Thursday, March 31, 2016

Still talking to the hand

The Hand by Pants
I heard an unfamiliar expression the other day - 'lifestyle refugee'. I gather it refers to someone who has chosen to embark on a particularly severe form of tree-slash-sea change.

'I think they mean you, Pants.'

'Barney, will you shut the fuck up.'

I mean no disrespect to the millions of real refugees who've been forced to trudge across Europe in search of the most basic of human needs, but I have to admit that seeking 'refuge' is not a million miles removed from what we do here at Seat of Pants. To be clear - we are very grateful for the beauty and security of our Larrikin's End hideaway, but we are less pleased with the diet of intellectual empty calories and even obvious and blatant lies on which we are expected to satisfy our still-active minds.

It comes as no surprise to me at all that some young, idealistic refugees from Syria, Libya and Iraq,  having reached safety and had a chance to draw breath, might find themselves horrified to discover that they have risked their lives for a future comprising Coke, McDonald's and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Perhaps they had some understanding of the post-WW2 social settlement that had, until relatively recently, underpinned the stability and cultural flourishing of Europe and the Anglophone countries for which they strike out with the greatest of hope. Capitalists love to claim credit for our spectacular lifestyle advances since 1945, but higher worker wages, decent housing and access to education and healthcare created the rising tide that lifted all boats. These were not provided by capitalism but fiercely fought for by socialists and grudgingly conceded by business owners left with no choice but to pay some tax.

It's very Australian to suspend compassion towards the desperate fellow humans to whom we've extended our largesse if they display even a hint of ingratitude or non-cooperation. Our outrage is almost always fuelled by incongruity. We simply don't get it if they don't immediately fall in love with our terrible food and menu of cultural options limited to watching other people chase a ball around or splashing about in swirling water. We're constantly being told that anything other than total embrace of our national inanities is a 'threat to our way of life'. I can only imagine the shock once it sinks in that our version of 'the west' really is culturally bankrupt. It's been bad enough for me and I should have known better.

John Gray, writing in Lapham's Quarterly has this to say about the rise of ISIS,

'It is baffling only for those who believe—despite everything that occurred in the twentieth century—that modernization and civilization are advancing hand in hand. In fact, now as in the past some of the most modern movements are among the most barbaric. But to admit this would mean surrendering the ruling political faith, a decayed form of liberalism without which Western leaders and opinion formers would be disoriented and lost. To accept that liberal societies may not be “on the right side of history” would leave their lives drained of significance, while a stoical response—which is ready to fight while being doubtful of ultimate victory—seems to be beyond their powers. With mounting bewilderment and desperation, they cling to the faith that the normal course of history has somehow been temporarily derailed.'

Yep, and those of us who ignore our history are doomed to repeat it. Capitalism is, quite literally, the monster that devoured Cleveland - to quote my hero Maynard G. Krebs. The vacuum of value we're experiencing now is the beginning of its grizzly end. Douglas Rushkoff, whose most recent book is Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, (and what a great idea that is), said this in recent interview on our ABC Radio National,

'Here in America, many Walmart branches are going out of business because they've bankrupted the communities on which they depended. They put everybody else out of business, they don't pay a living wage, so they've gotten to the point where they don't have customers, they just have poor people living around them. That's not a good long-term business strategy.

'But when you are looking at quarter-over-quarter growth, when you are a CEO who just wants to get another two or three quarters of bonuses out of this and then leave, then that's what you're going to do. It's bankrupting not just the people, it's bankrupting corporate America as well.'

This is what it looks like when a system starts eating itself. We don't want to believe it's happening because the structure appears to have served us so well, and what else is there? Some of us do believe and wonder what we can do in mitigation. Believe me, if there were an honest and serious socialist revolution to join, I'd be there in seconds. I long for that. I actually believe in collectivism. The best working experiences of my life were in collectives. If we could just eliminate the zero-sum-game problem of power corrupting... there's a human advance that's crying out for invention. Any takers from the corporate sector? Nah, didn't think so.

I absolutely get why people who've been raised with a community ethic, as many have in Asia and the Middle East, would be horrified when they see that all we seem to do is consume and compete, whilst waxing lyrical that we do nothing of the sort. I'm less clear on why they think that sexually harassing young girls in the street is the antidote to that. Kant said, 'a sane child put with mad children will go mad.' I suspect that may be true.

The Pants strategy is not in any way a solution to the problems of the world. Even I don't believe that we can stop the monster that devoured Cleveland from eating us all for supper, eventually. I do, however, think that those of us who still want humanity to have half a chance of surviving, can and should use whatever passive weapons we have at our disposal to fend it off for as long as possible. We might not be able to stop but we can stall. I don't shop - even though I can. I've pared down the need for buying to the bare basics, (books, wine, smoked salmon). I grow my own vegetables. I'm in a garden club and now have an allotment as well as my own large patch at home. I use recycled framed boards from charity shops for my paintings. I don't buy clothes - I mend and make do.

I'm as obnoxious as I can get away with when dealing with the few authorities and corporations I can't avoid. The bigger the entity, the more belligerent I become - in the nicest possible way, of course. I make my life as simple as possible. Capitalism hates that. The most potent power a woman has is to withdraw cooperation. I exercise that power. No entreaties to my vanity will ever tempt me to buy creams or pay money to have my hair cut or volunteer my labour to cover for the shortfall in social spending.

Back to John Gray,

'For many in the West, the threat ISIS poses to their view of the world seems a greater disaster than the atrocities ISIS has committed and threatens to repeat. The bafflement with which the West approaches the group is a symptom of the senility of the liberal mind, a condition for which there is no obvious remedy. Perhaps what our culture lacks, in the end, is the ability to understand itself.'  

I agree, and it's absolutely infuriating. It's a sign of addiction when you know what you're doing will kill you but you can't stop. You simply don't believe there's another, better way. Individually, we can challenge that belief. I'm very lucky, I am in a position to opt out and I'm going at it for all I'm (not) worth. The less you have, the less you fear and the less you crave. I've discovered that to be true.

'Barney - you were right! Though I prefer 'lifestyle refusenik', it sounds more radical. Now bring me wine, there's a good chap.'

Chardonnay socialism - now there's an idea.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Through a Glass, Arkley

Primitive Gold, (detail), Howard Arkley, 1982 - Photo by Pants

TarraWarra Museum of Art is an eight-hour round trip by car from Larrikin's End. There's no other way to get there as it's located in the middle of a vineyard. I will make that trip only for something very special. With a few days to spare, I packed some smoked salmon sandwiches and a flask of coffee and headed west for Howard Arkley and Friends. The price of petrol helpfully plummeted to 95c a litre on the day and the Pantibago was eager for a long run down what passes for a motorway in this part of the world. You can't trust the coffee or the sandwiches outside of the city and I'd rather spend $40 from my tight budget on a catalogue than squander it on unpleasant but necessary nourishment. The trip went well and I'm still snacking on the catalogue, so only good decisions there.

I didn't know all that much about Howard Arkley. He rose to fame after I'd abandoned the mother country and he died young, long before I very foolishly decided to give the relationship another go. (How was I to know that the place was about to plunge into a socio-political suicide spiral?) Speaking of which, I often wonder why I'm drawn to the work of self-destructive people. Mark Rothko, Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, Diane Arbus, Brett Whiteley, not to mention Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and Ian Curtis. When you burn the candle at both ends, it doesn't half light up the room. Standing surrounded by Howard Arkley paintings, I quickly realise that I have another name to add to that list.

As I enter the gallery via vast glass doors, I feel myself smiling in that familiar way that I immediately recognise as wordless joy. It's an instinctive understanding between the eye and the brain where pure information is transferred without resort to a single adjective or metaphor. None are needed. Makes it a bit hard to write about though. I'll try to limit my usage of superlatives, but be warned, I might not be able to get through it without blurting out a 'splendid' at some point.

What I want from a retrospective, more than anything else, is honesty. When an artist has died, and especially when he/she has died young, unexpectedly and within living memory, I want to see instantly that the curator has understood how important it is to convey a sense of immediacy and loss. I need the room to grieve, in a way. I want the tension of a life interrupted, the suggestion that the artist has just stepped out of the room, perhaps uttering the words, 'I may be some time...' This is exactly what I get.  Sensitive and complete. In the white-cube world in which we are compelled to witness, that's no small skill.

This is only the second exhibition I've been to at TarraWarra. The first was Master of Stillness: Jeffrey Smart Paintings 1940-2011. The subtitle flummoxed a few fellow visitors - Smart was still breathing at the time of the exhibition in 2013. But he had completed his very last painting, Labyrinth, which was on display. He had said it was his last. At ninety, he retired. That understanding of a life lived uncompromisingly but tranquilly came across very clearly. After visiting that show, I bemoaned the fact that there was nothing to buy - the catalogue had sold out. That was my only complaint.

The Arkley catalogue is a continuing delight but the essays are like unsalted water crackers minus the spicy dip, which is a pity as the artwork reproductions are quite, well, splendid. Someone like Arkley doesn't easily distill into sterile art-speak. Does anyone worth writing about? One of the great curating innovations of the last decade has been the inclusion of artists' sketches, notebooks, workings-out, correspondence and related artefacts. These tend to be much more illuminating than the white-card pronouncements artsplaining the 'explorations', 'investigations' and, (pause for disdaining grimace), 'interrogations' which supposedly drive the artist's 'oeuvre'.

Years ago, I visited Brett Whiteley's former studio in Sydney. This is what I want, I thought - personality, steps you can retrace, presence. One of the best exhibitions I ever experience was Diane Arbus at the V&A in London in 2005. Her notebooks were a revelation and I nearly burst into tears when I saw the cameras. Give me poignancy any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Fortunately, on display at TarraWarra, were a number of Arkley's 'visual diaries'. He kept notes and drawings in 20c school exercise books - as opposed to the $30 hardcover A3 journals filled with pristine white paper too good for scribbling on that they made us buy in art school (grrr!). Arkley's own sketches and notes offer a connection to the person that crusty old statements like this never could,

'In this installation, the artist playfully and somewhat perversely, elaborated on his longstanding project to explore the interrelationships between high and low culture, abstract painting and everyday decoration, and art and commerce.' (Anthony Fitzpatrick)

Really? So this energetic, spontaneous magpie woke up one morning and mumbled, 'I think I'll spend the day exploring the interrelationships between high and low culture!' Doesn't work does it? There is surprisingly little of substance written about Arkley, given his prominence in a certain reasonably prominent milieu in this country. He produced a stunning picture of Nick Cave which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery and died of a heroin overdose at the age of forty-eight. That's about it in the way of an obit. So off I went in search of a quote from the artist himself and found this,

The colours in the paintings are symbolic – I know they're right – people get them – I mean taxi drivers will come in and they'll understand – it's their street – I've seen people do it, I've heard people do it – 'Oh, that's the house in my street – that's just like Dot's house!' and they'll say, 'Gee, I wonder what it's like inside – I bet it's the same as Dot's house inside!' It's true! This is pleasure, this is I've got it – when people actually really think it's a house in their street! (From a 1994 interview with Leo Edelstein for Journal of Contemporary Art)

He's talking about a series of paintings he made of ordinary suburban houses. It should be noted that Arkley came out with this after Edelstein had asked him a couple of times if he approached his work from an 'anthropological point of view.' I have dug a little deeper and discovered that Arkley had on occasion conformed to pleas for self-explanation, describing himself as a formalist - who knows under what level of duress? His notebooks show him to be a brain-stormer, ideas-miner and compulsive gatherer of ephemera. I prefer the Arkley getting all thrilled at 'that's Dot's house' over the one who supposedly belongs to a movement that,

'...problematises the concept of the new and that refuses to be situated at the end of an aborescent account of history.' (Paul Taylor, 1982)

Aborescent? Well, Arkley did have a thing for succulents, apparently. I was thinking about the film made to accompany the Jeffrey Smart exhibition and something Clive James said in relation to Smart. It's a paraphrase as I can't remember it exactly but he said something like - Australia expects artists to contribute to the national identity project - and that's why Smart got out. According to James, 'he was above all that.' My observation is that there's also an expectation that artists market themselves as a kind of public good. This could have something to do with grant-funding dependency. And then there's that weird thing where Australia got all hung up on post-structuralism, critical theory and metalanguage in the sixties and has never quite wriggled free. Arkley's work has that 'get stuck in and taste everything' quality that I associate with the real era and the actual scene in which he lived - an experience I shared in different locations. I can tell you, we were not sitting in circles asking ourselves 'what would Roland Barthes do?' around the time the Sex Pistols released Never Mind the Bollocks...

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent interview, 'all art is basically collage.' It's by no means a new idea but it is one in full and universal bloom. Our contemporary 'authentic selves' are all an amalgam of aspects and influences on a variety of platforms. There's no escape from that. More than ever, the artist's brain is necessarily an internet of things. We're all collagists now, whether we express our desire for rearranging the material world on our bodies with tattoos, in scrapbooks with glitter and bits of coloured paper or in our homes with soft furnishings and fresh flowers. 

Like Arkley, I grew up in a world that was rapidly turning into the one we have now, a world of clashing clutter and plastic excess, with lots of noise and little substance. It's impossible to view this world without seeing too much. There are only two ways of dealing with that and maintaining composure - you can either look away or look beyond. It was and is a fascinating place to filter and reorganise. This is what I love about Arkley's work. In a world where everyone has the opportunity to see the same thing, it's the alteration that defines one's unique vision. Georgia O'Keeffe said, 

'Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.'

If you want the truth, go to the artist and not the critic. The artist offers you a glimpse of what you might see in familiarity if you took another look. Everything is in conflict if you have an active eye and an enquiring mind. There's no point in getting all fidgety about subject matter and angsting over whether or not painting brightly coloured pictures of houses is kitsch or parochial or postmodern or, as Prof Robert Nelson suggests 'gilding the silly'. The subject is irrelevant and has been ever since Marcel Duchamp plonked a urinal down in a New York art gallery and called it Fountain

The impression that Australia is not sure whether it's cool to endorse Arkley or not is hard to avoid. I learned recently that architects of the realm, Lords Foster and Rogers honed their respective design aesthetics from Eagle comics and boxes of Meccano. Popular culture - is there any other kind? Frances Upritchard commissioned friends Ali Smith and Hari Kunzru to write the catalogue essays for her last show. I hope that's a trend that catches on. 

This exhibition really was a joy and on the return journey, I listened to a pile of 70s/80s 'mix tape' CDs that Sis Pants made for me a couple of years ago. The Slits, Subway Sect, X-Ray Spex, Buzzcocks, Penetration, Wire, The Clash, The Adverts, XTC. I smiled all the way to Larrikin's End remembering how much exuberance and energy there was back then. I think my favourite paintings of the day were those comprising the Primitive series, named for a song by The Cramps. Arkley describes the amphetamine-fueled mega-session that produced the first of these in 1981 as 'claustrophobic speed pain.'

Now, that's what I'm talking about - there's your authenticity.

 

Monday, February 29, 2016

White bread, cheese and black pudding

Kodakotype by Pants


It's Oscars Sunday again. Or, as we say here in Larrikin's End, Oscars Monday as it is, in fact, Monday. By a peculiar quirk of planetary placement, Australia's ubiquitous claims to 'lead the world' are actually true for once. We arrive everywhere before everyone else and we'll trash the place if you give us half a chance.

'Ubiquitous is a word with three yous in it,' remarks Barney as he pours the first of what we hope will be many a Chardonnay.

'You just get on with those Eggs Vladivostok,' I snipe with a good deal less empathy than my ubiquitous deployment of words resplendent in the letter 'u' might imply. You just can't get the staff.

Yes, the Barnster is back. The Question Why too. Our long summer break is over and it's time to get down to some serious sledging. We begin the day with our ritual reading of the LA Times and discover six ways in which we can boycott the Oscars.

'Why would we do that?' TQW quips with the sort of disdain he usually reserves for whoever happens to be prime minister of this country at any given moment. He's right. The Oscars are the most fun a trio like ours can have on a February afternoon. Besides, we don't have Netflix or a ticket to the JusticeForFlint benefit - which arguably does sound like more fun but Barney had that falling out with Michael Moore and it is still all a bit awkward. Anyway, once we've downed a couple of bottles of the local Chardonnay and several helpings of Barney's exquisite vodkamisu, almost anything is amusing. And for once, Hollywood has a real controversy to grapple with and not just some trifle about hand closeups or women who spend their lives in front of a camera wearing clothes made especially for that purpose objecting to being asked about an outfit they've spent the last year planning. Getting too much attention? Well, that's a problem we wouldn't mind having.

Our first crisis of the day occurs even before the inaugural glass of Chardonnay is drained. An equipment malfunction causes us to miss capturing the fabulous opening montage of nominated films. We fear the Kodak is no more. So it's out with the big Nikon, only to discover that it has a flat battery. Unfortunately, the box Brownie went out in the last garage sale. Barney's financial long board took a wipe out at the end of the resources boom, so we've been forced to make some economies. There's no alternative but to watch the actual broadcast as opposed to fighting over the Kodak. We hate hi-tech. Bring back the camera obscura!

First impressions - is this going to be one of those oh-so dignified affairs with everyone on their best behaviour? We despise those. It's so unnatural for stars not to act like the brats they are. We can only hope that Mad Max wins a few things. Some whooping Aussies with their speeches tattooed on their forearms can really switch it up if things get too tasteful. Then again, there is that long, white cloud of controversy hanging over proceedings. We're looking forward to seeing what Chris Rock might do with this material. No worries, he's onto it.

'Welcome to the White People's Choice Awards,' he says and adds, 'if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job.' Then he has a swing at all the people who urged him to boycott,  'The last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.' Cue zoom on a grinning Kevin Hart. It's a point well made. Yes, protesting the complete absence of non-white nominees in the major categories is warranted and timely but why should any and all sacrifices be made by black people?

'Hark at you,' says Barney as he tops up our glasses.

'Touché mon petit ami, I'll get over myself directly.' 

And it doesn't take long. The sense that the success or failure of these awards hinges on what Chris Rock says and does in the next few minutes knocks us over like a thousand feathers. He begins by pointing out that having no black nominees at the Oscars had happened at least 71 times in their 88-year history and that black folks had previously been too busy being raped and lynched to care too much about who won for Best Cinematography in a given year. He advises that this year's In Memoriam segment will feature all the black people who were shot by cops on their way to the movies.

'Super ouch,' comments TQW. 

 But it's working. The Academians appear to be taking the paddling with credible humour. 


'Well, they are actors,' sniffs Barney. He should know. 

Meanwhile, Rock is on a roll.

'Jada got mad, Jada said she’s not coming,' he says. 'Isn’t she on a TV show? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.' After dissing Jada and Rihanna, who would appear to have nothing to do with anything, he goes after Jada's highly remunerated spouse. 'It's also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild West.'

The scapegoating of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith does seem a tad egregious. One could argue that those with the most power have the highest obligation to speak up and besides, no one's having a pop at fellow boycottees, George and Amal Clooney.

'Is this some warped attempt at balance?' poses TQW.

Well, it might be. And then again it might be something else entirely. Chris Rock riffs on a conversation he had with President Obama at a dinner. Apparently he told the president that the genteel folks, the writers and filmmakers he'd assembled were the nicest white people there are and they don't hire black people.

During the ad break, Barney pours another Chardonnay and we discuss this proposition. We conclude that writers write about people they know and filmmakers work with their pals. As America is becoming less equal by the day, the chances of young black, Hispanic and Asian people going to school and college and film school and any other place where they're likely to meet and make friends with creative people from different backgrounds and form the lifelong cohorts on which Hollywood flourishes are fast disappearing. Inequality equals ghettoisation, innit.

Every year that we can remember, there's been an overt theme at the Oscars. The last couple of years have been all about magic and dreaming and storytelling and we have to admit that watching that drivel has nearly killed us.  To be honest, if it weren't for the drink, we wouldn't be here today.

This year, the theme appears to be subtext. And that's kind of interesting. We're all still thinking about Chris Rock's opening monologue and wondering if 'opening' may mean 'gaping' on this occasion and contemplating all the possibilities blossoming from that thought when, as if 'fade out' were a really truly thing, the big questions dissolve and a prize night begins.

Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt wander onto the stage to give out the award for Original Screenplay and are described as someone white (Blunt) and someone even whiter (Theron - because she's a white South African? The gloves are so off.)

'We're deep in subtext here,' notes TQW, obviously enjoying the intellectual quagmire.

Two distinctly white dudes follow. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe attempt a jocular banter, which might have been funny in any other year but now all we're thinking about is the subtext and the denouement, which is an intolerable two and nine-tenths hours away.

'Maybe there'll only be white presenters,' TQW posits.

Would they dare? Could they get away with it? Would people get it?

Who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay? Fucked if we can remember. Although we do recall with affection Russell's reading of the selections which settled somewhere between John Gielgud and a triple Harvey Wallbanger.

And then there's a blur of pretty dresses and fresh haircuts. Please don't let the evening settle into dignity and humility. We don't think we could bear it. They really need to bring back sitting round a table with buckets of Krug. Someone would be bound to have a Mel Gibson moment.

Chris Rock is back and introduces a montage of black characters inserted into current movies. It sort of works. You can't go wrong with Whoopi Goldberg.

'Consider the bigger picture,' intones TQW.

He's right. Three hours offers a lot of opportunities for subtext.

Sarah Silverman does quirky shoulders and makes silly James Bond jokes. It doesn't fly, not in any year. Sam Smith wails that godawful song of his. Carey Washington and Henry Cavill flounce out. Cavill introduces The Martian while Washington beams adoringly up at him. Washington introduces The Big Short while Cavill digs deep for an appropriate direct-to-camera smile.

J.K. Simmons hands over the statuette for Best Supporting Actress to Swede Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. She breathlessly thanks her Mum and Dad. Parents are doing very well in the thanks department so far.

'How come no one ever thanks their dentist?' asks TQW.

They really should. Cate Blanchett is sort of mandatory and we've learned to live with that. Jenny Beavan wins the Costume Design award for Mad Max : Fury Road. And she appears to be wearing something from the film which is sweet and refreshing in a torn-and-thrown-back-together sort of way.

'That ain't no Vera Wang,' snorts Barney, who is, in fact, wearing Vera Wang herself.

Beavan skates charmingly off topic. 'It could be horribly prophetic, Mad Max, if we don't start being kinder to each other and stop polluting the atmosphere,' she warns. Aussies don't believe in black people. Come to think of it, most of us don't believe in being kind to each other or protecting the environment either, but never mind.

Steve Carell and Tina Fey amble on. Are they really going with this all-white presenter thing? For two famous comedians, their jokes are unforgiveably lame. 'Tina has been drinking,' Carell informs us. As if. We know 'has been drinking' humour and it's way better than this.

Another award for Fury Road. The recipients are coming in from Oodnadatta judging by the number of stairs they're required to descend. Margot Robbie and Jared Leto present the award for Makeup and Hairstyling. It's a Mad Max trifecta!

'What's a merkin?' asks Barney

'A type of pickle,' answers TQW, 'fetch us some over here. There's a good chap.'

Fury Road wins something else - frankly, we've ceased caring. 'It's hard to know who's more crazy - me or everyone else,' gushes the hapless recipient. We're with Kerouac on this one, when in doubt, blame everyone else.

Rachel McAdams and Michael B. Jordan arrive to present the award for Cinematography. Jordan's appearance whacks our subtext theory out of the park. We hate that. Emanuel Lubeski wins for The Revenant. He thanks Fox for 'the freedom'? He really needs to get out more.

'What's a revenant?' asks Barney.

'Someone who comes back from the dead, like Mel Gibson.'

Where is Mel, btw? Now he could show us some decent drinking humour.


Subtext, subtext, we want subtext!

Margaret Sixel wins the Editing Oscar for Fury Road. 'It took enormous creative courage and guts to make this film,' she reveals. Really? The fourth in a beloved franchise? If that can't get a green light, what can?

'Do you think the theme is actually delusion?' asks TQW.

Then, not a nanosecond before time, subtext returns.

Angela Bassett introduces another barbed sketch. Black History Minute teases with Will Smith and delivers Jack Black! Talk about your double-edged sword.

Chadwick Boseman and Chris Evans step up for Sound Editing, and we switch to obsessively counting non-white presenters.

'Don't forget Priyanka Chopra,' Barney yells from the kitchenette. Sorry Priyanka, we had to go check the Nikon battery recharger.

Fury Road wins another. One of the recipients, we think it's Mark Mangini but we are long past giving a toss, hollers, 'Fucking Mad Maxers!' as he crashes his way to the stage. 'For thousands of years we've been telling stories around a flickering light,' he informs us. Well, I never. We're too busy delighting in the much-needed tension release to process the inference that he may be acknowledging Aboriginal people. All we can think is this - at last some screeching Aussies. Go the galahs! We couldn't be more proud.

Next up is Sound Mixing.

'What's the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing?' asks the ever-curious Barney. That owly-cat has such an inquiring mind.

'Different speeds on the Cuisinart,' responds TQW. Barney disappears to the kitchen for confirmation.

'Bring us another bottle of Chardonnay while you're out there.' No point in a wasted journey.

Fury Road wins again. There's oodles of tearful and well-deserved hugging of Mad Max creator and director George Miller whose Grandpa Munster haircut we have to admit is very flattering. One of the trio of recipients - and no, we can't be arsed to look it up, or even to look up, actually - seizes the opportunity to create a link, however tenuous, between the film and the holy grail of the moment, 'diversity'. It may be backfiring. When he informs the audience that there are Namibians in the film, they seem confused. 'Wasn't that Star Wars?' the assembled stars mutter. He perhaps should have explained that this means black people from a real place in our world called Namibia, as opposed to a rebel tribe from the Planet Namibia in the outer reaches of the Solar Plexus Galaxy.

One thing for which we are grateful - none of us is booked on tomorrow morning's LAX to SYD flight.

Andy Serkis explains to us the magic of visual effects. Indispensable. Olivia Munn and Jason Segal introduce the Sci-tech Awards. We take a moment to marvel at how truly hopeless professional actors are at reading and looking natural at the same time. Command overload just seems to set in.

We're at the halfway point and, as usual our attention is split between wondering why we subject ourselves to this torment year in, year out and deciding whether or not to have another Chardonnay or get started on the vodkamisu. Or both. We settle on both to console ourselves for the hardship of the former. It seems a fair compensation. C3PO and R2D2 come on and do their C3PO and R2D2 thing. We can never get enough of that.


We google 'Does Chris Rock really have six daughters?' Answer: No. A team from Chile wins that country's first ever Oscar for a short animated film called The Bear. 'What happened in Chile must never happen again,' pleads one of the recipients. Will someone please take him aside and tell him about Syria. That tall, goofy guy from Pixar tells us how much fun it is to 'make stuff.'


'It's all getting a bit technical,' sighs TQW and exits to roll a spliff. Dear spoilt filmmaking people - could we please be spared the unedifying spectacle of the inarticulate trying to describe 'magic' in the future. Deaf ears, I know.

On and on it goes. Where has our subtext gone?

Right on cue, Chris Rock travels to the Empire cinema in Compton and we are hit with the shocking revelation that black folks aren't interested in films with white folks in them. Bring on the thousand feathers. Seems to us that white filmmakers would do better if they made films with mostly black folks in them. Everyone would watch those.

Louis C.K. tells us that the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film 'is going home in a Honda Civic' and will be 'the nicest thing these people will ever own' because 'these people never make a dime' and then Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy wins it for A Girl in the River. 'Thank God,' she says, 'I have two of them now.' Nice own goal there, Louis. We have a word we'd like you to think about. That word is 'homework'. Should we mention that Sharmeen's family owns Pakistan Cable? On the positive side, it appears that the Pakistani Prime Minister has committed to changing the law on honour killings after watching this film. Nice actual goal, Sharmeen.

We're glad that Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees have won Best Documentary Feature for Amy but sad that the one about Nina Simone didn't win. Two films about unappreciated female genius in the one year - super bummer.

Chris Rock gets involved with more child-centred weird shit. Three baffled kids with briefcases appear and disappear in apparent confusion and distress. You know what they say, Chris, never work with dogs or children. Stand down Scooby-Doo!

The President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone-Isaacs, delivers a politician's speech. There's a lot to do. We're doing some things. There are other things, yadda, yadda, yadda. Perhaps a subtext too far?


We're starting to get horribly bored and regretting that the Oscars Fury Road could potentially win are exhausted. On stalks U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and appeals for a different kind of 'change of culture'. Subtext piles upon subtext and we're having trouble changing gears here but is he talking about rape on university campuses? Compassion fatigue alert! We never thought we'd say this but could someone please bring back those 'fucking Mad Maxers' before we fall asleep in our vodkamisu and compound issues. Those guys are bound to be drunk on self-importance now. It's a peculiar talent at which we Aussies excel.

Pharrell Williams and Quincy Jones hand over the Oscar for Best Original Score to Ennio Morricone. His first? Who can believe it? He looks just about alive enough to enjoy it as well. In come Common and John Legend to honour the Best Original Song. 

'There sure are a lot of black men in Hollywood,' notes Barney, 'I wonder why we don't see more of them in the movies.'

We thought Gaga had the song thing in the bag after that tearjerker with the white piano but no, the ghastly Writing's On the Wall wins. A gushing Sam Smith can't contain his delight at being 'the first openly gay man to win an Oscar'. Oops. Sir Ian McKellen might find himself with some explaining to do, we daresay. Homework, Sam, homework.

Sacha Baron-Cohen does a turn as Ali G. and so gets away with it. Alejandro Iñárritu wins Best Director and advises all of us to liberate ourselves from all prejudice. At this point in the subtext it's a wise move to avoid the specific. He resists all attempts to be Valkyried off the stage. He owns that mother. Mucho respecto Alejandro! And, just in time, the Nikon battery hits full charge and we capture a topical Kodakotype!

Brie Larson wins Best Actress for Room and obliges with an issue-free thank you, for which we are very grateful at this point in the proceedings. You can never have too much soft cheese at these things. Leonardo fluffs the beginning of his shoo-in speech with a cringey Cate Blanchett moment in which he acknowledges 'all the other incredible nominees'. Recovering his dignity, he wades right in on climate change. As if we weren't already issued-out man, but hey, it's Leo! 'We need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,' he growls. What you gonna do, disagree?

Now for the denouement of denouements. Out strides Morgan Freeman. Black enough for y'all? Now that's a slam-dunk. Too bad about that pesky economic inequality situation because the sentiment is spot on. Speaking of spots...

Hold the front page, there's another issue that has not yet been fully mined! Spotlight, a film about priests abusing children in the Roman Catholic Church wins Best Picture. There you go. That's one in the eye for our very own Cardinal Pell, and we can muster a chuckle for that. Once again, Hollywood saves the world. Hooray for Hollywood!   We're chuffed, especially now that it's over. And so, lashings of air kisses to you from Larrikin's End

And to all - good night and good luck.