Episode 147: A Majority of One (1961)

Welcome, welcome to a brand spanking new series (no, no, this isn’t a series about BDSM; the only one getting spanked around here is Bumpy and that’s with a two by four) which we’re calling “Hooray for White People! Yay! They’re The Best! Who Needs Anyone Else?” Man, that’d generate some interesting comments, wouldn’t it? In all seriousness (or as much seriousness as we get to around here), our new series is called “Whitewashing” and we’re dealing with one of the more uncomfortable topics we’ve tackled: the long, embarrassing, and continuing-to-this-day bad habit that Hollywood has of having white people play people of color, often through the use of truly cringe-worth makeup, bad speech imitations, and more.  There’s another particularly insidious variant of whitewashing as well, where stories with characters of rich and varied racial backgrounds are rewritten so that the characters become white.  We’ll be dealing with this and other types in the weeks to come, starting with a particularly uncomfortable one for me personally, as I loved this movie growing up: 1961’s “A Majority of One.” Starring Rosalind Russell as a Brooklyn-based Russian Jewish immigrant (because, sure) and Alec Guinness as . . . a Japanese businessman.  Yup. Not kidding.  Clench your teeth, hold your nose and dive right in with us, won’t you?

Poll question: do you have a favorite location for films to take place? Some country, some city? What place would you like to see featured in films more often?

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ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 146: Pollock (2000)

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the episodes of “Semi-Real People” and this last grain is “Pollock.”  Note that this movie is NOT about the tasty fish, as many of us, I mean, many of you might think but rather about the turbulent later life of one of the most famous, if not the most famous, American painters, Jackson Pollock (note: not only are no fish involved but this was NOT the original name of the Jackson Five.  I’m sure some of me, I mean, some of you were very confused by this. Happy to clear that up).  Jackson Pollock, the man who redefined surrealism and gave rise to the comment heard in many an art gallery: “Huh. My kid could just drip paint on a canvas like that.” Spoiler alert: no, they really couldn’t.  Tortured by mental illness, alcoholism, and his desperate need for acceptance of his work, Jackson Pollock may not make for the cheeriest of subjects but he’s certainly not boring.  Give a listen and learn the answer to the ancient question: how many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: two. One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine parts.  Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Try the roast pony!

Poll question: Is there a movie that you think loses impact by being seen on the small screen? Is there a movie you’re really glad you saw in the theater or you wish you had seen there?

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 145: Persepolis (2007)

So, our series “Semi-Real People” has been held over by popular demand (meaning Mike and I both demanded it and that’s one hundred percent of our staff, so that’s pretty popular) for a couple more episodes and here is one of them! Guess what’s coming next week? That’s right, the other one! Oh, I guess you think you’re pretty smart, figuring that out. You think you’re better than me, is that it? College has changed you, man! Ahem. Anyway. This week’s entry is “Persepolis,” our first animated biopic; actually it’s an animated autobiographical pic, as this movie tells the story of Marjane Satrapi and her life growing up in Iran during the turbulent times of the 1970’s through the 1990’s, with the overthrow of the Shah, the bloody war with Iraq, and the rise of religious extremism. Yes, it’s a laugh-riot the whole way. Yes, I’m lying but it’s actually a really interesting story. Is it grim and disturbing the whole way though? Are there amusing moments? Why are you expecting me to answer these questions here? Listen to the podcast, smarty-pants!

Poll question: Is there a book you love, which you would really like to see made into a movie but which has not yet been made into one? Please answer in the comment field below.

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 144: Houdini (1953)

Gather round, ladies and gents, gather round! Hear the most amazing podcast ever seen on stage! Thrill to the death defying escapes from logic and narrative flow that Max and Mike will astound you with! Quake with fear as Bumpy the Wonder Pony hangs suspended over a tank filled with truly cranky piranha . . . and then is promptly eaten to the delight of the children! Tremble with ontological doubt as we continue our interest-defying series “Semi-Real People” with this week’s astounding entry “Houdini”! Gasp as you see Tony Curtis try to convince you he’s a Hungarian-American legend of escape artistry! Puzzle, if your heart can stand it, over what Janet Leigh is doing in this movie! Search, if you dare, for any actual nuggets of biographical facts in this most Hollywood of biopics! Quiver at the sight of costumes by Edith Head! Nod thoughtfully at the razor-sharp arguments marshalled before you! Without the use of a net! Or Frankie! Step right up, don’t be shy! Free chunks of piranha-chewed pony for the kiddies! And by the way … is THIS your card?

Poll question: Has a movie adapted from another source (be it book, video game, theme park ride or breakfast cereal) ever EXCEEDED your expectations? If so, what movie?

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 143: Mank (2020)

Awright, M.L., I got one dilly of a flicker here, see? Good golly, it’s gonna be smash, see? Picture this: a drunk, washed up Hollywood screenwriter, see? Gotta weird name: Herman Mankiewicz. No, he didn’t work with Laurel and Hardy, he’s a serious gent. But here’s the kicker: he’s amazing, see? Just the bee’s knees when it comes to slapping those typewriter keys, get me? Fella’s on the outs and all but whammo! He gets a jingle from Hollywood’s wunderkind, that new guy Mormon Fells . . . sorry, M.L.? Right, right, Orson Wells, that’s the jimmy! And he’s doing this fantabulous new picture, see? Simian Brain or something, doesn’t matter, but it’s dynamite, got the whole of Tinseltown riled up, and he’s writing the whole thing with a busted pin! We got intrigue! Gorgeous cars! Gorgeous dames! Booze! Drugs! And best of all, it’s about Hollywood itself, and if there’s one thing America’s always going to go gaga for, it’s yarns about the City of Dreams, am I right? And we’ll stick in Bumpy the Wonder Pony for the kiddies! It can’t miss!

So, tune your shells into your squawk box and see if anything sticks to this flypaper or if it turns out we’ve got us nothing but an over-cooked slappywag from Aunt Sally’s yard sale out in the klimsy darling! [Warning: previous sentence may have not been actual English]

Poll question: sometimes during a film series, a major character will be replaced with a different actor. In your opinion, when has this worked really well and when has it really NOT worked. We’re excluding the James Bond films for this question.

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 142: Miles Ahead (2015)

Hey there, all you hep cats and kitties! We are movin’ and groovin’ here at Max, Mike; Movies with our wild and outta-sight episode of “Semi-Real People.” This week, unwind your minds and rethread your heads as we stretch the concept of the bio-pic to new dimensions.  How many times has this happened to you: you’re sitting around, flinging plates of mashed parsnips at passing marmosets (like you do) and you find yourself asking yourself that most profound musical question: what if jazz legend Miles Davis was in a caper movie? Boy, if I had a nickel for every time that happened to me . . . well, I’d have eighty-five cents.  Yes, join us for our dissection of a sadly lesser-known creation of writer-director-star Don Cheadle, a story of the creative process, the nature of musical greatness, and punching Ewan MacGregor in the nose.  And really, isn’t that what life is all about? Come and improv with us, babies!

Poll question:  Should directors be allowed to go back and change their own movies (should Han have shot first, that sort of thing)? Let us know is the comments!

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 141: On the Basis of Sex (2018)

Get your minds out of the gutter, you stunningly good-looking and flawlessly dressed listeners! This isn’t the week we talk about porn; this is another entry in our series “Semi-Real People” and while our other biopics have focused on legendary musicians, this week our subject is a different kind of rock star. Yes, this is the story of the early days of the N.O.T.O.R.I.O.U.S. R.B.G., Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She may not have been a musical legend but she’s a rock star in the world of jurisprudence! Yeah! Tort reform! Constitutional challenges! Rock on! We see Felicity Jones playing the vertically-challenged Bader Ginsberg alongside the towering Armie Hammer as Marty Ginsberg (Mr. Hammer has recently become a bit notorious himself, but we’ll leave that to the tabloids and TMZ) as she deals with blatant sexism in the legal profession and her first major legal challenge: Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Woo! Tax law challenges! We know how to keep the party going here at Max, Mike; Movies! So, is this movie as dry as a reading of the municipal tax code? Do we get some idea of what made R.B.G. so notorious? Well, I’m certainly not going to tell you here! Listen to the podcast and find out. Court is adjourned.

Poll question: is there any movie you really wish DIDN’T have a sequel? Please reply in the comment section below.

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 140: The Doors (1991)

The time to hesitate is through and there is certainly no time to wallow in the mire, because we’ve got this week’s episode in our “Semi-Real People” series: 1991’s “The Doors.” The title is a bit misleading, as we discuss, as this is less about the entire band and more about Mr. Mojo Risin’ himself, Jim Morrison.  We learn some stuff about Morrison’s meteoric rise to fame and powerfully influential, yet all too brief, reign as the Lizard King of Rock and Roll.  Val Kilmer gives an uncanny performance as Jim, and Meg Ryan is both sweet and sad as Pamela Courson, the woman who . . . more or less . . . shared the last few years of Morrison’s life.  Is it an accurate depiction of this somewhat mysterious yet iconic musician? Or did Oliver Stone just pull the thing out of his butt, to coin a phrase? Join us and find out, for while neither Mike nor I may be the Lizard King, I’m fairly certain that Mike is actually the Gecko Arch-Duke!

This week, our poll question is: is there any actor who, when you see their name attached to a movie, makes you go “Nope, no way, not gonna watch it”? Conversely, is there any actor who’s attachment to a movie guarantees that you’ll be first in line to see it? Give us your thoughts in the Comments below!

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 139: Walk the Line (2005)

Episode one thirty-nine, Walk the Line! It rhymes! That was totally intentional! I’m not completely lying! Another in our biopic series “Semi-Real People” and we’ve got another musical icon . . . I mean, an icon of the world of music, not an icon that plays music . . . although he did play music . . . so I mean a living icon of music, not a mechanical one . . . of course, he’s not living anymore and I can’t really prove he wasn’t mechanical . . . wait, what was I talking about? Right, right this is a movie about Johnny Cash: his past, his rise to fame and his relationship with June Carter, later June Carter Cash.  Joaquin Phoenix terrifies, I mean fascinates, with his portrayal of the singer/songwriter/occasional actor and Reese Witherspoon gives an Oscar-winning performance as the woman who seemed to be a match for him in every sense of the word.  Damn, I’m sorry, I just can’t get past this: do we KNOW that Johnny Cash wasn’t some kind of musical cyborg? A performance robot? Maybe our discussion of the movie will help me work through this, but I don’t know . . . I just don’t know . . .

This week, our poll question is: What movie from the recent or distant past would you most like to see remade, and why? Please answer in the Reply section below. Thank you, won’t you?

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/

Episode 138: Sid and Nancy (1986)

Movies, movies, oi oi oi!!! Shove off, all you wankers and tossers! This week in our “Semi-Real People” series, we’ve got a right bastard of cinema, too right! Yeah! Anarchy on your movie screen! Face piercings! Mohawks! Leather trousers! . . . Safety pins . . . atonal guitar riffs? Barely functional bass lines? Ok, look, neither Mike nor I were particularly into the punk scene when it slouched into town, but hoo boy, do we have some folks in this movie who were into it! “Sid and Nancy” tells the story . . . well, a story, about Sid Vicious, base player for the seminal punk bad “The Sex Pistols” and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen and their whirlwind . . . romance? Theirs was a passion fueled by sex, drugs, and rock and roll! Well, according to this movie, mostly by drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.  Director Alex Cox, probably best known for “Repo Man” brings this light-hearted, cheery romp through 70’s London and New York, just without anything light-hearted or cheery.  There’s also a distinct lack of romp.  Not the most upbeat movie we’ve watched, but is it worth the pain? Give a listen, mate! Oi!

George Floyd Memorial Fund:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/