Archived entries for Home

To Rome With Love

Earlier this year Robert Weide’s enjoyable documentary on Woody Allen showed a filmmaker who stores ideas on post-it notes he later develops; To Rome with Love, Allen’s latest piece, looks to be a combination of four separate post-it notes of varying strength intercut against a majestic backdrop of Rome.

Starting with a beautiful tracking shot of the Italian capital, the exterior shots of Rome are the only constant to four vignettes, that are more like extended comedy sketches. The cast is naturally strong and includes Allen himself, first appearing on screen , expressing himself like a hypochondriac John McEnroe to his wife, played by Judy Davis. Continue reading…

Wonderful World of Purchase Power

Last Wednesday, the German double winners, Borussia Dortmund, came to the reigning English League champions, Manchester City, and played them off their own park. Only an excellent individual display by goalkeeper Joe Hart kept City alive before a late debatable penalty salvaged a point that kept them off the bottom of a competitive Champions League group. Though a high quality group, with City as strong as they have been in their mixed history, the match wasn’t seen by a full house, with empty sky blue seats visible to the watching millions on TV around the world.

City are not alone. Arsenal also failed to sell out their first home Champions League group game of the season last week, and Tottenham Hotspur, who have tens of thousands on their season ticket holder waiting list, had thousands of empty seats when SS Lazio visited in the Europa League last month. Meanwhile, ahead the kick-off in Tottenham’s last league game against Aston Villa on Sunday, the PA announcer told White Hart Lane all “true Spurs fans” would buy the monthly magazine in addition to a matchday programme. There’s a recession on yet the attitude of most English clubs continues to treat its fans with contempt, as a cash cow that can continually be milked. Continue reading…

The Newsroom

Amidst the snappy dialogue, quick one-liners, sometimes silly set-pieces, human interest plot lines, a theme of  internal conspiracy and the occasional awful incidental music, The Newsroom is a welcome programme of substance.

It tackles issues head on, with real news stories, actual footage and, in a refreshing alternative from attempts to satire politics, hard facts and polemic. The early concerns it could be preachy are put to the side when events take over, with stories from the BP oil spill to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords becoming the real drama.

By the time The Newsroom gets in its stride, the seventh episode, 5/1, has echoes of the greatness of The West Wing, with a superb combination of characters stranded on a grounded plane while the emotion of the breaking news story, the successful mission to find Bin Laden, takes over everywhere.

As the ten episodes progress there is less of the annoying incidental music that assumes its audience as stupid, just as the show the programme is centred on, News Night, matures to treat its views with more respect. And it is the discourse within The Newsroom, from why one courtroom trial is prime time TV ahead of not only a major global economic crisis, but cases that could be exactly the same if not for the way the media, with an agenda, want to present the case, that lets the viewer listen in on intelligent and weighty conversations. Continue reading…

Britain’s Outside Right

Mark Perryman reviews Daniel Trilling’s new book on the British far right.

Daniel Trilling has been for some time one of the few mainstream political journalists to take the British Far Right seriously. While at various moments anti-fascism has been a galvanising force for wide sections of the Left, the centre ground has too often been dominated by the wish that if only the BNP’s opponents would ignore them then the BNP and others like them would go away. Trilling’s achievement is to confront the dangers of this passivity and reveal the frightening consequences of leaving the Far Right to their own hateful and violent devices.

Bloody Nasty People is an ambitious mix of journalism, investigation and political analysis. The journalism mainly consists of spending time with a number of key figures on the Far Right. The culture of those drawn to Fascism remains largely a mystery to their opponents, and more particularly the milieu of casual support and voters that the BNP in particular at its height was able to mobilise. In an earlier period, the mid to late 1970s, Martin Walker produced the definitive account of the resistible rise of the National Front. Brilliantly written, Walker’s book The National Front read like a spinechilling thriller as he detailed how a neo nazi fringe moved into a position of becoming a mass movement focussed on anti-immigration and repatriation. Trilling seeks to equal the to-date unmatched achievement of Walker’s book and he comes admirably close. Continue reading…

Power in a Union

Last night Newcastle fought back to get a 2-2 draw with Everton in an entertaining game that had a brilliant opening goal from Leighton Baines after a free-flowing move, two clinical equalizers from the substitute Demba Ba and the farcical minute when the home side weren’t given a goal despite the ball being over the line before the referee stopped play instead of playing advantage as Newcastle looked to be through on goal when breaking.

As the host of Monday Night Football, Ed Chamberlin, said, it was the game of the weekend. But the main reason it will rightly be remembered was for the tribute to the victims of Hillsborough. Continue reading…

Leonard Cohen, Wembley Arena (9 Sept 2012)

In her first piece for The Substantive, Simone Webb reviews the return to the London stage of Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

Every time I set out to write this review, it sounded increasingly pretentious, as a result of my elaborate attempts both to express my feelings at last night’s Leonard Cohen concert and to mimic the style of other reviews. (You know – “pithy opening line, personal anecdote related to the artist performing, background information, etc, etc, quips, pithy closing line”. The Telegraph even managed to end their review with a truly appalling pun: “this remains a country for old Len”.) I’m not sure it’s much use my trying to do both those things at once, so I’ll stick with trying to express my feelings, and leave the puns and frills to other reviewers.

I can truly say, with no hint of exaggeration, that seeing Leonard Cohen perform at the Wembley Arena was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life so far. Continue reading…

Wheelchair Basketball – Being There

Having been to Equestrian and the Olympic Park at London 2012, Tom Bodell went to North Greenwich for his first experience of Wheelchair Basketball in the Paralympics, where, for just ten pounds, he saw Team GB compete .

It’s fair to say that my relationship with basketball is minimal, save for the odd lesson at secondary school and the even more infrequent dabble with the NBA video game. That isn’t to say that I don’t like basketball, it’s a sport which interests me but it does happen to fall at the bottom of a long list of other sports.

However, with a spare Friday on my hands & possibly my last chance to frequent an Olympic or Paralympic event in my lifetime, £10 seemed a steal. Continue reading…

Shake Your Money

For most of Europe the annoying leak that was the summer transfer window finally stopped its constant dripping in the early hours of Saturday morning, after a final day frenzy when Sky Sports News presenters talked up a “Totalizer” as if clubs were contributing to a charity telethon target rather than often spending their way to the road to ruin where Portsmouth, Leeds United and Glasgow Rangers have already taken the first steps in previous seasons. Continue reading…

Back To School

As the nights draw in and we enter the last week of August, in her latest series on Book Themes for The Substantive, Joanne Sheppard writes on school in literature.

September’s nearly upon us, bringing falling leaves, shorter days and  Keats’ ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ – but more importantly, endless ‘Back To School’ promotions in the shops and, despite being 36, an almost primeval urge to buy smart new black leather lace-ups and a new pencil case. I can only assume that spending thirteen years of my life at school has left an indelible impression on me, and I don’t think I’m alone: in the world of literature, stories about school are by no means confined to the children’s section of the library. Continue reading…

The Return

The new football season has entered quietly through the back door just seven weeks after the Final of European Championship, a tournament consuming at the time but now a distant memory in the shadow of an Olympics that brought a festival of sport to London as enjoyable as any in modern times. Every four years the Summer Olympics inspires in some-way, but sport of the highest quality played to capacity crowds in great venues with a captivated public took this summer’s Games to another level.

Following the success of Team GB is an unenviable task for the home nations’ national sides, and earlier in the week International teams played their annual August friendly games with the usual weaker squads, which as always provided little excitement. England’s pattern of play looked better in Berne in Italy than at any time so far under Roy Hodgson, with Michael Carrick, incredulously ignored in the summer, at the heart of a five-man midfield who actually looked comfortable in possession at times. Despite Hodgson’s semantics about both Carrick and tactics in his press conferences, maybe he has learnt from his mistakes.

In the first weekend of the English Premier League there was a quick glimpse of the entertainment sport as a spectacle brings as newly promoted Southampton briefly came from behind to take the lead at the Manchester City, cheering watching neutrals across the country tired of hearing City’s manager Roberto Mancini bemoaning the depth of his richly assembled squad after every game. Continue reading…



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