Six Damn Fine Degrees #62: The Cat’s Meow

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!

Peter Bogdanovich is probably best known for his early films such as The Last Picture Show or Paper Moon, although to a modern audience his face might be most recognizable as Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, the psychiatrist’s psychiatrist in The Sopranos. For all his many accomplishments I am perhaps most fond of his interviews. Books such as Who the Devil Made It or Who the Hell’s in It. His epic three-hour interview with Orson Welles, or the wistful Directed by John Ford. Bogdanovich was not just a filmmaker, he was a lover of movie culture and – notably – of movie lore.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #61: Tony “Scheherazade” Soprano

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 met my now-wife back in the previous millennium. It took a while for things to work out between the two of us – anywhere between nine and eleven years, depending on how you measure and what you take as the starting point of a relationship that developed over a fairly long time, and that is still developing and growing. But especially during the first few years, there were a few constants. From the first, we went to the cinema with each other a lot. And early on, we would start watching TV series together – and once you start with a TV series with someone else, you can’t just go off and watch it on your own, because that would be simply uncivilised. Over the years we’ve watched so many series together: great ones, good ones, a fair few mediocre ones and even a couple of series that were plain bad. (I’m looking at you, Hunted and Intruders!) From Battlestar Galactica to Veronica Mars, from Ultraviolet to Lost, from House of Cards (the BBC original) to Edge of Darkness (also the BBC original).

But somehow, I would say that our origin story, our relationship as first friends and then more than friends as facilitated by television, really began with a mobster who went to see a psychiatrist.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #60: My daughter, the Marvel fan

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 would have liked to dazzle you with a cool origin story, but I can’t remember how and when my favourite daughter found her love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I am pretty sure she saw the first few movies in chronological sequence at home on BluRay, too young to have seen then in the theatres, so Tony Stark, Cap and the Hulk came to her at home, and it was probably the first Avengers movie that she saw in an upholstered seat, ticket in hand, with a bag of popcorn, on the big silver screen. But she was hooked long before that.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #59: Watching Star Wars with my 10 year-old niece

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!

Do you remember when you first saw the original Star Wars trilogy? Did you possibly even see it when it first came out or, if not, at least upon the movies’ return to the cinema in their ‘improved’ version in the late 1990s? I was among the many who had gotten used to bad video tape quality since the late ’80s and was stunned when eventually seeing them on the big screen, just before the disappointment of Episode I (The Phantom Mess) hit. Even trying to think really hard, however, I can’t remember my first reaction to the big plot twists: did I suspect Darth Vader was Luke’s father? Or Leia his twin sister? Did I believe Vader would redeem himself at the end? And did I mind (as Matt so poignantly asked in last week’s post)?

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #58: Redemption song

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 used to be a massive sucker for redemption stories, in films, books, games, anything that tells a story. Darth Vader? Severus Snape? Buffy‘s Spike? Or, to choose a somewhat more seasonal example, Ebenezer Scrooge? Oh, yes, please, give me more of that! Conflicted villains that, at the last moment, find the goodness in their hearts were very much my thing.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #57: Naked (1993)

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!

“It is important to set up for the audience the worst possible picture of this guy.”

This is how Mike Leigh describes the pre-credit scene, the very first moments in his film, and the very first glimpse we get of Johnny, its protagonist. We see him from behind, committing what is, or certainly turns into, a rape. Then he runs off, steals a car, and while he is underway over the almost empty highway to London, the credits roll.

Charming bloke, this Johnny…

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #56: J. M. W. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

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!

A year ago, a medical professional recommended that I reserve a spot in my apartment for an object or an image that would just be there for me to look at and enjoy. I made a mental list of possible candidates, getting to my number one by process of elimination, so when a picture of the young Monica Bellucci ended up in second place, it was finally clear what I had suspected all along. I had a framed print of Turner’s Fighting Temeraire leaning against the wall, still unhung. It had been on the list early on, but I never thought it would have made it to the top spot. So up there it went.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #55: John Turner as Roderick Spode 

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!

Whenever you watch a live action adaptation of a book that you love, there is always the troublesome business of the casting. Will those starring in the production possibly match up to the version in your head from reading the original. If the actor does a good job, they might come close to how you imagined the role initially. An actor might even still do a good job, but just be wrong. Their performance is so at odds with your own take on the role, that, even if you keep watching it you’ll mainly be quietly tutting at it.

But occasionally an actor will come along and give a performance in a role that works so well, that so exceeds the version that once played in the brain, that they become that character going forward. When you re-read the book, it’s their version that you imagine. Whatever feeble brain casting you imagined before has been sacked and kicked out the imaginary production, forever replaced by the version you saw on screen.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #54: Why adoring Angela Lansbury is easy as pie

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!

There is hardly any other living actress of her generation that has been as universally adored as Angela Lansbury (96). That might sound like a pretty bold statement at first, considering that she was never really considered an ‘A list’ actress in the world of cinema, and her roles, although charming, were often supporting in the best sense of the word. However, reading about the Stephen Sondheim musical adpatation of the tale of Sweeney Todd in Julie’s comprehensive piece from last week, in which Lansbury so memorably played murderous pie-maker Mrs. Lovett, only increased my adoration for this truly universally talented actress in the many fields of her craft.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #53: Barker, his name was. Benjamin Barker

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!

“Sweeney Todd was a barber of the old school, and he never thought of glorifying himself on account of any extraneous circumstance. If he had lived in Henry the Eighth’s palace, it would have been all the same to him as Henry the Eighth’s dog-kennel, and he would scarcely have believed human nature to be so green as to pay an extra sixpence to be shaven and shorn in any particular locality.

A long pole painted white, with a red stripe curling spirally round it, projected into the street from his doorway, and on one of the panes of glass in his window was presented the following couplet:

Easy shaving for a penny,
As good as you will find any.

We do not put these lines forth as a specimen of the poetry of the age; they may have been the production of some young Templer; but if they were a little wanting in poetic fire, that was amply made up by the clear and precise manner in which they set forth what they intended.”

— James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, The String of Pearls: A Romance (1846/47)

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