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.

We're also on iTunes, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

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Battleship Potemkin (1925) 20 April 2024

Nick and Roger take on our first banned film (not certified in the UK until 1954, "X"/"18" certificate until 1987) with 1925's Battleship Potemkin.


  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 04:15pm on 20 April 2024

    Did Nick mean Goebbels rather than Himmler?

    Are you actually planning to watch BIRTH OF A NATION? I wouldn't criticise you if you gave it a pass.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 04:20pm on 20 April 2024

    I do not believe we are currently planning to watch Birth of a Nation. I mean, if we wanted to be comprehensive about history of film, we probably ought to, but we aren't, and we generally don't pick a film unless at least one of us thinks we'll enjoy it.

  3. Posted by Nick at 12:51am on 21 April 2024

    Yes, you’re quite right and apologies, slip of the brain. I meant the film-obsessed propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

  4. Posted by Robert at 03:28pm on 22 April 2024

    And if you enjoyed Roger’s Naval Corner and have a big hole in your reading plans I can strongly recommend Robert K. Massie’s books Dreadnought. I can’t remember what else I read with a good summary of the effects of Tsushima but I know there’s one from a Russian viewpoint I’m forgetting.

    Too bad there’s not just a feel good film out there about the Turbinia at the Diamond Jubilee.

    If Birth of a Nation ever does draw your eye, David Blight’s Race and Reunion is what I’d recommend to get good context on the Lost Cause propaganda.

  5. Posted by J Michael Cule at 12:17pm on 27 April 2024

    I believe DREADNOUGHT was the book that told me about why pre-war Society hostesses had to be very careful when Asquith was invited to dinner and began the process of convincing me that just about all the people in charge before 1914 were bat shit insane.

  6. Posted by Robert at 03:01pm on 27 April 2024

    That’s the one and a feasible takeaway. One of the top 5 indictments of the Kaiser I’ve read in particular.

    Trying to be at all relevant to the discussion of Potemkin though, the insight that Bismarck tried to align Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia as conservative monarchies against republican France and the failure of that has perhaps some angle to the revolutionary spirits in play.

    For my money Alexander Nevsky is my Soviet propaganda film of choice.

    On Asquith from chapter 30:

    “Asquith admitted "a slight weakness for the companionship of clever and attractive women" and found relief in their society. At dinner parties, on weekends at country houses, the Prime Minister would often be found flirting, holding hands, and playing bridge late at night with young women charmed to be noticed by the most influential political figure in the land. Margot refrained from objection and even declared that Henry needed his "little harem" to take his mind from his work.”

  7. Posted by RogerBW at 03:30pm on 27 April 2024

    Britain of course was quietly carrying on with the traditional policy of helping whichever European powers were less powerful at the time, so that nobody should be in undisputed control.

    Oh my goodness yes, Nevskiy is superb. (That of course was after Eisenstein had gone to the USA, failed there, and come back to Russia.)

    My hypothetical "Wartime propaganda film night" is Triumph of the Will, Aleksandr Nevskiy and Went the Day Well?.

  8. Posted by Robert at 05:15pm on 03 May 2024

    From the US side I’d recommend adding “With the Marines at Tarawa” and then two cartoons amidst the features. “Falling Hare” with Bugs Bunny and “The Spirit of ‘43” with Donald Duck.

  9. Posted by RogerBW at 06:08pm on 03 May 2024

    For a small prize, work out which one of those is already in my collection. :)

  10. Posted by J Michael Cule at 01:43pm on 04 May 2024

    The story I remember about Asquith involves his taking the hands of a young lady partnered with him at dinner and plunging them into his open flies.

    I may be wrong about the source but I read it somewhere.

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