A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #21: The Big Sleep

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3For our April episode, we’re revisiting a classic from Hollywood’s Golden Age, featuring one of American cinema’s golden couples: The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Will you finally find out who killed the chauffeur? Now, that would be telling… In addition, Mege reports from a somewhat uncanny dancing school in 1970s Berlin after watching the recent Suspiria remake, Julie investigates the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films and Matt goes slightly cubist after visiting a nearby Pablo Picasso exhibition.

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Better Holmes and Gardens

The British have perfected a certain kind of movie. They are tasteful, well-wrought, polite, but utterly unexciting. At best they are charming due to their cast – The King’s Speech comes to mind, which mainly works because of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush – but at worst they’re lukewarm and somewhat boring, expecting nothing from their audiences and going out of their way not to challenge them.

Mr HolmesMr Holmes is a prime example of such a film. It’s nicely shot, the script is well crafted and inoffensive, it all smacks of a certain middle-of-the-road blandness. Unless you’re into bucolic idylls, there is little about the movie that is memorable – with one major caveat: the central performance by Ian McKellen is a thing of beauty. Continue reading

Consult this

Oh, Auntie. After a year of bigger and smaller disappointments and only one moderate success, you’ve shown me you can pull it off. And how… 2010’s Sherlock was a great treat: funny, exciting, smart. But it was also only three episodes, one of which was decidedly weaker than the others. Would a 1 1/2 year hiatus help? Judging from the New Year’s Day episode and season starter “A Scandal in Belgravia”, the answer to that is a definite, loud, positively orgasmic “Yes!” Honestly, has there been witty dialogue, chemistry between the characters and stylish execution like this in any UK production in the last couple of years?

No, “Scandal” wasn’t perfect; it did have a couple of very cheesy moments, two of which weakened the female guest star in ways that are perhaps a bit iffy (mind you, I wouldn’t agree with the extent to which Jane Clare Jones criticises the episode), and it was perhaps too self-consciously cute with its references, punning and otherwise, to Doyle’s original stories (I groaned at the “Speckled Blonde”, though I loved the hat bit). Regardless, the episode was pretty much perfect in terms of being wonderfully entertaining – and just when you thought the humour might become self-congratulatory, Sherlock throws a scene at you that works as drama, showing that for all his brilliance, the main character is deeply flawed. The series is a fan of Sherlock-as-genius, but it doesn’t make the mistake of becoming fanboyish – or -girlish, although I gather that Benedict Cumberbatch does make for rather yummy eye candy. Then again, the testosterone brigade can hardly complain after a guest starring spot by Lara Pulver that would have made Mary Whitehouse’s head explode.

Oh, and the dialogues! If you were wondering where the sparkling repartee of a The Thin Man had gone, look no further: the Beeb’s been stockpiling it, refining it and quite possibly enriching it with steroids. This exclusive trailer from The Guardian website may be a bit weird, but it has a fantastic exchange between Holmes and Watson:

So, BBC, bring it on. Give me what you’ve got. And I’ll be willing to forgive you for the wasted potential of Exile.