A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #56: Summer of Directors – Jane Campion

Never mind that May is still firmly spring in most people’s minds: we are launching the Summer of Directors, a series of podcasts, each of which is dedicated to one particular director, and we’re doing so with an episode dedicated to two-time Academy Award winner Jane Campion, who first took the little statuette home for her original screenplay for The Piano (1993) and, more recently, as the director of The Power of the Dog (2021). We’ll be looking at those two films in particular, focusing on the ways in which Campion portrays and questions gender roles. How does Holly Hunter’s Ada McGrath make her way in 19th century New Zealand as a woman displaced in many ways? How does Campion portray male and female modes of communication? And how do we read that marvellously ambiguous ending? Moving on to The Power of the Dog, we look at different kinds of masculinity – and how Campion’s film may have unusual, fascinating things to say about what kind of masculinity is finally more resilient. Join Matt, Julie and Sam as they explore all the black and white keys on Jane Campion’s keyboard and all the kinds of music she elicits from them!

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: The moustaches have it

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.

Is there a correct version of Hercule Poirot? And, if so – who is it? If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out Alan’s Six Damn Fine Degrees post on just this question!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #55: Based on a true story

What is your reaction when you read those words? Is a story better if it actually, really happened? Or are all stories partly fiction, partly true? Where does truth lie in fiction, and where does a story begin to turn into a pack of lies? Join Julie, Sam and Matt as they discuss these questions on Oliver Stone’s conspiracy epic JFK (1991), the four-part true crime/black dramedy hybrid Landscapers (2021) and Sam Mendes’ 1917 (2019). What are the ethics of telling stories based on actual events? Can fiction get at deeper truths? What are the lines each of us draws when it comes to tales based on true stories?

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The road goes ever on and on: one-shotting 1917

A lot has been written about 1917 already, Sam Mendes’ latest movie and his first non-Bond film in years. I won’t be offering a full-blown review; I liked the film, though I think it’s better as a technical achievement than as storytelling, and in terms of the latter I don’t think it does anything particularly new or different compared to many other films about the First World War. However, I don’t think its form can be dismissed just as a gimmick – doing so strikes me as, well, silly, because there is clearly a purpose to the one-shot structure. Whether this purpose is fulfilled successfully or not, that’s a different discussion, and reviewers as much as general audiences seem to disagree on whether Mendes’ presentation benefits the material.

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The Ghost of Spectres Past

Spectre isn’t a bad film. It is competently made on most counts, though admittedly this is damning it with faint praise, and it has a fantastic pre-credit sequence that’s up there with the best of them. Nevertheless, Spectre is a huge disappointment – perhaps even more so than Quantum of Solace. Where Quantum suffered from Marc Forster not being very good at directing action, Spectre suffers most from writers that don’t really understand what exactly they want the film to do and, worse, not realising that Skyfall had done most of these things already, and done them well.


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