Each week, Dom plumbs the depths of podcast nation to bring you the best in cinema-related chats and programs. If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then writing about movie podcasts is like listening to someone describe someone dancing about architecture.
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If there’s one thing to say with some modicum of admiration, it’s that Independence Day: Resurgence knows exactly what it is. It knows exactly what it should do, as well, which is to A) set up a franchise/sequel, whether or not any actually follow, because the possibility alone is enough; and B) to give exactly zero fucks. About anything: the sanctity of billions of human lives; the subtleties of solid storytelling; the rigors of character development; the precious balance of human ambition against the indifference of an incomprehensibly vast universe; diplomacy; logic; gravity (which the movie explains has been “solved” by alien technology); the complexities of mental illness; whether or not Jeff Goldblum actually cares about what he’s doing; that it would probably take Vivica A. Fox’s character way more than 20 years to go from being an exotic dancer to running a hospital—it’s actually hard to hate a movie that is so shamelessly obvious about the fact that it does not give a single fuck about anything.
This is a movie in which Liam Hemsworth’s first real interaction with a malevolent alien race is to give them the bird and then with his other hand pull out his floppy Aussie hog and piss all over the alien floor. This is a movie in which the filmmakers decide that the best way to make the second alien invasion movie bigger than the first alien invasion movie is to literally make a bigger alien. This is a movie in which Bill Pullman signifies that his character has a mental illness by growing a beard and carrying a cane and then later giving a depressingly inert redux of his original big inspirational speech from the first movie but this time forgetting how words and saying words work, and all the while everyone who’s standing by is just staring at him, arms crossed, like, “Oh I guess this is happening now, alright,” and Jeff Goldblum’s just looking into the camera totally uninterested in hiding the fact that he’s pretty annoyed by all of this shit and also kind of confounded by what has happened in his life to bring him to this point. This is a movie in which Brent Spiner isn’t wearing pants for about a half-hour straight, and at one point the camera lingers on his crack for almost two seconds too long, right after Brent Spiner almost sticks his hand into the butt crack. This is a movie in which pretty much every character with a name at one point obligatorily comes forward to volunteer for a suicide mission. This is a movie in which volunteering to kill yourself for the human race suffices for actual character development—for every single character in the movie. This is a movie in which Bill Pullman’s character’s big moment is to sacrifice his life in order to carry a cold fusion bomb inside the big alien’s ship to kill it, but the alien has a protective shield and so survives the blast, which means Bill Pullman’s character kills himself for nothing. This is a movie in which a cold fusion bomb can’t break a giant alien’s super-technology shield, but shooting it with a bunch of lasers can. This is a movie that tricks you into watching two hours of franchise prologue, and then gives you a punchline, which is Brent Spiner yelling out the word “ass”—this is a movie in which Brent Spiner yelling out the word “ass” is a subliminal call-back to when Brent Spiner almost put his thumb up his own ass, signaling that the movie has come to a close. This is a movie that was written by five people.
I didn’t hate it, though. The movie hates itself enough for the both of us.
Feel bad that Maika Monroe seems to be the only person taking this thing seriously, and then check out my picks for the best movie podcast episodes of the week.
“The Monster Squad”
Dan McCoy (The Flop House) offers a confession of sorts that he picked Fred Dekker’s 1988 horror/adventure hybrid The Monster Squad because he kinda thought the point of Caroline Fulford’s podcast is to discuss and defend movies not typically considered all that worthy of canonization. It’s a good idea, whether Fulford sticks to it much or not, and one talked about in this week’s episode of The Canon (“They Live”) when Devin Faraci suggests they cover movies him and co-host Amy Nicholson would want to go into their Canon, even if a whole lot of other people wouldn’t. Whatever his understanding of the show’s format, McCoy makes a good case for Monster Squad, happy to list its surprising credentials, all sense of irony or distance or anything but delight for how much he enjoys watching the movie drained from his voice. I get it, too: That movie filled up a lot of hours of my childhood. My only disappointment with this episode is that no one talked about the part when the Wolfman gets kicked in the nards.
”The Black Film Canon w/ Aisha Harris, Dan Kois”
The best part about making any BigList is that whether you like it or not, you’re pretending you have authority so that other people feel like it’s their right to pick that authority apart, little piece by little piece. I made one of those lists about documentaries, and my co-editor Amanda Schurr just made one about westerns —I still know that I made some wrong decisions, and that no one will ever be totally happy with it, regardless of whether or not they had some say in making it, because it’s ultimately a reflection of my perspective, and I’m trying to be as much of an authority as I can on so many different perspectives with which I could never possibly dream of empathizing. But when W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery have Slate critics Aisha Harris and Dan Kois on to talk about their recently assembled Black Film Canon —in which there are three Denzel Washington movies—Harris rightly keeps conversation friendly by emphasizing the list’s purpose as more of a treasure trove for cinephiles rather than an immutable point of contention. Still, arguments and riled-up emails persist, but Harris insists that’s a good thing (as long as everyone stays civil) because people should be taking each other’s tastes to task#8212;that’s the only way these movies will become part of a greater debate over representation and opportunity. Meanwhile, Avery and Bell both remind the listener that Kois is white, which they intend as a joke, but which still feels like a quietly crucial element of the list to keep in mind. I don’t think Kois was wrong whatsoever in co-authoring the list because he’s white, but also: he’s white. And I’m a white person who thinks that.
“The Blacklist Part 16: Kirk Douglas, Dalton Trumbo, and Otto Preminger (Breaking the Blacklist, Part 2)”
Karina Longworth buries the lede in weaving together an unexpectedly tangled yarn about the end of the Blacklist: This is the also the end of the season. As convoluted as the ending of Hollywood’s time with the Blacklist can be, Longworth goes out with a flourish of meticulously spun facts and anecdotes, tying each loose end into impressively graceful bit of historical storytelling. Kirk Douglas couldn’t help himself, claiming he ushered in a new era of Blacklist opposition and action, while Trumbo crankily stood by doing the actual work it took to erode the Blacklist at its base, Otto Preminger his cheerleader. Feelings were hurt, rivalries born, Stanley Kubricks employed. At the end of one more wonderful season of her podcast, Longworth makes it clear that nothing about what happened with the Hollywood Blacklist was clear, that everything was behind the back, obfuscated—lies a part of every conversation and paranoia a banal way to feel. What Longworth instead conveys in the place of explanation or finality is an overall sense of bittersweet relief and resentment. Which is usually how most things feel when they’re over, anyway.
Dom Sinacola is Assistant Movies Editor at Paste and a Portland-based writer. Like everyone on this planet, he co-hosts his own podcast, Pretty Little Grown Men, which is sometimes about movies but mostly about Pretty Little Liars. You can find it on Twitter.