Tag Archives: Oscars

The Annual Challenge

Once upon a 2013, I explained on this very site that every year I stay up to watch the annual Academy Awards https://ejbones.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/oscar-night/. 2017 was going to be no different. Myeloma or no myeloma, I would be fulfilling my annual challenge, maintaining a 19 year tradition. I do not wish to keep you in suspense, thus I can confirm that 2017 was no different to the 18 years before it and I did fulfil my annual challenge. 

And the Oscar goes to me!

That said, with each passing year with myeloma, I am realise that it is getting more and more difficult to complete my challenge. Last year, I had been released from hospital three days prior to the ceremony after a nasty bout of Influenza B. This year, as my previous blog covered in too much detail, I was exhausted after an uncharacteristically busy February. My Myeloma is a massive hurdle in this challenge, that only my sheer determination can overcome. I hope the day never comes where my determination is not enough.

You might wonder who am I actually challenging each February and why does it even matter? I used to think I was just challenging myself as a film fan, I don’t even know how or why it started. I don’t think I even considered it a challenge then, I was probably just happy Mamma Jones allowed me to stay up on a school night. It has now become so much more than that. It’s a tradition and if there is one thing I love, it’s a personal tradition. Just ask Big Sister whenever she proposes a change to our family Christmas meals. 

Not only are the Oscars now a passport to my former life, I now use them to challenge myself to rise above the limitations of My Myeloma. I have not dared to imagine how I would feel were I unable to stay up all night and watch a ceremony that in the grand scheme of things means very little and where I find the a number of the films lacking in both personal enjoyment and originality (cough, Hacksaw Ridge). Thinking about it now, without any hint of exaggeration, I would be devastated. I would feel like I had lost something. I would mourn.

Since my relapse last year, I am usually in bed by 21:00hrs every night, asleep by 22:00hrs unless I am experiencing drug induced insomnia or just the bog standard insomnia. Last New Year’s Eve I stayed out until 04:00hrs, but prior to that, the last time I had voluntarily kept myself awake past midnight (bar a handful of social occasions if I am being 100 percent truthful) was for the 88th Academy Awards on the 28 February 2016. Physically, the act of staying up all night is a feat of major endurance. Add to that actually following and retaining what is being said until 05:20hrs and you have what is now my equivalent of a marathon, albeit on my mother’s sofa with all the snacks my stomach can handle.

Back in my youth, which I now patronisingly see as my pre myeloma years, it would take me a single day to recover from staying up all night. Since my first ceremony with myeloma, I think I could add a day’s recovery time to each year that has past. I know that physically, staying up all night is to my own detriment, but mentally, well mentally, it makes me feel like I can sing for a year.

I cannot pinpoint when I started to try and watch as many of the nominated films as possible prior to the ceremony, that has not been going on for 19 years, but it certainly predates myeloma. It seems to have grown Year on Year too, with me watching more of the nominated pictures and completing more of the categories. You cannot understand the satisfaction I glean from completing a category, even if that meant having to watch Hacksaw Ridge and pay for the um, privilege. 

I completed 21 categories by the way. There are 24.

This year, just as staying awake proved to be more difficult, so too did finding the time, energy and finances to watch the films. Some people might think I have an abundance of free time, but I wager they have not tried to watch a three hour subtitled film whilst under the influence of chemotherapy and morphine. In addition to loom knitting 23 hats, going on a mini break to Amsterdam, attending a wedding, catching the flu and having two additional weeks of treatment on top of my usual treatment, having the ability to sit down, focus and follow the plot of a movie was hard. There were many days where I was incapable of doing it, resulting in a film heavy four days last week. To put this into perspective, over the last two months (as with every month) there have been many days when I have struggled to get up and cook a ready meal or even get myself a glass of water. I think this warrants calling what I do for the first two months of each year a challenge. This year, I am fortunate enough that I chose wisely at my other annual film related Challenge at last year’s London Film Festival.

I used to jokingly refer to Oscar Season, and it deserves to be capitalised, as an annual challenge. It doesn’t feel like a joke now. It is My Annual Challenge. I may laugh or look embarrassed when I tell people about it in case they think I do not realise it is just a meaningless and unfair system where a bunch of rich people reward and celebrate other rich people. I know the ceremony itself is not world changing, groundbreaking or profound; I do not watch other award shows. For me however, and I cannot explain why it is, it is important. It’s important to me. I don’t need to pontificate over the politics of it, the worthiness of the recipients or get into social media spats about any or all of the above. I personally celebrate my ability to watch the films in the lead up and then the ceremony itself acts as the conclusion of months of effort. Trust me when I say, it is most certainly an effort, especially in a year when something Clint Eastwood has directed is nominated.

When the credits roll as the sun comes up, my Challenge is complete and I do not want to talk about it any further. In fact, I find analysing it and any press coverage after the fact irritating. This year, I made a slight concession because of the slight ‘mishap’ at the end, but generally, I’m done. The Challenge is over. This blog seems outdated, note how I am not mentioning any of the winners.

Watching the ceremony feels like something I have always done, and I believe, I will always do. I genuinely fear a day when I cannot do it. The difficulties I faced this year, does give me some cause for concern. So far, the closest I have come to not watching the ceremony was last year, and I was prepared to discharge myself from hospital in order to do it. Like most things that create excitement in my life, this year, I had to peter my pre show enthusiasm in case I did have an uncontrollable need to sleep or unexpected health issue. My previous bravado saying it is something I’ll always do is wishful thinking. The truth is, I just do not know if I will always be able to do it. 

For now, knowing I have completed My Annual Challenge, I feel a certain level of contentment that I do not want to lose. In the last week, I have congratulated myself on more than one occasion. Naturally, I did not do it alone and I owe a great deal of gratitude to the two fine gentlemen who helped me along the way. 

Until next year then, I wish you all well in the cinema. 

EJB x

P.S. I may have completed the challenge at my parents’ house, but I was forced to deviate from my other Annual Challenge tradition when I discovered that Marks and Spencer’s had discontinued my Hickory Steak Oscar Night Pizza. I was outraged. I’m still outraged. Sure, I purchased a different oven pizza, but it was not the same. Not the same at all. 

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Priorities – 2014

The following is a perfect example of my personal planning requirement.

My priority in 2013, which led to me rescheduling my stem cell harvest, appears to remain my priority in 2014.

Do you know how I know this? I give you exhibits A and B. I believe, they speak for themselves.

AThe Request

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BThe Response

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Boom! I will go to the ball.

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Parental Guidance Advised

For a good long while now, I have avoided a certain sub-genre of entertainment, because I do not find it entertaining. If I were to watch such entertainment, my viewing pleasure would be severely reduced by the very likely chance of me leaking snot on my clothes whilst my eye makeup melts down my face, imagining my end whilst feeling wholeheartedly ashamed of myself. The BBFC may have their ratings system, but I have and need quite a different one that is not determined by how many nipples I see or how many times Leonardo DiCaprio days ‘fuck’. Mine is about self preservation. It is for this reason that I still do not know who Walter White is, which prevents me from making knowing on trend pop culture references in my daily conversations.

The motion picture, and in this, I include the images received on the tele box, because that, apparently, is where real filmmaking creativity can be found in this modern world, is a form of escapism. Sure, it is not always a barrel of laughs, and it can be challenging, but it temporarily takes one away from their story, into somebody else’s. Unless you are watching Panorama that is, but I do not watch Panorama, so I can make sweeping comments like the one above. As Lina Lamont says, films can bring a little joy into our humdrive lives. I have found since August 2012, that my need for and enjoyment from other people’s stories has been greater than ever, and I really enjoyed them before myeloma happened. Now though, these stories cannot feature somebody with the ‘C’ word or dying from the ‘C’ word, for if it does, my enjoyment is severely compromised.

I am aware that a blanket ban on anything mentioning cancer is impracticable. Cancer, as I have discovered, is everywhere, not just generally, but hiding in programmes one would I assume safe. Take last year’s Oscar night coverage, when I wanted to be looking at the red carpet, feeling emotional that I am maintaining a tradition, one of the presenter talks about her cancer diagnosis and recovery invoking jealously and a swift return to my realty. Even The Sopranos can be ruined by a supporting character dying from lung cancer in prison. And my childhood favourite of Beaches has been vetoed forever, and it’s not just because I have taste now.

Apart from the fact that any reference to cancer reminds me of my personal situation, the problem with cancer on TV or in movies, is that the depictions are unrealistic and I buy into that, imagining the best or the worst, whatever they are serving up for their willing audience. Films are either so incredibly sanguine, cutting from a breathless deathbed conversation to an image of a coffin soundtracked by a power ballad, which is there to tell the audience that now is the time for them to legitimately cry, or it is unrealistically jovial about the treatment, the side effects, the timescale and the recovery. They paint false ideas of what it is like to have cancer. They don’t paint my story.

So, you can see from the evidence above, that for my mind’s sake, it is best for me to avoid the ‘C’ word when seeking a temporary respite from the reality of living with it. That is why I have developed a ratings system, so that I and my friends can know what it is safe and what is not safe. I think there are still a few tweaks to be made, but you’ll get the gist.

UUniversal
Films/TV can include, mass death and natural disasters like Dante’s Peak and Independence Day. Not like The Impossible. Also includes, any of the Lethal Weapon franchise despite the grief in 1- halfway through 3 and Back to the Future. Will also allow Disney/ movies, bar Bambi and Up.

PGParental Guidance
Films/TV can include murder stories with minimal to no mourning, definitely no funerals, to include Midsomer Murders or Jonathan Creek . All of Alfred Hitchcock films and Gosford Park.

15Suitable for people aged 15 years and older
Films/TV can now be set in or be about people who work in the medical profession. If I watched Casualty, it would be shown after the watershed. Grey’s Anatomy is also permitted. Films that depict traditional multi generation family structures, for example, Parenthood, are permitted. Films about pregnancy, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s underrated masterpiece, Junior. Crying to be expected.

18Suitable for people aged 18 or over, contains cancer themes.
Films/TV will include somebody dying of cancer, showing grief of loved ones, people being diagnosed with cancer and then discovering who they really are before it is too late/atoning themselves before the angels come to get them. Can also include films with a happy final scene, showing people smugly smiling whilst thinking of their deceased loved ones whilst looking at a flying bird. To cover certain episodes of House, any soaps if I were to watch soaps, and any of the awful cancer films listed when I googled ‘Cancer Films’.

🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬

Is that clear now? Good. Macmillan need to produce a leaflet.

As I said, sometimes, you just cannot avoid it and this is a situation I found myself in last week, which coincidentally, inspired this blog. I somehow, found myself watching a little French/Belgium production that told the story of a human being with a blood cancer (thankfully not myeloma), dying whilst having an allograft stem cell transplant, and then the last half of the film showed how the death ripped the grieving love ones apart resulting in the suicide of the dead person’s mother. It did not say that would happen on the synopsis. Films like that are my Cannibal Holocaust. Films like that keep me awake at night. Needless to say, I did not find it entertaining. I had to watch a Miss Marple to take the edge off.

And so, I wish you all Happy Viewing, remember, these classifications are there to help you. Be vigilant.

EJB

P.S. I might make an exception for 50/50, which is realistic, despite my own personal jealousy at the happy ending. It is also a reasonably good film.

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Oscar Night

Every year since I was thirteen, I have stayed up all night to watch the Oscars. It is a stupid tradition that I have, but it is mine.

When I was diagnosed, many things that I would miss flashed before my eyes. The Oscars ceremony was one of them, and film more generally. By late Autumn, I had reconciled myself to the fact that I would not be able to watch this year’s ceremony whilst eating pizza in my pyjamas at Mamma Jones’ house.

Truthfully, my tastes have grown in recent years and I do not find the nominated films, especially this year, that exciting. The ceremony though, all 3-5 hours of it depending on the year, I love. Say what you want about the Oscars, it is a sycophantic night after all, but it is a night about a love of cinema and that is why I love it, because I love cinema. Everybody who knows me knows this, which you could see if your saw my text messages today.

I thought My Myeloma would take that away. Even yesterday, still under the influence of cyclophosphamide, I feared it could not be. I thought it would stop me enjoying something and doing something I have always done. Unfortunately, My Myeloma has reduced the amount of money I spend at the cinema and my ability to focus for 120 minutes. My short term memory issues may have made me (temporarily) enjoy films less, but it has done nothing to my long term memory. My long term memory loves films and it reminds me how much of my being is steeped in that passion.

So, tonight, I showed My Myeloma what for. I am still in control of something, and although it tries, it cannot take my loves away from me nor my traditions. Sure, it prevented me from completing the Annual Challenge, but I can work on that.

I stayed up all night, and I have every intention of doing it again next year for that is what I have always done. And the year after that.

My name is Emma Jane Jones and I heart film.

Oh, and special thanks to Matthew of Northampton for staying up all night with me, and assisting me with my screenings for the last few weeks. Much appreciated. Our night was sponsored by Becks, for we are classy. Becks Blue for me. I have a transplant to worry about.

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And another oh, not everybody was so enthused. See?

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EJB x

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Priorities – An Update

Since Thursday, I am sure many, many people have been anxiously awaiting news on whether I would be able to firstly, watch the Oscars and secondly, and as the nurse said, more importantly, be accompanied by my teddy, EMan, during my transplant. If you have not been anxiously awaiting news, for goodness sake, catch up https://ejbones.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/priorities/ .

Well, on Friday, I received an email, I held my breath and hoped. Hoped like I have never hoped before, and I was told that yes, I can watch the Oscars ceremony live for the fifteenth year in a row and, yes, EMan can come to the hospital providing he has a wash first.

And with that news, I did an imaginary cartwheel. EMan smiled, well, he would have done if he had a face.

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Priorities

Don’t let anybody tell you that I do not have my priorities right.

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