The Rear-View Mirror: The Hobbit (1937)

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!

Honestly, I don’t envy the job that Peter Jackson ended up with when he became the director of the film adaptation of The Hobbit. From what I’ve read and heard, he famously didn’t want the job, having already spent years and years of his life on The Lord of the Rings, he was hired after Guillermo del Toro left the project and given relatively little time to get the show on the road, and he was told to change a two-film plan into another big fantasy trilogy. Never mind that The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, is a slim volume that cannot really be compared with the big, fat doorstop that is The Lord of the Rings.

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Into darkness: Midnight Family (2019)

Midnight Family starts with a bang, though visually you wouldn’t know it, as it’s presented as a simple white text on a black background. It’s the simple, unadorned but utterly horrific statement that Mexico City has 45 official ambulances to serve a city of 9 million people. Think about it: that is one ambulance per 200’000 individuals. This figure frames everything that follows, it provides an explanation and context, and it tells the audience from the beginning what we’re in for: a visit to a world that has gone deeply, badly wrong.

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I'll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Grim tales, growing pains, taking flight

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest installment 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.

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How to recognise Star Wars from quite a long way away

This may sound a tad hypocritical after my critique of Rise of Skywalker a few days ago, but I don’t envy J.J. Abrams. In fact, I don’t envy anyone engaged in delivering new Star Wars content to a 2020 audience, a task that I imagine to be very similar to feeding the hungry inhabitants of a lion pit while dangling from a slender, fraying rope. The problem is this: what is Star Wars, what constitutes proper Star Wars? These are questions that a vast number of fans with different levels of zealotry and entitlement will answer very differently – but when George Lucas released his prequels to, let’s say, mixed results, the megaphone/Death Star combo that is Twitter didn’t yet exist. These days, creating, or even just acting in, a Star Wars thing that some people dislike can pretty much result in this:

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Fear is the path to the dark side: Rise of Skywalker (2019)

We get it, Disney: a lot of very vocal fans didn’t like The Last Jedi. We don’t even have to call all of the dislike of Episode VIII an expression of toxic fandom; Rian Johnson’s stab at Star Wars was designed to be something of a slap in the face of business as usual, and while I loved the daring of many of its ideas, they weren’t always executed altogether well. At times I could see what Johnson was going for but felt that he was doing so in ways that were clunky or at odds with other things the film was trying to do.

Nonetheless, The Last Jedi had ideas, it had a vision, it was interested in doing more than being the Star Wars cover band that The Force Awakens was, even if that one delivered its version of A New Hope‘s greatest hits with panache. If Rise of Skywalker wants to do something, it’s kowtowing to the loudest and most toxic critics of The Last Jedi. It doesn’t have a vision other than that of apologising loudly and unthinkingly for the perceived mistakes of the previous episode. In short, Rise of Skywalker may just be the most cowardly expression of fan service I have ever seen.

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I'll be in my trailer… watching trailers: What the Dickens? Threads, Guys and video tape

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest installment 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.

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The Rear-View Mirror: La Règle du Jeu (1939)

RulesoftheGame6

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!

If you are fond of lists, you may have seen La Règle du Jeu (or The Rules of the Game) on several of those “best films of all time” lists. If you are not, let me be the one to tell you: it firmly belongs with the best films of all time.

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Waste Land and other poems (1940)

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 just finished Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, a book I would have stopped reading if I’d had to carry it around with me, but there is an excellent audio-book, read by Wolfram Berger, thanks to which I somehow made it through. Did I understand all of the philosophical, political and social musings in there? Of course not – not even half. That is the advantage of novels: you can delve into certain sections and figure them out and read on later, and you can skip other parts. Novels must have some kind of plot, or they are barely novels. There is an obvious red thread, however spurious, that we can figure out and follow. Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast Christmas Special 2019

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3The festive season is upon us. Turkeys are being defrosted, eggnog is being whisked, and your cultural baristas have brought along presents for everyone. It’s a surprise, really, and we don’t want to spoil anything, but here are some hints: Matt asks you to unwrap a strange, tasty treat filled with choices, strangeness, the debris of failed revolutions and potentially lethal ties, while Mege promises a hangout to remember over Earl Grey with some of the most memorable actresses of the last few dozen years, and Julie has prepared a double bill of big egos, dirty dishes and culinary hijinks. Wishing everyone happy holidays and all the very best for what remains of 2019 – be safe and see you in 2020!

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d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3The festive season is upon us. Turkeys are being defrosted, eggnog is being whisked, and your cultural baristas have brought along presents for everyone. It’s a surprise, really, and we don’t want to spoil anything, but here are some hints: Matt asks you to unwrap a strange, tasty treat filled with choices, strangeness, the debris of failed revolutions and potentially lethal ties, while Mege promises a hangout to remember over Earl Grey with some of the most memorable actresses of the last few dozen years, and Julie has prepared a double bill of big egos, dirty dishes and culinary hijinks. Wishing everyone happy holidays and all the very best for what remains of 2019 – be safe and see you in 2020!

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The Rear-View Mirror: Hayao Miyazaki (1941)

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 have the writer Neil Gaiman to thank for my first experience with director Hayao Miyazaki and his fantastic worlds: at the time, Gaiman wrote the script for Princess Mononoke‘s English dub, which was probably the first dub of a Miyazaki movie that didn’t cast actors primarily known for their voice work in the main parts. Instead, we got names such as Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton and Gillian Anderson – and we also got a wider release than anime features (as opposed to, say, the latest Disney princess movie) usually got in my neck of the woods.

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