Six Damn Fine Degrees #17: The Hunger Games (2012)

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.

You can dismiss it as juvenile dross, and you would not be entirely wrong, but The Hunger Games (2012) gets one thing admirably right: it is very able to balance its theme of mass media voyeurism showcasing a random group of soon-to-die game show contestants with the fact that we, the audience, are watching their imminent demise alongside the anonymous masses in the film. We are made to be voyeurs, too, not entirely against our will, and yet we are asked to side with the contestants – or victims, let’s call them, for that is what they are. And since we are not heartless, we empathize with them.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #16: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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 there is one film, just one, that should be seen on the big screen in unadulterated 70 mm, it has to be Lawrence of Arabia.

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Howl, howl, howl! Wolfwalkers (2020)

This will come as no surprise to those who have seen The Secret of Kells (2009), Song of the Sea (2014) and The Breadwinner (2017) by the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon: their latest, Wolfwalkers, is gorgeous to look at. More than that, their films all have very specific visual styles derived from what they’re about, even if they’re recognisably Cartoon Saloon. I like it when animation creates an aesthetic that is emphatically not realistic, for instance the way that Pixar’s Soul did in its metaphysical spaces – and Cartoon Saloon has been great at using and combining visual styles taking inspiration from sources such as illuminated medieval manuscripts and Afghan miniature painting. In Wolfwalkers, the designers and animators evoke two different worlds by means of very different aesthetics: 17th century Kilkenny has the flattened, right-angled quasi-perspective of woodcut prints of the time, creating vistas and compositions that use depth to striking, even unsettling effect not too dissimilar from deep focus, yet always grounded in the historical style it imitates. In contrast, the woods not far from the town are depicted in a more free-flowing, rounded style, giving these places a distinctly different feel, at once more naturalistic than the stylised streets of Kilkenny and more mystical. Visually and narratively, nature in Wolfwalkers is imbued with a life and spirituality that reveals Wolfwalkers – and Cartoon Saloon’s films in general – to be kindred to the worlds of Studio Ghibli, in particular the films of Hayao Miyazaki.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #11: Martin Landau

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.

Would you have guessed who the young and apparently artistically gifted man in the image below is? Well, reading about him in the last Six Damn Fine Degrees post by Julie, I was reminded of how often this enormously talented actor has been a saving grace and the secret star of so many movies and TV shows I love. And therefore I decided to dedicate this eleventh post to him!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #10: Ed Wood

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.

Johnny Depp as Edward D. Wood Jr.

If there ever was a prime example of positive thinking gone awry, it has to be Tim Burton’s interpretation of Edward D. Wood Jr.

A filmmaker in the 50’s, an era of highly localized and diversified cinema where there was still a space for worse-than-B grade films, the real Ed Wood’s two best known films are Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space. He is most noted for being voted the worst director of all time, posthumously, in 1980. It is clear he wanted to make extraordinary movies, but lacked everything, from money to quality control to, well, competence. But they do have… personality.

Note: spoilers below…

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #9: Beloved

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.

Of all the novels that the vast majority might deem unfilmable, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, released in 1987, would make their top ten. There are movie versions of so-called difficult texts such as Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, but not yet of McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, although the rights have been sold long ago, so there might not be any unfilmable text anymore. And I have seen theatre students turn Shakespeare sonnets into short plays, so there. I am certain that Beloved would have made my list when I read it for the first time. And yet the movie exists.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #1: Body and Soul – John Garfield.

I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The president of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. It’s not just big names, it’s anyone. How everyone is a new door opening into other worlds. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet…

Welcome to our new weekly feature: Six Damn Fine Degrees. These installments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation, in the loosest sense. One contributor writes about the film Six Degrees Of Separation, to which we owe the partial quote above? The next piece might be about Will Smith, who is in it. Or Sydney Poitier, whose son Smith’s character claims to be. Or John Guare, who wrote the original play. Or even Pam Grier, who was snubbed for a Best Actress Oscar, as was Stockard Channing. And it needn’t be just people. It can be plays, music, books, films, video games, anything we, as culture baristas, feel we should write about. The only rule is that it connects – in some way – to the previous installment. We hope our readers will enjoy our forays into interconnectedness. As the man said: it’s a small world, after all.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Mildred Harris (1901)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

“You can’t use my name in your pictures!”, said Charlie Chaplin and charged.

At the Alexandria Hotel, on the 7th of April 1920, Louis B. Mayer stuck out his fist just in time for an irate Charlie Chaplin to barrel into it. Chaplin had ordered Mayer to take off his glasses to aim a punch: both men fell, and had to be escorted out. The reason for this kerfuffle, meanwhile, was 800 miles away, dancing the foxtrot with the Prince of Wales. The famously belligerent producer had signed one Mildred Harris Chaplin for the sum of 50.000 dollars a picture, plus a percentage, to be able to use the Chaplin name.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Apples from Greece, hate from Paris, music from nomads

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest installment 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.

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