Thinking about the tech genius as villain trope in TV shows like Made for Love, Devs, Silicon Valley, and the documentary WeWork. They’re our modern mad scientists, able to unleash science to surveil, control, and possibly kill us. Mark, Erica, and Brian consider how it works in comedy vs. serious media, how it relates to real-life tech billionaires, and the feminist angle.
What drives someone to collect Star Wars figures or Transformers or LEGOs or whatever else?
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What is with the weird relationship we Americans have with our pets? Many of us treat them as our babies, yet of course they’re our captives.
Dog trainer Hannah Branigan, host of Drinking from the Toilet, joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to talk about pets as entertainment, as hobby, and as pandemic companions. How can we make this relationship as beneficial as possible for all involved, and how can learning to be a better pet owner inform our treatment of other people?
Animation is so labor-intensive that it seems designed for corporate domination a la Disney. Mark, Erica, and Brian are joined by animator Benjamin Goldman to discuss doing animation on your own.
What qualifies as “indie?” What are we as adult viewers looking from this medium? How do images relate to narration? How realistic should the animation look? You may want to watch Benjamin’s short film (currently featured by The New Yorker) “Eight Nights.”
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St. Patrick’s Day has passed: What sort of representation of Ireland has made it to the U.S. through such celebrations? Who gets to decide what’s authentically Irish?
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Mark, Erica, Brian, and guest memoir author Laura talk about the appeal of this type of book whose production has exploded in recent years. We each read a book, covering Elvis Costello, Carrie Brownstein, Ozzy Osbourne, and Debby Harry respectively. How are these better than a film depiction or documentary biography?
Media representation of disability needs improvement, as does inclusion of disabled actors and writers. Playwright Kayla joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to talk about hurdles, disability culture, negative stereotypes, and how disability relates to comedy and horror.
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Mark-san, Erica-san, and Brian-san survey the new Karate Kid revival show Cobra Kai and all the original films starting with the 1984 classic for nonsensical plotting, villain motivation, questionable acting, and more.
Jason was music director at KRCW, the LA NPR station, is also a DJ with a lot of experienced interviewing musicians, and now hosts a new podcast, The Backstory. He joins Mark and Erica to discuss the creative and business possibilities of podcasting in comparison to radio, what their futures may hold, and his own journey between the two media.
Happy Groundhog Day! The ’93 film has had dozens of imitators spanning various genres in recent years, but the idea goes back more than a century. Mark, Erica, Brian, and guest Ken Gerber touch on popular and obscure examples examples from film and TV to explore the philosophical themes and storytelling techniques.
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On the darkly comic ’96 film and the 4-season crime show. Mark, Erica, Brian, and Tamler from VBW consider its style, “tundra western” setting, “Minnesota nice”, gender issues, stunt casting, absurdism, and more. Yes, there are spoilers, but it barely matters.
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In light of The Queen’s Gambit, chess expert J.J. joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to look at chess media, culture, and personalities.
We consider gender, genius, and other issues in Gambit, plus Pawn Sacrifice, Searching for Bobby Fisher, The Luzhin Defense, and The Coldest Game.
What’s the post-COVID future of movie theaters? Mark, Erica, and Brian compare past moviegoing habits and reflect on the big-screen vs. small-screen decision. How would we optimize the theatrical experience? We consider films affected like Tenet, Soul, etc.
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Returning heroine Vi (now a grad student in comics history) joins Erica, Mark, and Brian to put the new film in context, bringing in the weird ideas of WW’s creator as shown in the 2017 biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Do the new film’s themes actually make sense? We talk political ideals, truth, love, feminist utopias, ’70s TV, and more.
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What explains the immense quarantine-time popularity of this quaint reality cooking show? What do we get out of watching talented amateurs bake things? Stephen, famous for playing Scar in The Lion King on Broadway, joins Erica, Brian, and Mark to consdier the format, context, and appeal of the show.
What has the Internet done to comedy? Tiffany, purveyor of social media bits and song parodies, joins Erica, Mark, and Brian to think about new ways of making and consuming comedy over TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media. Maybe given current events we should describe the goal as something other than “going viral”?
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What makes a film transcendently bad? A cult classic, as opposed to merely unwatchable? Child Jackey appeared in 1966’s Manos: The Hands of Fate, and she joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to discuss growing up in community theater, being reintroduced to her family movie by MST3K, and the over-confident auteur.
We also touch on Birdemic, Catwoman, The Happening, and Battleship, as well as films about the making of bad films: The Disaster Artist, Best Worst Movie, Ed Wood, and Dolemite Is My Name.
Fred writes for Marvel and his own Evil Twin Comics, in both non-fiction (e.g. Comic Book History of Animation, Action Philosophers) and stories (e.g. Marvel Zombies, Cowboys vs. Aliens). He even wrote a play about Jack Kirby.
He joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to discuss playing in the Marvel sandbox, the role of humor, comic-to-movie transitions, and more. Learn more at fredvanlente.com.
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Tyler (PEL and PMP’s audio editor) rejoins Mark, Erica, and Brian to explain one of his passions. How is it a battle and what are the rules? What’s the appeal? How does it relate to free-stylin’, rap albums, and insult comedy? Does it make sense as a “free speech zone”?
Kevin (The State, RISK!) joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to talk about his telling/curation/coaching of confessional stories. Do they have to be funny? True? How does this form relate to essays a la David Sedaris? How personal is too personal (or indicative of PTSD or something)? What’s the role of craft in this most populist endeavor? Listen at risk-show.com.