ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
LAST YEAR Stephen Fry, the pleasantly ubiquitous media personality, made some hysterical remarks about critics that were picked up by people like me, but soon forgotten. Until last week, that is - when the Independent ran an interview with Tony Slattery, the less pleasantly ubiquitous media personality. Asked about the panning of his programme Ps and Qs, Slattery said: 'I certainly don't lose any sleep over it. Stephen Fry envisages the scene at the gates of Heaven and St Peter says, 'So what did you do in life?' - 'Oh, I was a critic.' - 'I beg your pardon. What does that mean?' - 'Well, people did things and I criticised it.' - 'Well, sod off out of here.' '

OK, Tony, try envisaging this scene. A media personality has passed on. 'So what did you do in life?' - 'Oh, this and that. Bit of acting, bit of comedy, a few ads. Presented a weekly quiz on etiquette.' - 'A what?' You can fill in the rest.

I don't blame Slattery for feeling sore. Ps and Qs is so awful that even the man ultimately responsible for it, Alan Yentob, has denounced it. But Slattery is not just another performer who's had some bad reviews. He is the presenter of a film review show, Saturday Night at the Movies. It may not be the greatest thing to be critical, but it beats being hypocritical.

THERE is a new arrival, of sorts, on the news stands. Premiere, the American film monthly, has launched a British edition. The parent styles itself the world's finest film magazine, which is a bit like being Britain's finest economist or Liverpool's finest goalkeeper, but may well be true. US Premiere is pretty good - remarkably so, given that it was set up by Rupert Murdoch (who sold it to K-III, an affiliate of the owners of RJR Nabisco). It is too much in Hollywood's pocket, and has a rare knack of devoting cover stories to turkeys (Hudson Hawk, V I Warshawski, Bonfire of the Vanities, Far and Away). But it's always entertaining and informed.

The British version is the same, but glossier and partly written in London. Oh good, I thought, some much needed competition for Empire. In fact it's produced by the same people, in league with K-III. That's capitalism for you.

The first issue consists largely of lists. I like a good list as much as the next person, but after trudging through 27 forthcoming films, 10 shots that shook the world, 20 people talking about their first movie, eight old Geena Davis films, several hundred snippets from the first five years of Premiere, the best picture of each year from 1907 to 1989, the 10 best rock films on video and the 10 best sports films on video, I felt a little listless.

There's one other thing. British Premiere costs pounds 2.50. US Premiere, sitting next to it at my newsagent's, costs pounds 1.95.

THIS column has not always been kind to Our Price, the country's longest chain of record shops. And I'm still waiting for them to reintroduce the systematic discounts with which they made their name. But my strictures haven't fallen on entirely

deaf ears. The latest in a series of special offers is their '65 Great Albums' promotion: CDs pounds 7.99, cassettes pounds 4.99. One person's great album, of course, is another's duffer: I'm not sure that Elton John's Sleeping with the Past has much to recommend it bar 'Sacrifice', which is on many a compilation album. But any list that includes The Very Best of the Bee Gees has got something right. If you're buying anything more up to date, please head for a shop with our logo in the window.