This week’s podcast is about Ishirō Honda’s seminal 1954 monster movie, complete with sound effects and excerpts from Akira Ifukube’s superb score. Better known by the English title Godzilla, the film shows you what happens when a dormant dinosaur is woken form a deep sleep by atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific and gets out his grumpy by stomping on Japan’s biggest cities. This podcast focuses on the particular kinds of special effects used to depict these events, namely the man-in-a-monster-suit aesthetic, which allows an actor to lay waste to a miniature set. Following Philip Brophy’s argument that this technique is a historically Japanese approach, it seems that the rubber suit, rather than being a deficient or inadequate attempt at the illusion of scale, endows the monster with a specific vision of destructive force that allows us to identify more directly with the monster instead of dismissing it as something irreconcilably other.
In this week’s podcast, I discuss Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon. This is not a particularly well-known film, but it’s undoubtedly a fascinating and divisive one. My students are always enfuriated and hooked by it in equal measure, and with Inception getting so much attention for its real-or-not-real depiction of dream states, it seemed like a good time to revisit another film built around confusion between states of reality, imagination and simulation. The story follows Ash, a lone gamer devoted to Avalon, an illegal battle simulation game that draws its users into a seductively dangerous virtual world. Desperate to atone for earlier mistakes that left a friend lost inside Avalon, she yearns to ascend the game’s levels to complete the mission that will grant access to ‘Class Real’, the highest plateau it has to offer its users. It has everything you could ask for from a film about virtual reality, plus a basset hound. Every movie needs a basset hound. But where did he go? Any answers would be greatly appreciated.
This week’s episode is a slightly expanded version (i.e. a couple more things occurred to me while I was speaking it) of my review of Inception. It seems like the internet is flooded with analysis and argument about the film, a lot of it becoming increasingly negative, but I’ve kept the mostly positive tone of my initial review in place. It has become common to slap Nolan’s film with criticisms of its coldness or its sexless, prosaic dreamscapes. It’s the opposite of those Lynchian non-sequiturs that we expect from films about dreaming, deliberately bringing into lucid focus what we might usually expect to find blurred, partial and discontinuous. You’ll probably enjoy Inception more if you go with these idiosyncrasies as calculated properties of the film rather than as thoughtless mistakes by an immature filmmaker. Of course, you don’t have to have an opinion about the film just because everyone’s talking about it. You can always ignore the hype and watch something else. I’m happy to answer questions about my Inception review, or engage in discussion about the film in the comments section, but this will be my final post on the topic: there are plenty of excellent, insightful considerations out there, and I don’t feel like I have more to add beyond what I’ve said here, but thank goodness for a blockbuster that got people talking, arguing, puzzling and thinking a bit.
In this week’s podcast, I discuss Back to the Future, now 25 years old and itself the subject of much nostalgia. I talk about its political subtexts, its depiction of the 1950s, and its clever-clever structure. There’s also a guest appearance by Ronald Reagan as himself. I wouldn’t do the voice myself, so I took an extract from his 1986 State of the Union address where he invokes Back to the Future as setting a good example to the kids or something. I think I’m getting the hang of this podcast thing now, so it’s a better recording than before, and I’m now more comfortable speaking into a microphone and pretending there’s a listener (maybe even two). I would still appreciate any feedback on how things might improve in any direction you might suggest.
You can now subscribe to the Spectacular Attractions podcast via the iTunes Store, which is very exciting. Once subscribed, each new episode will be automatically downloaded to your computer as soon as it is published. Which means you won’t have to check back here and click on these posts every week. But for now, you can always just click here and download the whole thing for this week:
[#2: Ealing’s Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)]
The second Spectacular Attractions podcast is now available for download (see link below). I’m finding the editing a little easier now, but perhaps need to work on my microphone technique a little more. At least this one is a little less stilted than last week’s edition, so hopefully this will eventually blossom into an impressive bit of pod.
This episode discusses the classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, directed by Robert Hamer in 1949. You can read the full post here, or download the podcast and take it with you wherever you’re going:
When I started this blog a couple of years ago, it was partly so that I could foist some bits of my brain on you, the reader, and partly to let myself try out gadgets and social media. This has often meant displaying all of my trials and errors in the public domain as I got to grips with writing, formatting and maintaining a web presence. My latest trial is a podcast, and here you can download my first attempt. I thought about trying to get it perfect before publishing, but now I’ve decided I might as well throw it out there and leave it to you to tell me what I’m doing right or wrong. That way, future podcasts can improve as I get the hang of the slightly odd experience of talking at my computer, which I only usually do when I need to swear at it for not working properly. In future, once I’m more rehearsed, I can post new reviews and posts in audio and text formats if there’s a demand.
What I’ve done in this instance is record a reading of an earlier post, which you can read by following this link if you prefer. In it, I describe an interpretation of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey that finds meaningful patterns in the film’s many horizontal, symmetrical compositions. If your mp3 player (or whatever other device you use for playing this sort of thing) can play video and images, you’ll be able to see stills from the film. The music used is some stuff I put together using loops from Garage Band, plus a bit of Richard Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
I’d appreciate any feedback you can offer before I go ahead and make any more of these or set up shop in a corner of iTunes.