Film Junk Podcast Episode #724: Ad Astra + Rambo: Last Blood

podcast724

0:00 – Intro: Reed’s Seaway Cinema Experience
25:30 – Review: Ad Astra
59:30 – Review: Rambo: Last Blood
1:26:45 – Hot Topic: Joker Controversy
2:14:45 – This Week on DVD and Blu-ray
2:22:20 – Outro
2:24:55 – Spoiler Discussion: Ad Astra

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  • Jay Cheel

    This article captures the exact thoughts I attempted to express regarding the controversy surrounding JOKER (in a much more articulate fashion).

    https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/10/3/20884104/joker-threats-cancel-phillips-art?utm_campaign=alissamarie&utm_content=chorus&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

  • Johnny

    It’s true that these genres can comment on the world differently than others, but I think the difference in these two is that most sci-fi films are overly serious while horror movies often have a good amount of camp or humor, too. I think that was a big problem with ad astra, too. If a film is that serious it should have something interesting and original to say, but I felt that its ideas were just platitudes. To show the human condition by mirroring it with the fact that there’s no other life, feels very lazy and uninspiring to me, to say the least. I think at some point Brad Pitt says something like: “I’m gonna live, I’m gonna love”. I never felt like he was a real human, because everything we get to know about him is just though exposition or inner monolog. There’s not one scene, as far as I can remember, where he has a real moment that doesn’t feel scripted. Speaking of scripted, the relationship with Liv Tylor was really brutal and she pretty much felt like a complete non-character.
    Jay’s point about the three deaths, Brad Pitts character is responsible for, is also very valid and especially problematic, considering the message of the film, that human life is precious. Here the film really had a chance to subvert our expectations and break with the formulaic approach, but instead just brushed it aside as another plot point.

  • Nic

    Didn’t mean to single you out if it came across that way! I just feel like some genres have a little more prestige and get more recognition in film criticism and some tropes get an easier pass than others. Besides Sci-Fi, I think that there is also a bias regarding Western and Gangster films. Genres that I feel are under more critical scrutiny would be romantic comedies, fantasy films and horror films. I think this also has historic reasons: Genres that supposedly tackle more “serious” themes and issues are implicitly believed to be more valuable. Interestingly, oftentimes the destinction here is drawn along the lines of gender as well – Westerns, Gangster and Sci-Fi films are predominantly enjoyed by males and often portray male protagonists that embody masculine traits in a heroic fashion and are praised for that, while RomComs are perceived to be less sophisticated since they cater more towards female sensibilities.

    I know that Reed is interested in how cultural taste is developed and how society influences the way we value and criticize art. I would recommend him and anybody else who is interested to read up on French Philosopher and Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” is particularly revelatory.

  • Falsk

    For the record, the film doesn’t explicitly depict violence against women. I was expecting far worse given the incel connection. Was I still anxious going to a theater BECAUSE of all these fucking warnings/articles? Yeah…

  • OsoDuck

    If these men in this strange propaganda piece are conservative and are warning that the violence of comic books may rub off on suggestible people, how can the the ones who have turned violent in response to the Joker be conservatives too? Isn’t that what these conservatives were warning would happen? You have yourself in the eternal liberal conundrum: making sure that liberals who go full evil are suddenly right-wing. Hitler of course is the classic example. Nazi means National Socialism. The man was a liberal but, go figure, in a liberal world, presto chango, he will forever be remembered as a right-wing madman. Not defending the right-wing by any means but the hypocrisy of liberalism is Orwellian madness on a whole other level. Therefore, It’s not crazy left-wing comic book nerds that are obsessed with the Joker, no, it’s alt-right nazis incels who love the Joker a little too much. (Incel is a portmanteau for involuntary celebite apparently. Is that not the nerd’s eternal plight: stuck forever in an unwanted virginity?) Furthermore, what does alt-right even mean? Isn’t that some sort of weasel word that suggests they are not right-wing in the traditional sense of the word? Talk about an insane world. Although, I admit, I do love hearing the rational gymnastics Jay has to go through to suggest that the bad people who are looking forward to Joker are white supremacists, but the good people are who are looking forward to it are true lovers of art. And this right after a review where he casually tosses out that he’s a sucker for the revenge porn that Rambo has to offer. No wonder Reed wants to blow a gasket. And to top it all off, no one can understand Reed’s base-level point that all censorship is ideological, even if it is just counting swear words and the amount of blood shown onscreen. There must be some idea or philosophy suggesting that swearing and gratuitous blood are bad if it drives people to censor them.

    Loved the show. It’s great when things get heated.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI8IJA8kdkI&t=58s

  • Reed Farrington

    Sean, I hate it when peeps criticize other peeps for not being “informed” as an excuse to disparage the other’s views. There’s no way for anyone to be completely informed. The most informed person can still be wrong if he’s missing crucial information, and there’s no way someone can be completely informed.

    I’m not criticizing anything you wrote, but I don’t think anyone can be “properly informed.”

  • Reed Farrington

    I took issue with Jay’s statement that anything can cause violence, so I brought up the issue with guns. Perhaps you can’t compare guns with movies, but I was wondering if Jay was against gun control, because if you limit guns, violent peeps will find some other way to kill you. (I realize guns make it easier for peeps to kill.) My understanding is that Trump is against gun control. That’s why I said Jay was a Trump supporter.

    (For the record, I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with supporting Trump.)

  • Essie

    The idea that Hitler or Donald Trump aren’t right wing is both wrong and said in bad faith. The argument that because Nazi has socialist in its name makes it left wing is juvenile. Is the democratic republic of congo a democracy?

    In 1934 Hitler purged his own party of its left wing, to, in his own words prevent a “socialist revolution.” The entire ideology of Nazism is based on the idea of superiority among race, gender, and nationality. This is inherently right wing.

  • Essie

    I appreciate your response Sean. I hope you don’t feel like I, or any other film junk fan, is limiting your ability to have a nuanced discussion. I still feel like often times on the show the outraged is placed in a direction I disagree with but that’s fine.

  • Essie

    There is a massive chasm between any piece of media being interpreted as violent and a machine made specifically to slaughter human beings. Limiting the former still leaves open the possibility of misinterpretation. There is no gray era with what a disturbed person with a gun can do. Censoring films = / = gun control. But you know that. :)

  • Beat_C

    yeah, but there are people who ARE truly uninformed and still spout all kinds of crap.

  • Beat_C

    i don’t have anything to add to the “joker” discussion, but it was quite an interesting coincidence that i had just finished dario argento’s “tenebre” – inspired by your premium podcast –, which deals with exactly this topic (is an author responsible for the content he spreads, and if he is, in what way?), while still using gratuitous nudity and violence.

  • Beat_C

    (this post of mine was a response to nic’s inital post. i find it really confusing that the newer responses are above and not below the older ones. you never know who’s responding to whom in longer discussions. anything you can do about that, sean?)

  • OsoDuck

    Not true. Hitler purged his party of people sympathetic to a international socialist or international communist revolution, not a German socialist revolution. And here is where you are completely wrong. Hitler based the ideology of nazism on the tenants of evolutionary theory, Survival of the fittest. He believed that the German nation was the most fit of all the nations and he took steps to ensure its survival. The Germans were the master race because they were the most evolved of all the races. The guy thought he was a scientist. Very simple. Moreover, Race superiority is an inherently left-wing historical pursuit because the English also used evolution to defend their right as a ‘higher’ nation to be colonizers of the ‘lesser’ nations of the world. Indeed, if you detect racism in the right it is most likely because the conservatives of today are the liberals of a bygone era. The scientists who have gone out of fashion.

  • Reed Farrington

    Essie, I’m confused about what your point is. You say we should be talking about misogyny rather than the reactions to the misogyny. And your reaction to Joker is that it’s sending out a bad message. So should we not talk about your reaction? And how angry young white men’s reactions will incite more misogyny? I think most peeps would say misogyny is bad and it exists. I don’t know what there is to discuss about misogyny itself.

  • Nic

    CRINGE
    This is what comes out if you try to force the American dichotomy of liberal-conservative on European politics. Utter nonsense. Educate yourself and try to learn what European liberalism means, Hitler was certainly not that.

  • Thom

    What does “something of cultural capital” mean?

  • Reed Farrington

    Jay, had you brought up the Vox article author’s point about art, I would have leapt over the table to strangle you.

  • OsoDuck

    Is European liberalism more like the French Revolution? Putting all under the guillotine until France becomes safe for liberalism, including priests, monks, and nuns. Is that true European liberalism?

    Go home with you all-caps ‘cringe’.

  • Essie

    Something that by participating in you are climbing up a social , cultural or political ladder.

  • Essie

    The argument that most people accept that misogyny is bad and therefor any discussion about it is futile seems lazy to me. Firstly, that point just isn’t true. Secondly most men don’t agree with what others would define as misogynistic in the first place. It’s easy to say “hey I’m against misogyny” and then in the next breath endorse casual examples of it while arguing said examples are overblown or don’t exist.

    But we are way outside the boundaries of this discussion and I don’t want anyone to get upset with me. You asked me what my point is and I don’t think I can simply say I have a point. I am trying to express the occasional hurt and frustration that comes with being a female fan of a film culture that often treats movements to erase misogyny as hysterical and misplaced.

    Honestly, everything you, Jay, Sean, and the other guests do is accepted with love and appreciated endlessly. I know you are all good, smart people. I can refrain from injecting politics into this place.

  • Nic

    Not French, so I don’t take that personal. Still weird to first cite Plato and then go on to try to ridicule European culture.

    European liberalism goes back to philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke who established constitutionalism and the concept of checks and balances. When those ideas became basic foundations of the major democracies in Europe the understanding of ‘liberalism’ shifted and began to be more centered around ideas from economical thinkers such as Adam Smith. I would say since Karl Marx there is the basic dichotomy of a liberal free market system vs a socialist planned economy system. As you might know European nations don’t just have two party systems so there are many different shades of political ideologies and “liberals” here are most often aligned with the major conservative parties.

    Now I would not call Hitler a socialist but his economic approach was definitely closer to planned economy and he also didn’t support basic liberal concepts like free speech or checks and balances.You will not find any scholar that considers Hitler a liberal and it just makes you look ignorant and miseducated (perhaps read a book instead of watching youtube videos). As a German I find it incredibly cringey (yes, I am using that word again) that Americans always try to understand NS Germany by way of their current politics and think they can draw parallels there. That goes for all the Democrats that constantly compare Trump to Hitler as well.

  • stevens1

    The Joker discussion between Jay and Reed would’ve been a lot more interesting if Reed’s argument was actually coherent, and didn’t just involve calling the opposite opinion dumb while shouting and annoying others (waking them to be more accurate).

    It’s a weird moral stance to say “movies cause violence” (there’s no hard evidence of this at all) and on the other hand say “but it’s cool to release them regardless.” That’s taking the easy way out and not showing any moral conviction in your own opinion, essentially undermining your own point.

  • Reed Farrington

    How would one prove that movies cause violence?

    I’m taking a realistic view rather than putting blinders on. My belief is that violent media is more detrimental than non-violent media. The idea that anything can cause violence is obvious. I also believe that man would be violent without violent media.

    I think peeps like Jay have the weird moral stance for being against real-world violence and yet willing to allow depictions of violence for “entertainment” or “art.”

  • Reed Farrington

    Sorry, I wasn’t arguing for censorship boards. I was trying to dissect Jay’s point-of-view to make him contradict himself.

  • Reed Farrington

    I’ve only got the first 5 seasons. I’m hoping someone donates the final 3 seasons to the library.

  • devolutionary

    I think Joaquin’s performance in You Were Never Really Here would be worth revisiting as well. I’ve been meaning to re-watch that, as difficult as it could be. The source material Lynne Ramsay drew from is even more uncomfortable and matter-of-fact.

  • Reed Farrington

    I’m trying to shake-up peep’s stagnant views, Jay, which you so often express. ;-)

  • devolutionary

    James Gray has a track record of centralizing his stories around the male characters, usually sidelining the females to the background. Definitely old school screenwriting.

  • David R

    There was very little talk of the emotion v stoicism themes for how thickly it felt slathered on the movie.

    I think that when Brad Pitt opens up emotionally contacting his father it’s meant to be a major character change. I think it’s meant to evoke the idea that there are situations that could be handled by an mind that incorporates emotional complexity as opposed to the rigorously logical perspective of the military. I think we’re meant to see Ruth Nega as a person who, like Pitt, doesn’t take the space drugs and is indulging in a more emotionally complex worldview. She allies with him because she no longer trusts that unemotional worldview that the military enforces.

    And that’s why the crew attacks Brad Pitt. Because they are still indoctrinated and can see no nuance to Pitt’s character. They only see something that doesn’t conform to the plan.

    It’s also why Pitt taking control during the landing is interesting. He’s doing the right thing, but by changing the chain of command in that situation (when previously he chose to go along with the mayday situation) he’s challenging the status quo based on his personal reading of the situation.

    I found large parts of the plotting of the movie felt kinda dumb and think the vision of the future feels designed to fit the adventure as opposed to a fully realized world. Most of the dialogue seemed like a crutch for things Gray couldn’t convey cinematicly. Ultimately the themes didn’t hit me that hard, but I appreciated a lot of the beauty and felt Gray captured certain experiences uniquely.

  • Bert en Ellen Damen-Horsmans

    Hey guys, i saw Rambo last week in Belgium and i can confirm opening with the hikers. It was pretty awesome i must say! Movie went downhill from there IMHO.

  • Hjels

    Loved your discussion on Joker. Reed bringing up the Comics Code Authority to support his argument in particular was hilarious.

  • Thom

    I meant what does it mean in the context of that sentence? What would be an example of a depiction of violence that does this?

  • colin the dude

    Can we get “grays” in the glossary?

  • stevens1

    If you can’t find anything tangible to back your opinion, how can you stand by it with any sort of clarity? And there have been studies that have shown that movies alone are not enough to turn someone violent.

    Your stance is almost exactly the same as Jay’s. The difference is you are saying movies cause violence but don’t ban them. Despite being prompted several times in the discussion, you never clarified your position further as to how your opinions differ. It doesn’t seem you are able to because you have no way of solidifying your stance. That doesn’t give it much credibility. Something tells me you actually would like to ban violent films, but for some reason won’t commit to that statement. There’s no problem believing that and at least it would give you an actual stand point. Right now it’s stuck in a weird middle ground.

    As the one who believes films are ‘a problem’ in this respect, the onus is on you to state your case. Consider yourself the prosecution. But the trial wouldn’t go very far based on the current evidence you’ve presented.

  • I don’t think the crew is indoctrinated. They’re just following orders. At this point they are a hit team out on a mission to save the Solar System and Pitt is an obstacle, allegedly compromised by his emotions. SpaceCom orders them to take him out and they follow.

    Also I don’t think Pitt is challenging the status quo during the landing. The co-pilot was introduced as overwhelmed during the mayday incident and is overwhelmed again. Pitt has no authority to take command but does so in order so save his life and the ones of the rest of the crew.

    Probably not everything in Ad Astra has be analyzed for some deeper meaning. Some stuff just happens to further the plot and/or add drama.

  • samb

    Yes, your statements were purposely muddy but the intention was clear!

  • samb

    You make a great point about shoehorning the American political dichotomy into a more nuanced structure (or vice versa). Honestly, the two-party system in the US has broken our brains — each party has adopted positions to exploit the zeitgeist for the purpose of the next vote for so long that it’s fruitless to try and suss out a coherent philosophical tradition from either. We’re deeply, cynically ensconced into a narrative that’s better illuminated by explanations involving more primitive areas of the brain.

  • Nic

    I was an exchange student in the US and have been back there several times, I absolutely love this country! But from an outside perspective it really seems like you are going insane about politics. Both sides act incredibly hysterical and aggressive and it’s sad to see. It’s very telling that the comment section is this lively for once just because there was talks about politics on the podcast. Nothing seems to get Americans riled up like politics and the “culture war” right now and I hate seeing the discussion around film and arts in general being taken over by that

  • Johnny

    Right, i genrally don’t think every character needs to have a voice just for the sake of representation, but the relationship in Ad Astra plays an important part for the character of Brad Pitt. That final shot is supposed to show us, that he finally values the people around him, but since they never felt like people, how can we empathize with him? That ending is so cheesy and undeserved, its brutal. I think Al Pacinos character in Heat makes a good comparison. He, too, has a job that clashes with his private life and causes problems in his relationship. But since we actually spend time with them the characters and relationship feels real and Mann doesn’t give us the easy resolution in the end, that its all about love and the right perspective, which are just meaningless platitudes.

  • Fletcher Thomas

    Yuck.

  • Sean

    I don’t think everyone has a responsibility to be informed about everything at all times but if you’re going to go around ranting and raving about stuff, you might want to have a little knowledge of what you’re talking about. Mainly I’m talking about the tendency to read a simple headline on Twitter and just go on a social media tirade without even looking beyond that.

  • Sean

    Always happy to hear other perspectives and some constructive criticism.

  • Sean

    No worries, there is some interesting stuff to think about there. Horror seems to be getting a lot more respect these days. I don’t know if the movies are getting better (ie. the horror renaissance) or if the general perception of the genre has changed.

  • TimC

    If I understand your position, I think the part that the other guys were missing is that you think something can be wrong without believing that it should be illegal.

    I think you and Jay agreed that a movie like Joker should not be banned, but you felt that he did not go far enough in his statements to say something like, “but, it could still be especially harmful and therefore not good”.

    @reedfarrington:disqus, is your argument essentially that a filmmaker who is a good person should self-censor any material that could be harmful to the public in some way?

  • TimC

    Too bad he didn’t, we could have witnessed (with our ears) the first example Joker-inspired violence.

  • TimC

    I think the “middle ground” position that you’re referring to is something like the argument that there is an acceptable cost to freedom.

    It is rational to believe that something could be dangerous for a very small percentage of the population, but that it does not justify preventing the vast majority from being able to enjoy it.

  • Reed Farrington

    You’ve correctly interpreted why I brought up guns. Let me summarize for others who may still be confused.

    Peeps against censorship of violent media use the excuse that anything can cause violent behaviour, so why censor violent media? Peeps against gun control use the excuse that anything can be used as a weapon to kill with, so why ban guns?

    So if you’re against censorship of violent media, then you should be against gun control.

    Now you see a distinct difference between violent media and guns, so you’ve framed your opinion accordingly. Other peeps might see violent media as more dangerous than guns. Guns are just tools. Guns don’t cause peeps to kill.

    I know we could continue this conversation. I didn’t write this to provoke a rebuttal. You helped me clarify what I was trying to make Jay realize.

  • Reed Farrington

    Tim, you understood me correctly, but I wasn’t implying that a filmmaker who is a good person should self-censor. I do think the filmmaker should own up to the possible harm though.

    I will admit that I may be off base in thinking that a film like Joker may be more harmful than a film like Star Wars since as Jay says, there is no way in knowing how the masses will interpret a film. But I’m guessing a parent would be more willing to let their child watch Star Wars than Joker.

  • Reed Farrington

    I’m not familiar with Pierre Bourdieu. I will look him up, thx!