Rubberband… love? Licorice Pizza (2021)

Acolytes of PTA beware: there be spoilers.

There is a barely hidden secret at the heart of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, and it’s just behind the fig-leaf of that tender coming-of-age love story, as whacky as it may be, that we are supposed to take as the main story. It’s that both Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffmann) know pretty well what they want to do with their lives. That might come to us as a surprise, and to them as well, and their next few months are not without pitfalls and mayor changes, but for all their uncertainty, they have their plans and ideas. And if that includes their gravitating towards each other, then yay, all the better.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Thirsty work

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Claire Denis’ films may not be for everyone, but earlier this week Matt wrote about seeing her Beau Travail for the first time, and while he bounced off of her most recent film High Life, her drama about French foreign legionnaires pulled him in considerably more.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #62: The Cat’s Meow

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Peter Bogdanovich is probably best known for his early films such as The Last Picture Show or Paper Moon, although to a modern audience his face might be most recognizable as Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, the psychiatrist’s psychiatrist in The Sopranos. For all his many accomplishments I am perhaps most fond of his interviews. Books such as Who the Devil Made It or Who the Hell’s in It. His epic three-hour interview with Orson Welles, or the wistful Directed by John Ford. Bogdanovich was not just a filmmaker, he was a lover of movie culture and – notably – of movie lore.

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Criterion Corner: Beau Travail (#1042)

Before watching Beau Travail, French director Claire Denis’ 1999 film, I’d seen two of Denis’ films: the 2009 (post-)colonial drama White Material and the 2018 sci-fi oddity High Life. My favourite cinema showed the latter last year as part of a series on women directors, so I went to see it – and came away nonplussed. Certainly, there were scenes that I found intriguing, and Denis’ strange science-fiction tone poem is often beautiful to look at, but I didn’t know what to do with it, and I still don’t. While I had some ideas about the overall themes of the film, it remained too fragmented and elliptic and I felt too much of a disconnect from the characters I was watching and the things they were doing. I could imagine someone else, and perhaps even me at a different time and in a different frame of mind, getting more from High Life, but I left the cinema with a vague sense of frustration – or possibly a frustrating sense of vagueness.

I may not immediately wish to revisit High Life after seeing Beau Travail, but Denis’ film, a loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s novella Billy Budd, definitely makes me think that I should keep looking out for other films by her. I could imagine that the one or the other would leave me similarly nonplussed as High Life, but I can’t think of any other director like Denis.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: The only good fish is a singing fish

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Annette, Leos Carax’ Sparks-scored musical, won’t be for everyone, but it’s definitely a unique film. Matt was among those who didn’t like it as much as they were hoping to, but hey, he liked the first and the last five minutes a lot, so there’s always that.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #61: Tony “Scheherazade” Soprano

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I met my now-wife back in the previous millennium. It took a while for things to work out between the two of us – anywhere between nine and eleven years, depending on how you measure and what you take as the starting point of a relationship that developed over a fairly long time, and that is still developing and growing. But especially during the first few years, there were a few constants. From the first, we went to the cinema with each other a lot. And early on, we would start watching TV series together – and once you start with a TV series with someone else, you can’t just go off and watch it on your own, because that would be simply uncivilised. Over the years we’ve watched so many series together: great ones, good ones, a fair few mediocre ones and even a couple of series that were plain bad. (I’m looking at you, Hunted and Intruders!) From Battlestar Galactica to Veronica Mars, from Ultraviolet to Lost, from House of Cards (the BBC original) to Edge of Darkness (also the BBC original).

But somehow, I would say that our origin story, our relationship as first friends and then more than friends as facilitated by television, really began with a mobster who went to see a psychiatrist.

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Living Doll: Annette (2021)

It’s the old story: boy meets girl, girl and boy fall in love, boy and girl have a child. The boy, a cynical, self-loathing comedian, can’t handle the fact that the girl, an opera singer, is both beloved by her audience and more successful, so he… doesn’t exactly kill her, but, well. Their baby starts to sing in a haunting voice whenever she is exposed to starlight (real or fake), so her father turns her into an international sensation – and makes a nice buck in the process.

Oh, and the child is a wooden puppet. You know, that old story.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: The Marvellous Moreau

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Look, if you’ve had enough of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we understand – and you may want to skip this week’s trailer post, since Friday’s Six Damn Fine Degrees instalment had Mege talking about sharing the MCU with his daughter: she’s a Marvel fan, and he enjoys sharing movies with her. So, for her, here’s a vintage Marvel trailer.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #52: The State of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

A new year, a new slew of Marvel movies and TV series! After 2019’s grand finale Avengers: Endgame, what felt like an infinite number of new films, shows, characters and storylines were announced – and then a certain virus that shall not be named thwarted the plans of Disney. 2020 came and went without a single new MCU movie, but 2021 more than made up for this, with four films – starting with Black Widow and ending with Spider-Man: No Way Home – and various Disney+ series continuing the ongoing adventures of the Marvel heroes and heroines. Join Alan and Matt as they talk about the franchise and their response to it. What were their expectations after the big snap-and-back climax of Infinity War and Endgame? How did they bridge the one-year gap caused by the pandemic? Were they excited by the upcoming Marvel avalanche, or was it all getting to be too much? And how do they feel about where the franchise is now, leading into 2022?

By the way, this is a Very Special Episode of the Damn Fine Cup of Culture podcast: for the first time ever, it was recorded in front of a live studio audience with everyone on the podcast not only in the same country but the same room, talking into the same microphone! Which means that Matt’s Christmas wish did come true. How better to start 2022?

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #60: My daughter, the Marvel fan

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I would have liked to dazzle you with a cool origin story, but I can’t remember how and when my favourite daughter found her love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I am pretty sure she saw the first few movies in chronological sequence at home on BluRay, too young to have seen then in the theatres, so Tony Stark, Cap and the Hulk came to her at home, and it was probably the first Avengers movie that she saw in an upholstered seat, ticket in hand, with a bag of popcorn, on the big silver screen. But she was hooked long before that.

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