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The very late review

One of the things I’m going to be doing in this blog, over the next ten years (it never stops being silly, starting sentences with that defiant claim, but there you go), is trying to get the tiny little ‘virtual communty’ we’ve established here to work together on a variety of projects. There are already a couple, most noticeably the grand iPod mission, arising from the ten-year challenge. Now for something a bit different.

Because of my new fatherhood duties, my professional commitments, and the general slightly out-of-control-ness of my life, I’m conscious that I am constantly missing a load of TV series, films, books, experiences and so which everyone else is raving about. Or not even things which everyone’s raving about – just things which I might’ve enjoyed. Sometimes I catch up, but sometimes not. Quite honestly, the world is too stuffed full of music, art and books for anyone to have a chance of seeing/hearing/checking out even a quarter of it. This is why we have reviews, essentially: to distill this enormous mass of work into something comprehensible. Writing reviews is a bit like going to the toilet in the open air: liable to cause upset, but occasionally necessary. They are, though, only as reliable as the person writing them.


You’re a pretty reliable bunch of people. And some of you seemingly consume a hell of a lot of popular culture. And quite a few of you either are writers, or want to be, or want to be involved in the arts in some way.

So every week or so, I’m going to put up some things which I always intended to watch/read/etc, but never managed to. Anyone who’s seen, watched, etceteraed it, is then invited to write a little review and give it a mark out of 10. The review can be any length from a word to a minor dissertation, as long as it can be posted as a Comment. This way, we all get to chat about something fun; I get a quick summary of what some fairly trustworthy people thought of things I missed, and so I look more informed and can bluff at parties; I get recommendations of how to spend my scarce free time; and the numerous people out there who are amateur or indeed semi-pro critics get to flex their critical muscle. Everyone wins.


-Debate is good, so feel free to take issue with previous posts, but don’t slag anyone else’s opinion off, if you see what I mean.

-Try to confine yourself to the things I’ve nominated, rather than just dumping reviews of other stuff;

-Your tone can be deliberately upmarket like a real journalist, or you can say ‘it was amazing/shit’, it doesn’t matter at all; so don’t be deterred from joining in by worrying about your style;

-Rick (you know who you are), feel free to review the films with your full critical might;

-If you’ve not seen/heard etc any of the things, but want to have a go, feel free to guess, or say ‘I heard from my mate…’ etc, because this isn’t a real newspaper so we can afford a bit of unprofessionalism;

-Hmm, that’s it, I think. Not sure it was entirely worth beginning a ‘Rules’ section for that many. But there we go.

When a few days have passed for everyone to register their opinion, I will write a blog summing up what the Watson Blog-Reading Fraternity’s corporate verdict on each thing was, and its average mark out of 10 – that’s why I want you to score things, silly and reductionist as it may seem to the more serious-minded critic. Over the ten years we will build up a formidable body of unbiased writing on a wide range of cultural and other subjects. Hopefully.

Once again this is me pushing myself to be an optimist by convincing myself people will join in with something I’m keen on. Hope you will. I’ve done tiny versions of this experiment on Twitter and it was great. But this ain’t Twitter, Toto. Or something.

Right, here are this week’s items for your consideration:


A SINGLE MAN (film; I’m doing really badly seeing films with adjectives about men in the title)

GLEE (TV series)

SOPHIE DAHL (person; never quite understood who she is)

THE PREGNANT WIDOW by Martin Amis (novel)

ONE LIFE STAND by Hot Chip (album; I will get this anyway, but interested if anyone’s heard it)

CONTRA by Vampire Weekend (album; I already have this but want to see what others think)

WATER-SKIING (activity – I’ve never done it)

CRISPS (food; I have had these, in all honesty, but it’s just there in case someone feels left out by not being familiar with any of the others)

Get criticising!

UPDATE 7pm, 23/03/10

A couple of things:

-’A Simple Man’ should have been ‘A Single Man’. Thanks to those who were too polite to mention it, or too tired to notice it. I’ve now edited it, obviously.

 -Don’t forget to give marks out of 10, if you want to be included in the Consensus. Obviously I can estimate a mark based on your comment, but still.

-Lastly, quite a few people haven’t come across any of the advertised things, so here are a couple more:

AN EDUCATION (film; I know I should have seen it by now. I know)

HOLLYOAKS (TV show. Never seen it ever, at all. Ever)

THE SEA by Corinne Bailey Rae (album. Assume she is quite dull, but that could be totally unfair).

Good luck. Mark x

137 Responses

  1. Gilly says:

    Glee: As I’m in a America, I’ve had a little more exposure to it — I waited until the season (first half – it is now on a mid-season break) was over and then watched all 12 episodes in a weekend. I’ll be honest — it took a few episodes to win me over. It is for, about, and mocking theater geeks, and as I one I (like many others) like it. The music is good, the plots consciously pretty shallow (which somehow makes them better), but I think the supporting cast is what makes it a series to watch. ‘Sue Sylvester’ is one of the greatest family-show villains I have seen in a good while. There is, of course, a mindless teen following, but this is true of many things and I think that adults can, and do, enjoy watching the “drama” unfold.
    8/10 ( The music/cast sells it).

  2. Gilly says:

    *in America

    Also, I have reconsidered. 9/10

  3. Bloomability (Beth) says:

    The only one of these things I have watched was Glee, so I shall review that. I bloody hate it.
    Their versions of Don’t Stop Believing by Journey (one of the best songs ever written imho) and Defying Gravity (from my favourite musical) are utterly awful. Glee is just a slightly more grown up version of High School Musical, and at least in HSM they sang new songs.

    My sisters (Kate,12 & Maia, 8) both adore the show, mainly because they just like what’s popular, and at the moment they are singing the chorus of Sweet Caroline over and over again on the landing. They are far louder than my iPod’s maximum volume, and I am slowly becoming insane.
    I know this is a pretty rubbish review with barely any explaination, but it is just wrong. I just hope the craze dies as soon as possible.
    I can’t believe Joss Whedon would even touch the show with a bargepole, and even though I usually adore all Whedon-related stuff, I will be steering clear. Why, NPH, why?

  4. Bloomability (Beth) says:

    I forgot my Glee rating. 1/10 because it stops Maia from singing Hannah Montana songs occasionally.

  5. Kerri says:

    Glee – seems to be the epitome of all that I hate about tv, so I will be avoiding it at all costs.

    Hollyoaks – as above

    A Serious Man – Coen brothers doing what they do best 9/10

    A Single Man (I have also said simple instead of single every time I have mentioned this movie and don’t know why, it’s infuriating) – a bit arty and some strange visual saturation going on all the way through, supposed to be a style but not quite sure it worked. Great acting from Colin Firth though. 8/10

    An Education – Great start for Carey Mulligan and amazing support from Peter Sargaard and Alfred Molina. Will be looking out for more from her in the future. The film itself was above average but not amazing 7/10

    Hot Chip- haven’t heard the album but the video directed by Peter Serafinowicz for the first track, One Life Stand, is AWESOME!

    Sophie Dahl- Very pretty girl, obviously. I watched her effort as the new Nigella earlier. I think she’s a bit off with the fairies myself, but some of the food looked lovely. 4/10

    Haven’t tried water skiing but have tried jet skiing. Immense fun with less risk of falling on your face! 10/10

    Crisps – It’s gotta be wotsits or quavers. 10/10

  6. Madeleine says:

    A single man – Gorgeous, incredible, heartbreaking. You will hear (and probably have heared, I haven’t read all the previous comments because they number about 90 at this time) about how beautiful the imagery of this film is and how just good looking it is. This is completely true, but the most important part is that it doesn’t take over the narrative, the emotional story and the preformances but instead compliments them tremendously. Colin Firth is phenomenal, giving a restrained, unraveling from the inside preformance, he was ROBBED at the oscars. All the acting is great, though I did have trouble not yelling out “It’s Tony! Tony from skins!! Hey Tony!” when Nicholas Hoult came on. I think this film should definatly have won more awards than it did, though I’ve not seen the Hurt Locker.
    Vampire Weekend “Contra” – I love it! Its not a huge departure from their first album, but the sound is always interesting and you get something new out of it on repeated listens. Their tickets sold out so fast in Brisbane that I’m flying to Sydney to see them live and I can’t wait.
    Glee (I’ve watched about two episodes but everyone else is commenting on it…) – I find it boring and a bit annoying but my mum loves it….

  7. Madeleine says:

    Shit! Ratings – A single Man – 9/10, Contra 8/10

  8. Robyn says:

    Glee – 9/10 one of the best tv series on recently – amazing singing from broadway actors/actresses and general hilarity and briliantness. so much better than say high school musical – they can actually sing/act and the story lines are brilliant. Sue Sylvester is the cynic/critic/general sabotager and is so funny – that’s how Sue C’s it – is her crazy opinion on things! I love it, as do a lot of women and not that many men.

    Crisps – 9/10 also brilliant but bad for you, though the taste outweighs the badness…personal favourite is walkers cheese and onion – smell horrendous after you have eaten them but so tasty :) yum

    the rest I have not seen/experienced, though I spent all summer by a lake in America and watched copious amounts of kids learning to waterski and it looks hard and like a lot of effort. but worth it and great fun! 8/10

  9. rachel winter says:

    ah now CRISPS *blows on fingers and rubs hands together* crisps I know about!
    at the moment I am addicted to walkers chicken flavour,they’re very more-ish (theyve got that savoury gravyish taste which might come under that umami they’re all on about now)

    GLEE – I started off loving the first 2 episodes, but kind of got very ‘meh’ towards it by the fourth and fifth episode. So maybe watch it if its on, but dont rush around like a loon trying to catch it.

  10. rachel winter says:

    ah and yes I DID forget the scores:

    Crisps 10/10
    Glee 7/10

    late entry – SOPHIE DAHL (or the model with the powerpuff eyes as I like to call her) seems lovely, but lettuce is not a sandwich. Cool grandad though.
    rating 9/10

  11. Delila says:

    Re: Bloomability (Beth). Wow I did NOT know Joss Whedon was involved with Glee! I guess he really liked that musical Buffy episode eh. Interesting. V. interesting…

  12. Catherine says:

    Can’t help y’all this week. I cand rent A Single Man, which I might do this weekend. A Pregnant Widow comes out May 11 in America. That’s 4 days before I leave for Europe. Probably can get it to read on the way over unless, Mark, you come up with another book you would like to know about which is currently available in U.S.

    This should be fun.

    Good night!

  13. Alice says:

    Water-skiing: when I was little my mum decided to try out water-skiing on a family holiday. On her first attempt she got her legs tangled up with the wires. When the boat started up, the handle was ripped out of her hands, the wires ripped across the inside of her thighs, ripping enormous welts into them. Result: one day at hospital, family holiday ruined, plus a life-time of shudders at the mere mention of anything water-skiing related. Score: 0/10

    On a happier subject, An Education is the best film I saw last year: sharp storytelling, fabulously acted. 8/10

  14. Phill says:

    I’m a bit late to the party but I’m going to go for it anyway, without reading what anyone else has said. So, sorry if this is just rehashing the same old stuff.

    GLEE: Watched all the episodes so far. It’s half really good and half… a bit crap. What I mean by that is, they have some genuinely touching moments – quite understated actually, a bit like a good British show. But then they have moments of utter madness where the characters just oscillate wildly between being one thing and another.

    Also, pretty much all the characters behave quite badly – as in, do the wrong / immoral thing. This didn’t sit right with me, it was actually quite tough to watch.

    Summary: If you’re going to watch it, watch it for the music. 6/10.

    VAMPIRE WEEKEND – CONTRA: Really didn’t like it as much as the first album. I can’t put my finger on exactly why (just as well I’m not a music critic then, eh?) but it just didn’t have the same sense of fun that the first album did.

    Summary: Decent album but disappointing compared to the first. 7/10.

  15. Ally says:

    I’ve only watched Glee and eaten crisps…. And these seem to be two of the most popular reviewed things.

    Glee is probably a 7 out of 10. The singing is quite good and the plot isn’t half bad. Although sometimes the characters seem a little… overbearing. But that might just be me.

    Crisps are a solid 10/10, although I call them chips. When placed inside a buttered roll the combined might of both these foodstuffs places them at an 11/10 rating.

    Now I’m hungry :P

  16. Dawn says:

    GLEE – Watched one – didn’t grab me 3/10

    ONE LIFE STAND by Hot Chip The single is excellent so I am hopeful for album 6/10

    CONTRA by Vampire Weekend Sublime – as good (if not better) as the first in my opinion. Highlights – Giving Up the Gun and Run 9/10

    AN EDUCATION Sublime – cast excellent – story involving (and based on real-life – who’d a thunk it) 8/10

  17. Lauren says:

    Glee is pretty good, but it’s better if you record it and watch it back later. That way you can skip the musical numbers.


  18. Annie says:

    Just bought and watched An Education.
    Beautiful film, well acted and directed.
    Beautiful and interesting re growing up, love, excitment, ambition, life in the 50s and 60s.
    But it was uncomfortable in that it’s about a man in mid thirties picking up a 16 year old schoolgirl. Would have been less sleazy if she had been a few years older.
    So potential for an 8/9 out of ten – but with the uncomfortable feeling bringing it down to maybe a 6/7 out ten.

  19. Ana says:

    My two pennorth worth…

    Sophie Dahl
    Marrying a very short man. Jazz singer I believe. Stunning and very tall. Writes books about food, bizarre for a skinny model. 7/10.

    A Single Man
    Depressing. But not bad for it. Beautiful to watch – everything and everyone in it is absolutely stunnning, most of the rest of it fades next to Colin Firth who is absolutely brilliant in this. Suffers slightly for the comparison. Worth seeing – 6/10

    An education
    Lovely, heartwarming film. Would teach you not to trust anyone. Ever. If you didn’t remember it was fiction… Will finish watching it with a massive crush on Carey Mulligan – 8/10

    Yum. Especially salt and vinegar. 9/10

  20. Billybobsteele says:


    I just ate 2 small Pringle tubes and there’s still room for lunch! They cover pretty much every flavour, size, shape and quantity so there’s something for everyone. If there’s a food you’re not sure you want to try, first try crisps of that flavour to find out if it’s the thing for you!


  21. Rob Millard says:

    Water Skiing – Tried it for a bit once. Largely consisted of face-planting into cold water followed by spluttering and groaning. Can imagine it’s great fun if you get it right though. 3/10

    Crisps – Brilliant, but not nutritious or healthy at all. A once a week complement to a sandwich rather than the keystone of your diet. 5/10

    Hollyoaks – The actors are dreadful and the storylines are either ridiculous or mundane, but the main thing that upsets me is when try to be arty with the little “concept” bits – they make me want to eat my own head. 0/10

  22. Rachel says:

    Everyone seems to have reviewed Glee and Crisps (I’d give both 8) so I’ll do A Serious Man.

    I love most things that the Coen Brothers do and this one didn’t disappoint. I agree that it left a sort of confused feeling at the end but that’s why I love the Coen brothers.
    The script was funny and intelligent and it’s probably one of my favourites of theirs.

  23. Rachel says:

    For some reason I got an emoticon come up instead of the number 8

  24. Kat says:

    Glee- I love it! I know I should probably be ashamed of this but I’m not. The numbers are well sung with an original spin on each, the acting is good and I never fail to feel better having watched an episode and danced like a loon around my tiny Uni room to each song. Amidst the generally cheesiness there is also a surprisingly high level of sarcasm and the plot is quite darkly twisted in places. In short, after the first episode (which I admit was a bit too saccharinely sweet) it just keeps getting better. And also the characted of Sue Sylvester, the ‘Gym’ teacher, has some of the funniest lines I have ever heard! 9/10

  25. Julie says:

    Just realised I didn’t leave a score out of 10 for Glee [Comment 11] and if you don’t have the correct figures how ever can you give you fully scientific results? So you’d better have this: 7/10.

  26. Debbie C says:

    Glee – I’ve watched all the episodes that have been on so far and still can’t really decide whether I like it. But I do keep making the effort to watch it every week, so it should get some points for that at least. I’m a fan of musicals so I like the theatrical musical numbers, and the storylines seem to be getting more interesting as the series goes on. It’s very silly and unrealistic but that’s sort of the point; mostly it’s just fun. And there are occasionally some quite touching moments. (I’m starting to convince myself that I must actually like it!) Having said that, I wouldn’t buy it on DVD. Score: 6/10.

    Crisps – Although I much prefer savoury things to sweet, I also don’t like things that are too salty. So for me the best crisps to go for are plain Hula Hoops, or those square ones that I think are actually called Squares. These have a nice savoury flavour rather than a much-too-salty taste. In general, though, if I was recommending a savoury but not-too-salty-tasting snack, I’d probably just say avoid crisps altogether and have a mini sausage roll or something. Crisps are handy though because they come in a bag and don’t have to be kept in the fridge. Overall score: 4/10.

  27. Hannah says:

    Hmmm…Sophie Dahl, absolutely stunning, tall, Roald Dahl’s grandaughter, the most adorable clip of her saying something or other about him when she was about 4 played every time shes on anything, married amazing jazz guy, so…9/10

    Glee – BRILLIANT but marks get taken off for making me wish I was talented, but then put back on again for giving me another unattaable goal that I can strive for. So, 8/10.

  28. Hannah says:

    Oh, Hollyoaks too :) :

    Nevr know whats going on until you’ve seen a months worth of shows, everyone is so young and pretty that it’s totally unrealistic in a sort of fun way, but when you see the occasional less-than-attractive person you blech and then feel ashamed of yourself. Or you look in a mirror with the same result.
    But, as frothy nonsense on in the background,easy to laugh at if not with, it gets 4/10

  29. tothesky says:

    An Education

    I watched this a few weeks back on the plane. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I didn’t like any of characters and could not warm to any of them. The girl in the lead role (Carey Muligan) was particularly annoying and I couldn’t bring myself to sympathise with her at all. Something just didn’t feel right about it. Maybe I just dislike the fact that I was expected to like it and now feel left out simply because I didn’t. 5/10

    Vampire Weekend – Contra

    Absolutley love it. I don’t now enough about music to comment on melodies and beats etc but I love songs which make me happy or make me want to dance or feel anything. It’s not spectacularly different from their debut album but I don’t think that’s a paticularly bad thing. I have to listen ‘Run’ every day now or my day isn’t complete. 8/10

    For other ‘proper’ movie reviews you need Ultra Culture in your life.

  30. Sarah says:

    I’m a great fan of Glee. Ok, so the acting is awful, but most of the musical numbers are great. Some of the characters are also really well thought out, especially, as many people have said, Sue Sylvester. It’s a nice feel-good series, needing little thought and always leaves me smiling.

  31. ElizabethD says:

    A Single Man–
    There have been a lot of movies about a character dealing with grief. None of the others did it right.

  32. Rose says:

    Glee: One of my gay friends was raving about it and usually his taste is impeccable. I only made it through the first ten minutes of episode 1 then switched it off and have never gone back. When it comes to series, I love and prefer Damages. Very intelligent. Very dark. Demanding entertainment, if that makes sense. Glen Close’s acting is amazing, she is just pure evil.

    Water-skiing: Have only done it once as a part of a team-building exercise. Loved it. Most people struggeld getting started, it needs strenght but also good balance. In my case, being a keen skier helped. However, I am sure there is a way to minimise the impact of a fall. Well, we did not know and I ended up with two heavily bruised arms. Still, I am planning to do it again this summer.

    Sophie Dahl: Much prefer her grandfather, Roald Dahl (his short stories are the creepiest thing ever). I seem to recall that she used to be a “curvy” model but I think she has gone back to being waifer thin. Love her complexion though, very aristocratic pale.

    Crisps: Living in Switzerland (I am a native by the way), I miss the variety offered in the UK. Over here, crisps are either salted or covered in paprika. Only recently, Salt&Vinegar crisps have hit the stores but they seem to be popular. Hooray! You can get English brands but at a ridiculous cost.

  33. lisa brunders says:

    Hi Mark, sorry I’m late. Great idea, love it.

    Glee 4/10 watched first episode, agree with comments saying it’s good and bad. Loved the music, but not watched it again, so far.

    Crisps 7/10, would say 10/10 except for health reasons. I love them, salt n vinegar or prawn cocktail my favourite. Once visited a crisp factory and ate warm, unflavoured, crisps from the production line. Delicious. With crisps the fresher the better.

  34. Hannah says:

    Oh and I’ll do Contra too, because this is fun

    It’s very good, if you like the rest of Vampire Weekend’s music. Kind of quirky, offbeat, but just mainstream enough to be popular. Not as good as their first album, but then that was amazing. You should buy it. But if you haven’t got their first album (Vampire Weekend) buy that instead.
    Overall rating…7/10

  35. John says:

    Not many people seem to have tackled A Serious Man, so I’ll jump on that.

    I meant to review this for my rather feeble blog (above) when I saw it, but life intervened. I wish I’d got something down on paper at the time now, because I enjoyed it hugely and, never having seen a Coen Brothers film before, I suppose it’ll be my personal benchmark for any offerings of theirs in future.

    I don’t think I have ever seen a film which managed to be so funny without a single positive thing happening in it – ‘funny and heartwarming’ has been done to death as a sub-genre, as have ‘shocking but hilarious’ and ‘action-packed comedy thrill-ride’, so it was lovely to see a genuine tragicomedy which delivered the goods without feeling like it had been left overnight to soak in a tank of concentrated pathos. I shan’t give anything specific away, but essentially the film follows the intensely ordinary Larry, a lecturer, as his life gently collapses in the same way hundreds do every day – Michael Stuhlbarg does an extraordinary job of playing an utterly unexceptional fellow, which must be umpteen times harder than delibering a larger-than-life caricature of a part, and the supporting cast doesn’t miss a note.

    I suppose its reasonably heavy use of what I’m assured were excellent Jewish in-jokes makes it less accessible for goyim, but their inclusion was balanced so that they contributed to the film’s comedy for those ‘in the know’ whilst not actively detracting from the enjoyment of others. And if that’s the worst criticism of it I can find, it can’t be bad.


  36. Knox says:

    there are way too many comments for to even attempt reading them all, so will just jump in with a few sort of reviews:

    - hollyoaks – never waste your life watching it – ever. i have less time for hollyoaks than people who fell off the ‘lost’ bandwagon did for season 3 (i loved ‘lost’ by the way). it is just so trashy and tries hard to be cool, but above all has stuff in that i think is quite explicit for the time it’s on (i may come across as a prude, but some of the stuff on there is not what i want my niece to be seeing, and it’s not as if it’s on after or even close to the watershed). it takes all the worst things about soaps (the endless affairs, unlikely plot twists) and doesn’t have the loveable bits about it to redeem them. i used to watch it quite a bit when it first started and i think didn’t mind it so much, but just tuning in a few times recently (well, probably not for over a year now), i’ve just been a bit shocked by how bad it is.
    - Glee – i’ve only seen a couple of episodes, and think it’s cheesy, but do love it. it’s fun and silly, and has people singing – definitely not one to check out if you’re not into musical-type-things (i very much am) or american-type-things

  37. Knox says:

    ooh, marks out of ten (i realise these are too late to count, but….) hollyoaks – 0/10 (unless we can give minus marks?)
    Glee – 5/10

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