Spectator Life

Spectator Life

An intelligent mix of culture, style, travel, food and property, as well as where to go and what to see.

At last, Hollywood mocks cancel culture

Dream Scenario is a film about modern celebrity culture and the terror of losing yourself to the internet’s virtual mob. It’s the story of evolutionary biology professor Paul Matthews, a balding, befuddled, bespectacled everyman who is the walking embodiment of anonymity – played by Nicholas Cage, the face that launched a thousand memes. At the start

Why women still love Twilight

Anybody who has been a teenage girl will know how dark and swampy the sexual imagination of that demographic can be. At 14 and 15, after watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996), and then James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), I became so obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio that I’d lie for hours on my bed hatching

Jonathan Miller

Is Napoleon anti-French?

The English director Ridley Scott has certainly produced a massive irritation to French amour-propre. Over the weekend, he said that criticism of his film Napoleon proved that the French ‘don’t even like themselves’. Whether Napoleon is a masterpiece is yet to be determined (it isn’t released until Wednesday) but opinion is already divided. As if the

Julie Burchill

Why I’ll always love Big Brother

I’ve always been a Big Brother fan; I was hooked from the very first series way back in the year 2000, which featured Nasty Nick, Anna the lesbian nun and the winner, charming Scouse builder Craig Phillips who took the prize of £70,000 and promptly gave it all to his friend Joanne Harris for a

The importance of London’s lost cinema

King’s Cross in the eighties was the scabbiest, dodgiest, scariest and most alternative place in central London – and the crumbling Scala cinema was its beating heart. Memories of this long-shut venue are being revived by the imminent release of a feature-length documentary tracing its brief, colourful history. The film is named after the cinema

Are party holidays ever that fun?

Forget GCSEs or landing your first part-time job. Nothing screamed growing up in Britain like embarking on your first European party holiday, armed with an alarming lack of SPF or common sense but a suitcase packed full of skimpy outfits and condoms. Every summer, thousands of young Britons would jet off to Greece, Cyprus or

We need an international University Challenge

As the autumn nights close in and the heating goes, there are few pleasures so improving for body and soul than half an hour spent in the company of University Challenge. Not only do you learn a bit (well, until you forget it) but nothing makes a middle-aged man or woman of a certain disposition

We don’t have to apologise for Friends

This weekend became The One Where We All Lost A Friend: Matthew Perry, Friends actor, addiction spokesperson and rehabilitation advocate, who died aged 54. He played the sweetly acerbic, chronically insecure Chandler Bing. Perry’s comic genius and impeccable timing meant he created a particular style of delivery and physicality that was uniquely his but endlessly imitable, epitomised

The forgotten genius of Dennis Price

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the sad death of the actor Dennis Price, star of the classic 1949 black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, regarded by many to be the greatest British film of all time. Price was only 58 when he died from cirrhosis of the liver and complications following a broken

Sofia Coppola made girls sad

When Cecilia Lisbon, the youngest of the five Lisbon daughters in Sofia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides, winds up in the hospital having survived an attempt on her own life, the doctor tells her: ‘You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.’ ‘Obviously, doctor,’ Cecilia replies, ‘you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl.’

The Beckham documentary is little more than PR

Let me start by saying I didn’t watch Beckham because I am a football fan. What I’m really interested in is the art of spinning gold from thin air, something David Beckham and his family have excelled at. So I zoned out when it came to discussing the intricacies of Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson’s relationship

The genius of John Betjeman’s Metro-Land

‘Over the points by electrical traction, out of the chimney pots into the openness, till we come to the suburb that’s thought to be commonplace, home of the gnome and the average citizen.’ Fifty years ago, the BBC documentary Metro-Land aired for the first time. These free-flowing dactyls, which mimic the motion of a train,

What happened to the great British gangster film?

Cast your minds back 25 years, when Cher’s ‘Believe’ was the biggest hit of the year and Nokia dominated the mobile phone market. These were simpler times. They also happened to better times, at least from a movie perspective. We had The Truman Show, Saving Private Ryan, There’s Something About Mary and American History X.

In praise of Michael Parkinson

Different generations will have different memories of Sir Michael Parkinson, who has died aged 88. If you’re a little older, you’ll remember that Parkinson led a golden age of chat shows when they were about the guests rather than the host. He was a master of the art and, though famous, never came across as

Melanie McDonagh

I’m bored of Disney feminism

It is, I know, a bit early to be thinking about 2024, but to help with the forward planning, here’s a film to avoid next year: the Disney release of its new, non-animated, musical version of Snow White. The original animated version of 1937 was a classic if ever there were one. Stewart Steven, the

Move over, Lineker: quiz shows need a professional

Your starter for ten: who on earth thought it a good idea to hire Ross Kemp to present a quiz show? Or Gary Lineker? Or Lucy Worsley? And don’t get me started on Amol Rajan. Back in the mists of time, the general rule was to hire either specialist  – Nicholas Parsons and Robert Robinson

‘Your Honours, never again’: political trials in the movies

With former President of the United States Donald Trump now indicted on four counts relating to attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, here’s a look at motion pictures where leaders are put on trial. To Kill a King (2003) – full movie available on YouTube I confess to possessing little sympathy with the plight of

Can Oppenheimer take on Barbie?

This week, two films are released simultaneously that could not be more different. In the pink corner is Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a 114-minute long exercise in postmodern irony and camp revolving around the exploits of the much-beloved Mattel doll, given life and dragged into the real world. From the first trailer onwards, its mission has been

The death of the sex comedy

After a few years in which she has been largely absent from cinemas – her appearance in Netflix’s climate-change black comedy Don’t Look Up aside – Jennifer Lawrence is returning with, of all things, a raunchy sex comedy, with the punning title No Hard Feelings. It has earned an R-rating in the US and 15 in the UK, and

Anyone for tennis – on film?

With Wimbledon fortnight upon us, what better time to explore tennis on the silver screen? Even more fortuitous is that Aidan Turner’s raunchy Amazon Prime series Fifteen Love will debut this summer, in which the Poldark star plays a tennis coach with a chequered past. Turner also features as moustachioed TV presenter Declan O’Hara (shades

How to enjoy Glastonbury from your sofa

More than 200,000 people have schlepped down the ley lines for another year of ‘Glasto’. It’s tempting to deride these people: they’ll stink, they’re anchorless hedonists, they’re blue-haired hippies. However, they’ve got tickets to Glastonbury and I haven’t, so they win.  Actually going to the festival, however, is a minority experience. More of us will

Midsummer movies: what to watch on the longest day

The summer solstice (which falls today) has been a time of celebration and religious rituals since the dawn of mankind. Some associate the event with neo-druidic gatherings at Stonehenge and the like, others with ghastly human sacrifices to placate the Old Gods – while many see the solstice as simply a time to celebrate the

Glenda Jackson: a life in ten films

The actress and politician Glenda Jackson died last week at the age of 87. Her acting career moved effortlessly between stage, TV, and motion pictures, where Jackson proved a commanding presence in each. In 1992 she took a lengthy break from the acting world to become a Labour MP, exchanging the likes of co-stars George

The art of the insult in movies

As Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson trade insults, here’s a look at some of the best – and most wounding – barbs in film. Full Metal Jacket (1987) Amazon Rent/Buy Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, the master of full-on, spittle-flecked abuse, eventually gets his comeuppance for belittling conscripted recruits in Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam war classic. A prime

‘I’m sorry, Dave’: AI in the movies

Artificial intelligence (AI) has rarely been out of the headlines over recent months, creating foreboding that computers will soon be an existential threat to humanity. Movies have long anticipated this, beginning almost a century ago with Fritz Lang’s dystopian classic Metropolis (1927). Seven years earlier, Czech writer Karel Čapek’s stage play R.U.R. – Rossumovi Univerzální

Ten movies to watch as the Mirror Group phone hacking trial continues

With its inbuilt suspense, twists and turns – not to mention its many opportunities for scenery-chewing – the courtroom drama has long been a staple of cinema. Although plots tend to concentrate on capital cases, there are a fair few where reputational damage, corporate malfeasance, freedom of speech, education, religion, sexuality, race, military justice, politics

Schofield, Willoughby and the question of blame

Holly Willoughby returned to the This Morning sofa yesterday with a brief scripted statement on the fall of her long-time co-presenter Phillip Schofield:   I imagine that you might have been feeling a lot like I have – shaken, troubled, let down, worried for the wellbeing of people on all sides of what’s been going on, and full

Everyone needs to calm down about The Little Mermaid

‘I do not think we do our children any favours by pretending that slavery didn’t exist,’ wrote Royal Academy of Dramatic Art chair Marcus Ryder, in a blog about the newly remade Disney adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Little Mermaid. ‘Setting the fantastical story in this time and place is literally the equivalent