Disney the ecowarrior

Lost artworks by Disney animators have been restored to America after being discovered in Chibo University, Japan. The works, hand-picked by Walt Disney, were sent to Japan in 1960 as part of an exhibition which coincided with the opening of Sleeping Beauty.

The display, which was designed to explain the various processes of animation, included rare images from the Oscar winning cartoon Flowers and Trees. No doubt the leafy theme of the discovered paintings pleased David Whitely, the Cambridge professor responsible for giving Disney a green make-over. Although Bambi and Nemo may not seem likely eco-warriors Whitely’s new book The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation suggests that they are in fact instrumental in conveying the green message to a new generation. He praises how Disney encourages children to relate to the natural world, describing each film as: "a cultural arena within which serious environmental issues can be rehearsed and explored."

Forget April in Paris - next month New York will be the City of Love. Taking inspiration from the film Paris, Je T’aime (2006) the similarly narcissistic New York, I Love You will pull together a variety of directors, including Mira Nair and first-timer Scarlett Johansson. One key figure is missing however: Anthony Minghella. His feature for the series of short Manhattan based love stories (for which filming will begin next month) was one of a handful of projects that the British director had planned before his untimely death. However, Shekhar Kapur (Cold Mountain, Elizabeth) revealed this week that Minghella passed the work to him to complete shortly before he died. Writing in his blog, Kapur confirmed that Minghella had written his section of the Manhattan feature and discussed it with his chosen successor before his death: "He told me his film was about the value of life, and how people sometimes just throw away their lives unable to look beyond into the real beauty of it." Not a crime Minghella could be accused of. Indeed Kapur’s earnest summary of Minghella’s intentions perhaps exposes some of the good-natured sentimentality which permeates The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency (according to The New Statesman’s Rachel Cooke).

The British-born singer Estelle, currently at No. 1 with her single American Boy, has hit out at the recent rise of groomed white soul singers. In an interview with the Guardian, Estelle questioned the authenticity of hit artists such as Adele and Duffy: "I'm not mad at 'em - but I'm just wondering, how the hell is there not a single black person in the press singing soul?" Estelle, who grew up in London, but only found success after taking her music to New York, also criticised the British Music Industry’s support of black singers. Could this be about to change? In a recent article for The New Statesman, Daniel Trilling discusses Reggae MC’s in England and their influence upon the future of the music industry.

HELEN SLOAN / THE FALL 3 LTD
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The Fall is back - and once again making me weary

Five more episodes to go, after which its “feminist” writer (his word, not mine), Allan Cubitt, should pull the plug on it at last. Plus: Damned.

It is with much weariness that I return to The Fall (Thursdays, 9pm), the creepy drama that still doesn’t know whether it wants to be a horror-fest or a love story. I’ve written in the past about what I regard as its basic misogyny – to sum up, it seems to me to make a fetish of the violence committed against women, a preoccupation it pathetically tries to disguise by dint of its main character being a female detective – and I don’t propose to return to that theme now. However, in its early days, it was at least moderately gripping. Now, though, it appears to be recovering from some kind of nervous breakdown. If in series two the plot was wobbling all over the place, series three has misplaced the idea of drama altogether. Nothing is happening. At all.

To recap: at the end of the last series, Paul Spector, aka the Belfast Strangler (Jamie Dornan), had been shot while in police custody, somewhat improbably by a man who blames him for the demise of his marriage (oh, that Spector were only responsible for breaking up a few relationships). On the plus side for his supposed nemesis, DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), before he fell he led them to Rose Stagg, the ex-girlfriend he’d locked in the boot of a car some days previously, and she is going to live. On the minus side, Spector’s injuries are so bad, it’s touch and go whether he’ll survive, and so Gibson may never see him brought to justice. Of course, the word “justice” is something of a red herring here.

The real reason she wants Spector to live is more dubious. As she stared at his body in the ICU, all tubes and monitors, her expression was so obviously sexual – her mouth opened, and stayed that way, as her eyes ran over every part of his body – that I half expected her to reach out and stroke him. Just in time for this nocturnal visit, she’d slipped into another of her slinky silk blouses that look like poured cream. (Moments earlier – think Jackie Kennedy in 1963 – she’d still been covered in her love object’s blood.)

The entire episode took place at the hospital, police procedural having morphed suddenly into Bodies or Cardiac Arrest. Except, this was so much more boring and cliché-bound than those excellent series – and so badly in need of their verisimilitude. When I watch The Fall, I’m all questions. Why doesn’t Stella ever tie her hair back? And why does she always wear high heels, even when trying to apprehend criminals? For how much longer will the presumably cash-strapped Police Service of Northern Ireland allow her to live in a posh hotel? Above all, I find myself thinking: why has this series been so acclaimed? First it was nasty, and then it was only bad. Five more episodes to go, after which its “feminist” writer (his word, not mine), Allan Cubitt, should join Gibson in the ICU, where together they can ceremonially pull the plug on it at last.

Can Jo Brand do for social workers in her new comedy, Damned, what she did a few years ago for geriatric nurses in the brilliant Getting On? I expect she probably can, even though this Channel 4 series (Tuesdays, 10pm), co-written with Morwenna Banks and Will Smith, does have an awfully inky heart. Hungry children, drug-addict parents, a man who can go nowhere without his oxygen tank: all three were present and correct when Rose (Brand) went to visit a client who turned out to be a woman who, long ago, had nicked her (Rose’s) boyfriend. Ha ha? Boohoo, more like.

Damned is basically The Office with added family dysfunction. Al (Alan Davies) is a hen-pecked wimp, Nitin (Himesh Patel) is a snitch, and Nat (Isy Suttie) is the stupidest and most annoying temp in the Western world. This lot have two bosses: Martin (Kevin Eldon), a kindly widower, and Denise (Georgie Glen), the cost-cutting line manager from hell. And Rose has a plonker of an ex-husband, Lee (Nick Hancock). “I’ve been invited to the Cotswolds for the weekend,” he told her, trying to wriggle out of looking after the children. “Is that why you look like a knob?” she replied.

Jerky camerawork, naturalistic acting, a certain daring when it comes to jokes about, say, race: these things are pretty familiar by now, but I like it all the same.

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories