The editors' blog

  • 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
  • STOPPARD'S BRAIN WEIGHS IN

    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, January 29th 2015

    It's nine years since Tom Stoppard's last stage play and 13 since his last at the National Theatre. As audiences enter the recently rechristened Dorfman Theatre, they are confronted by a steel sculpture—silver vertical poles and loopy curves—that hangs over the stage like a giant chandelier. In the first scene, this abstract representation of three pounds of grey matter will be compared to a map of the underground "with 86 billion stations connected 30 trillion ways, hard-wired for me first". It's been a long wait, but we are back in Stoppard’s universe.

    read more » cultureRobert ButlerTheatre
  • VAN GOGH: MODESTY AND MINERS

    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, January 27th 2015

    “Blessed is he who has found his work”, wrote the Victorian moralist Thomas Carlyle. At 25, Van Gogh had lost his job at an art dealers, given up teaching, given up working in a bookshop and given up theological studies. Added to that, he had been turned down for one job preaching to miners in Britain and another job preaching to miners in Belgium. Nevertheless, in 1878 he went to the Belgian coal mines.

    read more » ArtcultureExhibitionspaintingRobert Butler
  • AN ESSENTIAL HOLOCAUST FILM

    ~ Posted by Caroline Moorehead, January 27th 2015

    In the closing weeks of the second world war, work began on an uncompromising and essential documentary about the Holocaust, which is being remembered today on Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey” was conceived by Sidney Bernstein, who later founded Granada television. It includes footage filmed by Bernstein himself at Bergen-Belsen and by the Soviets and Americans at Auschwitz, Majdanek and Dachau. Later this year the film, recently restored by the Imperial War Museum, will be released in Britain by the British Film Institute. The rough cut was completed in 1945, and this will be its first general release.

    read more » Caroline MooreheadcinemaFilmHISTORYHolocaustSECOND WORLD WAR
  • J.C. CHANDOR'S SURGICAL PRECISION

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, January 24th 2015

    As Abel Morales, the oil distributor struggling to keep his business afloat in "A Most Violent Year", Oscar Isaac (above) wears a big camel-hair coat, looks people dead in the eye and speaks in the crisp, precise diction of a man who has learned that power comes with not raising your voice. “You must take the path that is most right,” he says—a lesson close to the heart of this sombre, slightly dry, urgent film about one man’s attempts not to become a gangster in the New York of 1981. Its director, J.C. Chandor, has chosen his location and period with great care. The drama stems from the fact that in the New York of 1981—a city that boasted more than 1,800 murders—there were probably more reasons for a struggling oil distributor to become a gangster than there were reasons not to. It’s a film about criminality’s slow, gravitational suck—the steady drip, drip, drip of difficulties that one day makes brushing past the law seem easier than waiting in line.   

    read more » cinemacultureFilmTom Shone

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