Six Damn Fine Degrees #46: The Shirelles’ “Boys”

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!

“What’s your favourite Beatles tune sung by Ringo” is – it should be said – quite a niche Fab Four related question. But for me the answer is 1963’s “Boys”, his track on their first album Please Please Me. It’s a great little stomper of a rock tune, grabbing the listener’s attention from the very start, and holding it for its brisk running time of under 2½ minutes. It’s also fun, with Ringo playfully grinning as he sings his way through a chorus that goes:

Well, I talk about boys (yeah, yeah, boys)
Don’t ya know I mean boys (yeah, yeah, boys)
Well, I talk about boys, now (yeah, yeah, boys)
Aah, boys (yeah, yeah, boys)
Well, I talk about boys, now (yeah, yeah, boys)
What a bundle of joy! (yeah, yeah, boys)

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #44: Whatever happened to Richard Lester?

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!

Reading about the subdued but enormously suspenseful bomb-on-a-boat thriller Juggernaut in last week’s post, I couldn’t have agreed more with Matt’s analysis that even though we might expect a classic disaster movie, we are given something much more riveting and truthful in the hands of director Richard Lester.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #43: Juggernaut

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!

Richard Lester’s Juggernaut (1974) was probably the first Richard Harris film I ever saw. It’s very likely it was also the first time I ever saw a film starring Omar Sharif, Anthony Hopkins, Ian Holm or Freddie Jones. It’s most definitely the first time I encountered that time-honoured trope where a bomb exposal expert faces two differently coloured wires and has to decide which one to cut: one will defuse the bomb, the other will mean death, for him and for everyone else in the building, on the plane or (in this case) aboard the ship.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #42: Embracing darkness: Richard Harris

Harris in the studio recording an LP in 1971 (Image: Jack Kay / Daily Express / Getty Images)

“There, I gave you the stuff about Harry Potter”, Richard Harris pointedly remarks to his interviewer at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2001, just before the world would change. “But try to use the rest of what I said as well. Because, you see, I don’t just want to be remembered for being in those bloody films, and I’m afraid that’s what’s going to happen to me.”

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #41: Pandemic and Disaster in The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

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 grim reality of an ongoing global pandemic and the eerie parallels to other historical viruses like the Spanish flu of 1918 (so poignantly discussed in last week’s post) have not exactly whet our appetites for pandemics in movies. The likes of Contagion (2011) and Outbreak (1995) might be too real for comfort and post-virus zombie tales of World War Z (2013) or 28 Days Later (2002) too horrific for escapist entertainment.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #40: Pale Rider by Laura Spinney

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!

Welcome to some sort of grim hat-trick. This entry might well be a part of our sadly ever-expanding series called Corona Diaries; it is also a revisit of what I once wrote for The Rear-View Mirror about Laura Spinney’s book Pale Rider; and the concept of six degrees carries a very cynical note when thinking about contagion, way back in 1918 when the Spanish Flu hit, and again today, for glaringly obvious reasons.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #38: Out of Sight and George Clooney

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 first time I was exposed to Elmore Leonard (I make him sound a bit like a virus, don’t I?) was probably when Get Shorty came out in 1995 and was a big hit. I didn’t see it at the cinema, but I caught it on TV a while later. I have to admit that there’s pretty much nothing I remember about Get Shorty, so the first time I actually registered that this Elmore Leonard cat might be someone to look out for was when I went to see Out of Sight, in 1996, and fell for the film. I fell for the characters, the writing, the direction, the editing, the feel. And, obviously, I fell for Jack Foley (George Clooney), gentleman bank robber, for Marshall Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez), and most of all for their car trunk, whirlwind romance.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #37: Elmore Leonard

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!

I don’t care how many movies you own, if your bookshelf doesn’t contain at least one single Elmore Leonard novel, there is a gap in your collection. There are very few novelists whose prose is already so close to a screenplay; in fact, if you, like me, imagine something very much alike to a movie scenes while reading a novel, you have it easy with Leonard, because his writing is, in the best sense of the word, graphic.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #34: Jacques Mesrine

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!

If Goodfellas is about the glitz, and Donnie Brasco is about the grind, the Mesrine dyptich consisting of L’Instinct de Mort and L’Ennemi Public No1 illuminates the cruelty inherent in a life of crime. Jacques Mesrine is a hard man. Not in the more stylized De Palma vein but as the real deal. Often racist, sometimes misogynistic, and extremely violent. The political incorrectness is not inadvertent, nor is it glamourized. It is simply symptomatic of a type who does not give a shit about anything at all. Not about people’s lost or ruined lives, either directly through his actions, or by their consequences. He wants what he feels he is owed, no matter the cost. Though certainly clever, articulate, intermittently charismatic and even charming – he has his moments –, Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) is a man of such staggering volatility and entitlement that he makes Tony Montana look like a parody.

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