Death and the Politburo

In case the trailer didn’t already give it away, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is a comedy. Its dialogue bristle with sharp, satirical thorns. It is at turns witty, goofy, absurdist and madcap. It is also like one of those works of art that, when you first look at them, seem to depict a rabbit or a beautiful young woman – but then you realise that you’re actually looking at a duck or an old crone, and once that realisation has set in, it’s difficult if not impossible to again see what you thought you saw at first. Once that moment has set in, The Death of Stalin becomes something much darker. The verbal humour remains, but it is revealed to be the poisonous icing on a meal that tastes of ashes and death.

The Death of Stalin

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Annihiladaptation

Although I got the novel as a Christmas present, I only read Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation after seeing Alex Garland’s movie adaptation, finishing it last weekend. There are some adaptations that ruin the original for you, but that’s rarely been a major problem for me: if a story is enjoyable primarily because of what happens next, I usually don’t feel all that much of a need to read it in the first place. If there are interesting characters or ideas, if the prose is evocative and atmospheric – generally, if it’s the storytelling itself that makes the story thrilling or funny or generally engaging rather than what happens next – then I’m definitely up for experiencing a story more than once.

Annihilation

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Shut up, MacGuffin, before you get us all killed

It’s a good thing they still make them like this. A Quiet Place is more than one notch above the Insidious or Paranormal or Conjuring franchises; in fact, the movie has its roots as much in sci-fi than in horror, because they planned at an earlier stage to embed that story here into the world of Cloverfield. I don’t want to SPOIL the movie for anyone, but if you haven’t spent the last few weeks under a rock or in Area X, you know that A Quiet Place is about a family who find themselves alone in a post-apocalyptic world wherein you cannot make a single sound or the beasties in the woods will get you. It probably won’t surprise you all that much if I tell you that an early draft of the screenplay contained only one single line of dialogue. Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #9: Legion

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 9 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, which looks back at the first season of Legion, one of the most unique and exciting superhero narratives – especially for those out there who have had it with men and women in suits saving the universe – after we briefly stop by the Ozarks for a quick spot of money laundering and TV drama, hang out on the desert planet with Alejandro Jodorowsky and friends and check out the gruesome murders and medieval mansplaining of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Continue reading

The way it really happened

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, there are a few things you probably know by now: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of the best films ever. Six Feet Under is a sadly underrated HBO gem worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Deadwood, The Sopranos and The Wire.

And, most of all: I have an intense dislike of anything Based On A True Story.

Spotlight

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You can’t go home again

Mobile Homes is a good movie, no doubt, but there is a kind of void in its middle that prevents it from turning into a great movie. Bear with me. It’s the story of Ali (Imogen Poots), her young son Bone (Frank Oulton), and step-dad Evan (Callum Turner) who live out of Evan’s truck and drift from place to place, selling roosters for cockfights or reselling probably stolen household gadgets. They are chronically broke and often have to resort to dining and dashing, a trick that Bone has to do far too often. They are one broken exhaust pipe away from being homeless. I don’t doubt that Ali and Evan love each other, even if they also cling to each other out of necessity, and that Evan tries to be as good a step-dad to Bone as he can, although Ali and Evan often send Bone to find empty homes so they can do their B & E spiel. Life cannot go on like this for much longer. Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #8: Annihilation

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 8 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, which takes us to Area X and the Shimmer. Will we come back from our discussion of Alex Garland’s Annihilation unchanged? We also spend an all too short summer vacation in early ’80s Italy with Call Me By Your Name‘s Elio and Oliver and have a quick drink with Jessica Jones (watch out for season 2 spoilers from 11:40 to 13:10). Continue reading