November 30, 2017
“There should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives”
This week the Spoiler team are feeling inspired as we read R.J. Palacio’s children’s novel ‘Wonder’. Paul predicts that Andy, given his favourite film is ‘Dumbo’, will enjoy this (for the record, Paul’s favourite film is ‘Paddington’) and its themes of kindness make Rachael a shoo-in but Paul teases the group by managing to spin out his opinion for as long as possible. Still, all the misdirection in the world can’t ultimately hide the fact that everyone loved this book and tears flow freely as Paul deliberately skirts the issue of Daisy the dog’s passing, Andy recounts a childhood experience of prejudice and Rachael remembers her relationship with her own grandmother. Rachael illustrates the difference between bullying and a gentle ribbing by making fun of Paul's strange pronunciation of the word ‘Mobile’, while Andy wonders if the novel could have found a place for the voice of school bully Julian. On the subject of voices, Paul struggles with his usual routine of listening to the audio book when he finds the impersonation of a child’s voice unlistenable but fortunately the YouTube channel ‘Mrs. Powers Loves to Read’ comes to his rescue. And the team get to the bottom of the mystery of the strange man who has been seen around Lincoln punching the air and crying at birch trees.
Elsewhere, Rachael decries the modern phenomenon of replacing book covers with images from their movie adaptations, a dubious honour bestowed upon ‘Wonder’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’.
This week’s scale: A respectful abstention
November 16, 2017
"What is so special about Josh Baskin?” “He’s a grown up!”
The Spoiler team are back and we all reckoned it was criminal that we still hadn’t looked at a Tom Hanks film yet. We’re rectifying this by kicking off series 6 with Penny Marshall’s 1988 fantasy comedy ‘Big’.
While Andy and Rachael both grew up with ‘Big’, Paul lives up to his reputation for procrastination by only having seen it for the first time a couple of days ago. While this precludes Paul from joining in with the rest of the team’s impromptu recreation of the ‘Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop’ song, the magic of this charming film proves as effective on a 41 year old man as it was on two wide-eyed pre-teens. Andy reluctantly recounts his inadvertent encyclopaedic knowledge of body-swap comedies and reveals how he himself fared when he took on the Ice Wizard (spoiler: his hesitancy cost him dearly!). The team also discuss some of ‘Big’s more questionable elements, such as the scene of “hand-on-bra action” between a 13 year old boy and an adult woman. Rachael wonders whether switching the genders of the lead characters would have made a difference to audience reactions and, of course, highlights the importance of the score in diminishing our misgivings. While Andy tries desperately to stop a determined Paul from asking all the questions you’re not supposed to ask about the Zoltar machine, everyone appreciates the authenticity of the classic ‘Heart and Soul’ piano scene, bum notes and all, but Rachael wonders whether ‘Big: The Musical’ might have been a step too far.
Elsewhere, inspired by John Heard’s performance as Paul Davenport, Andy reveals his top 5 baddies who weren’t really that bad, including Walter Peck from ‘Ghostbusters’, the hyenas from ‘The Lion King’ and Eddie Cochran’s parents in the rock ‘n’ roll classic ‘Summertime Blues’.
This week’s scale: Big or Gib (and yes, it is a word!)
November 2, 2017
In the final in a short series of very special episodes of Spoiler, Andy continues his quest to convince people that animation is more than just ‘kid’s stuff’ by talking to some of the medium’s greatest names. In this episode Andy talks to Canadian animator and artist Sheldon Cohen about his long and distinguished career. Best known for the Canadian institution that is ‘The Sweater’, Sheldon provides insights into the making of this beautiful and consistently popular film, recalls his positive experiences with the National Film Board of Canada and shares his initial intentions of becoming a dentist. Dentistry’s loss is quite clearly animation’s gain, although Sheldon also shares his theory that animation is “insane” but also speaks lovingly of the magic inherent in the medium, as evidenced in his wonderful adaptations of the children’s books of Dayal Kaur Khalsa. With his recent return to the world of animation with his latter-day masterpiece ‘My Heart Attack’, Sheldon also shares his experiences of animation as an outlet for telling a deeply personal story and as a therapeutic tool.
You can find out more about Sheldon and his work at his website Bysheldoncohen.blogspot.co.uk or in his memoir ‘This Sweater Is For You’. You can also check out Andy’s list of 1001 Animated Shorts You Must See at andystoons.wordpress.com.
October 19, 2017
In the fourth in a short series of very special episodes of Spoiler, Andy continues to sing the praises of animation as an overlooked medium and illustrates the point by interviewing some of animation’s brightest talents. In this episode Andy talks to Canadian animator John Weldon, who provides fascinating insights into a career spanning over four decades. John discusses the wide range of styles in which he has worked, including hand-drawn, computer and stop-motion animation. He talks about his pioneering work in the combination of live action and animation and the creation of his own personal technique Recyclomation. John also discusses his Oscar winning 1978 short ‘Special Delivery’ and the controversy that surrounded its depiction of crime and adultery versus it just being really funny! Despite being known for his literate, philosophical scripts, John also shares his surprise at being informed by a Korean film crew that his film’s have an epistemological theme.
You can find out more about John and his work at his website Weldonalley.ca. You can also check out Andy’s list of 1001 Animated Shorts You Must See at andystoons.wordpress.com.
October 5, 2017
In the third in a short series of very special episodes of Spoiler, Andy pushes on with his mission to convince the world that animation is an under appreciated, magical medium by interviewing some of his favourite animators. In this episode Andy talks to Canadian animation team Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, creators of the Oscar-nominated shorts ‘When the Day Breaks’ and ‘Wild Life’. Wendy and Amanda offer insights into their unique animation techniques, their fondness for the collaborative process and the delicate balance in finding the perfect tone for your film. Wendy gives a fascinating account of producing a paint-on-glass animation while Amanda extols the virtue of animating as a joyous escape. As huge animation fans themselves, Wendy and Amanda also share their experiences of hosting the annual Bleak Midwinter animation festival in their hometown of Calgary and extend a warm-hearted invitation to Andy to drop by if he ever makes it over to Canada.
You can find out more about Wendy, Amanda and their work at their website Tilbyforbis.com. You can also check out Andy’s list of 1001 Animated Shorts You Must See at andystoons.wordpress.com.
September 21, 2017
In the second in a short series of very special episodes of Spoiler, Andy is given free rein to wax rhapsodic about the medium of animation and interview some of his heroes from the animation community.
In this episode Andy talks to British animator Joanna Quinn, creator of the formidable Welsh housewife Beryl and director of Channel 4’s Oscar-nominated Christmas classic ‘Famous Fred’. Joanna share her experiences of the differences between commercial and personal animation and between animating for adults and children. She also recalls the surreal experience of hearing you’ve been nominated for an Oscar and extols the importance of redressing the gender imbalance in animated films. Joanna also explains the origin of her satirical masterpiece ‘Britannia’ and how it has had a resurgence of popularity in the current political climate, and provides a tantalising glimpse of her top secret new Beryl film.
You can find out more about Joanna and her work at her website Berylproductions.co.uk. You can also check out Andy’s list of 1001 Animated Shorts You Must See at andystoons.wordpress.com.
September 7, 2017
In the first in a short series of very special episodes of Spoiler, Andy attempts to demonstrate how underrated animation is by interviewing some of the brightest talents associated with the medium.
In this extraordinary feature-length episode Andy talks to American writer, director and animator Jerry Rees. Jerry joined Disney at a key transitional time and worked as a character animator on the 1981 classic ‘The Fox and the Hound’. Jerry shares tales of his immense good luck in finding a position with Disney at such a young age, his encounters with legendary animators and the frustrations experienced by a new wave of animators trying to innovate within a rigidly established regime. Jerry also shares his experiences of working on the computer effects for the 1982 film ‘Tron’ and the differing reactions to computer animation in its infancy.
Fascinating as this all is, both Andy and Jerry are clearly keenest to talk about Jerry’s own animated directorial debut ‘The Brave Little Toaster’, a film that Andy believes to be one of the top five animated features of all time and which Jerry poured his heart and soul into getting made. Along with insights into the production process, the voice casting and the music of this underseen masterpiece, Jerry shares details of how to find the perfect sound effect for a lamp bedding down for the night, how to motivate an actor to record all of their lines in a single voiceover session and serenades Andy with his pitch-perfect impersonation of Jon Lovitz.
You can find out more about Jerry and his work at his website Jerryrees.com and about the prospect of a ‘Brave Little Toaster’ sequel at Reflectionsofatoaster.com. You can also check out Andy’s list of 1001 Animated Shorts You Must See at andystoons.wordpress.com.
July 27, 2017
“A man becomes a critic when he cannot be an artist”
It’s the end of series 5 and the Spoiler team celebrate this momentous landmark by returning to our very first episode in which Paul, in a fit of pique over Alejandro Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’ beating ‘Whiplash’ to the Best Picture Oscar, hinted at his dislike for the film, Rachael defended it and Andy declared himself undecided. Nearly two years down the line, how have the team’s opinions changed?
Despite still feeling that it’s “too actory”, Paul surprises everyone by absolutely loving ‘Birdman’ second time round, while Andy (for whom this is the fourth time round) has decided the film is “tonally weird”. Rachael highlights the importance of the excellent performances and the team all agree that Michael Keaton is an underrated talent, even if this may be the first role he could really get his teeth into since ‘Beetlejuice’. Paul reminisces about recording TV theme tunes on his ZX Spectrum tape recorder, Rachael tries to keep her heartbeat in check as it attempts to mimic ‘Birdman’s rhythmic drum score and Andy attempts to think of a better alternative ending for the film than Birdman on the toilet. The series ends with the team in tears of laughter as Paul unleashes his unexpected rating scale.
Elsewhere, Andy takes a look at the ‘it was all a dream’ trope in movies and TV shows and examines the theory of the ‘Tommy Westphall Universe’ which suggests that 90% of the audiovisual entertainment we love is taking place inside the head of one young boy.
This week’s scale: Birdman or Bird-bob man
July 13, 2017
“If love be rough with you, be rough with love”
Three reviewers, alike in temperament (if not always in opinion), sit down this week to talk some serious culture as the Spoiler team take a look at Baz Luhrmann’s Shakespeare adaptation ‘Romeo + Juliet’. Paul wonders just how many meads he must have had when he suggested we tackle the Bard, while Andy shares his concerns that talking Shakespeare could expose the fact he’s not as clever as he’s often credited with being. Self-proclaimed Shakespeare traditionalist Rachael struggles with the MTV style of Luhrmann’s film but applauds his contribution to making the Bard’s work the visual experience it was always intended to be. While Paul bemoans the fact that Radiohead’s ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ is not as deep as he once thought but delights in the fact that Billy Bragg’s ‘Between the Wars’ gets even better with age, Andy questions whether Rachael’s interest in the ‘Hollow Crown’ series has more to do with her love of language or the presence of a certain Mr. Hiddleston. And the team debate whether the word ‘punished’ is made more dramatic by the addition of an extra syllable.
Elsewhere, Rachael takes a look at some less-obvious Shakespeare adaptations that reinterpret the Bard’s work in a looser fashion, including ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘The Lion King’.
This week’s scale: True love or “All are punish-ed”
June 29, 2017
“Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices”
This week we’re watching Alfonso Cuaron’s dystopian thriller ‘Children of Men’, starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine and Pam Ferris and not all the team are entirely convinced. While Rachael is “saturated” in the film and Paul wonders how this hidden gem passed him by, Andy finds it impossible to connect with ‘Children of Men’ on an emotional level and would rather spend the show discussing daytime quiz show ‘Countdown’.
While the team are in full agreement about the film’s technical excellence, Andy and Rachael are at odds over the performances of the cast and Paul takes issue with claims that the film is a story that has had its guts ripped out and nothing put back in their place. Despite the disharmony, Paul shares his plans for surviving an imminent apocalypse and gives the team 4 hours to join him in his Co-Op distribution centre. And for all you Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon fans, we’ll be showing you how to get from Clive Owen to our own producer Jonny Haw in just two moves.
Elsewhere, inspired by the cat that likes to climb up Clive Owen’s leg, Rachael takes a look at some of her favourite cats in films, including Jonesy from ‘Alien’ and Cosmic Creepers from ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’.
This week’s scale: Clive Owen or Danny Dyer
June 15, 2017
“I just want to cry… all the time”
This week we’re watching Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s dark comedy ‘Fleabag’, starring Waller-Bridge herself, Sian Clifford, Bill Paterson, Olivia Colman and Hugh Dennis. Both Rachael and Andy share stories of how their own mental health issues affected their first viewings of the series, which the whole team concur is an astounding piece of television. While Paul wonders if the play from which the series originated might cure his aversion to the theatre, Rachael yet again finds herself falling in love with a captivating leading lady. As Andy celebrates the presence of Bill Paterson with a simple one-word declaration, Olivia Colman’s dead on portrayal of an evil stepmother brings out Rachael’s inner slapper! And Paul uses the presence of Hugh Dennis as an opportunity to quote the ‘Mary Whitehouse Experience’ sketches that he knows word for word.
Elsewhere, Andy takes a look at the time-honoured art of fourth-wall breaking and asks the all-important question: Is ‘Deadpool’ any more revolutionary than ‘Lovejoy’?
This week’s scale: BBC3 or ITV3
May 18, 2017
“Now I know what a TV dinner feels like”
The Spoiler team are back and we’re kicking off series 5 with a listener choice, John McTiernan’s action-thriller ‘Die Hard’, starring Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia and Alan Rickman.
Despite Paul stating emphatically in his introduction that ‘Die Hard’ is not a Christmas film, Andy and Rachael set about trying to convince him that it is by employing tenuous links and obscure lines of dialogue. As Rachael and Paul struggle to remember if this is the one with the building or the aeroplanes, Andy ties himself in knots with elaborate theories on symbolism, all for the sake of a lousy pun.
While the team seem to enjoy the film, they also enjoy picking it to pieces for its racial stereotypes, wobbly dialogue and an inverse snobbery about people who work from behind desks. Andy has to be restrained and, ultimately, censored in his determination to quote the movie’s most famous line, Rachael admires Bruce Willis’s funny little pout and the team imagine an alternate universe in which Frank Sinatra played the role of John McClane. And, of course, everyone loves Alan Rickman.
Elsewhere, Andy looks at the art of the movie sequel and lists five sequels which have equalled or surpassed the original films from which they stemmed. Controversially, at least as far as Paul is concerned, the list does not include ‘Ghostbusters 2’.
This week’s scale: 640 million dollars in bearer bonds or £6.40 in a postal order
March 23, 2017
In a prestigious special episode of Spoiler, the rest of the team stand down to allow Rachael a whole show in which to explore her passion for the composers without whom the films and TV shows we love so much would not be half as effective. Having made her point by imagining a world in which Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ was scored by Vangelis, Rachael probes further into the world of score composition in interviews with Classic FM composer in residence Debbie Wiseman (‘Wolf Hall’, ‘Dickensian’), American composer Deborah Lurie (‘An Unfinished Life’, ‘Safe Haven’) and Stephen Rennicks, whose regular collaborations with director Lenny Abrahamson include award-winning scores for ‘Frank’ and ‘Room’.
Among other insights, Rachael discusses her guest’s proudest achievements among their own compositions and whether they consider composing to be a vocation. She receives invaluable advice on how to approach the challenge of getting into the business and on maintaining that all-important balance between artistic freedom and commercial success. Elsewhere, Rachael discovers to her horror that Stephen Rennicks is not overly found of the music he composed for ‘Room’ and takes him to task over this audacious heresy! The Spoiler Composer Special is also the perfect opportunity to hear rousing excerpts from the scores that have so inspired Rachael and millions of other film, TV and music enthusiasts.
Incidentally, if you enjoy the music in the show, we've put together a Spotify playlist of all the featured tracks.
January 26, 2017
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”
It’s the end of series 4 and love is in the air in this bumper length show as the team discuss Rob Reiner’s romantic comedy ‘When Harry Met Sally...’ As Rachael and Paul tussle with the distinction between rom-coms and chick-flicks, Andy slightly flusters the rest of the team by declaring his love for them, before unleashing a five minute diatribe on the state of the modern romantic comedy. Paul reminisces about the video shop at the end of his street, Rachael tries to define what makes Meg Ryan so damn captivating and Andy comes up with an analogy for why the famous orgasm scene works so well that might just get the whole team banned from further broadcasting. Rachael offers a touching tribute to the film that sparked her own lifelong love affair with jazz while Paul tries to crib notes from Andy’s adoring stories about his wife and, despite claiming to be little more than an awkward boy at heart, shares his own love for making his wife laugh.
But it’s not all flowers and chocolates, as elsewhere Rachael looks at the disappointment that can result from letting rom-coms set your romantic expectations and Andy takes a look at one-line wonders, our cinematic surrogates who somehow manage to bag the best lines.
This week’s scale: I’ll have what she’s having or a wagon-wheel coffee table
January 12, 2017
“I don’t work for you. I work for the building”
This week we’re watching Ben Wheatley’s film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s supposedly "unfilmable" dystopian thriller ‘High-Rise’ and the team are at odds again, though not about Tom “so handsome it hurts” Hiddleston. With Andy occupying Paul’s usual spot on the fence, Paul wonders how anyone could possibly put themselves through this film more than once, while Rachael advocates reading the original novel as a possible way to unlock the film’s appeal. While Andy compares ‘High-Rise’ to the music of The Fall, Paul experiments with a new way of saying Rachael’s name while Rachael tries to find a point of entry, causing everyone else to look for a point of exit! Despite Paul’s hankering for some politically-inspired vandalism, everything remains fairly harmonious until the subject of ‘No Country for Old Men’ comes up.
Elsewhere in two very different features, Rachael takes a dreamy look at the highs and lows of being a Hiddlestoner while Andy plunges headlong into the nightmare world of screen violence.
This week’s scale: Soft, delicious mashed potato or 1980s robot-advertised instant mash
December 29, 2016
“Just when you think life can’t possibly get any worse it suddenly does”
This week we’re reading Douglas Adams’ cult sci-fi comedy novel ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. While Paul wonders if anyone anywhere dislikes this book, Rachael tries her best to cast a critical eye over this beloved work by comparing it to the original radio series, while Andy shares his favourite joke of all time with the team (it involves hippos). Paul describes the difficulty of trying to simultaneously cope with jogging, having a mid-life crisis and listening to this audio book, Andy suggests that knocking back a few drinks might help to realign the brain to Adams’ distinctive brand of logic and the naturally squiffy-brained Rachael sets down her very strict rules for discovering more books that mix the mundane with the fantastical.
Elsewhere, Andy takes a look at strange and ludicrous character names in films, Rachael explores the potentially controversial practice of new authors taking on existing series, and both manage to have a pop at James Bond’s sexual politics in the process.
This week’s scale: Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster or Vogon poetry
December 15, 2016
“I hope that I never see that face ever, outside of a dream”
In a first for Spoiler, this week we’re tackling a listener request by watching David Lynch’s neo-noir mystery ‘Mulholland Drive’. In an attempt to disprove his former woodwork teacher’s accusations that he is “easily distracted”, Paul keeps a tight grip on the reins as he leads the team into the labyrinthine world of Lynch’s Los Angeles. Lucid dreamer Rachael ponders whether her connection with the film indicates that she is slightly unhinged, while Andy wonders whether the horror behind Winkie’s could possibly be worse than Billy Ray Cyrus’s line-dancing. As the conversation becomes more complex than the film itself, Paul states his intention to invent a new form of toaster and learn to play the theme tune from ‘Cheers’ on the piano, while Andy and Rachael discuss whether sex and nudity in films is always exploitative and unnecessary.
Elsewhere, Andy take a look at three directors whom he believes bring a greater sense of magic to their films than most mere mortals are capable of doing and the team ruminate on whether magic exists in the real world and what form it might take.
This week’s scale: Not at all satisfied, Slightly satisfied, Neutral, Very satisfied or Extremely satisfied
December 1, 2016
“I’m watching you”
This week we’re watching series one of Channel 4 and AMC’s sci-fi drama ‘Humans’ and for the first time in months the Spoiler team are a house divided. While Rachael finds the series gripping and thought-provoking to the extent that she spends entire evenings mulling it over, Andy arrives with a laundry list of pernickety issues which he wants to go through “systematically”. Meanwhile, Paul is still enjoying that marvellous view from the fence.
While the team manage to find some common ground, things get particularly heated in relation to the quality of acting in the series and Rachael and Andy turn in their own auditions for the roles of Mia and Leo respectively. Suspicions are raised that producer Jonny might be conducting a dual affair with both Andy and a home-made Gemma Chan synth and Paul wonders why, with all this talk of robots, no-one has seen fit to mention Metal Mickey.
Elsewhere in a packed show, Rachael reveals her top 5 sympathetic synthetics and Andy takes a look at the underappreciated art of the TV recap sequence. Also, Rachael trails her upcoming Spoiler Score Special, in which she’ll be talking to film and TV composers including Stephen Rennicks, Debbie Wiseman and Deborah Lurie.
This week’s scale: Will we be watching series 2?
November 18, 2016
“I’m in a park and I’m practically dead”
The Spoiler team are back from holiday but we’re off on holiday again… by mistake. This week we’re watching Bruce Robinson’s “plotless” black comedy ‘Withnail and I’, starring Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann and Richard Griffiths.
While Paul reluctantly recalls his own experiences of squalid living conditions in the 90s, the “far-from-teetotal” Andy confesses his initial confusion with his subsequently beloved home video edition of the film. Rachael sets about translating chunks of public schoolboy Latin and Paul hits a new broadcasting low with a dull conversation about zippo lighters that rivals the late-night ramblings of Camberwell Carrot devotees. The team also imagine an alternative universe where Withnail was played by Kenneth Branagh and ask whether Paul McGann’s character would have been better left nameless.
Elsewhere,the perennially sober Rachael counts down her top 5 movie drunks and, inspired by Richard Griffiths’ performance as Uncle Monty, Andy takes a look at the often uncomfortable relationship between cinema and homosexuality.
This week’s scale: 1953 Margaux or lighter fluid