The Road Not Taken: Revisiting Stanley Donen’s Two for the Road

2022 has been a year of rom-com milestones. There’s Annie Hall (forty-five years), Moonstruck (thirty-five years), and My Best Friend’s Wedding (twenty-five years), just to name a few. This year also marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of a film about love, which for various reasons, didn’t receive the same level of attention as the more formulaic rom coms of its time. But it’s more than likely the world just wasn’t ready for it yet. 

In 1967 Stanley Donen, the director behind Singin’ in the Rain and Funny Face, took a risk and released Two for the Road to a mainstream film audience. Borrowing from the French New Wave style of the time, it tells a non-linear story of a couple, Joanna and Mark Wallace (played by Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney) and their long term relationship. The film’s style freely moves back and forth between various timelines as it follows their ups and downs. The transitions appear seamless as it uses the same location to tie the narrative together (it all takes place on holiday in the French Riviera at different points throughout the years). This was (and still is) completely different to other rom coms in its way of telling a love story in film. It focuses on the entire relationship, not just the exciting parts of love, like the meet-cute or the courtship. But what really set it apart in a market chock-full of sickly-sweet romance was its honesty about human behavior.

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Brazil: The Sundae Presents Episode 17

Ciara and Dean co-host The Sundae Presents, a podcast in which they each make the other watch films they haven’t seen. Dean shows Ciara his actual favourite film of all time, Terry Gilliam’s 1985 dystopian sci-fi comedy Brazil. They talk about its infamously tumultuous production, its nonideological dictatorship and its retrofuturist aesthetic.

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Seven Ages of Pop Punk

This article is part of In Defense of the Genre, a series of critical and personal essays in praise of pop punk. Previously, Ciara wrote about listening to ‘December’ by Neck Deep on repeat and thinking about ex-friends.

The history of pop punk is something this series frequently gestures towards but has never really sketched out in any detail. Partly this is because discussing pop punk’s relationship to punk itself is usually aimed at dismissing pop punk as punk’s poser kid brother, and the founding concept of this series is taking pop punk seriously when no-one else will. Partly it’s because – even if Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’ is as old as I am – pop punk still feels like a baby of a genre, so that it kind of takes me by surprise that it has history enough to be worth explaining. Partly it’s because it never occurs to you whether someone might need or want a map to your hometown. Isn’t everyone born knowing those particular twists and bends, the shortcut to the cinema and the best place to cross the street? 

We are in the midst of an improbable pop punk revival. It’s incredibly exciting. But too many people who try to write about that revival don’t have that bone-deep sense of the genre’s history and themes and conventions. “Today’s pop punks go to therapy,” The Guardian writes in the latest of their triennial articles on how a new generation of pop punkers break new ground by writing songs about feeling shitty. It makes me feel insane. It betrays a depth of knowledge that doesn’t extend to the biggest bands’ biggest singles. Today’s pop punks might go to therapy, but pop punk has always been about being depressed.

So: I’ve invented seven eras of pop punk from whole cloth and made playlists for each of them. I hope they can guide you through the history of the genre, but as more of a sketch map than a satellite photograph. Each playlist is somewhere between ninety minutes and two hours long, and, hopefully, acts as a launching pad, and at the very least, a fun listen. These are my playlists, so are informed by my own blind spots, biases, and tastes. So, you know: sorry to Bowling for Soup for not including you, maybe try sucking less next time.

I don’t want to grow up

the blueprint: 0-1993

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You Should Watch Figures in a Landscape

I find it easy enough to sell people on a film I love when it’s widely hated. The bad reputation of a film like The Happening is obviously an obstacle to selling people on it, but it’s also kind of a hook. At the very least, it saves me some explaining and gives me an initial impression to subvert. People also get a bit of a thrill from contrarianism. It feels good to reject the consensus, especially in such a low-stakes way as liking a film most people – or most critics – think is shit. Discovering a hidden gem or a misjudged masterpiece makes you feel like you’re in on a cool secret. It’s countercultural in the most literal sense. I know exactly how I’d pitch someone on the surprisingly moving Adam Sandler comedy Click or the director’s cut of the 2003 Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck. 

But sometimes films aren’t just hated or underrated. Sometimes, they’re not even forgotten: no one paid them enough attention in the first place to forget them. They’re the tough sell. It’s one thing to have been received with disdain, but to have simply been ignored? At least films that were panned were deemed worthy of recording in the annals of pop cultural history. If no one even took the time to hate something, I think our instinct is to assume it’s probably bad, and not even bad in interesting ways. Boringly bad. But even if that’s likely true of most such films, just as it’s likely true of most art ever, there’s nothing fundamentally meritocratic about what gets left in or out of history. The sheer volume of production over the last century-and-change of cinema practically guarantees some good films – maybe even some of the best films ever made – have managed to come into the world with very little notice. Even films by critically well-regarded directors. Even films by Palme d’Or winners. 

Figures in a Landscape is one of my favourite films of all time. One of the best films I’ve ever seen. And no one else seems to give a shit about it. 

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