BFG Podcast #087: Russell Banks, Aubrey Plaza, and ‘The Rig’

Our editor and writers break down the culture

In this edition of the BFG podcast–now with vastly improved sound quality!–host Neal Pollack welcomes the well-read Michael Washburn to discuss the work and legacy of the novelist Russell Banks, who died recently at the age of 82. Michael and Neal have nothing but praise for Banks’s two best-known novels, Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, both of which became popular and critically-acclaimed movies. But they also recommend you check out his novel Continental Drift, and Michael has special affection for Banks’s short stories, which so accurately describe the struggles of working-class New Hampshire residents. They aren’t so keen on his later works, when Banks drifted away from what he knows best, but he still leaves behind a literary legacy worth celebrating.

Aubrey Plaza is just getting started with her legacy, and Neal welcomes Rachel Llewellyn to talk about Plaza’s new indie film ‘Emily the Criminal,’ now streaming on Netflix. Neal loves the show’s gritty crime-drama feel, which resembles breaking bad, and praises Plaza’s nuanced performance, which carries the movie above the usual genre fare. Rachel also mentions Plaza’s work in Black Bear, Neal talks about her in Ingrid Goes West, and it’s probably pretty certain that The White Lotus comes up at some point. It’s not as though Aubrey Plaza is some sort of hidden gem, she’s quite famous at this point, but her cultural footprint will certainly only grow from here.

Rachel sticks around to talk about ‘The Rig,’ a new eco-sci-fi thriller series now airing on Amazon Prime. She praises the way the show tackles difficult issues with subtlety, and then occasionally it sounds like an extended Facebook thread argument about climate change. But creator David MacPherson grew up around Scottish oil workers, so he understands their politics and their point of view on the world much better than the average script writer would. A very tense ocean thriller that does not, according to Rachel, feature The Loch Ness Monster.


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