Peter Robinson

Who invented impressionism?

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Mass-produced prints of works by impressionist artists are so readily available that some people now see the art as bland with little to say about modern life. But when it was created it was seen as shocking and dangerously avant garde. The artists used experimental techniques and new media — such as ready mixed paint in tubes — bright colours, quick, obvious brush strokes and layers of texture.

Inherent Vice

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This entertaining movie has been described as a “surfer noir” and Joaquin Phoenix’s private investigator, Doc, as not so much a “gumshoe” as a “gum sandal”. It is the first film to be based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon and is suffused with dope smoke, paranoia and trippy episodes. The novel, which was published in 2009, renders 1960s Los Angeles counter-culture with aching nostalgia.

The Imitation Game

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“We’re going to break an unbreakable Nazi code and win the war” says Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) near the start of this new biopic of the computer pioneer.

For anyone who doesn’t know the story, well they do now. And that’s one of the problems for the film makers. So they tweak the plot, glam it up by getting Keira Knightly to do the exposition and add some extra espionage in case the raw elements aren’t enough.

'71

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71

A British soldier is deployed to a divided country he knows nothing about. The army is there to keep the peace but who is “friendly” and who is “hostile”, and who can he trust? This flawed but entertaining thriller could have been set during any number of wars, but this is 1971 in Belfast.

TTIP of a dangerous iceberg

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Ttip protest

September’s Trades Union Congress committed itself to “outright opposition” to the TTIP trade deal, now being drawn up in secret between the European Union and US. And for good reason.

What is TTIP?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which could unleash devastating attacks on jobs, public services and the environment. Its main focus is not to reduce trade tariffs between the US and EU, which are already minimal. Instead the danger lies in its attempts to reduce “non-tariff barriers to trade”.

If agreed, it would be the biggest trade and investment deal agreed outside the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Documenting the struggle

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Still the Enemy Within, the passionate, crowd-funded film about the 1984-85 Great Miners’ Strike, won the Audience Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival where it was premiered last month.

The film combines a wonderful mix of elements to illuminate the strike. First hand testimony comes from ex-miners, campaigners from Women Against Pit Closures and members of black, student and gay and lesbian support groups.

Why read 'Left Wing' Communism

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In August 1914 the Second International grouping of socialist parties failed its most important test with catastrophic consequences.

Nearly all the leaders of European socialism collapsed into chauvinism, supporting their own nations' interests in an imperialist war which cost the lives of tens of millions of workers.

One of the few parties to remain against the war throughout was the Bolsheviks in Russia. The experience of war and disillusionment with their leaders led to the radicalisation of workers and soldiers.

30 Years by The Pogues

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Out now, £44.99

One of the great voices from Thatcher's Britain is back to remind us even if we are in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars. The Pogues have produced a commemorative box set to celebrate 30 years since the release of their first album. Many people will only know the band from their seasonal epic "Fairytale of New York" so now you can buy all their albums in one fell swoop.

Gordon Parks: Photofile

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This is a beautiful new addition to the Photofile series. Parks's photographic career spanned the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The book gives us a revealing history of African American life and much more. Despite being born into poverty in Kansas and sometimes living on the streets, Parks fought to develop his "artistic self" by writing, working as a musician and practicing as an artist.

Divine Justice for the Soul

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Review of 'Saint Oscar', Terry Eagleton, Bookmarks £3.50

On the other side of the Strand from Charing Cross station is a strange statue to one of the street's most famous residents and its most gifted ever writer. An iron bust of Oscar Wilde looks up from a concrete coffin which bears the legend, 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars'. Walking past, I always find it reassuring to place my hand on Oscar's head and spare him a quick thought, destroyed as he was by the British state, dead at 46, a man of rare humanity.

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