I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Layer Cake

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.

We don’t often have posts about music on A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, which is a shame – but usually when there is a post with a musical topic, it’s Mege, and this week he dedicated his Six Damn Fine Degrees to a loud, loud concert by Scottish band Biffy Clyro. Bands don’t usually come with trailers, but in this case we are lucky that they did the score for the 2019 film Balance, Not Symmetry. Enjoy!

Continue reading

A Damn Fine Espresso: September 2022

Last month, Netflix released the first season of its adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal graphic novel The Sandman – and seeing how Julie and Matt met on the Neil Gaiman message board and began their ongoing conversation about films, books, TV and all things cultural there, we couldn’t really let the opportunity pass. How well does Netflix’ Sandman work as an adaptation? What do we think about the changes? How does it address the fact that it’s been thirty years since Gaiman’s comic first started coming out? What do we think of the cast, starting (but definitely not ending) with Tom Sturridge as Dream and Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Death? And what do we think about the series’ chances, seeing how Netflix and the Almighty Algorithm determine the fate of its original programming?

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: The Comic-Con Edition

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.

Some films don’t quite come together but are still worth it for their individual components. Matt saw Petrov’s Flu recently, and while he thinks the film gets in its own way in the end, there’s a lot to like about it… if you’re looking for a fever dream of a film

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: I will show you fear in a drop of blood

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.

After something of a break from Nordic existentialism, Matt returned to his Bergman boxset, watching an early film by the director, Thirst (1949). Unfortunately the age of the film, and possibly the fact that Thirst isn’t exactly one of Bergman’s most memorable films, means that there isn’t a trailer to be found on YouTube – so, instead, please enjoy this trailer for Park Chan-wook’s 2009 vampire movie Thirst, loosely based on a 19th century French novel.

Continue reading

I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Shots fired

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.

Once again: what do you do if you want to post a trailer, but the post it refers to isn’t about a film? Books and music are difficult – but with musicals it’s a bit easier, because even stage shows get trailers nowadays. So, while there’s no Uncle Sam analogue in it, here’s a trailer for a recent(ish) staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. Because, hey fella, feel like you’re a failure? Feel misunderstood? C’mere and kill a president! Trust me, it’ll all make sense if you read the post.

Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Hayao Miyazaki (1941)

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!

I have the writer Neil Gaiman to thank for my first experience with director Hayao Miyazaki and his fantastic worlds: at the time, Gaiman wrote the script for Princess Mononoke‘s English dub, which was probably the first dub of a Miyazaki movie that didn’t cast actors primarily known for their voice work in the main parts. Instead, we got names such as Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton and Gillian Anderson – and we also got a wider release than anime features (as opposed to, say, the latest Disney princess movie) usually got in my neck of the woods.

Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #23: The Lives of Others

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3For the June episode, join your cultural baristas as they discuss The Lives of Others (2006), the Academy Award-winning drama about East Germany in the 1980s, Stasi surveillance, the redemptive power of art and its tragic limitations. When not listening in to the artist couple in the apartment on the floor below, we also talk about Amazon Prime’s adaptation of the near-apocalypse, Good Omens, Béla Tarr equine mood piece The Turin Horse and Richard Powers’ 2003 novel The Time of Our Singing.

P.S.: In keeping with the thwarted surveillance motif, Matt’s recording equipment wasn’t quite up to the task this month. We apologise for any problems with the audio quality and promise to do better in July.

Continue reading

God drives a Cadillac

If you’ll allow me to be crude for a moment: more often than not, gods are dicks. They’re narcissists and sociopaths. They crave your worship and don’t think twice of smiting you if you displease them the teensiest bit. They like a spot of sacrifice, ideally of the human kind – the bloodier the better. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give such hypersensitive, overpowered egomaniacs with the maturity of toddlers even the slightest bit of power?

What’s that you say? We did it? By believing in them, we invested them with power?

… literal theocracy sucks.

American Gods

Continue reading

Would you kindly…?

My apologies for the posting delay – I was laid low the last two days with a stomach bug. I’m still home from work, but now I have no more excuse to dawdle… So here, without much further ado, the latest entry. I promise not to throw up while writing it.

I’ve been re-reading The Sandman from beginning to end. About a month ago I got the last of the Absolute Sandman volumes – gorgeous hardback large-format reprints of the original comics, with tons of extras such as additional stories in the Endless universe or scripts of some of the most important issues.

Yes, I know, I'm a book fetishist.

This is probably the fourth or fifth time time I’m reading the series in its entirety, and I still have the same favourites: A Game of You (vol. 5), Worlds’ End (vol. 8) and The Kindly Ones (vol. 9 – more on that later). However, Brief Lives (vol. 7) has grown on me, especially the last few chapters. I’m still not all that hot on its art, but the storytelling is fantastic – Gaiman at his finest – and it’s pretty much the volume when Delirium comes into her own.

I’m currently halfway through The Kindly Ones, and even at a fifth re-read, it still packs quite a punch. I love the art (which some found too cartoony – but I definitely prefer it to the more generic comic-book art of some of the other volumes, even though they all have their inspired moments), but even more, I love how Gaiman manages to bring together dozens of threads from the previous volumes in clever but not ostentatious ways. He makes it all feel natural and, as in all the best tragedies, inevitable.

Imagine him brushing his teeth (and flossing) and he'll get a lot less creepy...

There are a number of things that in the hands of a lesser writer would feel like fan service, especially the return of the Corinthian, or indeed the extended scenes with Mervin Pumpkinhead. But what Gaiman pulls off is something that few series (in any medium) have managed so far: reading The Kindly Ones, you get the impression that he’s always known where he was going. And you want to follow him, even though you know it’ll all end in tears.

I haven’t been all that hot about most of Gaiman’s work since The Sandman. His recent short stories, and indeed his novels, have seemed too twee, too enamoured with their cleverness. There are always great bits, but in between those bits I feel I’m reading some Gaiman imitator who does an okay job but simply isn’t the same. Fragile Things was a shadow of Smoke and Mirrors (which contains some of my favourite short stories). Anansi Boys was fun but pretty forgettable. I liked Coraline a lot, though – perhaps Gaiman tries too hard to be clever and Gaimanesque when writing for adults, and when he writes for children he simply focuses on telling a good story. Which, in Coraline, he very much does.

Talking of Gaiman: this animated short reminded me of him – most of all because Nick Cave’s narration sounds exactly like some of Gaiman’s readings:

youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj4RBmU-PIo]

Whys and wherefores: hot monkey love for Brian K. Vaughan

I’ve been re-reading Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man over the last week or two, in preparation for the last volume to come out. (It shouldn’t be much longer than another month or so.) In the last few years, Vaughan has become one of my favourite comic writers. He’s no Alan Moore and he’s no Neil Gaiman (then again, these days Gaiman himself is no Neil Gaiman, it would seem), but his appeal is entirely different from those. In style, and in quality, he’s much closer to Joss Whedon – Vaughan knows how to tell a good story with wit and people it with characters you care about.

Like most of the Vaughan comics I’ve read, Y: The Last Man is a great example of high concept: the story’s premise is that every male mammal on Earth dies under mysterious circumstances, except for one Yorick Brown, ex-literature major and hobby escape artist, and his monkey Ampersand. However, it isn’t the premise that makes this a fun, exciting, witty ride. The world of Y takes a sketchy starting point and fills it with credible detail. (Well, mostly – I’m still not sure I buy the S/M intervention staged for Yorick in volume 4…) And, just like Whedon at his best, it’s just great fun to listen to his characters. This is one of the comics where much of the action is in the talking – but when there is action, it means something more than the nth installment of Super Guy vs. Evil Dude.

There\'s a monkey on your back, dude...

There’s perhaps one thing that I dislike a bit about Y, and it’s no coincidence perhaps that Vaughan also writes for the TV series Lost: at times the narrative meanders, goes zig zag. Most detours are fun enough to follow, but like Lost this is a series that at least pretends to have a plan, and just like Lost this pretense isn’t always very convincing. Without a plan, it feels like the story is arbitrary, which weakens the central mysteries and unanswered questions, such as, “What killed all the dudes?”, arguably a bigger question than “What exactly is that Smoke Monster?”. At times, if it wasn’t for the writing and characters, you’d be tempted to say, “So? Where exactly is this going?” I don’t mind some element of making it up as you go along, but arbitrariness is poison for a plot-heavy narrative.

And this might out me as the biggest closet case in history (which would come as a surprise to myself, really), but… Why is it that 90% of the women in Y are hot, slim, curvy babes? For once, we can’t blame the comic artist – Pia Guerra, the series’ co-creator and lead penciller, is very much a woman. So, for once, don’t blame us XY types!

P.S.: Other Brian K. Vaughan comics that come with the Goofy Beast Seal of Approval: Runaways, Ex Machina and the one-shot Pride of Baghdad.

Pride of Baghdad