I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Sssnakes and Laddersss

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

We started the week (albeit fashionably late, on Friday) with Alan’s reminiscences of the story tapes of his childhood and Magnus Magnusson’s reading of Tales from Viking Times in particular. Apparently the MCU Thor isn’t exactly accurate to Norse mythology – but that won’t stop us from sharing the Thor: Love and Thunder teaser that recently dropped, will it?

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A Damn Fine Espresso: April 2022

We’ve now been doing monthly podcasts for almost five years at A Damn Fine Cup of Culture – and today we’re starting A Damn Fine Espresso: shorter, more impromptu small doses of all the cultury goodness you’ve come to expect from us! To launch the new smaller cups of culture, join Julie and Sam as they have a chat about what they’ve checked out recently. From Parisian getaways and serendipitous record stores to bad moustaches, worse CGI and films that can’t decide what they want to be…

Starting with this episode, you can get your monthly espresso where you get all of your Damn Fine goodness – so indulge in a tiny cup of our pop culture musings and let us know what you think!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #76: Tales From Viking Times

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!

As a kid, I was a massive fan of listening to stories on cassettes. Far more so than music. Music cassettes inevitably had those tracks you wanted to skip past, leading to fiddling attempts to fast forward the right amount (…and miss it and go back and overly compensate going back and so try to jump forward and – uh-oh, I think the tape is chewed up now). Whereas a good story tape was immersive. You were there for the ride for at least the rest of the side.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Know any jokes on ‘Dafoe’?

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

A week too late for Easter, Matt followed up on Sam’s post on Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon with a little something on religious films: the good, the bad and the ugly. Well, mostly the former.

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They create worlds: Tunic

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

There are video games that strive to recreate the real world in one way or another: the Grand Theft Auto series, for instance, which satirises modern America in many respects, but in others it has been pushing for a more and more intricate, realistic representation of the urban everyday of New York or Los Angeles; or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, where a Shropshire village in the 1980s constitutes the naturalistic setting for a cosy apocalypse that wouldn’t be out of place in a John Wyndham novel; or Dirt Rally 2.0 and its rally courses that have struck fear into the heart of this gamer without ever leaving the realm of the real.

Then there are games that create realities distinctly different from our own everyday reality. The likes of Paper Beast, which puts the player inside a virtual world with its own rules and its own forms of life coming to an end, or Device 6, which thrives on the kind of worldbuilding that is possible only with the written word, or Fez, combining the two- and the three-dimensional in ways that wouldn’t be possible outside the virtual spaces inside a computer’s memory.

Tunic is firmly in the latter camp, but that doesn’t make the world it evokes any less impressive.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #75: Religious movies are (not) dead

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 remember that as a kid I found the Biblical dramas of the 1950s fascinating. I didn’t watch all that many of them, but I remember movies that drew me in with gladiatorial combat but kept me engaged with Technicolor melodrama and righteous men and women sacrificing their lives for some greater good – which in those films always meant God in the end, and more specifically, a bearded, male, white God with just the right blend of being stern and being kind, someone inbetween Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck. I was raised Catholic in a place where Catholicism wasn’t particularly strong or particularly strict, so while we did go to church once or twice a year and while I did receive First Communion when I was 8 or 9, I didn’t get much of a sense of the metaphysical from Sunday School. My religious education at the time derived from old movies – oh, and from Jesus Christ Superstar and from Oh, God! Book II. My sense of the eternal was hippies singing and dancing to showtunes in the desert, George Burns’ ironic smile, and Richard Burton and Jean Simmons looking heavenwards while celestial choirs sing and the credits roll, moments before they are eaten alive by lions.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Uncle Upside Down

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

It’s Easter Sunday, so Sam’s pick for this week’s instalment of Six Damn Fine Degrees is quite fitting: Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi – a film that Roger Ebert memorably called “an excess of sweetness and light”, with dialogue consisting of “empty, pretty phrasing”. Not all Easter excesses of sweetness consist of too much chocolate pressed into bunny form!

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The Compleat Ingmar #32: Persona (1966)

And here we are: perhaps the film by Ingmar Bergman that is most famous, apart from The Seventh Seal, and probably the one most written about in film studies. Persona may not be as immediately iconic as the film that brought us a medieval knight playing chess with Death, but it is undoubtedly one of the films most responsible for the director’s reputation – as a master of his craft, but also as a storyteller who did tremendous work especially with his female protagonists (sorry, Max von Sydow, but it’s true) and whose films explore harrowing psychological and metaphysical territory.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #74: San Francesco was a hippie!

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 spiritual motorcycle journey to San Francisco described in last week‘s post reminded me of another spiritual journey by the man who had lent his name to the City by the Bay: Saint Francis of Assisi. And I was especially struck again by the one film that made an indelible connection between the medieval saint‘s life and the hippie lifestyle that originated in San Francisco: Brother Sun and Sister Moon (1972).

Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, who had not made a film by this point since his stunning success of the gorgeous Romeo and Juliet in 1968, the film stars Graham Faulkner as Francesco. Traumatised by war, he first spends days suffering nightmares in his native Assisi. After several inspirations of faith and nature, Francesco famously gives all possessions including his name to his rich parents and walks away from Assisi naked to find his spiritual destiny, rebuilding a church, founding a community of believers and being received and surprisingly honoured by Pope Innocent III (Alec Guinness’ early practice for the Obi Wan Kenobi role a few years later).

Photographed in Zeffirelli’s signature style (Director of Photography Ennio Guarnieri also lensed several Fellini movies), every image looks taken out of a glossy magazine, with an array of memorable faces in combination with Umbria’s natural beauty. Beside Faulkner and Guinness, the film stars Judi Bowker (Clash of the Titans), Leigh Lawson (Tess), Valentina Cortese (Day for Night) and Kenneth Cranham (Layer Cake).

Despite its medieval background, this makes it look much less like a faithful biopic or historical drama than a thinly veiled allegory on the supposed first hippie. Refusing worldly possessions, peacefully demonstrating against the authorities, starting a new life in a countryside commune and building a new spiritual basis had more than a handful of echos within the world the film was produced and released. In Zeffirelli’s view, Saint Francis was shown as the spiritual father of the flower power movement, so to speak, with hippie singer/songwriter Donovan providing the tunes underneath the magical transformation.

Reviews were not particularly kind at the time of the film’s release (Roger Ebert called it “an excess of sweetness and light”), but as often happens, the film has garnered appreciation and a cult status over the years, and many see it as a perfect companion piece to Romeo and Juliet (possibly even a trilogy with Taming of the Shrew) before the director’s journeys into more historical fiction (TV’s Jesus of Nazareth, Tea with Mussolini), Shakespeare (Hamlet starring Mel Gibson, Otello at the opera) and odd ventures into Hollywood mediocrity (The Champ, Endless Love). Later in his life, Zeffirelli became famous for his countless opera productions before infamously ending his illustrious career for a senate seat in Berlusconi’s right-wing populist party and never publicly coming to terms with his homosexuality.

Long gone by then were the pure if at times simplistic convictions he portrayed about San Francesco’s early modern hippie life that makes the innocent beauty of Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna.

* On a strange side note, the highly popular Donovan songs were never released at the time and the Italian soundtrack album only featured composer Riz Ortolani’s instrumental score and the Italian title song. It was in 2004, finally, that Donovan re-recorded all his original songs for an iTunes release, much to the delight of the film’s fan following.

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Pirates and the Art of Monkey Maintenance

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

While the Criterion Collection is basically catnip for a certain kind of film lover, not every Criterion film is an unreserved triumph, and while there are things to like about Czechoslovak New Wave fairytale Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Matt wasn’t altogether enchanted. (What you’ll find isn’t so much a trailer as an introduction to the film that Criterion put together. Trust me: I’ve looked at the trailer that’s available, and you don’t want to see that one.)

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