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Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra

14 October 2013-10-14

Out this week in the UK Behind the Candelabra (E One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Most stars won’t touch an unsympathetic role, for fear of how it will play with their fans. Not so Michael Douglas. Again and again he’s waded in where others fear to tread, playing assholes, psychos and now Liberace, the gayest man in the world, if Steven Soderbergh’s film is to be believed. This is the movie that Hollywood wouldn’t fund, we are told, because of its gay subject. On the evidence of the movie it seems clear they wouldn’t fund it because of the way it portrays the flamboyant pianist – Douglas is majestically reptilian as Liberace and has clearly … Read more
Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy

Sid and Nancy

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 12 October Sid Vicious arrested, 1978 On this day in 1978, Sid Vicious, the former bassist with the punk rock band The Sex Pistols, was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. The two of them had been staying at the Chelsea Hotel. Vicious had woken up, groggy from a night of heroin-taking, to find his girlfriend dead from a knife wound. “I stabbed her but I never meant to kill her,” he later told police, though he also claimed that she had fallen onto the knife. Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, was 21 and just over three months … Read more
Michel Piccoli as the pope, flanked by the Swiss Guard in We Have a Pope

We Have a Pope

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 11 October Second Vatican Council convenes, 1962 On this day in 1962, Pope John XXIII formally opened the Second Vatican Council. The first Vatican Council had been held nearly 100 years before, the most remembered of its declarations being that the Pope was infallible, when speaking ex cathedra. But back, or forward, to the Second, its aim being, broadly, to work out what the hell to do with the 20th century. The solution was to modernise. Out went the insistence that the Catholic church was the only way to sanctification and truth. Out went the Latin mass. In came a renewed … Read more
Jack Lemmon in The China Syndrome

The China Syndrome

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 10 October Nuclear plant Windscale catches fire, 1957 On this day in 1957, the nuclear plant at Windscale in North West England caught fire. Hastily conceived and built after the Second World War, Windscale was originally part of Britain’s attempt to build a nuclear bomb. At this point there was very little nuclear expertise in the world and Britain was definitely not in the vanguard. So the plant was poorly designed and badly maintained, leading to a fire in Pile 1 which burned away for 48 hours before anyone realised what was going on. No one knew what to do. Do … Read more
Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster


A movie for every day of the year – a good one 9 October Aileen Wuornos executed, 2002 On this day in 2002, the serial killer Aileen Wuornos was killed by lethal injection in Florida. She had been found guilty on six counts of first degree murder. Her father, who she never met, was a schizophrenic who was convicted of sex crimes against children. Aileen’s mother abandoned her and her brother, leaving them to be brought up by her grandfather. Which sounds cosy until we learn that at 13 Aileen was pregnant after having been raped by one of her grandfather’s friends. At 15 she was homeless, and started earning a living as … Read more
Paul Giamatti in American Splendor

American Splendor

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 8 October Harvey Pekar born, 1939 On this day in 1939, Harvey Lawrence Pekar was born, in Cleveland, Ohio. And that’s where he died too, in Cleveland, Ohio. An underground comicbook artist, if not THE underground comicbook artist (fight that one out with Robert Crumb), he is credited with changing the way graphic novels were perceived. Largely responsible, in fact, for them being called graphic novels in the first place. That’s down to his subject matter. Staying away from fantasy and sci-fi, comedy and stoner musing, Pekar depicted the life he saw happening all around him. His works are autobiographical, downbeat, … Read more
Ulrich Mühe

The Lives of Others

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 7 October Foundation of the German Democratic Republic, 1949 On this day in 1949, the German Democratic Republic (DDR in German) formally came into being. After losing the war, Germany had first had its eastern border shifted considerably to the west, to the Oder-Neisse line (reducing its landmass by about 25%). Germany had then been divided up between the four “victorious” powers, USA, USSR, GB and France (on the winning side if not technically victorious), with the easternmost portion of what was left handed over to the USSR (former German territory further east became part of Poland). Known sarcastically in the … Read more
Hind Sabry and Adel Imam in The Yacoubian Building

The Yacoubian Building

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 6 October Anwar Sadat assassinated, 1981 On this day in 1981, the 62-year-old president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated by an army officer. Hit 37 times, Sadat was dealt the fatal blow by a ricochet bullet. In his 11 years as president he had gone to war against Israel, resulting in the return of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt, then surprised many by formally recognising Israel, the first country to do so from the Arab world (though call an Egyptian an Arab and see what they say). Sadat also broke with his predecessor, Nasser, by instituting a multi-party system of … Read more
The cast of Romanzo Criminale looking cool

Romanzo Criminale

Translated as “Crime Novel”, this Italian drama follows three childhood friends, Il Freddo (Kim Rossi Stuart), Libano (a brilliantly psychotic Pierfrancesco Favino) and Il Dandi (Claudio Santamaria) as they make their way from smalltime thuggery to bigtime gangsterism. Finally, a film about gangsters made by real Italians, I hear you say. And they’re real gangsters too, the Magliani outfit, who not only hoovered up the drugs business in 1970s Italy but also got involved with the terrorist Red Brigades and the execution of the president, Aldo Moro, in 1978. Moustaches, lapels, chest hair, male jewellery. Being a film kicking off in the 1970s, Romanzo Criminale staggers under their weight in its pursuit of … Read more
Keir Dullea in 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 5 October Steve Jobs dies, 2011 On this day in 2011, Steven Paul Jobs died in Palo Alto, California, aged 56, of metastatic cancer of the pancreas. Famously fired in 1985 from Apple, the company he had started along with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in 1976, he went on to co-found Pixar, before being dramatically taken back by Apple in 1996, taking the company from near-bankruptcy back into profitability in two years. Jobs is often described as a visionary and regardless of whether you believe this was hype he had two insights which set him apart from his rivals. First, … Read more
Benoît Poelvoorde in Man Bites Dog

Man Bites Dog

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 4 October Belgium is created, 1830 On this day in 1830, the state and kingdom of Belgium was created, after a revolution against the rule of King William I which saw the southern, mostly Catholic, significantly French-speaking states break away from the largely protestant, significantly Flemish-speaking United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Though ostensibly linguistic and religious in origin, the revolution was in fact fuelled by economics – the “Belgian” territories were more populous though far poorer, more rural, less well represented in government, than the northern “Dutch” territories. On being granted independence by the Treaty of London in 1830, the Belgian … Read more
Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network

The Social Network

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 3 October The Mickey Mouse Club debuts, 1955 On this day in 1955, Walt Disney launched The Mickey Mouse Club on the ABC television network. Essentially a variety show that made stars of its mini-vaudevillians (named Mouseketeers), it was hosted by a number of adult comperes. Initially this was Jimmy Dodd, who would intersperse performances by the kids and old episodes of shows such as The Hardy Boys with a song and a homily of his own composing, thus setting the tone for the MMC – sunny, positive, virtuous. The show continued until its cancellation in 1959, but then continued to … Read more

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