Kooky horror show: Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel
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What’s the secret to a long and happy relationship? Disagree about everything

My friend Emma worships Wes Anderson; I can’t stand him – so we were looking forward to a good row after The Grand Budapest Hotel

I went to the cinema this week with my friend Emma Kennedy to see the Wes Anderson film. He only makes the one – the one in which the characterisation consists of giving an actor glasses and a moustache, the plot is someone telling you what happened in their dream and it all takes place in a world where everyone is kooky so no one is.

Now this is where Emma and I differ, Anderson being her favourite film director and my least. You have never heard two people argue about a film until you have heard Emma and I argue about The Royal Tenenbaums. Still, I am always willing to be persuaded and I thoroughly enjoy disagreeing with Emma, so on that basis we went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel.

It was as I feared and I spent a bleak hour and a half clutching a glass of wine for comfort while all around me people linked arms and chuckled warmly at the wry cleverness of it all. Oooh, a pink hotel! Look at their lovely suits! Oh, he’s drawing on a little moustache, how delightful!

As we leave the cinema, Emma is lit up with joy, while I am basically Muttley from Wacky Races, head down and muttering incomprehensible syllables under my breath: “Grrr, effing nimby-namby nonsense . . . Whimsical piles of tosh . . . Grrr . . .”

Emma is unperturbed, gleeful even. “Look at you, you’re like the dad in Steptoe,” she says happily. And I scowl at her happily. Neither of us budges an inch.

You see, I think it’s good to disagree. I’ve always hated that Kenneth Tynan quote, “I doubt if I could love anyone who did not wish to see Look Back in Anger.” I picture poor Mrs Tynan, trying to stick up for herself: “Darling, I just don’t fancy it, all that complaining and self-pity. Can’t we go to see something funny instead?” Or even: “Look, I’ve read the reviews – this Jimmy Porter sounds like a shit and the women have no good lines. For those reasons I’m out.” Nope, it wouldn’t have washed in the Tynan household.

It’s an attitude I see all the time on Twitter, which is usually one of my favourite places. People are forever banging on about how they couldn’t love anyone who didn’t appreciate this particular film or record, as if that were a very grown-up marker of taste, or passion, or commitment, or something or other. Whenever I make a disparaging remark about a new movie, I am unsettled to get a flood of replies saying, “Thanks, I’ll save myself the ticket price,” or, “Phew, won’t be going to see that then!”

“No!” I want to shout. “Do go. Don’t take my word for it. It’s sweet that you value my opinion but it’s more than likely that on several things – possibly even important things and very possibly this film – we might disagree.”

I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating. On one of my first dates with Ben (who I’ve lived happily with for over 30 years), we went to the cinema but, failing to agree on a film, went in to different screens: he to see Southern Comfort, I to see Tess of the d’Urbervilles. That might strike some as unromantic or revelatory of a deep incompatibility but to me it says the opposite: if there is a key to the success of our relationship, it’s been our ability to agree to differ. He loves football, I like the garden; he adores University Challenge, I prefer Strictly Come Dancing; he runs, I walk. We’ve learned not to recommend a book to each other, counting on the fingers of one hand instances when we’ve both enjoyed the same one. It’s almost as if we’re different people or something.

But this just won’t do nowadays. We live in adversarial times, in which we’re encouraged to look at a thing, come up with an opinion and stick to it. When we encounter the opposite view, we’re supposed to throw stones at it and then run away. Not me, buddy. I’m proposing a greater, Zen-like tolerance for all the foibles and failings of those we love, so that we reach a higher plane where we can even allow for the continued existence of people who like Wes Anderson films. Peace.

Tracey Thorn is a musician and writer, best known as one half of Everything but the Girl. She writes the fortnightly “Off the Record” column for the New Statesman. Her latest book is Naked at the Albert Hall.

This article first appeared in the 14 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Easter Double

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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism