Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

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

Films to watch out for in 2023

It would be fair to say 2022 was not a vintage year in cinema, reflected in UK box office receipts which remain around a third below the pre-pandemic year of 2019. That’s not to say there weren’t some enjoyable releases (such as The Banshees of Inisherin, Triangle of Sadness and The Northman) – but the

The Spectator’s best films of 2022

Banshees of Inisherin: a magnificent cinematic metaphor The In Bruges writer-director Martin McDonagh has made another film starring Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson which, this time, is set in 1923 on the tiny Irish island of Inisherin. Colm (Gleeson) and Padraic (Farrell) are lifelong pals and drinking buddies until Colm abruptly decides that’s it, friendship over, and

Forget Love Actually: the best alternative Christmas films

It’s become one of the traditions of the modern festive period: arguing about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. The explosive 1988 film features, you may recall, a vest-clad Bruce Willis confounding Alan Rickman and his terrorist cohorts’ evil plans in a Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas Eve – and it’s peppered throughout with fir

Peace on Earth? 10 films about Christmas on the front line

Christmas may ostensibly be a time of goodwill to all men, but war rarely takes a break for the festive season – as events in Ukraine sadly demonstrate. Here are ten films set during Yuletide where the front line is front and centre: Castle Keep (1968) – Amazon Rent/Buy Sydney Pollack’s (Three Days of the Condor)

The pick of this year’s Christmas TV

Has a certain media mogul had a visit from three ghosts recently? I only ask as this year’s Sky Christmas schedule is so packed with treats and big-hitters that it can’t possibly be explained by hard-nosed commercialism. An outbreak of sudden seasonal generosity seems to be the only explanation. Whatever has triggered Sky’s largesse, the

The best Oscar Wilde films

It is 122 years this week since Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde died – in exile, poverty and disgrace – at Paris’s shabby St Germain Hôtel d’Alsace. His last words were said to be: ‘My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us must go.’ Despite Wilde’s precipitous fall from

On the trail of Gomorrah in Naples

‘Isn’t Naples beautiful? I’ve always dreamt about it. I always wanted this city all for myself; I didn’t want to share it… I alone deserved it because of everything I lost and I would have done anything to get it.’ So says Ciro Di Marzio – nicknamed ‘the immortal’ because he has survived so much

Why David Bowie was the model of a Renaissance Englishman

It’s hard to imagine how baffled the British public must have been by the arrival of David Bowie on to TV screens in the early 1970s. With his saffron hair, make-up and androgynous clothes, superficially he looked like a rejection of everything his post-war south London childhood had taught him. One of the most pivotal

Time to check out: hotel horrors on screen

From Fawlty Towers to Psycho, hotel horrors have long provided a rich seam of material for big screen and small. HBO’s The White Lotus, which returns to Sky Atlantic tonight for its second series, swept the board at last month’s Emmys, with ten wins in the limited series category for its sharp social satire set at an upmarket

Why the best horror films are silent

He is completely bald but his eyebrows are grotesquely hirsute; his ears and chin are both weirdly elongated, as are his bony fingers; and as he creeps up the stairs towards the bedroom of a young woman in white, his hunched frame casts a sinister shadow. Count Orlok in Nosferatu is as instantly recognisable a cinematic figure

What The Banshees of Inisherin gets wrong about Ireland

It’s a rocky rural idyll on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The craggy sea cliffs – Europe’s highest – are swathed in the orange setting sun. Animals – sheep, cows, donkeys – gambol rather than walk on the ancient bog and jump over the babbling brooks. The sand is golden, the ocean as green

The Crown doesn’t need a disclaimer

The fifth series of Netflix’s The Crown will soon be upon us. Scripted, as ever, by Peter Morgan, the show will cover the travails of the royal family throughout the 1990s, spanning everything from the then Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marital difficulties and eventual divorce to the rumours of Prince Philip conducting an affair with a

My Rings of Power remorse

As the credits rolled on the series finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, things got awkward. My partner turned to me to express his excitement for series two – just as I realised with absolute certainty that I couldn’t, in good conscience, watch the show again. My reaction came as

Blonde shows a Marilyn Monroe robbed of motherhood

Andrew Dominik’s film Blonde, a story of Marilyn Monroe’s life based on an adaptation of a Joyce Carol Oates novel, has been the subject of much divisive discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. Caren Spruch of Planned Parenthood told the Hollywood Reporter that she sees the film as ‘anti-abortion propaganda’. A tweet that went viral said filmmaker

The sexing-up of Emily Brontë

In a month that has seen more than its fair share of chaos, I had hoped the release of the first-ever Emily Brontë biopic would at last offer some cause for celebration. But Emily, which arrived in cinemas this week, has provided quite the opposite.  Frances O’Connor’s directorial debut focuses on a fling between Emily (played

Is Will Smith too toxic to be taken seriously?

After 9/11, American comedians found themselves in a tricky situation. Make fun of any of the usual standbys of their trade – politicians, authority figures, Rudy Giuliani, anyone who wore a badge for a living – and they were liable to be shouted down in an angry chorus of: ‘Too soon!’ Yet if all the

James Delingpole

Does House of the Dragon hate its male viewers?

Mark Millar, creator of series including Netflix’s forthcoming American Jesus, has a theory that movie and TV fashions work in 11-year cycles and that we’re just starting a new one now. If he’s right – and I think he is – then it would explain a lot about the second-most disappointing series currently on TV,

Don’t Worry Darling’s flawed feminism

Don’t Worry Darling, the highly anticipated psychological thriller directed by Olivia Wilde, has arrived in cinemas after months of online gossip and speculation about its production. The controversies include: an alleged affair between the director and main actor, Harry Styles, who also happens to be one of the most famous pop stars on Earth; the

I think I’ll sue over my appearance in Sky’s Boris drama

There on my television screen, in a somewhat surreal sequence, was Boris Johnson contemplating the women in his life. And suddenly before me appeared the famous Wyatt features: first eyes, then a nose and then a mouth, right into camera. Medium-range shot and then a close-up. Ah, we had faces then. And then I looked harder,

Sky’s Boris Johnson drama has a fatal flaw

You almost have to feel sorry for Sky. After spending 18 months building up to their big Boris Johnson drama, they end up releasing it at exactly the same time that British politics enters its own cliffhanger mode with drama that could rival any season finale. This England – which tells the story of the start

In defence of Amazon’s The Rings of Power

Why is Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show taking so much flak? The way I see it, there are two (mostly separate) factors at play: Tolkien fandom and race. First, Tolkien fandom. Despite the best efforts of the Tolkien Society to ‘queer’ Tolkien studies, the Inkling’s biggest admirers tend to be Christians on the

The enduring brilliance of Mad Men

If you were one of the many millions who watched Top Gun: Maverick this year, it may have been a pleasant surprise to see Jon Hamm in the (admittedly thankless) role of Vice Admiral Simpson, who has to look stern and angry at the various transgressions committed by Tom Cruise’s protagonist. Hamm has been cornering

The problem with Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking

On a recent trip from London to New Delhi, I found out that an acquaintance I see once or twice a year had pulled out of her wedding just 24 hours before the ceremony. An almighty row? Infidelity? Good old-fashioned cold feet? No – her family had simply decided they weren’t happy with the groom

The utter misery of BBC’s Marriage

‘Who are these people and why should we care about them?’ This is the most important question any screenwriter must ask before committing pen to paper. Sadly it’s a question I failed to come anywhere near answering during the interminable ‘realism’ of the BBC’s much discussed (and much praised) Marriage. Sean Bean and Nicola Walker

The highs and lows of Brad Pitt

This December Brad Pitt will hit the grand old age of 59. Hard to believe, considering that he has retained much of his youthful appeal, despite a well-documented penchant for cigarettes, weed and booze, habits apparently now finally kicked to the kerb. As he approaches his seventh decade, Pitt has discussed his desire to transition

What to watch on Paramount+ and will it rival Netflix?

Wednesday saw a new entrant into the streaming world with the UK debut of Paramount+. The launch event in London on Tuesday didn’t hold back on star power, with Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone, Gillian Anderson, Viola Davis, David Oyelowo, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bill Nighy, Naomie Harris and Jessica Chastain all in attendance. Unlike BritBox

Ten thrillers that channel Jason Bourne

Amazingly, at least to this reviewer, the first film in the popular Bourne franchise was released 20 long years ago. A fresh-faced Matt Damon (then aged 32) played the titular character (real name David Webb), a memory loss-afflicted master assassin with more than a little red in his ledger. In Robert Ludlum’s Bourne novels JB

The tricky business of music biopics

Along with films about real life authors, poets, comedians and artists, biographies of musicians are notoriously difficult to translate successfully to the cinema screen. Why? Writing and painting aren’t inherently cinematic; live music has more visual potential (hence the greater number of motion pictures). But the challenges of lip-synching and the existence in most cases