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Episode 017: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Recorded on Saturday, September 5, 2020

Directed by George Roy Hill, the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stars Paul Newman as the affable Butch, Robert Redford as the somewhat more cantankerous Sundance, and Katharine Ross as school teacher turned outlaw Etta Place. At the time we meet them, Butch, Sundance and their Hole in the Wall Gang are already established and notorious outlaws, but the sun is quickly setting on their once-wild West. When Mr. E.H. Herriman of the Union Pacific Railroad takes umbrage at the way his trains have been targeted by the gang, he organizes a superposse to track down and kill Butch and Sundance, prompting the two outlaws, along with Etta, to abscond to Bolivia — where, amazingly, they manage for a time to enjoy a wildly successful second act to their criminal careers. But, alas, no one can outrun time forever. 

Marking the finale of Viewfinder Film Club’s first season, this episode also features our very first special guest: Logan Hall, grandson of Butch and Sundance‘s Oscar-winning cinematographer Conrad Hall, ASC. Saddle up, enjoy the ride, and stay tuned for Season 2!

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Episode 016: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Recorded on Saturday, August 22, 2020

Writer-director Céline Sciamma’s 2019 feature Portrait of a Lady on Fire stars Noémie Merlant as Marianne, who’s been hired to surreptitiously paint the portrait of the soon-to-be-married Héloïse, played by Adèle Haenel. Set at the end of the 18th century, the film is itself a study in portraiture, a haunting ghost story, and so much more—including, in the director’s own words, a “manifesto about the female gaze.” Join the Film Club as Debby leads the conversation and we trace the contours of our own appreciation for this recent masterpiece.

Technical note: The pitfalls of socially distant recording reared their head this episode, and the audio ended up with more than the usual amount of snaps, crackles and pops. Apologies!

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Episode 015: My Own Private Idaho

Recorded on Saturday, August 8, 2020

Director Gus Van Sant’s 1991 feature My Own Private Idaho is a story of unrequited love set against a backdrop of duplicitous fathers, absent mothers, and the homes and families we make for ourselves when wherever it is we came from is nothing more than a dream. Mixing Shakespeare, street hustlers, and the influence of the French New Wave, the film stars River Phoenix as Mike Waters and Keanu Reeves as the object of his affection, Scott Favor, the son of the mayor of Portland — not to mention William Richert as the Falstaffian Bob Pigeon, Flea as his right-hand man Budd, and the inimitable Udo Kier, who delivers perhaps the best cabaret performance ever committed to the screen. Hop aboard, enjoy the ride, and have a nice day. “This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world.”

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Episode 014: Doom

Recorded on Saturday, July 25, 2020

“In the year 2026, archaeologists working in the Nevada desert discovered a portal to an ancient city on Mars. They called this portal the Ark. 20 years later, we’re still struggling to understand why it was built—and what happened to the civilization that built it.” So begins director Andrzej Bartkowiak’s 2005 feature Doom. The movie follows a group of Marine Corps Special Ops soldiers—including Sarge (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Reaper (Karl Urban)—who travel to a research facility on Mars after that facility’s scientists fall victim to a mysterious incident. Lo and behold, monsters are on the loose, and it will be up to our marines to take those monsters down—violently.

Based on the video game series that was introduced in 1993, the movie was perhaps 10 years too late—but now, 15 years after its release, the Viewfinder FC is finally ready to understand why it was built.

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Episode 013: Sorry to Bother You

Recorded on Saturday, July 11, 2020

Set in an alternate-reality version of modern-day Oakland, Calif., director Boots Riley’s 2018 comedy Sorry to Bother You stars LaKeith Stanfield as Cassius Green, who goes from rags to riches after he becomes a high-powered telemarketer through the use of what’s known in the movie as his “white voice.” The movie’s biting in its social commentary and wildly surprising in its sci-fi twist, which is equal parts shocking, terrifying and hilarious. Get ready for a mindf—, and for some low-key talk about social revolution that just might earn this humble pod a few listeners from certain federal agencies.

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Episode 012: Malcolm X + Da 5 Bloods

Recorded on Saturday, June 27, 2020

Why talk about only one Spike Lee Joint when you can talk about two? This episode, the Film Club goes both back in time for Lee’s epic 1992 biopic Malcolm X and back to Vietnam for the director’s recently released Da 5 Bloods, a saga of brotherhood and of treasures both true and false. We touch on many of Lee’s other films, discuss the director’s choice to eschew de-aging effects in Da 5 Bloods, and marvel at the inimitable Denzel Washington’s towering performance as Malcolm X. We also chart the surprising structural similarities between the two films, and even manage to work in some last-minute references to Dune (again!) and Floor Is Lava. As always, there’s something for everyone!

Note: This episode was recorded two months before the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, who owns the screen as Stormin’ Norman in Da 5 Bloods, and who left us with a transcendent body of work for which all of us who love movies owe him a tremendous debt. Let’s make sure we’re good for it.

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Minisode 001: Dune (2020) – Trailer Breakdown

Recorded Saturday, September 12, 2020

It’s the first-ever Viewfinder Film Club minisode! Warner Bros. dropped the trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated Dune adaptation last week, and, spice addicts that we are, the full FC gathered for a shot-by-shot analysis of the costumes, the casting, the cinematography and, of course, the sandworms. We offer our best guesses at what might be happening from one scene to the next, and we submit our prayers to Muad’Dib about cameos we’d love to see. Steel yourselves for the gom jabbar. It’s time to go back to Arrakis — the weirding way continues!

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Episode 011: Just Mercy

Recorded Saturday, June 13, 2020

Based on the book by attorney Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, director Destin Daniel Cretton’s 2019 feature Just Mercy stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and presents actual events from the early years of his career. Arriving in Alabama after graduating from Harvard Law School, Stevenson begins working with convicts who, to that point, hadn’t been able to find or afford proper legal representation. In particular, the story focuses on Stevenson’s relationship with death-row inmate Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian (Jamie Foxx); in presenting Stevenson’s unflagging efforts to overturn McMillian’s wrongful conviction, the film also shines a light on the systemic racism that continues to compromise the American legal system.

Join the Film Club as we discuss the film’s added impact in light of recent events, examine the filmmakers’ use of large-format optics, and take a few detours into the work of Spike Lee. And for those keeping track at home, take note: This was the episode when we (finally!) decided on a name for the podcast.

Further Information:

Learn more about — and consider making a donation to — the Equal Justice Initiative.

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Episode 010: From Here to Eternity

Recorded on Saturday, June 6, 2020

At last, it’s the episode you’ve all been waiting for! Burt Lancaster takes center stage as we examine director Fred Zinnemann’s 1953 classic From Here to Eternity. Based on the novel by James Jones, the story follows a group of U.S. Army soldiers in the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In charting the nation’s evolution from prewar naivete to postwar cynicism, the movie also presents what could be read as an origin story for film noir. But it’s not all bleak! Join us as we marvel at Lancaster’s glorious coif, reveal the significance of his standing in the rain, and laud the film’s magnificent circumvention of the erstwhile Hays Code. 

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Episode 009: A Story From Chikamatsu

Recorded on Saturday, May 30, 2020

Set in 17th-century feudal Japan, director Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1954 feature A Story From Chikamatsu — also known as The Crucified Lovers or Chikamatsu Monogatari — is a tale of star-crossed love that’s rich with unexpected twists and revelations. Involving a grand scroll master, his wife, and his best employee, the story unfolds in deep focus and long takes, with expert cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa. Inspired by Mizoguchi’s ability to illuminate the present through the lens of the past, the Film Club’s conversation springboards into cloud technology as well as the pleasures and pitfalls of modern cinephilia. As the scroll master’s wife, Osan (Kyôko Kagawa), reminds us, “Nothing is more unpredictable than a person’s fate.”