The Podcast Oscar Special 2023!!!

Welcome to the 95th Annual Oscar Special! True, our podcast has only been around for nine years (!), but the Oscars have apparently been at it for 95, and one day they’ll get it right! Will that happen for the 2022 movies, including Everything Everywhere All At Once facing off a bunch of challengers including The Banshees of Inisherin, Top Gun 2, Avatar 2, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Fabelmans, and a bunch of Talking Women?!? Tune in to our Oscar special to find out what “getting it right” would even mean for Sara, Jeremy, Marisa, and Jesse, who offer their selections for who will win, who should win, and who was SNUBBED in each of the big eight categories! You can download our Oscars ep here or listen below!

The Podcast: Best Movies of 2022

Movies! Now more than ever! For this late-but-not-that-late episode on the Best Movies of 2022, the movie core of Marisa, Sara, Jeremy, Jesse, and Nathaniel each submitted a list of, yes, their 20 favorite and/or best movies of 2022, aggregated into a single list. Four of us then run through those collective choices in this loose countdown, which means talking about movies that are and are not actually about the magic of cinema. Musicals, multiverses, Hitchcockian thrillers, dark comedies, and emotional devastation… this year’s best movies of 2022 had it all! Along with our group’s consensus choices, we offer occasional dissent with each other’s picks, plus a quartet of outliers that only made certain individual lists. There’s a lot to enjoy here, so get to listening!

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“Worlds within worlds.” That’s the well-worn descriptor—Quotation? Catchphrase? Cliché? Really, that universal catch-all-three “from the comics”—one character uses to characterize the primary setting of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The characters are goggling at the previously glimpsed and now heavily explored Quantum Realm, a beyond-microscopic section of the Marvel Cinematic Universe reachable only by advanced (and dangerous) shrinking technology. Ten years ago, though, this phrase might have applied to the MCU’s numerous overlapping mini-franchises, Iron Man’s world not quite the same as Captain America’s which was not quite the same as Thor’s—until they pulled a few narrative threads together and converged into The Avengers. Now, it could also apply to the way the MCU seems obligated, whether by due dates, artistic conviction, or pure high-roller self-confidence, to paste together its wonders with green-screen, dim lighting, and suspiciously empty one-shots. Whenever it’s possible to look at Quantumania and idly wonder whether anyone on screen was actually in a room together during shooting—which is often!—you may be peeking at the worlds-within-worlds built by visual effects artists and actors’ conflicting schedules. In other words: a Zoom call with (somewhat) better backgrounds.

Which is not to say Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania entirely lacks for sights. Previous looks at the Quantum Zone somewhat resembled the spongy insides of Fantastic Voyage crossed with a lava lamp; this time, we see cityscapes that look like a more gelatinous Star Wars, and creatures to populate them. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), also known as Ant-Man, is on accidental extended visit there, along with his girlfriend Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), his teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), and Hope’s parents Hank (Michael Douglas) and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). The whole family gets sent there in a sequence of admirable expediency and perhaps not a lot of sense; the stakes may be higher in this third Ant-Man movie than they were in the previous palate-cleansing adventures, but returning director Peyton Reed seems to vaguely recall the crispness of his best comedies like Bring It On and Down with Love (if not their colorfully winking wit), and attempt to bring things in around the two-hour mark. (For a contemporary superhero movie, this is the equivalent of 91 minutes.)
Continue reading ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA is all small favors

The Podcast: Best Streaming TV of 2022

You may have heard of a coming streaming recession or TV apocalypse, but regardless of what the future may hold, right now, there is still a hell of a lot of streaming TV out there for your consumption, whether your streaming provider is Netflix, Hulu, Paramount, Apple, Disney, Tubi, or all of the above (or just Tubi because Tubi is the best). Sensing a need for categorization and consensus in this vast streaming TV landscape, Ben called an emergency session of the podcast crew to talk about our favorite shows of 2022, sorted neatly into a series of categories: workplace shows, relationship shows, fantastical shows, funny shows, animated shows… all the types of shows, as favored variously by Ben, Jeremy, Sara, Marisa, and even TV agnostic and confirmed “movie person” (ugh) Jesse. So before you just shrug your shoulders and fire up that new season of Mad About You that you missed a few years ago, why not listen to us stump for our favorites (and run down a few of our anti-favorites)? We’ve got something for just about everyone, and if you watch all of these shows already, you can hear us praise and/or debate them. Happy listening and watching!

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80 FOR BRADY is a Fancy Grandma Adventure That Works

Plenty has been written about the enabling of the streaming-era ubiquity of geezer teasers, direct-to-video action movies that tantalize older viewers with heavily advertised appearances, often brief, from stars of yesteryear like John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, or Bruce Willis. But for women of a certain age who aren’t particularly associated with crime thrillers or gunplay, there’s a parallel track involving more screentime, less (though not zero) nefarious marketing, and actual theatrical releases: Fancy Grandma Adventures, wherein a group of actresses (usually four) with storied careers (usually at least two Oscars) get together for a groove-reacquiring girls’ night that lasts around two hours.

The Robert De Niro of this emerging mini-genre—the workhorse who seems to really enjoy working—is Diane Keaton, whose close associations with Nancy Meyers made Book Club (also starring Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen) into a stop-gap solution for anyone craving cream sweaters, copper pots, and post-menopausal reclamations of purpose. A sequel is coming this spring. Steven Soderbergh even made a vaguely art-house version of this story with Let Them All Talk, where Bergen, Dianne Wiest, and Meryl Streep play old friends reuniting on a cruise ship.

80 for Brady is a Fancy Grandma Adventure based on a true story—
presumably in the sense that at least once, a group of older women went to the Super Bowl together. (A real-life photo is provided as the credits roll; no other details accompany it.) Keaton is inexplicably absent, but Book Club’s Fonda appears, joined by her frequent co-star Lily Tomlin, plus Oscar winners Sally Field and Rita Moreno. After becoming diehard fans of the New England Patriots later in life, the four women decide to get themselves into NRG Stadium in Houston to watch what could be Tom Brady’s final Super Bowl appearance in 2017. Being in his 40s, they reason, he is “80 in people years,” just like them.
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The Podcast: Avatar 2 and the Films of James Cameron

Avatar is back! Everybody brace for cultural impact! James Cameron’s special-effects extravaganza Avatar: The Way of Water has finally made it to movie theaters — in fact, it’s now topped the domestic box office for seven weekends in a row, garnered a Best Picture nomination, and raked in over $2 billion worldwide. In light of this stunning failure to attract any kind of substantial audience or acclaim, your crew hopped in their submersible and did a deep-dive podcast on the films of James Cameron, in all their water-y, tech-y, earnest glory. The Avatars, the Terminators, the Aliens, the various boats and choppers and motion-captured Na’vi… they’re all here in this two-hour-plus extravaganza that is still shorter than the runtime of Avatar: The Way of Water. Discussion points include high frame rate, 3-D, sending Bill Paxton to explore the real Titanic, the names of characters in Avatar, Cameron’s facility with sequels and what sets the Avatar follow apart, Titanic opening-night memories, and more. Jesse, Marisa, Jeremy, Nathaniel, and Jeff are your guides through the floating mountains of Pandora and beyond! And if you feel the need to do some penance following this epic appreciation of megablockbuster entertainment, we did do a podcast about a bunch of recent indie movies!

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The Worst Movies of 2022

Best Movies of the Year lists seem to pop up earlier and earlier, but you don’t see quite as many Worst of the Year equivalents. I understand why: It seems mean, it flirts with Golden Raspberry-level cluelessness, and it doesn’t seem worth the effort telling people to avoid a few movies they might have already seen (or, as with smaller movies, would probably never come across anyway) rather than telling them to check out any number of gems. And yet: There is something satisfying about rounding up a motley crew of the year’s most annoying, inexplicable, and/or painfully inept cinematic experiences, if only to see where the bad trendlines are headed (and maybe compile some writing that hopefully justified the critic’s investment of time). This year, perhaps owing to my co-hosting a horror movie podcast, I saw plenty of bad horror movies (and this was a very good year for horror in general). I also saw a lot of movies rolling the dice on Get Out-style social commentary, and then watching as the dice skipped down the sidewalk and fell through a sewer grate. So take a look at my least-faves of 2022, check out some writing and podcasts from the past year, and be glad that I left off Resurrection, and see how they compare to 2020 and 2021.
Continue reading The Worst Movies of 2022

The Podcast Lost Episode: Indie Movies of Summer 2022

Hey there! It’s been a while, I know! We recorded our annual wrap-up of highlights from an indie-movie summer (and recommendations for a healthy streaming fall) back in September, but life, paid gigs, and occasionally COVID got in the way of Jesse actually editing the damn thing and getting it out into the world. I thought this particular movie podcast episode might feel outdated now that it’s December, but as it turns out, this is a terrific compendium of summer indies that will probably be largely overlooked as we head into the big end-of-year list-making season. Plus, some of these movies are newly available on Netflix and/or Hulu and/or old pals at AMC Plus, an organization that we make a case should be sponsoring us on this very episode! So let Sara, Marisa, Jeremy, and Jesse take you on a whirlwind tour of the movies you might have missed last summer while you were seeing Top Gun 2 a third time! You won’t regret it!

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The Podcast: Top Summer Movies of 1992

Summer 2022 is officially and unequivocally over. Long live summer 1992! As we continue to sweep the corners on summer movies past, we have arrived at the summer movies of 1992, which looks a hell of a lot different from 2022 or 2002. Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin haven’t yet teamed up for Bowfinger (and are both trying their hands at screwball rom-coms of sorts). Jack Ryan is only on his third actor. Tom Cruise is there, but he’s Irish. There’s just one superhero movie, and it’s way hornier than usual. And girls?!? Playing baseball??! To sort through all of this, we’ve reunited Nathaniel, Ben, Marisa, Becca, Jeremy, and Jesse to talk about our experiences (largely but not entirely facilitated by home video!) with this eclectic and occasionally maddening look at the summer movies of 1992.

If you need to catch up before checking out the latest and greatest, here’s the complete history of this project:


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PEARL is a pandemic horror movie, but not how you might think

Earlier this year, Ti West released his horror movie X, which was shot one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, just before the wide availability of vaccines, taking advantage of New Zealand’s rigorous quarantine standards and relatively contained virus. The movie, about a small crew attempting to shoot a porn movie on a secluded farm in 1979, is a recognizably pandemic-related production in its limited locations and modest cast size, but that’s ultimately just a behind-the-scenes tidbit—one of many COVID-era productions where the precautions and nerves are allowed to stay mostly offscreen. X has plenty else closer to front of mind, too, about the joys of low-budget filmmaking, the desperate drive of young flesh and corresponding frustrations of old age, and how society expects sexual desire to dwindle with time, especially in women. (It’s also, somehow, a wildly entertaining slasher picture.) There was no need to make it a pandemic movie, too. But it turns out, West and his star Mia Goth did actually make a pandemic movie out in New Zealand; they just didn’t tell anyone until X was all done.

Pearl, a prequel of sorts to X, offers an origin story for that movie’s principal killer (played by Goth in old-age makeup in the film, the better to double her with Maxine, the aspiring porn actress still in full command of her youthful heat). It doesn’t best X, but it certainly out-pandemics it: West and Goth co-wrote the movie quickly during their New Zealand arrival quarantine, preparing to take advantage of the X sets by placing Pearl largely on the same farm sixtysomething years earlier. Beyond that practicality, though, Pearl is a COVID movie in its soul, even if the movie doesn’t exactly come out and say it.
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