Just in time for the 4th, here’s an odd celebration of American freedom: I talked to Paul Cantor talk about David Milch’s most famous achievement, Deadwood–the movie and the TV show. A Western, lawless, but orderly vision of America. An America with commerce but without religion, with freedom but without equality–what kind of community and what kind of justice are possible in such a situation? Something piratical, un-Puritan.More
Here’s what this post, and last week’s post are about: The cultural changes in the media that Ricochet readers don’t like didn’t happen by pure accident. They took decades. We propose equally patient, persistent, but ruthlessly effective efforts to push culture in another direction over the next 20-plus years. We are chewing over how to create or capture a big chunk of tomorrow’s media and the arts. It’s a myth that nothing can be done about the entertainment business. Success is Hollywood’s definitive history teacher.
@drewinwisconsin raises a tough point. He said, “So that’s probably why it’s important to try to change or break the current system rather than try to build an equivalent system that will have no users. Consider how much power and scope Google+ had, and it still couldn’t survive against Facebook. And that’s Google — already a malignant influence.”More
This week, I’m joined again by my friend Peter Paik, Professor at University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and at Yonsei University in Seoul, author of a book on pop-culture visions of radical political change that’s most timely: From Utopia To Apocalypse.
Peter and I talk about the comic books of Alan Moore, the main subject of his book: Watchmen, made into a movie by Zack Snyder and now about to become an HBO series; V for Vendetta, made into a movie by the Wachowskis, the Matrix creators; From Hell, made into a movie by the Hughes brothers, starring Johnny Depp; and Miracleman, a Cold-War-to-End-of-History story that has not yet been adapted.More
This week, Telly Davidson and I wrap up our conversation on Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane–the tyrannic soul who wants to be loved by everyone, erotic longings that slip the bounds of nature, and the failure of friendship to limit madness. We talk about the problems of love and friendship, but also about politics and media, or how tyranny shows up in the age of Progress.More
For the two-year anniversary of the podcast, here’s Citizen Kane. We talk media moguls and politics; radio, TV, and Trump; democratic reform and the tyrannic soul; Progress and Eros. Here’s, for once, a defense of Orson Welles’s political wit, not movie magic! I talk to Telly Davidson, another of the few conservatives in Hollywood– a critic, author, and man toiling away in production. His most recent book is Culture War about, you guessed it, the ’90s, when the seeds were planted of the whirlwind keeping things interesting now. We’ll talk about it on our next podcast!More
Paul Cantor joins me for the second part of our conversation on his new book: Pop Culture And The Dark Side Of The American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, And Zombies. It’s time for the zombies–for the postmodern Western, The Walking Dead, from Shane to Wagon Train to our times of crisis, when we ask ourselves, could we be what we think we are without the institutions and technology that prop us up? Is American character able to withstand the test of the state of nature?More
Here’s my new podcast with Paul Cantor, on the Macbeth of Meth! We talk about The Dark Side Of The American Dream — go buy the book, folks. It’s about tragedy in pop culture, from Huck Finn to The Walking Dead (which we’ll get to next week). We talk about the American Dream — especially the middle-class suburban dream of the post-war era–and what happens when it doesn’t work out. Especially during troubled times, like nowadays, people turn to darker stories and are more interested in the tragic side of life. So all of a sudden mere villains ascend by the path of the anti-hero to the full status of tragic hero, trying to out-American America, so to speak.More
Prof. John Marini and I wrap up a trilogy on Sam Peckinpah’s westerns with his most comic, least violent picture: The Ballad of Cable Hogue. The only movie he made about a founding also turns out to be his story about dealing with movability, mutability, and mortality in America. Progress is a killer, but human beings can remember their love of the natural, tranquil life. It’s also Peckinpah’s Lockean Western, where labor mixed with nature creates property and leads to a common good for a community!More
This week, Prof. John Marini joins me on the podcast for a conversation about Sam Peckinpah’s first great Western, Ride The High Country, a movie about the collapse of nobility. Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea play veteran marshals of the Old West, whose time has passed, and who take one last job to make something of themselves–or for themselves. This is our sixth Western conversation and next week, for our seventh, we’ll talk about Peckinpah’s last great Western, The Ballad Of Cable Hogue.More
There is a new Donnersmarck movie, Never Look Away, a brilliant successor to the famous The Lives Of Others, so we are getting the team back together. @FlaggTaylor and Carl Eric Scott join me on the podcast for a long, wide-ranging discussion about art and tyranny, about the relationship between beauty and politics, and what great movies can offer by way of meditation on our search for freedom. Flagg and Carl co-edited the book on Donnersmarck’s marvelous, Oscar-winning debut, The Lives of Others.More
Today, I am joined by Theodore Gioia for a conversation on how classical music became the favored soundtrack for evil, villainous masterminds. What happened to classical music in Hollywood! How did we get from classical music ennobling movies and deepening characterization — to Hannibal Lecter murdering people to Bach’s Goldberg variations! We start from his fine essay over at The American Scholar. You can also find more of his essays over at his site!More
Friends, we celebrate our 100th episode with a conversation with Paul Cantor on Tim Burton’s early movies: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Ed Wood. We start, however, with the new Dumbo and Burton’s attack on Disney, television culture, celebrity, and all that… For more Cantor on Burton and other pop culture writing, here’s the book: The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture.More
James Poulos, recently named Executive Editor of American Mind, a worthy publication of the Claremont Institute, joins me for a conversation on the changes digital technology has created and revealed in this time of elite crisis in America and around the world. We also talk up a triad of cultural criticism whose moment has come: Philip Rieff, Christopher Lasch, and Marshall McLuhan. I’ll go so far as to boast that our conversation is a good example of what this triad has to offer by way of analysis of elites.More
Back to Pawel Pawlikowski: @FlaggTaylor and I have a companion piece to Ida — Cold War, a romantic tragedy, which features a couple escaping from and then returning to the Iron Curtain. Whereas Ida is about divine love, this is merely human love. In both cases, the Polish past and totalitarianism are the most important concerns of the story. A deeply affecting movie about national memory and personal memory with special attention to what art and love can and cannot do. A remarkable performance by Joanna Kulig. The beautiful black-and-white cinematography of Lukasz Zal (which earned him an Oscar nomination), as well as heartbreaking Polish folk songs.The movie won the Palme d’Or in Cannes as well as the director prize — it was nominated for three big Oscars, too.More
Paul Cantor and I give you a long discussion on War of the Worlds. We start with H.G. Wells, his imaginations of great power, which were impressively prescient, and his fascination with scientific tyranny. We then move on to Orson Welles, the radio broadcast, and the myth of the great panic. Lastly, we discuss the movies from the ’50s to now: the George Pall and Steven Spielberg versions, the flying saucers variation, culminating with the great Mars Attacks! by Tim Burton.More
Our own @FlaggTaylor and I talk about Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn, his 2007 film about the terrible Soviet slaughter of the Polish officer corps–some 22,000 men — as well as its aftermath. The protagonist is the wife of one of the officers and we follow her through both the Soviet and the Nazi parts of occupied — and dismembered — Poland. We get to see various characters struggling with questions of honor and prudence as the country is being destroyed. Only memory is left to give reasons for hope for future freedom. Krzysztof Penderecki’s music is also worthy of mention.More
Here’s a strange new podcast–our own @FlaggTaylor interviewed me for a change. He got me to spill the beans about the American Cinema Foundation, its past and its projects now that I run it. Also, how I learned about American cinema in post-Communist Eastern Europe, how I became a film critic, how I became a writer for American audiences, and assorted other matters about our podcasts, college lecturing, and educational ideas. Listen and share, friends!More
I have a new conversation on movies and politics. Armond White and I talk about Jean-Luc Godard, perhaps the most talented filmmaker obsessed with politics. We talk about his latest movie, The Image Book, but especially about three of his ’60s movies, which serendipitously arrived in America together in ’68, as a kind of trilogy of 20th c. Europe, past-present-future, or from the war to the coming revolution: Les Carabiniers, La Chinoise, and Weekend.
From ironic documentary to prophetic farce, Godard had a humorous way of revealing the terrorism of the left, half-a-year before May ’68, and the consumerism proposed by the right, both forms of materialism that would prove soul-desiccating.More
So here’s another podcast on modern poetry — @langevine and I talk about Wallace Stevens again — our fourth! This time, it’s his most emphatically educational poem. “Man Carrying Thing” starts with this unforgettable line: “The poem should resist the intellect almost successfully.” He moves on to then illustrate what he means, by showing that there’s something uncanny about being human, obvious only when we fail to recognize someone we see. Listen, comment, and share, friends!More
Here’s an unusual podcast. An epic, a flop, a small gem — Michael Crichton and John McTiernan’s The 13th Warrior, or Beowulf meets a Muslim poet. Jody Bottum and I talk about this rare look at the origins of civilization, freedom and empire, faith and fatalism. It stars Antonio Banderas; Omar Sharif has a good cameo in it. He hated the movie — everyone did. But your loyal critics are here to rescue it.More