The editors' blog

  • A DELICIOUS BOHEMIAN COMEDY

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 26th 2015

    “The Overnight”, like Noah Baumbach’s recent hit comedy “While We’re Young”, examines a dubious nascent friendship between two bohemian couples—one of them more bohemian than the other. The less cool couple are Alex (Adam Scott, above left) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), both in their 30s, who have just moved from Seattle to Los Angeles with their son, RJ. Alex, a stay-at-home dad, is worried that he won’t meet new people, so when RJ starts playing with another boy in the local park, Alex is happy to talk to the boy’s father, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, above right). He is happier still when Kurt invites the family over for pizza. True, he seems a tad touchy-feely, and his hat is an even bolder fashion statement than Adam Driver’s was in “While We’re Young”, but, hey, that’s California.

    The evening begins promisingly. Kurt has an enviable gated mansion and a charming French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), and has apparently made a fortune from his water-filtration system. Without it, he explains, “You’re basically drinking liquid cancer.” Alex and Emily are so impressed that, after a few glasses of wine, they agree to let RJ sleep upstairs while the grown-ups keep the party going. Kurt then breaks out the marijuana, and proposes some naked swimming in the pool.

    read more » cultureFilmNicholas Barber
  • JAMES SALTER’S HEAP OF DAYS

    ~ Posted by William Fiennes, June 25th 2015

    The American writer James Salter, who died at the weekend aged 90, visited Britain in 2007 to celebrate the publication of his collection of stories “Last Night” and the reissue of his novels “The Hunters” and “Light Years”. I introduced and interviewed him at two events, and in those public conversations he came across as shrewd, ironic, sharp-witted. (In a New York Times review, Anatole Broyard ridiculed the names Salter gave characters in “Light Years”. Salter wrote back: “Come on. Anatole?”) Sometimes the wit was edged with disappointment—a sense, perhaps, that his reputation hadn’t burgeoned and travelled like those of some of his contemporaries. But when recalling encounters with great novelists of the past, he warmed and brightened. He relished the story of Nabokov arriving at a party at Cornell. “Did you come in your troika?” the host asked. “No,” Nabokov replied. “In my Buicka.” As so often in his books, Salter slid into memory as if returning to his native element.

    read more » BookscultureObituaryWilliam Fiennes
  • SADDLE-STITCHING BEATS SUPERHEROES

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 24th 2015

    The first thing that struck me about last weekend’s East London Comics & Arts Festival, or ELCAF, is that there were women there. Lots of women. Everywhere you looked, studenty women were laughing, hugging, leafing through books, chatting enthusiastically in various languages, and sitting at tables signing their sketches. That might not seem remarkable for an arts festival, but I spent many of my teenage weekends at comics conventions, and most of the people there were just like I was: male, pasty and dressed in extra-baggy Judge Death T-shirts. That went for the comics creators as well as the fans. With a few exceptions, the only women at those conventions were life-sized cardboard cut-outs of Wonder Woman.

    read more » ArtBookscultureNicholas Barber
  • WILL SYNTHETIC HORN SAVE THE RHINO?

    ~ Posted by Simon Barnes, June 24th 2015

    The world’s five species of rhinoceros are rushing pell-mell towards extinction. The most reliable statistics come from South Africa, and they reflect the rate at which rhinos are being poached across the world. In 2007, South Africa lost 13 rhinos to poachers. Last year the total was 1,215, and in the first four months of this year 393 rhinos were poached. They’re being killed on an industrial scale because it’s believed by some that the bodger on their bonce has medicinal properties. But now there’s a theory that we can rescue the rhino by putting synthetic horn on the market. It’s an enticing idea, but one yet to find universal acceptance. Some say it will solve the problem in a flash, others that it will make things a good deal worse.

    read more » ConservationenvironmentNatural HistorySimon Barnes
  • HOW SUGAR IS HURTING US

    ~ Posted by Bee Wilson, June 21st 2015

    Is 40 teaspoons of sugar too much for one person per day? You might think so. Yet, as the Australian actor and director Damon Gameau demonstrates, you can eat that amount without exceeding the recommended number of calories or ingesting a single junk food.

    In “That Sugar Film”, Gameau—whose normal diet is fashionably free of refined sugars—decides to eat 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for 60 days, while monitoring the effects on his body. The set-up is familiar. Gameau’s film borrows heavily from Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary “Super Size Me”, in which Spurlock ate at McDonald’s three times a day for 30 days and suffered a precipitous decline in health.

    read more » Australiabee wilsonDocumentaryFilmFOOD & DRINKsugar
  • HULA HOOPING: EXERCISE IN DISGUISE

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, June 19th 2015

    Last week, I donned my Lycra and trainers and ascended to the rooftop of the Berkeley hotel in London for a rather unusual fitness class: hula hooping, led by Anna Byrne from HulaFit. Stationed around the white, Provençal-chic pool, with the open sky above us, and the green panorama of Hyde Park beyond, it was an invigorating experience. And one that didn’t feel like exercise.

    Hula hooping is probably a game you remember from your childhood—endless attempts to spin a candy-coloured hoop around your middle, and hours spent giggling and picking it up again from around your ankles. It also has a nostalgic Fifties air about it, the decade when the hula hoop as a toy went mainstream and the American company Wham-O sold 100m worldwide in two years. But the hula hoop has a much longer history than that.

    read more » FitnessLifestyleLucy FarmerSPORT
  • DAVID O. RUSSELL’S LUCKY ESCAPE

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 19th 2015

    David O. Russell is the toast of Hollywood. The director of “The Fighter”, “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”, Russell can be relied upon to knock out one multi-Oscar-nominated hit after another, providing Robert De Niro with his only worthwhile recent roles in the process. But he wasn’t always quite so popular. Russell’s loopy philosophical comedy, “I Heart Huckabees”, opened to a bemused reception in 2004, and its follow-up, “Nailed”, was shut down nine times during production due to financial problems. Eventually, in 2010, Russell abandoned the unfinished film, leaving his fans to wonder, wistfully, if we had been denied a masterpiece.

    read more » FilmHOLLYWOODNicholas Barber
  • AGNES MARTIN AND THE GREAT INDOORS

    ~ Posted by Marion Coutts, June 17th 2015

    Agnes Martin didn’t decide to be a painter until she was 30: a good age to start something new. Martin (1912-2004) was a Canadian who lived most of her life in the United States. In New York she became part of the scene around Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg and Sol LeWitt. She always looked like an artist who was after something, and success came quickly. For the rest of her life, with multiple variations, she made abstract paintings in acrylic paint and graphite on canvases measuring 183cm square. Working in subdivisions of the frame, she created fields of minimal colour, banded in horizontal lines. The resulting expansions, contractions and experiments in this format are on show at Tate Modern in London and are astonishingly varied.

    read more » ArtExhibitionsMarion Couttspainting
  • THE RISE AND FALL OF NINA SIMONE

    ~ Posted by David Bennun, June 16th 2015

    Most great artists have their legacy defined as much by their influence as by their output. Of those who do not, none is greater than Nina Simone. Her genius does not ring down the years in major work by successors. When fans speak of “the incomparable Nina Simone”, it is not simply a turn of phrase. Simone was sui generis, inimitable—although plenty have tried. They might as well have attempted to bottle lightning.

    “What Happened, Miss Simone?”, a new documentary directed by Liz Garbus and released on Netflix, sheds some light on why this is so. It is well known that Simone was a classically trained pianist who turned to popular black music styles to earn a living. It is understood that this combination—relatively commonplace today, but rare in 1950s America—lies behind her sound. But these bare facts are inadequate to explain her uniqueness. It is in the detail, in Simone’s own words and the accounts of those who knew her, that we discover, as the title promises, what really happened.

    read more » AmericaBluescultureDavid BennunjazzMusicRock
  • AN INEFFABLY TENDER FILM FROM PIXAR

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, June 15th 2015

    An animated feature for kids acknowledging the cognitive importance of sadness? It has to be a Pixar movie. One day our children will ask us what it was like to be able to roll up and see the new Pixar film the same way we asked our grandparents what it was like to put down a dollar for “Snow White”, “Pinocchio”, “Dumbo” or “Bambi”. Pixar have already matched Disney in the 1940s with a running flush of their own, which includes “Toy Story”, “The Incredibles”, “WALL-E”, “Ratatouille” and “Up”, although there were rumblings of discontent over “Cars” and “Brave”. But good news: the studio’s new film, “Inside Out”, runs the full gamut of emotions we’ve come to expect from Pixar—joy, sadness, anger, fear—with one crucial difference: Joy, Sadness, Anger and Fear are also its stars.

    read more » cultureFilmTom Shone

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