“I’ve been thinking a lot about dying recently,” says Philip Seymour Hoffman’s neurotic theatre director Caden Cotard early on. And, certainly, you could be forgiven for thinking that the odds were stacked against him. Within the first half hour of Synecdoche, New York, there are enough portents of doom lurking around you’d think you were watching a tragedy, were it all not so funny.


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Here in Berlin, the annual film festival is gearing up for its closing weekend. But although the presence of Kate Winslet, Michelle Pfieffer, Keanu Reeves, Clive Owen and Demi Moore may have attracted the kind of flashbulb frenzy usually associated with more bling-heavy festivals like Cannes, few of the movie premieres here managed to generate the same level of excitement.


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“You sound like a fucking Nazi Julie Andrews!” Considering the grim fate that traditionally awaits many British sitcoms when they transfer to the big screen, you might be pleased to learn that In The Loop – essentially, The Thick Of It: The Movie – has successfully dodged a bullet. More, the cast of Machiavellian spin doctors, useless government ministers and their equally hopeless advisors have successfully been transplanted across the Atlantic, where they come face to face with what amounts to their American counterparts. But, of course, some things remain reassuringly familiar: the swearing is top notch.


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You might assume that Encounters At The End Of The World could be an agreeably apposite subtitle for many of Werner Herzog’s best known films. You could think, for instance, of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald taking Verdi’s music to the Peruvian jungles in Fitzcarraldo; the Conquistadors lost in the Andes in Aguirre: The Wrath Of God; Grizzly Man’s activist Timothy Treadwell and his bears in the wilds of Alaska.


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Here's the list of nominations in the key categories for this year's Academy Awards...


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From this year's Sundance Film Festival in snowy Utah, here's our verdict on The Doors documentary, When You're Strange, from Living In Oblivion director Tom DiCillo.


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I happened to be at Chalk Farm tube yesterday, waiting for a train. As a bus user, I’m always curious to see what kind of ad campaigns studios are running on the underground for their current releases. At the moment, as a right-thinking film fan, you might be in a state of near-priapic delight at the wealth of prestige movies in cinemas. There’s posters up for The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Milk and Frost/Nixon, breathlessly described with attention-grabbing quotes like “the feel-good film of the decade”, or “a contender for Best Picture”. It is, of course, January, and rather shamelessly the studios are chucking out their high-calibre movies as we pile headlong into Awards season.


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This late period in Clint Eastwood’s career is a source of pretty endless fascination for me. At a time when most filmmakers have either called it a day, or are spoiling their reputation with increasingly disappointing movies, Eastwood has proved, conclusively, that he’s still capable of greatness as he nears 80. The run that started with Million Dollar Baby shows no signs of abating, and this slew of movies are among the best of his career.


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A sad start to the day, then, to be woken by news on the Today programme of Oliver Postgate’s passing. For anyone in their late thirties and early forties, Postgate’s wonderful and vivid animations were an indelible part of our childhoods. As a spokesman for BBC’s children’s channel CBeebies noted, Postgate’s great strength lay in his ability to create “worlds within worlds”, the kind of places populated by talking dragons, sentient trains, pink woollen aliens and crotchety, intellectual woodpeckers.


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It’s just gone 10.27pm, and the guy standing next to me turns to his friend with a big smile breaking across his face and says, “I can go home now.” Wild Beasts have just finished playing “Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants”, their debut single, and possibly the only song I can think of that contains the word “moribund”. In fact, “Clairvoyants” is anything but moribund – it’s a great, joyous conflation of high end Johnny Marr-style melodies (I’m thinking particularly of his playing on Talking Heads’ “Nothing But Flowers”) and the more life-affirming side of Arcade Fire, maybe something like “Wake Up”. It’s a high point, certainly, of what’s proved to be another excellent night at the Borderline.


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Editor's Letter

D'Angelo's "Black Messiah": some first thoughts


When Thom Yorke sneaked out his new solo album a few months back, I managed to hold out for 66 hours before writing a review of "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". Since waking up...