97 minutes | Oct 27, 2020
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
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!
85 minutes | Oct 20, 2020
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
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!
103 minutes | Oct 13, 2020
My Own Private Idaho
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."
79 minutes | Oct 6, 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.
53 minutes | Sep 29, 2020
Sorry To Bother You
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.
76 minutes | Sep 23, 2020
Malcom X + Da Five Bloods
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!
37 minutes | Sep 15, 2020
Dune (2020) - Trailer Breakdown
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!
56 minutes | Sep 8, 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.
105 minutes | Sep 1, 2020
From Here to Eternity
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 naïveté 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.
59 minutes | Aug 25, 2020
A Story from Chikamatsu
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."
83 minutes | Aug 18, 2020
“You are about to enter a world where the unexpected, the unknown, and the unbelievable meet. A world where the mighty, the mad, and the magical will have their final battle. A world beyond your experience, beyond your imagination.” Those words, from the trailer to David Lynch’s 1984 feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, equally describe the conversation you are about to hear. Join the FC as we venture into the desert of Lynch’s compromised vision, worship at the holy mountain of Alan Splet’s sound design, and question whether the whole movie might just be a dream plucked from the world of Eraserhead. Along the way, we also confront the heretical visions of director Frank Pavich’s 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, and debate a film adaptation’s responsibility to its source material. Not even The Lord of the Rings, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, or Denis Villeneuve's yet-to-be-released (at the time of this recording) Dune are spared. It’s psychomagic in space! Erratum: At the 17-minute mark, we misidentify the special-effects supervisor as Brad Dourif, who in fact appears onscreen as Piter De Vries. How could we make such an error? Because Brad Dourif is amazing, and we’re inclined to give him credit for everything that is right and good in this world.
51 minutes | Aug 11, 2020
Director Billy Wilder's 1953 comedy-drama Stalag 17 tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German WWII POW camp who come to suspect that one of their number is an informant. Adapted by Wilder and Edwin Blum from the Broadway play of the same name, the film left the FC marveling at its director's mastery of blocking, and questioning the logistics of shooting chronologically. Tommy, who leads this episode's discussion, ties in an on-point reference to Paul Schrader, and Jon makes a brief but impassioned appeal on behalf of Burt Lancaster's nomination for the 1954 Best Actor Oscar — the award that ultimately went to William Holden for his portrayal of Stalag 17's Sgt. J.J. Sefton. Erratum: Toward the end of the episode, there's a fleeting mention of Animal House when, in fact, Animal Farm was intended. Forgive us, dear listeners — these conversations mess with our minds, too. (While we're on the topic, though, consider the possibilities: What if Animal House actually is a World War II allegory?)
66 minutes | Aug 4, 2020
Based on the novel by Don DeLillo, writer-director David Cronenberg's 2012 feature Cosmopolis follows 28-year-old billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) through a single day as he takes a limo across Manhattan in order to get a haircut. It proves to be a bad day for a car ride, as the President of the United States is in town, a water-main bursts, an anti-capitalist riot erupts in the streets, and Eric’s gamble on the Chinese yuan drains his fortune. Over the course of his journey, Eric will essentially live all facets of his life inside this limo while being joined by a string of characters, each of whom serves as a dark, fun-house mirror for the main character. Buckle up for a wild ride—and some strong, conflicting opinions among the Film Club.
89 minutes | Jul 28, 2020
Devs (First Season)
With a story that spans science and the soul, writer-director Alex Garland's eight-part FX miniseries Devs follows Lily (Sonoya Mizuno), who works at a pioneering silicon-valley technology company led by the messianic Forest (Nick Offerman) and his proverbial right hand, Katie (Alison Pill). After Lily's boyfriend, Sergei (Karl Glusman) is promoted to the company's top-secret Devs division, he goes missing. Lily's pursuit of the truth behind Sergei's disappearance sets her on a course that will begin to unravel the mysteries surrounding Devs. Similarly, the Viewfinder FC embark on their own pursuit to unravel the show's deeper meanings. Either our analysis is brilliant or we have no idea what we're talking about—or, across the multiverse, both are true.
91 minutes | Jul 21, 2020
Writer-director Paul Schrader’s 2018 feature First Reformed presents the spiritual and physical crisis of a protestant minister named Toller (Ethan Hawke), the reverend at a small church in New York with a nearly nonexistent congregation. Toller’s struggles lead him down an unexpected road when he’s asked by one of his parishioners, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), to speak with her husband, Michael (Philip Ettinger), an environmental activist who can’t reconcile bringing a child into a dying world. In this episode, the Viewfinder FC grapple with spiritual skeletons of their own, take a ride on the magical mystery tour, and present multiple interpretations of the movie’s finale. Also, Jon manages to mention American Gigolo not once but twice.
53 minutes | Jul 14, 2020
In the second half of our two-part dive into two masterpieces starring Nicolas Cage, we lose ourselves in the audiovisual odyssey of director Panos Cosmatos’ 2018 feature Mandy. The movie stars Cage as a lumberjack named Red, who embarks on a surreal mission of revenge after his beloved — the eponymous Mandy, played by Andrea Riseborough — is taken from him by demonic forces. Behind the scenes, cinematographer Benjamin Loeb and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson were among the key collaborators who helped Cosmatos alchemize his host of inspirations into a singular vision.
83 minutes | Jul 14, 2020
Bringing Out the Dead
In this episode — the first half of an unofficial two-part series on two dynamite movies starring the inimitable Nicolas Cage — we dive into Martin Scorses's 1999 film Bringing Out the Dead. Based on the novel by Joe Connelly and with a screenplay by Paul Schrader, the movie features the bold stylings of cinematographer Robert Richardson, ASC, and stars Cage alongside Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore and Marc Anthony.
43 minutes | Jul 13, 2020
The Day of the Locust
Our first episode covers John Schlesinger’s 1975 film The Day of the Locust, which is set in the self-absorbed and all-consuming world of 1930s Hollywood. The film’s all-star cast includes William Atherton, Karen Black, Burgess Meredith, and Donald Sutherland — the latter of whom appears in the role of the original Homer Simpson. Hailing from the U.K., where he had made an early mark with the "kitchen sink" drama A Kind of Loving, Schlesinger won a directing Oscar for his 1969 film Midnight Cowboy. For The Day of the Locust, he reteamed with Midnight Cowboy screenwriter Waldo Salt and partnered for the first time with legendary cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, ASC.