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An article pitch that went nowhere due to my lack of journalistic nous at the time (2016)

It may be a sign of the times: at the moment you can see three films in British cinemas that centre on a threat to a home or community. Alice Winocour’s film Disorder is a more straightforward  variation on the storied Home Invasion genre - but The Club, Pablo Larrain’s evisceration of the Catholic church, and Robert Eggers' horror film The Witch, also play on this theme in different ways.The differences between the films - in the way they utilise this format, the way they reflect our fears and insecurities - are telling about contemporary political concerns. Disorder focuses on Vincent, an ex-soldier with PTSD, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, who takes a security job looking after the wife and son of a shady businessman in their luxury villa. For reasons which aren't entirely clear - and which, to its detriment, the film doesn't investigate - the house will become the scene of a vicious siege, aiming to harm the businessman's wife and child. As the film progresses, V…

On Isadora's Children

One of the hardest adjustments I have had to make, as a viewer and critic, is in understanding (and reminding myself) that a film can be anything at all. What I considered cinema when I was a young actor and cinephile - that is, the films I read about in my big book of cinema, and the magazines I bought every month - was a narrow, totally conventional concept of film. A director, making a fictional film with a proper story, dialogue, a cast playing roles, with music and sets and credits. That cinema is still my meat and drink, of course; but realising the possibilities of film, the ways in which it can twist and turn, and branch out, and surprise us, has helped me enormously to think about the choices that directors make. Recording a podcast episode last year I chanced on the films of Margaret Tait, a poet of the movies whose brief films, mere snippets, are like gasps of fresh mountain air; these are little poems, evocations, fancies. Her 'Portrait of Ga' is like a picture-po…

On Good Manners

This morning I scrolled in amusement through the photos of two beefy gay bros that Instagram had suggested I should follow: you know the sort of couple; both hench, wearing vests or swimming trunks; both displaying signs of never having skimped on leg day; attractive without being particularly beautiful; and perhaps, if you look closer, you can see the goofier child they were not long ago peeking out, the slightly more uncertain soul that existed before they threw about themselves this mantle of wealth and power.

I've been thinking a lot about queerness for a few years now: what it means to be a homo in public, signifying one's difference to the world. I've been thinking about gay marriage - the Instagrammers were married of course, and on the day of their marriage they paused amid the merriment to do a sponsored post about mattresses. Ealier this month Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem MP who was partly responsible for getting the bill on equal marriage adopted, rebuked a g…

On Shirley Clarke's 'The Connection'

The Bad Sex Award, crowning a writer deemed to have written the most mortifying sex scene(s) that year, has been handed out annually by the Literary Review since 1993. Past winners include Tom Wolfe, Giles Coren (for a book in which the narrator compares his ejaculating dick to a shower-head dropped in the bath) and Morrissey. The enterprise, while certainly adding to the gaiety of the nation, is in many ways a rather dispiriting one, which errs on the side of sex-shaming, and which trades in a peculiarly British way of smirking at or being disgusted by sex.

Of course, what makes the passages singled out for lols seem funny is the fact that by the time the words are out they are already old-hat, absurd, obsolete. Put down on the page by their authors at the height of their horn, these words needed to be immediate to have any power - they seized an aspect of their writer's libido at a particular stage, and - as that fuck-want disappeared, so the words themselves came to seem ridicu…

So Long, Jamie

Do we need to see ourselves in art? The question of relatability comes back in criticism again and again - repeats on me like tuna, to borrow from Celine. The tedious end-point of a culture where people need to relate personally to art, to glimpse a vestige of themselves in songs or films, is a kind of iTunesification of art where everything feeds into your own little personhood. This is my song for when I miss my mum; this is my comfort food movie. You tell your friends that such and such a show has you feeling seen. Criticism can then become commingled with standom, because the extent to which someone feels aligned with an artist or a work of art can blind them to their blemishes.

And yet it seems true, too, that art must find some way to sink a hook in you; that the best of creations can wallop you with a single moment of such awesome truthfulness that you feel singled out. In a beautifully contrived scene in The History Boys that centres on the Thomas Hardy poem 'Drummer Hodge…

Sting reflects on Together At Home

Jokers. Fucking jokers.

Look, it doesn't matter to me that I personally wasn't on the telethon or whatever the fuck they're calling it, I don't give a shit, my main concern is the music, you know? It's all about the performance for me, it's all about the sanctity of the musical bloody sacrament. How can you ask us to heal if the music is bollocks? Sorry, it's true. We can't soothe the masses if their fucking ears are melting off.

Think I haven't got a quick acoustic version of Message In A Bottle just hanging around that I could have played at the drop of a flatcap? I wrote to them and I said, look, these people trapped in their houses because of the plague, some of them without gardens or maybe even without kitchens, I don't know, but these people, what they want is they want some fucking good music, something to take them out of their diseased bodies, you know? And this song I've got, right, S.O.S., that means help - it's about helping…

Being single

Sometimes I'll sleep with someone and as they're sitting on my bed to pull on their shoes before heading off back home to their boyfriend they'll say, "How about you? Seeing anyone?" - and I'll answer, cheerfully, "Me? Oh, no, I'm single" - and this person will say, "Really? Why?"

I don't know anymore. I always have been - always. I had a vague girlfriend when I was 9, and then again when I was 12 for about a week - and that's been it. I think the most dates I've ever been on with somebody is - let me see - six? Seven? Over the course of about three months? It has just never happened.

At school I never went out with anyone because I was far too small (I didn't hit puberty until I was nearly sixteen) and far too closeted. At university - still the closet. Thereafter, perhaps because I was closeted, or had internalised some homophobia, I kept things casual with men. As I came out I started dating, but I was always more ta…