Michael from Arlington, Virginia was nice enough to commission this podcast in honor of his lovely and talented wife, Susanna. Michael wanted to do something positive with his commission. He wanted to recognize and celebrate the hundreds and thousands of people; the artists, craftsmen, pencil pushers, the caterers, that collectively make our favorite movies and television shows possible. So often the below the line types toil near anonymously from project to project, but not on this podcast. Using the special feature, “Star Wars Within A Minute” as a guide, we go department by department to talk about the things small and large the contribute to your average Hollywood blockbuster. Whether you’re moved to sit through credits, study more about filmmaking, or perhaps look for a local project to get involved in, we hope you enjoy this podcast.
Special thanks to returning commissioner Sean Ray for having us devote a few hours to Oliver Stone’s 1991 political thriller, JFK. The film is a weird duck. In our opinion, the movie is a work of pure flim-flam. However, it’s also one of my favorite movies to watch, because it’s a really well done, and interesting piece of flim-flam that belies it’s crazy long run time and features Oliver Stone using every last ounce of his considerable film-making skill to confuse, beguile and bedazzle his audience. This movie is so star studded that few films are capable of approaching it on acting wattage alone. The sound track by John Williams hits all the right notes, from sweaty, cigarette-hazed and mentally crazed late night conspiracy theories to soaring patriotic hymns. Aside from it being, you know, mostly fiction, we’re also uncomfortable with the Grand Gay Conspiracy angle that’s being pushed. But it also sparks a lot of conversation about conspiracies in general, America’s uncomfortable relationship with Vietnam and the truth, and just why the hell is material related to the JFK assassination still classified, anyway?
Thanks to Sean Ray for commissioning the classic 1992 western, “Unforgiven”. Directed by and starring a perfectly-aged Clint Eastwood, the story has him reconciling the man he was in his drunken youth with the man he wants to be, and more importantly, the man his dead wife would have him be. Where does he come down on it? It’s a classic so you probably already know but one of us didn’t and the discussion is interesting.
Special thanks to Sarah Sugas for commissioning 1944’s Laura, a film-noir set around a hard boiled detective attempting to solve the mystery other murder of a remarkable young woman.
Special thanks once again to Sean Ray for commissioning thus podcast for the 1982 John Carpenter sci-fi/horror classic, The Thing. The location, sense of isolation and paranoia, and atmosphere of dread this film is able to generate is incredible. Kurt Russel is iconic in his role as everyman bad*ss. And the gruesome, disturbing practical effects work still effectively sells the horrific alien action.
Special thanks to multi-multi-multi-commissioner Sean Ray for dialing up the number to Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007). This edition is intended by director Ridley Scott to be the definitive version. The interesting thing is, Jim and I have always been a bit “meh” on the classic Blade Runner experience. Sure, we see how influential it is, and can understand why it was highly regarded “for it’s day”. We both felt like we saw the film with fresh eyes on this cut. Their are problems with world building and pacing here and there, but everything tracks so much cleaner, and the third act which was always a standout is now a pure joy. Thanks again, Sean! It’s not every day that a commission completely has us do a 180 on a project, this is one of those rare times!
Special thanks to commissioner Jaimie T. for having us check out the classic 1946 British film classic, “A Matter of Life and Death”. Featuring a story that pits love against the cosmic law of death, it explores post World War 2 tensions between the England and the Unites States. Both of us see the film’s obvious charm; lavish and colorful visuals, inventive special effects and set design, and appealing lead actors. We also have a few third act quibbles and thematic issues, but not enough to sink the film that’s been called the “British It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Special thanks to our commissioner for today’s podcast, Sean Ray. You may recognize him as the man behind such classics as It Follows, and Black Rain, which if nothing else is unique. Today he selects the great A Few Good Men, where a gruff Colonel in the US Marine Corps takes issue with the USMC’s kinder, more gentler ways of discipline and organization, leading to the death of one of the men under his command. Tom Cruise and Demi Moore are effective as the counsel for the defense, and are given a lot of juicy material to work with. Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Rob Reiner, the script is packed with Sorkinisms and shot with a steady, confident eye. The performances are phenomenal, especially Jack Nicholson’s elemental performance of Col. Jessup.
Special thanks to Brian Strader, previous commissioner of the podcast for the underrated sci-fi saga, Babylon 5. This time he’s back to, as he says, “play ‘TV Show Dumpster Fire’ roulette.” Unfortunately we think he may have lost by betting on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. We were suitably impressed with the detail of the animations, certain aspects of world building, and the themes were philosophically engaging here and there. Unfortunately, other aspects of the world building struck us as silly or worse, the dubs and probably general translation on the version we watched were almost universally bad, and the themes that were otherwise engaging have been either dated or made more engaging by later works such as Altered Carbon.
Thanks to Paul Kilgore, who commissioned this podcast for his wife Alexandra in honor of her favorite movie, the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austin’s Pride & Prejudice. I’ve never seen this particular version but am familiar with the source and other adaptations and like historical fiction in general, while Jim had no idea what to expect. What will we make of some early 19th century high romance? Is it physically possible for Keira Knightley to play a plain Jane, err, Elizabeth? What does culturally enforced manogamy look like in practice? How did English noblemen acquire such impressive art from the antiquities? Were 30 foot high water fountains even possible in the 1800s? All this and more is pondered!