I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Mysterious, Secretive, Lonely, Haunted

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.

Talia Shire is one of those actors that rarely get the limelight, yet in the right part they’re absolutely essential to the functioning of the film they’re in. Take Rocky, in particular: while Stallone works fantastically well (these days, it’s easy to forget what he could bring to a film), without Shire, the film wouldn’t work nearly as well. On Friday, Sam wrote about her contribution, to Rocky as well as to the Godfather films, and it’s a great reminder of Shire and her roles.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #45: Ripley vs Ripley – who’s the most talented?

For our June episode, we’re sending the cultural baristas on a holiday in sunny Mongibello, Italy, where rich, pretty young ex-pats spend their time and money on the beach – though there are others who may be less harmless… Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr Ripley was turned into two films: René Clément’s Plein Soleil (released as Purple Noon in the English-speaking world, in spite of a distinct absence of purple-hued noons), starring a young Alain Delon, and Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation, which took the title from Highsmith’s book, featuring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Ripley is a fascinating character, a sociopath reflecting the identities of those around him back at them, and it’s fascinating to compare these two very different interpretations of the character. Join Sam, Julie and Matt as they sail the treacherous waters of the mid-20th century Mediterranean and compare the talents of the various Messrs Ripley!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #44: Isao Takahata – radical naturalism

When Isao Takahata died in 2018, the world lost one of the uncontested masters of animation. Takahata, long-time creative partner of Hayao Miyazaki and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, created some of the most striking, memorable anime there is. Together with guest Patrick Martignoni, Eric and Matt discuss Takahata and his thematic and aesthetic concerns, especially his idiosyncratic, experimental take on naturalism and how animation can be used to get to the essence of characters. In our discussion, we focus mainly on Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Only Yesterday (1991), Pom Poko (1994) and what is arguably Takahata’s magnum opus, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) – but we don’t forget to look in on his TV career, as all three of us were raised on Heidi, Girl of the Alps. Join us as we remember the great, idiosyncratic and surprising storytelling of Isao Takahata!

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Hungover cops can’t jump

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!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #43: Meanwhile, the war was happening elsewhere…

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?

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #42: The Complicated Women of Pre-Code Cinema

… 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!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #41: The Musical Episode

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!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #40: Star-Spangled Paranoia

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?

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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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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #39: Bond – Nobody does it better (or worse)

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.)

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