FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #91 – “The Birth of a Nation” (dir. Nate Parker)

Poster for "The Birth of a Nation"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel try their level best to be objective about a film and filmmaker that strive at every turn to make them otherwise, Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation. All of the film’s controversy (and surprisingly frequent comparisons to the work of Mel Gibson) is fundamentally about the interplay of fact and fiction, of drama and history, with our intrepid hosts firmly entrenched on opposite sides. Can we reach an accord, or will we go to war like the Inglourious Basterds of old? Tune in and find out below (49:46).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 6.5/10 (Daniel), 7.5/10 (Glenn)

Show notes:

  • Music for this episode is the track “Black Moses” by Pusha T (featuring Meek Mill & Priscilla Renea) from the film’s Inspired By soundtrack, and Nina Simone‘s 1965 version of “Strange Fruit“, which appeared in the film’s teaser trailer.
  • Jerusalem, Virginia was indeed a real village – it was renamed to Courtland, Virginia in 1888.
  • Without being able to scroll back through the film frame by frame, we can’t be completely sure, but as best we can remember (with Google’s assistance), the Bible verse briefly shown in the film (which is the closest that the film comes to suggesting that the rebellion plans to murder children) is Ezekiel 9:5-7:

    And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:
    Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
    And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.(KJV)

  • CORRECTION: This one, I really feel bad about, because it wasn’t HBO’s Entourage, the horrendous guilty pleasure of my early 20s, that was responsible for the fictitious Haitian Revolution movie. It was writer/director Chris Rock, in his outstanding 2014 film Top Five (which made my Top 10 for that year). I did correctly characterize its role in that film, however – it was an example of an artsy project that nobody wanted to see.

Listen above, or download: The Birth of a Nation (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #90 – “Hell or High Water” (dir. David Mackenzie)

Poster for "Hell or High Water"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel return from a wander on the plains to review Hell or High Water, a new modern western from Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, featuring a very familiar Jeff Bridges landing somewhere between his own mumbly personage from True Grit, and Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men. Can this Southern crime tale do enough to differentiate itself? Tune in and find out (34:17).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 7 out of 10

Show notes:

  • Music for this episode is the track “You Ask Me To” by Waylon Jennings from the film’s soundtrack, and Blakwall‘s cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door“, which appeared in the film’s trailer.
  • Steven Michael Quezada and Dean Norris, who played Gomie and Hank respectively in Breaking Bad, are more or less the exact same age. Whoops – we might’ve been reaching a bit hard for this comparison. But Gil Birmingham‘s character definitely played a similar role to Steven Gomez in this film.
  • Also the same age? Chris Pine and Ben Foster. Gonna chock this one up to movie makeup and styling – Foster definitely looked older here.
  • Also nearly the same age? Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham (66 and 63 respectively). So…we really biffed it on the age-related observations in this episode.
  • Apologies, Glenn was getting over the sniffles during this episode – we cut what we could.
  • Reverse mortgages are complicated. We correctly (albeit cynically) described the one that was featured in this film, but we’d encourage you to read up on them in detail before considering this film podcast too instructive on the subject.

Listen above, or download: Hell or High Water (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #89 – “The Brand New Testament” (dir. Jaco Van Dormael), “When War Comes Home” (dir. Michael King)

Poster for "When War Comes Home"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel return to the Seattle International Film Festival, first to give a shout-out to the badass women of Angry Indian Goddesses, followed by some fanciful religious absurdity with The Brand New Testament. And then we conclude a trilogy of reviews that we’ve done on warrior subculture in the United States, with a deep dive on When War Comes Home, Emmy-award winning director Michael King‘s new documentary on soldiers living with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. This film divided us, both on what we think a documentary should be, and on the value of compelling human interest stories. Listen to us unpack the film below. (49:26).

Seattle area listeners:
There will be a special Flag Day screening of When War Comes Home at the Majestic Bay Theater, on Tuesday, June 14th, at 7:30PM. It will be followed by a panel discussion with several of the film’s subjects.

For free tickets, RSVP at this link.

May contain NSFW language.

Still from "The Brand New Testament"

FilmWonk rating (The Brand New Testament): 5 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (When War Comes Home): 6/10 (Daniel), 7.5/10 (Glenn)

Show notes:

  • [00:33] Brief : Angry Indian Goddesses
  • [07:20] Review: The Brand New Testament
  • [23:06] Review: When War Comes Home
  • Music for this episode is a pair of tracks from the outstanding soundtrack to Angry Indian Goddesses: “Zindagi“, written and performed by Anushka Manchanda, and “Kattey“, performed by Bhanvari Devi and Hard Kaur.
  • We didn’t issue a rating for Angry Indian Goddesses, since we didn’t do a full review segment for it. But suffice to say, we both loved the film. Check out its Facebook page for more info on how you can see it.
  • If you’re wondering what the hell I was talking about with Paul Rudd‘s computer – treat yourself here.
  • You can check out the episode that we referenced of Rose Eveleth‘s Flash Forward podcast here – and we highly recommend it!

Listen above, or download: The Brand New Testament, When War Comes Home (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #88 – “A Bigger Splash” (dir. Luca Guadagnino), “Death By Design” (dir. Sue Williams) (#SIFF2016)

Poster for "A Bigger Splash"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel make an inauspicious start at the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival with an environmental documentary that did a rather poor job of convincing our heroes of things that they already believe. Then they hop overseas to check out the latest Italian collaboration between director Luca Guadagnino and actress Tilda Swinton. Stay tuned for spoilers, because we had vastly different reads on this film’s ending (38:37).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Death By Design): 2 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (A Bigger Splash): 6 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [00:46] Review: Death By Design
  • [11:36] Review: A Bigger Splash
  • [26:25] Spoilers: A Bigger Splash
  • Music for this episode is the track “Emotional Rescue” by The Rolling Stones, from the soundtrack to A Bigger Splash.
  • Glenn was probably butchering Matthias Schoenaerts‘ name pronunciation, but he is definitely not the first to sorta mistake him for Ryan Gosling, and he regrets nothing.

Listen above, or download: Death By Design, A Bigger Splash (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #87 – “Captain America: Civil War” (dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)

Poster for "Captain America: Civil War"

This week on the podcast, Daniel engages in the as-yet-unprecedented behavior of suggesting that we review a new Marvel film, and shocks Glenn to his very core by enjoying it. Come along for the ride that proves that Marvel continues to check such basic storytelling boxes as “give them a good reason to fight” and “make us care”. Take notes, Zach Snyder – this is how a proper superhero clash is done (42:49).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 7.5 out of 10

Show notes:

  • Music for this episode is the tracks “Lagos” and “Clash” from the film’s original score, written by Henry Jackman.
  • Our initial screening was canceled for what we describe here as “the usual reasons”. If you’re curious what we mean by this, listen to our brief rant at the beginning of Episode 35.
  • Bit of fictional geography: Wakanda’s location has varied in Marvel lore, but all sources seem to agree that it’s located in northeastern Africa, somewhere in the region inhabited by real-life Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and/or Ethiopia. Which is around 2,000 miles from Lagos, Nigeria (in West Africa), where the film’s opening scene takes place. In our discussion (where we got quite a bit wrong, geographically speaking), we referred to Wakanda as the fictional product of an alternate history in which an African monarchy remained untouched by European colonialism, but after recording (and consulting Wikipedia), we remembered that there is a potential real-life parallel for Wakanda, in the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia), which successfully avoided colonization. The last Emperor, Haile Selassie I (also the founder and principal religious figure of Rastafarianism) ruled the country for 44 years until he was overthrown by a Soviet-backed communist coup in 1974.
  • Daniel stumped me at one point by asking whether the black panther species is native to Africa. The answer: Yes, kind of. Turns out the term refers to the melanistic (dark-pigmented) variant of a number of species in the Panthera genus. According to Wikipedia, black panthers in Asia and Africa are leopards, whereas the ones in the Americas are jaguars. Also, gibbons are apes, not monkeys. Yay knowledge!
  • Correction: Whoops, Don Cheadle was totally in Iron Man 3. Remember the Iron Patriot? Because we totally forgot him. He was definitely present in the final showdown as well. We regret the error.

Listen above, or download: Captain America: Civil War (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #86 – “Demolition” (dir. Jean-Marc Vallée)

This week on the podcast, Glenn and Daniel struggle with the overwhelming sense that they’ve seen this movie before – Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition is the tale of a rich, white person’s unconventional journey of grief – but well-worn territory or not, it’s quite fun (27:13).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 7 out of 10

Show notes:

Listen above, or download: Demolition (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #85 – “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (dir. Zach Snyder)

This week on the podcast, Glenn and Daniel unwittingly produce an abundance of pull-quotes for the marketing of Zach Snyder‘s latest disposable superhero mashup. Samples for the press include, “Unrelentingly grim,” “Gal Gadot is in this movie,” and “Supes could’ve blasted his medulla oblongata”(50:38).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 5.5/10 (Daniel); 3/10 (Glenn)

Show notes:

  • Music for this episode is the original 1966 Batman TV series theme song. And we end with “Kryptonite” by Three Doors Down.

Listen above, or download: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)