An Ear for Film: On Your Oscar Nomi-knees
The three best movie-related podcast episodes of the week.Movies Lists
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.
On Sunday, the plasticine gremlins of Hollywood emerge from their hovels to participate in the glitziest, most high-profile display of onanism of the year, and though everyone pretty much just straight-up hates the Oscars, there is little doubt than any of us will actually look away. For my part, I compiled some thoughts over at Paste’s Oscar predictions, and you’ll also probably find me live-tweeting the event until the moment when my skull collapses under the burden of attempting to find anything Alejandro Iñárritu says not a self-aggrandizing mess of ways the director tries to cover up the fact that he doesn’t seem to watch any other movies other than his own, ever. Seriously, let’s stop encouraging this guy who actually said the following words in the following order so as to express cogent human thought:
“I don’t consider [my] film a Western…Western is in a way a genre, and the problem with genres is that it comes from the word ‘generic’, and I feel that this film is very far from generic.”
Yeah! Fuck you, genres!
Over in the thankless, ever-expanding world of podcasting, Little Gold Men offers an unsurprisingly in-depth last blast at advising you, white people, on your Oscar pool picks. I can honestly say that it helped me, white person, develop a confidence in my ability to pick winners more than in any other awards season, as well as to understand better why the Oscars will never be anything other than a numbers game dominated by the studios with the girthiest war chests. Care of Pete Hammond from Deadline Hollywood, we learn that in the case of some films, an Oscar could mean, if everything falls into place, $50M tagged onto the film’s gross. So, for something still in theaters like The Revenant, the award would go a long way toward getting people in theater seats and recouping the film’s $40M+ loss when it went hellishly over-budget.
You Must Remember This is as blissfully thorough as ever, taking a break this week from its series on the Blacklist to re-run one of Karina Longworth’s episodes from 2014 about Humphrey Bogart’s rise in Hollywood and his near-iconic romance with Lauren Bacall. Longworth’s intent is to offer some more depth to next week’s episode, which touches on Bogey’s, Bacall’s and friend John Huston’s protests of the House Un-American Activities Committee once that body transformed from anti-Nazi to anti-Communist. The episode is, as most are, a reminder that Longworth knows how to spin a compelling yarn from a gossipy glut of details, in the process drawing out a finely-tuned portrait of a struggling actor who eventually had trouble divorcing his cool-ass tough guy persona from that of someone just trying to do right by the people in his life.
Meanwhile, We Hate Movies hosted a live show in D.C., appropriately skewering Olympus Has Fallen by criticizing Gerard Butler’s accent and sharing befuddlement over the plain-faced gruesomeness of its violence. Similarly, The Important Cinema Club questioned Ingmar Bergman’s (sadly waning?) legacy by sharing befuddlement over David Carradine’s butt and bontch.
So, in lieu of witnessing the anthropomorphic bag of potting soil, Sylvester Stallone, win his first Oscar—because he definitely deserves an award for decades of successfully pushing nearly-intelligible words through his malt-o-meal face—check out my picks for the three best podcast episodes of the week:
The Flop House
“Ep. #198 – The Cobbler”
This week, we must keep in mind two important facts: 1) that the guy who co-wrote The Revenant also wrote the Martyrs remake and that 2) Best Director nominee Tom McCarthy preceded his much-loved Spotlight with The Cobbler, a story about how Adam Sandler has sex with his mom and then she dies. McCarthy, of course, is still living this shit down; and he should be, no matter how many Oscars he claims. Because seriously: There is a part in this movie where Adam Sandler’s character puts on his estranged father’s shoes in order to transform into his estranged father and spend one last night of closeness and intimacy with his mother before she dies, which is supposed to be a touching gesture, but is instead revolting, because there is no possible way on this planet that anyone could watch this scene and not think that Adam Sandler’s character has sex with his mother. You’re one sick fuck, McCarthy.
So this week the Original Peaches dance all over The Cobbler’s grave—we refuse to forget, McCarthy, no matter how deep you bury your failures—with typical aplomb (Sandler is easy pickings after all, somehow maintaining a successful career despite his chronic somnambulism), but the real highlights of the episode come after the riffing resolves, when a listener letter allows the three hosts to talk openly about what it’s like to put to so much effort into something that is supposed to be fun. It’s an especially relevant letter after Dan McCoy has to chastise co-hosts Elliot Kalen and Stuart Wellington for goofing around while he’s trying to talk about some serious charity work, because much of their answer revolves around whether or not friendship can be sustained when passions and hobbies succumb to the rigors of obligation. After all, work is work: When what you love—be it making a podcast about bad movies or writing a column about podcasts about bad movies—is saddled with deadlines or money, it becomes work, and work will always carry the threat of leading you astray, robbing all glee from something that once brought you a healthy bit of respite from the ordinary demands of the quotidian.
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“George Miller: Mad Max: Fury Road”
Elvis Mitchell once again brings in an “old friend,” because he has developed effortlessly intimate relationships with seemingly every single genius director to have made a film in the past three decades. As he did with Tarantino last week, this go-’round Mitchell talks to Oscar-nominee George Miller about Mad Max: Fury Road, which is better than every other film nominated this year but will only win in technical categories because Academy voters are afraid of loud noises or powerful women or something. The conversation is functionally straightforward—the two cursorily run through Miller’s background before investigating Fury Road to the hilt—but what’s truly demonstrative of Mitchell’s skill as a pro conversationalist is how much ground they cover in less than a half hour. From production design to Mad Max mythos, Miller proves he not only envisioned an impressively comprehensive world for this universe he’s crafted, but that he is, maybe next to Steven Spielberg, our generation’s foremost elder populist film philosopher, creating masterpieces of thought and philosophy and progressivism through the guise of spectacle and genre fare. Were Iñárritu ever compelled to watch any other movie not directed by Iñárritu, Iñárritu would probably find that what Iñárritu said about “genre” is not only wrong, it’s a blatant insult to pretty much every other director nominated for an Oscar who’s not named Iñárritu.
Someone Else’s Movie
“Adam Benzine on Primer”
If you’ve been following this column so far, then you’ve probably realized that, now in only my sixth week doing this, I’ve put Norm Wilner’s Someone Else’s Movie on this list three times. Whatever: Wilner’s podcast is joy to hear each and every week, a detailed discussion bereft of academic pedantry on films that matter—not because they’ve been crowned as “important” by some sort of taste-governing body, but only because they’ve played indelible roles in the lives of some viewers. And Wilner, a bottomless trove of cinematic knowledge and appreciation, seems to intuit exactly how to route and connect those conduits between admirer and creator, between the work of the admirer and the work of the admired, pushing each guest to move past admiration and into the concrete realm of influence.
This week, Wilner invites Oscar-nominee (and probable Oscar-winner) Adam Benzine to the ’cast to find out how Shane Carruth’s 2004 micro-budget hit Primer held sway over Benzine’s short documentary Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah. It’s a fantastically odd choice for Benzine, that is, until it becomes clear that both Benzine and Wilner are in awe of the rare way Carruth has been able to make groundbreaking films totally outside of the studio system. Talking about the labyrinth of Primer is fun, but talking about the labyrinth of Carruth’s mind and talent is both infuriating and invigorating. The former because you will realize you are not as holistically talented, and the latter because you will realize that, though it seems impossible, you too could do what he did—if only you tried to figure out how.
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.