Culture

The Death of Stalin

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Before the inevitable “buts” appear, let me just nail the fact that this is an excellent movie — intelligent, witty and showcasing some seriously bravura film acting. There are no buts in the statement that if it opens in a cinema near you, you should see it. If it doesn’t, travel.

As the title suggests this is about that punch the air moment in 1953 when Joe Stalin dies and a Monsters Ball breaks out as the blood-soaked dotards on the Soviet Politbureau duck and dive to seize his crown as general secretary.

The Party

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Potter conceived her latest movie as a kind of State of the Nation comedy exploring contemporary politics, particularly Brexit Britain.

She has assembled a fine ensemble cast including Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy and Bruno Ganz. But the director has had to work with a micro budget and it shows.

It is set in one location — the ground floor of a London townhouse; it’s in black and white shot from one hand held camera; and it runs in real time — a spritely 70 minutes.

Oslo

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The Berlin Wall has fallen, offering the chance to do what has so far proved impossible. That is how Norwegian sociologist Terje Rod-Larsen (played by Toby Stephens) argues the case to go ahead with the secret talks that resulted in the Oslo Accord of 1993 and the famous handshake between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the White House.

Basquiat: Boom for Real

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Prior to the Barbican’s latest exhibition, Boom for Real, I knew very little about Jean-Michel Basquiat beyond the fact that he was black, hung out with Andy Warhol and died at the age of 27. Like most casual observers then, I was astonished when one of his untitled portraits sold for $110.5 million (£85 million) at Sotheby’s earlier this year.

Run The Jewels 3

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Judging by the opening track you might think that Run The Jewels spent the two years since their last album in anger-management classes. Compared to the in-your-face opening line of their previous album (“I’m gonna bang this bitch the fuck out!”), RTJ3’s opener “Down” reflects on dark days trying to cope with “a pure absence of hope”.

But these aren’t downbeat observations. RTJ draw strength from those times, resolving instead relentlessly to assert themselves through their music. The anger of the previous two albums is still here, only much more focused.

Moonlight

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Set against the blazing Florida glow during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the US, Moonlight documents the turbulent life of Chiron, a young black man. We see him at three pivotal stages in his life — aged ten, 16 and in his early 30s.

From boy to manhood, the film tracks his key relationships: that with his drug-addicted mother Paula (powerfully played by Naomie Harris), which is disintegrating; with his closest friend Kevin; and with the surrogate parents he finds in the form of local drug dealer Juan and his girlfriend Teresa.

Toni Erdmann

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Maren Ade’s film takes on modern life, gender, family and the neoliberal bullshit of the corporate world. Ines, our protagonist and hero, works as a business consultant in Bucharest.

She is smart, driven and committed to the world in which she works and the money she makes. She lives fast, she gives a lot and she expects a lot back.

The Lower Depths

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This play, written by Maxim Gorky in 1902, was widely produced across Europe and made Gorky’s reputation as the father of socialist realist writing.

Gorky experienced the vicissitudes of life. He lost his father at five years old and ended up living in his grandfather’s house where everyone was “choked by a fog of mutual hostility”. After his mother died he was kicked out and left to fend for himself aged eleven. He spent five years wandering across Russia.

We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service

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A Tribe called Quest’s new album is a breath of fresh air in the stale halls of “new” hip hop.

For the last couple of years a dominant theme in US hip hop has been the emergence of trap music. Artists such as Future, Rich Homie Quan, Lil Uzi, Young Thug and others have been propelled into the limelight, and signed for millions, due to their categorisation as trap artists.

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