God drives a Cadillac

If you’ll allow me to be crude for a moment: more often than not, gods are dicks. They’re narcissists and sociopaths. They crave your worship and don’t think twice of smiting you if you displease them the teensiest bit. They like a spot of sacrifice, ideally of the human kind – the bloodier the better. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give such hypersensitive, overpowered egomaniacs with the maturity of toddlers even the slightest bit of power?

What’s that you say? We did it? By believing in them, we invested them with power?

… literal theocracy sucks.

American Gods

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Dope, anyone?

It’s somewhat surprising that Errol Morris’ Wormwood seems to be the first documentary to combine a cast with big names for the dramatic scenes with the traditional doc-staples of talking heads, collages, home movies and grainy photos. It’s a balancing act in more ways than one, and here, it seems to work, if only just. Wormwood is about the death of Frank Olson, who seemed to have fallen out of a 13th story hotel room window in New York and died on the sidewalk in his underwear. He was a CIA chemist who worked for the U.S. army and did research for biological warfare. For years, the story went like this: Olson, together with some of his workmates, was drugged with LSD in November 1953 for a new project about mind control, had a bad trip and finally committed suicide ten days later by leaping to his death. It was an accident, the CIA said, and they were sorry, and the Olson family got to meet President Johnson, who apologized for the tragedy, and the CIA promised to stop all mind-control projects, and that was that. Continue reading

They create worlds: Lone Echo

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

To my right is the station, Kronos II, looking decidedly worse for wear. To my left is Saturn, its rings glittering with a stark beauty. I can see the mining asteroids and container fields in the distance – and the inscrutable anomaly, extending tendrils of pure energy in my direction. Everywhere else is the cold infinity of space, beautiful and deadly. There is only one thing to do: I grab hold of the railing and, slowly and methodically, make my way towards my captain and friend, Liv, pulling my weightless body through space inch by inch.

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The legend is dead – long live the legend

It’s been a while since Star Wars had the ability to surprise me – and in part that was its appeal: being the galactic equivalent of comfort food. Pop in a Star Wars episode and you generally know what you get, namely an epic fairy tale with farm boys destined to greatness and cloaked space wizards of the good and evil variety. You get secret weapons blown up after a one-in-a-million plan pays off. You get grand revelations, redemption and heroics.

The Last Jedi

Along comes The Last Jedi, and guess what – Star Wars has the ability to surprise me again. Continue reading

Year of Good and Bad

2017 has been a difficult year. I’ve realized that, since the news about them broke, I have avoided all films starring Kevin Spacey or produced by Harvey Weinstein. Same goes for Woody Allen, Bryan Singer and others. I would like to say that it was an unconscious decision, but I have to confess that it was largely intentional. Used to be a time when I could easily divorce an artist’s stupid statements or antics from his or her outstanding artistic performance. The fact that Morgan Freeman appears in a Turkish Airlines ad makes him look like an idiot, but it probably won’t keep me from watching The Shawshank Redemption again. With sexual threats or abuse by Weinstein, Spacey and far too many others, a line has been crossed. I can no longer sit there and watch John Doe do his grisly work without thinking of Spacey and his crimes. So how to react? Should I really stand before my movie shelf and start throwing out Seven? The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Anything ever produced by the Weinstein Company and Miramax? All the Tarantinos? The English Patient? How do Woody Allen fans react to such abuse? Fans of X-Men or The Usual Suspects? I know, of course, that the harm done to the abused persons is not limited to the movie business, and that the damage they suffered weighs far more than the harm done to cinema and acting, but since movies are a crucial way of storytelling, at least to me, and since storytelling has the human condition at its center, I suspect that those movies will play differently to me when (if?) I watch them next time. Something, a kind of honesty in storytelling, will be lacking. Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast Christmas Special 2017: Sherlock

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Surprise! Just in time for Christmas 2017, we’re bringing you a very special (and damn fine, we hope) cup of culture. When we started talking about launching a podcast to complement our blog, we did a pilot episode – or, more accurately, a test run. Although we had no intention at the time to release the pilot, we’re still proud of it – warts and all. The sound quality isn’t at its best, but the energy is there, and we had a lot of fun talking about the BBC’s Sherlock – so we’re sharing it with you. Enjoy – and happy holidays!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #5: #blackfilmmatters

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 5 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture podcast, in which Mege and Matt discuss recent and upcoming films and TV series by and about African Americans – from Get Out and Loving to Black Panther and Dear White People. Also expect a mention of anarchic comedy (and surprise relationship drama) The Lego Batman Movie, the inventive The Good Place, a blast from the past with Freaks & Geeks and a return visit to 19th century Canada with Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace.

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