Monthly Archives: January 2017

No More Classical Allusions?

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‘Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you?’ Tony Hancock asks his fellow jurors. ‘Did she die in vain?’ In ‘The Producers’, nervous accountant Gene Wilder attempts to do the books of sleazy theatrical agent Zero Mostel, who terrifies him, inducing a hysterical fit in Wilder. ‘You’re going to jump on me!’ Wilder screams, ‘just like […]

Cinema Museum Picks 1

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  It came as a shock to be flicking through a copy of BFI Monthly (now called Sight & Sound) to discover that the first British colour feature film was made just 16 years before I was born. For me, ‘British film’ was a tautology, the punchline to a national joke on a par with […]

Six Letters, Starting With B

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Dorothy Bowers was a crossword compiler, born in Leominster, Herefordshire in 1902. She was the daughter of a bakery owner, and after a short and not especially joyful life died at 46 from tuberculosis. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing that, on the basis of just six books, she had just been inducted […]

Go With The Flo

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I spent a large part of my life working around delusional types who have ignored the key celebrity maxim; ‘Never believe your own publicity’. But it never stopped them from thinking they had talent where there was none. Actors who step outside their field to comment on subjects they’re not intellectually qualified to cover can […]

How Much Research Is Too Much?

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I remember reading Dorothy L Sayers’ ‘The Nine Tailors’ and thinking, ‘Ms Sayers has definitely fallen into the research trap.’ The murder mystery requires a knowledge of campanology (bell-ringing), and is crucial the plot (there’s a cypher connected to change-ringing, and someone is deafened to death by bells) and although it’s a great novel she […]

My Best & Worst 2016 Films

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2016 was the year that movie scripts full of self-referential crudity finally reached Peak Ironic and burned themselves out, thank goodness. Now perhaps we can go back to good stories, well told. Let’s have no more business success stories or B-team superheroes. I also hope we’ve seen the last of a very tired trope, the […]

‘Strange Tide’ Appears In US

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‘Strange Tide’ just came out in America (the books are running a little behind the UK) and the reviews have been terrific. As I’m at home with a gruesome cold, this is a great lift for me. This just came in from the New York Journal of Books; Due to the ineptness of captain and […]

That Trump Hair Explanation In Full

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From universal laughing stock to ‘short-fingered vulgarian’ (cf Spy magazine) to golf course bully to Tweet-narcissist, you couldn’t make up Donald Trump because nobody would believe you. With Toad (Boris Johnson) and Ratty (Nigel Farage) now creeping around him looking for crumbs from the table the story’s twists become increasingly surreal. But you know all […]

The Founder

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There’s a good reason why Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ remains such a touchstone in the American psyche. The national ambition is to sell big (Britain, let’s remember, was accused of being ‘a nation of shopkeepers). In ‘The Founder’ Michael Keaton plays Ray Krok, the desperate salesman who goes from flogging milkshake machines to […]

On The Move Again

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  London’s winter has been frosty and blazingly azure-skied this winter, and although in my flat it felt and looked like midsummer (no danger of getting SAD there), there was no snow. After a couple of days back in Tallinn, Estonia I rediscovered snow along with the charm of the people, the food, the atmosphere, […]