The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. Unless it’s in Technicolor.

In the movies, the past has a certain specific look. Depending on which era is depicted, the film stock is different, the grain is more pronounced, colours are graded according to decade. The ’60s have the yellow-tinted look of an old photo, the ‘80s look neon, and anything before the First World War looks like a painting, its colours burnished. If the past doesn’t look like the past, well, it ain’t authentic, is it?

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The Rear-View Mirror: Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, Live/1975-85 (1986)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Bruce Springsteen seems to be a part the bedrock of the music business, but he is the first to admit that he is a fraud. He has never held down a working-class job in his life, he has never seen a factory from the inside. (If you don’t believe me, then go watch Springsteen on Broadway, currently on Netflix.) He is one of the greatest posers ever. And yet nobody sees him that way because he has unearthed something, a kind of poetic common denominator, an idealised, romanticised version of the USA, or of working class life, or of being young – maybe a bit of everything. There is a sense of wanting to get out of this town that he caters to with his music. Or why do you think his biggest hit is called Born To Run? Continue reading

Dog Years

The movie’s title is in English because that is the name of the shop: Dogman. Marcello is a dog-groomer, and he is so good with dogs that he is able to eventually talk down a ferocious pit-bull into a massage. He also looks after dogs when their owners are on holiday and walks them through a run-down seaside town near Naples. The area looks a lot like it’s the same spot where director Matteo Garrone also set Roberto Saviano’s Gomorra (2008). Everyone is poor, it’s a touristy waterfront utterly devoid of any tourists; many buildings are run down or boarded up. It’s no wonder that organised crime is thriving in areas like this. Dogman, however, does not have a lot to do with the Camorra, but is about the people populating the area. There is Marcello the dogman, the gold merchant next door, the owner of the videogame parlor, and the owner of the restaurant where they all meet and talk. Life is hard, but they take it as it comes. Continue reading

Tainted love

Three women: a queen, fragile of body and mind. Her confidante, advisor and lover, ready to do what it takes to protect her monarch and her country – however much pain it will cause. And then there’s the social climber who, willing to do anything so she’s no longer a victim, tears them apart.

Add nonsensical social rules, wanton psychological cruelty, hilariously strange dancing and lobster references, and yup: we’re in Lanthimos Country.

The Favourite

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The Compleat Ingmar #1: Smiles of a Summer Night

Last year – while I was in Sweden during the week when Ingmar Bergman would have had his 100th birthday, fittingly – Criterion revealed its plans to release Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema, a collection of 39 of the director’s films, later that year. (It is telling that when you ask Google how many films Bergman actually made, the answer is “At least 36”. If Google doesn’t know a more exact answer than that, how should we?) As a self-confessed Criterion addict, I knew that there’d be no better way to get close to completing my Bergman collection than that, even though I already had some of the films on DVD and others on Blu-Ray. Still, getting all the remaining ones individually would be more expensive than getting the collection, not to mention more cumbersome. So, to cut things short: Reader, I ordered it.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Leisure Suit Larry (1987)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

BUY CONDOMS

How many 1980s nerds had their first sexual experience at Lefty’s Bar? How many teenagers learned about the perils of sex by catching an STD and having to reload an earlier savegame – or restart the game because they forgot to “Save early, save often”? How many never made it past the pimp in the first place, or forgot to properly prepare (also known as GET NAKED) to do the deed?

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

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Press A to Design/Play/Disrupt

Two cloaked figures sliding down a glittering dune, singing to each other. A hunter in Victorian garb, facing down a gigantic hairy creature on a dilapidated bridge. A grizzled middle-aged man and a young woman making their way through a ruined, overgrown city. Grinning figures, half-human, half-squid, swimming salmon-like through splotches of paint. Hundreds of extraterrestrial worlds, the skies above them in hundreds of different hues. An eagle, half visible through the trees, half concealed by the empty gaps between them.

Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

thin blue line

If you have seen other Erroll Morris films (TabloidThe Fog of WarGates of Heaven), you will know that he likes for people to tell their own stories. At the time of its inception Morris was doing in investigation on Dr. James Grigson, nicknamed Dr. Death, a psychiatrist who invariably advised a death sentence, because defendants would “kill again”. During this research he stumbled onto Adams’ story. The Thin Blue Line is about the murder of a police officer, and in it Morris has access to seemingly all the players in the drama, and the subsequent court case. Through their own versions of what transpires, or what they think transpires, Morris makes an uncharacteristically solid case for the defense. It is not much of a spoiler that an innocent person was convicted. After all, Adams was not only acquitted (partly) due to the film, but subsequently sued Morris for the rights to his story. As is so often the case with Morris’ films, the fascination in The Thin Blue Line is for the viewer to be allowed to form their own opinion as to why and how an innocent man was convicted, a guilty man went free (at least for a while), and several witnesses testified to facts they could not possibly have seen or heard.

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Mad Howling in the Red Dark

If you are ready for an agonisingly slow descent into hell, then Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is the film for you. There are many reasons to instinctively refrain from watching it in the first place: yet another Nicholas Cage over-the-top performance; outrageous violence and buckets of blood; killer demons on motorcycles. What’s more, the film might change from one viewing to the next, but for me, it worked because I was in the right kind of mood, and that might prove crucial with movies like this. And I never watched a chainsaw duel I didn’t like. Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #18: The Aviator

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3For the first episode of 2019, Julie, Mege and Matt revisit Martin Scorsese’s much-awarded but rarely-discussed The Aviator. Is it one of Scorsese’s best or a bit of a mess? Does Cate Blanchett’s Katherine Hepburn enter parody territory, and is it any less awesome for this? Will Mege pounce in defense of Leonardo DiCaprio? Find out the answers to all these questions and more, as the gang of pop culture baristas serves up some smaller helpings on AMC’s The Terror (a heady blend of Master and Commander and The Thing) and the interactive Black Mirror episode, “Bandersnatch”.

Also, we’re premiering our new theme tune “Mystery Street Jazz” at the end of the episode, so make sure to give it a listen. Thanks to composer Håkan Eriksson for his damn fine tune!

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