A Damn Fine Espresso: March 2023

Hooray for Hollywood… OR IS IT??? It’s the weekend of the 95th Academy Awards, and Alan and Matt got together in cyberspace to talk about this year’s Oscars. What are their thoughts on the Academy Awards in general? Are they big fans of the Oscars? And what do they think of this year’s nominees for the big awards: Best Actor, Best Actress and, obviously, Best Picture? What are their thoughts on who should win – and, perhaps as importantly, who shouldn’t? What do the nominations say about 2023 Hollywood? And how easy is it to watch a performance in a film you consider flawed or even bad and judge whether it’s worthy of receiving an award? Featuring Polish donkeys, blue anti-colonialists, Freudian symbolism, #metoo conductors, with a generous helping of war being hell and a pair of Irishmen who just don’t like each other no more!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #66: Grand Designs – Architecture in Movies

Our baristas have shown before that they have an eye for interesting locations in movies, in their discussion of their home towns and their appearances in films as well as in last summer’s episode on the cinema of Dario Argento. This month they’re going from a geographical, ‘on location’ scale to the more individual, designed spaces of interior and exterior architecture. Sam is joined by Alan and Julie to talk about architectural design in cinema: staircases that range from grand to absurd and dreamlike, the modernist villains’ lairs (watch out for a feline cameo in keeping with the theme!) and iconic War Rooms of Ken Adams, and the grand, retro-futuristic design and cityscapes of Blade Runner and other epic-scale sci-fi. What do our cinephile sightseers like better: grand bespoke sets or on-location shots of existing places? Matte paintings, miniatures or CGI architecture? And what are some of the staircases that no movie lover should miss?

Also make sure to check out these past episodes:

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A Damn Fine Espresso: February 2023

When we talk about cinematic serial killers, we usually think of the likes of Hannibal Lecter: charismatic sociopaths, individuals that are intellectually brilliant but utterly amoral, and whose killing usually follows some grand aesthetic design, making them queasy stand-ins for artists. Saeed Hanaei, the man who murdered sex workers in Mashhad, Iran in the years 2000 and 2001, isn’t that kind of serial killer, and Iranian director Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider isn’t that sort of film. In this month’s espresso episode, Alan and Matt talk about Abbasi’s film, which got an ambivalent reception when it came out at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022. Choosing to put more of a focus on the killer than on his victims, and staging the murders starkly, Holy Spider was accused of some of being exploitative – but how does a film go about depicting a series of killings in which an entire society is implicated responsibly and tactfully? Tune in to hear our duo’s take on Holy Spider, its depiction of violence against women and how Abbasi’s film uses a fictionalised journalist protagonist (played by Zar Amir Ebrahimi) to tell a story about, as the director puts it, “a serial killer society”.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #65: Dog Day Afternoon

It is a truth universally acknowledged that at least some of us here at A Damn Fine Cup of Culture have a general aversion to films that are based on a true story – but it is just as true that some of the greatest films of all time took their inspiration from real events. One such film is Sidney Lumet’s 1975 crime drama Dog Day Afternoon, which tells the story of a failed, fateful armed bank robbery in ’70s New York. The film, which stars Al Pacino and John Cazale, was nominated for six Oscars at the 48th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor and Editing, and it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (written by Frank Pierson of Cool Hand Luke fame). Join Julie, a big fan of the film, as she talks to Sam, who watched it for the first time for this episode, as they discuss Lumet’s classic and its sensitive, nuanced and empathetic handling of its characters and themes

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A Damn Fine Espresso: January 2023

For our first espresso episode of 2023, Julie and Sam got together to once again share their love of good film soundtracks and to talk about soundtrack concerts. What is the experience of watching a film while a live orchestra is playing the soundtrack? What’s the overall state of film music and movie concerts? What are some of the duo’s favourite movie soundtracks? And how do Sam and Julie end up talking about some of the lesser-known Billy Wilder movies?

If you enjoy our conversation about film soundtracks, make sure also to listen to our podcast episode #49, “The Music Makers”, about some of our favourite soundtrack composers and films where the music is central to the experience.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #64: No movies!

For most of our podcasts, and many of our posts, A Damn Fine Cup of Culture talks about films – which makes sense, because we love cinema, but there is so much more to culture. Why is it that the conversation usually defaults to movies? And why don’t we talk about other media more often? In our first episode of 2023, Julie, Matt and Sam decide to amend this and to talk about the other damn fine cups of culture they’ve enjoyed recently that didn’t show on a big screen. Sam’s brought along three books – And the Band Played On (1987) by Randy Shilts and When We Rise (2016) by Cleve Jones, two non-fiction books about the the LGBT activism of the 1970s and 1980s and the AIDS epidemic in the US, and Swiss Book Prize winner Blutbuch (2022) by Kim de l’Horizon (which is currently only out in German, but is set to come out in English in 2023). Matt talks about two streaming series he very much enjoyed in 2022, namely Severance (Apple TV+) and Star Wars: Andor (Disney+). And yes, even when we talk about media that aren’t cinema, we don’t fully get away from the movies: Julie recommends the podcasts You Must Remember This (by Karina Longworth) and The Secret History of Hollywood (by Adam Roche) about the real stories of classic Hollywood. The book she mentions is Watergate, a New History by Garrett M. Graff.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast Christmas Special 2022

It’s that time of the year again: join the gang at A Damn Fine Cup of Culture for a festive celebration and a look back at the year. In keeping with our big summer series, the Summer of Directors, we’re thinking back on the five episodes where we talked about Jane Campion, Dario Argento, Ida Lupino, Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese. Featuring contributions from our regulars Sam and Alan as well as this year’s wonderful guests Johannes Binotto, lecturer and video essayist, and Dan Thron of Martini Giant (who’s also had a lot to say about Steven Soderbergh and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune in the past). It’s been quite the year, but we’ve been able to enjoy many a good film, book, series, game, and even a concert or two, and obviously many good conversations about all of these things. We’ll be back soon, with more Damn Fine Cups of Culture – and in the meantime, we wish all of our listeners, and all of our guests, happy holidays!

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A Damn Fine Espresso: December 2022

This year’s December espresso is a very special episode: a few weeks ago, Alan and Matt visited the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the London College of Communication, a place replete with scripts, research materials, production and post-production documents, props, costumes, sound tapes, publicity material and much, much more. Sadly, it’s obviously not possible to enter the Archives and dive into these documents and materials much like Scrooge McDuck likes to dive into his immense wealth – but we still felt like children in Santa’s grotto (if Santa was the kind of guy who’d direct A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut). Prior to our visit, we’d asked to see pre-production materials for 2001: A Space Odyssey and script versions of A.I.., the film that Kubrick himself never got to make. Join us as we talk about this fascinating experience and one of the coolest pre-Christmas presents a bunch of film geeks could ever ask for.

A big thank-you to everyone at the London College of Communication and the Stanley Kubrick Archive for granting us our wish!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #63: Monosyllabic horror

Is there anything more terrifying, more capable of evoking fear, than the one-syllable word? Obviously yes – but it is still noteworthy how many recent horror films have gone for a monosyllabic title (which suggests that A24 may have a limited contingent of syllables to make up their titles). In our latest podcast, Alan is joined by Julie and Sam to talk about three recent horror films whose titles fit into a single syllable: Julie has brought along Alex Garland’s folk horror Men, while Alan has picked Jordan Peele’s sci-fi monster movie Nope, and Sam chose the latest Scream, a meta extravaganza directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett calling itself a requel (now there’s the true horror!). What do our cultural baristas think of these three examples of modern horror movies? And just what makes monosyllabic titles so much more scary? Tune in to hear our answers – okay, perhaps not to that last question – in our December episode. Warning: May contain multisyllabic words!

P.S.: We had some technical issues when recording this episode and apologise for the variable audio quality… though it does make the podcast that much more scary, doesn’t it?

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A Damn Fine Espresso: November 2022

After our recent podcast episode on festivals, Sam decided to get in on the fun as well, so he and Matt took the opportunity to talk about a festival that Sam worked on for several years: Queersicht, the LGBTIAQ+ film festival held annually in Bern, Switzerland. Sadly, we just missed the 2022 instalment of Queersicht – incidentally, the 25th anniversary, which was postponed to this year due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, join Sam and Matt as Sam talks about his experiences on the organising and programming committee for the festival. How has the festival changed over the decades? How have its thematic emphases shifted over time? And just how does queer cinema differ from mainstream cinema focusing on LGBTIAQ+ characters?

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