A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #51: Denis Villeneuve’s Dune

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture couldn’t let the year end without celebrating one of the most anticipated films of the year, nay, the pandemic: Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune. For this, Julie and Alan are joined by Daniel Thron of Martini Giant, who had previously come by for a damn fine cup to discuss Stephen Soderbergh with us. Did our intrepid cultural baristas enjoy Villeneuve’s take on Herbert’s seminal novel? Did Hollywood do justice, in terms of storytelling and aesthetics, to a novel that many others – including David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky – failed to successfully bring to the screen? So, face your fear, permit it to pass over you and through you, and spend an hour in the desert landscape of Arrakis with Dan, Alan and Julie!

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: It don’t like sand. It gets everywhere.

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.

Continue reading

The Compleat Ingmar #14: Hour of the Wolf (1968)

This film should have been the thirteenth in Criterion’s sublime collection Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema – and if we count Scenes from a Marriage as one work in two different formats, the numbers actually tally. Hour of the Wolf is an ominous, nightmarish work; in fact, I would go so far as to say that it is about the last thing I would have expected in the director’s oeuvre, an out-and-out horror film – though, this being Bergman, the horrors are not those of ghouls and ghosts, they are of the decidedly psychological kind.

Nonetheless: there are scenes of faces being pulled off and eyes floating in wine glasses. You’ve been warned.

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Curious, curiouser and straight-up WTFery

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.

Continue reading

They create worlds: Disco Elysium

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.

The moment I wake up, I know that something is amiss. My reptilian brain and my limbic system talk to me, one in a snarling, jagged voice, the other in a hoarse, high-pitched whisper. They urge me, mock me, lead me astray – but who is this “me” they’re talking to? I drag my sorry body to the bathroom and look at myself in the fogged-up mirror – and there is no moment of recognition. I see my face, and it could be anyone’s. I’m a blank – and like a blank, I’m there to be filled with personality and meaning and purpose.

Continue reading

Mad Howling in the Red Dark

If you are ready for an agonisingly slow descent into hell, then Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is the film for you. There are many reasons to instinctively refrain from watching it in the first place: yet another Nicholas Cage over-the-top performance; outrageous violence and buckets of blood; killer demons on motorcycles. What’s more, the film might change from one viewing to the next, but for me, it worked because I was in the right kind of mood, and that might prove crucial with movies like this. And I never watched a chainsaw duel I didn’t like. Continue reading

Death in Stockholm

Talk about serendipity – there I was in Stockholm on 14 July, the day that would have been Ingmar Bergman’s 100th birthday, and they were showing The Seventh Seal. What better way to enjoy a hot summer afternoon on vacation than to spend it in the company of a knight undergoing an existential crisis and the Grim Reaper himself?

Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #12: Twin Peaks – The Return

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 12 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, in which we finally return to the quiet (or is it?) town of Twin Peaks, say hello to Special Agent Dale Cooper and talk about death, nostalgia and David Lynch over a slice of pie and a fresh cup of joe. Did Twin Peaks – The Return deliver what we wanted or did it give us what we deserved? We also briefly visit the Civil War US and the land of the dead in Lincoln in the Bardo, experience the horror, the horror in Apocalypse Now Redux (now with more Playboy Bunnies!) and answer that age-old question – can a used condom be art? – as we chat about The Square.

Continue reading

The Tube is not what it seems

Okay, gang. I’m afraid this entry is going to be short(ish) on words and long on film. Also, it’s only really going to be of interest to David Lynch/Twin Peaks fans. For all you other people: switch off your computers and go outside. It’s a lovely day. (At least where I am. For all I know, The Deluge: The Sequel has just started wherever you are.)

One of the features on the Twin Peaks Super Gold Fantastic Tacky Set is that the international version of the pilot is included. This was the version Lynch edited together in case the series wasn’t picked up by a network, and it ‘completes’ the plot. However, ‘complete’ has to be taken in the loosest possible sense here – for anyone who thought that Lynch’s works don’t make any sense, the international Twin Peaks pilot makes Lost Highway look like one of those “Run, Jane, run!” stories in terms of clarity.

 

It roughly goes like this: Mike, the one-armed man, calls Agent Cooper and tells him that Bob killed Laura. Coop and Sheriff Truman meet Mike at the hospital. They find Bob in the hospital basement. Mike shoots Bob. Cut to twenty-five years later: Coop is in the red room, little guy dances, Laura kisses Coop and whispers something in her ear. The end.

I’m somewhat reminded of the first time I watched Twin Peaks on telly. They were showing it on some second-rate channel, but they stopped roughly 2/3 into the series without saying that it wasn’t actually over. For years I thought, “No wonder people say that Twin Peaks doesn’t make any sense!” Even the ending that Lynch finally came up with had more closure and felt more coherent than what I’d seen…

P.S.: Even if the international pilot is rushed and incoherent, you gotta love Lucy and Andy.
P.P.S.: For those of you who want to see something that is more representative of the Best of Twin Peaks: this is pretty much my favourite scene in the series.

… but I gots to be that kinda blogger

When you read Internet comments on anything concerning Quentin Tarantino, you quickly realise two things: 1) You shouldn’t read Internet comments unless you get some sort of masochist enjoyment out of sustained idiocy; 2) Quentin Tarantino is considered a hack by lots of people who, by extension, think that Tarantino fans are wannabe hip wankers.

Now, I understand that QT’s films aren’t to everyone’s taste, and he’s definitely not one of those directors/writers who can do no wrong. But I would think that anyone with half an eye and a minimum of appreciation for movies should appreciate that Tarantino is anything but a hack. Pulp Fiction still holds up amazingly well 14 years after it came to cinemas. Jackie Brown is a bit of an odd one out – its relationship to the rest of QT’s oeuvre is roughly like that of The Straight Story to most other David Lynch movies. Many people who loved Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs found Jackie Brown boring, and people who hated Tarantino’s earlier films (or Kill Bill, if they started from the other end) probably didn’t even see the movie.

We started watching it yesterday evening – for the first time since the DVD came out, in my case – and from the very beginning, the Miramax logo appearing on screen to the strains of Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street, I got the same giddy feeling that I got from most of Tarantino’s movies. Apart from anything else, the guy knows how to use a soundtrack to accompany and reinforce his images. The film’s intro is one of the coolest in all of American cinema, and its simplicity makes it even cooler. Pam Grier, seen through Tarantino’s lens, is both a real person and utterly iconic. Neither the music nor the images without the other would work nearly as well:

What I only realised yesterday was that, once that intro is over, it’s half an hour before Jackie Brown (the title character!) is back on screen. But that introductory sequence has burnt her into our mind’s retina. It’s her film.

But it’s also the rest of the cast’s film; most if not all of the main characters are played brilliantly. I still haven’t warmed to Bridget Fonda, I have to admit, neither in this movie nor in most others (except A Simple Plan), but it’s fascinating what Tarantino does with Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro. In a way it’s a shame that Jackson was so good in Pulp Fiction, because in most films that followed it he did minor variations on Jules Winfield only, becoming a self-parody. He was never less than cool but neither was he more than Samuel L. Jackson(tm). Robbie Ordell, though, is different. Not wildly different, but he takes his earlier character and makes him into something colder, more real and more frightening.

Robert De Niro, though, is an actor who has rarely impressed me in the last ten years or so. He too has  been playing reduced versions of his earlier parts, also becoming a caricature of himself in so many movies. His Louis Gara is a comic figure in his slowness, yet it’s much more differentiated a performance than you might think at first. And his scene with Bridget Fonda is one of the most cuttingly funny sex scenes in American movies. For now, I’ll leave you with it: