Oscar winners 2012: in pictures

<em>The Artist</em> won five awards at the 84th Academy Awards last night.

artist

The Artist won five gongs in all. Here is the film's director Michel Hazanaviciu, winner of the Best Director Award, actress Berenice Bejo, and actor Jean Dujardin, who won in the Best Actor category.

dujardin

Jean Dujardin kisses his Oscar for Best Actor.

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Meryl Streep holds her award for Best Actress, which she won for her depiction of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She last won the award more than 30 years ago, for Sophie's Choice.

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Octavia Spencer gets emotional as she accepts the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in The Help.

meryl streep, octavia spencer

Spencer and Streep celebrate, holding their awards.

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Christopher Plummer, 82, became the oldest ever Oscar winner when he was voted Best Supporting Actor for his part in Beginners. He addressed his Oscar statuette, saying: "You're only two years older than me darling, where have you been all of my life?"

The full list of winners

Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, Hugo
Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schavo, Hugo
Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, The Artist
Best Makeup: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Sound Editing: Phillip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, Hugo
Best Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley, Hugo
Best Documentary: Undefeated
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Visual Effects: Hugo
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Best Original Song: Bret McKenzie, Man or Muppet
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Best Live Action Short: The Shore
Best Documentary Short: Saving Face
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Picture: The Artist

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

NANCY JO IACOI/GALLERY STOCK
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There are only two rules for an evening drink: it must be bitter, and it must be cold

A Negroni is the aperitif of choice in bars everywhere from London to Palermo - and no wonder.

The aperitif has the odd distinction of being the only alcohol that can always rely on a sober audience: it is the opener, the stimulant, a spur to the appetite for good food and good conversation. This preparatory beverage is considered the height of sophistication, and certainly nobody labouring in field or factory ever required a pep to their evening appetite. Still, to take a drink before one starts drinking is hardly clever behaviour. So why do it?

One reason is surely the wish to separate the working day from the evening’s leisure, an increasingly pressing matter as we lose the ability to switch off. This may change the nature of the aperitif, which was generally supposed to be light, in alcohol and character. Once, one was expected to quaff a pre-dinner drink and go in to dine with faculties and taste buds intact; now, it might be more important for those who want an uninterrupted meal to get preprandially plastered. That way, your colleagues may contact you but they won’t get much sense out of you, and pretty soon they’ll give up and bother someone else.

The nicest thing about the aperitif, and the most dangerous, is that it doesn’t follow rules. It’s meant to be low in alcohol, but nobody ever accused a gin and tonic or a Negroni (Campari, gin and vermouth in equal portions) of that failing; and sherry, which is a fabulous aperitif (not least because you can keep drinking it until the meal or the bottle ends), has more degrees of alcohol than most wines. An aperitif should not be heavily perfumed or flavoured, for fear of spoiling your palate, yet some people love pastis, the French aniseed drink that goes cloudy in water, and that you can practically smell across the Channel. They say the scent actually enhances appetite.

Really only two rules apply. An aperitif should be bitter – or, at any rate, it shouldn’t be sweet, whatever the fans of red vermouth may tell you. And it must be cold. Warm drinks such as Cognac and port are for after dinner. Not for nothing did Édith Piaf warble, in “Mon apéro”, about drowning her amorous disappointments in aperitifs: fail to cool your passions before sharing a table, and you belong with the barbarians.

On the other hand, conversing with your nearest over a small snack and an appropriate beverage, beyond the office and before the courtesies and complications of the dinner table, is the essence of cultured behaviour. If, as is sometimes thought, civilisation has a pinnacle, surely it has a chilled apéro carefully balanced on top.

The received wisdom is that the French and Italians, with their apéritifs and aperitivos, are the experts in these kinds of drinks. Certainly the latter are partial to their Aperol spritzes, and the former to such horrid, wine-based tipples as Lillet and Dubonnet. But the English are good at gin and the Americans invented the Martini. As for Spain, tapas were originally snacks atop a covering that kept the flies out of one’s pre-dinner drink: tapa means lid.

Everywhere, it seems, as evening approaches, people crave a drink that in turn will make them salivate: bitterness, the experts tell us, prepares the mouth to welcome food. The word “bitter” may come from “bite”, in which case the aperitif’s place before dinner is assured.

I like to think that a good one enables the drinker to drown all sour feelings, and go in to dinner cleansed and purified. Fanciful, perhaps. But what better lure to fancy than a beverage that exists only to bring on the evening’s pleasures?

Nina Caplan is the Louis Roederer Pio Cesare Food and Wine Writer of the Year

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times