Eavesdropping at the Movies

Eavesdropping at the Movies

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Overview
himalaya
367 Episodes
"I have this romantic idea of the movies as a conjunction of place, people and experiences, all different for each of us, a context in which individual and separate beings try to commune, where the individual experience overlaps with the communal and where that overlapping is demarcated by how we measure the differing responses between ourselves and the rest of the audience: do they laugh when we don’t (and what does that mean?); are they moved when we feel like laughing (and what does that say about me or the others) etc. The idea behind this podcast is to satiate the urge I sometimes have when I see a movie alone – to eavesdrop on what others say. What do they think? How does their experience compare to mine? Snippets are overhead as one leaves the cinema and are often food for thought. A longer snippet of such an experience is what I hope to provide: it’s two friends chatting immediately after a movie. It’s unrehearsed, meandering, slightly convoluted, certainly enthusiastic, and well informed, if not necessarily on all aspects a particular work gives rise to, certainly in terms of knowledge of cinema in general and considerable experience of watching different types of movies and watching movies in different types of ways. It’s not a review. It’s a conversation." - José Arroyo."I just like the sound of my own voice." - Michael Glass.
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Episodes
367 Episodes

We're into the land of diminishing returns with Marvel, it seems, with the novelty of a shared cinematic universe having worn off and the big storyline everything was building to for ten years now over. Of course, another big event is sure to be on its way in another decade, but will we care by then? Not if Thor: Love and Thunder is anything to go by. Between the thinning appeal of Taika Waititi's self-satisfied comedy and the uninvolving and lazy plot, characters, and imagery, it's an unmemorable failure of Marvel's action comedy formula. Admittedly, Christian Bale makes his Voldemort-esque villain, Gorr the God Butcher, more threatening than you might expect, given his simplicity and lack of screen time, and there's some fairly charming comic business between Thor and his semi-sentient weaponry. Tough to recommend just for those, though. Recorded on 10th July 2022.

A one-off experience visits Birmingham's Electric Cinema: The Afterlight, an 82-minute collage assembled from footage in which every person in frame is now dead. Director Charlie Shackleton accompanies the film on its tour, not only to give post-screening Q&A sessions, but also because he is in possession of the only copy of the film in existence - a single 35mm print that gradually degrades with each successive screening, picking up scratches and other wear and tear, and when it's finally too damaged to watch any longer, it's gone for good. It's a compelling idea, invoking questions of film preservation, the ways in which film captures and preserves moments in time, and the peculiar cinematic magic (and particularly magic of celluloid) that brings ghosts to life through illumination. And Shackleton is a charming, intelligent and witty speaker, the best advertisement for his own film, although his style and confidence activate José's cynicism circuits - do we really believe that he hasn't kept a copy of the film for himself? But as for the film? It's an enjoyable experience, the footage assembled into a rough narrative of sorts that takes us through similar actions and settings seen across countless cinematic sources, and both the choices of source material and the editing's sense of rhythm create an appealing mood throughout, but much of the specific choices feel too vaguely motivated. Why has this shot in particular been included? Why the focus on one setting or action instead of some other? These questions are never satisfactorily answered, and the film meanders with too little intention. One point of comparison in particular comes up in our discussion: The Clock, Christian Marclay's 24-hour installation film that we saw large segments of both together and separately when it visited the Tate Modern three years ago. It's similarly constructed of clips from films, its rubric to find shots that show clocks and other timepieces so that the film itself can function as a clock. We think about the difference in how often Shackleton and Marclay take creative liberties with their source material and build something new and expressive with it, and the different ranges of that source material to begin with (one of our biggest criticisms of The Clock being the unimaginative Anglo-American cinephile context from which most, if not all, of its sources came). Criticisms notwithstanding, The Afterlight is an interesting and enjoyable one-off experience that literally - and we do mean literally - has to be seen in person, and if it screens near you it's worth the evening. It won't look as good as it did for us, admittedly, but at least it'll look even worse for the next audience. Recorded on 7th July 2022.

Alex Garland's Men is as blunt as its title, with nothing of the profundity it would like to think it possesses. It's slow and boring, too. Very pretty though. Well done to the cinematographer. Recorded on 6th June 2022.

Top Gun is back after a mere 36 years away. We talk Tom Cruise's unusual longevity as a star, the ways in which this sequel uses and develops its predecessor's plots and characters, the direction and editing of the action, and how Maverick has become Obi-Wan Kenobi. Recorded on 5th June 2022.

Problematic and protested against upon its release in 1980, and remaining so today, Dressed to Kill is nonetheless stylish and engrossing, showing off some truly great filmmaking. We talk Psycho and cinema's transgender villains, why Nancy Allen should have been a star, Brian De Palma's greatest deaths, and the version of Michael Caine that José doesn't like. Recorded on 2nd June 2022.

The Italian Job is a classic British caper familiar to everyone who's grown up in the UK, so often has it been shown on telly and so embedded in British culture is the iconography of the red, white and blue Minis, the chase through Turin, only being supposed to blow the bloody doors off, and of course, the cliffhanger. Even those who, like Mike, have never watched it from beginning to end, know and love it as an unimpeachable icon of British cinema. Which may be curious, considering Mike's dislike of a UK that has left the EU in a storm of angry little Englanderism and British exceptionalism, as that reliving-the-war, one-in-the-eye-for-the-Europeans attitude can be read throughout The Italian Job - but, José argues, it's a film that conveys affection for the continent, too, in its globetrotting nature and the beautiful scenery it shows off; and after all, its release came just a few years before the UK joined the EEC, which would later become the EU, in 1973. So it's not quite that simple. The Italian Job's notion of national identity is also conveyed through class, which is clearly delineated here, particularly through its use of Michael Caine and Noël Coward, who each connote specific strata of the class system. Importantly, this is no tale of class warfare - everyone's in it together for Queen and country, and the gold heist that everything's leading towards is explicitly given a national purpose. All that gold isn't being stolen just for fun: who it's being stolen from and for are key. While our heads swirl with all these issues and more - including whether the chase is a good as all that, and the sexism of the comedy delivered by Benny Hill's character - we have a grand old time at The Electric seeing The Italian Job. It falls short of cinematic greatness, but it's jolly good fun, and those iconic images and sequences, which might only have existed in your mind's eye for years since you last chanced upon the film on TV, don't disappoint when you see them once again. Recorded on 1st June 2022.

Returning guest Celia joins us from Canada to discuss the 1970s Tyneside noir of Get Carter, a moody story of a man's investigation into his brother's death that's today considered a classic of British cinema. We discuss its setting in Newcastle, Michael Caine's stardom, the influence of its director, Mike Hodges, along with two other British directors, on Hollywood aethetics, its use of women, and more. Recorded on 31st May 2022.

Flatpack Festival and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery are running a marvellous exhibition until 30th October 2022: Wonderland tells stories of filmgoing and cinema culture in Birmingham. It begins with the earliest days of cinematic experimentation, including a visit from Eadweard Muybridge to demonstrate his moving images, through the glory days of the picture palaces in the 1930s and 40s, the influence of Asian and Caribbean immigration, and the slump of the 1980s, to where we are today, with a combination of multiplexes and more specialised venues, including, of course, the Electric, which continues to proudly boast the title of the UK's oldest working cinema. It's a densely packed exhibition, full of elegantly and concisely organised information, focusing not only on places and eras but also people: individual attention is given to notable figures such as Iris Barry, the UK's first female film critic, Waller Jeffs, who popularised cinema in the 1900s with his annual seasons at t...

Gaspar Noé dials down his typical cinematic spectacle to bring us a slow and moving exploration of dementia and how it drives a loving couple apart. He still has one visual trick up his sleeve, however: Vortex uses splitscreen to show us two lives lived in close proximity but not shared. His cameras follow their subjects individually, sometimes observing them go about separate activities, sometimes occupying almost the same perspective as the characters sit together and engage in conversation, nearly giving us a unified widescreen shot that captures both husband and wife in the same frame - but never being able to. But while Vortex is given structure by its visual design, what it depicts is as crucial as how it depicts it. It's not a sentimental film, but neither is it harsh - and it's well worth your time. Recorded on 24th May 2022.

We've seen a lot of the multiverse lately, and Everything Everywhere All at Once brings to it a combination of Gen Z existential angst and mid-life where-did-things-go-wrong woe, in a frantic comic-action-sci-fi wrapper. It's a lot of things in one, and we discuss as many of them as we can remember, including its campness, puerility, basis in multi-generational immigrant life, film references, endless endings, and much more. It's full of life and imagination, and despite its unevenness, easy to recommend. Recorded on 23rd May 2022.

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