A FEW years ago, Elvis Costello declared an ongoing fondness for U2. By way of explanation, Costello outlined his admiration for U2’s ability to forge intimacy and emotional connection even in the Enormo-Domes and Mega-Bowls that constitute their tour schedules. At stadium level now, Costello observed, “everything else is bullshit, or a trip to the circus.”


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It’s not immediately clear quite where Sydney Pollack fits into the scheme of things. As one of the generation of film-makers who flourished in the Sixties and Seventies, there’s nothing on his CV as canonical as, say, Taxi Driver or The Godfather, no real sense of him breaking the same kind of ground as his peers. Even the Evening Standard’s film critic Derek Malcolm, interviewed this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, admitted the movies which most people would associate with Pollack – Out Of Africa and Tootsie – were ultimately rather “bland”.


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Though it lacked a clear favourite in the official competition selection, and offered some weaker entries in the rival Critics Week and Directors Fortnight sections, this year's Cannes Film Festival still delivered some interesting movies.

Nothing blew anyone away, mind -- which would have been tricky after last year's amazing 60th anniversary celebrations. But there was confirmation that the newer wave of Cannes discoveries were following up on early promise (Belgium's Dardenne brothers and Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan both scored on awards night, with script and directing gongs respectively). Indeed, the field was so wide open that even the favourite to win, the Israeli animated doc Waltz With Bashir, didn't drop too many jaws when it not only failed to win the Palme D'Or but anything at all. Instead, top-dog honours went to The Class by Laurence Cantet, a superb fly-on-the-wall drama about a teacher coming to terms with his downtrodden students.


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There is, of course, plenty that's wonderful about The Apprentice. Let's start with how a bunch of jumped-up estate agents, regional sales reps and “risk managers” stab each other in the back and bicker while displaying the level of intelligence usually associated with lesser Crustaceans. It’s the same reason you might watch Big Brother, so you can hoot cynically as the worst specimens that a few million years of evolution has to offer parade their tawdry, desperate dreams across the screen.


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Welcome to our first report from this year's Cannes Film Festival, featuring Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski...

Cannes, this year as ever, is about reputations. Some live up, others don't, but in 2008 the big directors are hanging onto their mantle while the arthouse darlings are slipping. Towering over the festival this year, Clint Eastwood is easily in the former camp, bringing a fantastic new film, Changeling (or is it The Exchange? The title keeps, ahem, changing), that proves that, at 78, Eastwood is effortlessly maintaining the rich twilight of an already magnificent career.


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This gig is being recorded for BBC Four and, as with this kind of thing, there’s something slightly odd about tonight’s proceedings. We’re in the splendid hall of a restored 18th century church, sitting around tables, mindful of the cameras and lengths of cables snaking across the floor, practising clapping for the Assistant Stage Manager. If “live” is a spontaneous celebration of the power of rock’n’roll, then we’re a long way from Kansas, Toto.

It is, arguably, a somewhat incongruous environment to see Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds play, anyway.


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I am the proud owner of my late grandmother's radio. It's a Ferranti, bought, so my mother tells me, around 1950/1, from an electrical shop in Tattenham Corner in Surrey, where my grandparents lived at the time. Radio enthusiasts note, it's a 215 model, with a walnut-finish cabinet and, according to a quick Google, would have cost £27 back in the day, very expensive in a post war world of rationing. It carries Long, Medium and Short Wave and, sometimes, there's a rather eerie whistle running underneath the programme when it's on, like the ghost of electricity moping around in the ether.


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About three songs in to her set, Jana Hunter peers over the rims of her glasses, squints at the audience and asks: "Is there someone here called Neil that I know from Panama?"


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Leafing through last week's edition of Entertainment Weekly during a quiet moment in the office, I came across a three-quarter page spread devoted to a new band called She & Him. The "Him" here is M Ward while -- and this is what piqued my curiousity -- the "She" is Zooey Deschanel, the American indie actress who made her rep in David Gordon Green's brilliant All The Real Girls.

It struck me, following on from Scarlett Johannson's album of Tom Waits' covers, that this is the second time in as many months an alt-Hollywood "It" Girl has made a record. Which, inevitably, led me to wonder why exactly the good ladies and gentlemen of the movie industry feel the need to divert their talents out of their immediate comfort zone and into the world of music.


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After the sad news of Charlton Heston's death yesterday morning, I had hoped that the rest of my Sunday would pan out in a more genteel manner -- The Archers omnibus, a mooch round Borders, maybe a pint, that kind of thing. That was until an email from our web queen, Farah, pinged into my inbox.


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Editor's Letter

The 46th (And Last) Playlist Of 2014


Sorry I didn't manage to post a playlist last week; a combination of germs, deadlines and various other professional/seasonal distractions meant that I ran out of time.

Here, though, is our last office list of 2014, with lots of strong new entries. A few highlights...