The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Jonathan Griffin, September 15th 2015

    Last year, at a press conference for an architecture prize in Oviedo, northern Spain, a journalist politely asked Frank Gehry the question that many of us would like to ask him. How does he respond to the critics who accuse him of making “showy architecture”?

    Gehry, who is 86 and, these days, a rather wizened version of his former self, simply extended his middle finger.

    The journalist’s question echoed some common criticisms of Gehry: that he is self-serving, that his buildings are indifferent to their usage, that they are humdrum boxes adorned with cheap and flashy effects—the coloured undulating metal surfaces of his Experience Music Project in Seattle, for example, allegedly inspired by a smashed Stratocaster. In short, the criticism runs, Gehry thinks he is an artist.

    read more » ArchitectureArtExhibitionsJonathan Griffin

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, September 14th 2015

    The opening 40 minutes of Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” are probably the best of any film you will see this year. He kicks off with a bang, when a SWAT team rams a truck into a living room in suburban Phoenix. But look at the delicate lozenges of sunlight playing on the curtains before they hit, or the dust that envelops the FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt, pictured), once inside, and her shaking fingers after a chamber of corpses is found entombed in the walls. Villeneuve, as his previous film, “Prisoners”, suggested, is not interested in the violence itself so much as the trembling prelude and jittery aftershock. He has made a real rattlesnake of a movie, all coiled stealth and hidden sting, as befits a film about the drug trade.

    read more » FilmsmoviesTom Shone

    ~ Posted by Michael Watts, September 11th 2015

    It took an eternity to reach the poet Liz Berry. She was waiting in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the big slab of Victoriana clearly visible on the other side of Paradise Circus, a city-centre development. Between us sprawled a hellish chaos of road works. Birmingham blindly believes in change leading to progress, but generally prefers a demolition to an erection. Liz, patiently sipping tea in the museum’s cavernous café, had heard that the Circus would be re-named as just “Paradise”. We both hooted at that.

    We were in Birmingham, where she lives with her partner and young son, to discuss “Black Country”, her debut book of poems, already in its seventh reprint. It was published only last August, won the Forward prize for best first collection and was many critics’ poetry book of 2014. Next month, at the Royal Festival Hall in London, she will be reading from her collection during National Poetry Day.

    read more » BooksMICHAEL WATTSPoetry

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, September 10th 2015

    Our pick of the best new songs to slip into your pocket. You can find the playlist on Spotify by searching for IntLifeMag. All songs available on iTunes, unless otherwise stated.

    Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats: S.O.B.
    Handclaps and humming and a hell of a hoe-down.

    read more » intelligent tunesMusicRockTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, September 8th 2015

    Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary, “Amy”, premiered at Cannes this year. But the Venice Film Festival has gone one better with “Janis”, which tells the all-too-brief life story of a music legend who is often spoken of as Winehouse’s spiritual forebear, Janis Joplin. Both were confessional singer-songwriters with preternaturally mature, rasping voices. Both were heroin addicts. And both died at the age of 27. “Janis”, which is produced by Alex Gibney and directed by Amy Berg, is a more conventional, less cinematic documentary than “Amy”. But its story of unfulfilled potential is even more poignant.

    read more » DocumentaryFilmMusicNicholas BarberRock

    ~ Posted by Tom Chatfield, September 4th 2015

    I went to the opening of Tate Britain’s new installation, “Sensorium”, with a question: was this more than a gimmick?

    read more » ArtExhibitionstechnologyTom Chatfield

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, September 3rd 2015

    Anyone who makes a film set in a big-city newspaper office is required by law to include certain elements: the scene in which a reporter asks an editor for more time on a story, the thunderous rolling of the printing presses when that story is completed. And sure enough, those scenes are present and correct in “Spotlight”, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday. But, overall, it’s impressive how restrained and cliché-resistant “Spotlight” is. Thomas McCarthy, its co-writer-director, has made a streamlined docu-drama that’s as functional, well made and unshowy as the beige chinos its characters all wear. And even when he includes a moment that has been in 100 previous newspaper yarns, such as the one where a reluctant key witness finally agrees to come forward, he sneaks it in so quickly and quietly that you hardly notice it.

    read more » FilmHOLLYWOODNicholas BarberRELIGION

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, September 2nd 2015

    In her memoir for our September/October issue, Jo Lennan writes about being diagnosed with cancer in her 30s. In this podcast, she joins Matthew Sweet to talk about what she learnt along the way, about illness as metaphor, and about how this is a genomic era of cancer research. 

    read more » healthMemoirPodcastSCIENCESimon Willis

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, August 27th 2015

    In just two years, Oscar Isaac has proven himself the most versatile screen actor to emerge from Hollywood in the last decade. He came to fame playing the self-absorbed folk musician at the heart of the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013). In the two years since, he has played a Greek con artist in the largely unseen but highly rewarding “Two Faces of January”, a Queens oil importer struggling to stay on the right side of the law in J.C. Chandor’s excellent “A Most Violent Year”, and a sleazy, tech-era Mephistopheles in Alex Garland’s equally excellent “Ex Machina”. In each case, he has pulled off assured, unshowy performances without a single whisper about his “commitment”, his “transformation” or his “unrecognisability”—or any of the other buzz words with which actors hold their own against ever more spectacular special effects: come see the movie star morph!

    read more » AmericacultureTELEVISIONTom Shone

    ~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, August 28th 2015

    The Reverend Al Green became one of the greatest soul singers of all time on the strength of just a handful of gold-certified hits in the early 1970s. His songs have passed into the popular canon: who hasn’t heard his caramel falsetto on “Let’s Stay Together” on the dance floor at a wedding? Starting with the success of “Tired of Being Alone” in 1971, Green’s smooth Motown vocals, mixed with the stabs of brass synonymous with Memphis’s Stax and Volt labels, earned him a reputation as the father of a new breed of soul music.

    But not for long. In 1974, he was badly burned and emotionally traumatised when a girlfriend threw a pan of hot grits over him, rooted out his pistol and shot herself dead. The incident prompted Green to turn away from secular music almost entirely. At first he released gospel albums, then he retreated to the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, which he founded in a leafy Memphis suburb in 1976, the year he was ordained. His secular appearances have become more infrequent as the years have passed.

    read more » AmericaHazel SheffieldMusicRELIGION