The editors' blog


    ~ 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

    ~ Posted by Caroline Carter, August 24th 2015

    The photographer NK Guy has made a pilgrimage to Burning Man almost every summer since 1998. During those weeks at Black Rock City in the Nevada desert, when more than 65,000 people join together as citizens of a temporary hedonistic world, his lens was drawn to the incredible sculptures, installations and performance art that the festival has become famous for. The result is “Art of Burning Man”, a weighty—and wonderful—200-page collection of his photographs.

    read more » AmericaCaroline CarterFestivalsPhotographyvisual arts

    ~ Posted by Tom Graham, August 19th 2015

    Half a century ago, the young Russian film director Aleksei German read a sci-fi novel called “Hard to Be a God”, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. He knew then that he would make it into a film—though not that it would take him 50 years. German was no dissident, but he was a wayward talent who never quite toed the Party line. Only one of his films, “Twenty Days Without War”, was directly released in the Soviet Union. Others were censored and shelved for years. Soviet cinema required heroes and antiheroes, but German offered neither: his protagonists were non-heroes, much too ambiguous for the censors.

    read more » FilmRussiatom graham

    ~ Posted by Marion Coutts, August 18th 2015

    The artist Joseph Cornell (1903-72) was what you might call a homebody. His working environment was at first his kitchen table and, later, the basement under his house. His career was unusual in that collecting, collage and assemblage of found material was the basis of everything he did. He did not draw or paint. In his basement, he assembled a gigantic archive of paper ephemera and found objects relating to a vast range of interests: opera, ballet, cinema, geography, astronomy, ornithology, European culture and art history. Even without formal art training he quickly became involved in the changing New York scene around him from the 1940s onwards. Some artists acquire a reputation as artist’s artists, and retain the respect of their peers separate from any commercial success. Cornell had it both ways. He started exhibiting in 1931 and by 1940 he was able to give up his job as a textile salesman. Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Motherwell, Lee Miller and Mark Rothko were friends or admirers. Many visited him at his house on Utopia Parkway in Queens. Cornell rarely left New York. He never left America.

    read more » ArtExhibitionsFilmMarion Coutts

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, August 18th 2015

    In the latest Intelligent Life podcast, Tim de Lisle joins Matthew Sweet to talk about Randy Newman, the writer of sardonic songs like “You Can Leave Your Hat On” as well as the soundtracks for the “Toy Story” movies. De Lisle followed him from Vienna to Los Angeles for a profile in our September/October issue and found a man who, like his music, is ironic, characterful, curmudgeonly and warm-hearted. 

    You can listen to our podcast here on our website, on Facebook and Twitter, and on SoundCloud. You can also subscribe to the podcast and download each episode on iTunes

    read more » FilmMusicPodcastRockSimon Willis


    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, August 17th 2015

    We are nothing without our senses; they are our window onto the world. Some, though, are prized more highly than others. For the Big Question in the July/August issue, we asked seven writers: what’s the best sense?

    read more » Charlie McCannPsychologyThe Big Question

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, August 14th 2015

    The actress Greta Gerwig has had the same liberating effect on Noah Baumbach as Diane Keaton had on Woody Allen: she has opened him up, lending his films a giddy sense of release. Like Allen, Bambauch’s tendencies are Eeyoreish: his characters, in films such as “Greenberg” and “Margot at the Wedding”, are hyper-articulate injustice collectors who play their nerves like violins. But “Frances Ha”, Baumbach’s first film with Gerwig in 2012, about a young woman trying to find her footing in Manhattan, inhaled deeply of the French nouvelle vague—black and white cinematography, Georges Delerue soundtrack—and outlined in sketch form a new type of screen heroine, a sort of Annie Hall for millennials: absent-minded, free-spirited and a little dizzy, half in love with her own failures, lolloping from one humiliation to the next as if they confirmed her refusal to join the adult world.

    read more » FilmNew YorkTom Shone