Tag: pete spiliakos

ACF PoMoCon #30: The Crisis of the Election


On the eve of the election, Pete Spiliakos and I complete our conversation on rhetoric and politics. We talk about the incredible corruption in the GOP, the weakness of the law and order campaign Trump kept tweeting about, and how difficult it is to even persuade people that being outlawed by tech corporations–social media, banking, news–is dangerous. We need new elites, populist and principled, that is, patriotic, serious about doing good things for the American people. Otherwise, we’re advancing with new shocking steps every week to what Pete calls “managed democracy” and what I call democracy without a demos. Egalitarianism that hates the majority…

ACF PoMoCon #29: Democracy & Rhetoric


So just before the election, we have a conversation on the catastrophes of the Republican Party, which seems to have succumbed to its own corruption. In 2020, patriotism would be quite helpful, since America’s elites are now openly anti-American and want a democracy built on excluding the majority of the American people. The most privileged white liberals talk incessantly about white supremacy and systemic racism–always someone else’s fault–like normal people say hello and goodbye. Yet America turns out not to have a Republican party willing to defend the nation, much less lead, and all this during a presidential election. Pete Spiliakos and I talk about what we learned about politics and rhetoric from Peter Lawler, and we apply it to our times.

ACF PoMoCon #23: Republican Collapse


The 2016 Republicans won everything at every level of American politics, from state legislatures and governorships to the Congress and presidency, and then started appointing federal judges in record numbers and a couple of justices. Victory complete! Some of us said at the time, this might just be the 1976 Democrats, driven by victory to suicide. Well, it’s happening–zombie Reaganism and the epidemic have made every formerly patriotic politician a coward and law and order is either nostalgia or a cynical hustle. What now? Now we’re looking forward to elections this November… It’s not going to be easy to stop the collapse. My friend Pete Spiliakos and I get to the insanity of our elites and how and why Republicans neither want to nor know how to stop it.

ACF PoMoCon #12: Plague Politics


Pete Spiliakos and I talk about politics in the age of the plague–what’s so insane about supply-side economics, what it means to think politically and prudentially, what the common good requires, and how to understand our weaknesses that we may deal with them. Fear is good, seriousness is required, preparing for the crisis unfolding, and planning for overcoming it is the sequence we need to go through. Pete and I have praise for Tucker Carlson and Sen. Tom Cotton, and a lot of criticism for everyone else.

ACF Middlebrow #23: Harold Ramis


Pete Spiliakos and I bring you a discussion about The Prophet of Trump, the most successful comedy writer of the ’80s, who just happened to suggest that a vulgar, loud, billionaire real estate developer (Rodney Dangerfield) or a snake-oil salesman who treats women shabbily (Bill Murray) might destroy our conservative and progressive elites. Listen, share, and comment, friends!

ACF Middlebrow #15: Die Hard


My friend Pete Spiliakos and I are doing our 10th podcast and it’s about a movie on its 30th anniversary. Die Hard is well-loved and little talked about — we’re here to remedy that. We discuss the great everyman performance Bruce Willis put in and how director John McTiernan crafted the entire movie around him. With remarkable coherence, you get a view of the working class moral realism and virtues of American men and, from that perspective, of the arrogant incompetent of all sorts of institutions: Corporations, media, government, police, etc. We also talk at length about the social changes that have made action movies almost inconceivable and replaced working class heroes with oligarchs and mythical aristocrats, who alone seem to deserve our attention and billions of box office dollars… This is what our Middlebrow series is all about: How movies reflect society and also reflect on our ideas and beliefs.

ACF Middlebrow #10: The Last Jedi


New podcast, new ideas, new controversies! This week, Pete Spiliakos and I talk Star Wars. We pick apart The Last Jedi to show you what is expected of competent mediocrity; how hard it is to get plots, characters, their conflicts, and relationships right; and how important it is to do so. We talk about how the audience is supposed to react to various characters and developments, thus connecting emotions to ideas to develop themes about the education of a new generation of leaders. Properly done, TLJ would have been a good story reflecting the innocence and incompetence of Millennials and their confrontation with Boomers who are both mythical and catastrophic. This is what middlebrow art is like — if only we aspire to it…

ACF Middlebrow #9: Justice League


My friend Pete Spiliakos and I bring you a discussion of one of the few truly interesting recent cinematic events, Justice League. This was an example of the conflict between artists and businessmen. Zack Snyder, one of the lonely few examplars of first-rate Hollywood talent, had his work destroyed by a studio Warner Bros / DC hellbent on suicide. Warner had the greatest team in Hollywood working on their superhero movies–Christopher Nolan (as writer and director, also with his brother Jonathan in the writing role) and Zack Snyder. The only men who have any grasp on the epic and the tragic as genres and insights. They also made billions of dollars for the studio. So naturally, the studio destroyed their work. Listen and marvel with us at the good, the bad, and the very bad, and the worse.

ACF Middlebrow #8: A Quiet Place


The podcast’s back with something new. There’s a horror movie atop the American box office; it’s made more than $100 million. What’s rarer still is that it’s for adults. Rarest of all, it dramatizes American middle class parents’ terror of the uncertainty surrounding their kids’ lives and futures. John Krasinski stars and also directed this remarkable success; Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote the screenplay (with him) and produced; and Emily Blunt gives the kind of performance that wins Oscars, if the Academy had any judgment. So my friend Pete and I are here to show how the movie reflects on American society and the good that art can do, if but people pay attention to it!

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#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.

PoMoCon One: The GOP as Budding Oligarchy


Hello, folks, just in case you’re not fed up with hearing my political opinions, there’s a new venue for that! I’m bringing back the old PoMoCon brand, a term the late Peter Lawler so skillfully and humorously used to describe the properly Tocquevillian American conservative of the 21st century.

My friend Pete Spiliakos, another old PoMoCon hand, also a columnist over at First Things online and writer at NRO, is my first interlocutor. We talk about elite corruption in the GOP. Some thoughts you’ll encounter in our discussion:

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.

ACF #12: Strong Women


Folks, the show is back — this is my second podcast with my friend Pete Spiliakos and he has another great idea to explore: Movie heroines of our times. First, we’re going back a generation to ask about the origins of these characters: Whatever happened with the last of the Boomers and the first of the Gen X-ers? We’re talking about the arrival of thrillers and horrors that thematize the problem of adulthood for young women. We start with Nancy, the heroine of Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street (1984); then go on to Laurie (played by Jaime Lee Curtis), the heroine of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978); and then Sarah Connor, the famous heroine of James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984).

Thoughts on The Terminator


Recently, director James Cameron started a public quarrel over what a strong woman looks like on screen. He’s angry that Wonder Woman, an obvious sexual objectification, should be considered a strong woman. It’s a step back for the movies! Well, you can imagine the woman who directed that movie did not take this kindly, nor decided discretion was the better part of valor… I know this is a very strange kind of controversy to come out of Hollywood, but these are strange times, and despite the silliness of it all, the question of how female protagonists face up to the world is important for American society in ways Hollywood used to reflect.

So says my friend Pete Spiliakos — we recorded a podcast on the DC movies seen through political philosophy — so we’re set to talk about strong women in film. He named his titles and, among them, The Terminator (1984). So you’re in for a treat for the next ACF movie podcast, as we see what a massive difference there is between the social situation of the earliest Boomers — see my recent movie essay on Nancy Meyers — and the very last Boomers, whose formative experiences were the late ’60s and the ’70s. Meanwhile, some thoughts you may not have encountered before on The Terminator, the movie that made Cameron and Schwarzenegger stars.

A generation later, what can we learn about the future from this story?

ACF #9: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman


Hello, folks, this week’s podcast completes last week’s discussion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a discussion of the DC superhero movies. My friend and PoMoCon coconspirator Pete Spiliakos joins me–he is a columnist at First Things and writes for NRO, too. You can take my word for it, he’s the kind of conservative we need to hear more of!