Episode 219 – The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The rain was pounding down hard on the City of Beans, the kind of rain that can almost scrub the filth off the streets . . . but not quite. My partner and I were sitting in our office, staring at our agency name backwards on the glass door: sevitceteD; ekiM, xaM when suddenly . . . SHE clopped in. Another damn pony. Ponies are nothing but trouble; we both remembered our deceased third partner, Bumpy O’Toole, gone to that great glue factory in the sky. This one was definitely trouble; fancy bridle with silver chasings, the best high-heeled horseshoes . . . but you could still sense that there was blood on those hooves . . .

Yes, in this week’s episode of our “Monochrome” series, we’re walking the dark, sullen streets of one of the classics of Film Noir, “The Maltese Falcon.” All the usual suspects are here: Bogey, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, and they’re all looking for . . . wait, I know this . . . some sort of statue . . . of a . . . chicken? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s a chicken statue. From . . . I want to say, Cleveland? Well, tune in and find out the fate of the Cleveland Chicken . . . that doesn’t sound right . . . The Des Moines Duck? The Albanian Albatross? Tune in, it’ll come to me.

Poll question: Who is your favorite cinematic detective?

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Episode 218 – Gaslight (1944)

Thanks for joining us here in the land of light and shadow, our series on black-and-white movies called “Monochrome.” I mean, the series is called “Monochrome,” the movies all have their own titles. I think. Maybe there’s a movie called “Monochrome” and I just forgot . . . it seems like I forget so many things these days. I should stay home, not be with other people . . . it could make the madness worse. Who said I was mad? Was it you? Was it me? Whose judgement can I trust? WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME? Why am I trying to gaslight myself?! Hey, ever wondered where the term “gaslighting somebody” came from? Well, tough, because you’re going to find out anyway! It originated with this week’s movie, George Cukor’s tense psychological thriller “Gaslight” with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer and (somewhat inexplicably) Joseph Cotton again, no doubt while he was awaiting his nomination for the Manchurian Candidate. So, join us and see which one of us is slowly going mad (spoiler: it’s totally Mike. Mike is completely insane. The tiny people who live in my dental floss container explained it all to me).

Poll question: what movie is your favorite just in terms of costume or wardrobe? What movie makes the wardrobe practically a character on its own?

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Episode 217 – The Third Man (1949)

Hello there, young ‘uns! Us folk here at Max, Mike; Movies got us a brand spanking new series, by cracky! And this time we’re doing PROPER movies, GOOD movies, made the RIGHT way, the way they USED TO MAKE ‘EM before all this new-fangled nonsense showed up. Yup, just like everyone secretly wants but no one will admit, we’re doing a whole series on black-and-white movies! Technicolor, Eastmancolor, Ansco Color . . . phooey! In our day, we only had black, white, and grey and we LIKED it like that! And you’re gonna see why, as we start off with that classic “The Third Man,” starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles. And they do it all without using that whole fancy chunk of the visible light spectrum you kids think is the bee’s knees. But don’t think we’re just old fogeys who aren’t up on the latest gimcracks and gizmos! These movies are TALKIES! That’s right, pretty much all of them have actual sound . . . not that we needed that in my day; if you wanted to watch a movie at home, you had to hire a professional pipe organ player to hitch his rig to a team of oxen, haul it over to your house, knock down the back wall, and play while you watched the movie. And we LIKED it like that! So tune in and see what movies are supposed to be like when you don’t need to use the cones in your eyes, by gum!

Poll question: what is your favorite black-and-white movie? When does color just not matter because black-and-white is all you need?

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Episode 216 – The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

[threatening music, sinister, menacing voice] Mike wants to be your Manchurian candidate. But what do we really know about this so-called “Mike”? Is that even his real name? And is he really his own man, or is he just a puppet for the sinister “Bumpy” cabal? On election day, don’t put your fate in the hooves of this shill for Big Pony! Mike: bad for Manchuria, bad for you. I’m Max and I approve this message. [paid for by the Committee to Hit Mike Over the Head with a Pillowcase Full of Butterscotch Pudding and Skittles]

So yes, we’re closing out our “Conspiracy!” series with a true classic, the original “The Manchurian Candidate,” starring Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, but mostly starring Ol’ Even Bluer Eyes herself, Dame Angela Lansbury in a role that will surprise you. Seriously. Damn. People who’ve never even seen this movie know the term “Manchurian candidate” as a term for a political puppet or some such; that’s just how much the term has become part of the vernacular. And speaking of vernacular, tune in and hear use a bunch of it! That last sentence brought to you by the Committee for Very Clumsy Transitions. Enjoy! Vote Max!

Poll question: what on-screen romantic couple do you think had the worst, most unconvincing chemistry?

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Episode 215 – Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Welcome to Big Max and Big Mike’s House O’ Condors! Due to an ordering mishap that is entirely Mike’s fault (which is why he is currently the one wearing the Kooky Kondor suit), we’ve got WAY to much inventory in our condor warehouse! But our loss is your gain as we’re instituting Condor Days! That’s right, for three days only we’re slashing our prices so low you’ll think they’re going extinct (ooo, too soon?)! We got California Condors! We got Andean Condors! C’mon down for three fun-filled Condor Days at Big Max and Big Mike’s House O’ Condors! There, that should conceal the actual title of this week’s “Conspiracy!” movie just brilliantly! Who could ever analyze this text and figure out that we’re discussing Sydney Pollack’s classic sci-fi thriller about C.I.A. agents who read books for a living and what happens to them? What makes it sci-fi? Well, the idea that a book nerd who is stuck in a C.I.A. off-site office would look like Robert Redford . . . what would YOU call that? So join us, all you stunningly good-looking covert operatives, as we discuss the most important message of this movie: reading books will get you killed. Remember, kids: books kill.  Ok, so does Max von Sydow but I really blame the books.

Poll question: what movie can you think of that was good or really good . . . except for the fact that one of the leads was played by someone who was just to darn good-looking for the part and that just took you right out of the movie?

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Episode 214 – Wag the Dog (1997)

Hello again, dear listeners . . . if that really IS your name . . . to another in our “Conspiracy!” series! This week we’re discussing Barry Levinson’s 1997 opus “Wag the Dog” an utterly out-there, absurdist, nonsensical black comedy based on the completely laughable concept that politics is based almost entirely on perception and not on facts. Oh, my sides, they are aching! So much are we laughing! This zany laugh-riot posits the notion that . . . oh man, I can barely type this, I’m laughing so hard . . . politicians might actually spin massive, elaborate lies to distract from actual scandals! Wow, where do these guys come up with this lunacy? This movie has a President involved in a sex scandal (ok, right there we’re veering into science-fiction territory) and his “Mr. Fixit”, played by Robert DeNiro, hits on the idea of getting a Hollywood producer, played by Dustin Hoffman, to “produce” a fake war to distract the public in the run-up to election day! Man, I can’t believe they didn’t just make this an animated feature and throw in some songs and talking animals to highlight the thunderously fantastic nature of this idea! Hoo boy . . . the stuff these movie people come up with. So join us as we giggle, chortle, and guffaw our way through this madcap, never-in-a-million-years romp. Politicians lying . . . where do they GET this stuff?

Poll question: what low-budget or small-scale movie do you think would have been absolutely ruined if it had been given a blockbuster budget?

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Episode 213 – JFK (1991)

Welcome back to another in our “Conspiracy!” series, and this week, our movie takes on the Big One, one of the major conspiracy theories of the last hundred years . . . of course, I’m talking about Kennedy. That’s right, this movie offers its take on what really happened with the popular MTV VJ from the 1990’s. What caused her shift to a more conservative political stance, and why has it been covered up, relegating her to obscure . . . what? What do you mean, “wrong Kennedy”? What other Kennedy could possibly rate a three-hour Oliver Stone movie? . . . oh . . . yeah . . . right . . . Ok, I SUPPOSE that makes a bit more sense, what with the whole assassination and all . . . Still! Why has no one told her story? What are you hiding, MTV? Besides all your music videos? The truth will . . . . right, right, sorry, Oliver Stone, Kevin Costner, lots of other people.  I suppose there have been one or two people over the last sixty years that might have some vague opinion about the assassination of the 35th President of the United States. Can’t see it being terribly controversial, but pull up a comfy grassy knoll and give us a listen to find out!

Poll question: is there a movie you think is really good except for that ONE important miscast role?

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Episode 212 – Conspiracy Theory (1997)

Hi. Sorry, sorry, didn’t mean to scare you, keep driving, eyes on the road! Don’t turn around; you don’t want to let Them know we’re in the back seat. Look, Mike and I have taken a real risk breaking into your car to let you know the truth about who’s really running things. People have to be told! … smell? What smell? Oh, we’ve been hiding in a dumpster for the last three weeks until the bio-tracking sensors in our nasal passages finally break down and dissolve . . . look, that’s not important! You have to warn people! Haven’t you ever found the concept of a shampoo AND conditioner in one just a little suspect? Well, you have NO IDEA! The NSA has been working on this, along with the CIA, the NSC, and the J-E-double-L-O! Wait, don’t pull over! Why are you screaming at that policeman? Don’t you know they’re all in on it?! We’ve been betrayed! Mike, grab the freeze-dried weasel spleens and the sixteen-millimeter projector! I’ve got our collection of empty Happy Meals boxes and the staple gun! Run! Run and don’t look back! But in the meantime, our listeners need to check out this latest episode of our “Conspiracy!” series, with a movie that has the very appropriate title “Conspiracy Theory” . . . almost TOO appropriate . . . oh no . . . have they gotten to Julia Roberts?! Mel Gibson . . . well, no real surprise there! Anyway, give a listen and Mike, keep running! Mayor McCheese’s death must not be in vain!

Poll question: what historical figure do you think has been the most badly portrayed in the movies, in general? Pocahontas? Steven Hawking? Genghis Kahn? What famous person from history makes you go “Oh, man, will they EVER get them right in a movie?”

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Episode 211 – The Conversation (1974)

Welcome to another episode of “You and Your Compost Heap,” the podcast that discusses all things related to home composting! We’re continuing our 45-part series “Citrus Peels: The Devil’s Addition” and hoo-boy, this one’s a real hum-dinger . . . Ok, that should do it; anyone listening in should be asleep by now, but it won’t last so listen up quick! No, you haven’t hit the wrong link and yes, we’re still working on our “Conspiracy!” series. This week we’re discussing an rather obscure Francis Ford Coppola film starring Gene Hackman: “The Conversation.” Hackman turns in a performance that is remarkably against type. A number of other familiar faces show up, including Robert Duvall, Cindy Williams, John Cazale, and some nobody named Harriman Snord? Hasselman Chorde? I forget, not important, because the big news is there’s appearance by 70’s sensation Robert Shields! Can you believe it? Robert Shields . . .  of Shields and Yarnell? Legendary San Francisco mime? Good lord, are you people BARBARIANS?! Anyway, give a listen and hear more about Robert Shields and probably some other stuff too.

Poll question: what movie conspiracy, real or fake, just drives you up the wall?

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Episode 210 – Capricorn One (1978)

Welcome back to our series “Movies That Finally Tell You The Truth About All That Stuff You Can’t Prove Is True But Really, Really Think SHOULD Be True” . . . or, more briefly, “Conspiracy!” This entry is “Capricorn One”, a movie about NASA faking a landing on Mars that has the unfortunate distinction of feeding the yes-people-still-actually-believe-this-drivel theory about how the 1969 moon landing was faked. Why would it have been faked? Obviously Big Cheese was behind it; they didn’t want Earth markets flooded with all that imported green cheese. It’s so obvious!!! And speaking of cheese, this movie has quite the cast with six Oscar nominees, including Hal Holbrook and Elliott Gould. It also stars, um, someone else, some athlete . . . I think he was a football player and maybe he got famous for something other than football but OH LOOK OVER THERE! A CONSPIRACY! So join us, give a listen, and see if this particular conspiracy theory is convincing. Or maybe you’re just in the pocket of Big Cheese . . .  which sounds rather messy, to be honest.

[An apology: I had some audio problems this week, so Max’s part of the recording may sound a bit odd. Hmm . . . just happened to have problems the week we’re doing this movie . . . something to hide, NASA?!]

Poll question: what star of the silver screen, living or dead, would you most want to sit down with, over lunch or drinks, and talk with and what is the question you would most like to ask them?

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