Six Damn Fine Degrees #98: Adaptive Shakespeare

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 conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain.” ~ Richard III, Act V, Scene III

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #97: The Divine Comedy, Liberation and Promenade

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!

In 1993, The Divine Comedy released their album Liberation. While, technically speaking, not the first Divine Comedy album, it marked the first release where musician Neil Hannon effectively operated as the band. He wrote, arranged and performed all the songs, with the help of a handful of musicians providing percussion and strings, and William Wordsworth providing a lyrical assist on the album’s final track “Lucy”.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #96: Biffy Clyro

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!

So there are these three Scotsmen who formed a band back in 1995, starting out with unruly punk rock under the equally unruly name of Biffy Clyro, the meaning of which now even escapes the musicians themselves. That doesn’t prevent them from making up stuff – they once claimed that Biffy Clyro was the name of the first Scotsman in space. So anyway – they have become one of the most versatile bands around. They still make a hell of a lot of noise, but they also have one soundtrack (Balance, Not Symmetry), several beautiful ballads (Machines, Opposite, God & Satan) and at least one disco hit (All Singing and All Dancing) under their belt. But their mastery lies in guitar-loaded pop rock with an edge. Listen to the slick mainstream radio tune “Black Chandelier”, or try to heat your flat with “A Hunger In Your Haunt” all turned up. They are highly precise musicians, but they refuse to slow down. If you need a challenge for your ears, listen to the headfuck called “Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep”.

It’s the black oil zombie apocalypse, held in check by three fit young blokes with tats.

And so this guy here bought tickets for their March show a year ago, which got postponed because of some virus, and so finally, finally, they came round here in September. It was in a medium-sized concert hall, and that was part of the problem. The Biff played so loud that it was probably illegal for an indoors concert. My girlfriend, who is not one for earplugs, put them in after the first song (“DumDum”) made the hairs on her arm stand up. What helped her get through the gig was that, very early on, the three guys kept on rumbling half-naked. Not as tall as me, she tried to get glimpses of the trio who behaved like indefatigable Energizer bunnies on stage. She seemed cheerful. I love that woman to bits.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #94: The Great Orson Welles Hoax

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!

Hollywood. The Dream Factory. And what is a dream but a story that never happened? (Or, if you believe in the MCU, things that happen in alternate universes – which means that these alternate universes have a hell of a lot of lectures and speeches made, and lessons taught, by people who suddenly find that they’re actually naked.)

One of the greatest such ‘dreams’ brought forth by Hollywood – or, to be more frank and forthright, one of its greatest lies – is that of Orson Welles: director, actor, writer, and, if we are to believe IMDB, also Editor, Costume Designer, Script and Continuity Department, and (ironically) Self. In short, a Hollywood wunderkind supreme.

How ironic, then, that Orson Welles… play the ominous dun-dun! sound… never actually existed.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #93: Mank v Welles

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!

Orson Welles ca. 1949, Getty Images
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Six Damn Fine Degrees #92: Hurdy Gurdy Man

Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) is one creepy trip of a song. Judging only from the lyrics, the hurdy gurdy man should bring solace and tranquility to the suffering of all mankind by simply playing his instrument and softly singing his monotonous, hypnotising hurdy gurdy lyrics. Of course, on some level, it is a drug-addled tune, but the words point to an agreeable nirvana of semi-consciousness. The hurdy gurdy player seems to be some godlike being whose superpower is to reign benign over all of us.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #91: The Hitchcock That Wasn’t There

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 sausage that was too much: Just like this moment from Torn Curtain (1966), many fascinating Hitchcock ideas, scenes and projects were cut.

I must admit I have not (yet) become as much of a connoisseur of the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre as Matt has revealed himself to be in last week’s insightful post on a number of standout scenes from their lesser-liked films. However, I immediately thought of directors I know somewhat better, particularly how Hitchcock’s over fifty feature films would lend themselves to a ranking of standout scenes of even his less-appreciated films. Beyond obvious scenes in showers, on top of towers and gazing out rear windows, one could probably run a blog or a series of podcasts just on the one standout scene from every one of his movies. After all, Hitchcock was particularly masterful at making scenes, even single objects stand out and in creating masterful compositions, but also making them so memorable as unique scenes that work outside of the film itself.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #90: The scene’s the thing

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!

Will the Coen Brothers ever make another film together? Or will Netflix’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs remain their last collaboration? Obviously it’s rather ungrateful to look at a filmography that includes greats such as Fargo, Barton Fink and No Country for Old Men and whine that there won’t be any more – but at the same time, is there anyone else who makes films that compare with their genre-busting and their often oddball tone? (The closest I’ve come to considering anything Coenesque is probably the British true crime black comedy-drama – which is what Wikipedia calls it, and anything shorter couldn’t begin to do it justice – Landscapers, which we talked about in one of our podcasts.)

Then again, besides their most recognised films, there are a number of movies by the Coen Brothers that didn’t receive the same praise. Some of them were downright disliked when they came out, sometimes more justifiably so (The Ladykillers), sometimes less (The Hudsucker Proxy). One Coen film that I’ve always felt deserved more attention than it got is The Man Who Wasn’t There, a film noir pastiche starring Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand that in many ways exemplifies the particular tone that the Coens excel at: somewhere between parody and homage, with a sprinkle of something decidedly stranger. I mean, which film noir classic ever included a subplot that concerns dry cleaning, or a scene featuring a UFO?

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #89: Fred & Ginger in Carefree

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!

They don’t make ’em like they used to. It’s a familiar refrain when people talk about old movies, to the point of being a cliche. Frequently it’s trotted out by rose-tinted nostalgics who want to decry that modern films aren’t as good as they were in their day. But it can also apply when you watch a film from yesterday that has a plot that, for strikingly obvious reasons, you couldn’t – and definitely shouldn’t – tell now.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #88: Harry Potter and “O Children”

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!

This should come with a lot of caveats, but the Fantastic Beasts films have given me a new, albeit partial appreciation of the Harry Potter films. Remember those? Orphan discovers he’s a wizard, goes to a wizarding school, makes friends with some kids, is bullied by others, and all the while this noseless evil wizard threatens the world. For some reason the whole thing, starting with the books and definitely not ending with the films, was a huge success – so You Know Who started a massive media franchise and shared fictional universe, and they roped in the likes of Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law and Colin Farrell – no, Johnny Depp – no, actually it’s Mads Mikkelsen – to make more of these films and make more money. Sadly, while I found the first of the Fantastic Beasts messy but surprisingly charming, the sequels that have since come out have made it blatantly obvious that whatever magic they lucked on with the original novels and their movie adaptations, this new series would need a lot more wizardry, dark or light, to be successful. Both The Crimes of Grindelwald and The Secrets of Dumbledore suffered massively from plots that were both overly complicated and utterly irrelevant. Momentous things happen, only to turn out that, really, they didn’t matter at all.

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