The ankle is still swollen but otherwise much better. At any rate, I can walk almost normally, though I’m still careful about stairs, particularly when carrying things up and down the stairs.
Otherwise, this weekend was the weekend for awards, because several have been given. Oh yes, and there was a regional election as well, but since I suspect no one but me cares much about that, I’ll start with the awards:
First of all, the 2010 Nebula Awards winners have been announced. The shortlist was pleasantly varied and the awards winners reflected that to some degree. Though the tie in the short story category between Kij Johnson and Harlan Ellison pretty much reflects the dividing line in the genre community at the moment. I also found that the duology Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis, which won in the best novel category, was probably the least interesting among the nominees (I don’t know anything about the Jack McDewitt book), though to be fair it is the sort of book I am predisposed to not to like anyway. Although the one work on the entire shortlist that I really, really dislike (not naming names here – what would be the point?) did not win in its respective category.
The Aurealis Awards for the best Australian speculative fiction were also awarded this weekend, though I can’t say much about the winners, because we usually don’t see much Australian speculative fiction until it picked up in the US or UK.
Finally, the nominees for the 2011 Aurora Awards, i.e. the awards for the best English language speculative fiction in Canada have also been announced.
On to the visual media, the Bafta television awards, that is the prizes for the best British television programmes (it’s a UK award, so we can spell it “programme”) and performances, were also awarded this weekend.
The updated Sherlock was the big winner, taking home the award for the best drama series and best supporting actor for Martin Freeman who plays Watson. I can’t really quarrel with that decision, because I thoroughly enjoyed Sherlock when it aired last year. Though I still like Misfits better. But then, Misfits did win the best drama series award last year, beating out some heavy hitters, so it’s fair for someone else to win. Besides, Lauren Socha who plays Kelly on Misfits took home a well deserved award in the best supporting actress category, so it’s not as if the show was snubbed. Though it’s something of a pity that Robert Sheehan who plays Nathan on Misfits did not win in the best supporting actor category (he lost out to Martin Freeman from Sherlock), because he will be leaving Misfits next year, so this was the last chance to reward that remarkable performance.
However, the much touted Downton Abbey was snubbed and didn’t win a single award in spite of several nominations. Good riddance, too, because when I actually tried to watch the damned thing, it turned out to be dull as orgeat (somehow it seems fitting to compare the costumed dullness that is Downton Abbey to the insipid drink so disliked by the characters of Georgette Heyer’s novels). Still no Bafta for dullness, which is a very good thing, particularly considering that the bloody show probably would have cleaned up at the Emmys.
Doctor Who didn’t win either, Matt Smith lost out to someone who played one half of the comedy duo Morecambe & Wise in a film I have zero interest in. I also have zero interest in This is England ’86 (I tried to watch the prequel and 1980s honed distaste for Skinheads kicked in hard) and Any Human Heart (Jim Broadbent and Matthew MacFadyen were in it. It was still boring) and any of the comedy or reality programs.
The Cannes film festival also ended tonight with the awarding of the Palme d’Or.
Now I have a confession to make. I dislike Cannes. Of the major festival, it’s the least interesting and most annoying. This past week, the cultural section of the newspaper (every newspaper) was full of Cannes reports, every cultural or cinema program was broadcast live from Cannes and I really couldn’t have cared less. Because Cannes is dull and predictable.
The Berlin film festival frequently has truly offbeat films winning, e.g. a Peruvian drama about the psychological aftermath of rape, a Carmen adaption set in a South African township, an Iranian drama about marriage and class conflicts, in short all films that were genuinely different and unusual, even if they weren’t my personal cup of tea. In Cannes, however, the big hitters of the arthouse scene compete and they are the ones taking home the prizes. There are no surprised, no offbeat winners.
Case in point: Terence Malick won the Palme d’Or for a film called Tree of Life, which involves – at least according to the clips shown – Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as an estranged father and son, an actress who prepared for her role by studying the facial expression and hand gestures of medieval madonna statues and “deep and meaningful” nature imagery set to the sweeping tones of Friedrich Smetana’s Moldau. I mean, really, how much more cliched can you get than setting “meaningful” nature imagery to Smetana’s Moldau. Don’t get me wrong, I like Moldau as much as the next person. But it’s also completely overused.
The award for the best actress went to Kristen Dunst for her part in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, though no one really remembers what the film is actually about (the end of the world, apparently), because everybody is much too upset about the fact that Lars von Trier called himself a Nazi to the infinite embarrassment of Ms. Dunst and was promptly barred from the festival forever. By the way, am I the only person who realized ages ago that Lars von Trier is something of a jerk?
It’s also telling that with three Hollywood heavyweights in the jury, two of the main prizes went to Americans. The award for best actor went to Jean Dujardin for his part in The Artist, a silent movie set at the transition from silent film to talkie. Coincidentally, The Artist was also the only film in the competition that looked remotely interesting in the clips and features that were all over the cultural programs this week.
Finally, we also had a bonafide state election in Bremen this Sunday. A detailed breakdown of the results is here (in German), while Deutsche Welle has some English language background information on the significance of this regional election.
I couldn’t vote, because I live approx. five kilometers outside the Bremen city limits. But otherwise, the outcome isn’t much of a surprise. The Socialdemocrats have ruled Bremen for 65 years now (they did change coalitions and mayors though) and the current mayor Jens Böhrnsen is popular. The Green Party has always been strong in Bremen, though I for one was surprised that they got around 22 percent and more votes than the Christian Democratic (i.e. conservative) party. The Greens are experiencing something of a boom of late because of widespread concern about nuclear power stations. But I’m still surprised they scored so highly, because the Green senator for traffic, city development and environmental issues is widely disliked for his anti-car policies. I suspect the Greens also profited from the lowering of the voting age to 16, because teenagers tend to vote Green in greater numbers. Though according to the statistics, the effect wasn’t that big.
The CDU, which considers itself a Volkspartei (people’s party), i.e. one of the two big parties, is stuck in third place behind the Greens, which must irk them to no end. The Left Party got into parliament for the second time in a row, which is very unusual for a West German state. Indeed, Bremen was the first West German state where the Left Party made it into the state parliament at all. Finally, the liberal (in the European sense, in the US sense they would be libertarians) party FDP got kicked out of parliament again. Now the FDP also happens to be the one party to which I have a personal connection, because my cousin is number 3 on their candidate list and a former classmate from university is number 5 or 6. I guess they suffered both for the poor national performance of their party and the infighting that went on in the local branch a while back. I suspect what irks them in particular is that self-employed professionals, i.e. the voting backbone of the FDP, majorly voted Green this year.
Finally, our sister city of Bremerhaven (the state of Bremen consists of two cities, Bremen and Bremerhaven) also stayed true to the pattern and once again put a rightwing politician into parliament. There’s a quirk in the Bremen state constitution that if a party wins five percent of the vote in either Bremen or Bremerhaven, this party automatically gets a seat in the state parliament, even if it did not beat the five percent hurdle in the entire state. Since Bremerhaven is a lot smaller than Bremen and has only one fifth of the inhabitants, small parties can get into the state parliament via Bremerhaven. This wouldn’t be a problem, if Bremerhaven didn’t have a history of voting for far right parties. This time, at least, they did not vote for genuine Neo-Nazis like in the past, but for one of those interchangeable rightwing citizen groups, which are completely focused on crime and usually voted by people living in areas where crime isn’t much of an issue. Groups like this crop up like clockwork in all of the city states. This bunch calls itself “Bürger in Wut” (angry citizens).