Episode 111: Ed Wood (1994)

Transvestites! We need transvestites! Wait, no, that’s not it . . . listeners! We need listeners! And here you are, we hope, at Max, Mike; Movies in our penultimate episode of our extended run of “In Ancient Times: the 90’s.” This week we’re taking a look at one of Tim Burton’s more . . . eccentric film choices.  And that’s saying something.  The guy has done movies about a twisted afterlife (more than once, if you think about it), science-fiction based trading cards (remember “Mars Attacks!”? No? Good), and Steven Sondheim musicals.  But in 1994 he decided the world needed to hear the tale of Edward D. Wood, Jr., a director from the 50’s and 60’s who has been proclaimed the “Worst Director of all Time.”  This is the man who brought us “Bride of the Monster,” “Glen or Glenda” and of course, the science fiction extravaganza “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” This is the man whose movies never made a dime.  This is the man who thought giving Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson speaking roles was a good idea. This is the man that Tim Burton thought needed a biopic, and more than that, a biopic filmed entirely in black and white. In 1994.  To be fair, this movie actually won two Oscars! How? Why? Is it worth watching? And who is this Mike person anyway? For the answer to these and other questions, slip into your favorite angora sweater and give a listen.

Episode 110: Groundhog Day (1993)

Hello, campers, and welcome to another Max, Mike; Movies entry in our series “In Ancient Times: the 90’s.” This week we’re discussing one of the shamefully few movies that celebrate our country’s most beloved and ancient holiday: Groundhog Day. Ah, the happy childhood memories . . . singing Groundhog carols, sipping traditional Nyquil-and-maraschino-cherry-juice punch, carving the stuffed groundhog at dinner, choosing which one of us would be sacrificed to appease the merciless Spirit of Winter . . . good times, good times. I’m sure you all have similar memories that wake you screaming in the night. Strangely, these beloved traditions aren’t even touched upon in this Harold Ramis film, starring Bill Murray, Andie McDowell, and, for reasons known only to the gods, Chris Elliott. A unique comedy, with an often-copied plot, this film asks the question “What would you do if you woke up to the same day, over and over again?” Give a listen and see what Mike and I would do, if we had an eternity of the same day (hint: Mike’s answer involves thumbtacks, Pokemon, and creamed herring).

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Episode 109: Pulp Fiction (1994)

[Interior shot, an old model Dodge Dart. Max, Mike sitting side by side, wearing black suits. Mike is driving. The radio is playing Ray Stevens’ “The Streak”]
Max: Hey, there’s a Jack-in-the-Box. You wanna get some drive-through?
Mike: You know what they call a Jack-in-the-Box in France?
Max: They don’t call it Jack-in-the-Box?
Mike: No, man, they call it Jacques-in-Le-Box.
Max: Huh. Interesting. Let’s talk about that for twenty minutes and then get involved in a seriously violent action sequence.
Mike: Ok, but take your shoes and socks off first.

Yes, for this week’s entry in “In Ancient Times: the 90’s” is Quentin Tarantino’s breakout, Oscar-nominated picture “Pulp Fiction,” the movie that lives on in ten thousand internet memes. Maybe you love Tarantino, maybe you hate him, but you certainly remember him. How do we feel about him? Give a listen and find out!

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Episode 108: Rushmore (1998)

Welcome once again to Max, Mike; Movies as we delve into the antediluvian mysteries of “In Ancient Times: the 90’s”, a time so ancient that it’s really, really old.  Today’s installment concerns “Rushmore,” the award-winning documentary about the creation of one of America’s most famous monuments honoring some of our greatest presidents.  Located in South Dakota . . . hm? What’s that? Oh . . . really? The movie is an early Wes Anderson film? I don’t get it; what does quirky, distinctive director Wes Anderson have to do with Mount . . . oh.  Huh.  So, what did I watch then? Ok, hang on . . .
[93 minutes later]
So, “Rushmore”! Wes Anderson’s second film! Which I knew because I watched it! Seriously, while this is very early in Mr. Anderson’s career, well, you can really see, hear, and smell the Wes Anderson-ness of this movie all over the place, and not just because you can see him building his ensemble cast members that he loves to use: Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, one or more of the Wilson brothers . . . Is there quirky music? Strange overhead camera shots? Just how Andersonian is this early attempt? Give a listen and maybe, just maybe we’ll tell you [spoiler alert: we totally tell you]

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Episode 107: Toy Story (1995)

Ah, “In Ancient Times: the 90’s” The 1990’s . . . who truly remembers the events of such a distant time? Did we live in caves? Did dinosaurs walk the earth? Did we drive cars powered by our feet while yelling “yabba-dabba-doo”? Of course we did.  We all know we did.  But the 90’s was also the time before the rise of the Pixar Empire.  Believe it or not, there was a time when Pixar was almost unknown; the only people who knew it were those pathetic nerds who went to every animation festival I could find . . . I mean, that they could find.  Other people.  Not me.  Certainly not.  Yes, Pixar was known then as that weird animation studio who had the absurd idea that you could make interesting animation using those new-fangled electronic computational devices (they’re just a fad, you know).  That is, until that fateful day in 1995 when the first full-length computer-animated feature film was released: “Toy Story.” On that day, everything changed.  Up became down.  Blue became Thursday. Cowboys and spacemen living together . . . mass hysteria!  And the unstoppable engine of innovation (and cash juggernaut) that was Pixar Studios rose to take its place among the animation giants . . . until it was bought by Disney and everything had to have nine sequels.  But how does this, their first opus, hold up after a quarter of a century? Give a listen and pick up what we’re putting down (and then please put it back down; it’s there for a reason, thank you very much).

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Episode 106: Magnolia (1999)

Ahhh, magnolias. The flower that signifies spring; a symbol of hope, beauty and hundreds of frogs showering down from the heavens. Wait, what? Oh yes. Frogs. Lots and lots of frogs. Because how else would you tie together such divergent stories of; lives gone wrong, kid tv stars who never really grow up, toxic masculinity gurus and cops who lose their guns at crime scenes? No better way, we say! And we say a lot. This week in the continuing saga of “Ancient History: The 90s,” we delve deep into Paul Thomas Anderson’s film of fractured lives. Haven’t heard of it? We’re not surprised but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out. The ensemble cast alone is worth a look: William H. Macy, Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Jason Robards and even a short stint by Patton Oswalt. It’s one of those big, ensemble cast kind of movies and we warn you: it is long. Three hours long. But does it feel like it? Does the movie drag, does it work, does it take out the trash once a week without you having to nag it over and over and over again? That last one, I admit, it does not. But it’s going to if it knows what’s good for it. Regardless of what we think, there is one thing that makes this movie worth watching: proof that, when he really puts his mind to it, when he actually -tries-, Tom Cruise can be a good actor. No, really. This is not Bumpy the Wonder Pony typing this, making things up in hopes of getting a nice, juicy carrot. Oh no, it is the truth. Probably. So, tune in, won’t we and find out about this film with the frogs.

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Episode 105: Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Hello, children! Hello! Welcome to Uncle Max, Uncle Mike; Uncle Movies! Yaaay! We’ve got a super delightful, fun story for you this week about a funny man who lives in a cave with his wacky friends when one day a little girl comes to ask him some oh-so-important questions about her friend Billy and why he murders women and cuts off their skin.  What’s that, Producer Jimmy? We’re fired? Our show’s been cancelled? There are some mean looking men from the FCC here to talk to us about our show? Oh fiddlesticks.
Yeah, so for this week’s “In Ancient Times: the 90’s” we’re talking about a 90’s movie that scared seven kinds of hell out of film audiences, and yours truly, when we saw it.  And yet some of us (me) went back and saw it four times in the theater, despite never being sensible enough to bring a set of adult diapers.  Brrr.  Sadly, I chose this movie so I have no one to blame for my night terrors this week but myself. Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs” brought us one of the most iconic cinematic serial killers in history, as well as one of the coolest FBI agents, Clarice Starling, who was the template for Agent Scully of the X-Files (“Nerrrrrrrd!” “Shut up, Mike!”).  Crack open a bottle of Chianti, carve up a heapin’ helpin’ of census taker and join us for our discussion of this movie, which I will be participating in from under my blanket fort.

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Episode 104: Being John Malkovich (1999)

Welcome back to another episode of Max, Mike; Movies in our series “In Ancient Times: the 90’s.” Say, do you want to be John Malkovich? Sure, we all do! But how many movies have addressed this very question? As far as we know, only 1999’s “Being John Malkovich” has dared to do this! Directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie “Normal? What Does That Mean?” Kaufman (a first effort for both), this movie is . . . different.  One of the reasons we’ve been talking so much about movies of the 90’s is that while this decade brought us some major trend-setters and blockbusters, it also brought us some remarkably edgy, daring, and experimental wide-release movies.  “Being John Malkovich” is decidedly one of the latter.  Dealing with both the painfully mundane and a sort of magical realism where crawling through a tiny door can land you inside the brain of John Malkovich (like you do), this movie brings us some strange and often uncomfortable ideas, intriguingly executed, and some remarkable performances by the likes of John Cusack, an almost unrecognizable Cameron Diaz, and playing the role of John Malkovich . . . John Malkovich! Interesting choice.  Me, I would have gone with Pee Wee Herman, but they didn’t ask me.  I’m sure that’s one of the director’s major regrets.  When will Hollywood learn that most important of lessons: always ask Max.

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Episode 103: Wayne’s World (1992)

It’s Max, Mike; Movies! Max, Mike; Movies! Party time! Excellent! Random excited noises! It’s Monday, it’s “In Ancient Times: the 90’s” and it’s time to party! I’m your excellent host, Max Levine. With me as always is Mike. Party on Mike! . . . Party on, Mike! . . . Mike? Mike? . . . Dammit, you’re ruining this for me! Just say “Party on”! Why are you leaving me hanging? Did Bumpy put you up to this? Well, fine. I hope you two are very happy on the Mike an’ Bumpy Super Happy Smile Hour . . . for Jerks! Anyway, yes this week we’re partying down with a major comedy from the 90’s, a movie so meta it’s basically one big meta.  What’s a meta? Why, it’s where the cows graze, thank you! We’re here all week! Tip your waitresses! “Wayne’s World,” one of only two successful movies based on ANYTHING from Saturday Night Live.  Born out of a time when SNL was . . . what’s the word I’m looking for . . . right on the tip of my tongue . . . oh yeah, “funny.”  Remember those days? No? Not surprising.  So pop in that cassette tape of Queen, cruise on down to Aurora, Illinois and join us for a sedate, low-key, erudite discussion of “Wayne’s World” . . . not! Wow, that joke has just has not aged well. . . 

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Episode 102: Dazed and Confused (1993)

Booyah! Welcome back to another totally tubular episode of “In Ancient Times: the 90’s” here at Max, Mike; Movies.  Wait . . . tubular is from the 80’s, right? Oh, who knows.  It’s not like anyone from that era is alive today.  Whatever. Totally. This week we’re tackling Mike’s choice of an early Richard Linklater ode to the 1970’s (because that’s what we were into in the 90’s: Richard Linklater and the 70’s.  Don’t dispute me) “Dazed and Confused,” the movie that single-handedly took a handful of river clay and crafted it into the chiseled creature that is Matthew McConaughey.  Yes, he’s not actually in much of the movie, but by MC’s hammer, he’s what you remember.  The plot? It’s the last day of school in 1976 in a small town in Texas.  Yes, that’s pretty much it.  But is the plot the reason to watch the movie? Is it the characters? The feeling of a small football-based town in Texas? The brief appearances by a painfully young Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and Parker Posey? The blink-and-you’ll-miss-her cameo by Renee Zellweger (playing the immortal role of “Girl in Blue Truck”)? Or is it the fabulous 70’s wardrobe? Give a listen and see if you think we’re all wrong or if we’re  . . . all right, all right, all right!

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