Six Damn Fine Degrees #97: The Divine Comedy, Liberation and Promenade

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!

In 1993, The Divine Comedy released their album Liberation. While, technically speaking, not the first Divine Comedy album, it marked the first release where musician Neil Hannon effectively operated as the band. He wrote, arranged and performed all the songs, with the help of a handful of musicians providing percussion and strings, and William Wordsworth providing a lyrical assist on the album’s final track “Lucy”.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #89: Fred & Ginger in Carefree

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!

They don’t make ’em like they used to. It’s a familiar refrain when people talk about old movies, to the point of being a cliche. Frequently it’s trotted out by rose-tinted nostalgics who want to decry that modern films aren’t as good as they were in their day. But it can also apply when you watch a film from yesterday that has a plot that, for strikingly obvious reasons, you couldn’t – and definitely shouldn’t – tell now.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #85: Give My Regards To Broad Street

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!

When I was young I bought my pop music on Cassette. If you made a bit of money on your birthday you could head to the shops and buy yourself an album. (If you’d really cleaned up with the relatives you could get two.) The only vinyl player we had in the house was very much off-limits to the children, mainly the domain of curious spoken word affairs that the grown-ups found funny. Although they had covers that tended to give me nightmares.

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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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Six Damn Fine Degrees #76: Tales From Viking Times

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!

As a kid, I was a massive fan of listening to stories on cassettes. Far more so than music. Music cassettes inevitably had those tracks you wanted to skip past, leading to fiddling attempts to fast forward the right amount (…and miss it and go back and overly compensate going back and so try to jump forward and – uh-oh, I think the tape is chewed up now). Whereas a good story tape was immersive. You were there for the ride for at least the rest of the side.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #72: The Wrong Poirot

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!

In the early ‘70s, a British film studio hoping to make a global success decided to tap into one of the nation’s most famous exports: Agatha Christie. When it came to which of her works they would adapt, they opted for Murder On The Orient Express – a story that would allow for an exotic (if relatively cheap) location and a large cast that could be filled with bankable stars. Audiences, they hoped, would head to the cinemas thanks to the name of the author and the likes of Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Perkins.

The formula worked. The film was a huge hit, a commercial triumph topping the US box office. It also enjoyed great reviews, with critics praising Sidney Lumet’s stately direction and the strength of the adaptation. Indeed both audiences and critics seemed to mention just one flaw with the film: Albert Finney as Poirot.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #66: Kapitän Kirk 

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!

As someone who is always trying to improve their German, without actually doing the hard slog of sitting down with an exercise book and learning all the correct genders for nouns or what on Earth is going on with prepositions (seriously – what is going on there?), I have discovered a dubious easier alternative: popular culture.

Or more specifically, popular culture dubbed into German. If there’s a big movie coming out that looks not brilliant, just a bit meh – then I try to watch it first in German. Actual complicated drama series are beyond my talents. I won’t understand enough to follow the plot. But Godzilla: King of The Monsters? I’m there! (Ich bin dort?)

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #63: What’s Up Doc?

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 lot is written about Hollywood’s tendency for remakes. And a lot of it seems needlessly negative in my opinion. There’s nothing wrong with having another spin at an old success, it’s a formula as old as Hollywood. Often it fails, but sometimes it’s worth the effort. I’ve not crunched the numbers but I’m pretty sure the ratio of few successes/mostly failures is probably the same as for brand new films.

But alongside the Hollywood remake there’s another interesting beast. The film that is so clearly inspired by another, which doesn’t so much wear the influence on its sleeves as don the exact same influence tuxedo. It’s not a remake because it doesn’t do anything so obvious as try to recreate the plot, or the characters but instead takes as the starting point what the film’s makers loved about the earlier film and tries to find ways to make that work in a brand new context.

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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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Six Damn Fine Degrees #50 – The “True” Story of Lina Lamont

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!

They can’t make a fool out of Lina Lamont. They can’t make a laughing stock out of Lina Lamont.

There’s one important lesson that needs to be learnt by any student of Hollywood history: don’t believe the hype. Don’t buy into the spin. And certainly don’t be fooled by popular tales that demonise and blame those that dared to challenge the system.

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