Brexit: the movie

Rashômon poster. Credit: Akira Kurosawa/Daiei (1950).
Rashômon poster. Credit: Akira Kurosawa/Daiei (1950).

The Spectator’s affably pro-Remain business correspondent, Martin Vander Weyer, invited readers to answer the party-game question ‘If Brexit was a film…?’ Naturally most replies have been satirically pro-Leave, readers being what they are, and Vander Weyer asked for more Remainers to have a go, but then I got to thinking… Continue reading

Pets and prizes. Sugar, Johnson and Hodge

Johnson reading closely. Portrait by Joshua Reynolds.
“Wealth cannot confer greatness, for nothing can make that great which the decree of nature has ordained to be little.” Samuel Johnson.

This week’s Apprentice opened with the candidates being summoned to Dr Johnson’s house to look at the memorial to his cat, Hodge, outside. This was the set-up for Lord Sugar to give them a pet-bothering task: “People will stop at nothing to pamper their pets, and the pet market is worth a massive 4.6 billion pounds per year. Now I want you to get a piece of that action…” Continue reading

Laura Palmer is dead, long live Laura Palmer

Laura Palmer - arms bending back

I watched the first series of Twin Peaks as a raw undergraduate at Manchester University, only a few months out of school. It was the only television I would actively stay in to watch, and it was the same for my Norwegian flatmate, who would sit fixedly for the 50 minutes in a state of quasi-religious ecstasy, reacting violently to any interruption. The what-happens-next excitement may no longer be there, but I love it no less nearly 25 years later, and I know I’m not alone. Continue reading

The terrible boredom of existential threats to the universe

terrible-boredom-headerSome of the best BBC dramas can be the most irritating. By the best I mean those they’re most pleased with, whose cushions they are forever plumping, whose production values are the most ambitious. Take, say, the increasingly indistinguishable Sherlock and Dr Who, for which the structure, pacing, editing, characterization, mannerisms, tics and assumptions have become hauntingly similar. Continue reading

A serious frivolity

Credit: Pixabay.

The BBC shows a programme called Eggheads, you may have seen it. A team of challengers made up from more-or-less ordinary members of the public tries to out-quiz a team of fact-bores. There’s a variant, Revenge of the Egghead, in which one of the bores, the one who looks like Jeff Goldblum playing a hairdresser, writhes in his chair, coiling and uncoiling himself and sneering like someone auditioning for a part as a villain in Jungle Book—a villain of no real evil, no desire to tempt or corrupt, just a childish vanity that needs to be fed by scoring off others at Trivial Pursuits. Continue reading

Writers in Hollywood – Raymond Chandler – The Atlantic

ChandlerBSRaymond Chandler, Writers in Hollywood. Chandler’s 1945 essay on the ‘showman’s paradise’ and the place of writers in it is still convincing. And strikingly written, of course. Published in The Atlantic.


I hold no brief for Hollywood. I have worked there a little over two years, which is far from enough to make me an authority, but more than enough to make me feel pretty thoroughly bored. That should not be so. An industry with such vast resources and such magic techniques should not become dull so soon. An art which is capable of making all but the very best plays look trivial and contrived, all but the very best novels verbose and imitative, should not so quickly become wearisome to those who attempt to practice it with something else in mind than the cash drawer. The making of a picture ought surely to be a rather fascinating adventure. It is not; it is an endless contention of tawdry egos, some of them powerful, almost all of them vociferous, and almost none of them capable of anything much more creative than credit-stealing and self-promotion.

Read the full essay at The Atlantic