Six Damn Fine Degrees #8: Jason Robards

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 is a fact universally acknowledged that sometimes very bad films can have a surprisingly good cast. Take Chernobyl: The Final Warning, for instance, which I would have been blissfully unaware of if it hadn’t been for last week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees entry by Alan. Sure, Jon Voight has been in films that should have been delivered to the nearest trash compactor before ever seeing the light of day, but he’s also been in some stone cold classics. (No, Baby Geniuses and the Mystery of the Crown Jewels isn’t such a classic. Sorry.) Speaking of trash compactors, Chernobyl: The Final Warning also features the Death Star MVPs Ian McDiarmid and Sebastian Shaw, who memorably co-starred in Return of the Jedi as the wacky duo Emperor Palpatine and Anakin “NOOOOOOOO!” Skywalker, at least before Shaw fell foul of the original Jedi Purge and was digitally replaced by a bald, scarred, Humpty Dumpty-looking Hayden Christensen. Then there’s Annette Crosby, who played Victor Meldrew long-suffering wife for eleven years before later taking on the famous Dickensian role of “Mr. F’s Aunt” in the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit. Seriously, though, Crosby’s no slouch, as is evidenced by her OBE for services to Drama. The cherry on top of this particular radioactive sundae, though, is Jason Robards.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: The past is a mirror

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.

Continue reading

Six Damn Fine Degrees #7: Cinematic Chernobyl

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.

The drive from Kyiv to the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is not long. The small coach my friends and I had hired back in 2018 took us there in just over two hours. “You can watch this to pass the time,” the driver said. “Some of it was shot in the exclusion zone so you’ll get an idea as to what to expect.” And so it was that I got to see the 1991 TV movie Chernobyl: The Final Warning.

Continue reading

The Compleat Ingmar #19: Winter Light (1963)

It has been said many, many times, but it bears saying again: for someone who described himself as an agnostic, Bergman had something of a fixation on religion. Not in social or cultural terms, mind you: Bergman’s concern seems to be almost entirely with very personal matters of faith. Winter Light is probably the most literal in this respect: its protagonist, Tomas (Gunnar Björnstrand), is the pastor of a small Swedish church out in the sticks who finds that as his congregation dwindles (the first scene sees him preaching to a handful of people, several of whom politely try but fail to hide their disinterest), so does his belief.

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: A former god, a trickster god and a lycanthrope walk into a streaming service

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.

Continue reading

Six Damn Fine Degrees #6: The Ghost and the Darkness

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.

My beloved and me got tired of the cold winter days and dark December nights and fled to Kenya. We got what we wanted: the ocean, a warm, healthy climate, and all the excursions and outings we could handle. On one safari, we took a break at some farm and were invited by the employees to have a seat on some benches. I thought that we would be told about the flora and fauna, but no such luck. We realized that we were sitting in front of a TV screen, we heard a generated cough into life, the set started to flicker and display some logo, and we gathered with some astonishment that now was movie time.

Continue reading

A pair of bitter-sweet twins: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Love. Romance. Beautiful French women – and they’re twins, though not identical ones. Song and, yes, dance. Yup, we’re in Jacques Demy country, though if your only experience of Demy’s films is the sublimely melancholy Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) might feel like a change of pace. Where the former film will leave many teary-eyed, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort is a fluffy French meringue that, if you’re attuned to its pleasures, should put a big, goofy smile on your face. And that’s before we even get to the axe murderer subplot.

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Into the Woods

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.

Continue reading

Six Damn Fine Degrees #5: Jerry Goldsmith – Hollywood’s golden composer

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.

Following up on Eric’s deep space exploration of the not-so-beloved Star Trek – The Motion Picture, I was reminded of how much of what we are supposed to believe and feel about the film’s improbable plot and presumed depth is achieved by its soundtrack: the grandeur of the USS Enterprise, the viciousness of Klingon aggression or the prolonged mystery surrounding V’ger are all greatly heightened and intensified by that one composer who more than once saved Star Trek (and Hollywood!) with his music: Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004).

Continue reading