Ribbon of Memes

It's been over a century and a quarter since the first moving picture was committed to celluloid - the "ribbon of dreams", as Orson Welles mellifluously intoned.

And so, welcome, one and all, to Ribbon of Memes, a new podcast in which Roger Bell_West and Nick Marsh supply grateful listeners hot takes about films considered masterpieces by critics or filmgoers in general.

The rules: we choose one "masterpiece" from every year from the earliest days of cinema to our dreadful modern dystopia. Do we agree these films are classics? Are we entertained? Did we even understand what the film was trying to say? The questions are endless!*

We start in 1973 (for reasons explained in the first podcast) and progress vaguely chronologically (unless we think of another film that makes an interesting comparison to the one we have just seen, or are otherwise distracted by shiny new things).

Yes, that's right, we decided that what the world really needed was two more uninformed middle-aged white guys telling the world about media largely produced by similar people. Find out whether we were right or not herein!

*Actually, no, that's most of them.

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Dark City (1998) 18 June 2022

Roger and Nick discuss Dark City (1998).

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  1. Posted by Robert at 10:04pm on 22 June 2022

    I’m in broad agreement with everything y’all observed. Happy to have been on a wavelength with y’all.

    The parallel observation I have is that Keifer Sutherland’s vocal affect in this really worked for me from the beginning which is likely just a lucky hit. It seems to me like it’s a bit winking at Peter Lorre which worked with the overall Fritz Lang-ness on display in the film.

    Dark City stands out in my memory because it was the movie all my friends adored seeing in the theatre together while I was doing study abroad in London. So I missed out on the together part of it but a couple of them made sure to keep me from hearing anything about it until there was a home video release and they could sit me down without any info and without any voiceover. It was a lot of fun and at the point with the pickaxe and the wall, I clearly remember that I had no expectations for what was on the other side of the wall and I was primed with curiosity and open to whatever it was. The reveal wasn’t a letdown either in the moment. Personally it was a sublime moment for me with film and is something that keeps me from objectivity on this movie.

    Perhaps oddly, Dark City feels like Casablanca to me. Umberto Eco wrote about Casablanca:

    “When all the archtypes burst in shamelessly, we reach Homeric depths. Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion.”

    Dark City feels like that to me for a certain style of noir, weird fiction, and sci fi from the pulps. Like there’s the blank slate mystery competent protagonist, the detective, the mad scientist, the stodgy men from outside, the evil men from outside, and the girl. Because yes, Jennifer Connolly’s shallow role and not stopping to consider the dynamic at the end you mentioned are dropped balls.

    Lastly, the ultimate power thing always seemed to be tied to the place to me. Like I didn’t think it would be an issue outside that location. Maybe the whole thing seemed a story about the location to me and so I never considered the location itself to be the source of any power.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:28am on 23 June 2022

    Yes, it's stylised in a way that I think is often divisive but works for me. (I don't think I'd seen Metropolis when I first watched this, but I fell for it anyway.)

    The other thing behind the wall could have been even more city, of course, either infinite or looping in some way.

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