"I have this romantic idea of the movies as a conjunction of place, people and experiences, all different for each of us, a context in which individual and separate beings try to commune, where the individual experience overlaps with the communal and where that overlapping is demarcated by how we measure the differing responses between ourselves and the rest of the audience: do they laugh when we don’t (and what does that mean?); are they moved when we feel like laughing (and what does that say about me or the others) etc. The idea behind this podcast is to satiate the urge I sometimes have when I see a movie alone – to eavesdrop on what others say. What do they think? How does their experience compare to mine? Snippets are overhead as one leaves the cinema and are often food for thought. A longer snippet of such an experience is what I hope to provide: it’s two friends chatting immediately after a movie. It’s unrehearsed, meandering, slightly convoluted, certainly enthusiastic, and well informed, if not necessarily on all aspects a particular work gives rise to, certainly in terms of knowledge of cinema in general and considerable experience of watching different types of movies and watching movies in different types of ways. It’s not a review. It’s a conversation." - José Arroyo.
"I just like the sound of my own voice." - Michael Glass.
397 - Stop Making Sense
One of the great concert films, if not the greatest, receives a 4K restoration four decades after its release, and comes to our local IMAX Digital screen. Talking Heads were huge at the time that 1984's Stop Making Sense was released, and José loved their music, but something about the film didn't appeal to him, and he never saw it. Though Mike is familiar with the band, he only knows a couple of Talking Heads songs and didn't expect to ever get around to seeing the film, so what a way to experience it.
The restoration is beautiful and the huge IMAX screen shows it off spectacularly. We discuss the ability of celluloid to capture rich, textured imagery that digital acquisition formats have never matched; David Byrne's captivating presence, handsomeness, and exuberant movement; the film's cinematic style and what puts it above other concert films; the racial composition of the band, both the core members and additional musicians, and what it may or may not reflect about American culture of the time; and more.
We're absolutely sold on Stop Making Sense's greatness, and, even forty years on from its release and the height of the band's popularity, immediately grasp why it's still held in such high esteem. See it at the cinema.
Recorded on 27th September 2023.
396 - The Equalizer 3
Denzel Washington returns for the third and final instalment of the Equalizer trilogy, in which former government assassin Robert McCall devotes his time and skills to avenging for the little guy. This time, he finds himself in Mediterranean Europe, embroiled in a fight to protect a coastal town from terrorisation by the Camorra, the Mafia of southern Italy.
The Equalizer 3 shares the contemplative tone and pervasive sense of loss of its predecessors. Here, there's a focus on physical infirmity and vulnerability, a gunshot McCall receives early on forcing a long recuperation, slow, careful approaches to walking down stairs, and the use of a cane. Action erupts quickly and violently, emphasised by director Antoine Fuqua's camera and editing - McCall is wounded, but maintains his ruthlessness and murderous efficiency.
We compare the action and Washington to Rambo: Last Blood and its star, Sylvester Stallone, which took a similarly staccato approach to its action, clearly informed by Stallone's age and inability to move as gracefully as he used to - this film is doing something similar, but less thuggishly, if no less violently. We question the ease with which moral decisions are made in this world, in which right and wrong are easily distinguished and the involvement of a vigilante is sold as an obvious necessity and benefit; the film's look, which fails to show off its spectacular location; and some of its writing and contrivances, particularly concerning Dakota Fanning's character, a CIA analyst contacted by Robert, and the Camorra. And we discuss McCall as a neurodivergent superhero.
The Equalizer 3 is a flawed film with a fair bit of dumbness to overlook, but it is easy to do so when the portrait it paints of local life and close community is so absorbing and inviting, and its star has such presence, warmth, and intelligence. It's an easy film to recommend, bearing in mind that it's a work of vigilante fantasy. After all, if Batman's allowed to take the law into his own hands when the institutions around him fail, why shouldn't Denzel be? At least he doesn't pretend not to kill people.
Recorded on 10th September 2023.
395 - Passages
José enjoys the examination of contemporary relationships in Ira Sachs' Passages, a Paris-set romantic drama in which a marriage is disrupted when one partner begins an affair with a friend. Mike thinks that the characters' problems aren't real problems and that if the unfaithful partner just grew up then everything would be fine.
Recorded on 5th September 2023.
394 - Oppenheimer
The second half of our Barbenheimer double bill takes us to the BFI IMAX in London to see Oppenheimer, the complex story of J. Robert Oppenheimer's infamous role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, the creation and use of which changed history. Writer-director Christopher Nolan, as he has done increasingly over his career, makes extensive use of IMAX 70mm film to tell the story, but as well the spectacle and landscape we're used to it showing off, here it's devoted to the intimate.
We're joined by Mike's brother and previous guest Stephen to discuss the film, and consider the use of IMAX for close-ups and portraiture, as well as the story's structure and how the editing and music create pace, the film's implicit attitude towards Communism, whether Florence Pugh is treated unfairly, the way in which black-and-white footage is used to convey a shift in perspective, how the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are handled, the Stan Brakhage-esque imagery that conveys the radical sense that all matter is energy waiting to be unleashed, and much more. For José, it's Nolan's best film. It certainly deserves to be seen on an IMAX screen.
Recorded on 23rd July 2023.
393 - Barbie
After a few months off, during which Mike has forgotten how to record podcasts - sorry about the audio early on - we're back for Barbenheimer weekend. Never mind your Infinity Wars, this is the crossover they said would never happen, and the clash of tone between joy-of-pink Barbie and sin-of-man Oppenheimer, coincidentally released during the same weekend, has unexpectedly and charmingly reignited the public's interest in going to the pictures. The question isn't, "which one will you see?", it's, "which one will you see first?"
And we picked Barbie. Our screening was packed with young girls typically unaddressed by the biggest releases, and this film does a great job of correcting that. José describes its treatment of patriarchy as a fact as one of the most radical things he's seen, and it's a sign of where we are culturally that it can be, and that every joke and piece of commentary the film builds upon it is implicitly understood by an audience the film treats as intelligent.
Yes, Barbie's a toy advert. Yes, you're always aware that every joke at the expense of Mattel and Barbie's cultural footprint has the company's stamp of approval. Yes, Mike brings up Jean Baudrillard. (He's such a Ken at times.) But it's also witty, ironic, self-knowing, and really good fun.
Recorded on 21st July 2023.
392 - Rye Lane
Rye Lane follows two new friends, both reeling from breakups, as they spend a day together walking the streets of London and getting into scrapes. It's a well-intentioned romcom with some things to like, but it suffers from the implausible writing and poor performance of the male half of its romantic pairing, and a lack of cinematic nous.
Recorded on 20th March 2023.