We trace the Life of a Film from conception to production all the way to its release and reception. You know when you dive into a film's wikipedia and imdb after watching it? Then the director's page, then the actor's page. Our show does that for you. We use our nerd superpowers to obsessively tell the story of a movie: how it came to be, how it played out, and what it means today. It is a crash course on a single film filled with primary documents, lovely asides, and frequent guest voices. It is an investigation and celebration of films both great and small.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
In the eighth and final episode of our Future Wars season, we discuss the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) alongside the b-movie stunner Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
Alas we have come to the finale of our Future Wars cycle. It has been a long season with a super-sized eight episode run. Sci-fi is often a real bummer. Most of the movies we covered this season depicted humanity's future as a nightmarish dystopia. Here we trace back the genre to its roots.
The Day the Earth Stood Still established many sci-fi genre conventions while Invasion of the Body Snatchers brilliantly depicted the nebulous unease that took over American domestic life in 1950s. The start of the Cold War did a real number on Americans. The real threat of nuclear annihilation doused the tranquil domesticity of new suburbia in caustic self-doubt and a deep fear of outsiders. But whereas more recent Future War films demonstrated the totalizing destruction of AI, aliens, or ourselves, these films from the 1950s had less fatalistic finales. Perhaps the actual threat of destruction gave them reason to think of an imagined way out.
Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Alphaville (1965)
In the seventh episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss the classic Dr Strangelove (1964) alongside a bizarre artifact from the French New Wave, Alphaville (1965)
Special Guest: Good friend of the show and onscreen performer Harry Brammer, dialing in from Tokyo.
Here we have two masters, Kubrick and Godard, spinning tales of future conflict and war in the mid 1960s. Slipping in their polemics right before the great social upheavals of the decade, these films depict the western world teetering on the edge of breakdown. Kubrick's scolding satire in Strangelove still smolders 60 years later. He depicts the most powerful people in the world, people with the ability to end the human race, as complete and utter buffoons. The accuracy of his portrayal is startling as it has only become more true with time.
Godard's Alphaville is a very different story. Shot for next to nothing in Paris, this ambitious film can't support its own intellectual weight. While some scenes still pop off the screen, it is a trudge to get through despite it merits.
The Omega Man (1971) and Zardoz (1974)
In the sixth episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss the last man on earth romp The Omega Man (1971) as well as the bonkers fever dream that is Zardoz (1974).
Special Guest: Sean Patrick from the great Everyone’s a Critic podcast
The 1970s were a trip. The Omega Man is a zany, over-the-top apocalypse movie that is helmed by maybe the worst possible choice for the role, Charlton Heston. Zardoz is a legendary cult film that makes even less sense now than it did on release. Films about the future mirror their present, and it was crystal clear that the human race was in La La Land in the 1970s. But what could be read as unserious in these movies is more a reflection of our present. We feel locked into a future of degrading democracy, climate, and personal prospects. The absurdity of these films reflects a different time, a time before Reagan, AIDs, and a slowly suffocating planet. Perhaps there is something in the openness and creativity of a film like Zardoz. That maybe, we aren't stuck in an express lane to Cyberpunk 2077, time will tell.
The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986)
In the fifth episode of our Future Wars cycle, we tackle two giant films from the action sci fi maestro James Cameron: The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986).
Special Guest: David Riedel, film critic and co-host of the great Spoilerpiece Theatre podcast.
James Cameron is a master filmmaker. This two film run in the mid 1980s is iconic, legendary, and ground-breaking. When we think of this cycle's theme, Future Wars, we are ultimately thinking of Cameron and his oeuvre. The status of Terminator and Aliens is well-established, but it is interesting to look back at the actual films themselves instead of the cultural miasma surrounding them. Peeking behind the curtain is risky. A film that seemed powerful and important can easily be defrocked by time and an ever-changing collective consciousness. Terminator and Aliens have defied this normal cycle of art criticism. If anything, their power and status has been consistently reified decade and decade since their release. Perhaps if anything, the greatness of these films makes us mourn the loss of Cameron to the technical three ring circus of Avatar. What could have been becomes palpable when imbibing the tech noir vibes of Terminator or sweaty machismo of Aliens.
The Matrix (1999) and Starship Troopers (1997)
In the fourth episode of our Future Wars cycle, we explore two late 90s classic, The Matrix (1999) and Starship Trooper (1997).
Special Guest: Evan Crean, film critic and co-host of the great Spoilerpiece Theatre podcast.
Here we have two films with diametrically opposed authorial voices. The Matrix is self-serious, pointelty intellectual, and so cool that it borders on frigid sterility. Starship Troopers is a polemic anti-fascist satire that mirrors Baywatch more than it does Aliens. Nearing its 25th anniversary, The Matrix has been rightfully deemed classic cinema. Starship Troopers, on the other hand, remains on the fringes due to its multiplicitous and duplicitous nature.
Intention seems to hold an enhanced importance in the longevity of a film's reputation. While The Matrix can easily be called pretentious, it hasn't lost its potency over the last two decades. In many ways and despite its middling sequels, The Matrix has risen to a new level of respect in the 21st century. Not for its accuracy in depicting the future, but rather for its ability to capture the dissociating effects of technology on our everyday lives. Starship Troopers has sadly begun to fade. For those of us in on the joke, the political reality we have lived through has lessen the bite of the punchline and satire. It also calls into question the effectiveness of red-nosed satire, lighting up the social commentary in every scene. When Verhoeven is perhaps murkier with intentions like in the reclaimed masterpiece Showgirls, his wit and delightful skewering of America feels heavier and more accurate. In Troopers, the daytime tv look is perhaps too much of a veneer on a devolving society surging towards fascism.
War of the Worlds (2005) and The Road (2009)
In the third episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss Spielberg's bad guy alien film, War of The Worlds along side the bleak and desolate Cormac McCarthy adaptation, The Road.
Special Guest: Film critic and co-host of Spoilerpiece Theatre and The Slashers, Megan Kearns.
The world doesn't end with a whimper. It ends with loud alien tripods and a nuclear winter. Spielberg had already made two alien films before War of the Worlds, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). This was his chance to live out his boyhood dream of blowing stuff up on camera by displaying a not so friendly side of Non-Human Intelligence. War of the Worlds is a marvelous spectacle that most action and sci-fi lovers will enjoy. Spielberg is having so much fun pulverising the world that it is easy to miss the underweight story that ends too abruptly. The Road is not fun. The Road is brutal and awful. The viewer feels like they are staggering alongside the father and son with untread shoes and ripped rags for clothing that flutter in the frigid winds of a wasteland. Cormac McCarthy saw the end times being way worse than we could ever imagine. The film at least captures his unique nightmare even if it misses the deeper meaning within the novel.
Great film selection and conversations
Dan and Chris pick exciting themes for their seasons and fun films to talk about within those themes. They also do a lot of background research on the movies they discuss and ask each other and their guests poignant questions that encourage engaging conversations.
A couple of posers with no taste, just look at the films they’ve covered so far. Daniel is the worst offender, claiming to have insight into the inner workings of Hollywood due to his other failed podcast, The Wild Line Podcast. He also hasn’t seen most of the directors’ other films yet still feels qualified to speak on their career filmographies, and just film in general. And lest we forget, he’s a self-proclaimed “horror nerd.” But only because he saw ‘Hereditary’ in the theater and likes the Conjuring Universe. If you asked him what his favorite Lucio Fulci film is, he’d probably stare at you blankly. Chris, on the other hand, is apparently a film teacher but has a basic knowledge of film history and seems not to enjoy most of the films they themselves choose to cover on the show. Go figure. 🙄 Do yourself a favor and listen to any of the hundred other movie podcasts available. They can’t be worse than this one.