Odd books and Oscars

Anthony D’Offay's generosity hasn't gone down well in all quarters, this week in the arts world

And so to the 2008 Oscars: best film went to Juno, best actress to Ellen Page for Juno, best actor was Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd and best supporting actress went to Cate Blanchett for her gender-bending turn as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. These would have been the results if the public had decided, according to the E-Poll/Reuters survey.

Instead, the Coen brothers came away with four awards including best picture for No Country for Old Men. Not that this was the critics’ choice. When the Coen brothers did win, Ryan Gilbey decried the Academy’s decision to give the best picture award to No Country rather than the There Will Be Blood, an error that he compares to Citizen Kane’s losing out to How Green was My Valley back in 1942. However, Gilbey is optimistic that Hollywood conservatism will be out with the Bush administration. For the full article, read here. Ken Levine pointed out that, as usual, the best films going were the foreign films and animations, one of which, Persepolis, a young girl’s view of the Islamic Revolution will be showing at the forthcoming Bird’s Eye View film festival, details of which will be in next week’s New Statesman.

The art world received its biggest benefaction since Henry Tate this week when art collector Anthony D’Offay offered 725 pieces of postwar and modern art to the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland for just a fifth of their estimated £125 million value. But not everybody was waxing lyrical about his generosity. London private dealer Ivor Braka called it “the biggest loss” to the arts scene in over 20 years, claiming that D’Offay’s collections were needed to maintain the reputation of London’s galleries as exciting, relevant viewing rooms apart from its museums. And with D’Offay’s donation plugging some major gaps in the UK’s 20th century art collections, critics such as Jonathan Jones are now anticipating a cooling of lending relations between the Tate and New York’s MOMA. Let’s just hope D’Offay doesn’t do an Eli Broad. He was the American collector who recently retracted his donation of around 2000 20th and 21st century art works promised to
LACMA. For an American verdict on both the D’Offay and Broad donations, try Edward Winkleman’s blogspot.

Read any oddly-titled books lately? How about Cheese problems solved or Are Women human? These were just two of the mavericks that made the Diagram prize shortlist for Oddest Book Title of the year this week, along with possibly the most abrasive self-help title on the shelves, If you want closure in your relationship, Start with your legs. Cast your vote now on the Bookseller’s website. The winner will be announced on March 28.

And finally, Mike Smith, lead singer of 60s Beat group, the Dave Clark Five has died, aged 64. The band, famous for hits such as 'I Like It Like That' and 'Any Way You Want It' were already due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10. A fittingly-timed tribute.

Nichi Hodgson is a writer and broadcaster specialising in sexual politics, censorship, and  human rights. Her first book, Bound To You, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is out now. She tweets @NichiHodgson.

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How power shifted dramatically in this week’s Game of Thrones

The best-laid plans of Mothers and men often go awry.

Last week’s Game of Thrones was absolutely full of maps. It had more maps than a Paper Towns/Moonrise Kingdom crossover. More maps than an Ordnance Survey walking tour of a cartographer’s convention. More maps than your average week on CityMetric.

So imagine the cheers of delight when this week’s episode, “Stormborn”, opened with – yes, a map! Enter Daenerys, casting her eyes over her carved table map (Ikea’s Västeross range, I believe), deciding whether to take King’s Landing and the iron throne from Cersei or a different path. After some sassy debates with Varys over loyalty, more members of her court enter to point angrily at different grooves in the table as Dany and Tyrion move their minature armies around the board.

In fact, this whole episode had a sense of model parts slotting pleasingly into place. Melisandre finally moved down the board from Winterfell to Dragonstone to initiate the series’ most inevitable meeting, between The King of the North and the Mother of Dragons. Jon is hot on her heels. Arya crossed paths with old friends Hot Pie and Nymeria, and the right word spoken at the right time saw her readjust her course to at last head home to the North. Tyrion seamlessly anticipated a move from Cersei and changed Dany’s tack accordingly. There was less exposition than last week, but the episode was starting to feel like an elegant opening to a long game of chess.

All this made the episode’s action-filled denouement all the more shocking. As Yara, Theon and Ellaria dutifully took their place in Dany’s carefully mapped out plans, they were ambushed by their mad uncle Euron (a character increasingly resembling Blackbeard-as-played-by-Jared-Leto). We should have known: just minutes before, Yara and Ellaria started to get it on, and as TV law dictates, things can never end well for lesbians. As the Sand Snakes were mown down one by one, Euron captured Yara and dared poor Theon to try to save her. As Theon stared at Yara’s desperate face and tried to build up the courage to save her, we saw the old ghost of Reek quiver across his face, and he threw himself overboard. It’s an interesting decision from a show that has recently so enjoyed showing its most abused characters (particularly women) delight in showy, violent acts of revenge. Theon reminds us that the sad reality of trauma is that it can make people behave in ways that are not brave, or redemptive, or even kind.

So Euron’s surprise attack on the rest of the Greyjoy fleet essentially knocked all the pieces off the board, to remind us that the best-laid plans of Mothers and men often go awry. Even when you’ve laid them on a map.

But now for the real question. Who WAS the baddest bitch of this week’s Game of Thrones?

Bad bitch points are awarded as follows:

  • Varys delivering an extremely sassy speech about serving the people. +19.
  • Missandei correcting Dany’s High Valerian was Extremely Bold, and I, for one, applaud her. +7.
  • The prophecy that hinges on a gender-based misinterpretation of the word “man” or “prince” has been old since Macbeth, but we will give Dany, like, two points for her “I am not a prince” chat purely out of feminist obligation. +2.
  • Cersei having to resort to racist rhetoric to try and persuade her own soldiers to fight for her. This is a weak look, Cersei. -13.
  • Samwell just casually chatting back to his Maester on ancient medicine even though he’s been there for like, a week, and has read a total of one (1) book on greyscale. +5. He seems pretty wrong, but we’re giving points for sheer audacity.
  • Cersei thinking she can destroy Dany’s dragon army with one (1) big crossbow. -15. Harold, they’re dragons.
  • “I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them.” Olenna is the queen of my LIFE. +71 for this one (1) comment.
  • Grey Worm taking a risk and being (literally) naked around someone he loves. +33. He’s cool with rabid dogs, dizzying heights and tumultuous oceans, but clearly this was really scary for him. It’s important and good to be vulnerable!! All the pats on the back for Grey Worm. He really did that.
  • Sam just fully going for it and chopping off all of Jorah’s skin (even though he literally… just read a book that said dragonglass can cure greyscale??). +14. What is this bold motherfucker doing.
  • Jorah letting him. +11.
  • “You’ve been making pies?” “One or two.” Blatant fan service from psycho killer Arya, but I fully loved it. +25.
  • Jon making Sansa temporary Queen in the North. +7.
  • Sansa – queen of my heart and now Queen in the North!!! +17.
  • Jon choking Littlefinger for perving over Sansa. +19. This would just be weird and patriarchal, but Littlefinger is an unholy cunt and Sansa has been horrifically abused by 60 per cent of the men who have ever touched her.
  • Nymeria staring down the woman who once possessed her in a delicious reversal of fortune. +13. Yes, she’s a wolf but she did not consent to being owned by a strangely aggressive child.
  • Euron had a big win. So, regrettably, +10.

​That means this week’s bad bitch is Olenna Tyrell, because who even comes close? This week’s loser is Cersei. But, as always, with the caveat that when Cersei is really losing – she strikes hard. Plus, Qyburn’s comment about the dragon skeletons under King’s Landing, “Curious that King Robert did not have them destroyed”, coupled with his previous penchant for re-animated dead bodies, makes me nervous, and worry that – in light of Cersei’s lack of heir – we’re moving towards a Cersei-Qyburn-White Walkers alliance. So do watch out.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.