While I continue whithering about various long-term strategies for my website, I do have some new and news-ish items to report, so figure it might be good to return to my old “so many ways to say ‘some stuff’” series for such matters, rather than trying to turn any of them into epic posts or series of their own. I’ll let you figure out what my naming convention for this 2022 update of the form might be . . .
1. I was sad to learn this morning of the death of Ian McDonald, one of the founding members of King Crimson. He and his then-partner Judy Dyble (later the original female lead vocalist for Fairport Convention) were latter-day additions to the line-up of Giles, Giles and Fripp, the immediate precursor band to the Crim. On Crimson’s ground-breaking debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, McDonald was the most prominently featured songwriter, with sole music composition credit (supplemented by Peter Sinfield’s lyrics) on key tracks “The Court of the Crimson King” and “I Talk to the Wind,” along with essential contributions as a songwriter on the album’s other three tracks, and as a brilliant performer throughout the entire album. After the first American tour by the then-skyrocketing Crims, McDonald and drummer Michael Giles left the group, releasing one studio album under their McDonald and Giles banner, supported by Michael’s brother Peter Giles (a fellow Giles, Giles and Fripp alumnus), Peter Sinfield, and Steve Winwood, among others. Their sole record is a mostly-forgotten period gem, but delightful and well worth your investigation. McDonald briefly returned to the King Crimson fold as a guest on Red, the final album of the group’s original 1970s run, playing a superb sax part on their epic song “Starless.” He then went on to found ’70s pop-rock titans Foreigner, appearing on their first three albums. While contemporary critical consensus sort of damns Foreigner to the dust-bin of cheesy ’70s music, I must note that at the time when their first album came out, it was very exciting in my musical circles, and the group seemed like an absolutely possible future of accessible and smart rock and roll, with McDonald’s contributions standing as a key to that sense and assessment. I still love that first Foreigner record, a lot, and like the second one, no matter what other members of the critoisie might think about them retrospectively. I’m sorry to hear that Ian McDonald has flown away too soon, at bottom line, and I deeply appreciate his brilliant contributions to a lot of music from way back when that I did, have, and always will love.
2. Ooo, goody, there’s a new Buggy Jive jam out! I’ve written often here about the artist formerly known as Bryan Thomas over the years, with this piece probably standing as the most representative introduction to his work. His latest release is a five-song EP called I Don’t Understand How the World Works; more information about where and how to nab it available at the Buggy website, here. I’ve spun it half-a-dozen times already this morning, and it’s yet another gem in his crown, soulful, smart, sophisticated and so, so, so well played, sung, and recorded. I highly commend it to you!
3. So the Oscar nominations came out this week, and my core reaction is “meh”-to-“grr” for the most part. I don’t really know why I still care about those awards, honestly, but for whatever reason, the Oscar broadcast and the Super Bowl are the two big cultural television thingies that I still always make a point of watching every year, even though I am almost always disappointed by the experience. As noted in this post, I watched a lot of movies in 2021, many of them truly, truly great. But most of the films that I would consider to be the best of the best of 2021 were ignored by the Academy, which filled its nominations rosters with a lot of hyper-hyped mediocrities and late-release niche films that no one will ever watch, in lieu of various brilliant works, popular and arty alike, out there for the plucking. I won’t dig too deeply into it, but I will note what I consider to be the four most heinous inclusions/exclusions in this year’s roster:
- No “Best Original Song” nomination for anything from Ron and Russell Mael’s Annette, while the annoying and deeply-distracting Van Morrison score for Belfast resulted in that over-rated, herniated, horrible, little anti-vaxxer, right wing, fake soul troll (who I’ve always loathed, for the record) earning an Oscar nod in this category;
- Dame Judi Dench receiving a “Best Supporting Actress” nomination for Belfast, while Ruth Negga’s mind-blowing turn in Passing was ignored; I like Dame Judi and I liked Belfast (except for that Van Morrison bullshit), but this was a role that The Dame could play in her sleep, and she doesn’t really need to suck up another Oscar nomination in a category that’s one of the best conduits for emergent talent, does she?;
- The complete absence of any nominations for The Killing of Two Lovers, which I think was the best film that I saw in 2021, anchored by Clayne Crawford’s exceptional and major award-worthy lead performance; and
- Dune getting nominated for anything beyond the technical awards, since I think it was a pretty enough thing to look at on a big screen, but a complete failure in terms of casting (e.g. Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides??? Good God, no, no, NO!), screenplay adaptation, editing (three hours to get through half of the book?), and actually being a movie worth caring about or remembering, at all.
Those beefs all noted, here’s how I’d vote right now for the films that were actually nominated this year:
- Best Feature Film: The Power of the Dog
- Best Director: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
- Best Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog
- Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
- Best Supporting Actor: Troy Kotsur, CODA
- Best Supporting Actress: Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter
- Best Original Screenplay: Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier, The Worst Person in the World
- Best Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, The Tragedy of Macbeth
- Best Film Editing: Peter Scibberas, The Power of the Dog
- Best Production Design: Stefan Dechant and Nancy Haigh, The Tragedy of Macbeth
- Best Costume Design: Jenny Beavan, Cruella
- Best Make-Up and Hair Design: Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon, Cruella
- Best Animated Feature Film: The Mitchells vs The Machines
- Best Documentary Feature Film: Summer of Soul (. . . Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
- Best International Feature Film: The Worst Person in the World
- Best Original Song: NO VOTE (protesting the exclusion of Ron and Russell Mael for contributing several brilliant songs to their Annette, and also protesting the inclusion of five pieces of musical crap, most especially a nomination for that herniated little over-rated right-wing anti-vaxxer gnome Van Morrison for his totally-distracting contributions to Belfast)
- Best Original Score: Jonny Greenwood, The Power of the Dog
- Any Other Best Big-Budget Boom-Boom Zip-Zap Pew-Pew Pretty-Pretty Technical Awards Given to Over-Long Films With No Heart: Dune
I end this post with a link to the unquestionably greatest song to appear in a film in 2021, ignored by the Academy as it was, damn them. Seeing it as it was actually used to advance plot within the film (the opening sequence of Annette featuring the song is not available on Youtube at this point, alas) made it all the greater; it wasn’t just a piece of pop crap purchased and stuck on at the end of film as the credits ran, as is too often the case in the Best Original Song category. Grumble.