Six Damn Fine Degrees #80: One Does Not Simply Fly Into Mordor

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!

“Mount Doom” by Pete McKinstry

“Why didn’t they just send the Eagles to drop the Ring into Mount Doom?”

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Fathers, sons, and requiems

In 1984, my dad took me and my sister to see Amadeus at the cinema. We would go to see a movie, usually something from the Disney catalogue of animated features, as a family once a year, but this wasn’t part of the annual ritual. My dad was an avid hobby musician and he loved Mozart’s music, so he wanted to see the film with his children. I was nine at the time, and I’m sure my dad didn’t expect the mature themes or the scatology. I don’t really remember seeing any other films just with my dad when I was a kid, rather than with my mum or both my parents, but Amadeus stayed with me. As a pretentious little nine-year-old, I loved it – less so for Mozart’s impish, infantile irreverence than for the drama and the dark humour. Or perhaps that’s me projecting into my younger self, 38 years after the fact.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: The Future Is Now – and so is the past

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.

How other to follow up our recent podcast episode on Jane Campion than with a look at Criterion’s 4K version of Campion’s 1993 film The Piano? Matt was more than bowled over with how gorgeously tactile and physical the film looks – even though (gasp! shock! horror!) he showed little interest in a recent local showing of the film on 35mm reels. (And if you still haven’t had enough 88-keyed goodness, you may want to check out our recentish podcast ep on movie soundtracks.)

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A Damn Fine Espresso: May 2022

In the mood for a little cup of culture? Tune in for our May espresso, in which Alan and Matt discuss the latest addition to the MCU, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Spoiler: While they both enjoy the MCU, they were less than taken with Sam Raimi’s return to superhero movies. They both agree, however, that the MCU would benefit from having more Benedict Wong in it. After their discussion in January, following the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Alan and Matt talk about the MCU at this point, what pitfalls it would do well to avoid, and what their hopes are for the coming Marvel attractions. But: how do Ingmar Bergman and LEGO figure into all of this? Well, there’s only one way to find out!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #79: Mountain movies that peak my interest

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!

There is apparently no shortage of movies set on or around mountains, mountain climbers and peak-seeking adventures in recent years according to my initial IMDb search. Yet when Julie asked me to follow up on her lovely piece surrounding Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air from last week, I felt hard-pressed to find such movies that I had truly enjoyed (or let alone had seen). Wouldn’t the glorious scenery of mountain peaks, the thrill of the climb, the horror of the fall and the brave men and women surviving all of that lend themselves ideally to dozens of great screenplays?

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Criterion Corner: The Piano (#1110)

I first saw The Piano at the cinema in 1993, when it originally came out. The film felt intense and erotic and physical. It felt adult – though, looking back, I’m surprised by how many films I’d seen as a child and teenager that I’d consider adult. Not because of nudity or sex, although they definitely featured those – I’m thinking of the likes of Milos Forman’s Amadeus or Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor -, but because of the characters and themes, and because they were more than happy to leave things unsaid. They were ambiguous. Certainly, I also spent the ’90s watching things like Aliens and Die Hard and Jurassic Park, and I enjoyed those (though I never loved Jurassic Park, which always felt like a more family-friendly Jaws to me, and Jaws should never be family-friendly) – but where these now feel familiar, like cinematic comfort food, The Piano still has that strange intimacy that is both thrilling and discomforting.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: You have my sword. And my axe. And my camera.

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.

How else to end the week than with a bit of avenging, saving and killing? Amleth knows, and he’s happy to tell us, if you don’t mind a spear thrown straight at you. Just ask Matt, who posted his thoughts on The Northman here.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #56: Summer of Directors – Jane Campion

Never mind that May is still firmly spring in most people’s minds: we are launching the Summer of Directors, a series of podcasts, each of which is dedicated to one particular director, and we’re doing so with an episode dedicated to two-time Academy Award winner Jane Campion, who first took the little statuette home for her original screenplay for The Piano (1993) and, more recently, as the director of The Power of the Dog (2021). We’ll be looking at those two films in particular, focusing on the ways in which Campion portrays and questions gender roles. How does Holly Hunter’s Ada McGrath make her way in 19th century New Zealand as a woman displaced in many ways? How does Campion portray male and female modes of communication? And how do we read that marvellously ambiguous ending? Moving on to The Power of the Dog, we look at different kinds of masculinity – and how Campion’s film may have unusual, fascinating things to say about what kind of masculinity is finally more resilient. Join Matt, Julie and Sam as they explore all the black and white keys on Jane Campion’s keyboard and all the kinds of music she elicits from them!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #77: Kasabian’s Club Foot (2004)

On the surface, Kasabian’s Club Foot is a macho song: “One, take control of me? – you’re messing with the enemy.” And there is, after the ominous intro, that one-two rattled beat making sure you are paying attention despite yourself. It’s the best use of a bass guitar outside of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. Yes, it’s possible to love or hate a pop song just because of the pace of its rhythm. The song steps straight on, not paying any attention to the left or the right. It’s wearing silver-studded boots, leaving messy prints behind. There is sweaty leather and unwashed hair in that little tune. The title is a red herring if there ever was one: someone is stepping large, seemingly able-bodied, sartorial and not giving a frigging fuck. In your face, Tony Manero. Club Foot is as subtle as a viking attack.

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