October 11, 2018
“Isn't it strange, to create something that hates you?”
This week the Spoiler team are trying to get to grips with the intricacies of Alex Garland’s psychological sci-fi thriller ‘Ex Machina’ starring Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac. A film that has long been on the Spoiler back-burner, ‘Ex Machina’ ultimately proves divisive among the team with Rachael and Paul enjoying it more than Andy, whom Paul declares has “lost it” after he declares that he doesn’t like ‘Black Mirror’ either. While Rachael yearns for a sci-fi film with a happy ending for a change, Paul promises to share a theory about one of the character’s fates that will blow the whole discussion wide open and may just provide that coveted glimmer of hope. There’s no hope for Andy though, who isn’t even completely convinced by Oscar Isaac’s acclaimed performance as the unpredictable genius Nathan. Paul takes a moment to flag up the overlooked fourth character Kyoko in a film that is often referred to as a three-hander and the team discuss how the illusion of synthetic bodies changes the nature of screen nudity.
Elsewhere, Rachael takes a look at unexpected dance scenes in films including ‘Pretty in Pink’, ‘Blast from the Past’ and ‘Love Actually’.
This week’s scale: Ideal viewing on a flight to Norway or “There’s Norway I’m watching that again”
September 27, 2018
“Tea without sugar is just vegetable soup”
This week we’re watching the first series of Mackenzie Crook’s 2014 sitcom ‘Detectorists’ and, perhaps predictably, it’s a complete love-in. With no-one willing to criticise such a brilliant series just for the sake of it, Andy talks about how the show made him almost glad to have a cold, Rachael tells of how she overcame her initial misgivings about where the romantic subplot was heading and Paul once again proves that his aversion to recommendations is doing him more harm than good. The team discuss an encouraging trend towards more progressive attitudes in modern sitcoms and how ‘Detectorists’ refusal to undercut moments of genuine sentiment make it a truly adorable series. Meanwhile, Paul manages to get in another reference to ‘Horrible Histories’. And just what is a “Detoctorate”? Find out by downloading this episode.
Elsewhere, Andy takes an epic look at the more experimental side of sitcoms with reference to ‘I Love Lucy’, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, ‘MASH’ and ‘The Young Ones’.
This week’s scale: A gold dance or a year’s subscription to Ringpull Monthly
September 13, 2018
“If she ever kisses you, I'll turn you into a prince. Prince of the Land of Stench!"
The Spoiler team are back for series 7 and we’re kicking off by watching Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy adventure ‘Labyrinth’ starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly and an array of fantastic puppets.
As lifelong Jim Henson devotees, Rachael and Andy are suckers for this film, but due to a childhood trauma involving basketball and ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, Paul needs a little more convincing. Andy relates how ‘Labyrinth’ made him a better, less pretentious critic while Rachael explains how Bowie is really the Goblin King pretending to be David Bowie. The relative merits of puppetry and CG are debated, Andy has something controversial to say about the ‘Paddington’ films and Rachael dips into the IMDB Parent’s Guide to see just what they have to say about that infamous codpiece. Ultimately, Paul’s inability to comprehend the idea of partying with goblins shines a light on how ‘Labyrinth’ may work better for those whose connection with their youth wasn’t severed by an encroaching obsession with Depeche Mode B-sides. Also, we answer the age-old question: Jennifer Connelly. Too much?
Elsewhere, in a touching tribute to the architect of her childhood, Rachael casts and affectionate eye over the life and work of Jim Henson and the affect the great man had on her personally.
This week’s scale: Golden Years or The Tin Machine of Stench
June 28, 2018
In the run up to our series 7 première episode on Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’, the Spoiler team are proud to present a very special episode on the art of puppetry in which Andy talks to British puppeteer, actor, producer and director Nigel Plaskitt about his long and varied career. Nigel discusses his work on the sophisticated pre-school series ‘Pipkins’ in which he played the iconic character Hartley Hare, including the pioneering approach the series took to the death of its presenter and the reason for Hartley’s distinctive, “manky” appearance. Nigel also reminisces about the excitement of being involved with the savagely satirical British comedy series ‘Spitting Image’, the experience of working on Hollywood classics ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into setting up international versions of ‘Sesame Street’ and training new puppeteers for the stage musical ‘Avenue Q’. Other subjects include how Nigel upset Billy Ocean by pipping him to the number one spot, whether empathising too much with your puppets is a doorway to madness, and why the classic children’s series ‘Round the Bend’ still hasn’t been released on DVD. Nigel also talks for the first time about his new pre-school series ‘Monty and Co.’ and what it is like to work with a lawyer who has also written episodes of ‘Chucklevision’.
You can find out more about Nigel and his work at his website www.nigelplaskitt.com and about this new children’s series ‘Monty and Co.’ at www.montyandco.co.uk.
January 25, 2018
"I just thought there would be more than this..."
It’s the end of series six and the Spoiler team are going out on a high by looking at Richard Linklater’s experimental coming-of-age drama ‘Boyhood’. With a two hour plus film covering a twelve year timespan to get through, Andy and Rachael try desperately to make Paul come to terms with the fact that Linklater chose to open the soundtrack with Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’. With this stumbling block successfully traversed, the team get to grips with ‘Boyhood’s daunting scope, with Andy finding the film to be a valuable historical document of an era and Rachael asserting that, far from being about nothing as its harshest critics have suggested, ‘Boyhood’ is about everything. Paul declares Ethan Hawke’s performance to be a revelation, sparking a barrage of recommendations from long-term Hawke-fans Rachael and Andy, and Patricia Arquette is recognised by everyone as “quietly brilliant”. Andy sets about fixing Ethan Hawke’s failed attempt to put together a coherent compilation of solo Beatles songs and the relative merits of ‘Mull of Kintyre’ and ‘We All Stand Together’ are debated. Rachael condemns the repetitive trope of the alcoholic husband, while Paul, as a parent himself, sympathises with the paraphrased quote “Get in the car and cut the horse-poo atttitude”.
Elsewhere, Andy looks back at his love affair with indie cinema and attempts to define the elusive term ‘independent’.
This week’s scale: Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ or Doves’ ‘The Cedar Room’
January 11, 2018
"At least you'll never be a vegetable. Even artichokes have hearts!”
The Spoiler team are dusting off their best GCSE French as this week we take a look at Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s quirky romantic comedy ‘Amelie’ starring Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz. While this is one of Rachael’s favourite films of all time, the rest of the team might take a little more convincing. With Paul on the fence once more, whose side will he ultimately come down upon? Will it be Rachael’s side, where the allure of Parisian apartments and café culture looms large and there is ample room to project our fantasies and desires onto the lead characters? Or will Andy’s talk of non-entity romantic leads, kitten photographs and too many subplots coax Paul into his slightly more withered garden of doubt? Would Audrey Tautou have been better suited to silent cinema than the talkies? Is talking about Princess Diana as controversial as upsetting cat owners? Did art take over to stop this film from becoming a masterpiece (whatever the hell that means!)? We tackle all these burning issues as well as answering the ultimate question: kissing on the eyes… romantic or ooky?
Elsewhere, inspired by ‘Amelie’s enrapturing effect on her, Rachael counts down her top 5 feelgood French films to lift your spirits on those rainy days of the soul.
This week’s scale: Tres bien or Tres mal
December 28, 2017
"He's a natural born world-shaker"
This week we’re watching Stuart Rosenberg’s classic prison drama ‘Cool Hand Luke’ and the team are all getting steamed up over how devastatingly attractive Paul Newman is. But while Paul is happy to ogle him online and try to emulate his lean, he is not totally convinced by a film that seems like a badly stitched together set of sketches. In an attempt to get to the bottom of exactly why he didn’t connect with ‘Cool Hand Luke’, Paul asks Andy and Rachael to explain why the film is considered a classic. While Rachael goes straight to her beloved music and sings the praises of composer Lalo Schifrin’s jazzy score, Andy pinpoints performance as the key to the film’s brilliance. While no-one’s that taken with the heavy-handed religious angle, Andy and Rachael struggle to convince Paul that a symbol of oppression is worth anything if they happen to be dead. Still, everyone enjoys the egg-eating scene and, despite once believing it was impossible, Andy unearths details of the current record-holder in boiled egg eating, who has bested Luke’s record by some considerable distance. Also, the team discuss whether the life story of ‘Cool Hand Luke’ screenwriter Donn Pearce would make a better movie in itself.
Elsewhere, inspired by the numerous collaborations between Stuart Rosenberg and Paul Newman, Rachael looks at some other long-term actor-director partnerships.
This week’s scale: Cool Hand Luke or Cool Hand Puke
December 14, 2017
“The D is silent”
This week we’re watching Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist western ‘Django Unchained’ starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio and the team are in two minds about its uncomfortable mixture of tones. While Paul wonders if presenting Spoiler has made him extra-sensitive, Rachael discusses her differing reactions to cartoonish splatter and realistic brutality, while Andy feels that the film merely uses slavery as a catalyst to stoke the flames of the audience’s bloodlust. While Rachael cringes at Tarantino’s decision to include jarring modern music on the soundtrack when he had access to the supreme Ennio Morricone, Andy suggests that Tarantino’s penchant for homage may undermine his own unique voice. Paul explains the etiquette of watching violent 18 rated films in coffee shops and the team discuss whether revenge films are morally acceptable in a society that is perhaps too in love with violence already. On the plus side, everyone adores Christoph Waltz. And is Quentin Tarantino really comparable to J.K. Rowling?
Elsewhere, Andy explores whether real life tragedy can ever be successfully combined with fiction, with reference to the ‘X-Men’ films, ‘Quantum Leap’ and Jerry Lewis’s lost item of cult obsession ‘The Day the Clown Cried’.
This week’s scale: Taranti-no or Taranti-yes
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