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Thoughts on It's A Sin

Perhaps the biggest gotcha in cinema - or the most famous - comes in Pretty Woman, after Vivian (Julia Roberts) has been refused service in a high-end shop. Returning to the shop the next day, she decides on a whim to confront the snooty saleswomen who had spurned her, showing them the money that they missed out on. “Big mistake. Huge!,” she crows before waltzing off again, leaving the two women gobsmacked. Pow pow! It’s a little like a scene in a western, where the cowboy disarms an enemy and then saunters off into the sunset.  Russell T. Davies’ new TV show, about five friends in London at the height of the AIDS crisis, features what feels like dozens of these scenes - big heartswelling moments of characters smartly putting people in their place, before walking off, leaving their antagonist open-mouthed and speechless. One such moment comes when the gang employ a lawyer, Lizbeth Farooqi (Seyan Sarvan), to get their friend Colin out of medical imprisonment. At this point, the programm

This is 40

I turn 40 soon. It's an age that I can easily recall my parents being; in fact, my mother would have been not much older than 40 around the time her father died, which I remember all too well, as I was 11 or 12. It felt like she was about the right sort of age to have a parent die. My parents, then, felt like fully settled figures, with a car, reliable jobs, a mortgage, three kids - these markers of grown-upness and stability that I have barely begun to match. I only found out what a clutch pedal is two months ago. My parents' friends were the same age as them, or older, and they smoked, and didn't interact with children much, except in a fairly distanced way; these friends also had mortgages and cars etc etc. There was something unplayful about many of these people - who were usually fun and intelligent and witty in their adult way - that marked them out as being, by this stage of their life, fully formed. Of course, I know that part of this is my childlike projection onto

On Cuties, child sexuality and a resurgent homophobia; or, The New Reactionaries

I'm not a morning person - so, when my children wake me up at 6:53 of a weekend, I have contrived a ritual of tea and biscuits and books in bed, which buys me some slumber time and crucially delays running-after-them-while-pretending-to-be-a-hungry-monster time until, ooh, 8:15? The boys are at their most cherubic at this hour, and often when I return to the bedroom from the kitchen with my tray of biscuits and incredibly strong tea, I catch them having a cuddle and a natter together (what can they be talking about? They don't know anything yet!) under a great heap of covers, propped up against a bank of pillows.  On Sunday of last week I left them together under the duvets, blearily checked my phone, put a teabag in my cup, and reported some tweets I had received overnight, calling me a paedophile. I returned to the bedroom, dug out a book to read with my sons, bid them budge up in bed, and deleted another message I had received, which was simply a picture of a woodchipper. 

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-poe

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

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 ridic