The Third Leader: Not so glittering prizes

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While in this space we endeavour to maintain our signature message of sunny optimism and undimmed hope, we also believe that we should seek to warn readers against the vagaries of fate, the malign machinations of the powerful and partial, and, to put it theatrically, the sheer bloody unfairness of life.

Which brings us to the Oscar nominations, brimming with more Brit dames and directors than you could clap a clapper board at, with a movie, screenwriter, actor and actress or two thrown in for an encore. I'm particularly excited about the great Peter O'Toole's nod. Many will see it as recognition of seniority, survival, and style of a dying order; all will hope that, after eight nominations, he'll finally get "a lovely bugger". My thrill, though, and one that will doubtless be shared throughout the north of England, is at the prospect of another Oscar for a rugby league player.

It's true: O'Toole played as a schoolboy in Hunslet. As did, in Lancashire, Colin Chariots of Fire Welland. As did Russell Crowe, in Sydney. But it was Colin who proclaimed that "the British are coming" when he picked up his Oscar in 1982, and they didn't really.

So, I would suggest, in the run-up to 25 February, that you mention, whenever possible, just some of those who failed to win one - Hitchcock and Garbo, to name just two - and murmur about pointless competition and invalid comparison. Should we secure any, however, I recommend Bill Nighy's view: "I used to think prizes were demeaning and divisive, until I got one. Now they seem meaningful and real."