Film Junk Podcast Episode #170: Spielberg Special

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0:00 – Intro
04:55 – Headlines: Universal Studios Fire, Beverly Hills Cop 4, School of Rock 2, Spider-Man 4 Casting, Shia LaBeouf Continuing the Indy Franchise
23:50 – Junk Mail
44:15 – Stuff We Watched This Week: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Eaten Alive, 1990: Bronx Warriors, Gas!, Bone, Troll 2, The Andromeda Strain, Empire of the Sun, Twilight Zone: The Movie
1:05:00 – Feature: Steven Spielberg
1:38:55 – Trailer Trash: Burn After Reading, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Visioneers
1:46:00 – This Week’s DVD Releases
1:47:30 – Outro

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  • Just couldn’t endure SAC eh? Pretty cool idea for a podcast.

  • WHERE’S TREKNOBABBLE?!?!?!

    I think the firing of the rocket in Apollo 13 is as good as any set piece in a Steven Spielberg movie, save perhaps the first T-Rex sighting in Jurassic Park, but that’s more due to the subject matter than the presentation.

    Empire of the Sun is a horrible movie, but interesting to note that Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn describes the same scene as Jay mentioned from EotS.

  • Henrik:

    I remember watching Rescue Dawn and thinking to myself: “WTF?” (what the fuck)

    It was like the fictional kid from Empire of the Sun grew up to be the real life Dieter and then had a documentary made about him that was later turned into a fictional movie! TMF! (total mind fuck)

  • swarez

    Good of you to explain those anagrams.

  • rot

    WHERE’S CANTANKEROUS?!!!

    I think The Searchers should be bumped to at least #8 in your pile of things to watch Jay. It riffs on the buddy theme done so well in Rio Bravo, and its musical number is pretty funny.

  • rot

    Like you said Jay, all films are manipulative, so that word does not have much meaning behind it. There should be a distinction made between films which are able to manipulate at a level of mastery that it does not draw attention to itself unneccesarily, and those which by their reliance on certain convenient tropes or techniques draw attention unnecessarily to the construct.

    There are films where such uses are ironically applied, and then it is necessary that attention be drawn to the construct of the film BUT even ironical uses can become over-familiarized winks that compensate for an emptiness to the film.

    Pandering in film is not dissimilar from pandering in conversation, when someone tries to ingratiate themselves or, in the case of an argument, win over the opinion of the other person by foregoing the needs of something to say with constant appeals to the person’s favor, we are usually repulsed by the behavior. A pandering film does just the same, it goes beyond the typically invisible manipulative activities of a film and becomes overtly superficial. It does not aspire for anything but to match familiar tropes that the audience member recognizes, with the hopes that the sole function for the audience memeber is to enjoy this kind of recognition, that the audience wants the familiar and more of it.

    I would argue the great thing about Spielberg is that for the most part his films always aspire for more. They use tropes as tools to manipulate feelings but they are pieces in a larger aspiration that wants to surprise you, wants to engage you, and the classic Spielbergian set-pieces are about this threading out of suspense in a way that the audience cannot anticipate.

    Indy 4 was pure pandering, using the tropes of the previous films to fill in most of the meaning.

  • “Indy 4 was pure pandering, using the tropes of the previous films to fill in most of the meaning.”

    If this is the case, then why are so many people complaining that this film isn’t “Indy”? Whether it’s the aliens, the lack of music, the lack of whip, too many sidekicks, TOO MUCH CG.

    Seems to me a lot of the criticism comes from the fact that they strayed from the originals rather than pandered.

  • rot

    Like I said before the pandering aspect of Indy 4 is the least of problems for me, but come on, the film is coasting on nostalgia, take out the dialogue that is directly referencing the original three and you have very little left, and that very little left is originally atrocious.

    This is why I think of it as the ultimate trainwreck of a film, because half of it is pandering in that painful way (I suppose it could have worked if there was a hint of the magic to the performances, and tweaking of dialogue), and the rest disbands entirely from the Indy universe and is in itself sloppy and nullifying both in its execution and narrative impetus.

    You talked about over-lighting in Spielberg’s Amazing Stories segment, what do you call this?! The word cartoon comes to mind, and if that was the aesthetic aspired to then fine, it may work as a cartoon, but I had no intention of seeing one.

  • rot

    Also I keep hearing this ‘mindless entertainment’ defense for films like Indy 4 and it is a strange kind of statement, I mean I understand why people make it, but it is sort of meaningless… why is Hook and Transformers not protected under this banner of mindlessness?

    One is capable of critiquing something that is supposed to be mindless entertainment on the level of how successful it is of achieving it. But if people automatically close their minds off and let anything flash before them without a flinch of concern, then should we take the advice of these lobotomized defenders? All the effort put into crafting a film and we need only squint hard enough and let it wash over us, incredulous to the details? What are you saying other than Lost World glazed over your eyes for two hours, and that was good.

    Jaws is mindless entertainment too but it is of a different quality than others and we can make these distinctions, and should when we see them. It would not hurt to be more discerning, maybe the quality of films would also increase alongside our expectations.

  • rot, I don’t know what to tell you other then I had a good time at Indy 4. I also had a good time watching National Treasure. (GASP!) This weekend I had a good time watching 1990: Bronx Warriors, which featured horrible acting, a cliche’d plot, and shallow characters. But I had fun watching it.

  • Regarding the ‘mindless entertainment’ defense.

    I can speak for myself that I don’t expect Indy 4 to be mindless. I don’t think I’ve ever said that. But I can say that I’ve come to realize that my expectations for this, the FOURTH film in the series, were no where near as high as the majority of the people on this, and other, movie websites.

    I can list TONS of films I’ve enjoyed that feature shallow characters, lack of motivation, unbelievable bounds of logic and bad special effects. Most of John Carpenter’s films fall under a number of those exact criticisms!!

    As much as I hate to undermine the intelligent debates that have gone on about Indy 4…my lack of energy regarding this drawn out topic has forced me to rely on two simple words… lighten up!

  • rot

    I believe you, never doubted it.

    But for the sake of discussing films with other people, taking sides on what qualifies a good film or not, the ‘mindless entertainment’ argument is about as meaningless as saying ‘I like what I like’… it may be true but there is no point attempting to have a conversation about it.

    I like shit films as much as the next person, but I will rarely defend them to be anything more than shit films that I have a personal affection for. Its purpose can be to entertain or change my worldview on something, but there is still relative success of execution and then my own personal feelings coming to it.

    Over the Top is a piece of shit but because of nostalgic value I enjoy it.

  • rot

    John Carpenters can be measured by other John Carpenter films and by the world each creates… there is some confusion here: I do not want some well-articulated characters, verite realism, solid acting in every film, the criticisms are relative to the intent of the film, and to the elements outside of it that it draws upon.

    There is poor execution potential to every film, even a Roger Corman film can be poorly executed in that in spite of all of its B-movie aspects it is still unentertaining.

  • Well I think you bring up a more interesting discussion (I think we all know where we stand on Indy 4 by now) in questioning how we look at films.

    Take a high end John Carpenter film such as….Ghosts of Mars! No. Although I did like it, maybe In the Mouth of Madness would work better. If that exact film were added to the filmography of…let’s say David Fincher, would it be considered a blemish? Whereas, in Carpenter’s filmography, I think most would agree it’s a strong point.

    If P.T. Anderson were to put out Slither, would it be considered a bad movie?

    It’s sort of far fetched to think in these terms because if P.T. Anderson actually directed Slither, I’m sure it wouldn’t resemble James Gunn’s version of it. But say for a moment it did, would you think Slither was shit? (Assuming you liked Slither at all.)

    I try my best to look at films on an individual basis, and for the most part, go with my gut. If I like it, I like it. At that point I start looking at what, specifically, about it I liked. Even then, some films just hit the mark without any real solid explanation. They just work.

    Alright, at work. Gotta get back to it.

  • Man, you had a killer week, Jay, with 1990: Bronx Warriors, Gas-s-s-s, and Bone. I’m with you on Larry Cohen as one of the greats. I assume you have the Midnite Movies double feature with Gas-s-s-s and Wild in the Streets. That movie scarred me as a kid. Where did you pick up the Invaders set? That’s been #1 on my list of DVD releases for a few years now.

    I’m pretty sure the Marvel movies with heavy continuity will be those produced by Marvel Studios. Spider-Man isn’t included in that group. I forget where I heard it, but there’s a rumour floating around that when the film rights revert back to Marvel they will restart Spider-Man and place the character in their shared film universe.

    I can see how Jaws is considered the beginning of the summer blockbuster, or the modern age of blockbusters, but not blockbusters in general. It’s as if no other film made obscene amounts of money before Jaws. As for the blockbuster backlash, I think most critics argue against the effects of movies like Jaws and Star Wars, not the movies themselves. It’s like how some people blame Jack Kirby for the prevalence of superheroes because he was just too damn good at creating them.

  • rot

    “Mouth of Madness would work better. If that exact film were added to the filmography of…let’s say David Fincher, would it be considered a blemish?”

    I would say not necessarily, I take my cues from the film in front of me, if that film was itself conscious of the films in Fincher’s previous work, either in subject matter or style, then the comparisons would be justified. But also I guess if a filmmaker has made a very pronounced emphasis in his career of some signature (i.e. Shyamalan’s twist endings) then the absence of that in a film that carries his other signatures would inevitably be fair game for comparison. Its as if the film is thinking “you want the twist ending well fuck you!”, but that thought is in itself not terribly interesting.

    A lot was made of how different There Will Be Blood was from P.T.’s previous films, and this was often attributed as a sign of a maturing style. Going into There Will Be Blood I had fairly high expectations, I love the director, love the actor, love the subject, I felt predisposed to liking the film. My problems with There Will Be Blood were embedded in the film, I could point to the problems, I could see them everywhere. The film could have been made by Brett Ratner and my feelings of these problems would have been relatively the same, however there was with P.T. an added disappointment but more as an afterthought, that the potential was at least there in the beginning but never came to pass.

    But I see what you mean, how you frame the experience does change the evaluation. With Indy 4 I can be accused of that because I have been accustomed to a kind of unpacking of action sequences that are signatures to the director, and the complete lack of this payoff in Indy contributes to my problems. That particular complaint has no bearing of what is going on inside the frame of the film, I brought that to it. That said there was enough inside the frame that I have already talked about that counterbalances this indulgence.

    Its best to approach each film individually, but … again taking the thinking analogy further… each thinks out its own thought but it doesn’t mean each is necessarily was executed, well thought out and expressed. That said a film can be clearly thought out and fulfill what it wants to but totally piss the viewer off… and in those cases its a matter of personal taste. My complaint before was about people attacking others but then hiding behind the ‘but its just mindless entertainment’ argument, which is a cop-out. So is ‘all value is relative, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Fine if the person truly believes that but then do not get involved in a dialogue about the merits of a film because you have just made every opinion meaningless.

    One other thing: listening to the podcast I was reminded how much I loved Hook as a kid, I fucking loved the film, probably saw it three times in the theater. I grew up and then I saw it and was stunned at how bad I found it. I do not get that guilty feeling from other Spielberg films, Jurassic Park is still solid, Raiders too. I mention this because I also find the ‘its a kids movie’ argument pretty lame too, at least when it pertains to a Spielberg film, he makes blockbusters that is more than one quadrant demographics… Rugrats, sure, but not Indy.

  • Hey Steve,

    I actually have the Roger Corman box set that was recently released, which Gas-s-s-s is a part of. I still can’t believe how much Cindy Williams reminded me of Zooey Deschanel.

    Regarding The Invaders; I got my copy at Blockbuster, but then saw it was three dollars cheaper at Futureshop, so I price matched it. I’m sure they still have a copy at FS. Definitely worth picking up. I’ve watched the pilot episode, and although it’s definitely tamer than Larry Cohen’s films, the whole ‘one man against an evil force trying to wake up the world’ theme is definitely there.

    It was definitely a good weekend for movie watching.

  • Reed Farrington

    Sh*t, I lost my comments. Here I go again.

    Henrik, thx for your support of Treknobabble. I think Sean is spacing out the Treknobabble posts. I’ve submitted two pending posts. Here are the titles to whet your appetite: “How to Become a Trekkie” and “Time Traveling World Saviours.” I’m currently working on “Why Star Trek Sucks.”

    rot, thx for your support of Cantankerous. I think I’ve been getting on Jay’s nerves lately. The comedy duo of Farrington and Cheel might be winding down in petty squabbles and jealousy like Abbott and Costello, and Martin and Lewis. Because people have been comparing our relationship as a husband and wife (more like a parent and child, I think), we’ve been keeping our distance. I’ll let you decide who’s been playing the role of the wife (or child, as the case may be). We haven’t talked about the next Cantankerous in a while. I’ve been stung by the valid criticism that I haven’t supported my opinions with any evidence, so I want to be prepared for the next Cantankerous.

    Oh, my favourite Spielberg film is E.T., followed by Jurassic Park.

  • Reed, why do you fear cursing?

  • Because he’s a stupid idiot!

    I HATE YOU! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!

    (slams door to bedroom)

  • Sean, post them as soon as you get them mate, who can get tired of Trek? (Or maybe Reed – email them to me personally? I hate this secrecy, I hate it).

    I hate it when people say “if the movie was directed by this person or that person you would like it more.” Like it’s somehow an actual possibility.

    Jay, don’t you think it’s pretty annoying that you aren’t aware of (or maybe in denial of) what actually makes you tick, what as you put it, ‘make it work’? I know you’ve grown old and all, but I constantly scour myself for answers why do I feel this, why do I feel that, what’s makes this good/bad, why don’t I agree with this etc. etc. Answers should be in there if you care to look for them. It’s infinitely more satisfying to prove somebody wrong (like I have in the past with Jaws, Lives of Others, Signs etc.), that to just accept their opinion as a valid contrary to your own. I’m only joking about that last part. But even if exploding heads, people being eaten inside by monsters, or turning into the living dead gets you going, you should be honest about why you think it does so, in order to make it clear to people. At least if you’re going to broadcast your opinions and expect an audience I think. Work that canadian brain of yours (and get going on some more GarageBand stuff while you’re at it – you’re clearly not busy enough with work!)

  • Henrik:

    I also hate the ‘you’d like it if THIS director’s name was on it’, because that would mean it would’ve been a completely different movie. I only used that line of thinking to get a discussion going, rather than to defend or bash anyone’s opinion on something.

    As for what I like and don’t like…I have no interest in explaining this in comments sections on this website. I’d much rather talk about it on the podcast. My vagueness comes down to one simple fact, I hate typing things out.

  • “I HATE YOU! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!

    (slams door to bedroom)”

    What does this mean? Is it some kind of code?

  • paulm

    Where was Greg? Was there a shelf stocking emergency at HMV?

  • so cruel paulm, so cruel

  • adam

    spielberg is the man. (so many great movies)

    Empire of the Sun is pretty full on, maybe one of his best. one of those movies like Shawshank Redemption that i loved, but have still only watched once.

    Lakers are going down in 4! Garnett gonna dominate this series.

  • rot

    The explanations for the like or dislike of a film are generally fictions, points after the fact to make sense of the feeling, so I can understand someone saying I just go with my gut and so be it.

    Reed, you ARE filmjunk, and you need to make another Cantankerous, it is your destiny.

    potential subjects for discussion:

    obsession

    the doomsday scenario of the Hadron Collider experiment occuring in August

    unrequited love

  • rot: We’ll see about getting together and recording a new episode in the very near future.

    Also, it helps when people suggest topics.

  • rot

    I suppose the obvious discussion topic:

    God

    or

    aliens

  • Reed Farrington

    rot, those are all great Cantankerous subjects!

    I’ve been mulling over talking about human intelligence (or the lack thereof of it).

    P.S. rot, Sean must be fuming out his nostrils about your “Reed, you ARE filmjunk” comment. After living out his lifetime devoted to FilmJunk, tirelessly posting and recording podcasts week after week, and then having all the credit attributed to an asswipe like me. Ah, life is sweet after all. :-)

  • Reed Farrington

    Oh, Henrik, I just read your last comments directed towards to Jay. Good job! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Once again, I think you and I are the same person (although some people think I’m a bipolar bear).

  • rot

    Sean is the tireless Wizard of Oz of Filmjunk, to be sure. perhaps what I said about you, Reed, was an overstatement.

    Human intelligence could be interesting… I’m convinced people are getting dumber, myself included.

    perhaps you could relate the topic to artificial intelligence, can a robot reproduce human intelligence? Some scientists think it is just a matter of achieving a certain level of complexity and there you have it… but I like to believe there is something more.

    Douglas Hofstadter’s the Golden Braid is an accesible and brilliant little read on A.I., if interested.

  • Reed Farrington

    I didn’t think Hofstadter’s Golden Braid was accessible. I’ll have to give the book another try. I also have his Metamagical Themas, and Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies. These books remind me too much of university texts.

    I did get through Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines. I think he’s too optimistic, and I didn’t think he really backed up his opinions with evidence. He thinks that by 2020, robots will likely be demanding civil rights.

    I have an interest in consciousness, but it’s hard to envision a breakthrough in this research. People keep on writing books basically saying that consciousness is mysterious.

  • rot

    The Golden Braid begins with anecdotes about Bach, Godel, and Escher, mostly about paradoxes and is intermittently interrupted with dialogues that demonstrate the problem. It does not read like a university text at all, it is very unorthodox in how it explains the problems. As the book progresses I will admit the last quarter of the book gets complex but only because at that point you are really dealing with how the mind operates on a complex level. Kurzweil’s Spiritual Machines is quoted in the book too.

    Another good one you probably know is the Tao of Physics, Fritzjof Capra (I forget the author’s name).

    consciousness IS mysterious, especially if you are trying to deduce what it is, from consciousness itself, there is no science to it… our ideas are not fixed, the connotations unclear, the act of psycho-analysis is a creative one, not a scientific one. We create fictions to live but they can still have the power to form our behavior, to influence us despite the artifice. Nietzsche’s self-configuring superman is all about wielding this truth.

    That said there may be something to meditation but I have not tried it.

  • Great show on Spielberg guys. I’m not a huge fan of his films (read: jump up and down with excitement at the announcement of a new one) but I do love Spielberg’s take on the fantastic hence my favourites are Close Encounters, AI and Minority Report though that’s not to say I don’t enjoy his other films, many of which have homes on my shelf (including the fantastic Duel).

    That said, I have a soft spot for Amistad. The film itself is riddled with problems, particularly after the halfway point when it turns into more of period legal drama than a study of an event, but the opening 1/2 of that film is as powerful. Between the visuals and the history of the story/times, it’s enough to turn me into a sad sack of tears.

    I also think you guys bring up a great point about the 80’s and the films of the 80s that shaped so many kid’s lives and how there seems to be a lack of those films today. I sometimes think I’m at a disadvantage because I didn’t get to see movies like Indy, Star Wars, ET etc. on first run. By the time I got around to them, I was in my early teens and watching them then, even though it was the first time, didn’t make the same impression. I doubt it’s just my take on them, I really think the age played a pretty big part in making those films so darn successful.

  • joe

    Yea, Reed should have been on this show. He’s no Greg replacement, but we haven’t heard from him on a podcast in a while.

  • “Once again, I think you and I are the same person”

    Get over yourself.

  • dirrrtyfrank

    spider man 4 … there is only one director that can take this franchise to the next level

    Joel Schumacher

  • Primal

    I enjoyed your guys’ look into Spielberg’s work. I’d be down to hear more in-depth look into a directors, cinematographers, or composers work especially if you guys talk about the less mainstream ones.

    I don’t think you guys talk about Munich. I’ve been hearing a lot shit-talking about Spielberg with Indy4 and it really isn’t fair especially with saying that a director is as good as his last film. Munich still shows that Spielberg is the fucking man and can still deliver the goods.