We need to talk about Tracy

I was very much looking forward to Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. It took me a while to warm to Anderson’s films, but I fell hard for his stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, even though I first saw it on a tiny screen in a cramped airplane, so the thought of another animated Wes Anderson joint featuring talking animals definitely appealed to me. I was lucky to finally see Isle of Dogs in a magnificent cinema in Florence, Italy – and much of it I enjoyed a lot. The craftsmanship is exquisite, the cinematography inventive and much of the canine characters’ writing and acting funny and endearing.

Isle of Dogs

However, a Fantastic Mr. Fox this ain’t. While the film’s premise is fine, the overall plotting feels like a draft in need of rewrites. The animal characters are quirky and neurotic but they rarely coalesce into something more genuine than the assembly of quirks that Anderson’s characters tend towards at his worst. More than that, though, there is a Tracy-shaped problem that makes you wonder: what was Anderson thinking? Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #10: Avengers: Infinity War

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 10 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, in which we look in on the Avengers & friends and a certain titan with a temper. Is Infinity War a worthy culmination of ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (Beware: heavy spoilers for Infinity War, including the ending.) Also, Mege’s looked into a different kind of infinity with Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó, and Matt wishes he hadn’t seen the trailer last year’s indie darling Lady Bird five times before watching the film, and we share our impressions of Jon Bernthal in Netflix’ The Punisher and Cécile McLorin Salvant in concert. Continue reading

Death and the Politburo

In case the trailer didn’t already give it away, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is a comedy. Its dialogue bristle with sharp, satirical thorns. It is at turns witty, goofy, absurdist and madcap. It is also like one of those works of art that, when you first look at them, seem to depict a rabbit or a beautiful young woman – but then you realise that you’re actually looking at a duck or an old crone, and once that realisation has set in, it’s difficult if not impossible to again see what you thought you saw at first. Once that moment has set in, The Death of Stalin becomes something much darker. The verbal humour remains, but it is revealed to be the poisonous icing on a meal that tastes of ashes and death.

The Death of Stalin

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Annihiladaptation

Although I got the novel as a Christmas present, I only read Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation after seeing Alex Garland’s movie adaptation, finishing it last weekend. There are some adaptations that ruin the original for you, but that’s rarely been a major problem for me: if a story is enjoyable primarily because of what happens next, I usually don’t feel all that much of a need to read it in the first place. If there are interesting characters or ideas, if the prose is evocative and atmospheric – generally, if it’s the storytelling itself that makes the story thrilling or funny or generally engaging rather than what happens next – then I’m definitely up for experiencing a story more than once.

Annihilation

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #9: Legion

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 9 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, which looks back at the first season of Legion, one of the most unique and exciting superhero narratives – especially for those out there who have had it with men and women in suits saving the universe – after we briefly stop by the Ozarks for a quick spot of money laundering and TV drama, hang out on the desert planet with Alejandro Jodorowsky and friends and check out the gruesome murders and medieval mansplaining of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Continue reading

The way it really happened

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, there are a few things you probably know by now: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of the best films ever. Six Feet Under is a sadly underrated HBO gem worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Deadwood, The Sopranos and The Wire.

And, most of all: I have an intense dislike of anything Based On A True Story.

Spotlight

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #8: Annihilation

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 8 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, which takes us to Area X and the Shimmer. Will we come back from our discussion of Alex Garland’s Annihilation unchanged? We also spend an all too short summer vacation in early ’80s Italy with Call Me By Your Name‘s Elio and Oliver and have a quick drink with Jessica Jones (watch out for season 2 spoilers from 11:40 to 13:10). Continue reading