“I would say that the condition of the artist has become more difficult. I don't mean financially, for it has always been that. I am referring to the growth of mass communications which dilute and often drown thought. It has become more difficult to concentrate on a fundamental problem or to dramatize it. Today political agitation and popular entertainment impinge on the young writer from all sides. It is too tempting to tune in and to write for these facile media. All such distractions prevent the artist from facing himself and the humanity in him."

Thomas Mann, 1955


Last month's watchings, both on big screen and small. Follow me on Letterboxd for regular cinematic rants and opinings.

Train to Busan. Lots of fun – and all the better for the fact I didn't already know any of the actors. No remakes please.

Cars 3. Another few laps with one of the least likeable heroes in modern cinema. To its credit, it ignores the second film completely. Also: Michael Keaton doesn't reprise his role from the first one, but Paul Newman does. Weird.

John Wick: Chapter 2. I'm sure if I was thirteen, this film would be completely amazing. But I'm not, and it isn't. It very, very isn't.

Planes. The exciting adventures of Dusty, a cropduster who … who … wait … who are they growing crops for?

Bridget Jones's Baby. Inoffensive fun. Good to see Zellweger on screen again – where's she been? Still, Sarah Solemani is by far the funniest thing in this – would love to see her get her own romcom lead at some point. Also: Jessica Hynes is in this film. Not that you'd know. She's in the background, out of focus, essentially an extra. What a waste! Ed Sheeran gets more lines (because apparently clunking Ed Sheeran cameos are now a common thing that we simply have to get used to). Maybe they realised she might show Zellweger up, what with her being the one person probably even more suited for the role of Jones.

Moonstruck. So good we had to pause it halfway through to go to the supermarket and pick up some Italian food. 

Dunkirk. Awesome in so many ways, but now that a few weeks have passed … it hasn't really stayed with me like I thought it would. Didn't get under my skin. Similar experience with Gravity. Blown away by the spectacle as it happened, but relatively little lasting impression.

Amélie. Oh this film. It should be awfully cloying, but it's all done with such sincerity and style, it's impossible not to get swept away by its relentless sweetness. It's sentimental without being manipulative. Quite, quite lovely.

Personal Shopper. Okay so this will take some processing. Was it okay? Did I love it? Did I even understand it? No idea. Time will tell. One thought: who the hell chooses to name their twins "Lewis" and "Maureen"?

The Peanuts Movie. I'm not sure Peanuts will ever really be suited for film, but this has so many loving nods to the source material, it's surprisingly charming.

RoboCop. One of those glorious films that throws up a new weird detail with each viewing. This time: the best bit about ED-209's demise isn't the falling down the stairs, it's the next shot, showing Peter Weller having difficulty, carefully trotting down the steps as if he's soiled himself.

The Cabin in the Woods. Still good fun, but it's not really a film that rewards repeat viewings. Once you've seen it, and then seen it again to spot all the things, that's pretty much it.

Logan. Despite – or maybe because of? – market saturation, superhero films are having a hell of a year. Just when they were starting to look tired and repetitive, along comes some actual variety. Incredible to think that Logan and Homecoming are both drawn from the same well, both finding completely different ways to adhere to the genre conventions. That said, I would love to see a superhero film go completely off-formula and try something other than the "and then they have a big fight" climax.

Foxcatcher. Needed a bath after this one. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming. Brilliant. Best Spidey yet, and one of the best Marvel flicks. Was not expecting that at all.

X-Men: Apocalypse. Takes forever to start and then it never ends. A horrible, nothingy mess of a film. By this point, the core X-Men films are really struggling with the fact that the characters and storylines are far more suited to television.

Con Air. Good lord this is a fun film. I'd forgotten quite how much of it is reaction shots of Nic Cage looking a bit disappointed with people. Also: Hi-de-Hi ending! All films should have Hi-de-Hi endings.

A Cure for Wellness. "Hmm, this looks creepy and stylish. I rather like it. Hello Jason Isaacs! Ooh, mountains." SIXTEEN WEEKS LATER: "why won't it end, i just want it to end, i miss my family"

Munich. Such a difficult film to enjoy. Every now and then you get swept up by the beautiful period details, the costumes, the men-on-a-mission fun of it all. And then you remember it's a real story and everyone/everything in it is morally repugnant.

Midnight Special. I like that it drops you straight into the middle of the story, but it unfortunately it leaves itself no room for any character development. In the end, it's a bit like catching the last episode of that show everyone has been talking about, and you don't really care who anyone is or what they're doing, and really you're just waiting for it to be over so you can turn over and watch Made in Chelsea.



Here's last month's slew of cinematic happenings. Check out my Letterboxd profile for more of this sort of thing.

Wonder Woman. A lot of fun, at least until the standard issue DC climax kicks in. Gal Gadot is absolutely perfect in the role. Much like Captain America and The Rocketeer, the film benefits hugely from a period setting and being stand-alone. Rather than skip straight to present day, I'd love to see the sequels tackle other eras – 70s New York WW would be glorious, if only for the hair – without those silly boys getting in the way.  

Suicide Squad. It's like they took a bad film and then recut it to deliberately make it even worse. And then they patched over the joins by occasionally fading Best Rocks Anthems Ever Volume 3 in and out every so often. The result is teetering on the very edge of what constitutes a film.

Tangled. Deservedly holding a permanent spot in this list. Watching for the umpteenth time, and it struck me how near damn perfect the comic timing is. The dialogue, the editing, the action, the expressions of the characters, all absolutely spot on. And there's a lot of comedy, none of which falls flat. Honestly can't think of another film that I laugh at more. Should be a set text in comedy school.

Hop. Many, many times. The boy's new favourite film. Actually rather good.

Moneyball. Given that's it's about a sport I have absolutely no interest in, this was really rather good. Whole scenes of baseball player trading shenanigans went way over my head, but somehow I was still riveted. The always underrated Pitt absolutely perfect in lead role.

Morgan. Imagine if Ex Machina was sucked dry of all goodness and remade as a TV movie; maybe an episode of nineties Outer Limits. The Scott family should probably stop making films about robots.

Valkyrie. Some tense moments, but frustratingly keeps falling short of full-on seat-edge nail-biter. And nobody's quite sure what accent to go for.

Apollo 13. Damn fine film, and a timely reminder that Ron Howard is a hugely underrated director. Looking forward to seeing what he does with Han Solo. 

Baby Driver. Enjoyed this immensely. Huge smile on my face from beginning to end. Weirdly, the wit and invention and sheer joy of it all gave me the same overwhelmed-by-glee feeling I get from watching Hey Duggee. Stick that on the poster. 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Good fun. Very creepy, up to a point. An interesting case study in the effect lighting, editing and music can have on your perception of a completely still face.



I rather like twitter, but my word it can be a tad much at times – I simply don't need all of that noise, all of those voices, all of the time. So this little tip from Andy Baio looks like it might be handy:

Want to know a little secret for making Twitter better, a coping mechanism for making sure it's still capable of bringing you joy? Go make a list with the handful of people who make you happy and whose updates you never want to miss. Then go to https://mobile.twitter.com/account , click on the list you created, and bookmark it. On iOS, use "add to home screen". It's my new happy place, where I can escape for a few minutes when I'm too busy, too exhausted, or the world is just too much.

Sounds simple enough. Worth a shot. Now I just have to work out who my chosen few are …



With a bit of time to kill after a client meeting in London last week, I popped into the Barbican Centre to check out their new exhibition, Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction. And oh it was wonderful. Spaceships and robots and props and pictures and models and books and scripts – I couldve spent days in there. Definitely recommended. Creative Review have a much more thorough review of it.

My only criticism: the scope of it was way too broad. It kind of felt like the highlights of five or six much better shows, or like a taster of a bigger and more permanent museum of Science Fiction. Actually … the more I think about it … we need this. Could somebody with too much money please find a nice big empty building somewhere and turn it into – bear with me while I brand this on the fly – SciFiMu? Yeah? That'd be grand. Thanks in advance.



Here's everything I watched in May, on small screen and large. For further discussion, all links lead to the corresponding bit of my Letterboxd profile. And yes, I did pinch this monthly movie missive idea from Khoi Vinh.

  • The Silence of the Lambs. Still incredible. If you can't afford film school, just buy this and watch it every day for a month. You will learn a LOT
  • Prometheus. Thought it might be a good idea to watch this again before seeing Alien: Covenant. It wasn't.
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Lots of good stuff, lots of bloat. I never thought I'd say this about anything, but Michael Rooker is the star here. 
  • Moana. So many times. Is it as good as Tangled? Quite possibly.
  • Margin Call. I'd heard good things about this for a while, but never quite found myself in the "ooh, I'll watch a low budget banking drama" state of mind. And then it appeared on iPlayer and I gave it a shot – and oh boy, it's good. Highly recommended. 
  • Alien: Covenant. Such high hopes, but despite the title, this is more of a Prometheus film than an Alien one. And it weirdly has the same boring core as Guardians
  • Coherence. Made for approximately five quid, and all the better for it. 
  • I Origins. Really wasn't sure about this one right up until the last scene, and then it completely broke me (partly because of a beautiful bit of Radiohead). Raises some big questions about science and faith – it's a great late night discussion-starter. 
  • The One I Love. A three minute short film dragged all the way out to a feature. Shot at Ted Danson's house apparently, so maybe worth watching if you like a spot of Through the Keyhole. Rooney Mara is credited as costume designer, which is utterly preposterous for a film that features a frock and a couple of shirts. 
  • Wild at Heart. Back when Cage was Good Weird rather than Bad Weird, and Dern was approximately 8 feet tall and had to hold her hair in place for entire movies. Vastly superior in every way to the embarrassingly poor new season of Twin Peaks.
  • WALL-E. Brilliant, obviously. Not sure why exactly, but I have a feeling that this would make a cracking double bill with La La Land.
  • Rogue One. Second time around and … nope, still doesn't work for me. Mostly down to the unlikeable characters, the unnecessarily convoluted plot and the weird no-loose-ends third act. 
  • Tangled. Love it love it love it. Straddles so many genres, and wins them all. Those celebrating the fact that Wonder Woman is the first successful female-led superhero movie clearly haven't seen this. Or Moana. Or Frozen.
  • Nightcrawler. Dr B didn't like this at all, but I rather liked the cynical, sleazy, Taxi Driver-ish feel to it – but you do need to have a shower or two afterwards.
  • La La Land. Still utterly adorable, but it loses a lot on the small screen. As with any film about films, this demands to be seen on the biggest, brightest screen possible.
  • Solace. A fine, forgettable little thriller. Notable for apparently being written as a sequel to Seven
  • Hop. Surprisingly inoffensive, and stands up to repeat viewings with the boy. Basically the Easter equivalent of Arthur Christmas. Russell Brand is really rather good – and surprisingly tolerable – as a voiceover actor, and James Mars den continues to be one of Hollywood's most underrated talents. 



After a bit of a hiatus (and a kick up the bum from Do Open, David Hieatt's inspirational book on the art of the newsletter), Meanwhile is once again finding its way into people's inboxes. For the uninitiated, it's a weekly newsletter, a digest of fascinating/obscure design-related links from across the web. Positive, good, smile-making stuff only. And because your time is precious, it only takes about thirty seconds to read.

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