Sunday links

16th January 2022

John Wyver writes: Today’s selection is a little late as I’ve been watching the dismal end of the Ashes saga. And I wish I could suggest that the following choice of articles and more that I’ve appreciated over the past week is what we all need to cheer ourselves up. But given the state of the world that’s not a promise I can make, although there are moments of hope and joy. With my usual thanks to those on Twitter who , wittingly or not, contribute.

Another country – not the one I represented as a diplomat for 30 years: Alexandra Hall Hall’s thoughtful, finely written lament started as a Twitter thread, and it’s to the great credit of Byline Times that they picked it up and gave it prominence – do read; with its quiet, polite but white-hot anger, it encapsulates much of how I feel about my country.

In France, an extraordinary musical interview sparks a debate on ‘infotainment’: for Columbia Journalism Review, Jon Allsop writes really well about an extraordinary moment on French television, below.

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Sunday links

9th January 2022

John Wyver writes: two political articles to kick off this week’s selection, both wonderfully written, even if their content is so familiarly depressing; there are more cheerful recommendations below the fold, and as ever I’n grateful for those on Twitter whose recommendations pop up in my timeline.

PS. The previous selection was Tuesday, which perhaps accounts for a certain sparseness (is that a word?) and austerity here.

How Britain Falls Apart: Tom McTague for The Atlantic, with exceptional photos by Robbie Lawrence (including ‘Morning traffic crosses Westminster Bridge, London’, above); this is the compelling lede:

The grim reality for Britain as it faces up to 2022 is that no other major power on Earth stands quite as close to its own dissolution. Given its recent record, perhaps this should not be a surprise. In the opening two decades of the 21st century, Britain has effectively lost two wars and seen its grand strategy collapse, first with the 2008 financial crisis, which blew up its social and economic settlement, and, then, in 2016, when the country chose to rip up its long-term foreign policy by leaving the European Union, achieving the rare feat of erecting an economic border with its largest trading partner and with a part of itself, Northern Ireland, while adding fuel to the fire of Scottish independence for good measure. And if this wasn’t enough, it then spectacularly failed in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, combining one of the worst death rates in the developed world with one of the worst economic recessions.

Boris Johnson leaves a scar on all who deal with him: brilliant writing from Matthew Parris in The Times.

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Tuesday links

4th January 2022

John Wyver writes: to start the new year after the holidays, don’t forget my review of the year, and here’s another selection of articles, videos and more that engaged or interested me over the past 10 days or so, beginning with pairs of essays amnd a related Twitter thread, about two recent releases, both of which I enjoyed enormously, that have prompted critical controversy:

… and this from Paul Poast, political scientist at the University of Chicago and a dab hand at Twitter threads tackling complex issues of international relations.

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2021: 50 reasons I was cheerful

28th December 2021

John Wyver writes: Herewith a selection of books, television, art, Twitter, journalism, films and just a little music that kept me going, kept me sane and kept me cheerful during what was too often an annus miserabilis. I have deliberately excluded (with one exception) projects with which I was professionally involved, including my work at the Royal Shakespeare Company and, more tangentially, with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. Most of the selection will, I feel fairly certain, be unsurprising to regular readers and Twittter followers of @Illuminations. The order is largely random.

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Boxing Day links

26th December 2021

John Wyver writes: a relatively modest selection (with perhaps more to follow later) of readings and videos that may engage you on the day after the day before – and beyond. We hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday season.

Joan Didion and the opposite of magical thinking: Zadie Smith for The New Yorker on the wonderful writer who we lost this week…

Didion’s prophetic eye on America: … and Michiko Kakutani for The New York Times. I could, of course, have filled the whole column with tributes to Joan Didion.

An update about our blog: news from the wonderful film writers Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, to whom we send our very best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Box office blues – Marty was right: do read Farran Smith Nehme on super-hero movies and film history.

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Sunday links

19th December 2021

John Wyver writes: I’m not sure quite how the holidays and any additional lockdown strictures will impact Sunday links over the next couple of Sundays, so make the most of this clutch of stuff that has engaged me over the past week; thanks as always to those in Twitter feed who point me in the direction of such interesting articles.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

Ruth Ellis’s suit: a fascinatingly rich essay from the new issue of British Art Studies by my friend Lynda Nead on the last woman to be hanged in England and the suit she wore to her Old Bailey trial – but of course it’s also about so much more: personal and national self-fashioning, gender and class in post-war Britain, blondes and, of course, the wondrous Diana Dors (header image: Carl Sutton, Diana Dors, Picture Post [detail], 22 January 1955, 24–25 (Liverpool: Hulton Press Ltd, 1955). Digital image © IPC Magazines / Picture Post (all rights reserved).)

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Sunday links

12th December 2021

John Wyver writes: this week’s selections begin with an exceptional profile from The New Yorker; see also the Guardian longread below the break, which is as good as anything the fabled US magazine publishes.

On Succession, Jeremy Strong doesn’t get the joke: a classic New Yorker profile by Michael Schulman of the actor who incarnates Kendall Roy (above); his 40th birthday party episode of the current series is breathtakingly good…

Madness in their method: have we fallen out of love with actorly excess?: … and Hadley Freeman has a really good Guardian follow-up…

Aaron Sorkin blasts New Yorker profile of Succession star Jeremy Strong, gets support from Adam McKay; New Yorker responds – update: … while the fall-out continues; this from Tom Tapp at Deadline, and there’s a really lively debate across Twitter too.

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Sunday links

5th December 2021

John Wyver writes: another Sunday, another lot of links, starting out with a couple of essential lists to help you catch up with the year’s highlights.

The 50 best films of 2021: who can resist this essential offer from Sight & Sound, compiling the choices of more than 100 critics and contributors?

The 10 best TV series of 2021: also from Sight & Sound, and I voted in this one; four of my five choices made the cut, including The Underground Railroad (above).

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Sir Antony Sher, 1949-2021

4th December 2021

John Wyver writes: It must have been the summer of 2000 when I took a call from Antony Sher’s agent. The actor was coming to the end of nearly a year’s run in Macbeth. The exceptionally well-reviewed production for the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Gregory Doran, Tony Sher’s partner then, husband later, also featured Harriet Walter giving a fiercely intelligent, compelling Lady Macbeth. (The image of the show above is by Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale © RSC; more via the link in the previous sentence.)

The then minister at DCMS, Chris Smith, had been thrilled by the production, and had recommended to Channel 4’s chief executive Michael Jackson that a television version should be made. Tony’s agent had been guided to me, and to my producing colleague Seb Grant, by another client, who knew what we had managed to do with low-cost screen versions of Richard II, directed by Deborah Warner, and Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Benjamin Britten’s opera Gloriana. Might, the agent enquired, we be interested in helping bring Macbeth to the screen?

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Sunday links

28th November 2021

John Wyver writes: As you may have noticed, I have almost immediately failed to fulfil my resolution to write three non-links posts each week. There’s just SO much else to write at the moment: a grant application, a television series outline, a conference paper, a promised article, a book proposal. Apologies. But at least I can – just about – keep pushing out Sunday links. Here’s this week’s, with my usual thanks to those who I follow on Twitter for their great recommendations.

A landmark reckoning with America’s racial past and present: an important and authoritative review by Adam Hochschild for The New York Times of the book version, incorporating revisions, extensive citations and new material, of The 1619 Project:

Despite what demagogues claim, honoring the story told in The 1619 Project and rectifying the great wrongs in it need not threaten or diminish anyone else’s experience, for they are all strands of a larger American story. Whether that fragile cloth holds together today, in the face of blatant defiance of election results and the rule of law, depends on our respect for every strand in the weave.

Inventing the science of race [£, but single access via free registration]: a remarkable essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew S. Curran for The New York Review about slavery and the Enlightenment.

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