The Top 15 Best James Spader Performances


James Spader started his long acting career as a teenager in a minor role in the 1978 film Team-Mates, received his first big role as Brooke Shield’s brother in the 1981 film Endless Love, and has acted non-stop in a wide variety of film and television productions since 1984. For an actor with nearly 40 years of experience, who has starred in everything from teen gang films (Tuff Turf), made-for-TV family dramas  (Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction), major blockbusters (Avengers: Age of Ultron), a hit legal drama show (Boston Legal), science-fiction romps (Supernova) and arthouse classics (Sex, Lies and Videotape), he has strangely eluded popular notice. In line with many similar actors who never found superstar status, he proudly remains a cult icon and a true actor’s actor, daringly picking obscure productions because of a great script or unique potential. “I like to be cast against type,” he told a reporter in 1987, “and I like directors who cast me against type. I like roles that are confusing to me, that have a lot of questions, questions which take the whole shoot to answer.” Now Spader’s starring role in the hit NBC show The Blacklist has brought him to the forefront of actors on TV and finally given people reason to re-evaluate his career. I’ve watched every film he has played in, and aim to pay homage to the notable classics and also uncover hidden gems by picking Spader’s best performances.

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Consider the Lily


To Lily

The lily, once in battle with the rose for the title of “queen of flowers”, has experienced many ups and downs in popularity throughout the years. In Shakespeare’s Henry VIII , Queen Katherine declares “Like the lily that once was mistress of the field and flourish’d / I’ll hang my head and perish”, and today lilies are often hanging their heads once more: many florists do not constantly have lilies available, as they have roses and tulips, and they are often mischaracterized as merely funereal flowers. “Rose” is not only a more popular given name than “Lily”, but it also a far more popular flower. Nevertheless, the lily has staunch defenders, from poets as distinguished as Emily Dickinson to figures as iconic as Oscar Wilde. Its history is rich and tied to the most important developments in Western botany, and its symbolic significance is multi-faceted. It is never a bad idea to pause and consider the lily. Continue reading “Consider the Lily”

Realism and Dialogue


“God,” declared a girl I once watched Network (1976) with, “who talks like that?” The only right answer is “no one”: the movie was rightly called out on its preposterously verbose dialogue, which nears parody. It is lucky that the next day I watched a John Ford western, with stiff, wooden but somehow believable stock phrases spoken by John Wayne before he shot some cowboys; if not I might have stopped watching films forever. As the girl said to me in an entirely different context later, “Something about this is entirely wrong.”

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The Dreaded 30

It is impossible to pass through life in a university without hearing someone complain about aging. Almost every time someone announces their birthday it comes with a sigh and a disenchanted remark about the passage of time. Judging by the students’ expressions and words, you would think they had just been at a syndicated American political debate, a Russian herring cannery, or a late-night strip club in Paterson, New Jersey; not the comfortable streets of Amsterdam, full of people offering congratulations. Indeed, their reaction is the exact opposite of the elation, happiness, pride and expectation birthdays offered in their earlier days: they feel fear, dread, discontent and pain, as well as annoyance, exasperation and irritation. And the strange thing is that this abstract feeling seems to come with a definitive timestamp: the age of 30.

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The Disappearance of the Hatchet Job

In 2012, review aggregator website The Omnivore launched the Hatchet Job of the Year award, given to the “the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review” of the last year in Britain. The prize was a year’s worth of potted shrimp donated by The Fish Society. By now defunct, the award was only given out 3 years. DJ Taylor, in a recent column for the New Statesman, asked a question relevant to its death: “Book reviewing used to be a blood sport. How has it become so benign and polite?” It seems, he concluded, that the “hatchet job” simply has little place in the modern literary milieu. Continue reading “The Disappearance of the Hatchet Job”

One Hundred Years without Jack London

Jack London, who died exactly 100 years ago, was an American author mostly remembered for “dog stories”, as London himself termed them laconically. The Call of the Wild and White Fang are novels about dogs in the Canadian wilderness, bestsellers in their time that continue to be taught in schools and adapted into film and television; they’ve never gone out of print. Most are unaware London was far more than a writer of popular stories: in his relatively brief life of only 40 years he had been a child labourer, a San Francisco Bay oyster pirate, a fish patrol member, a ship crewmate, a vagabond, a prisoner, a gold miner, a candidate for mayor, an alcoholic, and a militant socialist advocating armed revolution. He was also one of the most prolific and influential authors of his age, with works ranging from popular stories to foreign political journalism, socialist tracts and a dystopian novel.  Continue reading “One Hundred Years without Jack London”

An International Orgy in Suburbia

My roommates were not happy when I told them an Australian, two Israelis, and two Spaniards were going to sleep over on the weekend. When it turned out there were actually eleven Spaniards, I was promised a “good talk”, which has not yet occurred. The spoils will, I am sure, be worth the pain. For one weekend, my rural village became a breeding ground that spawned a transatlantic revelry, and the hell that we raised was festive to boot. Continue reading “An International Orgy in Suburbia”