297: Present Tense- JOKER Provokes, Phillips and Phoenix Progress, and Scorsese Draws a Line in the Sand

 
 

We keep our recent streak of passionate but level-headed disagreement rolling with a spirited discussion about Todd Phillips’s JOKER- a film that is either a dangerous and controversial call to violent action or merely a dark and disposable comic book novelty.
Or maybe it’s both.
Or maybe it’s neither!
Give it some thought, give us a listen, and don’t forget to sound off in the comments section.
Viva la discourse!
(And don’t forget, WLM is a podcast for people who have seen the films. We spoil early. We spoil often. Fair warns.)

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296: Retrospectating 1999 - THE LIMEY / THREE KINGS

 
 

20 years ago this week, 2 of the Sundance Film Festival’s favorite sons both leveled-up with their respective genre exercises and experienced creative breakthroughs. Yet, for some reason, Steven Soderbergh’s melancholy daylight noir, The Limey and David O. Russell’s Heller-esque military satire, Three Kings rarely get mentioned in the same breath as either director’s later successes.

We’re here to change all of that with dual reappraisals and hosannahs in a podcast ode to the first week of 1999!

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295: Present Tense- Admiring AD ASTRA and Commencing the Awards Conversation

 
 

———Editor’s Note: Apologies for the tardiness of this episode. It was supposed to be out earlier this week but technical issues led to the late posting. But it sounds great now and we’re really proud of the conversation. Thanks for listening!———

We’re talkin’ Ad Astra, we’re talkin’ box office, we’re talkin’ festival reactions, and we’re talkin’ awards predictions.
We talk, you listen, you comment, we read… It’s the podcasting circle of life!

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294: Retrospectating 1999 - AMERICAN BEAUTY

 
 

It’s a complicated movie with a complicated legacy. These are complicated times.
So it’s going to take a complex conversation to properly excavate the Best Picture winner from 1999 on the week of its 20th anniversary. Join us as we celebrate and ruminate [on] American Beauty, a film that–for better or for worse–defined the end of a decade and a bygone era of incorrigible ennui.
Listen closer. This is a complicated one.

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292: Oeuvre - The 1st Age of JOHN MCTIERNAN - 1986-1990

 
 

A new Oeuvre journey begins this week as we inaugurate our excavation into the career of one, John McTiernan. His incredible run from 1986 to 1990 represents a singular rise from relative obscurity to industry relevance, prominence, and pertinence. Join us as we set the table for his unique career path, attempt to divine meaning from his bizarre debut, and deep-dive into three of his most beloved masterworks. Vive l'oeuvre!

-NOMADS (1986)
-PREDATOR (1987)
-DIE HARD (1988)
-THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990)

(special thanks to Mr. Beau Marks — a longtime collaborator of John McTiernan — for consulting on this series)

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291: Retrospectating 1999 - BOWFINGER

 
 

If you’ve ever considered joining Mindhead, were always intrigued by the premise of “Chubby Rain,” or get nervous when someone asks you if you’re willing to cut your hair, then you’re probably going to get a lot out of this week’s episode. We’re revisiting the forgotten comedic gem Bowfinger, a film that got lost in the late summer of 1999 amid the feeding frenzy for repeated viewings of the The Sixth Sense. But there’s many things to glean from Steven Martin and Frank Oz’s sweet little 97 minute Hollywood satire (one of Eddie Murphy’s favorite of his own films) including some thematic and cultural cues that would signpost a comedic pivot that took place at the turn of the century. We hope that you’ll join us on this journey, and never forget- “Cash, every movie costs 2,184 dollars!”

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290: Retrospectating 1999 - THE SIXTH SENSE

 
 

In the tenth installment in our ongoing series about 1999 we revisit M. Night Shyamalan’s zeitgeist-rattling supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense; a film we had previously covered in our AFI Top 100 series and had been disproportionately hard on. This time around we look at the film with fresh eyes, examine its relationship to the horror movies that bookended it on the calendar (The Blair Witch Project and Stir of Echoes respectively), and even find time to throw some love toward under-appreciated gems Arlington Road and Deep Blue Sea- both of which also turned twenty last month to zero fanfare. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy M. Night.

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Grain of Salt - The Death of “The Filmmaker Farm System”: Examining the Implications of the Fringe-to-Franchise Pipeline

(Originally published 12/1/17)

Every aspiring filmmaker has a fantasy of how they would like their career to progress. Even those who wouldn’t admit it to their colleagues or family members have still spent hours daydreaming about directing an elaborate crane movement across a sea of costumed extras, delivering an inspired creative note that unlocks the potential for a brilliant performance, accepting a prize at Sundance or Cannes or on the glittering Oscar stage, fame, wealth, legacy, immortality... Wannabe filmmakers (even those with fiercely independent aspirations) who claim to have never visualized their own successes are, at best, lying to themselves. And while his name has become synonymous with a certain kind of mainstream, studio fare it would be hard to argue that Christopher Nolan’s career path has been anything but the Platonic Ideal of a creative and commercial Hollywood success story.

Nolan rose to prominence at the turn of the 21st century- “breaking through” with the kind of low budget fare that exemplified the spirit of the grassroots independent film movement of the 1990s. His perfectly-executed hopscotch from obscurity to golden boy anointment might be the most elegant example of the transition ever performed. He cut his teeth on the black and white, Super 16, DIY, shoestring, genre lark, Following when he was in his mid 20s. Following led to Slamdance, Slamdance led to industry attention, industry attention led to financing, financing led to Memento, Memento led to Sundance, Sundance led to studios, studios led to Insomnia, Insomnia led to movie stars and budgets, movie stars and budgets led to Batman Begins and so on... In less than seven years Nolan went from spending his weekends single-taking 16mm short ends to rebooting a superhero franchise with Oscar winners in the ancillary roles. And while the legend of Nolan’s rise to prominence is inspiring in its trajectory, it wasn’t necessarily uncommon at the time. Few careers have been as consistent or distinct as Nolan’s but there are scores of filmmakers from Linklater to Bigelow who dutifully climbed the ladder from indie ghetto to mainstream success to awards recognition to the holy grail of artistic autonomy.

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289: AFI #63 - CABARET

 
 

“The continent of Europe is so wide, mein herr.
Not only up and down, but side to side, mein herr.
I couldn't ever cross it if I tried, mein herr.
But I do…
What I can…
Inch by inch…
Step by step…
Mile by mile…
Man-by-man.”

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288: Present Tense - Reckoning with ONCE UPON A TIME ... IN HOLLYWOOD and Tarantino's Complex Legacy

 
 

Roughly three or four times a decade we declare a national cinematic holiday in honor of the man who’s been reinventing the rules of mainstream cinema for the last quarter century. Regardless of how you feel about Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Quentin Tarantino’s “9th” (mmm, “10th”?) feature film as writer/director is one of the most hotly-anticipated and hotly-debated films of the year—nay, the 2010s!

Join us as we do a deep-dive into the career of the provocateur, demarcate the three[ish] phases of his career, and take a long, spoilerrific look at his newest period epic.

Whether you’re floating in your Hollywood Hills pool, drinking a whiskey sour from a beer stein, or hanging out in your trailer, eating macaroni and cheese in the lowlands of Panorama City, this episode has a little something for everybody…

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287: Retrospectating 1999 - EYES WIDE SHUT

 
 

We’re a week late for our 20th anniversary celebration of Stanley Kubrick’s provocative final masterpiece, Eyes Wide Shut. But the added buffer gave us more time to stew and reflect upon the truly bizarre cultural real estate that the film occupies in the the filmmaker’s career, in Cruise and Kidman’s respective filmographies, and within the weird and wonderful contextual sphere of the summer of 1999.

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286: Retrospectating 1999 - AMERICAN PIE

 
 

It took practically the entire decade but teenagers of the nineties were finally gifted with their own defining sex comedy at the halfway point of the last year of it. July 9th, 1999 saw the release (snicker) of the Weitz Brothers’ gross, sweet, schmaltzy, and sporadically hilarious love letter to Losin’ It, The Last American Virgin, and, of course, Porky’s. Join us as we tiptoe carefully around the minefield that is American Pie- contextualizing the genesis of it, overanalyzing the complicated career paths of the deep ensemble cast, and ultimately disagreeing about the film’s relative merits. Avoid the pale ale, hide all the baked good, and cover your web cam. It’s gonna be a weird one.

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285: Retrospectating 1999 - SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT

 
 

On June 30th, 1999, Trey Park and Matt Stone’s HARD-R animated musical South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut first hit theaters. Released less than two years after the premiere of the Comedy Central series’ pilot episode, South Park’s move to the big screen was only a modest financial success. But it proved to be a legitimate creative breakthrough and eventual Oscar nominee that laid the track for Parker and Stone’s future animated experiments (Team America: World Police) as well as their celebrated foray into more ambitious, postmodern musical satire (The Book of Mormon).

Join us as we revisit a film for which the MPAA deemed us too young to buy a ticket in the summer of 1999. Yet not unlike our underaged, on-screen counterparts, we still managed to weasel our way into theaters for multiple screenings of this ground-breaking comedy.

Viva La Resistance!

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DO THE RIGHT THING turns 30!

 
 

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee’s seminal masterwork—in which race-relations and temperatures rise to a breaking point on a summer day in Brooklyn—we’re re-releasing our corresponding AFI Top 100 podcast episode. The film ranks [criminally low at] 96th on the 2007 version of AFI’s list and we recorded our conversation about it just over 3 years ago.

Join us as we break-down and talk-up one of the most important films of the 1980s- a movie that writer/director/star Spike Lee is still so proud of that he name-dropped it as the climax of his Oscar speech earlier this year.

It’s 30 years young and hasn’t aged a day. And that’s the double-truth, Ruth.

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284: Present Tense - Questioning Existence with TOY STORY 4 and Hand-Wringing About the Summer Box Office

 
 

On our triumphant return to the present tense we sound off about the wild, weird, and existentially-conflicted fourth installment in one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed film franchises of all time.
We then turn our attention to another subject that weighs heavily on our minds and is also experiencing a bit of an existential crisis of late- the summertime box office.
The mercury’s rising and the box office numbers are dropping. What does is all mean..!?

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283: Retrospectating 1999 - RUN LOLA RUN (U.S. Release)

 
 

On this week’s edition of our ongoing series “Retrospectating 1999” we revisit the forgotten German crime caper Run Lola Run.
Now, this film is technically attributed to 1998, which is when it premiered in Germany, Venice, and Toronto. But it first screened in the U.S. during the Sundance and Seattle Film Festivals (where it racked up multiple awards) respectively before finally getting a stateside release on June 18th, 1999.

It’s a miraculous movie that rarely gets talked up and we’re here to remedy that with a spirited discussion about fate, determinism, the metaphysical properties of electronic music, and the unexpected benefits of risking your last five euros on a make or break spin of the roulette wheel.

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280: We Like TV - GAME OF THRONES Wrap-Up

 
 

It’s been a long time since we’ve dipped our cinematically-inclined toes into the television pool. But what better reason to do so than the conclusion of the most cinematic show ever to grace the small screen?
Join us for a break-down, wrap-up, and maybe even a defense of the wildly divisive final season of HBO’s beloved and reviled 73 episode experiment in long form storytelling.

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