Six Damn Fine Degrees #25: Mystique

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.

It’s only in the last couple of years that Marvel comics have finally acknowledged the truth about one of their oldest coded gay relationships in its superhero universe. In 2019, the characters finally got to share an on-panel kiss and at the beginning of 2020 the first ever direct reference to their exact status made it to a published comic.  Nearly forty years after the supervillains Mystique and Destiny had first appeared in a comic together (and thirty years after the latter’s demise), that they had been a homosexual couple was made unambiguously clear.

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Tell me who you are, so I can tell you who you are: Alias Grace and Ex Machina

Over the last couple of weeks, we watched the 2017 Netflix series Alias Grace. It is a smart, stylish adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, with strong writing by Sarah Polley and direction by Mary Harron (of American Psycho fame), and the acting is impeccable, especially when it comes to Sarah Gadon as the Irish maid Grace Marks who may or may not have helped murder her employer and his housekeeper. The series handles tone and genre well, navigating between historical drama, dry black comedy, true crime, gothic horror and deft commentary on gender, class truth and fiction.

And about halfway through the final episode I thought that Alias Grace isn’t all that different from that film with the robot.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #9: Beloved

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.

Of all the novels that the vast majority might deem unfilmable, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, released in 1987, would make their top ten. There are movie versions of so-called difficult texts such as Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, but not yet of McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, although the rights have been sold long ago, so there might not be any unfilmable text anymore. And I have seen theatre students turn Shakespeare sonnets into short plays, so there. I am certain that Beloved would have made my list when I read it for the first time. And yet the movie exists.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast Christmas Special 2020

2020 is almost over, but not before we go into the strangest festivities in decades. Are many of our listeners in lockdown? Will they be able to celebrate with their families, or will they be sitting down for a Christmas dinner with very few, if any, to join them? Everyone at A Damn Fine Cup of Culture hopes that you out there are safe, healthy and able to have a few days of cheer – and, we hope, some damn fine culture to keep you well. For this year’s Christmas Special, we talk about the culture that has helped us stay sane in 2020 – from books to board games, from Hollywood pastiches to silent movie classics. Join us once again, and expect a few surprises along the way. Wishing everyone happy holidays, and may 2020 give us a bit of respite after this most exhausting year!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #2: Garfield

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.

We started our free-fall association into culture with Julie’s sublime entry on John Garfield. We continue with a sudden, nauseating lurch towards something rather more ridiculous. Have you ever had a close look at the things you liked as a child… and shuddered?

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Hang in there, kid, you’ll make it through: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

To get this out of the way: how much did I like The Personal History of David Copperfield? Well, fifteen minutes into the film I felt like I had been enveloped in a warm hug, and I wanted to return the favour and hug back the film and everyone involved in it. Who would have thought that the man who brought us foul-mouthed political enforcer Malcolm Tucker and the pitch-black political satire The Death of Stalin would also be the writer-director of one of the most delightful films of recent years?

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Anyone you can be, I can be better: All About Eve and The Talented Mr Ripley

I must have seen All About Eve at least half a dozen times so far. Its writing retains the sharp wit it had when I first saw it, its performances still shine: Bette Davis is perfect as Margo Channing and delivers Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ lines with relish, but the rest of the ensemble, just as central to the success of the film, is also top-notch. As a piece of filmmaking, All About Eve may not be as audacious as its contemporary Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder’s 1950 caustic tale of an ageing actress, but its appeal has not diminished. I had the opportunity to see it again a few days ago – while cinemas are open again in these parts, you’re more likely to find them showing older films rather than new releases – and it remains a delight.

It has taken me these half a dozen viewings, however, to come to the realisation that All About Eve shares some striking similarities to Patricia Highsmith’s thriller The Talented Mr Ripley (and, to a lesser extent, the film versions made of Highsmith’s novel) and that the title characters of the two works can be seen as mirror images of each other.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Rilke’s Panther (1907)

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!

Everyone has a Rilke story, whether they realize it or not. How could it be otherwise that mine starts with that Panther behind bars. I swear, it must be a staple of a lot of movies and series just like the story of the scorpion and the frog, or the Wilhelm scream. Rilke’s Panther a story of entrapment: the panther paces back and forth, back and forth behind bars in its own hospitalistic way, because that is all it knows. It is one of many poems published in Rilke’s New Poems, published in 1907, although that specific poem might have been written as far back as 1902, when Rilke had a look at the menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where there was a real black panther in a cage.

Painters in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris
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