Episodes

  • We felt like doing an Oscars show, so we did:

    Topics of discussion

    1. Intro: 2023's Film Trace movies. They stood the test of time, but were they awarded upon release?

    2. Nominated film most obviously conceived specifically with little gold men in mind?

    3. Nominated film conceived originally with absolutely no award hopes in mind?

    4. Nominated director/writer/DP/actor most obviously groomed to one day become an Oscar winner?

    5. Nominated director/writer/DOP/actor least groomed throughout their career to one day walk to the stage?

    6. Conclusion: Release the hounds. What 2023 movies do we think will stand the test of time despite receiving zero nominations?

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • In the second episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss with George Miller's gonzo-apocalypto in Mad Max: Fury Road alongside the low budget middle-brow of The Purge.

    Special Guest: Tommy Thevenet from the fantastic Haven't Scene It: A Movie Podcast

    As we dip a little further into the last decade, our Future War cycle begins to take shape with the genius Mad Max massively outshining the sophomoric drivel of The Purge. Mad Max: Fury Road was stranded in development hell for over a decade. Geo-political upheaval, once in a century flooding, and skeptical studio execs conspired to keep it out of the theaters, but George Miller and his motley crew found a way to make it happen. The film is crazy in the best possible way. Unbelievable visuals and stunt work, a bizzaro grab bag of eccentric characters, and pure adrenaline. It is cinema magic. Geo-political upheaval, once in a century flooding, and skeptical studio execs conspired to keep it out of the theaters, but George Miller and his motley crew found a way to make it happen. The film is crazy in the best possible way. Unbelievable visuals and stunt work, a bizzaro grab bag of eccentric characters, and pure adrenaline. It is cinema magic. The Purge on the other hand was successful only as a concept. The execution leaves so much to be desired. Despite spawning many sequels over the last decade, this Blumhouse thinkpiece has next to no meat on the bones.

  • In the first episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss the new Gareth Edwards sci-fi epic, The Creator, and Denis Villeneuve's recent attempt of adapting Dune onto film.

    Our Future Wars cycle is focused on how the conflicts of tomorrow were depicted in the past. Over this 8 episode series, we will review 16 films spanning from the 1950s through today that attempted to predict how mankind might find itself at odds with the world and itself.

    The first episode covers the 2020s with The Creator and Dune. Gareth Edwards gained famed after toiling away as a video editor at the BBC with Monsters, a shoestring sci-fi film. Edwards was immediately called up to the majors to helm two blockbuster budgets with Godzilla (2014) and Rogue One (2016). The results were decidedly mixed, and Gareth found himself longing for a simpler way to shoot a big movie. The Creator looks like a very well done 200 million dollar film, but it only cost 80. Technical achievements aside, the story attempts to unravel the very present day conflict of Artificial Intelligence and what role it should play in our lives.

    Dune is a great counter film to The Creator as both films tackle a large scale war of tomorrow, but the approaches are diametrically opposed. The world created by Edwards feels warm, lived in, and extremely perilous. Dune, locked into the imagined worlds of Frank Herbert's book, is depicted by Denis Villeneuve as cold, spartan, and fateful. The Creator feels entrapped in the present, and Dune feels entombed by the past.

  • In the final episode of our Set in the 1950s cycle, we cover two classics, Cool Hand Luke and Rebel Without a Cause.

    We have come to the end of our 1950s cycle, and we are struggling to find a thread that weaves through all of these films. The films we covered all use the 1950s in different ways: set dressing, pastiche base layer, dreamscape, hommage, coming of age background. Each film is a creative outcome of the lived reality of its source decade. Cool Hand Luke feels like a New Hollywood film. It is filled with rebellion and American Existentialism. Rebel Without a Cause, the only film we selected that was made in the 1950s, feels vibrant and raw. Its messiness a sign of authenticity. Perhaps one theme that reoccurred through these films is one of rebellion. Rebellion against some amorphous authority: moral, masculine, or otherwise. Indeed, the 1950s has always been seen as a decade of normalcy and Pax Americana. Each of these films counter examines the assumptions we have collectively made about the years of peace and plenty.

    The next season of Film Trace is coming soon: Future Wars.

  • In the sixth episode of our Set in the 1950s cycle, we discuss Peter Bogdanovich's coming of age story, The Last Picture Show (1971), along with the Lenny Bruce bio pic, Lenny, directed by theater great Bob Fosse.

    Special Guest: Andrea G, co-founder of filmchisme, X: @alifebydreaming

    The 1950s has never been known as a gritty decade. We wanted to find films that demonstrated some of the hidden realities of the Eisenhower years. The Last Picture Show and Lenny both muck up the shiny image of Post War America. Bogdanovich's dusty tale of rural Texas shows us that even small town life is filled with contradiction, tragedy, and sorrow. Fosse's portrayal of Lenny Bruce never leaves the gutter. Both are vibrant films that give us an alternative glimpse into a decade too often encased in a plastic cover.

    Note: This podcast was recorded and produced during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, Asteroid City and The Fabelmans would not exist. Support the artists who make the art you love.

  • In the fifth episode of our Set in the 1950s cycle, we discuss the 1980s hidden gem Desert Hearts and the highly lauded Diner.

    Special Guest: Friend and frequent guest, Molly, who led us both to the existential oasis that is Desert Hearts

    We often try to choose two films that create a discourse between them, but here I think it is safe to say both films are talking past each other. Desert Hearts was an impossible film that was made through sheer will and determination. Donna Deitch raised 1.5 million to make the film mostly via individual stock sales to investors. Unheard of back then and today. The film itself exudes that deep poetic desire. Diner, on the other hand, feels ramshackle and blase. Despite its high stature amongst film critics, the movie plays like a playboy who has had one too many, slipping and sliding through life as if no consequence could cut the wrong way. These two films are about the same decade, but they are about completely different worlds.

    Note: This podcast was recorded and produced during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, Asteroid City and The Fabelmans would not exist. Support the artists who make the art you love.

  • In the fourth episode of our Set in the 1950s cycle, we cover the 1990s neo-noir LA Confidential along side the coming of age tale in This Boy's Life.

    We dive into two different worlds of the 1950s: the glam and seedy glitz of Los Angeles vs the cold and wet solitude of rural Washington. LA Confidential won high praise upon its release in the fall of 1997. It's stature has not faded much in the 25 years since. This Boy's Life had a muted release Easter weekend of 1993, and it seems to have gone missing since then. While LA Confidential uses the 1950s as a way to doll up the actors and scenery, it's satirical wit is focused mostly on the city itself and less on the time period. LA is notoriously born of bad blood, and the film never lets us forget that. This Boy's Life has much more simple and intimate story of triumph over an overbearing authority. It's matinee sappiness covers up a base coat of 1950s misogyny and patriarchy it attempts to critique.

    Note: This podcast was recorded and produced during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, Asteroid City and The Fabelmans would not exist. Support the artists who make the art you love.

  • In the third episode of our Set in the 1950s cycle, we compare two hommages to the post war decade: Todd Haynes' Far from Heaven and Frank Darabont's The Majestic.

    Special guests: Brian Eggert from Deep Focus Reviews, Rotten Tomato Approved and frequent KARE 11 guest film critic

    What started out as a random pairing of two 1950s period pieces from the early Aughts became a rather interesting juxtaposition on the potency and fugility of worshiping art from the past. Far From Heaven was born from a love and respect for Douglas Sirk's fifties melodramas, and The Majestic has Frank Darabont donning his best Capra impression. While both films have inherited riches from the past, their contemporary narratives tend to sizzle instead of sparkle. Far From Heaven is beautifully shot and acted with an intricate and immaculate product design. But we wonder if there is anything happening beyond a Sirk lovefest. The Majestic has a prefab Americana store of redemption that is instantly gripping. But while the trim looks polished and proper, the rooms feel empty. Both films demonstrate how hommage can result is both a dissonant feedback loop as well as an illuminating ouroboros.

    Note: This podcast was recorded and produced during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, Asteroid City and The Fabelmans would not exist. Support the artists who make the art you love.

  • In the second episode of our cycle Set in the 1950s, we look at two auteurs who swing for the fences with Terrence Malick's Tree of Life (2011) and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (2012).

    Special guests and friends of the show Molly and Ryan join us to discuss what happens when Malick and Anderson get the creative freedom and financing to direct the movie they always wanted to make. Tree of Life kicked off a recent prolific period for the ever reclusive Malick. He originally had the idea for Life back in the late 1970s while working on his masterful Days of Heaven. Then he disappeared for twenty years. Similarly, Anderson had been ruminating on the root idea behind The Master for many years before he was able to finally make it happen.

    Both directors go all in, and the final results vary widely depending on the viewer's willingness to go along with them.

    Note: This podcast was recorded and produced during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, Asteroid City and The Fabelmans would not exist. Support the artists who make the art you love.

  • In the first episode of our new cycle Set in the 1950s, we take a look at Wes Anderson's new film, Asteroid City (2023).

    Both Chris and I are devout Wes Anderson fans, and covering Asteroid City was really the impetus for this cycle's theme. As we have traversed this cycle, we are seeing how the 1950s setting can be used in a variety of ways with varying degrees of historical richness. Wes, quite predictably, uses the Eisenhower years as mostly set dressing for his story of grief and isolation out in the red desert. Of course the film looks gorgeous and is filled to the brim with exquisite detail, but the film does deviate significantly from the typical Anderson film. Here the meta impulse is greatly indulged with a play running intertwined within the main narrative. The film has become quite divisive even amongst Wes Anderson aficionados.

    A great counterpoint to Asteroid City is Steven Spielberg's autobiographical The Fabelmans (2022). Both works are about directors turning the lens inwards. Whereas Anderson deconstructs his own style and voice into a kaleidoscope of detail and paratexts, Spielberg lends his own story a hyperrealism he often evoked in his most classic work. Both films are honest reflections.

    Note: This podcast was recorded and produced during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, Asteroid City and The Fabelmans would not exist. Support the artists who make the art you love.

  • The sixth and finale film in our Stranger Than Fiction cycle is Richard Brooks' true crime magnum opus, In Cold Blood (1967).

    Often overlooked by the infamy of its origin source, In Cold Blood enormous value as a film: the beautiful and stark cinematography of Conrad Hall (who went on to shoot Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Road to Perdition), the unsettling and rapturous performances of leads Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, the surgical plotting and execution of Richard Brooks. It sits snugly inbetween the post-war studio system and the auteur anarchism of the 1970s. Despite these creative high marks, In Cold Blood could be a thesis statement for this cycle: exploitation and true life film are inseparable. The moral weight of retelling this grisly murder of a family by two drifters is too much for the film, even with its progressive anti-death penalty ideology. But we find interest and discourse in the cracks and fissures of great art. Perfection in film would be a negation of the medium.

    For our chaser film, we trace the lineage of true crime back to Compulsion (1959), a mess of a film that is salvaged by wonderful performances from Orson Welles, Diane Varsi, Dean Stockwell, and the truly creepy Bradford Dillman.

  • The fifth film in our Stranger Than Fiction cycle is Sidney Lumet's provocative bank heister, Dog Day Afternoon (1975).

    Special Guest: Good friend of the show and dedicated film nerd, Riley.

    Dog Day Afternoon is certainly a film you hear about before you ever see it. The film has had a stellar reputation since its release in the mid 1970s. It is considered one of Sidney Lumet's most important and best films. As we approach the film's 50th anniversary, we reappraised both what is on the screen and what happened in real life, not all of which is easy to reconcile with the aura of prestige surrounding the film. As we explore about how true life overlaps with fiction, Dog Day Afternoon becomes hornet's nest of contradiction, exploitation, and high art craftsmanship. Featuring stellar performances from Al Pacino and John Cazale, we face the question that always arises when great stories are told about terrible people: can we separate art from reality?

    For our chaser film, we reclaim a lost 70s classic, Straight Time. Dripping in 70s malaise and alienation, Dustin Hoffman plays a man on the edge of all things prudent.

  • The fourth film in our Stranger Than Fiction cycle is David Cronenberg's deep trip twin thriller, Dead Ringers (1988).

    Special Guest: Rob from the awesome Smoke & Mirrors Podcast

    David Cronenberg was evicted from his home after his early film, Shivers, sent shockwaves through the Toronto intelligentsia. Cronenberg has always been an outsider with a deft ability to contort himself into the good graces of the monied class over his now fifty year career. Dead Ringers is one of his most grounded works but it is also one of his most confounding. The film closely follows the journalistic essays written about the life and death of twins Stewart and Cyril Marcus. As Cronenberg himself said, “The art of The Fly was to make the fantasy absolutely real, whereas the challenge here was to make the realistic seem fantastic.” But by the end, even Jeremy Irons' spectacular performance can't quite conjure the truth that lies between the tragedy of these twin brothers.

    For our chaser film, we dissect Wes Craven's ballsy attempt to adapt a notorious account of real life zombies in Haiti, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988).

  • The third film in our Stranger Than Fiction cycle is Terry Gilliam's visual extravaganza, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).

    Special Guest: The crew from There Are Too Many Movies podcast - Chris Collins, Josh Rodriguez, and Alex Wilshin.

    Hunter S. Thompson was the paradigm of Stranger Than Fiction journalism. He helped create the entire genre of creative nonfiction by telling the world what he saw we his own two eyes instead of assuming some fake omniscient third person perspective, also known as "reporting." Terry Gilliam saddled up with Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro to bravely attempt an adaptation of Thompson's classic work of gonzo. It fails spectacularly, but the film is absolutely a high mark in visual experimentation. Not for nothing, Gilliam captures altered perception in a way never done before or since. It's too bad the film mostly misses the moral and political polemics underneath the book's narcotic blatherings.

    For our chaser film, we travel to the fourth dimensions with Peter Jackson's wonderfully macabre Heavenly Creatures (1994).