Random Thoughts from the Oscars

I don’t usually watch the Oscars–or any such ceremonies–but this year’s installment promised such fireworks that like most people I had to tune in. Here are some things that occurred to me:

  • Chris Rock is really funny. As if you didn’t know, right? And he handled the race issue with more wit than taste. Guess you knew that, too.
  • Great to see Ennio Morricone finally get his Oscar. He’s only deserved one since 1966. Not that anyone was ready for the soundtrack to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which sounded like an import from an alien world–and not one you’d necessarily find welcoming.
  • They needed another acting award for Tom Hardy. Seriously, who else had four spectacular performances in just three movies: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and Legend. Playing both halves of the sociopath Kray twins may be a stunt for the ages, even if the movie turns out not to be.
  • Men are so lucky that, as Chris Rock put it, they all wear the same outfit. Some of the women’s outfits were spectacular, while others were, um, spectacular, all right. Your results may vary.
  • The old adage that everyone’s a winner may just be true. Think about it: Fury Road won just about all the technical categories, Revenant won for Director and Lead Actor, and Spotlight won for Best Film. Can’t share the love much more than that.

The Buried Giant

Like a lot of folks, I fell under the spell of Kazuo Ishiguro with The Remains of the Day. As any number of folks can attest, I subIshiguro giantsequently inflicted it on a couple of generations of students, who mostly enjoyed it, too. His latest, The Buried Giant, is nothing like it. Except that as always, by the second page I was thinking, “This guy can really write.” Ishiguro has travelled into the 1950s, the dystopian near-future, even the world of music in Nocturnes, his collection of stories “about music and nightfall.” This time he goes into the way-back machine, setting the story in England just after the Arthurian period. In fact, Sir Gawain (yes, the Green Knight one) is one of the traveling companions of the elderly couple Beatrice and Axl. There is also a Saxon warrior and an orphan with a dragon bite. It’s that kind of place: dragons, ogres, pixies (nasty little blighters), plagues, mists of forgetfulness. It’s a little surprising and entirely wonderful to read a novel of medieval life that lies outside the bounds of conventional sword-and-sorcery genres. As we follow this elderly couple on a journey to the west–even knowing where such quests must end–we find ourselves delighted, dismayed, surprised and amazed. Ishiguro is always worth reading. In this tale of failed and recovered memory, tribalism, love, guilt, secrets, and betrayal, he proves that an apparent fable can be so much more than it seems.