The editors' blog

  • NOLAN'S HYMN TO HUMAN CONNECTION

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, October 27th 2014

    Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” can only really be approached by a series of paradoxes similar to those chalked up on a blackboard near its start. Just as the theory of relativity dictates that space and time are functions of one another, so the film welds commercial blockbuster and auteurist cinema into a single, stunning ribbon of celluloid—movie as Möbius strip—with obvious debts to both Spielberg and Tarkovsky. It’s both the most boffinish of Nolan’s films and the most boldly open-hearted, a hymn to human connection that mows you down, turns you inside out and deposits you on the pavement afterwards, blinking. And yet if someone were to ask you what it was about you would probably mumble something about black holes, or wormholes, and the like. The film is its own astrophysical anomaly. There have to be 99m alternative universes in which “Interstellar” is a bad movie and another couple of hundred in which it is a terrible one. And yet, Nolan has finagled his way to the single universe in which it is a good, and maybe even great one.

    read more » cinemaFilmTom Shone
  • WHEN PHOTOGRAPHY BECAME FINE ART

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, October 27th 2014

    Discovering a new exhibition of platinum photographs tucked away in the sprawling National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is akin to discovering tiny deposits of the precious metal itself in the alluvial sands of some jungle river—it’s small but valuable.

    “A Subtle Beauty” consists of barely two dozen portrait, landscape and architectural photographs from the late-19th and early-20th centuries. What unites them is their printing technique. Platinum prints, or platinotypes, were created by using photographic paper with very fine platinum crystals embedded in the uppermost fibres. This was in contrast to the more popular albumen or gelatin prints of the time, in which silver salts were suspended in an emulsion that was then coated onto the paper. A technicality, you may well think, but the platinum process not only gave photographs a luminosity and a wide tonal scale that other methods couldn’t match (as well as a slight three-dimensional appearance), but it was also responsible for establishing photography as a fine art.

    read more » Exhibitionsgeorge pendlePhotographywashington DC
  • A PLAY IN SEARCH OF A RUPERT

    ~ Posted by Jasper Rees, October 24th, 2014

    Actors adore playing a powerful real-life villain. It’s where all the fun is. More than 20 actresses have played Margaret Thatcher, and Michael Sheen got such a buzz from playing Tony Blair that he did it three times. But there’s one role of this type for which no bargepole seems quite long enough. The name Rupert Murdoch is sending shivers down actors' spines. 

    read more » FilmJasper ReesMediaTheatre
  • THE ARTIST'S DIGITAL DILEMMA

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, October 24th 2014

    At Frieze art fair last week, I spent an afternoon browsing the galleries and snapping photos of artworks on my iPhone. I didn’t think twice about it, and nobody stopped me. Some of the photos I shared on social media, some I showed to friends, and I’ll keep them all for reference. But this prompts a few questions: in our digital age, who has ownership of art? Is it OK to share images of art, or is this an act of piracy against which artists should be protected, as musicians and film-makers are? And how can you police it anyway?

    This was the sticky subject of a Frieze-week debate hosted by Sculpture in the City, an organisation that brightens up London’s corporate Square Mile with works of contemporary art. On the panel were a sculptor, a museum director, an arts journalist, an expert in art law and the head of an artists’ copyright society. I was anticipating “artistic differences”.

    read more » ArtExhibitionsLucy FarmerMedia
  • A SPECIES ON THE BRINK

    ~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, October 24th 2014

    read more » ConservationKenyaSamantha WeinbergWildlife
  • DON'T LISTEN TO LONELY PLANET

    ~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, October 21st 2014

    The news that Lonely Planet picked Salisbury as number seven on its list of top ten cities to visit in 2015 provoked derisive snorts in the Intelligent Life offices today—particularly from those of us who hail from Wiltshire. Salisbury cathedral is undeniably majestic and the sight of its spire from a distance, peering above the trees, never fails to lift the spirits. But away from the area immediately surrounding the cathedral—the Close—Salisbury is indistinguishable from all the other mid-ranking, Greggs- and Costa-filled city centres across England.

    Lonely Planet chose Salisbury because it holds an original copy of the Magna Carta, which celebrates its 800th birthday next year. While there will be a special exhibition and lectures, the only thing that'll be different about the Magna Carta itself will be the number of tourists mobbing it. The city that tops the list is Washington, DC—chosen for the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Wow. Even the Washingtonian in the office, who is avowedly passionate about DC (as those who know it call it), laughed at the thought that it is the world’s best city to visit: “It’s just not.” The other eight were: Milan (“one big car park”), Zermatt (“full of flashy skiers”), El Chaltén (“where?”), Toronto, Valletta, Plovdiv, Chennai and Vienna.

    read more » placesSamantha WeinbergTravel
  • FOXCATCHER'S EERIE HUSHES

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, October 20th 2014

    Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” gets under your skin. You have no idea where it is heading, only a vague but increasing sense that something is badly wrong, and when a gun is finally pulled and fired into someone’s gut you think: but of course. Did Miller get in training for this film by making “Capote”, his 2005 movie about the writing of “In Cold Blood”? There, the psychopathology was dirt-poor, rough-neck, as flat as the Kansas skyline. Here it comes from the poisonous mixture of wealth, power and thwarted dynasticism that grew like nightshade on the estate of John du Pont, the real-life heir of the du Pont business dynasty and a self-styled patriot. In the late 1980s, he built a state-of-the-art training facility for two brother wrestlers with whom he had become obsessed. We first see the brothers wrestling during training: Mark (Channing Tatum, above right) draws blood from his elder brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), only to be put firmly in his place. The entire sequence—wordless but for the squeaks of sneakers and slaps of flesh—is a piece of silent, brutal ballet that tells you everything you need to know about the fierce fraternal bond that is about to be corrupted.

    read more » cinemaFilmTom Shone
  • FOOTBALL IS AN EMPIRE ON ITS OWN

    ~ Posted by Ed Smith, October 18th 2014

    At Wembley next weekend, London will host the second of three NFL American-football matches, the Detroit Lions against the Atlanta Falcons. 84,000 people went to the first game last month (above) and this one is set to be another sell-out. There is now renewed talk of an NFL franchise being permanently stationed in London. Meanwhile, football (dare we say soccer?) is being targeted at India. The second season of the Indian Super League kicked off last weekend, boasting a bevvy of former international footballers—like Freddie Ljungberg and Nicolas Anelka—and backed by stars of Bollywood and Indian cricket, including, inevitably, Sachin Tendulkar. Cricket’s IPL, of course, has demonstrated India’s tolerance for an opaque mix of light entertainment and elite sport. But can football, which has none of cricket’s traditional resonance in India, pull off the same trick?

    read more » AmericaEd SmithIndiaSPORT
  • DANCING TO HAIKU AND NUCLEAR SOUP

    ~ Posted by Jainnie Cho, October 17th 2014

    London’s Frieze Art Fair has added a new paintbrush to its pot this year with the launch of Frieze Live, a platform for performance art. Among the dozens of galleries showing paintings, sculpture and video art, Frieze has created six spaces for galleries showing live, interactive works.

    Frieze is mainly about commerce, a place for moneyed collectors and buyers to do deals with gallerists. But performance art can’t be packaged up and stored away as an investment, so Live is less about selling and more a sign of Frieze moving with the art times. “Performance is coming into the institutions now”, said Nicola Lees, special advisor to the Live section. And the public is following: just look at Marina Abramovich’s “512 Hours” at the Serpentine Gallery this summer, which drew nearly 130,000 curious visitors.

    read more » ArtJainnie ChoLondonPerformance Art
  • IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT THE NAZIS

    ~ Posted by Alix Christie, October 16th 2014

    Two striking vehicles carry a new exhibition on German history at the British Museum. One is a 1953 Volkswagen Beetle parked in the museum's grand hall, a design commissioned by Hitler which became a symbol of Germany's post-war “economic miracle”. The other is a rickety wooden cart like those used by 12m-14m Germans forced from eastern Europe after the second world war, the largest—and largely unacknowledged—mass-refugee movement in history.

    German success and German suffering: these are sensitive, if not taboo, topics in light of the crimes of the Holocaust. But this survey confronts Germany's central paradox head-on. Some 200 carefully selected objects situate the 12 years of Nazi horror in the long stream of the past 600 years. Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, coined the term "a history in objects", and they do speak for themselves: a replica of the iron gate of the Buchenwald concentration camp stands juxtaposed with the light of German humanism, symbolised by a portrait of Goethe (top) and an abstract cradle from the Bauhaus.

    read more » Alix ChristieExhibitionsGermanyHISTORYLondon

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