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.
It was a week of bounty for movie podcasts. When your Monday opens with an especially heated debate between Devin and Amy over at The Canon, you can bet you’ve already tapped into an especially rich vein of Jungian cinematic quibbling.
The co-hosts disagreed fundamentally over James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, which meant Devin—who adores the film—dismissed Amy outright, while, in turn, she repeatedly insisted the movie was mediocre at best, partly due to the fact that in their Working Girl episode, which served as the foundation for this discussion, Devin seemed to make points that in the case of Broadcast News he rescinded through the auspices of a movie he really likes. Regardless, once the two hosts began to touch on the film’s relevance today—pinging “news” websites like the .gif-laden Buzzfeed—they seemed to totally forget that they are both employed by websites (MTV and Birth.Movies.Death) which tread in the exact same world of loose definitions of what constitutes “news”. That’s not meant to be a dig on either website whatsoever—I deeply respect writers at both—but the weird lack of self-awareness in their talk derails way too many of their otherwise salient points.
On KCRW’s The Treatment, Quentin Tarantino stops by to talk to everyone’s best friend Elvis Mitchell, revealing that Mitchell was instrumental in the early stages of Hateful Eight development, talking shit out with Tarantino to take the original story from a potential Django episode to something entirely different. The two cover a lot of ground in a half hour—helped, no doubt, by Tarantino’s limitless penchant for speed-mythologizing—from their love for Samuel L. Jackson, to issues of race in Tarantino’s recent films, to a protracted discussion of samurai and Yakuza films influencing Reservoir Dogs. (When QT shouts out Sydney Pollack’s The Yakuza for bringing him to tears, I almost fell in love with the director all over again.) Even when Tarantino describes beat-for-beat the first half hour of Hateful Eight, spurred on only by Mitchell’s small request to give listeners a short synopsis, Tarantino’s natural gift as a storyteller genuinely excited about the stories he tells carries an otherwise totally unnecessary bit of conversation.
We Hate Movies, as always, had a worthwhile week ripping on Keanu Reeves serial killer movie The Watcher, which prominently features Rob Zombie song “Dragula,” which holds a special place in my heart because I got my first tattoo with that song as a soundtrack, blasted to the point of incomprehensibility by the tattoo artist who, when questioned at what age he got his first tattoo, responded, “Eight, on my front porch with a needle, thread and ink pen.” My first tattoo is definitely my worst tattoo.
So together let’s dig through the ditches, burn through the witches, and slam in the back of my picks for the three best podcast episodes of the week:
“Max Mon Amour”
In 1986, only three years after tapping Ryuichi Sakamoto to play a Japanese Captain enamored with David Bowie in the world’s sexiest WWII POW camp, Nagisa Oshima disappeared completely up his own anal cavity, apparently convinced he had full license to do whatever he wanted to do. And whatever he wanted to do was to make Max Mon Amour, a film in which Charlotte Rampling falls for, and carries on a sexual relationship with, a chimpanzee.
On the latest episode of her podcast devoted to celebrating the animals of film, Wendy Mays invites Alamo Drafthouse creative manager Cristina Cacioppo and director Caroline Golum to figure out what exactly Oshima was thinking. But rather than succumb to the tendencies of most podcasts of its ilk, which would be to pretty much just point to wacky plot points and declare how wacky they are (cough, How Did This Get Made?, cough), the trio delve into issues of masculinity, fantasy and sexual mores, dissecting the entirely goofy-ass world Oshima constructed—all the while never resisting to point out wacky plot points, but never missing a chance to attempt to explicate why they’re wacky. Plus, extra props for making sure all plaudits go to Alisa Berk, the 1980s’ proto-Andy Serkis, the woman who dressed up in a chimp suit to play Max.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark with Martin Casella”
Former Steven Spielberg assistant Martin Casella returns to Matt Gourley’s podcast to basically just tell a bunch of stories about one of Gourley’s favorite movie of all time, 1981’s Raider of the Lost Ark. From inception to near-completion, Casella was intimately involved in almost all of the film’s production, going straight from Used Cars (starring Gerrit Graham, who Mike White talked to on one of last week’s favorite podcast episodes) to cast auditions, where seemingly every actress in Hollywood had a shot, including Sean Young, for whom Casella has a story he cannot repeat on-air, that tease. The episode as a whole is dripping with gossip and tidbits, all of which are too many to list (Tom Selleck, Tunisian water poisoning, screenwriter Melissa Mathison and a $75 roast beef sandwich all make appearances), but what helps the conversation transcend simply a shitstorm of namedropping is Gourley’s giddiness for the film, which allows anecdotes to become arbitrations on the Hollywood machine, and celebrities to retain their humanity during a time when the blockbuster was transforming famous actors into unattainable icons.
“Meet the Woman Who Tells Leonardo DiCaprio Who Will Win the Oscars”
The most fascinating aspect of Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast is how willingly it delves into the politics of the Oscars while retaining some semblance of unadulterated love for the unaffected brilliance of the films themselves. That dichotomy—the Hollywood machine vs. film as pure art—comes to a sharp point when the hosts welcome “awards season powerhouse” Peggy Siegal, a publicist and, I suppose, consultant to hopeful award-winners. Most of what she wildly muses upon is pretty gross, if unsurprising: that nominees have to “campaign” to get Academy votes, that so much of the awards are based on a broken numbers system and weird nepotism rather than anything all that meritorious. But when confronted with the controversy over diversity in the Academy, she bristles—they are not racists, she insists, even if they are a bunch of old white men. Which is fine, because, like W. Kamau Bell put it so succinctly, they’re probably not racist—or sexist, or ableist, etc.—they just have, as very white men, a very white, male perspective. But this is where Siegal’s attempts at justifying her livelihood completely fall apart: Instead of worrying about defending old rich white men from the mean, angry Other, she should be advocating for introducing new voices and perspectives to an Academy which can’t seem to pull its head out of the sand long enough to realize that its perspective is indelibly limited.
It’s like when Charlotte Rampling (yes, the aforementioned woman above who was in a movie about having sex with a chimpanzee) castigates Oscar boycotters for their stance, claiming that the Oscars are chosen from great artists, period, regardless of race, and so that must only mean that there are just, by default on any given year, better performances or films from white people. She stupidly misses the point: It’s not that there aren’t good films made by non-white, cisgender people, it’s that there aren’t enough films being made and successively being consumed by people with non-white, cisgender perspectives. Siegal goes on to tell a story about the campaign by Fox Searchlight to win 12 Years a Slave its Oscars, which capitalized on how so many Academy voters weren’t watching the movies because it was “too violent.” Fox, she recalled, attached a tagline to the campaign (“It’s Time”) to play to old white men guilt over doing the “right thing” as opposed to voting for the movie they liked the best, even admitting that many people who voted for it hadn’t actually seen it, and that’s what Fox was betting on. Siegal doesn’t seem to see how absolutely revolting that reality is, indirectly pointing to why the Oscar boycott may be the only resort some people see as a way to not just fix a broken system, but to dissolve it completely.
Remember that, come Oscar night, Leo won’t win the Oscar because he has the best performance—he’ll win because he kissed enough ancient, fusty, prune-y ass.
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 follow him on Twitter.