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.
1994 saw a great disturbance in computer games, as if thousands of geeks suddenly cried out in disappointment and then fell silent – most likely because their Avatar had just failed to successfully jump from one small rock to another. Back then, reloading a save game wasn’t just a matter of seconds: it was a commitment, and the more time you’d already sunk into a game like Ultima VIII, the less likely you were to stop playing, especially if you’d paid close to a hundred dollars, and doubly so if you were a fan of the Ultima series of computer role-playing games. This week, Eric wrote about his memories of his first big computer game disappointment, and it is a pain that many fellow geeks felt at the time.
This was before computer games received trailers, so instead, let’s start this week’s post with the trailer issued for its sequel, and the final single-player Ultima game – which (wait for it) turned out to be even worse in some ways. But hey, at least it wasn’t quite as much of an active exercise in masochism!
As Edwin Starr asked in 1970: “War, huh, yeah! What is it good for?” Hollywood has known the answer to that one for a long time – war makes for very lucrative movies. From the trenches of the First World War to the urban combat of the Iraq War, there are many, many movies ready to show us combat, heroism, excitement and horror – more often than not veering close to, or outright crossing into, propaganda. The genre of war movies – even if we could spend many podcast episodes just trying to find a useful definition of what exactly makes a war movie – is often used to make a statement about one thing or another: nation and patriotism, masculinity, class, ideology. While we talk about all of these things with our guest Laura Binz, we look at an atypical example of a war movie (and one that Roger Ebert famously walked out of): the Italian film Mediterraneo (1991) by director Gabriele Salvatores, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1992. Is there such a thing as a war movie when the war only takes place far, far away?
… or how the Code Ruined Everything. Welcome listeners! For our March episode we will look into the cinema of the 1930s, before the Motion Picture Production Code was enforced in 1934. Just after the roaring ’20s and through the Great Depression, there was a space for stories and characters which would ultimately be lost to Hollywood. A space where there was an opportunity for a different kind of part – especially for women. Where rather than just virgin or vixen, there was room for something in between: something more interesting, more human, and so much more fun! Tune in as Alan and Julie explore what makes pre-code films, and the characters who inhabit them, so special!
Sing, sing, sing: for our February episode, we celebrate the genre where people are constantly at risk of breaking into song and dance and where one-word titles just don’t feel right unless you add an exclamation at the end. Yes, your damn fine cultural baristas finally take a closer look at the musical! Do we love it or are we musical sceptics? What musical numbers do we sing under the shower? For this episode of the podcast, the films that bring a song to our hearts are the pre-code gem Gold Diggers of 1933 by Mervyn LeRoy and choreography by the iconic Busby Berkeley, Jacques Demy’s marvellous movie meringue Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (your best chance to hear Gene Kelly speak French!) and the Polish horror fairytale The Lure, a sexy, scary and surprisingly faithful adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. (Take that, Disney!) So, warm up your vocal cords, don your dancing shoes and join us in a celebration of the movie musical!
Ah, 2021. We expected so much of you, but you decided to one-up your predecessor. The events of the last week have made John Frankenheimer’s paranoia classic The Manchurian Candidate (1962) look surprisingly sedate – who needs one sleeper agent brainwashed by hypnosis into becoming a terrorist when you can mobilise thousands via Twitter and distorting reality? Nonetheless, The Manchurian Candidate retains all of its unsettling potency. Join Julie, Sam and Matt – and quite possibly exactly 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party – as they talk about Frankenheimer’s seminal film and why it still works so well. (One part of the answer is obviously Angela Lansbury.) So, instead of passing the time with a game of Solitaire, why don’t you join us as we explore not only this classic film of political and personal paranoia but the rich seam of paranoia that goes through American cinema?
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!
2020 turned out to be No Time For Bond – but our intrepid cultural baristas won’t let that stop them! In the absence of a new instalment in the long-running James Bond franchise, Julie, Alan and Sam – our resident expert in All Things Bond – talk about what the series has to offer: the best and the worst, the shaken and the stirred, the Goldfingers, GoldenEyes and Golden Guns. Who’s their favourite Bond? What’s the film they like least? Are the Bond movies actually good? And does Bond, James Bond still have a place in the 21st century, where the global threats are of a very different kind? P.S.: Listen out for the Bond-appropriate pre-credit sequence! (Okay, it’s not as if you could miss it, seeing how it’s right at the beginning.)
At A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, our wheelhouse is mostly films, TV series, books – the damn fine cups of culture that you can enjoy at your own leisure, in your own time, at the turn of a page or the push of a button. There is an entirely different world of culture out there, though: live performance. Join Julie, Matt and our guest for November, Nicolette Kretz from AUAWIRLEBEN, the theatre festival happening annually in Bern, Switzerland, as we talk about why we love live performance, what some of our favourite live performances have been, and how 2020 – the year of COVID-19 – has been an opportunity for many to rethink what makes a piece of culture live.
Cancelled blockbusters, social distancing, mask requirements: even in places where movie theatres are still open, it isn’t easy for cinemas in 2020 to keep audiences coming back. Here and there, though, there are cinemas that are weathering the pandemic and providing a meaningful cultural and social service, giving a home away from home to cinephiles. One of these cinemas is the Cinema REX in Bern, Switzerland (https://www.rexbern.ch/), which reopened in summer and has been showing indie premieres, world cinema and retrospectives. Join us as we talk to our guest, Martina Amrein from Cinema REX, as we talk about running a movie theatre in 2020 and the key importance for cinemas of finding a niche for yourself.
2020 being the year in which you make plans only to see them dissolve, we originally had a different topic and guest planned for the September episode – but Robert Burns had it right after all… which means we took the opportunity to bring back Alan and talk about one of the greatest icons of Hollywood cinema: Marilyn Monroe. Join us in a trip through Marilyn’s filmography, as we wonder what could have become of the actress if her life hadn’t cut tragically short.