Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

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

Why The Little Mermaid is bad news for cinema

It is disappointing to learn that, after critics and cynical audiences everywhere had sharpened their fish knives in the expectation of the new live-action Little Mermaid film being a catastrophic disaster, early reviews have suggested that it is… fine. It attracted a great deal of attention, and some criticism, for the casting of the black singer-actress

Killers of the Flower Moon could be Scorsese’s best film yet

There are a few things in this world that you can truly count on: death, taxes and Taylor Swift’s love life attracting headlines. To their number can be added the certain knowledge that, when Martin Scorsese collaborates with either of his two muses, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, the results are somewhere between fascinating (Gangs of

The reinvention of Jude Law

The late director Anthony Minghella made three films with actor Jude Law: The Talented Mr Ripley, Cold Mountain and Breaking and Entering. They would undoubtedly have made more if Minghella hadn’t died at the cruelly young age of 54 in 2008. He referred to the actor as ‘my muse’, but had a more perceptive comment about him too. ‘Jude

Movies to get you in the Eurovision mood

We might never have taken the Eurovision Song Contest terribly seriously in the UK – but with British Ted Neeley lookalike Sam Ryder winning second place last year and the staging of this year’s event in Liverpool, some are singing to a different tune. This year’s UK entry comes from Mae Muller – ‘I Wrote

Cannes 2023: 10 films to watch out for

This year’s Cannes Film Festival promises to be interesting viewing, with a record number of female directors in contention (a stark contrast to the 2023 Academy Awards) and a greater than usual representation of old-guard auteurs (including Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Ken Loach and Finnish maverick Aki Kaurismäki). Fans will no doubt be enthused by

Crowning moments: coronations in the movies

Before Westminster Abbey opens its doors on Saturday, what better way to get in the spirit than to explore the storied history of coronations in the movies? The sheer spectacle of a monarch’s formal coronation has an inherently cinematic aspect – and it’s one that motion pictures have long exploited. Here are ten films to

Stephen Daisley

What makes a proper Dracula film?

If Dracula is about anything, he’s about sex. Renfield, in theatres now, is the latest revamp of the Transylvanian bloodsucker mythos, and it is not about sex. In fact, it is a thoroughly sexless movie which might be why, despite some gusto performances and gloriously icky make-up effects, Renfield is a flaccid, directionless affair.  There is an early

Ian Acheson

The BBC’s Blue Lights is a near-perfect cop drama

‘Remember your training Grace, get the rifle.’ We’re only moments into the opening episode of the superb new police procedural Blue Lights when we are reminded this is a very different cop show. In Northern Ireland, where it is set, policing the semi-skimmed peace still carries the additional risk of being ambushed by terrorists. Being tooled up, even

Does Shakespeare tell us how Succession will end?

The award-winning Succession is many things. Now in its fourth series, it has been compared with a Renaissance painting, a Greek tragedy, a Jane Austen novel, and a psychoanalytical allegory of trauma responses (Kendall – fight; Connor – flight; Shiv – fawn; Roman – freeze). Ultimately, however, it is a Shakespearean series. The writers may

The case for remaking great films

Afew weeks ago, news broke that Paramount was planning to embark on a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo with a starring role for Robert Downey Jr. You are forgiven if your reaction is one of deep scepticism. What can possibly be gained by remaking a film widely regarded as the apex of the art form? What director today

The dark side of Ted Lasso

You’ll know where you are with Ted Lasso – the third season of which has just started on Apple TV – as soon as you hear the Marcus Mumford co-written theme song. It peddles a sort of sub-Coldplay uplift, with a lot of big, meaningless anthemic ‘yeah’s in the chorus. Bright, accessible, catchy and instantly forgettable, you

The perverse and addictive appeal of Netflix’s You

In our risk-averse, deeply fearful age, the idea of one of the most popular shows on any streaming service being a black comedy about a serial killer who has an unfortunate penchant for murdering the women he falls in love with might be something of a tough sell. But the bloody exploits of Joe Goldberg,

Succession and the rise of ‘eat the rich’ entertainment

Farces, satires and straight slapstick comedies about extremely wealthy people have made popular entertainment for centuries. In film, the most notable example is Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (1939), in which a group of upper-middle-class French people gather at swanky events, culminating in an affair that ends in a mistaken identity shotgun death, one that

Plot twist: the 10 most surprising Best Picture Oscar winners

The received wisdom that the Oscar for Best Picture always goes to mainstream, generally inoffensive ‘quality’ pictures is only partially true. There have been multiple exceptions to this – and increasingly so over recent years, with an influx of younger Academy voters and a desire to be seen as more progressive than in the past.

The legacy of Chaim Topol

In 1969, for my seventh birthday, I was taken – dragged, probably – ‘up west’ to the theatre to see a musical. As I recall, it didn’t fill me with joy to be going, but it turned out to be fantastic. The songs, the acting, the dancing: it was great fun. Then we went for