I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Sceptred isles, hunchbacked toads

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.

Matt is inching ever closer to completing his epic journey through the works of Ingmar Bergman. This week he wrote about the lesser-known Brink of Life – but, he argues, it definitely deserves more recognition than it has received to date. That lack of recognition is reflected by a lack of a trailer – unless we search further afield and find this video advertising a Hungarian stage adaptation of the film from 2011.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #60: Summer of Directors – Martin Scorsese

Our Summer of Directors comes to an end: after Jane Campion, Dario Argento, Ida Lupino and Robert Altman, we’ve arrived at Julie’s choice of director: Martin Scorsese. Poor Marty has come under attack in recent years, especially from fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but ironically, Julie takes issue with Scorsese’ statements on the MCU more than the two resident MCU-heads Alan and Matt. What else do the three of them think of Scorsese as director and film buff extraordinaire? Join us for a discussion of some of Scorsese’s less-discussed works, The King of Comedy (1982), Bringing Out the Dead (1999), and the 1995 documentary A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies. And let us know what you thought of our Summer of Directors!

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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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Criterion Corner: Raging Bull (#1134)

There are films that are a joy to watch because they’re so well crafted. The director knows what they’re doing, the cinematography is stunning, the editing is masterful, the acting and writing, the score – everything is spot on.

Then there are films that are deeply unpleasant because of the world and characters they depict. You don’t want to spend time in this place, with these people, and once you’ve been there for two hours, you just want to go and have a shower and clear your brain from the memory of them.

And sometimes, there’s a film that fits both of these descriptions. For me, Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull is one of those films.

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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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Six Damn Fine Degrees #16: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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.

If there is one film, just one, that should be seen on the big screen in unadulterated 70 mm, it has to be Lawrence of Arabia.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Bernard Herrmann (1911)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

You don’t have to be into movies all that much to have been scared by Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975). He started composing when still a teenager and also worked as an orchestrator and conductor later on. One of his first notable contributions was for Orson Welles’ original 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. Hermann’s music must have had a hand in the fact that so many listeners thought that the Martians were really coming.

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Dazzled by the mob: The Godfather Part II

In cinematic terms, I sometimes wish I’d already been around during the 1970s. It’s the big films of that decade that I most regret seeing at the cinema. Thank god for good repertory cinemas, though: thanks to my favourite rep cinema, I’ve been able to see the likes of Apocalypse Now on the big screen – and the theatrical experience definitely makes a difference in terms of how potent these classics are.

Last week, as part of a series on migrants (which includes such different fare as Jan Troell’s The Emigrants and The New Land and Neill Blomkamp’s District 9), I was finally able to see Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II on the big screen. The film is gorgeous to look at, with Gordon Willis’ Rembrandtesque cinematography an absolute triumph, and it’s a joy to see Pacino and De Niro in peak form, their acting specific and nuanced and entirely unlike the personas we’ve seen them embrace all too often since. The way I watch the film has changed in other ways as well, though, and these have nothing to do with the big-screen format. That difference is due to me having watched the entirety of The Sopranos in he meantime.

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Into darkness: Midnight Family (2019)

Midnight Family starts with a bang, though visually you wouldn’t know it, as it’s presented as a simple white text on a black background. It’s the simple, unadorned but utterly horrific statement that Mexico City has 45 official ambulances to serve a city of 9 million people. Think about it: that is one ambulance per 200’000 individuals. This figure frames everything that follows, it provides an explanation and context, and it tells the audience from the beginning what we’re in for: a visit to a world that has gone deeply, badly wrong.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Jules et Jim (1962)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Jules et Jim (1962) wasn’t my first film by François Truffaut, but it might as well have been: while I saw The Last Metro (1980) earlier, it didn’t fully register that this was a film directed by Truffaut, one of the founders of the French nouvelle vague, and I only remembered The Wild Child (1970) very, well, vaguely. In fact, I was more aware of Truffaut in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

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