The Corona Diaries: The beginning is the end is the beginning

For a while it looked like we were over the worst. Well, when I say “we”… Let’s put it like this: in many places, numbers were going down, cinemas were opening up, people were wondering if we were returning to something akin to normalcy. I mean, I’ve been back to the Best Little Cinema in the World often since it opened its doors again in May. Work colleagues are going abroad on vacation. Isn’t this what normal looks like?

Remember when Mege posted this photo in his Corona Diaries entry in May 2020?

Or is this just what it looks like when people decide, as the finishing line comes into view, that they’ve had enough, and it’s the last bit that sucks the most, so why don’t we skip it?

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #46: Post-pandemic cinema

It is July – and in many countries, cinemas are open again, albeit with some restrictions. Have our intrepid cultural baristas already been back to movie theatres – and if so, what has it been like to be back after several months? How have they coped with half a year without cinemas? How has COVID-19 affected movie theatres and cinema goers alike? And how will the cinema landscape change after the pandemic? Even if we’re looking at a summer and autumn with open movie theatres (fingers crossed!) and upcoming blockbusters like the new James Bond and Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited, often-postponed Dune, will cinema be the same? Join Alan, Julie and Matt as they discuss these and other issues concerning post-pandemic cinema!

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The Corona Diaries: Hello darkness, my old friend

Here we are, Sunset and Camden: yesterday, for the first time in almost half a year, I sat in a movie theatre, watched the lights go down, the curtain open, and the film begin. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, all wearing yellow raincoats, begin to sing that iconic song. Sitting in the satiny dark of the cinema felt like coming home – but, like so many homecomings, there’s a note of ambivalence.

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The Corona Diaries: Raptured away

We’ve had this before: video games can be many things, but one thing they are particularly good at is escapism. A video game can be extremely effective at taking you out of your current situation, when you need something of a getaway.

So, after replaying Journey and finding it an exceedingly solitary experience of quite limited escapist value during these pandemic times, what do I do? I go and replay Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015), in which the player walks a Shropshire village that is deserted – but everywhere there are traces of the people who are gone after a mysterious epidemic has struck. Oh, and the world has ended.

D’oh!, as the kids say.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Do you think death could possibly be a boat?

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.

Last week it finally happened: A Damn Fine Cup of Culture was deemed too raunchy by Facebook. Okay, that may not be quite accurate – truth be told, we will probably never know why Facebook suddenly decided that we’d violated their T&Cs with the name of our page. Was it the “damn”? Was it that we made claims to the extraordinary quality of our cups of culture? Or was it something else entirely, like the wrong number of capitals? Anyway, we are now back on Facebook, complete with what some people might consider naughty words in our name. Let’s see what Mark Z comes up with next, shall we?

All of this happened on the same day that Sam posted another wonderful instalment of Six Damn Fine Degrees, in honour of two of the Grande Dames of dubbing: Marni Nixon, who featured in many a film musical without getting the credit she deserved, and Nikki van der Zyl, the woman who gave a voice to so many Bond girls. We can hear a (sadly, very small) handful of her lines dubbing Ursula Andress in the trailer for the Bond film that started it all, Dr. No.

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The Corona Diaries: Parallel play

Mid-February in the Swiss capital: as the pandemic grinds on it’s definitely getting to me more. Differently from many, it’s not the relative lack of social contact: I’m not the most social animal at the best of times. I would even say it’s been quite good for me and my wife that we’ve both been working from home for much of the last year, which means that we don’t just see each other in the morning when we’re still tired and in the evening when we’re tired again. I have been seeing a friend once a week for coffee, but beyond this I don’t acutely miss going out and meeting people in larger numbers than what I can count on one hand; I can get most of the social interaction I need via Skype, Zoom and Tabletop Simulator – the latter of which allows us to rule at the boardgame Pandemic during an actual pandemic. What times we live in!

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The Corona Diaries: It’s a small world after all

I felt a range of different emotions when the COVID-19 crisis began, and a lot of different thoughts went through my head. One was a profound sense of unreality: this kind of thing happens in movies, not in real life, and definitely not here, in Switzerland, in one of the wealthiest, most privileged countries in the world. Another was constant, low-level stress and the feeling that my brain and its usual processing power was off, somehow, that my thinking was constantly woolly and my ability to remember things (never exactly my strong side) was pretty much shot.

However, not all of what I was feeling was confusing, confounding or plain bad. There was also a sense that for the first time in my life we were experiencing something as the whole world. Even if we were stressed, anxious and confused, we were sharing this. No other event I’d ever experienced felt as truly global, and that was a good feeling: we were all in this together.

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The Corona Diaries: Coming up for air

This is Matt again, so don’t expect the artsy playing with structure you get from Mege. Things here have been looking up for a week or two now, pandemic-wise. The numbers are great, almost disconcertingly so; listening to This American Life or Radiolab podcast episodes describing the situation in New York, for instance, feels like listening in on a parallel universe where COVID-19 struck fast and struck hard, while here, in Switzerland? Well, since we’re all about damn fine cups of culture, let’s put it in cultural terms: I’ll be able to go to the cinema on 6 June.

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The Corona Diaries: Virtually isolated

Warning: There may be spoilers for the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 in the final paragraph.

Dear Diary, it’s Matt again. How have you been? Going out, having a cappuccino, a glass of wine, going to the cinema? What, me? No, I’ve been a total homebody. Barely left the house, except for the occasional brief stroll. Though that’s not entirely true: I did leave the house – just virtually.

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