Is it a movie podcast? Is it a history podcast? Is it an unholy union of the two? Short answer: yes!
Each episode, hosts Colin MacCormack, Elijah Fleming and Christie Vogler break down a new movie about Greece, Rome or the wider ancient world and what works (or doesn’t work) about them. But this isn’t a podcast for nitpicking historical inaccuracies. Rather, it’s a chance to get hot takes on Hollywood films from two professional nerds/academics and take a closer look at the relation between our movies and our past.
Episode 34 – Cleopatra (1970)
Get ready for a real trip back to ancient Egypt, where Caesar is green, triumphs feature sports cars and gladiators bring handguns to the arena. Joined by animation expert Chiara Sulprizio, we dig into this animated adult fantasy/sci-fi/historical epic by Osamu Tezuka and Eiichi Yamamoto. This is really one of the wilder takes on ancient history we've ever seen and even if it's not your bag - and for many it probably won't be - it's definitely worth a viewing just to take in its sheer wildness and reconsider our modern myths about Cleopatra.
You can read more from Chiara about animation and the ancient world at Animated Antiquity
Episode 33 – Fellini Satyricon (1969), with Sarah Bond and Gregory Hays
This is simultaneously an excavation of both Imperial Rome and late 60's Italian cinema. Joined by the amazing Sarah E. Bond and Gregory Hays, we dig into Frederico Fellini's dreamlike, even frenetic, adaptation of the Satyricon by Petronius. This is a film which has a lot of offer when it comes to classical reception. In lieu of 'historically accuracy' (if we care about such things), Fellini presents us with a fantastical and at times unnerving vision of ancient Rome. In some ways, Fellini Satyricon is the true embodiment of how we receive both Petronius' work and the ancient world at large: fragmentary, perplexing and often unknowable. Final Verdict (courtesy of SEB): Watch more movies! Care less about accuracy!
Episode 32 – Interview with Charley & Vlas Parlapanides (Blood of Zeus), with Zoé Elise Thomas
In a very special episode, Colin, Eli, Christie and special guest Zoé Thomas sit down with Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, the creators and head writers of Blood of Zeus (2020). We dig into the brothers' inspirations for the show, their strong ties to Greece and Greek culture and their approach to a forward-thinking adaption of ancient myth. Other discussion topics include the underappreciated tradition of Helen in Egypt, fully funded dream projects and "monster tiddies".
Episode 31 – The Last Legion (2007), with Ayelet Haimson Lushkov & Pramit Chaudhuri
Sometimes we review movies we're very passionate about and sometimes we review The Last Legion. Fortunately we have special guests Ayelet Haimson Lushkov and Pramit Chaudhuri, hosts of Calcutta Arthouse Podcast, to save Rome(?) with us. Where to even begin with this one. It's a movie where every scene and line of dialogue competes to be the most absurd, confusing or just ridiculously hammy thing every put to screen. There's something to be unpacked about the way this movie wholeheartedly embraces a lot of misconceptions about the "decline and fall" of the Roman Empire, including: Rome was an inherently good and freedom-loving absolute monarchy, it came to an end in a single violent invasion of *waves hand* barbarians, the Caesars were this magical bloodline of conqueror-kings, that Tiberius was a nice guy. The list goes on. Perhaps the best way to watch this movie is on an Aeroflot from 1980.
Episode 30 – Hades (2020), with Donna Zuckerberg
Joined by super extra awesome guest Donna Zuckerberg, we dig not down but up and out of hell with the 2020 rogue-like (or rogue-lite) dungeon crawler Hades by Supergiant Games. Yes we've switched gears to video games, which are like movies, but ones you play. Pretty early on we reveal we're all BIG fans of this game and we really relish getting to dive into the all the many creative, engaging and inclusive ways it merges mythology, storytelling and game-play into one fantastic package.
Episode 29 – The Odyssey (1997), with Deborah Beck
We're back at Troy, where shirts are optional, digging up an artifact from a bygone era: late 90's television. Joined by the wonderful Dr. Deborah Beck, expert Homerist from UT Austin, we we break down the 1997 Hallmark miniseries, The Odyssey. This movie, by its director's own omission hones in on the action-adventure aspects of Homer's Odyssey. But, we scholars ruminate, are those really the best parts of the story? We mediate again on the pitfalls of sticking to the plot of a story while missing its larger themes. We also tackle two of the great questions of our time: Iliad or Odyssey and who had the best mullet?
You can find podcasts on the Iliad and Sophocles' Antigone by Deborah Beck with her students at UT here and here
Witty and Insightful
A must for nerds of film and/or ancient history
Unholy Union of History and Films is Wholly Wholesome
Colin and Eli bring fresh ideas, humor, and insight to the films and shows which use the ancient Mediterranean in various and sundry ways. Without completely bashing the films, and doing their best to appreciate them as artistic and/or entertainment media in their own right, they do a great job of pointing out some of the more funny and weird changes made to ancient history in the course of these films. I really like listening to their expertis, and 10/10 recommend!!!!