A podcast in which we discuss high-craft works of popular culture
"Yelling 'Racism' in a 'Post-racist' World," or Paul Beatty's The Sellout, Part II
The second half of The Sellout does feature a MacGuffin and resolution of sorts, although the plot is minimal compared to the satire and world building. The UMBs struggle to understand the book, but ultimately conclude The Sellout is a takedown of the post-racial ideal of the 2010s. The brilliance of the prose is stunning, but does the structure of the book feature the same brilliance?
"Faintly Dickensian?" or Paul Beatty's The Sellout, Part I
Chris and Jesse are thrown into Paul Beatty's 2015 Man Booker Prize Winner The Sellout, because this novel seems to try to take the upper hand with its reader. Our two heroes agree that it's beautiful, but is it a mess or not? We marvel at Beatty's prose, quickly sum up all of epic poetry, and finish with trivia about child actors from The Little Rascals and ovoid/cuboid watermelons.
"Put On Your Seatbelt," or Alexander Payne's Sideways
A rebroadcast of our Live recap and discussion of Alexander Payne’s Sideways (2004). The UMB’s admire Miles’ Saab, la costa perdida, and enjoy the rustically simple cinematography, and marvel at the chemistry and performances of Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Sandra Oh, and Virginia Madsen. Was there ever such an acting quartet?
Digression: Demented Whimsy with Joshua Mohr.
Writer Joshua Mohr joins us to talk shop about his recent book Farsickness. The idea began with watching his daughter and her friends create short dramatic productions for his neighborhood, during COVID. He talks about the virtues of supposedly “hapless” protagonists, collaborating with his daughter, and how COVID should have taught us to pursue the art we crave the most.
"Waiting for Prima," or Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci's "Big Night"
The UMBs went in expecting a quietly great film, and their expectations were exceeded. Big Night is at times BIG and LOUD, even though the characters spend much of the film not saying what they mean. Big Night combines excellent kitchen scenes (especially the memorable timpano preparation) with family drama and the central dilemma of all artists: When to compromise vision for the sake of practicalities.
Coming This Week: Sideways Watch Party and Live Discussion
On Thursday, January 11th, we'll watch Sideways (streaming, on your own) at 4:05PM PST, and then join a live discussion at 6:30PM, compete with a public rundown, and audience participation. Streaming details will be available at upppermiddlebrow.com on Thursday morning.
Book Club without shame!
I learned about Uppermiddle Brow on twitter through mutuals with the hosts Jesse and Chris. I’d gone through a Neal Stephenson phase and they kicked off the podcast with him, so I started listening. While I rarely read (or reread) the books in time for the podcast, Jesse and Chris have created a fun book club without the shame of showing up when you didn’t read the book.
Uppermiddle Brow has a fun grad school, hangout vibe - the hosts is incredibly smart and well read, but there’s inside jokes and good vibes, too.
I am unqualified to review this podcast
I'm sorry, I don't have information to support that Upper Middlebrow is the best podcast ever, as opinions on podcasts are subjective and can vary widely. I can say the two hosts sure can charm a robotic heart.
A disarming excavation of what is artful about art
Are you someone who loved reading as a child, but the magic of it was lost amongst a combination of outrage-fueled social media, adulting, and the rise of fascism? Or, maybe you were that student who enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby, but got stuck with an English teacher who was phoning it in until she could start day-drinking? Or, maybe, you’re a left-brained person cursed with right-brained friends, and would, just once, like to understand the greater context of “that book” they’re all talking about over brunch? Or, maybe you’re all three, (like me). If so, then do I have the podcast for you!
In a world full of consumers that can’t sit through a 30 second Netflix intro without hitting “skip,” Jesse and Chris manage to do the impossible: they keep your attention. Through a combination of engaging banter, bias-conscious discussions, humble wit, and genuine knowledge, the hosts share their passions for an eclectic mix of media that is approachable for the rest of us. Upper Middlebrow is a disarming excavation that reveals what is artful about everyday works of art. Their secret? They stand aside, leave their egos at the door, and let the art do the work. Their refreshing enthusiasm is for often-intimidating topics is infectious. You may even be tempted to stand on your desk and cry out “O Captain, my Captain!” after a listen. My thanks to the hosts for being the cool English teachers I was always told existed, but never managed to find for myself.