetic category, I fail to see what all the fuss about Darkest Hour is about, except that it perfectly captures the Brexit zeitgeist. The whole film lapsed into absurdity when Churchill leapt out of his ministerial car to disappear into the underground so that he could hold a seminar with the ordinary men and women of Britain on the merits of appeasement during a one-stop ride on the District line between St James’s and Westminster. Thank God he happened both to catch the slowest Tube in London and bump into a focus group of Leavers who were up for a fight, otherwise 20th-century history would have had to be rewritten. 

 

On the other hand, in this day and age of Donald Trump in the White House, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a masterpiece of dysfunctional small-town American life. Gripping from start to finish with not a frame wasted, it was funny, yet brutal and breathtakingly beautiful. It deserves to win everything going.  So Best Film, Best Director for Martin McDonagh, and the always watchable Frances McDormand for Best Actress – and I wouldn’t rule out Woody Harrelson or Sam Rockwell walking away also with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

 

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Well, there goes 2017.  It really flew by, didn’t it? But it’s almost over now and tomorrow morning 2018 looms large for everyone. 

 

Hard to imagine how the new-found dawn of 2018 could be any worse than the last few grains of sands currently dropping through the hourglass that is 2017.  Although with that said, and with the banality of Brexit, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least in 2018 if the UK went full Royston Vasey with Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown staging a coup and declaring himself PM.  Admittedly, it couldn’t be much worse than Theresa May now, could it?

 

I suppose we can all wish that the next 365 days are better and more prosperous than the previous 365 days. And as the photograph from Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street suggests: We can all wish, can’t we?  So, despite my somewhat morbid outlook that more resembles the Hogmanay institution that is the Rev I.M. Jolly with it being “a helluva year”, I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

 

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It’s a scene at this time of year that plays out in just about every big city: thousands of Christmas tree sellers plying their trade on the streets.  And this seasonal tradition is now the subject of a heart-felt new feature documentary that shines throughout with community spirit and more than just a twinkle of Christmas cheer.

 

Tree Man” explores the lives of those tree sellers, many of whom leave their homes and families behind and must endure living out of cars and vans for the holiday season. This film centres on those plying their trade in New York’s Upper West Side, and primarily revolves around Broadway seller François, a migrant worker from Québec who leaves behind his young family at his Canadian home to return to the same Manhattan street corner every year for five weeks to deliver the magic of the season.

 

All of this is hard and demanding work, with long hours in freezing weather with rain, wind and the snow. François lives and sleeps out of his beloved ‘Elvis’, a 1994 Chevy van, as a one bedroom apartments at this prime location runs at over $4000 a month…that is, if you could even find one. But he’s become a firm favourite of the local dwellers and has developed lasting relationships with some of his customers, and a mentor and father-figure to two formerly troubled young youths who now work for him.

 

This is a little gem of a documentary that got several good critical reviews when it hit the film festival circuit. But no review could be better than that of a longtime customer in the film who now lives in the Queens and makes the long trek to the French Canadian tree man of Broadway, explaining that, “This has nothing to do with trees anymore.”

 

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Standing equally proud as they share the same plinth in Springfield Court, which you’ll find located at the rear entrance (no pun intended) of Princes Square, are a man and a peacock, whose tail feathers lie flat, wrapping around the side of the column both stand upon.

 

The piece, titled “As Proud As….”, is newish to Glasgow. It was erected in 2000 and is one of many new public art installations by local Glasgow sculptor Shona Kinloch that you’ll now find dotted around the city. All her work is figurative (birds, animals, and chunky people) and often come with a hint of humour attached to them.

 

The elusive title stems, of course, from the phrase “as proud as a peacock.” It has been suggested that the small bronze bird mirrors the giant metal peacock that adorns the front of the Princes Square building. Yet here it is the man who stands tall, hands clasped, staring north and very, very naked, who appears to be more of an exhibitionist than the peacock hiding behind him!

 

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