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.
Over the last couple of weeks, we watched the 2017 Netflix series Alias Grace. It is a smart, stylish adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, with strong writing by Sarah Polley and direction by Mary Harron (of American Psycho fame), and the acting is impeccable, especially when it comes to Sarah Gadon as the Irish maid Grace Marks who may or may not have helped murder her employer and his housekeeper. The series handles tone and genre well, navigating between historical drama, dry black comedy, true crime, gothic horror and deft commentary on gender, class truth and fiction.
And about halfway through the final episode I thought that Alias Grace isn’t all that different from that film with the robot.
2020 has been a year in which, more than ever, it’s been difficult to shake the feeling that we don’t have much agency over our lives. Things happen that are outside our control and we watch them happen, wondering if there ever was a moment when we were in charge of our everyday existence. Therefore it is probably no surprise that two recent high-profile sci-fi series tried to wrangle the theme of whether we live in a deterministic universe, even if they were both made before our sense of agency took its biggest knock in the shape of a nasty little virus: HBO’s Westworld and FX’s Devs, which was written and directed by Alex Garland.
Can a machine ever be truly intelligent? Can it have feelings? If a machine fakes these things convincingly enough, at what point does the appearance become the real thing? Whatever the answer, Hollywood tends to remind us that it’s a bad idea to fall for robots and AIs, however seductive they look and however much they sound like Scarlett Johansson. Ex Machina is not alone in dramatising the Turing Test, but Alex Garland’s first film as a director is definitely a striking addition to the genre.