The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, April 17th 2015

    The subject of kitchens—what they reveal about their owners, how many it is acceptable to have—has become something of a political football in the run-up to the British general election. Three main-party leaders have invited cameras and journalists into their kitchens for coffee and conversation—with mixed results. But there is something far more interesting about the kitchen than its brief spell as a subject of spin, as I realised on a recent visit to the Geffrye Museum. And that is its positioning over the centuries in our homes, and what that tells us about our domestic history and our relationship with food.

    read more » ArchitectureFamilyinteriorsLondonRebecca Willis

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, April 17th 2015

    George Clinton knows how to make an entrance. It’s a skill he perfected in the Seventies, when his fame as the ringleader of the funk collective Parliament Funkadelic was at its peak. Clinton would arrive on stage in the P-Funk Mothership, a glowing $500,000 “spacecraft” that would descend from on high and deliver him in a hissing fug of flames and smoke. His outfits were as outrageous as his props: he was as likely to wear head-to-toe ermine as he was a white sheet (and nothing but). And for several years Clinton, who used to work in a barbershop, took to wearing hair extensions that made him look like Medusa in Technicolour.

    read more » Charlie McCannMusicRock

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 16th 2015

    How do you catch a murderer in a country where murder, officially, doesn’t exist? That’s the question that keeps tripping up the characters in Daniel Espinosa’s grim, ambitious new thriller, “Child 44”, a film in which the oppressive institutional anti-logic of Stalin’s USSR is far more threatening than the serial killer on the loose.

    Adapted from Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling novel, “Child 44” features Tom Hardy as Leo Demidov (pictured), a ruthless secret-police investigator who is so efficient at snaring “traitors”, and so loyal to the Party, that he has earnt a swanky Moscow apartment and a beautiful wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace). His rise through the ranks stalls only when his best friend’s young son is found dead by a railway track. All the forensic evidence suggests that a Russian Jack the Ripper is picking off children, but Leo’s superior officer (Vincent Cassel) declares that the boy was hit by a train: murder, after all, is a “capitalist disease” with no place in Stalin’s socialist Utopia. If Leo asks to look at the autopsy report, he will be committing treason and inviting execution—especially if his envious lieutenant (Joel Kinnaman) has anything to do with it. But after a lifetime’s profitable obedience, not even Leo can keep ignoring the chasm between the real truth and the government-approved version.

    read more » cinemacultureFilmNicholas Barber

    ~ Posted by Julie Kavanagh, April 15th 2015

    How is it possible to judge one dancer against another in a radically different style? That's the question facing the judges in the BBC's new Young Dancer of the Year competition, in which the categories are contemporary, hip-hop, ballet and the South Asian classical tradition. The four category finals will be shown weekly on BBC4, starting on April 17th. The winners in each category will then compete in the grand final, broadcast live from Sadler's Wells on May 9th. There’s an impressive panel of judges including the choreographer Wayne McGregor and Tamara Rojo, the artistic director of the English National Ballet. I asked Darcey Bussell, the former Royal Ballet principal and a host of the grand final, how they'd pick a winner. "Talent always shines through," she told me. "Despite having different techniques, it all comes down to whether a dancer has the determination and scope to adapt their performance within their genre."

    read more » DanceHip-hopJulie KavanaghTELEVISION

    ~ Posted by Alix Christie, April 13th 2015

    Günter Grass, the towering German writer who has died age 87, called himself many things: toad, dinosaur, "notorious pessimist". Yet this was the same man whom the Nobel committee in 1999 praised for giving German literature "a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction" with his first novel, “The Tin Drum”, published 40 years before. He could be caustic and lyrical, arrogant and kind, a mass of seeming contradiction. Yet one through-line animated his extraordinary life: he never wavered in his role as a member of that vanishing breed, the public intellectual.

    read more » Alix ChristiefictionGermanyHISTORYLiteraturePOLITICS

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, April 13th 2015

    Time is an unusual commodity: we all have it and, if we’re lucky, plenty of it. It’s in ample supply, yet highly valued—and some times more than others. For our last Big Question, we asked seven writers to choose their favourite time of day. Readers voted for the answer that chimed most in our online poll.

    Ann Wroe, the author of the forthcoming “Six Excursions in Light”, waxed lyrical about twilight, that sliver of evening when light is on the wane. She won the day (just) with 20% of the vote. Tied at 17% were the poet Simon Armitage and the pilot Mark Vanhoenacker, both champions of the solitude that steals in when the sun slips away. Vanhoenacker relishes the small hours, when “the world below sleeps”; Armitage thrills to 5am, when the day isn’t yet “muddled with people”. The poet Kathleen Jamie yearns for 9-11am, when her children are at school and “time is my own”; she took in 15% of the vote. With her ode to midnight, the novelist Elif Shafak claimed 10% for the night. The author Romesh Gunesekera prefers 7.23am, when there’s “still time to save the day”; he convinced 8%. The novelist Ali Smith recalled a January afternoon 45 years ago: 4pm, school finished, marbles out. She won 4%.

    Some readers voted for their own slices of time. But one commented that this Big Question “enriches any time of the day”.

    read more » Charlie McCannLifestyleThe Big Questiontime

    ~ Posted by David Bennun, April 10th 2015

    These days, Joni Mitchell’s appearances in the news are more often prompted by her opinions (rebarbative) or her health (erratic) than her music. But after her hospitalisation in Los Angeles last week, her fans had reason to wonder if they were about to lose her, which inevitably concentrated minds on her career. “Folk legend” was the phrase frequently invoked in coverage of the story, alongside an emphasis on her lasting impact upon women performers. It’s not exactly damning her with faint praise, but it does misrepresent and undervalue her.

    read more » cultureDavid BennunjazzMusicPopRock

    ~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, April 10th 2015

    Stornoway's third album, "Bonxie", is out on April 13th. As I wrote in the March/April issue of Intelligent Life, it's a record infused with birdsong, inspired by the frontman Brian Briggs's lifelong passion for the natural world. One bright and gusty day last month, I went to Chalgrove Airfield in the Cotswolds to film the making of the video for their single "Get Low". They worked with Rose and Lloyd Buck, two kindly bird handlers, to bring a wild-goose chase to life. 

    read more » Hazel SheffieldMusicRockVideo

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, April 10th 2015

    The best sound in cricket is the one that features in the celebrated speech in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing”. It is not just the thwack of any old piece of willow on leather, but the sonorous pop of a well-made bat executing a well-timed stroke; “a noise,” as Stoppard wrote, “like a trout taking a fly.” The second-best sound in cricket, for most of the past 50 years, has been a sentence. “And after So-and-So, it will be Richie Benaud.”

    As a cricketer, Benaud was very good. As a captain, he was one of the best. But, as a commentator, he was in a class of his own.

    read more » cricketSPORTTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 9th 2015

    The Swedish family in Ruben Ostlund’s sublime comedy-drama, "Force Majeure", could have strolled straight out of a holiday brochure. When we first see them posing for a photograph on an Alpine mountainside in designer ski togs, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are as attractively sculpted and well dressed as models, and their adorable son and daughter complete a picture of wholesome Scandinavian health and harmony.

    There is a similar photogenic gorgeousness to the avalanche they see on the other side of the valley the next day, just as they’re sitting down to lunch on a restaurant terrace. Tomas explains that it is a controlled avalanche, set off by the resort managers, but when the thundering wave of snow gets worryingly close to the terrace, he panics and runs for cover, leaving Ebba clinging to their terrified children. The killer detail: he grabbed his phone and his gloves from the restaurant table before he bolted.

    read more » cinemacultureFilmNicholas Barber