FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #179 – “Bliss” (dir. Mike Cahill), “The White Tiger” (dir. Ramin Bahrani)

Poster for Bliss (2021 film)

This week, Glenn and Daniel escape the doldrums of 2020 with a mind-bending, reality-warping thriller from I Origins director Mike Cahill, Bliss, now available on Amazon Prime. And then we gaze across the world at India, a country currently engaged in the largest protest in human history, through the eyes of a Booker Prize-winning novel adapted by director Ramin Bahrani, The White Tiger. This film, which we described as having “a chip on its shoulder and a swagger in its step,” is now available on Netflix. (01:02:57).

Still from "The White Tiger"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Bliss): 8 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (The White Tiger): 8 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:25] Review: Bliss
  • [12:33] Spoilers: Bliss
  • [25:10] Review: The White Tiger
  • [45:53] Spoilers: The White Tiger
  • The “Thought Visualizer” depicted in Bliss is just barely still science-fiction, but the technology that could power such a device in the future does exist today. Check out the OpenAI Multimodal Research frameworks, including DALL-E, a neural network which can create images based on a text description, and CLIP, which can generate a text description from a photo (and these networks were, in turn, used to train and validate each other). I’d suggest you start with the DALL-E demo, especially if you’re eager to see what a giraffe/walrus hybrid, or a cat made of fried chicken, or a pig made of cucumbers looks like.
  • Check out Rohan Naahar‘s review of The White Tiger in the Hindustan Times for one Indian critic’s take on the film, which obviously picked up on some details we missed. NPR also interviewed a number of regular people who have experienced poverty in India for their takes on the film, which are expectedly wide-ranging. The /Filmcast (with David Chen, Devindra Hardawar, and Jeff Cannata) had an excellent discussion as well.
  • CORRECTION: We referred to the 2016 Indian banknote demonetization, which – as you might expect, we oversimplified a bit. Same goes for the Citizenship Amendment of 2019.
  • CORRECTION: While the caste system is deliberately simplified in The White Tiger, the Halwai caste (which Balram was born into) is briefly defined in the film – it was traditionally associated with confectionery and sweet-making.

Listen above, or download: Bliss, The White Tiger (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #64 – “Inherent Vice” (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Poster for "Inherent 55Vice"

Glenn and Daniel start off the New Year right with a borderline unhealthy dose of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice. We both identified this film early-on as a hippie-infused shaggy-dog detective story, but surprisingly, only one of us found this delightful. (33:59).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 7.5/10 (Glenn); 5/10 (Daniel)

Show notes:

  • Music for tonight’s episode is Sam Cooke‘s original track, “(What A) Wonderful World“, as well as “Never My Love” by The Association, both from the film’s soundtrack.
  • The film mentions a [fictitious] blacklisted actor – in the film, this actor is played by real-life actor Jack Kelly, who was never blacklisted in real life. The film shows Kelly’s alter ego in a real-life 1962 anti-communist propaganda short film, Red Nightmare. You can watch this 28-minute film in its entirety on YouTube – the scene featured in the film begins at 18:31.
  • The term “inherent vice” is obliquely explained in the film as “whatever can’t be avoided” in the context of insurance – glass breaking, chocolate melting, etc. But the term originates from library and archival science, referring to the material constraints of preservation activities. For example, cellulose acetate film will degrade over time due to chemical instability.
  • Check out our review of Anderson’s previous film, The Master.
  • In the genre of “drug-addled protagonist goes on a confusing detective odyssey”, there was one bit of comedy that came to mind, but didn’t come up on the podcast. And that was a wonderful recurring sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look, known as “The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar”. You can find all of these sketches on YouTube – check out the first one here.

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