Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

3 April 2015

PHOTOGRAPHY: The Syngenta Photography Award, London

“You’re quite often looking at something that is terrifying or really upsetting but which actually contains incongruous beauty”

Sue Steward, photographic critic for ‘The Evening Standard’

The Syngenta Photography Award focuses on environmental imagery showing difficult truths about the world through stunning pictures. Among the finalists on show at London’s Somerset House this year are Richard Allenby-Pratt’s depictions of abandoned developments in Dubai (pictured above), which suggest almost sci-fi levels of excess in what is already a naturally beautiful landscape. It begs the question: do these half-finished buildings need to be there? Perhaps we wouldn’t be photographing the surrounding landscapes if they weren’t.

FILM: While We’re Young

“They’re calling this the hipster-baiting comedy – and it needs to be done”

Karen Krizanovich, film critic

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a middle-aged creative couple who might just now be teetering on the wrong side of “cool” and so take it upon themselves to put this situation right in Noah Baumbach’s painfully funny comedy While We’re Young. This well-observed tale is an intelligent and well-paced reflection on what it means to grow old gracefully and how to do it with a bit of good humour.

MUSIC: Buena Vista Social Club, Lost and Found

“The record has a sound and an environment to it that’s very unique and instantly recognisable”

Nick Gold, World Circuit Records

The classic album Buena Vista Social Club from 1997, in which US musician Ry Cooder collaborated with Cuban bandleader Juan de Marcos González and his fellow Cuban musicians needs no introduction. But now a selection of newly unearthed recordings from those original sessions have been discovered and Lost and Found is the result. Any opportunity to re-indulge in the infectious rhythms of Cuban music is fine by us and this release also acts as a timely reminder for anyone who hasn’t yet sought out the original album to swiftly do so.

TV: Louis Theroux, By Reason of Insanity

“Even when he was doing the silly things he was always a brilliant interviewer – there are elements of this programme that are quite incredible”

Alice Vincent, arts and entertainment writer, ‘The Telegraph’

Continuing his evolution from geeky gonzo journalist into serious documentarian, Louis Theroux is back on our screens with By Reason of Insanity, a two-part programme for the BBC looking at mental health in the US. Theroux’s ever-polite mannerisms have always been an unusual fit for tough filming environments such as these. But it’s his fish-out-of-water persona that actually allows this deft master to get away with insightful films that have become his trademark.

BOOK: The Old Boys: the Decline and Rise of the Public School by David Turner

“He really frames the question so that it sheds light on other education sectors”

Fleur Macdonald, editor, ‘The Omnivore’

Public schools – the educational establishments of the UK’s well-to-do – are always a controversial subject, especially around election times such as now when it often appears that the country’s ruling elite all attended the same pricey learning establishments. David Turner’s new book The Old Boys: the Decline and Rise of the Public School looks past the class divide and the eccentric customs – such as Westminster School's Pancake Grieze, pictured above – to explain why the school system in the UK has always had two tiers over the course of hundreds of years. Whether you agree with him about whther the system works is another matter.

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