Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

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

Bored of the Rings: the Tolkien industry has gone far enough

In 1969, Henry Beard and Douglas Kenney, future founders of National Lampoon, published a satirical takedown of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, entitled Bored of the Rings. It holds up remarkably well today as a closely observed parody of Tolkien’s more windy stylistic tics. One critic, David Bratman, remarked: ‘Those parodists wrought better than they knew. I think it

What to watch on Netflix (while we can still share passwords)

If you share a Netflix account with a friend, relative, colleague, in-law, neighbour or ex whose password you happened to crack, your viewing days may be numbered. The streaming service is planning to fight back against password-sharing – by charging an extra fee to subscribers who let friends and family from other households use their

The dangerous myth-making in the Banshees of Inisherin

I never made it to the end of Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin, which won four Baftas on Sunday and has been tipped for further success at the Oscars next month. Inisherin is a fictional place that apparently translates as ‘Island Ireland’. I know it’s probably churlish of me, but, being Irish, I was

Why hasn’t the Scream franchise been killed off?

In December 1996, audiences lining up to see a teen horror picture starring Drew Barrymore, from the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street, got the shock of their lives. Not only was Barrymore, the best-known actor in the film, murdered in the first 15 minutes, but the opening set-piece was arguably the most shocking moment

The tragedy of Fawlty Towers

The secret of any great sitcom is the delicate balance of sit and com. Mess the ‘sit’ bit up and you lose the ‘com’. Del Boy without Nelson Mandela House is as unthinkable as Alan Partridge without his ‘grief hole’ (aka the Linton Travel Tavern), which is why both of these characters eventually came unstuck. Sending

10 romcoms that are actually worth watching

The romcom genre has a decidedly mixed record, often becoming a lazy way for stars to cash in on their popularity – with less than loveable results. Witness the career of Matthew McConaughey, which could have been described as ‘Death by romcom’ (Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner, Fool’s Gold etc) until his 2011 comeback

Julie Burchill

Madonna and the curious business of biopics

Reading that Madonna has decided to cancel the film about her life that she has been working on for the past two years, I felt a pang of sorrow. The biopic sounded like the biggest vanity project ever attempted – and thus promised to be an excellent ‘mock-watch’, as I’ve named the cinematic equivalent of

The Whale is a work of art

If the 20th century was the age of the common man, the 21st is the age of the common man’s confounding. Between shambolic politics, culture wars and actual war, nothing is turning out quite as well as anyone expected. What was meant to be an era of freedom and enlightenment seems to have become the

Is Amazon wasting Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s talents?

The Tomb Raider franchise seems to have been a graveyard for oddly overqualified people. Angelina Jolie played the character of Lara Croft twice after winning an Oscar, and subsequently Alicia Vikander gave the English aristocrat-turned-global adventurer a go. Neither left much of a mark – which is why it is all the more surprising that Fleabag creator and star

The Last of Us is a video game adaptation that actually works

The Last of Us may be remembered as the point when Hollywood’s approach to video game adaptations finally changed. In this, it’s as significant a creative development as Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was in creating a new formula for Marvel superhero movies. The series, which began on Sky Atlantic last week, is set 20 years after a

Don’t bring back Frasier

At the end of the Frasier theme song, its star Kelsey Grammer always sang the words: ‘Frasier has left the building!’ And when the show finished in 2004, it felt as if Frasier, Niles, Daphne, Martin, Roz and the rest had indeed left the building. In truth, the popular programme did not end in glory. Ever since Niles

Why Avatar 2 has confounded the critics

The pundits called it long ago: Avatar 2: The Way of Water was going to be a flop. They did allow that betting against the so-called ‘king of the world’ James Cameron was rash – after all, Titanic and the first Avatar film overcame almost hysterically negative buzz in order to become box office behemoths. But there were too many reasons

In defence of Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse

British writer Graham Hancock has riled the archaeology community with his Netflix documentary, Ancient Apocalypse. The series follows Hancock to ancient sites around the world in pursuit of proof that an advanced human civilisation existed thousands of years before the first cities of Mesopotamia. Hancock, a former Economist correspondent, argues that most archaeologists are too

James Delingpole

The Spectator’s best TV shows of the year

The Offer (Paramount Plus) Even when you know the ending, this ten-part drama about the making of The Godfather, seen from the perspective of novice producer Albert S. Ruddy (Miles Teller), is outrageously gripping, gorgeously evocative of louche, cocktail-drenched late 1960s Hollywood, wittily scripted and superbly acted. Matthew Goode is especially watchable as superproducer Robert