We trace the Life of a Film from conception to production all the way to its release and reception. You know when you dive into a film's wikipedia and imdb after watching it? Then the director's page, then the actor's page. Our show does that for you. We use our nerd superpowers to obsessively tell the story of a movie: how it came to be, how it played out, and what it means today. It is a crash course on a single film filled with primary documents, lovely asides, and frequent guest voices. It is an investigation and celebration of films both great and small.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
1:11:34In the eighth and final episode of our Future Wars season, we discuss the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) alongside the b-movie stunner Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).Alas we have come to the finale of our Future Wars cycle. It has been a long season with a super-sized eight episode run. Sci-fi is often a real bummer. Most of the movies we covered this season depicted humanity's future as a nightmarish dystopia. Here we trace back the genre to its roots. The Day the Earth Stood Still established many sci-fi genre conventions while Invasion of the Body Snatchers brilliantly depicted the nebulous unease that took over American domestic life in 1950s. The start of the Cold War did a real number on Americans. The real threat of nuclear annihilation doused the tranquil domesticity of new suburbia in caustic self-doubt and a deep fear of outsiders. But whereas more recent Future War films demonstrated the totalizing destruction of AI, aliens, or ourselves, these films from the 1950s had less fatalistic finales. Perhaps the actual threat of destruction gave them reason to think of an imagined way out.
Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Alphaville (1965)
1:03:55In the seventh episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss the classic Dr Strangelove (1964) alongside a bizarre artifact from the French New Wave, Alphaville (1965)Special Guest: Good friend of the show and onscreen performer Harry Brammer, dialing in from Tokyo.Here we have two masters, Kubrick and Godard, spinning tales of future conflict and war in the mid 1960s. Slipping in their polemics right before the great social upheavals of the decade, these films depict the western world teetering on the edge of breakdown. Kubrick's scolding satire in Strangelove still smolders 60 years later. He depicts the most powerful people in the world, people with the ability to end the human race, as complete and utter buffoons. The accuracy of his portrayal is startling as it has only become more true with time. Godard's Alphaville is a very different story. Shot for next to nothing in Paris, this ambitious film can't support its own intellectual weight. While some scenes still pop off the screen, it is a trudge to get through despite it merits.
The Omega Man (1971) and Zardoz (1974)
59:01In the sixth episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss the last man on earth romp The Omega Man (1971) as well as the bonkers fever dream that is Zardoz (1974).Special Guest: Sean Patrick from the great Everyone’s a Critic podcastThe 1970s were a trip. The Omega Man is a zany, over-the-top apocalypse movie that is helmed by maybe the worst possible choice for the role, Charlton Heston. Zardoz is a legendary cult film that makes even less sense now than it did on release. Films about the future mirror their present, and it was crystal clear that the human race was in La La Land in the 1970s. But what could be read as unserious in these movies is more a reflection of our present. We feel locked into a future of degrading democracy, climate, and personal prospects. The absurdity of these films reflects a different time, a time before Reagan, AIDs, and a slowly suffocating planet. Perhaps there is something in the openness and creativity of a film like Zardoz. That maybe, we aren't stuck in an express lane to Cyberpunk 2077, time will tell.
The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986)
1:05:56In the fifth episode of our Future Wars cycle, we tackle two giant films from the action sci fi maestro James Cameron: The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986).Special Guest: David Riedel, film critic and co-host of the great Spoilerpiece Theatre podcast.James Cameron is a master filmmaker. This two film run in the mid 1980s is iconic, legendary, and ground-breaking. When we think of this cycle's theme, Future Wars, we are ultimately thinking of Cameron and his oeuvre. The status of Terminator and Aliens is well-established, but it is interesting to look back at the actual films themselves instead of the cultural miasma surrounding them. Peeking behind the curtain is risky. A film that seemed powerful and important can easily be defrocked by time and an ever-changing collective consciousness. Terminator and Aliens have defied this normal cycle of art criticism. If anything, their power and status has been consistently reified decade and decade since their release. Perhaps if anything, the greatness of these films makes us mourn the loss of Cameron to the technical three ring circus of Avatar. What could have been becomes palpable when imbibing the tech noir vibes of Terminator or sweaty machismo of Aliens.
The Matrix (1999) and Starship Troopers (1997)
1:07:22In the fourth episode of our Future Wars cycle, we explore two late 90s classic, The Matrix (1999) and Starship Trooper (1997).Special Guest: Evan Crean, film critic and co-host of the great Spoilerpiece Theatre podcast.Here we have two films with diametrically opposed authorial voices. The Matrix is self-serious, pointelty intellectual, and so cool that it borders on frigid sterility. Starship Troopers is a polemic anti-fascist satire that mirrors Baywatch more than it does Aliens. Nearing its 25th anniversary, The Matrix has been rightfully deemed classic cinema. Starship Troopers, on the other hand, remains on the fringes due to its multiplicitous and duplicitous nature. Intention seems to hold an enhanced importance in the longevity of a film's reputation. While The Matrix can easily be called pretentious, it hasn't lost its potency over the last two decades. In many ways and despite its middling sequels, The Matrix has risen to a new level of respect in the 21st century. Not for its accuracy in depicting the future, but rather for its ability to capture the dissociating effects of technology on our everyday lives. Starship Troopers has sadly begun to fade. For those of us in on the joke, the political reality we have lived through has lessen the bite of the punchline and satire. It also calls into question the effectiveness of red-nosed satire, lighting up the social commentary in every scene. When Verhoeven is perhaps murkier with intentions like in the reclaimed masterpiece Showgirls, his wit and delightful skewering of America feels heavier and more accurate. In Troopers, the daytime tv look is perhaps too much of a veneer on a devolving society surging towards fascism.
War of the Worlds (2005) and The Road (2009)
1:07:09In the third episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss Spielberg's bad guy alien film, War of The Worlds along side the bleak and desolate Cormac McCarthy adaptation, The Road.Special Guest: Film critic and co-host of Spoilerpiece Theatre and The Slashers, Megan Kearns.The world doesn't end with a whimper. It ends with loud alien tripods and a nuclear winter. Spielberg had already made two alien films before War of the Worlds, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). This was his chance to live out his boyhood dream of blowing stuff up on camera by displaying a not so friendly side of Non-Human Intelligence. War of the Worlds is a marvelous spectacle that most action and sci-fi lovers will enjoy. Spielberg is having so much fun pulverising the world that it is easy to miss the underweight story that ends too abruptly. The Road is not fun. The Road is brutal and awful. The viewer feels like they are staggering alongside the father and son with untread shoes and ripped rags for clothing that flutter in the frigid winds of a wasteland. Cormac McCarthy saw the end times being way worse than we could ever imagine. The film at least captures his unique nightmare even if it misses the deeper meaning within the novel.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and The Purge (2013)
1:01:22In the second episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss with George Miller's gonzo-apocalypto in Mad Max: Fury Road alongside the low budget middle-brow of The Purge.Special Guest: Tommy Thevenet from the fantastic Haven't Scene It: A Movie PodcastAs we dip a little further into the last decade, our Future War cycle begins to take shape with the genius Mad Max massively outshining the sophomoric drivel of The Purge. Mad Max: Fury Road was stranded in development hell for over a decade. Geo-political upheaval, once in a century flooding, and skeptical studio execs conspired to keep it out of the theaters, but George Miller and his motley crew found a way to make it happen. The film is crazy in the best possible way. Unbelievable visuals and stunt work, a bizzaro grab bag of eccentric characters, and pure adrenaline. It is cinema magic. Geo-political upheaval, once in a century flooding, and skeptical studio execs conspired to keep it out of the theaters, but George Miller and his motley crew found a way to make it happen. The film is crazy in the best possible way. Unbelievable visuals and stunt work, a bizzaro grab bag of eccentric characters, and pure adrenaline. It is cinema magic. The Purge on the other hand was successful only as a concept. The execution leaves so much to be desired. Despite spawning many sequels over the last decade, this Blumhouse thinkpiece has next to no meat on the bones.
The Creator (2023) and Dune (2021)
1:05:02In the first episode of our Future Wars cycle, we discuss the new Gareth Edwards sci-fi epic, The Creator, and Denis Villeneuve's recent attempt of adapting Dune onto film.Our Future Wars cycle is focused on how the conflicts of tomorrow were depicted in the past. Over this 8 episode series, we will review 16 films spanning from the 1950s through today that attempted to predict how mankind might find itself at odds with the world and itself.The first episode covers the 2020s with The Creator and Dune. Gareth Edwards gained famed after toiling away as a video editor at the BBC with Monsters, a shoestring sci-fi film. Edwards was immediately called up to the majors to helm two blockbuster budgets with Godzilla (2014) and Rogue One (2016). The results were decidedly mixed, and Gareth found himself longing for a simpler way to shoot a big movie. The Creator looks like a very well done 200 million dollar film, but it only cost 80. Technical achievements aside, the story attempts to unravel the very present day conflict of Artificial Intelligence and what role it should play in our lives. Dune is a great counter film to The Creator as both films tackle a large scale war of tomorrow, but the approaches are diametrically opposed. The world created by Edwards feels warm, lived in, and extremely perilous. Dune, locked into the imagined worlds of Frank Herbert's book, is depicted by Denis Villeneuve as cold, spartan, and fateful. The Creator feels entrapped in the present, and Dune feels entombed by the past.
Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
1:03:56In the final episode of our Set in the 1950s cycle, we cover two classics, Cool Hand Luke and Rebel Without a Cause.We have come to the end of our 1950s cycle, and we are struggling to find a thread that weaves through all of these films. The films we covered all use the 1950s in different ways: set dressing, pastiche base layer, dreamscape, hommage, coming of age background. Each film is a creative outcome of the lived reality of its source decade. Cool Hand Luke feels like a New Hollywood film. It is filled with rebellion and American Existentialism. Rebel Without a Cause, the only film we selected that was made in the 1950s, feels vibrant and raw. Its messiness a sign of authenticity. Perhaps one theme that reoccurred through these films is one of rebellion. Rebellion against some amorphous authority: moral, masculine, or otherwise. Indeed, the 1950s has always been seen as a decade of normalcy and Pax Americana. Each of these films counter examines the assumptions we have collectively made about the years of peace and plenty.The next season of Film Trace is coming soon: Future Wars.
The Last Picture Show (1971) and Lenny (1974)
59:40In the sixth episode of our Set in the 1950s cycle, we discuss Peter Bogdanovich's coming of age story, The Last Picture Show (1971), along with the Lenny Bruce bio pic, Lenny, directed by theater great Bob Fosse. Special Guest: Andrea G, co-founder of filmchisme, X: @alifebydreamingThe 1950s has never been known as a gritty decade. We wanted to find films that demonstrated some of the hidden realities of the Eisenhower years. The Last Picture Show and Lenny both muck up the shiny image of Post War America. Bogdanovich's dusty tale of rural Texas shows us that even small town life is filled with contradiction, tragedy, and sorrow. Fosse's portrayal of Lenny Bruce never leaves the gutter. Both are vibrant films that give us an alternative glimpse into a decade too often encased in a plastic cover.Note: This podcast was recorded and produced during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, Asteroid City and The Fabelmans would not exist. Support the artists who make the art you love.