Film Junk Podcast Episode #690: Aquaman


0:00 – Intro: The Junky Boys (Prank Calls)
21:35 – Review: Aquaman
1:06:35 – Other Stuff We Watched: Shoplifters, Bumblebee, Bird Box, Minding the Gap, The Rider, Mid90s, The Hateful 8, Annihilation, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, The House That Jack Built, Holmes & Watson, Hellboy Trailer, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, A Simple Favor, BlacKKKlansman
2:06:25 – Junk Mail: Creed II Missing Baby
2:09:30 – This Week on DVD and Blu-ray
2:10:35 – Outro

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  • devolutionary

    Don’t think I’ve ever stated this before, but I find Frank’s demeanor, his off-beat wit (sometimes), and general banter naturally funnier than a large majority of the comedies he finds funny or actively seeks out.
    (If David Spade has ever been truly funny or original outside of his standup, I’ve yet to see it).

  • tyler mikol

    David Spade is somebody I dig. For me it’s an intense nostalgia thing. Watching his movies with Chris Farley in the 90’s was something I did countless times. Tommy Boy is one of my most watched films. I can definitely see why some don’t like him but I have a love for Spade. This is not including stand up however. I View Stand Up Comedy as one of the worst things in the world and I have for a long time.

  • Sam

    Agreed, though also Jay. I’ve listened to “comedy” podcasts and ultimately, I find Jay and Frank’s banter way funnier than nearly all podcasts trying to be funny or not. And I guess not even limiting to podcasts, I can’t say I catch myself laughing more than I do with Film Junk with many other kind of media

    Sean is solid straight man though.

  • Nobody

    I think it’s obvious that Frank isn’t really interested in foreign language movies. That’s just his personal preference and I’m not knocking it, but I was kind of expecting that to be brought up in the discussion. It offers a simple explanation for why he probably isn’t interested in stuff like Shoplifters, Burning, Cold War or The Guilty, even though they’re among the most critically acclaimed films of the year and are often getting mentioned by awards and critics groups (usually only relegated to the foreign language category, of course)

    I’m looking forward to any chance to watch Long Day’s Journey into Night and An Elephant Sitting Still. I know Long Day’s has wider distribution locked down, but I’m sure I’ll miss out on seeing it in 3D theatrically.

  • Beat_C

    frank’s love for david spade is a complete mystery to me, too.

  • Nobody

    I’m glad Jay checked out Shoplifters and liked it. I think Kore-eda is one of the best writer-directors working right now and has already cemented himself as one of the all-time great Japanese filmmakers. Even during their most sentimental or saddest moments, there’s a gentleness and restraint in his films, which is why I believe that despite the critical adulation, he still isn’t as well-known as he should be. Whenever I hear people talking about great child performances and how rare they are, I instantly think of Kore-eda; his work should automatically be mentioned when discussing the subject.

  • Hunter Allen

    I admit I would miss hate-listening (this is probably too strong a phrase) to Jay ranting and raving about how much he hated Superhero Movie X or Blockbuster Y, and how much it makes him question his life choices. It’s his character and I adore it. (And still he throws me some curveballs: I’m astonished he liked Spider-Verse.) On the other hand, I know his character is rooted in the Real Jay Cheel and this shit exhausts him. Fuck, I loved Aquaman (in my top five of the year two, viz. Frank, except Frank’s gonzo if he thinks 2018 was a bad year), and I still hated my Aquaman theatrical experience. The idea of just buying the 4Ks and doing the reviews then is an attractive one. Actually, since listening to Jay complain about his theatrical screenings is the beating heart of Filmjunk, maybe not.

    As for Frank, Frank’s a populist. I am too; I also would probably rather see Bumblebee, Aquaman, and–okay, not Holmes and Watson, so let’s say Spider-Verse again–than, for example, Cold War, Burning, and Roma, even though I will eventually see all six. Frank, or at least Filmjunk Frank, mightn’t get the reference, but I’m a big believer in what Sullivan’s Travels has to say about the role of cinema in society, and a lot of what gets trotted out as art filmmaking is just middlebrow garbage masquerading as important cinema anyway. (Often, it isn’t, though, and this can be very special.) Sure, maybe Frank could stand to expand his horizons without being cajoled, but besides being tickled by that aspect of Frank’s character on the show, I appreciate that he has tastes that you actually don’t see that much in the film critic community, most of whom are Cheelesque snobs except worse.

  • Nic

    So why is it always that people who prefer arthouse or foreign films over Hollywood productions are labeled as snobs? I for one really did not enjoy Aquaman, I thought it looked like a washed out video game and found it pretty boring and unimaginative story-wise as it was pretty much just a rehash of Thor/Black Panther (both of which I didn’t enjoy either). I just don’t understand why people like you (and Frank when he attacks Sean for liking a criterion film) just can’t accept that other people might genuinely enjoy more difficult and demanding films. Why is it so hard to imagine that some people have different artistic preferences and sensibilities? That doesn’t make you a snob or elitist…

    I also don’t know where “a lot of what gets trotted out as art filmmaking is just middlebrow garbage masquerading as important cinema anyway” comes from. All three of the films you named are way more interesting movies to me (even though I didn’t really like Cold War) than Aquaman or the average comic book movie: there is more thematic richness there, they are more ambitious in terms of filmmaking and the characters have way more depth to them.

  • Nic

    I watched both Long Day’s Journey into Night and An Elephant Sitting Still at film festivals. Definitely unique experiences and the 3D section of the former was pretty insane and unlike anything I have ever seen.
    I don’t have a problem with Frank not liking foreign films and I like the dynamic it brings to the show. It’s more about making an absolute statement like “2018 was a terrible year for film” when you are only talking about a fraction of the films that came out in 2018.

  • Hunter Allen

    It comes from finding a lot of challenging films not worth the challenge, and also not especially ambitious. Like, The Lobster is challenging, in that it’s off-putting and dull, but also very obvious and kind of juvenile. Not all art filmmaking is like that, to be sure. And it’s usually a matter of taste. I’ll sit down with any modern Terrence Malick if I’m in the right mood and have a very different experience than I would have from a blockbuster. And that’s great. Besides, I’m not begrudging any given movie’s right to exist. But my interests don’t necessarily align with European slow cinema (despite, e.g., The Death of Louis XIV being an extraordinary meditation on mortality), or Alfonso Cuaron burnishing his brand off the back of his family’s slave, or whatever. I’m totally willing to believe I may love all three, but I’m pessimistic, because I’ve been burned tons and tons of times.

    The “snob” part comes from folks who enjoy, e.g., The Lobster or Under the Skin, who imply and sometimes make explicit that this is a superior strain of art, which must always be respected even if it is not enjoyed. And this is not a very objective way to approach cinema. Simply calling something “challenging” is already a value judgment. It’s like when critics call The Favourite Lanthimos’ “most accessible” film: it means that some idiot who likes Aquaman might actually like it. (Well, they were right.) On the other hand, I appreciate that people who are snobs of this sort are at least out there finding stuff that I might not have noticed (I’d have never seen Louis XIV without being nudged); and sometimes our interests align. I also appreciate that snobs help keep populists honest, and we do sometimes just like stupid bullshit because it’s comforting.

    There’s also the issue of narrative versus form: what qualifies as ambition? There’s a lot of stuff in big movies that small cinema doesn’t even have access to. This is an especially huge gap in animation, and while there are really great small, personal cartoons (Hertzfeld, whoever that guy was that did The Red Turtle), these are pushing the art form at the margin, and in weird and idiosyncratic ways, and I would never trade World of Tomorrow or maybe even It’s Such a Beautiful Day for Moana or Your Name, which are impossibly splendid and in their way formally radical (and, in their own respective idiom, very, very expensive). On the other hand, Mandy can do crazy things that no $200 million tentpole would ever dare to do.

    And none of it is to say that populist cinema doesn’t have big problems. I think the Frank Approach acknowledges those problems (the bloated runtimes, the narrative messiness, the four-quadrant safeness), but the Jay Approach just shuts down on them, as if they were beneath contempt. The Sean Approach, of course, is passive and rides the critical wave wherever it may take him.

  • Beat_C

    well said. it’s not even about “more challenging or demanding” movies, but simply about movies that one enjoys more, that are more inspiring, entertaining and interesting. i’m often extremely bored by blockbuster movies and also think they’re ugly AF, and i definitely have a much better time with something like “border” or “the rider”. it doesn’t have anything to do with feeling superior or being middlebrow.

  • Oso Jugo

    Jay and Frank are two of the funniest guys I’ve encountered in general. Sean is not only a solid straight man, I agree, but his humorous dry asides are a solid addition to the show, and his surprised “what?” when someone says something baffling to him is hilarious. It’s like his catchphrase, although I don’t think I’ve heard him say it in a long time now. Maybe he only pulls it out for premiums. You never know what the Kasman–aka Sean–is going to do.

  • Oso Jugo

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to the same opinion about stand up comedy. It’s like taking the sitcom on the road. One exception to that is the Japanese comedians who do the Gaki no Tsukai No Laughing competitions. That show is the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life.

  • Lori Cerny

    Hereditary haunts me unlike any other film. Can barely remember most of the other 2018 movies. It is my number one of the past year.

  • Lori Cerny

    “… let alone once a week.”

    Been a listener since ’06, so I would personally riot! I need my weekly FJ fix as it is very therapeutic, on the mark for movie reviews, and yanks my funny bone.

  • Lori Cerny

    Newtaurus –

    Congratulations on listening to hundreds of FJ episodes!
    (It’s a shame the faithful flock have not received badges over the years.)

    The “Jay bashing Frank” bits are done with love & humor. Jay loves calling out the FJ crew on minutiae and Frank is usually able to withstand the heat.

  • Nic

    First of all thanks for the long and thought out response; I will try to answer to all your points!
    I really don’t have any problem with people liking what they like. Most foreign or arthouse films are not made to cater to general audiences so I don’t blame anyone for not enjoying them. I just don’t like the namecalling and creating that dichotomy between “snobs” and “populists”, especially when there is so often the implication that the snobs just watch classics/artsy movies to seem superior.

    “The “snob” part comes from folks who enjoy, e.g., The Lobster or Under the Skin, who imply and sometimes make explicit that this is a superior strain of art, which must always be respected even if it is not enjoyed.” For me that is kind of a straw man argument. Jay is not like that, no one in the comment section here is like that and in my opinion critics aren’t like that either. The Marvel movies for example have generally all been received very kindly by critics, so have the recent Star Wars movies and films like Wonder Woman, Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Incredibles 2 etc. In my experience it is more often the other way around: Anytime someone doesn’t like a certain blockbuster, they are immediately accused of being a snob or an elitist. This is obviously particularly bad with Comic Book movies because those have a very dedicated fanbase. I also don’t think that Jay’s approach is to just shut down on all blockbusters. He praised Spider-Man just last week and has definitely given some of the Marvel movies like GOTG positive reviews. I would also hesitate to call anyone who watches that many Horror films and Vinegar Syndrome releases a snob because those are pretty raw and not very prestigious.

    To your point of the term “challenging”: I really think that that is something almost objectively measurable. You can tell if a certain film is more or less comparable to the common structural and narrative approach you find in mainstream cinema and thereby deduct how challenging it is. I don’t think saying that The Lobster is Lanthimos’ most accessible film means that “some idiot who likes Aquaman might actually like it” but simply that it is easier to delve into this than Dogtooth for the average moviegoer. I feel again like there is some projection on the people who enjoy arthouse cinema going on here.

    I get your point about the potential of big budget blockbusters and agree in principal. For me though, I really don’t see that potential fulfilled on screen anymore. Sure, Aquaman or Ready Player One are able to work with huge casts and special effects like no arthouse film ever could but in my opinion the films just don’t reflect that. They simply look very bad to me. I don’t like movies that look like video games and I don’t think the action in any of the comic book movies that came out this year was directed particularly well. In the last few years for me only Mad Max: Fury Road really blew me away in terms of action, spectacle, special effects etc. I wish Hollywood was able to make more out of the insane ressources they have because I honestly want to like big budget action movies again and that’s part of the reason I keep on going to the cinema for them. But a film like Aquaman seems so safe and run of the mill to me and I would never call it ambitious just because it plays under water and uses a lot of CG for that.

  • zenintrude but

  • Beat_C briefly

  • So is Our Little Sister and After the Storm.

    Let’s face it. All of his films are awesome. Kore-eda rules.

  • newtaurus

    Ignoring the ridiculousness of a man in (or about to be) in his 40’s throwing a temper tantrum because he was forced to watch a film (which turned out to be a lie), the worst podcasts are the ones that are done out of obligation and not out of passion.

    I don’t want Sean, Jay and Frank to have to do things they don’t want to do, but sometimes it feels like that’s exactly what’s going on.

  • Matt the Kiwi

    I would definitely be on board for some kind of marathon Filmjunk Telethon (gotta get those new microphones). Perhaps a few movie reviews with some extended AMA sessions (donation = getting to ask any question you like). It would be worth doing just to see how many Monsters can be consumed by the lads in one sitting. Please make this happen…my wallet is open and ready to be exploited.

  • Hunter Allen

    Since I do think I was being unnecessarily aggressive, I’d probably use a different word for “snob” if I could think of one, and “aesthete” didn’t sound worse. And you have a point about unnecessary battles. I also hope I don’t come off like a doofus comic book movie fan who’ll support it regardless, which I don’t; sometimes, I think critics give Marvel movies too much of a pass.

    Jay does surprise sometimes. The more I think about it, the more I’m pretty sure he pre-categorized Spider-Verse more as “surprisingly costly avant-garde animation” than “superhero flick.” (He’d have been right to do so.) And I do love his love for that kind of ephemera.

    The Ready Player One reference was intended to be more narrow, though. I actually love its dorky mo-cap animation overall, but I was thinking specifically of the use of The Shining, filmstock and all, to satire bad video games (and, whether it meant to or not, a certain type of loud, manic modern horror); that’s pretty formally breathtaking. But I probably shouldn’t use Ready Player One in any examples ever, because as much as it’s one of my favorite movies of the year, I have a very different read on it than most people do; I think it’s a movie that is about (largely by accident) the fall of civilization as represented in the withering of human imagination. (The book is also a terrible listicle written by someone who has no idea how to process art in a cognitively normal, or even recognizably human, way. But now we’re way off track.)

  • Nic

    Don’t worry, I wasn’t offended or anything. I just find it to be pretty common that, wenever one mentions that he prefers arthouse or foreign cinema or didn’t like the newest blockbuster, he is instantly labeled as a snob or elitist and that can be quite tiring sometimes because it prevents any real discussion.
    I obviously can’t know Jay’s true reasoning but I don’t think you really need to draw the distinctions you suggest to prefer Spider-Man over Aquaman. Spider-Man seemed way more unique to me as well (even though I didn’t like it as much as Jay, especially the ending) and I still believe that a good movie will be successful even if the theatric experience is bad. If I remember correctly, Dunkirk was such an example for Jay. He also did point out some specific criticisms about the look of the move, the actors and the storytelling most of which I shared, so I don’t think he disliked it solely because he didn’t feel like watching it.
    Regarding Ready Player One: I have frankly not thought to deeply about the film and mostly wrote it off as 80s nostalgia porn. If I was able to read as much into those kind of blockbusters as you, I might enjoy them more actually ;)

  • Samb

    Same here — you guys need new mics! Sean’s voice can be especially difficult to hear sometimes.

  • devolutionary

    My dry sensibilities align the closest with Sean in real-life as well, though I wish I was as entertaining as Jay when he’s on.

  • pcch7

    Love the prank calls, takes me back to when you guys prank called Greg when he was working at HMV. Frank seething about movies for the top 10 list is a yearly highlight for me

  • gibson8

    i can’t imagine Frank only trying 90% of any buffet.

  • touché.

  • Lior

    The problem is Film Junk is going through a sort-of midlife crisis. Dax touched on this point during the show, but the question here is: is the show a personal, curated program where the hosts only watch what interests them, or is it a general film podcast with a commitment to covering big releases. It seems like Jay argues strongly for the former while Frank and Sean are not sure. While Aquaman is not the most interesting film around, having it reviewed on the show is potentially more interesting to listeners than hearing a 1 hour group review of Shoplifters simply because more people saw Aquaman and more people heard about Aquaman. It’s the age-old question whether you care about the “ratings”. Perhaps FJ does not care about it anymore so deep into its existence. Anyway, I think both approaches are valid, I’m not saying FJ needs to review comic book movies to stay relevant. But it probably will need to decide at some point what it wants to be.

  • newtaurus

    Well said. Perhaps as fans this is none of our business but there seems to be a simple compromise and at least one member of the group doesn’t want to do that.

    Personally I will go out of my way to see Aquaman but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear about Shoplifters. I probably would’ve never heard about Killing of a Sacred Deer or Mandy without this show and I’m glad they brought it up because I enjoyed them.

  • Lior

    I don’t think Sean minds some constructive criticism, after all, FJ is not made in a vacuum, it’s made for listeners to listen. So feedback is a natural process. The conflict arises from the fact it is an entertainment show on the one hand, but on the other it’s just a bunch of friends talking among themselves about what interests them, including bowel movements and pronunciation issues. The fact they managed to make this show interesting for so many years and ride this thin line is quite impressive to say the least.

    So I don’t mind at all listening to Jay destroy Aquaman. I actually find his analysis of these kinds of movies quite interesting. And no one can argue the conflict between the hosts is entertaining. I mean, I didn’t listen to see if Aquaman is good or not, I listened because I knew Jay is gonna hate it and there will be conflict with at least some of the others. Conflict is drama. (the conflict in FJ is never “serious”). But I do think Jay resents having to see movies he’s not interested in and so he’s resenting the process and that reflects on the show to a degree.

  • gibson8

    Things I learned from this episode of Filmjunk:
    Cultural appropriation is a no-no .
    ‘Mongoloid’ is a perfectly acceptable insult.
    Frankie has no vocabulary.
    Jay does bully Frank but he deserves it.

  • gibson8

    ‘Frank: Jonah Hill has talked about skating and how it saved him’.
    Saved him from what exactly? Hill is the epitome of Hollywood nepotism.
    Google it.

  • gibson8

    Good point about Dax but Jay’s ‘what we watched’ contributions are essentially pointless with everyone standing back and just letting him review. I have been listening for 12 years and it has become jarring how everything comes to a halt when Jay talks about movies the rest couldn’t give a fuck about in spite of Sean’s ‘interesting’ and occasional ‘cool’.