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.
1 hr 5 min
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.
1 hr 3 min
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: @alifebydreamingThe 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 HeartsWe 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.
1 hr 10 min
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.
1 hr 3 min
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.
1 hr 9 min
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.
1 hr 3 min
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.
1 hr 4 min