Tag Archives: Guardian

Captain Fantastic: here Viggo, here Viggo, here Viggo…

10 Sep
captain fantastic (2).jpg

Viggo Mortensen learned to play guitar for Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic, out in UK cinemas yesterday, is this year’s Little Miss Sunshine: an indie film with a good shot at some Oscar glory, with a road trip at its heart and a theme of societal outcasts determined to do their own thing against the odds. The difference is, it’s a little less overtly feelgood – though very funny in places – and a little more morally ambiguous.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else inhabiting the central role but Viggo Mortensen: he plays an old-school leftie who’d rather celebrate Noam Chomsky Day than capitalist Christmas, and brings his six kids up in the woods. They climb cliffs and hunt deer, but also devour enormous books around the campfire. The only cloud on the horizon is the suspicion that Mortensen, who rejects control, is himself rather controlling; and the cloud turns to full-on rain when a road trip introduces the children to society and modern life for which they are singularly ill prepared.

I won’t say more, so as not to spoil the plot, but this is one of my favourite films of the year so far, and it was a pleasure to put together a campaign for it for Guardian Labs.

My personal highlights were sending Karen Krizanovich off to fulfil a long-held dream of living on a commune (Cae Mabon in Snowdonia  – amazing place), and getting Ray Mears to contribute survival tips. But there’s also lots of stuff about the film and about living off-grid. Check it out at https://www.theguardian.com/captain-fantastic-film.


To infinity and beyond: my articles for The Guardian on The Man Who Knew Infinity

8 Apr

Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel star in The Man Who Knew Infinity, filmed in Trinity College, Cambridge where the real-life maths duo of GH Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan worked

The latest in a long line of films about improbably brilliant maths minds, The Man Who Knew Infinity, opens in UK cinemas today. I won’t review it here, since I’ve written a whole raft of stuff about it for the Guardian as “branded content” (in other words, the film company pay the Guardian to carry relevant articles), so you would be rightly sceptical about my impartiality.

As it happens, I did really like the film – Jeremy Irons deserves an Oscar nom imo as the emotionally repressed Cambridge don who takes poor young Madras maths prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) under his stiff upper wing, and though it has emotional heft it doesn’t dumb down the maths – but rather than going on about it, let me just direct you to some cool stuff on the Guardian website I put together around the theme:

Could you be a maths genius? I got Mensa, the High IQ Society, to set a quiz. Even my brain-box son got stumped halfway through, so yes, it ain’t easy. But it requires no advanced maths knowledge; it’s more a test of reasoning. Leave me a Comment if you get through it, I’ll be impressed!

Are you smarter than an 11-year-old? Stumped by the above quiz? Then try this one, taken from sample Key Stage 2 maths papers. If you can’t do this one, best keep quiet about it.

The Beauty of Maths – in pictures. I love this one, though it was a bugger to research and write the captions for, when my Maths doesn’t extend beyond A Level (and even then I struggled incredibly hard to attain my lowly C grade). If nothing else… Look! Mandelbrot! Pretty pictures!

And a bunch of other stuff: Galleries, trailer, Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons on the making of the film… and if you look at today’s Guardian, that’s my cover wrap round G2, that is 🙂

Time Out axes Comedy section: are you ‘avin’ a laugh?

19 Dec
Eddie Izzard Time Out cover

Eddie Izzard, in one of my favourite Time Out comedy covers

Two accountants walk into a bar. “Why the long face?” they ask. A  Continue reading

4 articles about Whiplash, the little film that could

9 Jan
Miles Teller and JK Simmons in Whiplash, described as "Full Metal Jacket set at Juilliard"

Miles Teller and JK Simmons in Whiplash, described as “Full Metal Jacket set at Juilliard”

A really terrific little movie opens next week: Whiplash, about a young drumming prodigy’s fractious relationship with his terrifyingly perfectionist mentor, which although made in 19 days on a budget of $3 million is attracting Oscar buzz. I was commissioned by the Guardian to write four different pieces on the film, which is especially close to my heart as my son is an ace drummer himself (check out his band Venus Envy on Soundcloud).

Whiplash’s young writer-director had lofty goals, setting out to do for drumming what Martin Scorsese once did for boxing. But in many ways it’s less like Raging Bull than like Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam masterpiece: producer Jason Reitman describes the film as “Full Metal Jacket set in Juilliard”.

Check out my Guardian pieces, which came out today:

— Why Whiplash is not just about drumming, but a psychological thriller, sports/war movie and mismatched buddy movie all in one. Discover the “Dead Poets Society from hell”.

— How do you make an Oscar-worthy feature in just 19 days? Despite cracked ribs and a car crash, this is how Damien Chazelle got it done.

— Both lead actors in Whiplash underwent an extraordinary transformation for their roles. From Lon Chaney Jr to Holly Hunter and Daniel Day-Lewis, discover the ten biggest transformations in film history.

— Einstein himself said that “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work”. From Isambard Kingdom Brunel to Marie Curie, here are ten great men and women who owe as much to perspiration as inspiration.

Gay abandonment: Time Out axes LGBT section and editor

20 Dec

Paul Burston, outgoing LGBT editor of Time Out. Pic: Adrian Lourie.

Bit of a departure today from my usual topic of film. The Media Guardian has just published a short piece of mine about Time Out canning its LGBT listings (The Listings Formerly Known As Gay), along with its editor of the last 20 years, Paul Burston. First, read the piece here.

I also wanted to share with you the story of how Paul got the gig in the first place, a tale of split personalities and being held hostage by Lesbian Avengers…

I employed Paul when I was Editor of Time Out in the ‘90s. The previous Gay Editor, Michael Griffiths, was a lovely man who also doubled as the receptionist. You would know when he fielded a call for the Gay Editor, as he would first answer in his high, lilting, very camp voice, “HelloTimeOut, howmayIhelpyou?” Then: “I’ll just see if he’s in.” He’d put the phone down, inspect his nails, wink at anyone who happened to observe the charade, then pick up the phone again and speak in a deep, butch voice: “Hello, Gay Editor Michael Griffiths here.”

Problem is, Michael was too nice. He gave everything glowing reviews, even when he admitted to me that the play or whatever was awful. “We all have to pull together,” he would say. So when, very sadly, he became too ill with HIV to work, I was determined to employ a trouble-maker, someone who, as in other sections of the magazine, would speak their mind without fear or favour. That man was Paul Burston, and he’s been causing wonderful trouble ever since.

I know this to my cost, as I was once “held hostage” (as the papers later put it) in the Time Out lobby by 20-odd Lesbian Avengers, a group of activists who in 1988 famously broke into the BBC studios and chained themselves to the cameras as Sue Lawley was reading the 6 O’Clock News live on air. The reason was a supposedly “anti-lesbian” piece in Time Out – written in the Gay section, by a gay woman. I came down to hear their concerns and explain why we stood by our story, and they left after half an hour, agreeing to disagree but happy to have had a dialogue.

Paul, as his many friends will know, has become a flamboyant figure, not given to hiding his light under a bushel. Author of several novels, founder of the Polari literary salon which just won LGBT Cultural Event of the Year, prone to photo-shoots in terrific hats and, often, none too many clothes. Yet quick as he usually is to take up arms on issues that affect LGBT readers, he has remained touchingly loyal to Time Out and keen to avoid knocking it, even for cancelling his section.

I, too, am loath to criticise my beloved old mag and the talented and tireless people who still work there following successive waves of cuts; not least CEO Tim Arthur, a second-generation Time Outer whose step-dad was the lovely Comedy editor, Malcolm Hay. Nevertheless, I felt the Guardian piece needed to be said.