A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #51: Denis Villeneuve’s Dune

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture couldn’t let the year end without celebrating one of the most anticipated films of the year, nay, the pandemic: Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune. For this, Julie and Alan are joined by Daniel Thron of Martini Giant, who had previously come by for a damn fine cup to discuss Stephen Soderbergh with us. Did our intrepid cultural baristas enjoy Villeneuve’s take on Herbert’s seminal novel? Did Hollywood do justice, in terms of storytelling and aesthetics, to a novel that many others – including David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky – failed to successfully bring to the screen? So, face your fear, permit it to pass over you and through you, and spend an hour in the desert landscape of Arrakis with Dan, Alan and Julie!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #57: Naked (1993)

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!

“It is important to set up for the audience the worst possible picture of this guy.”

This is how Mike Leigh describes the pre-credit scene, the very first moments in his film, and the very first glimpse we get of Johnny, its protagonist. We see him from behind, committing what is, or certainly turns into, a rape. Then he runs off, steals a car, and while he is underway over the almost empty highway to London, the credits roll.

Charming bloke, this Johnny…

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Send in the frogs

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.

For one, this week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees looked at pictures that don’t move – although in your mind’s eye they absolutely do: Mege wrote about J.M.W. Turner’s painting “The Fighting Temeraire”. And since he so handily mentioned Mike Leigh’s 2014 film Mr. Turner, that makes the first trailer of this Sunday post quite easy to choose.

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Criterion Corner: Original Cast Album: “Company” (#1090)

In 2019 (remember that time, a hundred years ago?), I nursed something of a briefish obsession with “Being Alive”, one of the songs from Stephen Sondheim’s 1970s multi-award winning musical Company – and perhaps like many others, I first heard it in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019), performed by Adam Driver. It’s perhaps something of an ironic use of the song: in Company, it is sung by the show’s central character Robert, an attractive but commitment-phobic man who, in the course of the song, comes to the realisation that he yearns for all of those things that make him shy away from an actual romantic relationship. In Marriage Story, the character who sings it is just coming out of a marriage via acrimonious divorce proceedings, and he mourns everything that he is in the process of losing. In spite of the very different contexts, however, the power of Sondheim’s song clearly comes through.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #56: J. M. W. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

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!

A year ago, a medical professional recommended that I reserve a spot in my apartment for an object or an image that would just be there for me to look at and enjoy. I made a mental list of possible candidates, getting to my number one by process of elimination, so when a picture of the young Monica Bellucci ended up in second place, it was finally clear what I had suspected all along. I had a framed print of Turner’s Fighting Temeraire leaning against the wall, still unhung. It had been on the list early on, but I never thought it would have made it to the top spot. So up there it went.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Vive la France!

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.

For this week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees, Alan wrote about the pitch-perfect performance of John Turner as Roderick Spode in the TV adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster and one of the most fitting quasi-Hitler moustaches in TV history. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check it out! Sadly, it seems that the only trailers for the show available online are in German, which obviously won’t do, so here’s a six-minute excerpt to enjoy instead.

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The Child is Mother of the Girl: Petite Maman (2021)

When I was born, my mother and father were 33 and 28 respectively. In my earliest memories they are in their mid- or late 30s. By the time my personality started to become what I recognise, more or less, as the person I am now, they were approaching 60. As a child, I knew my parents as middle-aged people with middle-aged concerns. As a young adult, I saw them moving towards retirement age.

When my mother died, on this day twelve years ago, I was 34. Technically, I knew my mother when she was the age I am now, but I was a different person then. I don’t really know who she was at the time, what she felt. I know that she wasn’t particularly happy. I rarely knew her to be happy. I don’t know whether she was happy as a child.

Sometimes I feel I can barely say that I knew my mother.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #55: John Turner as Roderick Spode 

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!

Whenever you watch a live action adaptation of a book that you love, there is always the troublesome business of the casting. Will those starring in the production possibly match up to the version in your head from reading the original. If the actor does a good job, they might come close to how you imagined the role initially. An actor might even still do a good job, but just be wrong. Their performance is so at odds with your own take on the role, that, even if you keep watching it you’ll mainly be quietly tutting at it.

But occasionally an actor will come along and give a performance in a role that works so well, that so exceeds the version that once played in the brain, that they become that character going forward. When you re-read the book, it’s their version that you imagine. Whatever feeble brain casting you imagined before has been sacked and kicked out the imaginary production, forever replaced by the version you saw on screen.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Murder, Mayhem, Sheep

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.

There would be so many trailers to choose from when it comes to Angela Lansbury, the focus of Sam’s homage in this week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees. Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Manchurian Candidate or Beauty and the Beast, for instance. She even lent her voice to Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt (which I didn’t previously know – thanks, IMDB!) But for so many of us – well, at least the Gen Xers among our readers – the first and most iconic of all of Lansbury’s roles will always be her neo-Miss Marple: Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. And yes, trailers for classic TV are cheesy and weird, but hey, it’s Murder, She Wrote!

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Baa humbug: Lamb (2021)

María (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) live on their isolated farm in rural Iceland. Though they talk little, there is clearly affection between the two – but there is also a sadness lingering in the air, much like the fog that shrouds the hills around the farm. They look after the sheep, assisting in the births: work that they make look both arduous and, in their laconic way, loving.

And then, one day, something unexpected is born. Something different. Something that, possibly, isn’t quite right – though who defines what is right, when it comes to these things?

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