Legendary film critic Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie are the ultimate movie fans. They love talking about movies, especially with people who share their enthusiasm—from living legends like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Quincy Jones to such contemporary artists as Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, Laura Dern, and Bryan Cranston. You’ll meet all kinds of interesting people and hear their recommendations of unsung movies you ought to know...
Revisiting James L. Brooks
Originally published Jun 10, 2021
From The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi to such movies as Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and As Good as It Gets, writer-director-producer James L. Brooks has created quality entertainment for decades and has no intention of slowing down. He has served as mentor to the likes of Cameron Crowe and Wes Anderson and continues to work with young talents behind the camera. Oh yes—he’s also produced The Simpsons for the past 30 years. Leonard and Jessie were honored to talk to this multi-award-winning talent about his remarkable career.
Cord Jefferson is riding high as the Oscar-nominated writer and director of American Fiction, which has widely and properly been acclaimed as one of the best films of the past year. Even more exciting is the fact that Jefferson has never made a movie before. Leonard and Jessie enjoyed exploring the building blocks of his career that led to this achievement. He was on the writing staff of Larry Wilmore’s Late Night comedy show and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, among others, when a series of events pointed him toward filmmaking. Step One was finding a property he cared enough about to adapt and then direct. Unlike other neophytes who get their first break right out of film school, Cord had traveled the world and worked as a journalist before he ever stepped foot on a movie set. We are eager to see what comes next.
Nick de Semlyen
As editor of Empire, Nick de Semlyen presides over the best film and television magazine in the English language: Empire. Every issue is jam-packed with deep-dive articles, interviews, set visits, and fun facts for both the fan and the aficionado. Nick has also written two excellent books examining American films of the 1980s: Wild and Crazy Guys and The Last Action Heroes. Leonard and Jessie got to meet him on their last trip to London which cemented a friendship that grew out of their admiration for his work. This episode affirms the belief that the only thing better than watching movies is talking about them with a fellow enthusiast.
The senior film critic for the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang is also a graduate of USC and took Leonard’s class—three times. Leonard takes no credit for Justin’s brilliance as an essayist or as a world-class punster. Jessie has known him her whole life and is also an unabashed fan. Just back from the Sundance Film Festival, Justin made time for us to talk about his career and some of the nuts and bolts of being a daily newspaper’s leading critic.
Our guest this week is now appearing on movie theater screens in The Color Purple, recreating the role of Sofia that she originated in the Broadway revival. But as you’ll hear, that is just her latest achievement in an ever-growing body of work on stage, screen and television. Fans of Orange is the New Black knew her as Taystee, and followers of the recent series Peacemaker could see yet another facet of her boundless talent. A graduate of Juilliard, she is riding high during this awards season but Leonard and Jessie agree that we’ll be watching her in every medium imaginable for years to come.
Sam Wasson has become one of the finest Hollywood historians of our time, and also one of the most productive. His newest book, The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story is not a conventional biography but an insightful analysis of the formidable filmmaker. It joins Sam’s earlier books on Blake Edwards, Paul Mazursky, and the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Chinatown as essential reading. He also coauthored with Jeanine Basinger a hefty new volume called Hollywood: the Oral History. He and Leonard maintain a mutual admiration society and Jessie is its newest recruit.
Jessie never let’s the guest talk.
This is what a podcast about movies must be. Don’t go anywhere else. What a blessing! The Woody Allen episode is rare and impeccable. Sublime! Thank you!
Leonard is great, Jessie is improving
If you read through the bulk of these reviews, they all say the same thing- it would be better with just Leonard as a solo cast. I was one of those reviewers who’d wish that Jessie would let the guests speak. But- ya gotta commend the gal for taking notes. She’s much better at not interrupting and even her questions and comments are getting better. Critique is tough. Using it and getting better is golden. Way to go, Jessie. I’m upgrading this to 4 stars!