Arts

Staying power: Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

How Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, foresaw the way we live today

Arts feature

In 1977 a journeyman actor called Brian Kelly optioned a science-fiction novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The book’s author, Philip K. Dick, had been writing science fiction since the early 1950s. He was 49 years old, with… Read more

‘Dance in the Country’, 1883, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Inventing Impressionism at the National Gallery reviewed: a mixed bag of sometimes magnificent paintings

Exhibitions

When it was suggested that a huge exhibition of Impressionist paintings should be held in London, Claude Monet had his doubts. Staging such an exhibition, he wrote to his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, would be ‘unwise’ and only likely to baffle… Read more

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran poses with his Brits Awards for album of the year and male solo artist Photo: Getty

Why you should never trust songwriting credits

Music

Songwriting credits are, as we know, not always to be trusted. Since the dawn of music publishing, there has always been a manager or an agent or a well-connected representative of organised crime willing to take a small cut of… Read more

Class act: Nancy Carroll in Patrick Marber’s ‘Closer’

Shaw's Man and Superman at the Lyttelton reviewed: like reading a billion tweets at one sitting

Theatre

When I was a kid, I was taught by a kindly old Jesuit whose youth had been beguiled by George Bernard Shaw. The provocative ironies of ‘GBS’ were quoted everywhere and he was, for several decades, the world’s leading public… Read more

Oscar winning role: Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Still Alice review: you can see why Julianne Moore won an Oscar but the film’s still boring

Cinema

There’s always seemed something masklike about Julianne Moore’s face: she seems walled in by her beauty. When she smiles, the only thing that moves is her mouth; that superb fenderwork of bone remains as impassive as a sphinx. This very… Read more

Julia Bullock and Noah Stewart in The Indian Queen Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

ENO's Indian Queen reviewed: Peter Sellars's bold new production needs editing

Opera

When is an opera not an opera? How much can you strip and peel away, or extend and graft on to the genre, before it simply ceases to be itself? These questions dominated a week in which directors turned vivisectors… Read more

Great European Disaster, BBC4

The Great European Disaster on BBC4 reviewed: propaganda worthy of Leni Riefenstahl

Television

My favourite bit of The Great European Disaster (BBC4, Sunday) was the lingering shot that showed golden heads of corn stirring gently in the breeze. It was captioned ‘Europe’. I cannot even begin to describe what a powerful effect this… Read more

Recording sound effects Photo: Getty

All radio drama should be as good as this Conrad adaptation

Radio

The aching hum of crickets. The susurrus of reeds. The lapping of waves. The unmistakable noise of a sound technician ripping a duster in two as the heroine’s dress was torn, thuggishly, by a character in the heat of passion…… Read more

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The Heckler: Tate Britain is a mess. Its director Penelope Curtis must go

The Heckler

Things have not been happy at Tate Britain for some time. Last year Waldemar Januszczak wrote an article culminating with this cri de coeur: ‘Curtis has to go. She really does.’ The meat of the argument against Tate Britain’s director… Read more

Crazy horses: Andy Scott’s Kelpies at sunset

The Spectator declares war on bad public art

Arts feature

Like peace, love and lemon-meringue pie, ‘public art’ seems unarguably attractive. Who but a philistine curmudgeon would deny the populace access to the immediate visual thrills and the enduring solace of beauty that the offer of public art seems to… Read more

Don’t mock the schlock: from left to right: Taking Care of Business Ring designed by Elvis and Priscilla Presley; presidential cufflinks; gold phone

We all live like Elvis now

Exhibitions

In the giftshop at the new Elvis exhibition at the Dome, you can buy your own version of his flared white jumpsuits. I can’t think of anyone who could wear one and not look ridiculous — particularly if they had… Read more

‘The Great Elm at Lacock’, 1843–45, by William Henry Fox Talbot

Sculpture Victorious at Tate Britain reviewed: entertainingly barmy

Exhibitions

In the centre of the new exhibition Sculpture Victorious at Tate Britain there is a huge white elephant. The beast is not, I should add, entirely colourless. On the contrary, it has a howdah richly decorated in gold and green,… Read more

‘Two Figures in a Room’, 1959, by Francis Bacon

The dos and don’ts of the Russian art scene

Arts

Mark Hudson travels to St Petersburg to see how the nihilism of Bacon goes down in Russia

Jennifer Lopez sets her sights on the boy next door

The Boy Next Door reviewed: a terrible new J-Lo movie that's disturbingly enjoyable

Cinema

Stateside critics, who panned Jennifer Lopez’s new film The Boy Next Door on its US release last month, may be unaware of the ability of the British to enjoy a film so bad it’s almost good. I suspect many Brits… Read more

How I Learned to Drive at Southwark Playhouse

Muswell Hill reviewed: a guide on how to sock it to London trendies

Theatre

Torben Betts is much admired by his near-namesake Quentin Letts for socking it to London trendies. Letts is one of the few individuals who enjoys the twin blessings of a Critics’ Circle membership card and a functioning brain so his… Read more

Flamenco Festival at Sadlers Wells Photo: Josep Aznar

A legendary piece of iconoclastic dance returns. Does the piece still stand up?

Dance

Funny how things turn upside-down with time. A work of contemporary dance that made an iconoclastic splash decades ago is revived today, exactly as it was, as if it were a museum piece. Yet more long-standing dance traditions — such… Read more

Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi Photo: Bill Cooper

Opera North's Gianni Schicchi and La vida breve reviewed: a flawless double helping of verismo

Opera

Is there a more beautiful aria than ‘O mio babbino caro’ from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi? There are more overwhelming moments in opera, to be sure, but few arias can rival it for the way its beauty kicks you in the… Read more

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There’s nothing wrong with getting into Thomas Tallis on the back of Fifty Shades of Grey

Music

Great works of art may have a strange afterlife. Deracinated from the world that created them they are at the mercy of what people think is important centuries later. Nothing shows this more clearly than the contribution that Tallis’s ‘Spem… Read more

The cast of Critical

Critical on Sky1 reviewed: a new medical drama where everyone radiates an unusual degree of competence and concern

Television

Sky1’s new hospital drama Critical (Tuesday) can’t be accused of making a timid start. Within seconds, an urgent request had come over the loudspeaker system for ‘the trauma corps’ to head to the emergency department, causing the main members of… Read more

US President Theodore Roosevelt's teddy bear Photo: Getty

The pleasures and perils of podcast listening

Radio

No phrase is better calculated to tense the neck muscles of a regular podcast listener than ‘We have something special for you now.’ Having your radio shows downloaded to your phone, music player or computer, rather than plucked out of… Read more

Wings of desire: film still of Natalia Makarova and Anthony Dowell in ‘Swan Lake’, 1980

Will the real Swan Lake please stand up

Arts feature

It is the end of an era — the Royal Ballet’s extravagant Fabergé-egg Swan Lake production by Anthony Dowell is on its last legs. When this 28-year-old production finishes the current run on 9 April, that will be it for… Read more

‘Group with Parasols’, c.1904, by John Singer Sargent

Sargent, National Portrait Gallery, review: he was so good he should have been better

Exhibitions

The artist Malcolm Morley once fantasised about a magazine that would be devoted to the practice of painting just as some publications are to — say — cricket. It would be filled with articles extolling feats of the brush, rather… Read more

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La Donna del Lago, Metropolitan Opera, review: Colm Toibin on a night of masterful singing

Opera

La Donna del Lago, based on a poem by Sir Walter Scott, is one of the nine serious, dramatic operas that Rossini wrote for Teatro San Carlo in Naples between 1815 and 1822. At the time the opera was produced… Read more

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Fifty Shades of Grey, review: ‘Use a condom!’ my sister shouted

Cinema

And so, in the end, I went with my sister, Toni, to see Fifty Shades of Grey and we saw it at noon on Valentine’s Day at the Odeon in Muswell Hill. In the audience on that particular day at… Read more

How to Hold Your Breath: Maxine Peake and Christine Bottomley Photo: Manuel Harlan

How to Hold Your Breath, Royal Court, review: yet more state-funded misanthropy

Theatre

‘We hate the system and we want the system to pay us to say we hate the system.’ The oratorio of subsidised theatre rises, in triumphant blast, at the Royal Court whose current empress Vicky Featherstone has chosen to direct… Read more

Cinema For Peace Gala 2012 - Inside Ceremony

Why Putin is even less of a human than Stalin was

Radio

LBC likes to tell us it’s ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’, though in the case of weekday pre-lunch presenter James O’Brien you’ll have to sit through a series of bombastic monologues from the host before any punters get a word in edgeways.… Read more

Priyanga Burford as Deepa Kaur in UKIP: The First 100 Days

UKIP: The First 100 Days, Channel 4, review: a sad, predictable, desperate hatchet job

Television

Just three months into Ukip’s shock victory as the party of government and already Nigel Farage’s mob are starting to show their true colours: morris dancing has been made compulsory for every able-bodied male between the age of 30 and… Read more

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The Heckler: how funny really was Spitting Image?

The Heckler

Hold the front page! Spitting Image is back! Well, sort of. A new six-part series, from (some of) the team behind Fluck and Law’s puppetry satire show, will be broadcast on ITV this spring. Called Newzoids, it promises to provide… Read more