Tag: american cinema foundation

ACF#24: Groundhog Day


Today’s podcast is Groundhog Day, because this is the 25th anniversary of the movie. The Federalist’s Robert Tracinski joins me for a discussion of the best Bill Murray movie bar none–and one of the few contenders for comedy of the ’90s. We talk about the inescapability of character; about Harold Ramis’s Tocquevillian insight into American restlessness; about the big city and the small town; about liberal individualism and the divinity of all action no consequences; about relational being, love, and civic friendship; about French poetry and ice-sculpture; about Sonny, Cher and Rachmaninoff!

Mod.pod: Wallace Stevens, The Idea of Order at Key West


The Modern Poetry Podcast is back. Our own @langevine, Caitlin, joins me to talk about The Idea of Order at Key West, the most beautiful of the poems of Wallace Stevens — American modernist, businessman, winner of the Pulitzer, and the most eminent figure to be pummeled savagely by Hemingway. Next week, we’re publishing our thoughts on 13 ways of looking at a blackbird. Please listen, share, comment, and rate/review us on iTunes.

ACF Critic Series 2: Armond White’s “Better Than” List


Armond White published his 13th “Better Than” list, the only counter-cultural idea in year-end, awards-season fawning over the same overpraised film-making, usually in undercooked  film criticism. Here’s the list! He joined me to talk about the sorry state of film criticism, as well as about three worthwhile movies. We discuss where they touch on greatness: Greta Gerwing’s teenage girl’s coming of age story, Lady Bird, Terence Davies’s Emily Dickinson biopic, A Quiet Passion, and the indefatigable Luc Besson’s dazzling, startlingly insightful galactic 3-D blockbuster, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Worlds.

ACF#23 – The Godfather: Part III


Today, John Presnall and I conclude our trilogy of podcasts on The Godfather trilogy. We defend the greatness of the film and of the tragic conclusion. This is the best tragic work done in Hollywood in at least the last two generations and it deserves its fine reputation. But to understand its greatness requires to see how the third movie completes the story by a turn to moral realism. It begins to explain all the suffering we see throughout the trilogy. And to stir controversy, John and I compare the Corleone family to the Adams family, with a hat tip to historian Richard Brookhiser, America’s own Plutarch.

ACF Critic Series #1


Happy New Year, fellow Ricochetti. The ACF is introducing, along with our flagship movie podcast and the Middlebrow series, a Critic series. Our first guest is one of my favorites, Armond White, of NRO and Out magazine, formerly of City Arts and other venues. He is the gritty reboot of American criticism–the hero we need even, if not necessarily the one we deserve. No one is more counter-cultural and there is nothing more needful, because it is absent, than counter-cultural voices and thoughts. If you want to get to know a man who thinks of criticism as a vocation and whose love of American pop culture is both deep and spontaneous, he’s your guy.

ACF#21 The Godfather


Happy New Year! Here at the ACF, we decided to give you a great American family story for the season of feasts! Join us in exploring the exciting Corleone family, much-beloved of Democrats, because they’re immigrants, and of Republicans, because they’re business men, job creators, and family men.

ACF Middlebrow#5 The Great American Christmas


It’s almost Christmas and here at the American Cinema Foundation, we have a surprise-podcast, part of the series on middlebrow. We’re talking about how American Christmas came to be. My friend — and fellow Ricochet member — Eric Cook has the story for you, I’m just along for the ride. He goes from the Dutch in New Amsterdam to the family bounty Christmas of the ’50s, from New England to Pennsylvania and to the South, and back to Europe, ancient, medieval, and modern to pick up all the strands needed to weave together to make for a Merry Christmas. Listen, comment, and please share!

ACF#20 Elf!


Here’s another Christmas movie! The one hysterical comedy about Christmas of recent times (2003) and a “smarter than the average bear” treatment of the theme of all such stories: Christmas is imperiled! For once, we have a comic hero trying to get people to get Christmas right.

Will Ferrell in his funniest role squeals with delight and booms with outrage at something we ourselves would like to take so much pleasure in, Christmas. The lovely Zooey Deschanel plays the elf he falls in love with, James Caan the father he never knew, Bob Newhart his elf adoptive father, and Ed Asner as Santa Claus. There’s also a good supporting cast that might surprise you, including the now-famous Peter Dinklage, Andy Richter, Kyle Gass, and Amy Sedaris.

ACF Middlebrow#4 Star Wars!


James Lileks and I talk Star Wars. He’s from the generation that saw it in theaters; I’m from the generation that puzzled over why The Phantom Menace was a big deal either way. We talk about how America turned that one story into a national myth, changed Hollywood, and, 40 years later, a new generation is as bewitched as the old was. We talk about the new tack of the films — dark stories and diverse casts — and the future we’re inhabiting already: Gaming, online streaming and, inevitably, VR. A tech revolution is going to take over the story. Also, George Lucas comes in for remarks…

ACF Middlebrow #3


This week’s podcast starts with me asking James what movies he’d like to be defined by — what he loves, what he admires, what he wants the kids to see, and how the movies affected him growing up. It’s Casablanca, Star Trek, Aliens, and Radio Days — and it’s a fun conversation. Join us, enjoy, and please share!

ACF Middlebrow#2 Christmas!


James Lileks and I are back with another set of middlebrow ruminations — this time, it’s Christmas movies, from post-war comedies like Christmas in Connecticut and varieties of A Christmas Carol to Arthur Christmas. Take a guess which is the Christmas tradition at the Lileks home.

ACF Middlebrow#1


James Lileks and I bring you a Thanksgiving surprise, the browsing rant and ranting browsing through middlebrow & midcentury America. We’ve got lots to offer:

ACF#19: Blade Runner 2049


This week, Pete and I complete our discussion of Blade Runner. We want especially to attract your attention to the shifts in the questions meant to define humanity. The original film featured replicants who thought they were human; now we see replicants who don’t think they’re human. Questions about soul, the interior, secretive part of the rational, mortal being that we are are replaced by questions of birth and funeral–getting at the family and religion, which define our humanity. We also talk about director Denis Villeneuve, whose previous movie, Arrival, was also very much pro-life.

ACF on iTunes


The ACF movie podcast is now on iTunes. I’m not an Apple guy, but I bow before iTunes, same as everyone. If you’re looking for a more convenient way to get the podcast, this may be right for you. And if you’re a friend of the show, please consider giving the podcast a good review/rating on iTunes!

Also, a question. Last week, a friend’s wife asked for a version of the podcast for the hearing impaired (for her parents). I was stumped until I figured out that I already had everything on YouTube. It’s at least a temporary solution — YouTube automatically generates transcripts, but these are noticeably imperfect. Does anyone know if iTunes offers any help in this regard? Does anyone know any other solutions?

ACF#18: Blade Runner


This week, the podcast is about Blade Runner. Pete Spiliakos has a few things to say you may not have heard before, starting with slavery in the New World. The old question debated by Bartolomeo de Las Casas in the case of the Indians comes up, in this instance, about the replicants: Do they have souls? I bring up the question of what scientific power does to our world in making it wholly artificial — the heavens are replicated on earth in this story, and it takes some guessing about whether humanity can survive the transformation.

ACF #17: The Lives of Others


The best movie podcast devised by the mind of man is back! Our own Flagg Taylor and our common friend Carl Eric Scott join me for a discussion of the great movie The Lives of Others, which won the Oscar for foreign film in 2006. It’s about late Communism in East Germany, the secret police invading a playwright’s life, and the consequences thereof. Flagg and Carl of course are the authors of the best book on the movie, Totalitarianism on Screen.

Well, they co-edited and authored essays for the book — there are other authors from academia, including the great literature professor Paul Cantor (the best Shakespearean in our times), and former German president Joachim Gauck (also a theologian), who gave an extensive interview. So I’m honored and grateful to have them join me for this conversation and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well. Please share it online so that more people discover the movie!

ACF#16: Last Days of Disco


Here’s a first podcast from Rome, a much-needed companion to my podcast on Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, with Carl Eric Scott and Flagg Taylor. Carl and I now talk about Stillman’s Last Days of Disco to give you our insights into the possible education of young Americans by cocktails, dancing, and conversation. We mount a qualified defense of disco and a less-qualified defense of the comedy of manners as an examination of American character and the possibilities for love and friendship that seem to give meaning to higher education. Carl and I also talk at some length about things we learned about Stillman from the late Peter Lawler, a kind of mentor to both of us. Friends, listen to the podcast and please share it, if you like it.

ACF#15 Twin Peaks


The New American Cinema Foundation movie podcast brings you an old Ricochet man, my friend James Poulos. We’re talking about Twin Peaks, once America’s favorite mystery with a hard moralistic core, now the most powerful statement on our popular culture, but also the most obviously esoteric.

ACF#14: Carlito’s Way


New podcast, new interlocutor, and a new departure — defending gangster films as middlebrow! My friend John Presnall, from storm-beaten Houston, and I are also defending Brian De Palma from a conservative point of view and we’re introducing lawlessness studies as a way to get at the desire to free oneself, to be self-made, and to chase the American Dream. Carlito’s Way is the most self-reflective gangster film, one of the last memorable roles of Al Pacino and, get this, we’re arguing this is a superior movie to Scarface. We’re nothing if not fearless and we hope you’ll listen to and share our discussion wherever you can. Help me spread the gospel of Middlebrow, Ricochet! Hashtag as far as the eye can see!

ACF #13 Political Conflict in Marvel and DC


I’m back with the second part of my long conversation with my friend Pete Spiliakos. We talked about girls becoming women in despite of society in ’80s movies last time. In the most surprising way, Pete picked horror movies to show social and psychological realism. Well, he hit it out of the park there, but then our conversation veered to the aesthetic, dramatic art and the political implications of the new business model of sequels and franchises. Like it or not, in an age of sequels and franchises, it’s no longer feasible to ignore the problem of sucky sequels.