The editors' blog

  • THE OBJECTS THAT MAKE ARTISTS TICK

    ~ Posted by Alix Christie, February 13th 2015

    Peering inside 14 different artists' studios and marvelling at the objects they collect is a fine idea for a show. "Magnificent Obsessions", at the Barbican in London, appears to promise a satisfying gawk at the cabinets of curiosities assembled by both the world-famous (Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst) and the less well known (Dr Lakra, Jim Shaw). What it turns out to be is its own kind of curiosity. Like any collection, the show contains both gems and duds. It is entrancing in many small ways, but doesn’t always hit the larger goal of illuminating an artist's work by "spelunking through [their] consciousnesses", in Shaw's memorable phrase.

    Go for the opportunity to see things you'd otherwise never get close to. These include: the hare with amber eyes, a netsuke made famous by the potter Edmund de Waal's eponymous memoir; Warhol's kitschy array of ceramic cookie jars; surreal postcards and Soviet space-dog memorabilia assembled by the photographer Martin Parr; and a riot of puppets, masks, freaky creatures and elephant figurines amassed by the self-described "collecting junkie" Peter Blake, best known for designing the album cover for the Beatles’ "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

    read more » Alix ChristieArtExhibitionLondon
  • THE REAL MEANING OF RIVALRY

    ~ Posted by Ed Smith, February 12th 2015

    The Australian Open final, between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, was an ill-tempered match. The handshake at the net afterwards was brisk and cold, which is unusual for a Grand Slam men’s final these days, when the behaviour so often matches the brilliance of the play. The animosity this time, people have assumed, centered on Djokovic’s apparent injury and exhaustion early in the third set. Was he faking it? Murray appeared confused, then distracted, then angry. Djokovic stormed back into the lead and trounced Murray 6-0 in the fourth set to take the title.

    Many pundits have argued that Murray was hoodwinked by Djokovic’s gamesmanship, causing Murray to “melt down” and squander the title. I am much less confident that the injury incident altered the result. But I am certain that it changed—and diminished—the event. The coldness and disappointment of each player at the end was partly self-directed. Djokovic knew he could have won better. Murray knew he could have lost better. That’s why, for all its early promise, the match did not have the same uplifting effect as the other epic duels in this exceptional era of men’s tennis. It was not quite a shared victory, as so many finals have been.

    read more » Ed SmithIDEASintelligenceSPORTtennis
  • SADOMASOCHISM WITHOUT THE SEX

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, February 11th 2015

    “I’ve always been good at people,” declares Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, pictured) at the start of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Audiences will have to decide for themselves whether he qualifies as one himself. Businessman, multibillionaire, philanthropist, he sits behind his desk at the top of a sleek skyscraper, named after himself like Trump Tower, except that everything here is not gold but tasteful graphite. Even the bodyguards have designer stubble. “I exercise control in all things,” he tells Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who has come to interview him for her student newspaper, although the talk soon turns to personal matters. “I don’t do romance,” he tells her, staring hard at her through his eyebrows, his usual expression, narrowing his eyes still tighter when she tells a joke. He doesn't really “do” humour. He doesn't do much, in fact. “I don’t do the girlfriend thing,” he says. “I don’t do the dating and movies.” As Adam Ant might have interjected at this point, “Don't drink, don't smoke…what do you do?”

    read more » cinemacultureFilmTom Shone
  • TWO LAWYERS ON THE COVER

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, February 11th 2015

    Our cover breaks new ground in two ways. It’s the first time we have had two people on it, and the first time we have featured a lawyer. Lawyers have something in common with journalists: outsiders, when they think of them, tend to picture the bad ones—the vultures preying on the vulnerable, the sophists twisting the truth. But you will find public-spirited people lurking in both camps. Our cover stars, Parvais Jabbar and Saul Lehrfreund, grew up in Britain, which had closed the gallows before they were born. They could easily have avoided ever having to step onto the minefield—moral, legal, emotional, bureaucratic—that is Death Row. Instead they have devoted their careers to it, and not just to working on it, but dismantling it.

    read more » crimeLawmarch/april 2015Tim de Lisle
  • THE OSCARS RACE HEATS UP

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, February 9th 2015

    Even before the detection of Lou Gehrig’s disease while studying cosmology at Cambridge, Eddie Redmayne (above, centre) makes us acutely conscious of Stephen Hawking’s body in “The Theory of Everything”. He inhabits it the same way small boys operate remote-controlled toys—with a mixture of offhandedness and feral concentration. His gangly frame is there to do his bidding, if he thinks about it at all. Shambling, shy and slouched of posture, hands shoved in pockets, he peers out from behind an unruly mop of hair, enunciating his words in a soft tumble, his mouth caught up in a crooked Cheshire-cat grin, as if faintly abashed by his own brilliance. Just how much of himself Redmayne brings to the role was evident from his graceful turns on the podium at the Screen Actors Guild awards (SAGs) and, last night, the BAFTAs, where he picked up Best Actor.

    read more » awardscinemacultureFilmOscarsTom Shone
  • ORWELL IN OTHERS' EYES

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, February 6th 2015

    George Orwell, as Robert Butler wrote in his cover story for our January/February issue, is bigger than ever. More copies of "1984" and "Animal Farm" are being sold in more languages than at any time since they were published, and the film and theatre adaptations keep coming. But among other writers he has detractors as well as fans. As Butler notes, Orwell's friend and fellow writer Malcolm Muggeridge thought him "no good as a novelist". Here's a selection of other writers' views: 

    read more » BookscultureLiteratureSimon Willis
  • A STATIC VIEW OF MARTIN LUTHER KING

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, February 4th 2015

    Why hasn’t David Oyelowo been nominated for an Oscar or a BAFTA? As the star of the new Martin Luther King film, “Selma”, Oyelowo (pictured) was tipped to win on both sides of the Atlantic, and his exclusion from the shortlists has prompted lots of outraged commentary—including from Oyelowo himself—much of it accusing the American and British film academies of racism. This seems unfair. “12 Years a Slave” cleaned up at last year’s awards, after all, so it is more likely that Oyelowo has been a victim of bad timing. Amanda Berry, BAFTA’s chief executive, noted that “Selma” wasn’t screened in Britain until the end of November, and that many BAFTA voters didn’t get around to seeing it. But there may be another reason for the dearth of acting nominations. It could be that the film simply doesn’t let Oyelowo go to the emotional and physical extremes that awards voters are looking for.

    read more » cinemacultureFilmNicholas Barber
  • A DOG WITH DEMENTIA

    ~ Posted by Anthony Gardner, February 4th 2015

    It was our Christmas holiday that gave me the idea for a blog about a demented dog. We’d spent a delightful fortnight in the Lake District, but it wasn’t without stress, largely on account of Matty (above), our elderly Cocker spaniel. Would we be awake before our guests to clear up whatever disaster had taken place overnight? Would she mistake someone’s fingers for food and sink her teeth into them? Would she lose herself in the shrubbery and freeze to death? There was also the anxiety of walking her by the river, into which she’d wandered during our previous holiday. I’d found myself swimming downstream to retrieve her, and my waterlogged phone and camera never recovered.

    read more » AnimalsAnthony GardnerFamilyPsychologySCIENCE
  • WHY DO THE STRONG NEED THE WEAK?

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, February 2nd 2015

    There’s a Chinese proverb that goes, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. I thought of it a few days ago as I joined an audience of peers, MPs and policymakers, squeezed into a small panelled room in the House of Lords. We had gathered to listen to Jean Vanier, a tall, white-haired 86-year-old French Canadian whom I wrote about in Intelligent Life last year. He’s the founder of L’Arche, an international charity providing homes in which men and women with mental disabilities live with “normal” people, and he’d been invited to address the question, “Why do the strong need the weak?”

    read more » CharityMaggie FergussonRELIGIONtalks
  • LIKE A BLOW-UP BUSTER KEATON

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, January 30th 2014

    If Apple ever got its hands on Florence Nightingale it might end up with something like Baymax, the big, inflatable white blob at the centre of the new Disney animation "Big Hero 6". Baymax is a robot caregiver who asks people, “On a scale of one to ten, how much does it hurt?” in a soothing, slightly effeminate voice like that of HAL from "2001" (in actuality Scott Adsit from "30 Rock"), and who dispenses hugs that envelop you like a duvet. “It’s like spooning a marshmallow,” says one of the teen heroes of the tale, although adult viewers may find older memories prodded by Baymax’s air of roly-poly befuddlement. When his batteries are low, he lollops drunkenly across the screen like Chaplin on the deck of a rocking boat in "The Immigrant", and when he gets stuck crawling through a window—that old fat-man routine—he extricates himself by partially deflating himself with a gnat-like "peeooowwww" sound while maintaining a straight face that would be the envy of Buster Keaton. But then deadpan has always been the secret weapon of animators: keeping a straight face is so much easier when you’re nothing but a straight line to begin with.  

    read more » ANIMATIONcinemacultureFilmTom Shone

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