It fell to Liam Gallagher to sum up the mood of the British public in one succinct tweet.
Exactly. Have you been in-out yet (as opposed to out-out—frankly we find it hard to enjoy a beer while shivering under canvas)? How was it? A bit odd and creepy or a shining, joyous moment pointing the way to a new and brighter future? At the time of writing we have yet to indulge, although a lunchtime session is in the mix. It could well get emotional.
This week, we get a bit noir-y, take a look at a very literal Cold War and ponder the mechanics and logistics behind a one-shot movie.
Pub is the place. Opening time it is. This is The Cut.
Noir narratives are at their bleakest in places unfit for human habitation—deserts, jungles, extremes of hot, cold, wet or dry bring the beast in us up to the surface to play. Texas is one of those places, and Texan noir is a very adult affair. Author Jim Thompson was the master. In novels like The Getaway and The Killer Inside Me, he stripped away the pretence that we are civilised beings, showing what happens when our baser instincts are allowed to take hold. This feeling is based strongly on his own experiences. Thompson lived the life he wrote about so convincingly…
A similarly forbidding landscape is the setting for one of the great murder ballads of all time—Stagger Lee. This tale of a murderer who kills his friend Billy just because he stole his hat is one which has evolved in the telling. In some versions Stag pleads for his life while an impassive audience watches him fry on the electric chair. In others, death can’t stop the man, and he ends up on the throne of hell after shooting the devil with his trusty .41. Duke Ellington had a crack at the song. So did Nick Cave. So did Dylan and The Clash (not together, sadly—that would have been a blast). We are saddened to report the death earlier this month of Lloyd Prince, who recorded a fine version of the tune.
Any legend has a nub of truth at its heart, of course, and the true story of Stagger Lee and Billy is just as wild as the songs.
Speaking of wild and unusual musical stories, who here remembers the time the Bee Gees made a film of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Slotting neatly into the weirdly psychedelic era of Hollywood musicals which gave us gems like Xanadu and The Wiz, the loose adaptation of the beloved Beatles album is a whole step beyond in utter gleeful bonkersness. Let’s put it this way—it makes Yellow Submarine look muted.
Oh, now you’re interested.
Music and film are great partners. Many musicians have tried to make the jump to movies, with variable degrees of success. The Bee Gees may have made their name in the seventies with the music to Saturday Night Fever, but as we’ve just seen, their next venture onto the silver screen was a bit less successful. We’ve mentioned Dylan, The Clash and Nick Cave—all three have tried their hand at acting or writing. We were amazed to read of an unexpected name making a punt at the cinematic big time—The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, who co-wrote an extraordinary script mixing elements of recording studio dramas, Time Bandits and the freaky zombie biker flick Psychomania. We seriously want to see this in cinemas…
Music as a weapon. We could argue playing some of the tunes on the Sgt. Pepper soundtrack could qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. Kate Bush considered the subject in her epic Experiment 9. The military have considered deployment of sonic weaponry for decades, and it’s now even becoming considered for use in urban environments to quell unrest—a chilling step towards erosion of the right to protest. But what is the deadliest song of all time? Ted Gioia runs the numbers and comes up with a surprising result…
Imagine a stunt sequence involving a speeding train, a rickety bridge, explosives and a catastrophic crash. These days it would be done with a mix of CGI and model work. When Buster Keaton pulled the shot off for his masterpiece The General, he took over a whole small town, bought a train and did it for real. Silent movies, folks. None more hardcore.
We stay with remarkable feats of film-making in this oral history of the making of Russian Ark. There are a lot of films out there which claim to be one-take—1917, Birdman, going back to Hitchcock’s Rope. All of these are cheats, Readership, disguising cuts with clever camera trickery and the inevitable digital whizz-bangs. For his experimental history of Russia, director Alexander Sukurov chose the truer route. Along with long-suffering director of photography Tilman Büttner, he set out to go where no film-maker had gone before…
Right, let’s play a little game, shall we? Survive The Century is a short sharp take on how the press can influence thinking, and therefore our future path. When it comes to reporting on climate change, the need to express the urgent issues facing us becomes even more important. Give this a go and see if you can help navigate the world away from disaster…
This is a long read, but absolutely compelling. It involves corporate shenanigans, disruptive technology and, most importantly, soft-serve ice-cream.
Oh, now you’re interested.
Science fiction and fantasy has changed massively over the last fifteen years. In line with general trends in fiction, female, LBGQTI and non-western voices are becoming much more prominent. That plays to the strengths of the genre as new angles on the same old tropes bring us fresh, strong storytelling. It’s an exciting time to be a fan, frankly. Polygon has more.
And finally. We all know Neil Armstrong’s famous first words on stepping foot on the moon. But what exactly did he mean when, soon afterwards, he sent a gnomic good luck message to the mysterious Mr. Gorsky? Did he, in fact, say anything of the sort? Our pals at Snopes dig into the story—or is it just a joke?
It’s Eurovision week! Great to see the crowds back in an arena, even at reduced capacity. We’ve enjoyed the semi-finals and are massively looking forward to the event. The UK have a strong entrant with James Newman’s horny dance banger Embers—like any Brit fan, we are under no illusions as to the chances of it winning, but at least we’re trying, right?
We are proud, nay, delighted, to present The Cut’s pick for Eurovision glory in 2021. It’s from the same artist we would have backed last year who are back with an even stronger song. Although with at least one member of the band out with Covid, the stars are not aligning in their favour. Check out this listicle of Eurovision’s wackiest moments to get you in the mood, and we hope you’ll join us on Saturday night to dance and holler along.
See you next Saturday, ya ya ding dongs.