A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #17: The Haunting of Hill House

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3This month Mege and Matt are visiting with the Cranes at Hill House. Will we make it out alive or will we be stuck forever with the shades and phantoms wandering its forlorn corridors? We also stop by Colombia, fashionably late, to talk about Narcos and its take on Pablo Escobar, and we catch a glimpse of the American criminal justice system as illustrated by Cleveland, Ohio, guided by Sarah Koenig & Co., in the third season of Serial.

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Usual Suspects (1995)

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!

– It’s all lies – but they’re entertaining lies, and in the end, isn’t that the real truth?

The Usual Suspects doesn’t get much mention these days. In part, that’s probably due to its director and the actor who played its main character, neither of whom have done themselves many favours in recent years, either professionally or privately. In part, though, it’s probably due to the film’s twist being undoubtedly effective – but moviegoers are notoriously fickle when it comes to endings that seem to undo everything they’ve seen. If the story they’ve been told in effect didn’t happen, what was its point?

The Usual Suspects

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In living, dying and killing colour

We all know what the past looks like. Go back a hundred years, and the world was black and white, sped up and weirdly jerky. People talked in ornate title cards – which was lucky, because how else could you hold a conversation over the din of a dramatic piano score? Philip Larkin once wrote that sexual intercourse began in 1963; it seems that sound and colour began before that, but not by all that much, compared to the history of the world. It is strange to think that two entire world wars were fought entirely in monochrome.

They Shall Not Grow Old

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The Rear-View Mirror: Jackie Brown (1997)

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!

Car trunk shot, bare feet, vintage tunes, Samuel L. Jackson: Jackie Brown is clearly a Quentin Tarantino movie, there’s no doubt about that. At the same time, while all the telltale features are there, the film is an odd one out in Tarantino’s oeuvre. Where Tarantino’s movies often have a jittery, adolescent quality in their characters, language and use of violence, Jackie Brown feels like a more… is “mature” the word? … a more mellow film. Compared to the excesses of Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds and Death Proof, there’s a grown-up quality (for lack of a better word) to Jackie Brown that is sadly underestimated by some of the director’s fans. At the same time, it would be a huge mistake to think that because of this Jackie Brown lacks the exuberance of Tarantino’s other films – and this is shown beautifully, in miniature, in the movie’s title sequence.

Jackie Brown

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The Rear-View Mirror: Spaced (1999)

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!

Oh boy. How do you do justice to a year like 1999, wchich produced films such as The Matrix, Being John Malkovich and Magnolia? That gave us the HBO gateway drug The Sopranos as well as a The West Wing, whose idealism would be much needed these days? Let alone games such as System Shock 2 and Planescape: Torment, milestones of the immersive sim and of choice and consequence in video game storytelling? I can’t pick the film, series, book or game that was most meaningful, but I will pick one that has been wrongly overshadowed by its creators’ careers since.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #16: 22 July by Paul Greengrass

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3In the November episode of the podcast, Mege and Matt are returning to the island of Utøya to take a look at Paul Greengrass’ filmic take on the massacre. How does Greengrass’ film compare to Erik Poppe’s interpretation (which we discussed last month)? What does it bring to the table? And can it do justice to the events that happened on Utøya on 22 July 2011? We also hear of a near-mythical face-to-face encounter in the Virtual Reality version of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and of the German documentary The Cleaners, which tells of the content moderators scouring social media for inappropriate content and the price their work exacts.

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Press X to ride into the sunset

If you have any interest in video gaming whatsoever, you can’t have missed the release of Rockstar Games’ oater epic Red Dead Redemption 2. From the game’s almost Deakinsian visuals via its insane level of detail (yes, your horse’s testicles contract in cold weather!) to, sadly, the reports of the studio’s insane crunch culture that’s deleterious to mental and physical health as well as relationships, RDR2 (which, I admit, sounds too much like a Star Wars robot to be a very helpful abbreviation) has been everywhere – including my PS4’s hard disk. I’ve not yet had much time to explore the dying Old West alongside the Van der Linde gang, but it’s already clear that this is an exceptional game. Exceptional in scope and ambition, surely – but what is most surprising to me is that this is also an exceptionally wilful game. If it wants me to like it, it’s going about it in a very strange way.

Red Dead Redemption 2

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

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!

There are few directors who can look back at as illustrious a filmography as the Coen Brothers. From the early neo-noir of Blood Simple, the gangster’s paradise of Miller’s Crossing, the surreal Hollywood of Barton Fink, via Fargo, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou to more recent films such as No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man and Inside Llewyn Davis: though Joel and Ethan Coen clearly have a style, but they’ve never rested on their laurels. While they’ve had a couple of clunkers, I’m more interested in one of their films that hasn’t really received as much attention as I think it deserves.

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A separation

It is not that Will is a bad father. He is caring, he looks after his daughter’s physical needs. He teaches her self-reliance, and her intelligence and resilience clearly indicate that he’s done a lot of things very well. In fact, if he hadn’t done such a good job of raising his daughter, she might never find the strength to tell him that he cannot take her with him.

Leave No Trace

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The Rear-View Mirror: Master and Commander (2003)

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 enjoyment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe notwithstanding, I’m not the kind of moviegoer who regularly thinks, “When are they doing the sequel?” A film first and foremost has to be a world unto itself: before you can start to think about creating a universe, tell a good story. World building is fine, but as far as I’m concerned a movie is best served by being self-contained.

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