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31 December 2015

Best of the NS in 2015: Arts

Our best pieces from the past year. In this selection, our favourite writing about the arts.

By New Statesman

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If Bond villains reflect the anxieties of their era, what can we learn from today’s baddies?

By Christopher Frayling

From Dr No to the new Spectre, 007 villains have a lot to tell us about the state of the nation.

In defence of cultural appropriation

By Yo Zushi

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Our cultures show that we can select who we are and who we want to be – but can they also be misused?

Is Star Wars a right-wing parable – or a call to solidarity?

At first glance, the politics of Star Wars are highly regressive – but across the six films, the importance of building a coalition of all classes and occupations is clearly shown. 

Mawkish tabloid fare: how the Amy Winehouse film fails

By Kate Mossman

Amy laments the way Winehouse’s life was intruded upon while relying on the same methods to create drama.

Revelations from a life of storytelling

By Alan Garner

At the inaugural Garner Lecture, the writer and storyteller reflected on a lifetime in tales – and vowed to keep taking risks.

The dangerous mind of Richard Dadd

By Michael Prodger

Richard Dadd painted some dazzling visions abroad but found peace within the walls of Broadmoor.

To look a courtier in the mouth: how to see beyond the stiff upper lips in Goya’s portraits

By Craig Raine

Goya’s sketched faces are haunting islands of humanity in a sea of guarded aristocrats.

Ryan Adams’s 1989 and the mansplaining of Taylor Swift

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Despite good intentions, Ryan Adams’s 1989 has enabled dozens of music journalists to mansplain Taylor Swift’s own album to her.

Want to understand Star Wars fans? Start here

By Tom Shone

It’s junk cinema but, like the Millennium Falcon, it’s fast junk – and don’t you dare call it junk unless you’re a fan, for only its fans can criticise it.

A gift for John Berger

By Ali Smith

The art critic who contains multitudes.

Rating algorithms, horse falls and cartoon penises: the BBFC in 2015

By Barbara Speed

Over a century on from its birth, the British Board of Film Classification is struggling to make its way in the digital world.

Atypical girls: the women of rock in their own words

By Kate Mossman

The question, “What’s it like being a girl in a band?” has dogged female rock musicians for decades. I wanted to make a programme in which they tell their own stories.

House of Cards creator Michael Dobbs: “I must have sold my soul”

By Anoosh Chakelian

The man behind television’s most masterful political operator reveals the inspiration for his story, gives advice to the PM on the powers of persuasion, and recalls his own real-life political dramas.

Harry Potter isn’t over, but what happens when a fandom grows up?

By Elizabeth Minkel

A visit to GeekyCon, which started out as a Harry Potter fan convention, reveals the way the generation who grew up with the boy wizard are turning their magical passions into real-world success.

The end of One Direction: why I’ll miss the fans more than the remarkably average boys

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The boys that make up One Direction may be stunningly mediocre, but the fans are extraordinary.

Why you should be watching Broad City

By Stephanie Boland

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s series pushes its provocative and surreal comedy even further in its second season.

No, Mad Max: Fury Road is not a feminist masterpiece (but that’s OK)

By Tracy King

Because most Hollywood films are so bad at dealing with female characters, Mad Max: Fury Road stands out for trying. But it still uses lazy, sexist tropes and clichéd plot devices.

The dark side of fashion: on the lives of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano

By Helen Lewis

With the genius of fashion increasingly subsumed by the demands of mass commerce, it’s hard not to implicate the industry in Galliano and McQueen’s fates.

How that deleted lesbian scene in Love Actually should have gone

By Eleanor Margolis

If the film was made in a more utopian 2003, this is what it would have looked like.