21 episodes

Dive into culture with interviews, discussions, stories, and other items of interest. Consider this the clubhouse (or salon) for Stereoactive Media, where we keep connected with familiar folks while also meeting new and interesting people and featuring projects relevant to our community.

Stereoactive Presents Stereoactive Media

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 10 Ratings

Dive into culture with interviews, discussions, stories, and other items of interest. Consider this the clubhouse (or salon) for Stereoactive Media, where we keep connected with familiar folks while also meeting new and interesting people and featuring projects relevant to our community.

    ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ // a movie review

    ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ // a movie review

    J. McVay reviews George Miller’s 'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,' distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
    Since its release in 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road has moved close to the top of many, if not most, lists of the greatest action films ever made. So, it was never going to be an easy feat to create a film that could be viewed as a worthy follow up to such an accomplishment.
    Of course, throughout his career, director George Miller has proven that he is anything but averse to challenges. After all, it took him two or three decades to finally get Fury Road made, depending on which point in the early gestation of the project you start counting from. So, at least as far as time is concerned, bringing Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga to screens less than a decade after the previous film could be viewed as a sign the process was at least a bit smoother this go-round.
    That said, reports on the production of Fury Road make it pretty clear that it would be hard to outdo the difficulty of that past endeavor. Again, though, Miller is anything but averse to challenges and in Furiosa, against the odds, he has managed to create a work that rivals his masterpiece.
    In terms of story and theme, Furiosa vastly deepens Fury Road. Part of the way it does this is that it takes a sort of incidental, yet incredibly important, element of previous entries in the franchise and moves it more front and center, thematically, than it's ever been before. As much as Furiosa is about the backstory of its title character, previously played by Charlize Theron – played here by Anya Taylor Joy and Alyla Browne – it’s also about the importance of storytelling itself.
    With that in mind, it makes a certain sense that, unlike other Mad Max films, this one features delineated chapters with titles telegraphing what’s to come and imbuing the internal plotting and characters with a sense of thoughtful importance. The key to this meta-element of the film’s storytelling about storytelling is a climactic scene between Furiosa and her antagonist, Dementus, played expertly against type by Chris Hemsworth.
    “Do you have it in you to make it epic?” he goads her.
    And perhaps this is an oblique comparison, but it immediately made me think of the scene in Steven Spielberg’s The Fablemans when that film’s protagonist got this sage advice from one of his filmmaking heroes, John Ford, about how to frame a shot:
    “When the horizon’s at the bottom, it’s interesting. When the horizon’s at the top, it’s interesting. When the horizon’s in the middle, it’s boring as shit.”
    The point of both, within the context of their respective films, is that approaching something straight on may get the job done, but it’s often not the most fulfilling way to go. In the world of Mad Max, especially as envisioned in Furiosa and Fury Road, self-mythology is a means of survival. For the big bads of this post-apocalyptic world, self-mythology helps them to maintain power by giving their underlings something to strive toward and buy into. For the tentative heroes, though, it offers some small yet crucial avenue toward freedom. 
    If, as the so-called History Man tells Furiosa early on in the movie, making yourself invaluable to those you are forced to serve is important for self-preservation, the message she receives from Dementus about making it “epic” is her key to becoming invaluable. It’s her way of tapping into the power of self-mythology that her vicious boss, Immortan Joe has fostered. If she can build herself into an epic figure, so good at her given job that she must be relied on regardless of how much incidental trouble she may carry with her, then she can survive her current low status long enough to find a way toward her inevitable goals, as depicted in Fury Road.
    But the History Man is not only a giver of sage advice; he is also the narrator of the story we’re seeing on screen. In this way, we the audience are made a part of the film, essentially cast as silent listener

    • 6 min
    ‘Monkey Man’ // a movie review

    ‘Monkey Man’ // a movie review

    J. McVay reviews Dev Patel's debut as a director, 'Monkey Man,' distributed by Universal Pictures.
    The backstory of Dev Patel’s directorial debut, Monkey Man, is nearly as compelling as the film itself. The film was first announced back in 2018 and was set to begin production in early 2020, though it had to be postponed once the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down.
    By March of the following year, filming was complete and Netflix acquired it. But the subject matter apparently made them squeamish and they nearly canceled its release. Eventually, though, Jordan Peele saw the film and convinced Universal Pictures to buy it and give it a theatrical run.
    For that, we’re lucky.
    It’s an impressive looking film that plays great on a big screen. The action, along with the film’s production design, cinematography, and editing make for a truly visceral experience that becomes overwhelming in a theater, in the best way.
    Patel has been a welcome big screen presence since his debut in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionare back in 2008 – even in films that never quite lived up to his own appeal and talent as an actor. And Monkey Man proves that, if he likes, he can create his own path now that he’s a distinguished and capable multi-hyphenate: a writer-director-producer-star. 
    But he’s more than just capable. 
    The story he’s crafted with his co-screenwriters is a solid revenge tale that touches on the corruption often inherent at the intersection of religion, politics, and industry. Overall, they’re smart to let those elements live around the margins and bleed into the main thrust of the plot just enough to elevate the stakes and offer a sense of higher purpose to Patel’s central character. That said, the villains he’s after are drawn a bit too faintly, leaving the climactic moments feeling just a bit underwhelming. 
    But the previously mentioned viscerality of the filmmaking does a surprisingly good job of making the journey of the 2 hour runtime feel satisfying enough to overcome a good deal of that let-down of the climax. And that’s a feat in itself, as so many films with underwhelming climaxes feel retroactively deflated once the credits roll.
    ===
    Episode Credits:
    Producer/Host - J. McVay
    Music - Hansdale Hsu
    Produced by Stereoactive Media

    • 3 min
    ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ // a movie discussion

    ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ // a movie discussion

    J. McVay and Charles Hinshaw discuss How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which is directed by Daniel Goldhaber, and is available on Hulu.
    How to Blow Up a Pipeline essentially plays like a heist movie where the object of the heist is a future that otherwise seems so futile and bleak that to not successfully execute the caper is simply not an option. Propelled along by a bustling, plaintive, largely electronic score composed by Gavin Brivik, we follow our cast of characters from several walks of life as they converge on the representative object of their derision. 
    That object is the titular pipeline – somewhere in arid West Texas. And the relative isolation only aids in the film’s success at making the viewer feel immersed in the microworld the group of characters have chosen to now exist in, away from a society that may judge their actions separate from their meaning and, at least as far as they’re concerned, necessity. This immersion through isolation makes it all that much easier for us to feel as if we’re a part of the plot ourselves.
    The result is a vital commentary on the state of our world – a world where the idea that we may actually be able to make a difference for the sake of humanity’s very future can seem not only daunting, but often impossible.
    ===
    Episode Credits:
    Producer/Host - J. McVay
    Guests - Charles Hinshaw
    Music - Hansdale Hsu
    Produced by Stereoactive Media

    • 19 min
    ‘Saltburn’ // a movie discussion

    ‘Saltburn’ // a movie discussion

    J. McVay and Charles Hinshaw discuss the second film written and directed by Emerald Fennell. Saltburn stars Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, and Archie Madekwe and is distributed by Amazon MGM Studios and available on Prime Video.
    Since we’re recording this a couple of months after the film’s release and even longer since it first began playing at festivals and reviews of it started coming out, it may be worth mentioning that there seem to be a lot of critics who do not like Saltburn. In fact, I pretty much avoided watching the film until now because so many critics I follow had so little good to say about it. 
    So, perhaps my low expectations played a part in this, but I found it mostly pretty compelling to watch. I mean, it’s pure pop melodrama trash playing at being deep and sophisticated, and I think another couple of passes on the screenplay may have leveled it up from that to either the true satire or social commentary it strives to be – something more along the lines of The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Rules of the Game, Gosford Park, A Place in the Sun, or something more recent like Parasite. But the talent and craft brought to the film from other quarters certainly elevate it into something more than it would be otherwise.
    Barry Keoghan not only swings for the fences as the class interloper at the heart of the film, but he also more than proves his ability to lead a high profile movie with a top notch cast. And whether some of his choices pull you in or make you cringe, it’s impossible to deny his commitment to his character and the themes of the film.
    For his part, between this and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, Jacob Elordi is fast becoming an actor whose presence in a project is going to make me more interested in checking it out. That said, I do wish he had more to do at times in Saltburn – especially after his character, Felix, first shows Keoghan’s Oliver around the estate and introduces him to the other residents, then seems to melt into the background or wholly disappear for quite some time. 
    Richard E. Grant and Rosamund Pike, as Felix’s staggeringly British parents, are both bright spots when the film allows them space to shine and Archie Madekwe, as Felix’s cousin Farleigh, certainly does all he can to make his character as unlikable as the script requires.
    Add to all that, the striking visuals delivered by the cinematography and production design, and I’m honestly more excited now to see director Emerald Fennell’s next film, than I was after I had mixed feelings about her last one, Promising Young Woman.
    ===
    Episode Credits:
    Producer/Host - J. McVay
    Guests - Charles Hinshaw
    Music - Hansdale Hsu
    Produced by Stereoactive Media

    • 26 min
    ‘Maestro’ // a movie discussion

    ‘Maestro’ // a movie discussion

    J. McVay and Charles Hinshaw discuss Bradley Cooper’s second film as a director and co-writer. Maestro stars Cooper as conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, Carey Mulligan as his wife Felicia, and is available on Netflix.
    Before 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper may have seemed like he was destined to be in nothing but pulpy movies like Limitless or bro-flicks like The Hangover – at the time, both fairly recent hits for him that had already changed his career and made him a more bankable leading man. But Silver Linings Playbook put him into that different category of quote-unquote “serious actor” seemingly destined to one day win an Academy Award. And 2018’s A Star Is Born proved him also a serious prospect as a writer and director. So anticipation for his second film as a triple hyphenate actor-writer-director, Maestro, was obviously highly anticipated.
    Unfortunately, there’s also been a certain narrative building up around Cooper – at least with the very-online portion of the film commentariat – that his supposed thirst to prove himself by winning an Oscar and being taken seriously as not only an actor, but an all around filmmaker is cringey and unseemly. But if you can deliver the goods, maybe you deserve a bit of allowance in that regard.
    And ultimately, Cooper has the goods. Between Maestro and A Star Is Born, he’s clearly proven himself to be a great director. As far as acting goes, I don’t think the jury was still out on that one. 
    Really, the only real problem with Maestro, which portrays the relationship between famed conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia, is its screenplay… which, counter-intuitively, is not to say the writing is bad, necessarily. Each scene is internally impressive on its own, but the film as a whole lacks a solid throughline and feels disjointed and unfocused. Perhaps this can at least be partly attributed to the decision to position the film as if it’s actually more about Felicia (wonderfully played by Carey Mulligan, by the way) than it is about Bernstein himself. It’s a perplexing decision because it leaves Bernstein feeling inadequately explored, while the centering of Felicia seems forced and, itself, inadequately justified.
    All that said, it’s not everyday we get a movie as otherwise beautifully shot, crafted, and performed as Maestro, so here’s hoping the next screenplay Cooper co-writes is up to his skills as a director and performer, as well as the skills of the excellent crew and cast he surrounds himself with.
    ===
    Mentioned in the episode:
    Stereoactive Presents: Oscars Nomination Reactions for 2023 Films
    https://www.stereoactivemedia.com/stereoactive-presents-oscars-nomination-reactions-for-2023-films/
    ===
    Episode Credits:
    Producer/Host: J. McVay
    Guests: Charles Hinshaw
    Music: Hansdale Hsu
    Produced by Stereoactive Media

    • 26 min
    ‘Past Lives’ // a movie discussion

    ‘Past Lives’ // a movie discussion

    J. McVay and Charles Hinshaw discuss the debut film written and directed by Celine Song. Past Lives stars Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro as the three sides of a romantic triangle that spans decades and continents.
    There are thin and thick lines running through every life. These may run through personal situations or society as a whole. Celine Song’s Past Lives explores the intersection of at least a few such lines. There’s the sometimes thin line between the platonic and the romantic, then there are the often thicker lines between times and places that separate moments by decades and people by continents and oceans.
    Greta Lee stars as Nora, an immigrant from South Korea to New York City by way of Toronto, who reconnects with an old friend from her youth named Hae Sung – played by Teo Yoo – who was coincidentally already trying to reconnect with her. Their early 2010s Skype calls seem to be drifting toward the romantic side of the aforementioned thin line before they’re paused for a reassessment that never comes and they both continue their lives outside of the bubble they’d constructed for themselves. Eventually, they meet up in person again, but Nora is now married to Arthur, played by John Magaro. 
    A tension amongst all three ensues that raises questions about the nature of the trio’s internal interpersonal relationships, as well as their identities and how they’ve become the people they are.
    The strength of Past Lives comes from the way it deftly flirts with ideas such as fate, culture, ethnicity, and especially through its brief but essential opening scene, projection of self. Each idea or subject is teased in such a way that it naturally unravels in front of your eyes without ever seeming contrived – or, really, to even announce itself. Consequently, you’re already thinking about each idea before you realize you are, just as happens so often in life. The final result is a sublimely crafted story that only improves with subsequent viewings.
    ===
    Episode Credits:
    Producer/Host: J. McVay
    Guests: Charles Hinshaw
    Music: Hansdale Hsu
    Produced by Stereoactive Media

    • 28 min

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Scotty Walker

Thought this was a wonderful tribute not only to Mr. Walker, but to educators everywhere to pour their lives into growing our children and having an impact on our communities!

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