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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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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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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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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Grain of Salt - The Midnight Ride of the Monoculture: Excavating the Confluence of Avengers: EndGame of Thrones Weekend

Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything, take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy

You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that you break out in tears
Please don't be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn't have known you all these years 

Something remarkable happened last weekend. Something that is unprecedented in the history of popular culture. Something that may never happen again. Something that quite likely signposts the end of an epoch or more likely signals the beginning of another. The confluence of events occurring between Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 when Avengers: Endgame opened in most countries around the world (interestingly enough, the United States was one of the last countries to open the film–two days later–perhaps inadvertently acting as reminder that it’s no longer the dominant global box office force) and Sunday, April 28th, 2019 when HBO aired the Game of Thrones episode “The Long Night” (in which the much-heralded Battle of Winterfell finally played out over the course of an epic 82-minute “telefeature”), may someday be remembered by historians as the last time that a true “monocultural” media event took place. And one in which the two dominant forms of mass entertainment–cinema and television–reached the maximum number of viewers and achieved the apex of their own cultural relevance in the same watershed weekend. Movies and TV may never again be this individually impactful–co-existing simultaneously and autonomously–as they were over the five day stretch in question.

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278: Present Tense - Podcasters Assemble for an Epic AVENGERS: ENDGAME Roundtable


Marvel superfans and friends of the podcast, Anders Dahl and Ryan Julio join us this week as we lightning-round the 21 previous installments in the MCU’s Infinity Saga before digging deep into the franchise’s victory lap- the three hour emotional rollercoaster known as AVENGERS: ENGAME. A lot of personal growth, unexpected revelations, and soul-searching goes on in this episode so be forewarned- there will be SPOILERS not just about the film in question but also about your hosts. We could do this all day…

Skål Beer Hall (Anders’ Norwegian gastropub)
The Greyhound Bar and Grill (Ryan’s sports bar)
ETA (Ryan’s cocktail bar)

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274: Present Tense - Nominating Our Favorite Baseball Movies, Overthinking US, and Legitimizing THE BEACH BUM


We’re catching it up and breaking it down this week with a veritable smorgasbord of scintillating topics:
-Celebrating the beginning of the season with our favorite baseball movies (00:03:00)
-A SPOILER HEAVY litigation of the various interpretations of Jordan Peele’s US (00:14:20)
-A preemptive defense of Harmony Korine’s latest ode to hedonism, THE BEACH BUM (00:26:56)

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272: Present Tense - TRIPLE FRONTIER and the Utter Inevitability of Netflix Ubiquity


Here at We Like Movies we’ve been extremely vocal about our love for filmmaker J.C. Chandor and have always self-identified as loud and proud “Chandorks.” But our dedication to the man’s body of work experienced some strain this past week on the occasion of his newest film premiering on Netflix.
Let’s just say that we have complicated feelings about Triple Frontier that we attempt to work out in a SPOILER heavy breakdown of the film, which develops—as these conversations often do—into a lot of hand-wringing and kvetching about the big red streaming giant that you’re probably watching out of the corner of your eye as you read this.
Zip up your windbreaker, bump the Metallica, and set fire to a stack of Benjamins. We’re heading to South America with J.C. Chandor and Ben Affleck and there may be some casualties along the way…

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270: Our Annual Oscar Postmortem (2019 Edition)


The Oscars came out of the gates with a bang and ended with a whimper. The night’s big winner was vexing but there were some legitimate highlights that we’ll likely be talking about for years to come.
Oscars. We watched ‘em. We’re talkin’ about ‘em. So there.

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268: Retrospectating 1999 - VARSITY BLUES / SHE'S ALL THAT


In honor of the 20th anniversary of one of the all time great movie years, we’re debuting a new feature in which we deep-dive into the most important films of the last year of the 20th century: “Retrospectating 1999!”
Join us for our inaugural episode in which we excavate the “year of the teenager” phenomenon when films like Varsity Blues and She’s All That inadvertently emerged as flagship texts for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it paradigmatic shift.
For a moment in 1999, everyone wanted to be 16. Luckily, your devoted podcast hosts actually were that age at the time. Finally it pays off!

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Grain of Salt: Our OFFICIAL Oscar Predictions!

With 12 hours to go before the nominations are announced, we figured we better put our official predictions in print! After all, there’s legitimate folding money on the line here. We decided to focus on the 10 categories that we deemed “most important.” No offense meant to the craft and shorts categories. We’ll get deeper into them over the next month as the ceremony approaches. See you bright and early tomorrow morning!

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264: Oscar Predictions by Oscar (and Matt)


On a rare episode in which we actually recorded under the same roof (on the same microphone, no less!), we get down to business with Academy Awards talk. We pontificate and prognosticate as we reveal our individual predictions in all of the “major” categories and take the time to curate our “fantasy” scenarios of who we’d personally love to see nominated.

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260: Our 8th Anniversary and Last Podcast of 2018 Featuring THE FAVOURITE, SHOPLIFTERS, and ROMA!


On the occasion of the 8th anniversary of We Like Movies as well as our final “contemporary” podcast of 2018, we respectively submit a conversation about three of the most acclaimed films of the year, featuring a preamble with some hot-nom-talk.
It’s awards season, WLM fam. Catch the fever!

The episode breaks down, as follows:

THE FAVOURITE - 00:19:15
SHOPLIFTERS - 00:31:33
ROMA - 00:41:25

257: Post-Thanksgiving Catch-up w/ WIDOWS, GREEN BOOK, and CREED II


It’s the holiday season… turkeys are being eaten, top 10 lists are being constructed, awards have begun to be handed out in critics groups, and we’re trying to keep up with it all! Join us as we dive head-first into a catch-up pod that’s brimming over with content like so much Thanksgiving leftovers:

WIDOWS - 00:15:52
GREEN BOOK - 00:30:35
CREED II - 00:41:05



We’ve spent the last couple of months focusing on some of our different “spinoff” series… Matt was out of the country for a bit… and we had to work out some technical glitches as we get all of our domain materials consolidated under one roof…
But [!], now we’re back, jazzed about awards season, and ready to talk about the here, the now, and what’s going on at your local cineplex. Let’s get contemporary, shall we?
00:12:27 - A STAR IS BORN
00:36:36 - FIRST MAN

248: The MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT Praise-a-thon


The Mission: Impossible film series is without peer or equal in its unprecedented ability to improve with each subsequent installment since J.J. Abrams’ soft reboot three films ago. As such, it should come as no surprise that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT, the 6th entry in this 22 year old franchise is not only quite possibly the creative peak of the series but also one of the greatest action films in recent memory.

Join us as we work our way through all 5 previous installments before leaping headfirst into a gushfest about Christopher McQuarrie’s summertime gift to cineplexes, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT. We talk about it ALL and spoil pretty much everything so be forewarned!

245: Contextualizing ANT MAN AND THE WASP, the 20th Marvel Film


On the occasion of Marvel Studios' 20th (twentieth!) release in the official MCU, we get together for a conversation that includes an unexpectedly glowing review of said release, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, a loving retrospective on the career of Michael Douglas, aggressive overuse of the term "mumbo-jumbo", and a brisk run-through of our respective Marvel movie top 10 rankings.
Be advised that if you're one of the half dozen people on the planet who still haven't seen INFINITY WAR you may wanna sit this episode out until you do... 

244: A Summertime Double-Header Featuring INCREDIBLES 2 and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM


On this week's episode we get to talk about Brad Bird's INCREDIBLES 2 and we have to talk about JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINDOM. This compromise lands us in a bit of a "push", critically speaking... but a brisk and entertaining push at the very very least!
We appreciate you listening in. After all, we are your biggest fan...