Best of another bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2021.

For the list of my best (ie favourite) films, music, books, etc two years ago, I noted the importance of taking solace from the arts at a time when Brexit, Johnson, Trump, climate change and others were cause for such anxiety, anger and despondency. Last year, of course, with Covid having taken its toll, we’d … Continue reading Best of another bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2021.

Just in time for Christmas, part 2: great classic movies now out on disc.

Since a similar post seemed to go down quite well last year, and in case you’re wondering what to buy folks (or yourself) for Christmas, I thought I’d again offer recommendations of classic movies released on BluRay and DVD during the last 12 months. Many of the films listed below come in glorious restorations and, … Continue reading Just in time for Christmas, part 2: great classic movies now out on disc.

Just in time for Christmas: great new (and old) jazz.

In the spring of last year, the very welcome appearance of two albums featuring previously unreleased performances of music by Mike Westbrook and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra prompted me to blog about them; I also ended up recommending them as possible Christmas gifts in a blog posted in December. The Westbrook album, released by … Continue reading Just in time for Christmas: great new (and old) jazz.

Further Gems from ECM: revisiting some favourites

Four years ago this month, a friend, knowing I was a big admirer of the music put out by ECM, suggested I put together a list of my all-time favourite releases on the label, in response to a New York Times list of 21 ‘essential’ ECM albums published to mark the music then newly available … Continue reading Further Gems from ECM: revisiting some favourites

Not Just the Band: Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground

You may think you know all you need to know about The Velvet Underground: the encounter of New York songwriter Lou Reed and Welsh classical violist John Cale, the bringing in of drummer Maureen Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison, the ‘sponsorship’ of the band by Andy Warhol, the temporary addition of Nico to the outfit, … Continue reading Not Just the Band: Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground

Of Whales and Men: Navigating The North Water

Call me curious. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely, but it must have been back in the ’70s or early ’80s – I embarked on what might have been a major odyssey: reading Moby-Dick. I didn’t get very far. But now I’m giving it another try. That’s why you can call me … Continue reading Of Whales and Men: Navigating The North Water

Update on Igor Levit: a star takes on Shostakovich and Stevenson

Back in March 2017, I posted a piece in praise of the pianist Igor Levit. By then he had already garnered considerable acclaim in the classical music world, but since that time he has become remarkably well known… without, it must be stressed, having compromised his artistic integrity in any way. The daily filmed-at-home online … Continue reading Update on Igor Levit: a star takes on Shostakovich and Stevenson

Howard Hawks: Hollywood hack or supreme cimematic artist?

Howard Hawks has been one of my favourite filmmakers ever since I first discovered what a director did. How could he not be when he made –  to cite my personal top-ten of his films (for today, anyway, and listed in the order they were made) – Scarface, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, … Continue reading Howard Hawks: Hollywood hack or supreme cimematic artist?

Piano Forte: 75 minutes with Thomas Adès (and Ludwig van…)

The last 18 months or so have been strange and troubled for music and musicians (as well as for everyone else). Thanks to our philistine, economically irrational UK government, musicians and others whose lives depend on live performance have had it very tough indeed – but anyone who understands that the arts are crucial to … Continue reading Piano Forte: 75 minutes with Thomas Adès (and Ludwig van…)

Film as Criticism: the illustrious example of VF Perkins

When I first became a cinephile back in the autumn of 1973 – my life changed, imperceptibly but permanently, when I took a seat in the front row of the Cambridge Arts Cinema to watch Bergman’s Cries and Whispers – I set about learning about the (for me) newly discovered art form as quickly as … Continue reading Film as Criticism: the illustrious example of VF Perkins