The Films I've Watched This Year #24

Film Surprisingly given that I spent most of last weekend watching Glastonbury, the Arena about the New York Review of Books, annotating the New York Review of Books and the Biennial, this is a surprisingly busy list.  Of course there's a grey area as to whether at least two of the items on the list count as films, but both the Inside Llewyn Davis concert and Behind The Candelabra received theatrical releases somewhere so I'm keeping them below rather than up here.  It's quite some time since I paid this much attention to Glastonbury.  I'm still working through the individual shows on the iPlayer, with Haim and Anna Calvi definite favourites so far.  I had thought to watch everything, and began in that vein, but some of the material isn't to me taste at all and I've decided that it's ok to digitally drift away if I'm not enjoying a show.  I do wonder about the psychology of that at the actual festival.  How easy is it to walk away from one show and join another?

A Touch of Zen
Another Day, Another Time - Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis
Side Effects
Ender's Game
Don Jon
Behind The Candelabra

Let's begin with the Don Jon, because I want to create a spoiler buffer for Ender's Game which I want to talk about in detail in the next paragraph or two.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt's debut is a remarkable film and indicates that he's a real talent who understands what film's capable of in a way that his peers simply don't.  He appreciates that with ninety minutes to play with its possible to be simplistic and complex as he tells the story of a sexual troglodyte repenting and for all the content, which at one point almost caused a NC-17 from the MPAA until Levitt agreed to par it down, it's the classics he looks to, When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall and Groundhog Day (and I think The Fast Show!) in appreciating the comic but also the emotional potential of repetition, of presenting the routine of a character's life and reflecting on what happens when external forces disrupt that routine.

Spoiler mode activated.  Isn't Ender's Game annoying?  It's pretty generic entertainment for much of its duration, unashamedly working through the Propp/Campbell Benjamin Sniddlegrass, Harry Potter in space tropes in a way which suggests the novel was an ur-text in much the same way as John Carter (of Mars) was and then makes the bizarre decision presumably from the original material where it hopefully worked better, of robbing the audience of its climactic catharsis.  In storytelling terms, making one triumph, beating a simulation, into something more sinister is a thrilling choice, flying the face of expectation but it also cheats the viewer emotionally even if the message, with its Klaatu barada nikto, surprises intellectually.  Perhaps if this had begat the sequel suggested by the climax it would have worked as the end of an episode or chapter.  As it stands it renders the previous couple of hours of character arc rather pointless.

If Side Effects is to Soderbergh's final official theatrical release, it's quite a way to go out and also rather fitting because it's business as usual.  As ever, he's commenting on a particular genre, on this occasion the kind of Hitchcockian thriller most recently directed by Adrian Lyne (he watched Fatal Attraction a lot during production apparently) or starring Michael Douglas or both but also absorbing its every trope.  Watching the first season of Damages recently, I have noticed that this is just the sort of mid-tier material which has shifted to television, a genre forgotten by studios producing either ultra-expensive blockbusters or cheap comedies, yet here it is being reinvented by Steven.  It's also a useful reminder of just how good Jude Law can be at the sort of thing he does, which tends to be appearing he sort of mid-tier material forgotten by studios producing either ultra-expensive blockbusters or cheap comedies.

If Behind The Candelabra is to be Soderbergh's final film altogether then it's also quite fitting because up until its final moments it also feels like business as usual in that he's producing his version of the true life tv movie of the kind which is usually show on Five* or Sky Living over here, items like Growing Up Brady or The Karen Carpenter Story, and queer cinema.  Since it's for HBO he's able to work in the material which would ordinarily be glossed over even when it's supposed to be the "insider's story" but not in a sensationalist way.  Both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon turn in the performances of their careers, but that's potentially true of all the cast, especially Rob Lowe who's plastic surgeon is somehow both obviously Rob Lowe and entirely unrecognisable.  I'm too close to it now to really make a judgement, but I wonder if it fits with his other low budget works or his studio material.  I really don't know.

When I completed the Hitchwatch, I said that I wanted his final film to be summation.  What I'd failed to realise was that Psycho had actually been is final film and that everything after that was about him simply fulfilling a public obligation which is why so many of them are artistically suspect.  He'd unconsciously or otherwise, I think, reached the end of his experiment, presented his findings and was then effectively in the Q&A section of his symposium.  For all his creative resurgence, Woody's arguably in the same place post-New York, post-Melinda, though to stretch the analogy, it's almost as though he's resubmitting his paper for further consultation, especially in his returns to New York, or commenting on the work of other practitioners in his European films in a way which he simply didn't before, especially his London films, for all their variable comedy.

I simply don't get that with Soderbergh.  Soderbergh feels like a scientist who's had his budget taken away because the funding authority wasn't happy with the research he was carrying out and his interim results, but rather than chipping away in the hopes of gaining sponsorship from elsewhere so he can continue has simply walked away.  But to run away from that analogy, kicking and indeed screaming I also think in Candelabra he allows himself a Shakespearean moment, with Liberace as his Prospero.  As Lee ascends to heaven in those closing moments, full of Man of La Mancha describing what Scott means to him, it's almost like Soderbergh's talking to his viewers, with Matt Damon, one of the key actors from across his career as our avatar on screen.  Which is probably bullshit, but brought a tear to my eye and some closure as I completed my watch through all of his movies.  The tv series will be his Pericles obviously.

Mark Spain's Water Meadow.

Serial Koenig.

Radio Ira from This American Life has announced what sounds like it could be a gamechanger:
"I have exciting news today. We’re starting a new show! We’ve never done this before. It’s coming out in the fall. It’s called Serial and it’ll be a weekly podcast, not a radio show at all. The main way it’s different from This American Life is that instead of bringing you a different theme each week, every episode of Serial will bring you back not just to the same theme but to the same story, to bring you the next chapter. We’re starting with a crime story, that’ll run for about a dozen episodes. Our hope is that it’ll play like a great HBO or Netflix series, where you get caught up with the characters and the thing unfolds week after week, but with a true story, and no pictures. Like House of Cards, but you can enjoy it while you’re driving."
Sounds like its going to be fact rather than fiction too and presumably they're in the unknown themselves as to whether a given real life crime story can sustain itself over twelve weeks in this intensive manner. Perhaps it'll appropriate the structure of something like Law & Order but over the long form format of Murder One, but in real life, each hour covering a different aspect of the story.

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
John Moores Painting Prize 2014:
Press Announcement.

Art This afternoon the John Moore's Painting Prize announced the shortlist of five artists who will be in the running to win the £25,000 first prize and I was invited along with proper press people, all of the artists in the show and supporters to witness the events first hand.  As you can imagine I was very pleased to attend, because this is the sort of thing which has previously taken place just outside my view, literally in some cases as I watched it happen from a distance behind glass doors at previous Biennials and now here I was for the second time in my life in the same room as the DJ from Revelation of the Daleks (Alexei Sayle is presenting a documentary about the history of the prize which is due to go out in September) (here was the first).

Writing this blog opened those glass doors (thanks Laura) and as I wandered into the main exhibitions space filled with tables and paintings and podium and food I couldn't help giggling, my eyes boggling at the sheer fact of being there.  It's about as you might expect, a kind of a private view with no alcohol as people huddle around the edges of the room supping orange, water and beverages glancing at the art now and then.  As you can see from the illustrative image I tried desperately not to look at the paintings because I want to return and "do" the exhibition "properly" but my own glances suggest that the judges which include Tim "possibly taught me everything I know about Mondrian" Marlow, in narrowing their selection to fifty, also upped the quality of the work chosen.  I'll talk some more about it in my venue review.

After a while we were asked to sit, and a kind of musical chairs ensued in which people who realised they were standing next to the seating reserved for artists and supporters rushed to the other end of the room.  Settling down we quite naturally introduced ourselves to our nearest neighbours, finishing just in time for the announcements.  I've included the press release at the bottom of this with further illustrative images of the paintings themselves.  Trying to at least look like I knew I was doing, I scrawled the names of the winners in my moleskin notebook leading to what seemed to be the prevailing condition throughout the press in the room of not knowing whether to applaud or make a note of the winners as they're announced.  In the end I managed to do a bit of both not that I can actually read my own handwriting now anyway.

Then the mad dash for the buffet tables for the very nice food on offer which for me meant scouse, a kind of unspicy puff pastry samosa and salad.  Then conversation and smalltalk and all of the things that people do at events like this.  Bumping into old friends, making new acquaintances.  I'm a bit bolder now when handing out the ostentatious business cards I created with this blog's URL on then.  If I wasn't too embarrassed to have send them, I shouldn't equally be ashamed of producing them from my wallet.  Hello to you too if you're reading.  Sorry if none of this is what you were expecting.  Then after a raspberry tart and a lemon and poppy seed cake, some more talking and chat, I said goodbye to the people it was necessary to say goodbye to and left, giggling again as I skipped out of the building into the rain.


Five artists in running for UK's biggest painting prize.

Five artists have made the shortlist to one of British art’s most prestigious awards.

The prizewinners of the John Moores Painting Prize 2014 are (in alphabetical order): Rae Hicks, Juliette Losq, Mandy Payne, Alessandro Raho and Rose Wylie.

The five are now in the running for the £25,000 first prize, sponsored by David M Robinson to be announced on 19 September 2014.

A major part of the Liverpool Biennial, the John Moores Painting Prize runs from 5 July to 30 November 2014. Fifty paintings (including the prizewinners) have been selected for exhibition from more than 2,500 entries.

The prizewinning works represent the nature of the John Moores to seek out the most outstanding in contemporary painting and do not conform to any particular style or theme. In fact the paintings are starkly different with only their medium in common:

Sometimes I Forget That You're Gone by Rae Hicks, a recent graduate of Goldsmiths (2012) and the youngest prizewinner (b.1988). An intriguing painting where the ‘props’ of the scene appear unassembled and awaiting their final destination.

Vinculum by Juliette Losq, winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2005. The large-scale image belies the traditional understated nature of watercolour. Built up through multiple layers the painting creates an optical illusion which immerses the viewer into its world.

Brutal by Mandy Payne is spray painted directly onto concrete. An almost symmetrical scene from Sheffield’s Park Hill, a Grade II listed 1960s council estate, currently undergoing regeneration. Payne’s rendition of one of Britain’s largest examples of Brutalist architecture deals with the human memories and history indelibly weaved into it.

Jessica by Alessandro Raho, an artist with an international reputation. A painting of the artist’s stepsister against a plain white background is typical of the way that Raho uses family and friends as models, drawing upon personal relationships to create a parallel world within his work.

PV Windows and Floorboards by 80 year old artist Rose Wylie. The lively painting features four seemingly disconnected figures. Working from direct observation and memory, her work is informed by a fascination with film and current events. Rose had a BP Spotlight exhibition at Tate Britain in May 2013.

Dubbed the 'Oscars of the painting world', the Prize, organised in partnership with the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust, has been keeping its finger on the pulse of contemporary painting for almost 60 years. Past winners include David Hockney (1967), Mary Martin (1969), Peter Doig (1993) and most recently, Sarah Pickstone (2012).

The 2014 judges are Tim Marlow, Director of Artistic Programmes at the Royal Academy and artists Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Zeng Fanzhi, Chantal Joffe and Tom Benson.

Judge Tim Marlow said: “It’s for the visitors to make their own minds up about the state of contemporary painting in Britain but based on my experience of judging the John Moores this year I’d say it was quietly confident, expansive, hard-won, self-critical, vital and engaging.”

Judge Lynette Yiadom-Boakye said: “What was wonderful was seeing the range of different approaches to painting. It was a shame to have to choose only five prize winners.”

Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries said: “The quality of painting in this year’s exhibition is very exciting. We are delighted to have such a strong exhibition of 50 works which reflect the climate of contemporary British painting. Among them the judges have selected five worthy works which will challenge, delight and intrigue visitors.”

The John Moores Painting Prize is part of National Museums Liverpool's Modern Masters series, part funded by the European Union - the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

It is also supported by our exhibition partner Weightmans and sponsor Investec.

For a full list of exhibiting artists:

Twitter: @johnmoores2014 #jm2014


The John Moores Painting Prize is the subject of a BBC 4 documentary, presented by writer and comedian Alexei Sayle. The programme, which examines the history of the Prize as well as its place within contemporary art, will be aired in September.

Jennifer Lawrence's Cardinals. News, Weather

"Let's do this."

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Tom's Diner.

Written by Suzanne Vega
[from: 'Soltude Standing', A&M, 1987]

Music  I went to Starbucks the other day. As you know, I work in Manchester. In Liverpool we get by with only two Starbucks. But Manchester seems to have hundreds. Trouble is when I'm in line I squint at the menu and simply can't decide what to have, so by the time I get the counter I panic ... and ask the clerk what they're favourite flavour is ... and just have that.
So it's lunch time from the job I can't mention the other day and I'm there again. The girl clerk waits patiently before I say:
"Oh I don't know err ... what would you have?"
"Well I'd have a hot chocolate ... so ..."
"Come on. They all taste the same."
"You're not suppose to say that."
"OK ... we at Starbucks offer a whole range of flavours to suit all tastes."
"Well do you want something sweet or bitter?"
"Sweet." I answer definately.
"Well there is ... mumble .... mumble .... mumble .... something with caramel." People who work in coffeehouses have their own language. They should hire translators. I try and jump in...
"That sounds nice. I'll have that."
"Which one?"
"Oh .. the first one ..."
"Large or small."
"Small. I'm not going to be here long."
I pay and join the queue. The business couple who came in after me are served their Lattes first.
Girl clerk: "Yours is a work of art so it'll just take a little bit longer."
A boy clerk is working on my order. He looks like a mad scientist putting parts on a new machine as he pours syrups and milks together.
Two minutes later a mug arrives in the centre of the counter. The boy clerks throw his hands in the air in victory.
"Taa daa." He shouts.
I find myself clapping slightly.
I sip the coffee. It tastes like a little piece of heaven.
Who knew just ordering a coffee could be so much fun?
[Originally posted 13th May 2002]

[Commentary:  My new trick, most of the time, is to simply order whatever's new in stock, or the seasonal choice on the occasions I visit Starbucks which is less often than it used to be, not for ethical reason, it's just that the atmosphere has changed considerably since chain coffee shops really became a thing.  Most of the time I'm wandering through to stock up on Via.  Reposting this does finally offer the opportunity to link to one of the best pieces of writing I've seen this year, the piece from The Awl in which  Molly Osberg who built a career working in coffee shops talks about the life.  Plenty of what she says chimes with other service industry jobs, especially of the kind I've enjoyed.]

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
The Old Blind School.

Art “Am I t’wirly?” I asked as I wandered into the old Blind School this morning for the Liverpool Biennial press view. As it turned out, yes, yes, I was, by fifteen minutes at least, so was asked to come back. Which I did after visiting the newsagents opposite the venue on Hardman Street to buy a pen and striding up to Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral to use their toilet. Fifteen minutes later, I allowed entry, gave the name of this website, which never gets old obviously, and was handed a lovely black canvas bag containing the press releases, various booklets and a copy of the catalogue (come chance to investigate the festivals themes) and a bright yellow VIP badge. As I dangled it about my neck I thought, as various proper press people arrived, not the first time, “What am I doing here?”

If that all seems like a bewildering way to begin what some people are expecting to be a review it’s because this year’s Biennial already seems bewildering, especially today as I glanced through the press releases. Which it probably should given that it’s called “A Needle Walks Into A Haystack” or “A Nee Dlew Alksi Ntoah Aystack” as this year’s festival’s logo has it. But glancing at the itinerary for the day, which offered the chance to visit almost every venue and be given an introductory talk in each and realising that the Biennial was open for four months this time, I decided that I’d best pace myself rather than trying to see everything in a morning. So while the proper press people followed that plan, I decided to simply stay in this opening group show. Which I did for the next five or six hours.

But the old Blind School is like the proverbial haystack. It’s huge, with room after room of art across three floors. Not as big as the old postal sorting office from 2012, and I’ll lament the lack of City States some other time, but there’s still the sense of art upon art upon art, and even with the aid of a map, turning corner after corner, entering room on room and discovering something else. It’s very easy to get lost and I did on multiple occasions, especially on my way to the toilet which, and I think it’s important to say, is surprisingly adequate, which hasn’t always been the case at temporary Biennial venues of the past which either involved a portaloo in the yard at the back or nipping around the corner to FACT. Yes, it seems that these days, so long as there’s some decent art and an adequate toilet, I’m happy.

Like the Copperas Hill venue, we’re also visiting an otherwise private space that is also a very public landmark. RIBA will be running monthly tours of the building during the Biennial but irrespective of the art its still interesting to see the its multiple uses across the years evident in the multiple paint jobs on the walls and the architectural features. Some rooms have large woodchip panels across the corners of the floors.  What must they have been for?  Look up below a circular atrium and find a fresco charting what I think is union history in a state of disrepair. Not that everything has been sympathetically treated; at the press launch the room which now doubles as the entrance was covered with the artwork and poetry of a school which used the building towards the end of its life. That’s all whitewashed away now.

What of the artwork and how to connect with that? You might remember that in 2012, my approach to the Biennial was to visit the venues in numerical order as listed in the booklet and then choose a single artwork in each to write about which as you also remember meant I didn’t end up at the main venue and the best work for at least a month. This time I’m going to be much more "as and when", partly because there are far fewer official venues this time (for reason explained here) but also because not everything is opening this weekend. Bloomberg New Contemporaries doesn’t arrive until September. But I will still be limiting the types of artwork I’m going write about and since this year seems to be my "special" year of film, I’ve decided to focus on the video art at each of the venues and what I remember of them.

Having made that decision, I’m immediately left with trying to judge what constitutes “video art”? My previous assumption was that it’s generally a short film, obscure of narrative, generally surreal, often abstract, projected in a gallery space with the visitors asked to stand or sit and watch events or non-events as they unfold before them. Except as I was reminded of today, video can also constitute one section of a mixed media piece like Leavitt’s Arctic Earth in which imagery of our planet entering a second ice age is projected onto a screen through the patio windows of a theatrical set or Camplin’s The DV Technology experience projected across a table and in both cases we’re not being asked to consider the moving image on its own terms but as part of a greater whole. It’s probably best to be inclusive rather than exclusive, I suppose.

Untitled (Peter Waghler, 2013)
Untitled (Crutches) (Peter Waghler, 2013)
Untitled (Peter Waghler, 2013)
The Waterway (Louise Herve and Chloe Maillet, 2014)
Arctic Earth (William Leavitt, 2013)
The Donut Gang (Uri Aran, 2009)
Company (Chris Evans, 2009)
Turen (Judith Hopf and Henrik Olsesen, 2007)
A Recess and a Reconstruction (Louise Herve and Chloe Maillet, 2014)
The DV Technology (Bonnie Camplin, 2014)

Undoubtedly the best piece in the venue also happens to have the strongest narrative. The Waterway compares humanity’s aging process with that of sea creatures and how our approach to longevity differs to that of the marine life. We see archaeologists diving for the remains of lost civilisations, which preserves their existence albeit in an abstract way. We see retirees in a bathhouse attempting to preserve their existence through massage and exercise. We see what seems like a group of biologists explaining how lobsters and the like don’t age they just get bigger. We then see a suggestion of what might happen if a human took on similar characteristics to comic effect (and in a way which will be familiar to viewers ‎of Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle) (oddly).

The piece is being projected in a room filled with cinema seats which left me nostalgic for screen two at the 051 cinema on Mount Pleasant, which is fitting because the artists “make films that look at specific histories through the lens of science fiction, re-telling the present by way of writing new mythologies” something which, I suppose should be true of all science fiction, especially of the kind projected in screen two at the 051 cinema on Mount Pleasant. But this has a much greater sense of being a documentary as we’re presented with a series of outrageous facts of the “Ripley’s Believe it or not” variety which we’re inevitably left to wonder if we do believe them or not. Intercut with shots of swimming classes and voxpops in a format not unlike the old BBC Modern Times documentaries. Odd, in a good way.

Equally, odd in a different way are Peter Waghler’s various untitled works, notable what’s probably best described at the one with the rat and the bowling ball. Over a repeating animation of a cartoon rodent lifting a bowling ball onto a table in his medieval habitation before jumping into bed then awaking the next morning to repeat the action, or so it seems, we’re treated to a voiceover which I came to the conclusion is supposed to sound like one of Alanis Morissette’s list songs constructed by working through the suggestions appropriated by entering the opening phrase into Google and jotting down the suggestions. Or at least the artist wants us to believe that because the words are far too poetic and piercing for that to be possible, at random at least. Listen for long enough, and you should listen to it all, there are many subtle truths.

Through his repetitious visuals and philosophical words we’re unable to escape the utterly routine horror of existence. The rat's Sisyphean life, in which the bowling ball will simply not remain on the table reminds us of the cloying horror of what we live through, just as the words, and there are many, many words like rationalisations seem relevant and revealing but there’s so many of them they’re gone before we can really absorb them. Understand them. Respond to them. All I remember is the phrase “my fuck you all week” largely because it feels like every week to me at the moment, especially what I’ve called hermitage weeks when I ignore the rest of the world, reducing it to the space between me and whatever book I’m reading. When you see the piece, see how much of it you can concentrate on, what you remember. That’s probably you.

The other notable piece can’t be missed, though you might, hidden beneath a PVC curtain in the middle of a room. Turen is how I imagine most of the ITV police dramas I don’t watch must be like, especially since one of the actors involved looks like a young Helen Mirren. The kinds of people you’d find in a police station, cops, detectives and witnesses are shown walking along corridors (which might explain my affinity for it) sometimes opening doors and entering rooms depending if they’re locked or there’s someone inside to let them in. Sometimes they greet in corridors and share a few terse words, but in general, they’re in and out of rooms, in and out of doors and as I sit writing this, I imagine its rather how visitors to the old Blind School might also look to an omnipotent observer.

On a loop of about five minutes, it’s a perfect demonstration of video art at its best because it provides a clear idea, cleanly executed. The press notes indicate the artist is interested in the “relations between the individual and the context with which an object is associated” and the viewer, so used to seeing these characters in a genre context immediately attempts to fill in the gaps, suggest narrative pathways. What is the relationship between these people? Why are three of them entering a room together and why does someone different leave that room seemingly moments later? What’s the significance of the traditional folk band and does that sort of thing happen in Law & Order? We’ll never know because all we have are the bridging scenes, the visual, establishing material which is so left out of television drama now anyway.

One-Man Hamlet at the Henley Fringe Festival.

Across my two blogs I receive a lot of press releases and every now and then there's something relevant which is worth quoting in full. Here is something relevant worth quoting in full:

Judi Dench signs on as Patron for Revolve Theatre Company ahead of their debut performance of One-Man Hamlet at the Henley Fringe Festival

Judi Dench has shown her support to the new era of theatre as she signs on as a Patron for up and coming theatre production company, Revolve Theatre Company. This summer, The RTC will be debuting their first ever performance as a company with their rendition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet performed by a single lone actor at this years’ Henley Fringe Festival. The show will be held at the Henley Town Hall Chambers over a period of five days throughout the 21st-26th July. Starring the show is RTC’s own Artistic Director, Oliver Dench, who will be playing all 15 roles using Shakespeare’s original text.

Dame Judi Dench, whose stage and screen roles have seen her perform in many of Shakespeare’s plays, including the role of Ophelia in Hamlet, and serves as an advisor to the American Shakespeare Center and Shakespeare Schools Festival, has given her support by signing on as patron for the company.

RTC aspires to change the face of theatre with their passion for the arts and love of theatre. After meeting together at work, Tom Smith, Oliver Dench and Joe Morris have pooled their performance and technical skills together to offer something new and exciting to the Oxfordshire and Berkshire theatre scene. Their motive is to strip the vanity and indulgence from theatre and take it back to the art using theatre as a tool for purpose, rather than an end to itself. As well as delivering high quality theatre, RTC set out to inspire young minds and promote the power of theatre in educational establishments by taking One-Man Hamlet around local schools after their debut at the Henley Fringe Festival.

Oliver Dench says: “We firmly believe that the common aversion to Shakespeare’s language stems from a lack of exposure to it. Students are forced to study plays in school to a certain level, often with teachers who don’t fully understand the beauty of the language. The emphasis is put on the drama, rather than the poetry (Shakespeare’s real gift to the literary world). Once students become exposed to the occasionally strange syntax and vocabulary of Shakespeare, it becomes far more understandable. The language was written to be heard, not read; it is for this reason that we feel it is so important to show children Shakespeare, rather than have them read it, before they make the conscious decision that it is boring, or difficult, or old, or a host of other adjectives that we have heard applied.”

So set a date in your diary to witness this years’ finest tales of revenge retold from Shakespeare’s original text seen only at the Henley Fringe Festival this summer. Tickets are on-sale now via the Henley Fringe Festival website.

Tickets are available to purchase from Henley Fringe Festival website via or call on 01491 578631

Ticket Prices:

Standard entry only - £8.00

Show Times: 21st – 26th

Monday and Tuesday – 7.30pm
Wednesday – 6.00pm
Thursday – 8.30pm
Friday - 6.30pm and 8.30pm

Arena: The 50 Year Argument - The New York Review of Books.

Books On Saturday night BBC Four broadcast an intellectual feast, a new Martin Scorsese documentary for Arena about the The New York Review of Books. As anyone who watched the programme will know it was unafraid to quote at length from the magazine's articles, journalistic poetry which makes what counts for discourse in other place seem infantile. Throughout, as the narrations shifted from extract to extract, I quickly decided I wanted to read the rest of these articles as well as those listed on screen in some capacity.  That would require me to annotate the programme.  Find below the results of the next eight hours of my life.

Listed below is every article, as far as I can determine, which is either highlighted on screen or which features in narration, in the order within which they're featured in the programme.  I haven't included everything from every cover, just those articles which are clearly being emphasised either through animation or some other means.  Many are subscriber only and I've indicated these thusly: [so].  The documentary also features examples of other books and articles from elsewhere.  At the bottom, I've added links to the profiles of contributors who appear in the programme [full list].

For further reading The 50 Years blog offers a range of other material including this freewheeling but thematic list of headlines.  The very first issue is also available to read for free in its entirety (here's the 50th too, not so free). Audio from the evening of readings and reflections featured in the film is also available.  Martin Scorsese gave a Q&A about the documentary when it was untitled and that's inevitably available on YouTube as well as, as you can see above, a seven minute piece about that evening which constitutes the journal's only sortie there.  But they are still very social media savvy, with Twitter, Facebook and Google+ profiles.


Speak, Memory by Oliver Sacks. FEBRUARY 21, 2013.

In Zuccotti Park by Michael Greenberg.  NOVEMBER 10, 2011.

The Decline of Book Reviewing by Elizabeth Hardwick. Harper's Magazine. OCTOBER, 1959.

What Is Art? by Frank Kermode. February 20, 1964. [so]

Selma, Alabama: The Charms of Goodness by Elizabeth Hardwick. APRIL 22, 1965.

The Fate of the Union: Kennedy and After by Irving Howe. DECEMBER 26, 1963.

A Long View: Goldwater in History by Richard Hofstadter. OCTOBER, 1964.

Understanding the Vietcong by Joseph M. Kraft. AUGUST 5, 1965. [so]

The Christian Pope by Hannah Arendt. JUNE 17, 1965. [so]

Crime Without Punishment by Philip Rahv. MARCH 25, 1965. [so]

James Baldwin and the “Man” by F.W. Dupee. FEBRUARY 1, 1963.

On James Baldwin by Darryl Pinckney. APRIL 4, 2013. [audio and further annotation of articles in the talk]

Rescuing Homosexual History by Keith Thomas. DECEMBER 4, 1980. [so]

Talking It Up by Russell Baker. MAY 11, 2006. [so]

The Gentle Genius by Ingrid D. Rowland. JANUARY 10, 2013. [so]

Literary Journalism: A Discussion [audio]. APRIL 3, 2013.

Pride and Prejudice by Zoë Heller. SEPTEMBER 27, 2012.

See My Agent by Andrew Kopkind. MAY 30, 1974. [so]

Terror in Chile I: The Chicago Commission Report by Chicago Commission of Inquiry Into the Status of Human Rights in Chile. MAY 30, 1974. [so]

Terror in Chile II: The Amnesty Report by Rose Styron. MAY 30, 1974. [so]

The Balkan Crisis: 1913 and 1993 by George F. Kennan. JULY 15, 1993. [so]

Bush and Iraq by Anthony Lewis. NOVEMBER 7, 2002.

The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means by Mark Danner. APRIL 30, 2009.

Egypt: The Misunderstood Agony by Yasmine El Rashidi. SEPTEMBER 26, 2013. [so]

The Responsibility of Intellectuals: A Special Supplement by Noam Chomsky. FEBRUARY 23, 1967.

Politics in Vietnam by Joseph M. Kraft. JUNE 23, 1966. [so]

Getting Out of Vietnam: A Special Supplement. SEPTEMBER 16, 1965.

Report from Vietnam I. The Home Program by Mary McCarthy. APRIL 20, 1967. [so]

Fascinating Fascism by Susan Sontag. FEBRUARY 6, 1975.

35th Anniversary Issue. OCTOBER 22, 1998. [C-Span interview with Barbara Epstein][video of commemorative event]

It's Stolen Your Face by Susan Sontag. Omnibus. 23rd NOVEMBER 1978.

Shooting America by Susan Sontag. APRIL 18, 1974. [so]

Photography Unlimited by Susan Sontag. JUNE 23, 1977. [so]

In the Wilds of Leopardi by Tim Parks. March 28, 2013, 2:38 p.m.

Our Moloch by Garry Wills. December 15, 2012, 5:25 p.m.

1789—2011? by Robert Darnton. February 22, 2011, 9 a.m.

The Lost Pleasure of Browsing by Charles Rosen. October 13, 2009, 4:12 p.m.

In Another Country by Gore Vidal. JULY 22, 1971. [so]

Sexual Politics: A Surprising Examination of Society's Most Arbitrary Folly by Kate Millet. Book. 1970.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Book. 1963.

Patriarchal Attitudes : Women in Society by Eva Figes. Book. 1971.

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer. Book. 1970.

The Strange Case of Pushkin and Nabokov by Edmund Wilson. JULY 15, 1965. [letters back and forth linked at bottom]

The Question of Orientalism by Bernard Lewis. JUNE 24, 1982. [so]

Orientalism: An Exchange by Edward W. Said and Oleg Grabar, reply by Bernard Lewis. AUGUST 12, 1982.

A Man Half Full by Norman Mailer. DECEMBER 17, 1998.

10th Anniversary. OCTOBER 18, 1973.

That War Again by A.J.P. Taylor. JANUARY 16, 1969. [so]

Talking of Michelangelo by Ernst Gombrich. JANUARY 20, 1977. [so]

Picasso and L’Amour Fou by John Richardson. DECEMBER 19, 1985. [so]

Deep Time and Ceaseless Motion by Stephen Jay Gould. MAY 14, 1981. [so]

The Megrims by W.H. Auden. JUNE 3, 1971. [so]

The Lost Moments of History by Hugh Trevor-Roper. OCTOBER 27, 1988. [so]

To the Reader by The Editors. FEBRUARY 1, 1963.

Off-Centaur by Jonathan Miller. FEBRUARY 1, 1963.

How Politics Are Haunted by the Past by Jeremy Waldron. FEBRUARY 21, 2013. [so]

Glories of Classicism by Stephen Greenblatt and Joseph Leo Koerner. FEBRUARY 21, 2013. [so]

Torture and Truth by Mark Danner. JUNE 10, 2004.

Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story by Mark Danner. OCTOBER 7, 2004.

September 11 at the Movies by Daniel Mendelsohn. SEPTEMBER 21, 2006. [so] [Town Hall reading]

On ‘The Mysteries of Pittsburgh’ by Michael Chabon. JUNE 9, 2005. [so] [Town Hall reading]

Obama’s Big Success—Sort Of by Michael Tomasky. APRIL 25, 2013. [so]

He Who Makes The Rules by Haley Sweetland Edwards. Washingtonian Monthly. March/ April 2013.

Tony Judt: A Final Victory by Jennifer Homans. MARCH 22, 2012.

Prometheus Bound derived from Aeschylus by Robert Lowell. JULY 13, 1967. [so] [featured poem]

On Robert Lowell by Derek Walcott. MARCH 1, 1984. [so]

New York: Sentimental Journeys by Joan Didion. JANUARY 17, 1991. [so]

What Future for Occupy Wall Street? by Michael Greenberg. FEBRUARY 9, 2012. [so]

The Question of Machiavelli by Isaiah Berlin. NOVEMBER 4, 1971.

On the Pursuit of the Ideal by Isaiah Berlin. MARCH 17, 1988. [so]

A Genius for Friendship by Timothy Garton. Ash SEPTEMBER 23, 2004. [so]

The Suicide Bombers by Avishai Margalit. JANUARY 16, 2003.

Israel: A Partial Indictment by Avishai Margalit. JUNE 28, 1984. [so]

Egypt: The Misunderstood Agony by Yasmine El Rashidi. SEPTEMBER 26, 2013. [so]

What We Learned in Tahrir by Yasmine El Rashidi. December 11, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

Five Poems by Heberto Padilla by Heberto Padilla, translated by Mark Strand. OCTOBER 23, 1969. [so]

The End of Cambodia? by William Shawcross. JANUARY 24, 1980. [so]

Life in the New Vietnam by Andre Gelinas. MARCH 17, 1977. [so]

Up Against the Wall in Prague by Ronald Steel. SEPTEMBER 26, 1968.

How I Came to Dissent by Andrei D. Sakharov, translated by Guy Daniels. MARCH 21, 1974. [so]

In Answer to Solzhenitsyn by Andrei D. Sakharov, translated by Guy Daniels. JUNE 13, 1974. [so]

[The ten articles by Andrei Sakharov from while he was a dissident.]

The Responsibility of Intellectuals by Václav Havel. JUNE 22, 1995. [so]

Kicking the Door by Václav Havel, translated from the French by Tamar Jacoby. MARCH 22, 1979.

Revolution: The Springtime of Two Nations by Timothy Garton Ash. JUNE 15, 1989. [so]

Ten Years After by Timothy Garton Ash. NOVEMBER 18, 1999. [so]

On James Baldwin by Darryl Pinckney. APRIL 4, 2013. [audio and further annotation of articles in the talk]

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, filmed by François Truffaut. 1966.

A Project For The Employment Of Authors by Samuel Johnson. Universal Visiter. Book. April, 1756.


Robert Silvers, editor
Rea Haderman, publisher

The Filmmakers gratefully acknowledge the participation of:

Mary Beard
Ian Buruma
Michael Chabon
Mark Danner
Joann Didion
Hugh Eakin
Yasmine El Rashidi
Jason Epstein
Timothy Garton Ash
Michael Greenberg
Zoe Heller
Jennifer Homans
Avishai Margalit
Daniel Mendelsohn
Darryl Pinckney
Keith Thomas
Colm Toibin
John Ryle
Oliver Sacks
Derek Walcott

The following individuals appear in archive footage

Barbara Epstein, co-editor

W.H. Auden
James Baldwin
Isaiah Berlin
Noam Chomsky
Stephen Jay Gould
Elizabeth Hardwick
Vaclav Havel
Robert Lowell
Norman Mailer
Mary McCarthy
Andrei Sakharov
Susan Sontag
Gore Vidal

Portraits by Brigitte Lacombe.

"Davies took Torchwood to America and promptly killed it"

TV Having gone well past the point when it seemed like he going to when he began his watching and writing project, Philip Sandifer has reached Torchwood's Miracle Day, the poor lamb. As ever, be cuts the chase:
"All of this sounds rather grim, so let me also put in at the outset that I, at the time, rather liked Miracle Day. Of course, at the time I rather liked Torchwood Season Two as well, and that turned out poorly, so there’s certainly the possibility that this is all going to get very hostile and dour within a few entries, but for now, at least, my vague guess for where we’ll end up with Miracle Day is more or less redemptive. Equally, there’s no point in dodging the overall narrative here: after the stunning success of Children of Earth, Davies took Torchwood to America and promptly killed it. Miracle Day is a massive critical flop that did poorly enough that nobody really wanted to make more Torchwood after it was done."
Which is rather the problem. Although there's the mag and Big Finish and however awful Torchwood was at its nadir, I do miss here not being other forms of Doctor Who to fill up the gap when Doctor Who wasn't on be it this or the Sarah Jane Adventures.

 I'm taking a deliberate hiatus this year after last year but if there'd been a Paternoster Gang spin-off around Easter time I would have been right there. And no Sherlock isn't a substitute - much as I love it and I think most of us do, I'd gladly give up for a Strax sitcom.

Of course, my own Miracle Day reviews are still available, including the animated episode, which was actually better than the whole rest of it.

Lauren Laverne on life.

Education Eva Wiseman has passed her Sunday Observer column to Lauren Laverne who in the space of two weeks has already become a must read. Her latest column is the new Sunshine Song essentially:
It's OK to be a nerd If nerds ran the world there would be no wars. Only unconvincing battle re-enactments in meticulously correct period costume.

Love Never date anyone who is rude to waiters. (Knowing this in advance could have prevented the poisoning of five years of my life.)

Style Never buy anything to impress someone you don't know. Never wear a T-shirt with a face on it that's more attractive than yours. If you are ever going to wear a crop top, the time is now.
Loads of this is true whatever your age. The only thing I'd add is to only do the entertainment related things you really want to. Life's too short.  Don't falter, Lauren.

Geena Davis on gender in film and television.

Film Geena Davis is the founder of an Institute on Gender in Media and last December wrote a short but pointedly accurate piece for Hollywood Reporter about gender inequality in films and television which certainly nails one of the problems I have with screen items in general, of females being pushed to the edges even in roles which could easily be played by both genders and the result that has on similar roles in society:
"Go through the projects you're already working on and change a bunch of the characters' first names to women's names. With one stroke you've created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they've had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it's not a big deal?"
Some programmes are conspicuous in their balance of roles. House of Cards US would seem to be an example of the sort of thing Davis is hoping for. But mainstream films and television do still have a problem - I've seen episodes of Law & Order where all the police and lawyers are blokes and the only women who appear are victims. Sigh and sigh again [via].