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 #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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Men & Algorithms: Riders of Justice (2020)

What is the probability of a Danish soldier joining forces with a bunch of grown-up nerds to wage war on a biker gang in order to exact revenge for the death of the soldier’s wife? And what’s the likelihood of that plot resulting in a film that manages to be both funny and poignant? Mathematically speaking, the likelihood increases if the film in question stars Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas and is written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, whose earlier film Adam’s Apples (about a pathologically optimistic priest trying to reform a bunch of Neo-Nazis and other deplorables) was an unlikely hit.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #48: Do you mind if I take just one more look? (A Star is Born)

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 likes to tell stories about itself. One of the most famous tropes is the rags to riches story, where a Hollywood ingenue finds success, only to realise that it comes with great sacrifices. The 1954 version of A Star is Born is one of the most beloved exponents of this trope. Not just because Judy Garland is great in it (and she is), but because of who Judy Garland is. Her painstaking rise to success led to the deterioration of her mental, physical and emotional health, which in turn proved detrimental to the career she sacrificed so much for.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

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Family Anatomy: Kajillionaire (2020)

There is always a moment for me, early in any movie rather than late, where I ask myself if the storytelling is going to be good (or memorable, or quippy, or smart). Sometimes I am fooled into believing that it’s going to be great, as in The United States vs. Billie Holliday, where the movie starts out fine, gets bad and worse the longer I am sitting there, watching it crumble despite Andra Day’s fabulous performance. With Miranda July’s Kajillionaire, I knew that the story it was about to tell me was going to be a keeper, and I was not wrong. If you see Richard Jenkins standing at a downtown L.A. bus station, how can you not think of the pilot of Six Feet Under? The movie could easily be based on a graphic novel along the lines of Ghost World, and three streets along, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia might be unfolding.

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Kuessipan means ‘my turn now’

Myriam Verreault’s Kuessipan (2019) is one of the best films about friendship in a long time. Mikuan and Shaniss grow up on the Innu reservation in Québec, and while the movie could easily showcase all kinds of social problems of the indigenous population, it contains refreshingly few scenes of actual violence. It has the good sense of letting us know that even between the two young girls, things are very different: while Mikuan grows up in a relatively stable family, Shaniss finds her mother dead drunk and unconscious on the kitchen floor, and when Shaniss is placed in a care home, it’s Mikuan who walks all those miles along the coast to see her bestie.

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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 #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 #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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