A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #50: Daniel Craig’s Bond farewell in No Time to Die

No, A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, we expect you to podcast… Obviously we cannot let a cultural phenomenon such as Daniel Craig’s final James Bond outing go uncommented – especially since Alan, Julie and Sam already talked about the Bond franchise a year ago in preparation for the (oft postponed) release of James Bond: No Time to Die. In the meantime, it has been time to watch No Time to Die, and our three intrepid baristas return to finish their mission. Did they enjoy Daniel Craig’s last hurrah as MI6 agent James Bond? What were they shaken and/or stirred by most? What did they think of the villain, the women, the hidden lair – and especially the ending? Just as importantly: whither James Bond? Where do we want the franchise to go next? And… who do we want to have a crack at the iconic secret agent next?

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #49: The Music Makers

Bernard Hermann, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith: so many of our favourite movie moments wouldn’t be the same without their iconic soundtracks. What would Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’Échafaud be without Miles Davis’ melancholy jazz trumpet? Or the title crawl of Star Wars: A New Hope without John Williams’ epic orchestral fanfare? What does music add to films that can’t be done in any other way? Can great music make a mediocre or even bad film memorable? What about films that use pre-existing music? And can there be too much of a good soundtrack? Join Julie, Matt and Sam as they discuss their favourite movie music moments!

Want to listen to the music we talked about for this episode? Check out our Footnotes post for some choice soundbites!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #48: None More Noir

It all began when she walked into our coffee bar… It’s September, but really, we’re starting Noirvember early: join Alan, Julie and Matt as they discuss what some have called that most cynical of genres, the film noir. Obviously, there’s no way around the big granddaddy of them all, Billy Wilder’s blackest, bleakest of jokes, Double Indemnity (1944), or indeed Roman Polanski’s magisterial, tragic Chinatown (1974), each of these iconic examples of the genre – which, arguably, didn’t even exist yet when Wilder made his film. From classic noir to neo-noir, we finally take a trip to a Californian high school to check out Rian Johnson’s Brick (2004) as an example of postmodern noir, before we finish on a discussion of the future of the genre. Do we need any more compromised private eyes and femmes fatales – and, if so, what would they look like for the 21st century?

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #47: Second Chances

What happens when we watch a film, don’t like it – and then we return to it, half a dozen years (or more) later? Why do some of the films we don’t enjoy still stay with us, and what’s necessary for us to change our minds? In the August episode of our podcast, Julie and Matt talk about these questions and give two films a second chance: Julie’s brought along Mildred Pierce in its 1945 adaptation by Michael Curtiz, starring Joan Crawford, and Matt has rewatched the more recent Killing Them Softly, adapted for the screen and directed by Andrew Dominik in 2012. Why did we bounce off of these films when we first saw them? Was it them or was it us? Are we seeing the films through different eyes, or do they still not convince us? Join us for a conversation about expectations, being in the wrong mindset or mood, and what happens when you revisit a film ten, twenty years after you’ve first seen it. And, who knows? We might just give this format more than one chance!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #46: Post-pandemic cinema

It is July – and in many countries, cinemas are open again, albeit with some restrictions. Have our intrepid cultural baristas already been back to movie theatres – and if so, what has it been like to be back after several months? How have they coped with half a year without cinemas? How has COVID-19 affected movie theatres and cinema goers alike? And how will the cinema landscape change after the pandemic? Even if we’re looking at a summer and autumn with open movie theatres (fingers crossed!) and upcoming blockbusters like the new James Bond and Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited, often-postponed Dune, will cinema be the same? Join Alan, Julie and Matt as they discuss these and other issues concerning post-pandemic cinema!

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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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