I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Fight Night

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.

When it comes to boxing movies, there’s Rocky – and there’s Raging Bull. There are other types, other flavours, but these two pretty much define the territory. Matt wrote about Raging Bull this week, a relatively recent Criterion release, and while the film will never be an easy watch, it’s definitely made easier by this visually stunning release.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #93: Mank v Welles

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!

Orson Welles ca. 1949, Getty Images
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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Singing Songs of Love

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.

Is there anything better at either improving or ruining a song for you than films that use the song in a very specific way? David Fincher’s Zodiac did quite the number on Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” – which, incidentally, is also the song that Mege wrote about in this week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #92: Hurdy Gurdy Man

Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) is one creepy trip of a song. Judging only from the lyrics, the hurdy gurdy man should bring solace and tranquility to the suffering of all mankind by simply playing his instrument and softly singing his monotonous, hypnotising hurdy gurdy lyrics. Of course, on some level, it is a drug-addled tune, but the words point to an agreeable nirvana of semi-consciousness. The hurdy gurdy player seems to be some godlike being whose superpower is to reign benign over all of us.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Vive la France!

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.

For this week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees, Alan wrote about the pitch-perfect performance of John Turner as Roderick Spode in the TV adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster and one of the most fitting quasi-Hitler moustaches in TV history. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check it out! Sadly, it seems that the only trailers for the show available online are in German, which obviously won’t do, so here’s a six-minute excerpt to enjoy instead.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: It’s a kind of magic

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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Mad Men: Mindhunter (2017-2019)

There was a time when I thought that movie and TV storytelling should just keep away from serial killers for the next, oh, several decades? It’s not because of the horrific subject matter, it’s more that serial killers had become stale in the decade following Silence of the Lambs. The writing was usually lazy, the performances showy but empty, the genre as flat as a glass of Chianti left out in the open overnight. Every return to the psycho well brought with itself diminishing returns, to the point where even the Chef of them all, good old Hannibal Lecter, had been turned into a camp ham, barely any more frightening than the third rubber skeleton from the left in a tacky haunted house ride.

It was David Fincher’s underrated Zodiac (2007) that changed my opinion: here was a film about a serial killer that didn’t rehearse the same tropes. Instead, it told a different story, about the people who, looking for some sort of meaning, for the solution to what they think of as a puzzle, are sucked into the emptiness at the centre of these crimes – and, in some cases, consumed by it. A story where the serial killer isn’t the only one who is obsessed.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #34: Xeno-who? The Alien franchise

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3For our July podcast, we’re heading to space, where no one can hear you podcast: join Julie, Matt and special guest Alan for a chat about Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic Alien and all the wacky hijinks that ensued, with a special focus on James Cameron’s space marine extravaganza Aliens and the much maligned third film and David Fincher’s motion picture debut, Alien³. Strap in and get ready for incisive, acid-dripping, chest-bursting discussion that will wake you from hypersleep in a jiffy!

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d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3For our July podcast, we’re heading to space, where no one can hear you podcast: join Julie, Matt and special guest Alan for a chat about Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic Alien and all the wacky hijinks that ensued, with a special focus on James Cameron’s space marine extravaganza Aliens and the much maligned third film and David Fincher’s motion picture debut, Alien³. Strap in and get ready for incisive, acid-dripping, chest-bursting discussion that will wake you from hypersleep in a jiffy!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #25: Psychopaths (2)

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3

Sometimes they come back: since our last episode, where we discussed black and white movie psychopaths, couldn’t contain all the cinematic psychoses, we’re dedicating a second episode to our favourite psycho killers. Starting from the question what we consider the archetypical pop culture psychopaths, our three intrepid pop culture baristas embark on a journey, beginning with the capo of New Jersey from HBO’s The Sopranos. Is Tony Soprano a narcissistic psychopath or does he really care about those ducks? We then move on to ’60s and ’70s San Francisco and gaze into the absence at the centre of David Fincher’s Zodiac, before the episode finally ends on American Psycho and the dark, cold, empty heart of Wall Street psychopathy.

If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out episode 24, where we talked about movie psychopaths and psychopath movies, from Night of the Hunter via Fritz Lang’s M to the psycho granddaddy of them all: Norman Bates and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

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And when she was bad…

David Fincher’s Gone Girl is yet another example that Fincher is one of the most skilled directors working in Hollywood these days. It is gorgeous to look at, with the various elements of cinematic craft coming together almost to perfection. It is also a film that I found at turns annoying, ludicrous and distasteful, and that’s almost entirely due to the material. Similarly to Fincher’s previous film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it’s impossible not to admire the sheer craft while wishing that he had chosen better material to work with.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl, that is, the story and storytelling, is not without merits, but it’s too glib for its own good. There’s a lot here that individually is interesting, clever, engaging, amusing and chilling, but much of the time it doesn’t really add up: one moment it’s amoral and cynical as hell, the next it turns to moralising with a misogynist slant; in one scene it’s an effective if obvious satire of the media and the audience’s complicity that goes for the uncomfortable laugh, the next it’s a psychological thriller veering into outlandish melodrama, with only the most superficial similarity to reality. There’s an OCD quality to the story, as if Gone Girl didn’t quite trust itself to hold our attention if it decided to be one thing only. Not that films can’t strive for different things at the same time, but in this particular case we end up with a bit of a Frankensteinian creature on screen.

Gone Girl

Which is a shame, not least because to the extent that the film coheres it’s due to the dark, sharp performance in the emptiness where a different movie’s heart would be. I’d enjoyed watching Rosamund Pike in earlier performances, but I wasn’t prepared for how good she is in this. Again, though, there’s a tension here between the nuanced intelligence Pike brings to the part as a performer and the lurid, trashy quality of the material. For all its polish, Gone Girl is Grand Guignol, made up to look like, well, a David Fincher film, and one of his best-looking to date. Look beyond the aesthetics, though, and the one Fincher film that this most resembles is The Game, another movie of very effective individual parts that cohere less and less the more you look at the whole.

Gone Girl

Arguably Fincher’s a stronger, more skilled director at this stage than he was when he made The Game, so Gone Girl holds together better by the sheer quality of the filmmaking, but as I left the cinema, more than anything else I was hoping that next time round he’d decide to film a better script. His particular skillset is well suited to clever writing (as, say, The Social Network shows), but ideally his scripts have to be as clever as they think they are, and I don’t think that’s true for Gone Girl. I hope that whatever he decides to do next he runs like hell from material that in the final analysis is glib more than anything else.