Dante Speak

The Movies of ‘The Movies That Made Me’

I’m probably not the first to say this but it needs to be said: we don’t need any more podcasts about movies. The New York Times says we’re at peak podcasts; I think we’re just at peak movie podcasts. Supply has far exceeded demand. Not to say that people can’t keep making them, but there can’t be any more people willing to listen to them, can there? The market feels saturated.

That being said, my new favorite podcast is about movies. It’s called The Movies That Made Me and I get giddy every Tuesday morning when I see a new episode downloading. Somehow it’s managed to hit my bliss point in a genre I’d grown to loathe.

There’s a lot to like about Movies That Made Me. First off, the hosts have serious movie-making pedigree, as one is the Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) and the other is motherfucking Joe Dante! If you don’t know who he is I’m gonna smack you, but here’s a short list of amazing movies he’s helmed anyway: Gremlins (1&2), The Howling, Innerspace, Matinee, the ‘Burbs, Small Soldiers–and I could go on. Even better is the fact that the two men are old friends and have real chemistry.

Also, these two clearly have some clout because they land some great guests. Sometimes they’re actors like Bill Hader or Ileana Douglas. Most of the time they’re folks who work behind the camera. Not just directors either, though there are a lot of those: William Friedkin, John Landis, Don Coscarelli, just to name a few. But there are also screenwriters, cinematographers (Ernest Dickerson and Caleb Deschanel  back to back!), even poster artists.

Best of all, the hosts don’t interview their guests. Maybe a question or two, but that’s it. They mostly just talk about movies. Good ones too. Most of the films discussed are older or harder to find and they always sound interesting as hell. I typically keep a pen and paper handy while listening so I can note movies that sound promising. At this point this podcast is dictating almost every movie I watch.

I thought it’d be fun to review some of the movies that have come up in the podcast to give a sampling of what they discuss. Enjoy my opinions–they’re the best!

The Silent Partner. I don’t remember what episode Olson discussed this movie but he sold it so hard I practically ran to add it to my watchlist. A Canadian flick from 1978, The Silent Partner follows Elliot Gould, a bank teller, after he recognizes that his bank is going to be robbed and manages to keep $50,000 for himself. But the robber, played by a seriously intense Christopher Plummer, figures out what Gould did and harasses the shit out of him. I’m talking some seriously evil stuff. It’s an hour and 46 minutes of twists and turns, made better by these two titan actors bringing their all. It’s one of those movies that makes you wonder, “why isn’t this more popular?” Sadly, it was show business: according to Siskel and Ebert  the company behind The Silent Partner didn’t push it hard in the States.

Turbo Kid. An early episode of Movies That Made Me, chock full of great recommendations, featured comedian James Adomian. He had so many fantastic suggestions that I’m convinced he spends all of his time watching movies. Adomian suggested Turbo Kid near the end of his massive list, mentioning he listened to the soundtrack a lot. It’s on Netflix, which makes sense because it’s a perfect chaser for a Stranger Things binge. The semi-low budget take on an ‘80s apocalyptic future flick has Michael Ironside (Scanners) as the bad guy, a hero that rides a BMX bike everywhere, and a soundtrack full of synths. It couldn’t feel more ‘80s if you packaged it in Spandex. But if you’re already burnt out on retro ‘80s themes, I still suggest watching it as the story is solid and the comedy actually works with the gratuitous violence.

 

Good Time. When the news broke that Robert Pattinson was the next Batman, I didn’t understand what all the anger was about. But that’s probably because I think of him not as the guy from Twilight, but as the dude from Good Time. Another Adomian suggestion, Good Time follows Pattinson as he fails, spectacularly, to rob a bank with his brother, who ends up in a hospital. Pattinson then attempts to break his brother out of the hospital, and from there it gets insane. It takes the suspense of Pusher and cranks it a few notches. And Pattinson is absolutely believable as the desperate brother willing to do anything to help his brother. Highly recommended.

Serial. This movie had a lot of potential. Olson suggested it, saying it was based on a fantastic book that made fun of Marin yuppie culture. This has some great one-liners about the self-righteous citizenry and some other fantastic dialogue. But then there’s the subplot about the funny old man who kills himself because he has to stop fucking a teenager and go home to his wife. Worst of all, Christopher Lee plays a queer biker gang leader. The leading male, played by Martin Mull, blackmails Lee with this information and calls him a “faggot” in the process (one of many dropped in the film). The homophobia is glaring and ruined the film for me.

Speed Racer. Olson promised that that this movie was impossible to turn off and he’s right. The race scenes in this movie are mesmerizing. The anti-capitalist message in the main plot makes for a winning ticket. But the Wachowskis’ direction, a tribute to the look of the original cartoon from the ‘60s, is pretty heavy-handed. At times it’s cool, most others it’s exhausting. I would love to show this to my kids, but I’m afraid the massive amount of exposition would bore them to smithereens.

The Brood. This movie is batshit nuts. It starts out like a drama about people in therapy (the weirdest form of therapy I’ve ever seen), then it morphs into a thriller before it jumps the shark–or, more accurately, rides the shark into Crazytown. I believe Larraine Newman was the last guest to praise this early Cronenberg film, but people have brought it up a few times. Pretty easy to figure out why, because the story is insane and Oliver Reed’s performance even crazier. Probably the best suggestion the podcast has ever made.

 

The Virgin Spring.  Bill Hader’s first suggestion. Apparently the inspiration for the The Last House On The Left, but a much different movie. There’s not one single drip of exploitation in this film about the aftermath of bandits raping and killing a young girl. It’s an Ingmar Bergman film and befitting of his brand, the Virgin Spring is arty as hell. It’s emotional but not melodramatic. You understand the anger of her father, played Max Von Sydow, and there’s definitely catharsis after the bandits arrive at his house. But the standout scene of the entire film is what Hader called “the tree” and it’s unforgettable. No, he doesn’t fuck a tree.

Ed Wood.  The official mascot of the podcast. A good chunk of the show’s guests listed Ed Wood as influencing them. It makes sense since Ed Wood is basically about being so passionate about film that you’ll make it no matter what. Wood couldn’t help but make movies, even if he never had the budget or time he needed.

Listening to Olson and Dante talking about film, they clearly have the same passion for film that Wood had. It sells every recommendation. It’s why I keep blowing money on old movies my wife never wants to watch and will continue to do so. I might not like everything they suggest, but I’ll always feel good about heeding their words.

 

Kevin L. Jones

Kevin L. Jones is a freelance writer and audio producer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can see more of his work at kevinljones.com.

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