Six Damn Fine Degrees #57: Naked (1993)

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!

“It is important to set up for the audience the worst possible picture of this guy.”

This is how Mike Leigh describes the pre-credit scene, the very first moments in his film, and the very first glimpse we get of Johnny, its protagonist. We see him from behind, committing what is, or certainly turns into, a rape. Then he runs off, steals a car, and while he is underway over the almost empty highway to London, the credits roll.

Charming bloke, this Johnny…

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Send in the frogs

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 one, this week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees looked at pictures that don’t move – although in your mind’s eye they absolutely do: Mege wrote about J.M.W. Turner’s painting “The Fighting Temeraire”. And since he so handily mentioned Mike Leigh’s 2014 film Mr. Turner, that makes the first trailer of this Sunday post quite easy to choose.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #56: J. M. W. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

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!

A year ago, a medical professional recommended that I reserve a spot in my apartment for an object or an image that would just be there for me to look at and enjoy. I made a mental list of possible candidates, getting to my number one by process of elimination, so when a picture of the young Monica Bellucci ended up in second place, it was finally clear what I had suspected all along. I had a framed print of Turner’s Fighting Temeraire leaning against the wall, still unhung. It had been on the list early on, but I never thought it would have made it to the top spot. So up there it went.

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Good things come to those who wait…

… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that good blog posts do.

I wanted to write about Happy Go Lucky, the Mike Leigh film that in some ways feels like the flipside to his Naked. Put the film’s main character Poppy together with Naked‘s Johnny (played to horrific perfection by David Thewlis) and you’ll get one of those matter/antimatter explosions obliterating half of London.

However, I didn’t want to write about the film immediately. I wanted my impression of it to settle. I needed some time to think about it.

About a month down the line I realise: I don’t remember the film all that well. That’s not quite true, mind you: there are scenes I remember extremely well, mostly the ones including Poppy (Sally Hawkins is pitch-perfect, and as a result veers sharply between endearing and irritating as hell) and her driving teacher Scott (Eddie Marsan deserves to have more of a career – he’s obviously no Brad Pitt, no hit with producers, but the guy has impressive acting chops). But the film has settled in my mind, a bit like soggy Weetabix. (Weetabixes? Weetabixi? Weetabixae?) And writing about it now, even if I were to highlight how compelling the relationship between Poppy and Scott is and how it develops subtly, suddenly becoming something very different… Well, I don’t think I would be doing the film or the actors all that much justice.

So, what do I learn from this? Mainly not to wait for weeks before doing a blog entry. Not to start up whatever game I’m playing at that time before I’ve done my writing. Not to be lazy and complacent. For now, though, I’ll leave you with one of the aforementioned scenes from Happy Go Lucky:

P.S.: For the record, whether my impression of the film has turned to milk-sodden mush or not: Mike Leigh, man, you need to find someone else to compose the music for your films, because the score for this one is twee and feels like reheated music for one of the more soporiphic Brit sitcoms from the ’60s. If I ever bump into you, I may just go off on a Johnny-esque rant about how insultingly bad the music in Happy Go Lucky is. So, if you wish to prevent that from happening, however unlikely it is, dump your composer. You’ll thank me.