Fiona Mountford

The sad demise of the church pew

Imagine a child’s drawing of the interior of a traditional English church and the elements the picture is likely to contain. There will be colourful stained-glass windows, an altar and, almost certainly, rows of sturdy wooden pews. Yet the sad truth is that in parish after parish, the pews – which are often centuries old

Why must film delight in making us feel stupid?

‘What did the rampant chimp have to do with any of it?’ I squawked in bewildered disappointment to a friend at the end of Nope, the long-awaited third film from Oscar-winning writer-director Jordan Peele. I had hastened in great excitement to see Nope on the first day of its cinema release, hoping for a work

Why now is the time to be spontaneous

I am not naturally a spontaneous person. I relish neatly laying out projects and plans in my Moleskine diary. It was out of character, then, when on the second Monday of the Wimbledon fortnight I decided on the spur of the moment to head to the All England Club and join the queue for a

The Oscars championed the average over the excellent

For a number of years now, as the streaming revolution ramps up and our watching habits become ever more fragmented, the Oscars have been locked in a desperate struggle against plummeting viewing figures and waning public interest. This is obviously a situation that Will Smith wanted to try and remedy – and not simply by

Rebel Wilson’s crass humour was a bad fit for the BAFTAs

After the two oddest years in the history of the red carpet, when Covid restrictions saw stars accepting gongs from their sofas via Zoom, glitzy prizegivings as we (used to) know them are back. Last night’s BAFTA ceremony, from the Royal Albert Hall, marked the opening salvo of a two-week run-in of the biggies, as

Why BAFTA has shunned the Oscars A-list

Last week, the nominations for the BAFTA film awards were announced and very swiftly afterwards the annual chorus of lamentation started up. For whatever poor old BAFTA does, a vocal segment of film fans and critics alike will declare themselves unhappy. BAFTAs-bashing, it can often seem, is how those in cultural circles like to keep

The rise of the secular godparent

I always knew that I didn’t want children, but also always knew that I wanted godchildren. Lots of them. One of the less-discussed aspects of the decline of the church in our secular age is the fact that this precious relationship, more than a millennium old, is increasingly scarce. Previously godparents were there to ensure

The insidious creep of corporate friendliness

Have you noticed it? The slide towards faux-friendliness and fake sincerity from the companies with whom we used to have an impersonal and transactional relationship. The deal used to be simple: we paid them, they did things or provided stuff, thank you and goodbye. If something went awry, we told them and, with luck, they

What to look forward to at the theatre

It might seem counterintuitive to say this about such a chatty medium, but what I have missed most about the theatre during its long year in the Covid wilderness is silence. More specifically, the two distinct types of silence unique to this artform, the silences that top and tail a production of import, a piece

The necessary politics of Promising Young Woman

Last month there occurred an event so culturally seismic that it made, well, a barely perceptible dent on the news headlines. Not just one but two actual women were nominated for the Best Director Award at the Oscars, a category that has for many years now been open to five nominees. It was the first

Awards season loses its shine when no one can go to the cinema

Here it is again, a couple of months later than usual but back nevertheless. It’s the time of the annual jamboree that is film awards season, a three-month extravaganza that predominantly revolves around three key events: the Golden Globes, the Baftas and the Oscars. All three of these celebrations of artistic excellence and mutual backslapping

The importance of a good funeral

In ITV’s otherwise terrible drama Finding Alice, one line struck me with particular force. A funeral director is addressing our heroine, who finds herself unexpectedly having to organise last rites for her partner. Wicker coffins are particularly popular now with relatives, says the undertaker, and I found myself nodding in strong agreement. A light woven

Women need to take control and take the wheel

There is a Saudi Arabian film that I love. It is called Wadjda and is about a young girl who longs to have her own bike, so that she can play outside and ride wherever and with whomsoever she likes. Yet Riyadh’s restrictive patriarchy frowns upon women having agency over their means of transport, even

Sets appeal: the distracting beauty of TV backdrops

Never mind the regal and political tussles depicted in The Crown; the real action comes with the closing credits. This is the kind of list of job titles of which many feature films can only dream. In addition to the seven art directors of various ranks, there is an art department co-ordinator, art department assistant,

Just the ticket: why I love collecting stubs

I know the exact day when my future life as a critic was set on its course, because I still have the ticket stub to prove it. It was 5 June 1992 — seat D4 at the 8.15 p.m. screening, to be precise — when I went to the Curzon Phoenix cinema in central London

Covid has exposed our confusion about food

These past five Covid-buffeted months have shone a spotlight as never before on the choices we as a nation make about and around food. We are quite confused when it comes to eating. The government’s two recent messages on the subject are in conflict with each other: it’s our civic duty to ‘eat out to