The Rear-View Mirror: The Great Escape (1963)

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!

My mother’s favourite movie genre was war movies, in particular old, English ones. My uncle would send us Betamax tapes with titles such as Battle of Britain, Sink the Bismarck!, Reach for the Sky or The Longest Day scribbled on the side, films about (usually) heroic Brits fighting Jerry. I was never all that much into those, but there’s one that I remember loving from the first time I saw it, and that’s The Great Escape.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #24: Psychopaths (1)

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3From the Weimar Republic child murderer of Fritz Lang’s M (1931) via Reverend Harry Powell from the dark fairy tale The Night of the Hunter (1955) to Hitchcock’s seminal Psycho (1960) and its twitchy Norman Bates: what better way to celebrate summer with your cultural barristas than with a chat about some good, old-fashioned classic films with and about psychopaths?

We will return to the psycho well to discuss more modern movie psychopaths for our 25th episode, coming to your earbuds this August.

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What is the man in the moon afraid of?

Damien Chazelle likes protagonists who have one defining goal. They are driven and they are ready to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals. Their ambitions are jealous gods and don’t allow for any other gods beside them. Relationships? Happiness? Love? These take a backseat. Chazelle’s characters’ pursuit of excellence requires them to be singleminded. You don’t get there by being good at many things, you get there by being excellent at the one thing that gets you there. And there’s a price to singlemindedness.

Looking at it differently, you could also say this: Damien Chazelle’s protagonists are frightened, of their feelings and responsibilities – and if you want to run away, what better destination than the moon?

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #23: The Lives of Others

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3For the June episode, join your cultural baristas as they discuss The Lives of Others (2006), the Academy Award-winning drama about East Germany in the 1980s, Stasi surveillance, the redemptive power of art and its tragic limitations. When not listening in to the artist couple in the apartment on the floor below, we also talk about Amazon Prime’s adaptation of the near-apocalypse, Good Omens, Béla Tarr equine mood piece The Turin Horse and Richard Powers’ 2003 novel The Time of Our Singing.

P.S.: In keeping with the thwarted surveillance motif, Matt’s recording equipment wasn’t quite up to the task this month. We apologise for any problems with the audio quality and promise to do better in July.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

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!

If there was alien life out there that had discovered a method to objectively measure charm and they used that to discover intelligent life in the universe, they would surely have discovered the Earth after the release of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, directed by George Roy Hill, written by William Goldman, but most importantly starring one of the greatest double acts in Hollywood history, Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the titular characters. The effortless chemistry between Newman and Redford, combined with Hill’s assured direction and Goldman’s wit, make the film a master class in ’60s cinema. There are few films that are as purely enjoyable as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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Breathing freely for the first time

He is quiet, almost sullen, but there is also a coiled tension there, as if he’s ready to react – possibly more strongly than expected, possibly violently. Talk to him the wrong way, touch him perhaps, and he might lash out. His new colleagues have their suspicions about him: a young man his age, practically still a boy, who has been in juvenile detention for the past five years? There’s almost only one kind of crime that could account for that.

Atmen

So perhaps it’s the best thing for everyone involved if the work he applies for, in order to appeal for early parole, has him dealing with those who are already dead.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

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!

I must have mentioned it before: I’m not a fan of film musicals. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t like the genre, but I don’t like something just because it’s a musical. At the same time, there are a lot of musicals that I do like a lot, and they generally find ways of elevating the material, of making it more effective, because the characters in them have this odd habit of breaking into song every now and then.

Fiddler on the Roof

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