Criterion Corner: Memories of Murder (#1073)

I can’t remember which of the two films I watched first: Memories of Murder (2003) by Bong Joon-ho or David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac. The two films share a lot of similarities. Both are about serial murders that actually happened: the series of killings Bong’s film is about took place between 1986 and 1991, while Fincher’s film is focused on the manhunt for the Zodiac Killer, who was active in the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Both are more interested in the investigation than in the killer, and in the individuals conducting the investigation (the protagonists of Bong’s film are the three police officers hunting for a rapist and murderer of women, while Fincher splits the difference between the San Francisco detectives, the journalist Paul Avery and the cartoonist Robert Graysmith). And, importantly, both films present the audience with very likely suspects to then withhold from us a confirmation that it is really this man, or that guy, who committed these murders. Much like the protagonists, we are left with a sense of frustration and unease.

This isn’t how crime thrillers are supposed to work. If we don’t know whodunnit at the end, what was the point?

And that, exactly, is the point.

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder. If you’ve yet to see the film, don’t read this post but go and watch Memories of Murder. Without wanting to put down my own posts: the film is much, much better.

Continue reading

That was the year that was: 2022

The last two years did a number on everyone, and I’m definitely including myself in that: my sense of time and chronology, and especially my memory, the pandemic and the series of crises of all shapes and sizes, these have all left their traces. I have to admit: I’d find it difficult without consulting my notes to say much about what damn fine cups of culture I enjoyed most in 2022. Even with the notes I’ve made in the draft version of this post, I find it difficult to say with much confidence that I remember these things most about the year.

Nonetheless, enjoy them I did – a lot, in fact, and these are some of the things that helped me through some of the harder times in 2022.

Continue reading

Six Damn Fine Degrees #111: Plays Metallica by Four Cellos

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!

I’ve always liked music. From an early age onwards, I played various instruments: pretty much anything with keys and anything that you had to hit with a stick or a mallet. But, as a kid and as a teenager, my musical tastes – and, really, my musical experience – were weird, and not necessarily in interesting ways. I liked big orchestral stuff, I liked film music, mostly of the Elmer Bernstein and John Williams variety, I enjoyed music that I’d heard in movies and TV series. Obviously I also listened to the pop and rock of the time, whatever was on Sky Channel first and later on MTV (which means that I associate much pop and rock first and foremost with the music videos), but I didn’t own a single album pre-CD, and even once I started buying CDs, it was almost exclusively film and TV music. My first, and for a long time my only, pop/rock album was Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell.

Which also means that as a male teenager growing up in the ’80s and ’90s I never had a heavy metal phase, and not only because I never had the hair for it.

Continue reading

The Compleat Ingmar #39: Fanny and Alexander (TV series) (1982)

We’re almost at the end of this journey. I’ve now, for the first time, watched the TV version of Ingmar Bergman Fanny and Alexander, and only the film version is left. It’s a fitting time for this, as Fanny and Alexander is always on television in Sweden around Christmas the way that other countries might show Czech fairy tales or Frank Capra’s darkest movie, and it’s easy to see why: it begins with one of the greatest family celebrations ever captured on film, a bourgeois, early 20th century Swedish Christmas. Food, festivities, fart jokes: everything that comes to a cinephile’s mind when they hear the name ‘Ingmar Bergman’.

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that

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.

Other than David Lynch himself, the person who perhaps left most of a fingerprint on Lynch’s work is the composer Angelo Badalamenti, who died a week ago. Matt shared his thoughts and memories of Badalamenti’s work, in particular on the various incarnations of Twin Peaks (which we’ve written and podcasted about, the latter more than once).

Continue reading

Into the night: Angelo Badalamenti (1937 – 2022)

I fell for Twin Peaks before I’d even seen a single scene of the series. I was fifteen and we were visiting with my uncle in the UK. Twin Peaks had just come out, and I was curious, but my parents weren’t watching it, and I didn’t think of recording it at the time, probably because I didn’t have any VHS tapes of my own. Anyway, there I was at my uncle’s, it was getting dark, and I discovered this CD on a shelf. Foggy mountains, some trees, a road curving to the left, and a sign: Welcome to Twin Peaks. I asked whether I could listen to it, they gave me some headphones, and I plonked down on a bean bag next to the stereo system.

And the night enveloped me.

Continue reading

Some thoughts on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

I liked Black Panther a lot back when it came out. I think that as a film it’s flawed in ways that are inextricably linked with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and everything it imposes on a production, in particular in the obligatory but oddly shoddy CGI fest that is the final battle – and while I am not necessarily a big believer in the Academy Awards as a measuring stick for cinematic quality, I never bought into the argument that Black Panther should have won the Oscar for Best Picture (though, looking at the actual winner that year, I can definitely agree that Black Panther should’ve trounced that one). But I do think that Black Panther was and is important, that it still is one of the most thematically ambitious of the MCU films.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever tries its hardest to be a worthy successor to the first film – but the longer I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that it buckles under the weight of all the various expectations it has to struggle with.

Continue reading

Criterion Corner: Rushmore (#65)

It took a while for me to warm to Wes Anderson and his films. It’s not that I didn’t see his talent for mise-en-scène; that has always been obvious. It’s that I found his characters and their quirks grating rather than charming. I did not enjoy spending time with the Tenenbaum family, I didn’t want to hang out with Steve Zissou and his crew. And when the films veered towards tragedy, I found them too affected to care, too smugly self-conscious and twee.

It was only with The Fantastic Mr Fox that I learnt to enjoy a Wes Anderson film, not for individual parts but as a work in its entirety – and oddly, it took the more sustained artifice of latter Anderson for me to connect to the underlying emotion as something real. It was therefore with some trepidation that I approached Rushmore, Anderson’s second feature film, which I expected to be closer to the films that would follow it, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic, in style and tone. And it is – though it has some interesting quirks of its own, among them an awareness of the limitations and annoyances of The Life Andersonian.

Continue reading

Six Damn Fine Degrees #105: (Don’t Fear) The Shape

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!

Warning: oversimplification ahead. In horror films where the threat is personified in one primary antagonist, you tend to get one of two types of bad guys. Type 1: the characters. They are defined quite clearly, they have motivations and a personality. They may be driven by a dark, dramatic backstory, but to some extent this background is less important than how they behave in the present of the stories they’re in. Especially in the horror films of the ’80s, they have a signature style. They quip. They’re the Freddy Krugers and the Pennywises, the Chuckies and the Pinheads.

And you know what? I don’t think I’ve ever found any of these particularly scary.

Continue reading

They create worlds: Little Orpheus, and the limits of running left to right

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Little Orpheus is gorgeous to look at. It is what we used to call a jump-and-run game; usually such games are called platformers these days, the various Super Mario titles probably being the most famous among them even to non-gamers, but ‘platformer’ is really less fitting in the case of Little Orpheus, which is all about running and jumping – and, as is customary in such games, running and jumping to the right most of the time. The character you’re controlling is the cosmonaut Ivan Ivanovich who finds himself in one pickle after another: pursued by pterodactyls and a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a take on the centre of the earth that is part Jules Vernes, part ’50s B movie, or navigating the innards of a giant while, or racing against the odds in mysterious Lemuria. Or actually, he’s telling these stories – which he may be making up on the spot – to the increasingly impatient General Yurkovoi, who is trying to find out what happened to his atomic bomb and how exactly this ridiculous little man sitting in front of him was involved.

Little Orpheus is undoubtedly beautiful – and yet, I felt less immersed in these worlds than I have in some technically and artistically more primitive ones. Is it that jumping and running doesn’t lend itself to immersion?

Continue reading