Great Britain

66 posts

John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum


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Constable’s approach to landscape painting, however, was far more than an exercise in nostalgia. Instead, he rooted his appreciation of nature in the “here and now” of everyday life. Through paintings like Hampstead Heath, Branch Hill Pond, Constable presented scenes of human beings interacting with nature, not despoiling it. With these works, he bequeathed a sense of the precious nature of the world around us, in whatever age and place we call home.

Book Review: The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination


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It was at Oxford University that Burne-Jones found divine beauty and William Morris. They shared a love for medieval themes, what we now call Gothic Revival, and were attracted to the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Founded in 1848, the Pre-Raphaelites were a loose confederation of young artists in revolt against the false veneer of academic art.

Movie Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


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Most of the actual “spy stuff” that goes on is hidden even from the audience, and hinted at later in passing. Every bit of explanation you need to follow this movie is in the script, but just barely. In other words, don’t take a restroom break.

Robin Hardy's The Wicker Tree

May Day! May Day! It’s Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Tree


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Early press for The Wicker Tree has not been overwhelmingly good, but one might say it has been encouragingly mixed. The original Wicker Man did not become known as “the Citizen Kane of horror films” overnight, or even during the horror boom of the 1970s. It vanished into relative obscurity for some time before its rediscovery, and look at that baby burn now!

Book Review: Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin


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The happiness was not to last. More Scrooge than Bob Cratchit in some respects, he was not particularly fond of his sons. Charley, his eldest, he deemed to be suffering from a “lassitude of character” and he did not see much hope for the others. He worried they might metamorphose into his father or his brothers, relying on him for handouts. And he was becoming thoroughly sick of Catherine.

Art Review: Charles Dickens at 200, The Morgan Library and Museum


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Dickens’ novels probed the social ills of Victorian England in order to create unforgettable images of human misery and redemption in the minds of the literary public. Conscious of how the accompanying illustrations to his text would help in this respect, Dickens worked very closely with the artists who provided these memorable pictures.

Book Review: Virginia Woolf by Alexandra Harris


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Woolf spent much of her life trying to free herself from the grasp of the past, specifically the Victorian milieu of her childhood. Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was the editor of the prestigious Dictionary of National Biography and a personification of the Victorian pater familias. Woolf both loved and rebelled against him. She suffered a severe nervous breakdown following his death in 1904. Yet it was not until her father died, that she was able to liberate her emotions to the point where she could begin a serious career as a writer.

The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, London


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The fact that it can now boast of being the longest-running comedy currently in the West End suggests that it taps pretty successfully into a tradition as firmly British as Hannay himself: a need to mock the idea of hearty “Britishness”, even as we celebrate it at one remove.

Book Review: Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones


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But wherever it originated, the word conjures up an instant picture of young people in cheap sportswear, swigging alcopops, brandishing knives and selling each other drugs whilst getting their fifteen-year-old girlfriends pregnant. They are a favourite subject for the right-wing tabloids, and where the term “chav” is found, the words “feral”, “benefits” and “underclass” will often be somewhere in the vicinity, not to mention “lifestyles funded by your taxes!”

A Watchful Eye On… Winston Churchill


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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, known best as the wartime Prime Minister, held in his distinguished career a number of other high positions, including Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. Renowned as an orator and statesman, he enjoys a permanent place in Western history. The adventure and controversy pervading his professional life seem ripe for an enterprising screenwriter to pick.

Book Review: Heartstone: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery by C.J. Sansom


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Matthew Shardlake the lawyer and his friend Dr. Guy Malton represent the arrival of the professional classes. Landless but educated, open-minded, progressive and paid by the case, they bear a striking resemblance to the heroes of many modern thrillers.

The Weekly Listicle: Ballad Of The Soldier


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This weekend, Peter Weir graces us with The Way Back, a tale of daring escape by prisoners of war. In due fashion this week’s Listicle salutes the soldier in film. From comedy to adventure to stark, sobering drama, soldiers have faced a great deal on the movie screen.

Brighton Rock Rises Again. Graham Greene Abides.


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Acclaimed screenwriter Rowan Joffé will try his hand at the directing game next year. For his debut, he has selected an auspiciously high-profile story. Brighton Rock, adapted from Graham Greene’s 1938 novel, is a captivating crime thriller and a chilling exploration of the human capacity for love, betrayal and violence. If all goes right, this will be one beautiful and scary film.

A Watchful Eye On… Sherlock Holmes


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Sherlock Holmes as a strict Victorian period piece is over and done with, but the character still has potential in a new context. The only rule is not to stray from the unique faculties that make Sherlock such a distinctive and popular hero. If the story’s focus ceases to be the detective’s brilliant deductive logic, then the magic is lost and the character wasted. If, however, due attention and respect are paid to this detail, the rest is free and open to broader interpretation.

Book Review: Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith


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The legions of admirers of Smith’s other novels, notably The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, will find a great deal to keep them happily reading Corduroy Mansions. The twist with this book, however, is that it is the print version of the author’s first online novel.