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.

smiles_1jpg

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

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!

Continue reading

Burning, or: When you call Schroedinger’s Cat, does it come?

How do we know what we know? More importantly, how do we know anything when the supposed evidence consists of absences? Does a cat exist that we never see or hear, and all we do is fill its bowl with food and clean the litter box regularly? Is a charmer’s glib confession that in order to feel alive he burns greenhouses every couple of months enough proof to convict him of these crimes – and of worse ones? And when a loved one vanishes, is her absence proof that something horrible has happened? Does Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) make himself believe that something is there, or does he make himself forget that what he is looking for actually doesn’t exist – as with the tangerine in the pantomime his friend Hae-mi shows him?

Burning

Continue reading

These goggles are made for walking

I’ve written about it before: as much as I love virtual reality and its sense of immersion, we haven’t quite arrived at the holodeck yet. You can’t really touch things, though with the right kind of controllers implemented well it’s amazing how well you can fool your brain into believing that you’re actually holding that floppy disk, handgun or lightsaber in VR. However, what is much more difficult, at least in the comfort of your home, is walking. Sure, you can walk a few steps depending on how much space you have, but after more than a metre or two you’re likely to bang into a wall. And since few people live in empty warehouses or vast, echoing halls, not to mention the cable by which you’re generally attached to the PC, developers generally have to find workarounds.

Skyrim

Continue reading

That Old, Familiar Tune

Is this what some people feel like when they watch a Quentin Tarantino film? There I was, watching the penultimate episode of The Night Of, HBO’s 2016 prestige crime/prison/courtroom drama. (Beware spoilers for The Night Of, but also for The Man Who Wasn’t There.) In its final, expertly staged scenes, the is-he-or-isn’t-he-innocent protagonist Naz becomes a willing accessory to a swift, bloody jailhouse murder. As the scene begins, violins start playing a melancholy tune – one that I immediately knew: the makers of The Night Of had taken a page out of the Coen Brothers’ songbook, using a theme written by composer Carter Burwell for The Man Who Wasn’t There to colour a scene of ruthless brutality.

The Man Who Wasn't There

Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Lemmings (1991)

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’ve been playing computer games for… well, it’s been a while. My parents got a C-64 when I was about nine years old, back in the Cold War-and-neon days of 1983. Many of my fondest gaming memories go back to the time when pixels were the size of your fist and anything more than 16 colours on the same screen was not just luxurious but simply not possible. Later, when I was a teenager, I upgraded to the next Commodore model, the Amiga, but it never felt as iconic as the good old ‘breadbox’ did. When I think of the games that I grew up with, I think of the likes of International Soccer, ParadroidWizball and World Games, all of them on the C-64. Sure, I had some fun times playing Amiga games, but they didn’t have that ineffable thing that the technically more primitive games on the older, slower, less capable machine did.

There are a handful of exceptions, though. And the one that comes to mind in an instant is best described by the sound of a squeaky voice going “Oh no!”

Lemmings

Continue reading

That Was The Year That Was: 2018

In past years I always forgot about doing a look back at the year that was until my friend and co-blogger Mege did his own retrospective – and by that time it was too late. This year I come prepared and bearing not just one or two but eight awards. Enjoy!

A Damn Fine Cup

Continue reading

In the middle of the picture, that was her

It took me a while to get into Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s much-feted black and white quasi-memoir following the life of Cleo, who lives with and works as a housekeeper for a middle-class family in Mexico City. Ironically, what kept me from engaging with the movie for the first half hour is also one of the things that Roma has received most praise for: its cinematography.

Roma

Continue reading