Film Junk Premium Podcast #86: Hacker Movies


“Governments and corporations need people like you and me. We are Samurai… the Keyboard Cowboys… and all those other people who have no idea what’s going on are the cattle… Moooo.” For this month’s premium podcast, our loyal Patrons voted on a rare themed episode revolving around the subculture of the future: hackers. We chose five movies about cyberspace jockeys that span three decades including Wargames, Sneakers, The Net, Hackers and Swordfish. Discussion topics ranged from the realism of the technology and techniques used and the visualization of cyberspace through to the fashion, slang and soundtracks in these movies. How would you prove your identity if you couldn’t use a computer? Which Film Junk member is the biggest Sneakerhead? Are any of these movies still relevant today? Hack the planet, pop the firewall, drop in the hydra and wait for this month’s premium podcast below.

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This series of premium podcasts was created to help support the regular weekly Film Junk Podcast. Head on over to Bandcamp and download the episode for a minimum donation of $1. As always, let us know if you experience any technical difficulties or if you have any other suggestions for future specials. Thanks for your support!

  • OsoDuck

    I could sympathize with your deep love for Sneakers if it wasn’t about the NSA and the CIA, but when the blind character asks the NSA guy, in all seriousness, for world peace at the end of the movie I was forced to consider, for a moment, whether this could be the insanest movie ever made. We went from Robert Redford reflecting on whether the New York Times is a malevolent organization at the end of Three Days of the Condor in 1975 to Robert Redford treating an NSA agent like a benevolent Disney genie in a lamp only eighteen short years later in Sneakers. Total lunacy. Frank, you attempted to hack Sneakers, but you were shut down by the G Men (or should I say the Jay Men?????). Valiant effort.

    Although, I gotta say, like Jay, I kind of like The Net. The Net is Sleeping With the Enemy plus hacking. Trashy fun. The one thing that burns me about it is that they kill Dennis Miller. They could have let the guy live. This isn’t high art, let Dennis Miller live, and give me my happier ending.

    Hackers is broken. Hated it. Only liked the part where the guy skateboard-launches himself off of a limo to pick up the floppy disk.

    Swordfish ends by transforming the bad guy into the good guy. A good guy mossad agent who kills American citizens willy-nilly to preserve America’s founding principals? Possibly the insanest ending possible for the film. It’s movies like this that makes me think of Winston Smith’s explanation that there are departments in the Ministry of Truth dedicated to cranking out propaganda for the Inner Party.

  • devolutionary

    One of the best things about Swordfish is ultimately Jay’s rendition of the opening monologue. If Jay retrofitted his version, the movie would’ve gotten an instant 1 star bump from me. I was tempted to rewatch this but don’t need to anymore after the Junkers did their due-diligence.

    The irony of The Net is that everyone remembers the crazy shoehorning in of early-Internet jargon, contraptions, and implementation but otherwise wouldn’t stand out from other 90s conspiracy thrillers. But that’s the thing it does best.

    Hackers is what MTV thinks of hacking. The End. Really have to wonder if hacking is simply not an art-form that will ever translate to film without pulling strings.

  • I enjoyed my rewatch of Hackers, maybe due to 90s and MTV nostalgia. Felt like an overlong sitcom episode of Parker Lewis meets Malcolm in the Middle or something. It’s certainly a silly movie but entertaining (imo) and Fisher Stevens steals the whole show.

  • Lori Cerny

    Re: the “Corn Wrapping” scene

    Going back to great grandparents – my family always butter our bread and wrap the corn. It is a true hack because it works and is a faster way to spread the butter evenly and completely.

  • Sam

    Put me in the Sneakerhead group. I’d put WarGames as my next favorite from the batch.

    Though, with WarGames, I’m pretty surprised no one brought up a line that bothers me. When Ally Sheedy first sees the video of Falken, upon seeing this very fairly normal looking older man, she comments “He’s amazing looking!”. I’m not sure I even know what we’re supposed to take from that line. Her thinking he’s amazing looking, never seems to resurface in the movie either.

  • Beat_C

    i watched “sneakers” and “wargames” for this premium, both for the 1st time. the ending of “sneakers” is for sure extremely silly, but i otherwise enjoyed it. “wargames” was extremely disappointing. i was under the impression this was some sort of 80s classic, but it’s so boring and bland.

  • Haven’t seen War Games for about two to three years but I would say the first act is the strongest and the final 15-20 minutes are alright. I guess it’s one of those movies that needs some nostalgia fix to appreciate it more.

  • At this point I’m not sure if the whole disinterest in doing the premium is just a perfected character shtick dialed up to 11 or not but as expected this features the same “whining” about a themed premium as with the videogames one. I don’t quite know why you guys put up movies/themes for a poll if you’re not into doing them (again, not sure if that is the case and not a performance act on Jay’s and Frank’s part for entertainment value). Ultimately this just turns into “it’s boring”, “it’s overrated”, “not much to say about this one”, fiddling with soundboards, talking about To Catch a Predator and a little bit of nitpicking about pizza toppings and minor plot details.

    Again, maybe that’s just me totally reading the room wrong (in which case I apologize) but more often than not the premiums feel/sound now (to me at least) like a chore for Jay especially and Frank to a lesser extent. Why not cover films you actually care about and are intrigued to dive into deeper than to superficially criticize lower tier films that you didn’t like? Do a Herzog premium or PTA one or, as I suggested a couple of times on the Patreon, maybe let Jay breathe a little and sit one out to do a premium about Disney classics, Ghibli, anime with Dax (who is always pumped and energized to be on an episode).

  • Nic

    I for one really enjoy the premiums where they don’t really like the films. The Video Game premium and the Twilight Series premium rank among my favorites for example. True, you don’t get in depth talk about the filmmaking but I get a lot of enjoyment out of the discussion about the ridiculousness of these films. I also don’t think it’s fair to accuse them of lack of effort when this premium is well over 3 hours long – they talk about Wargames for over 50 minutes! To me it also felt that they had a lot of fun discussing the movies even if it maybe was a bit of a chore to get through them all.
    Regarding your suggestions: Herzog I would love as well because it would challenge Frankie a bit and perhaps open the door to other foreign language premiums. Generally though some of the premiums for the more acclaimed directors are not the ones I find myself going back to as often. I definitely remember them not really having much to say about some of the great films discussed on the Kubrick or Scorsese premiums because those films don’t have many flaws and it’s not that interesting to just go on praising films for hours.
    Don’t want to rip your comment too much, every opinion is valid of course. I just felt like offering a different viewpoint. Maybe it comes down to what you want out of FJ: For you it seems to be more serious discussion about film while I defnitely enjoy the banter the most.

  • Kenneth Serenyi

    David Lynch actually took a shot at hacker films in the new Twin Peaks. Evil Cooper is typing randomly on his keyboard and it actually shows up as gibberish on the computer screen.

  • Deven Science

    Came here to say basically the same thing. I grew up buttering my corn-on-the-cob with bread. That was just how it was done in our family, and it never occurred to me that it was an odd thing.

  • Sean

    Huh, that’s interesting. I wonder if it’s a regional thing or something? It really is kind of a brilliant idea.

  • Sean

    I think this was a case where the movies were a bit painful to get through but the conversation still ended up being fun. We did agree on all 3 of the options that were offered on the poll ahead of time. But sometimes something sounds like a good idea beforehand but doesn’t totally turn out that way.

    Things like PTA or Herzog are on our To Do list but as Nic says below sometimes it is not as fun to talk about great movies. And quite often those movies are long and require more preparation whereas something like video game movies we can just “riff” so to speak.

    But overall if a premium doesn’t feel like we’re having fun, and as a result you don’t have fun listening, then that is a problem we’d like to avoid. So thanks for the feedback!

  • I did not accuse them for lack of effort – first of all. But listen to those 50 minutes on Wargames and how much of that was just saying what are stupid parts. Also there’s a difference between the Video Game premium and the Twilight one, exactly the one I’m getting at here. The latter was chosen by the guys, the former was part of a poll that led to them multiple mention why they had to do it, just as here.

    Your final sentence is quite condescending, obviously you neither know more or what I want out of Film Junk. I don’t see why you can’t incorporate banter and soundboards into a non-superficial discussion about a movie. And discussing a movie can actually go beyond praising it and pointing out flaws – by your logic the guys should just most bigger films and review one trashy C movie after another since pointing out flaws equals reviewing films. I just think Hackers or Wargames would’ve offered more to talk about than what they ended up doing with those (Sneakers is a counterexample where they clearly enjoyed watching the film more, which showed in their review of it).

    Contrary to what you falsely insinuated I’m not against the banter, I mostly listen to Film Junk for the guys themselves. I merely suggested that they would maybe get more out of doing premiums on stuff they cared about (which doesn’t equal stuff to praise, although I’m not sure you understabd understand the difference).

  • Again, I don’t really get this misconception that there’s not much to talk about great movies. It makes it sound like you have to review Citizen Kane and then all there’s left to say is ”Well, what can you say? It’s great”. Also, my point was not that I don’t have fun listening to you guys (the contrary), merely that I already knew once the hacker premium was in the lead of the poll that the discussion on Hackers would turn out the way it eventually did.

    Like I stipulated, I was not sure if it (i.e. the annoyance) is a character bit but since Jay is a busy director and you are a family man I would assume all the effort of three hours (plus the viewings) you put into this would maybe be in your own interest to not go through movies that you really don’t enjoy (even if it surely is fun to say this is stupid and that actor is terrible). This is not about prohibiting riffing but there’s still opportunity to take into account what a flawed movie was maybe going for and why it ultimately didn’t succeed in doing that.

    But then again, and this was what I was getting at, this is your show and to me you should just/rather do and review stuff you want to do instead of feeling you have to watch 10 hours of garbage that you don’t have much to talk about. Even Nic admitted he isn’t listening for the film discussions and merely for banter. And Nic’s the man.

  • Henrik

    I liked this episode just fine, and don’t mind the “half-shtick/half-true” complaints about being tortured by a halfwit audience, but I think you bring up excellent points, and I’d love some heightened passion for the films as well. Maybe each FJ crewmember should be responsible for designing a premium a year? That should get the juices flowing. Alas, more work for overworked men, but maybe a pricebump – a PREMIUM-PREMIUM section. Seems in the spirit of Frank at least!

  • Johnny

    I really enjoyed the premium. Since I had to sit through these movies, too, I find you guys ripping them apart pretty funny. For me the strength of filmjunk, besides the banter and your personalities, lies in the astute observation of the ridiculousness in films. So I have to agree with Nic here. I’d rather listen to hackers or videogames than kubrick. But I also love the ones like argento, because there’s so much absurdity and craziness going on in his films. Herzog would also be great I think, since jay has such a personal connection to and passion for his films.

  • OsoDuck

    I agree that Fisher Stevens (and Penn Juliette IMO) is the highlight, but that’s not saying much.

    I’m surprised that no one called War Games “Kubrick for the teen set.” It’s got 2001 with the computer and Dr Strangelove with the nuclear war, war room, and Slim Pickens style general.