Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, co-hosts of video game podcast The Indoor Kids, join us to share their favorite new releases. Their first pick is Ms. Splosion Man, an imaginative platformer newly available on iOS. (Think Super Mario meets spontaneous self-combustion.) For a lengthier experience, check out BioShock Infinite, which (literally) takes the first BioShock to even greater heights.
Nearly ten years have passed since the release of writer/director Shane Carruth's first low-budget film, a complex time travel movie called Primer. Film fans are still obsessed with teasing out the intricacies of the story, about a time-travel machine and the men who engineered the machine. But within that story, there are emotional and ethical struggles that keep the audience riveted -- a quality that's become a hallmark of Carruth's small but powerful filmography.
Carruth wrote, directed, starred and composed all of the music for Primer, and he had the same all-consuming roles in his new film, Upstream Color. The movie is just as difficult to explain as his first. Upstream Color's two lead characters seem to have a shared experience of bodily manipulation, and cling to that sameness because they have nothing else. The movie delves deeply into identity and loss, and comes through with a powerful emotional experience.
Shane Carruth joins us to talk about the upsides and downsides of independent filmmaking, why plot summary doesn't always get to a movie's heart, and the best James Bond movie that will never be made.
Upstream Color is in select theaters nationwide. The film is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on demand on May 7.
Kyle Kinane had a problem. He was craving fast food, but he'd had a little too much to drink. But he found a solution. It involved a little bit of ingenuity, a wallet's worth of cash, and a very patient cab driver.
Stanley Kubrick's movie The Shining made a huge cultural impression. It's a classic horror movie about the psychological tolls of isolation, the dissolution of a family, the Holocaust, and how Kubrick helped fake the moon landing.
Wait a second. The Holocaust? Moon landing? Yep. The new documentary Room 237 features increasingly eye-widening theories about the hidden subtexts of The Shining. Movies often inspire intense debate over authorial intent, but Kubrick's known perfectionism and deliberate filmmaking often take this discussion to another level.
Room 237's director Rodney Ascher sits down with us to discuss some of the film's more creative theories, as well as whether or not there's such a thing as too much interpretation.
Room 237 is out now in select theaters nationwide and available on video on-demand.
Pop music is usually for young people – what better audience is there for short, simple, high-energy music? But what does pop music sound like when it grows up? To answer that question, Jesse takes a look at a song by George Jones, called The Grand Tour.
Our comic book experts return with new graphic bounty! Alex Zalben recommends the new series Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt, who spins a tale of a plane crash, memory loss and psychic spies. The second issue in the series is out now. Brian Heater suggests you check out Angelman by Nicholas Mahler, which is a story of a man who has superpowers that might be milder or meeker than those of most heroes -- fighting figurative fire with qualities like being a "good listener".
You can find Alex Zalben writing for MTV Geek or co-hosting NYC's Comic Book Club Live. Brian Heater is a journalist and the Editor-In-Chief of The Daily Crosshatch, which highlights alternative comics.
Elvis Mitchell is a critic who's brought his insights on film to the pages of the New York Times and the L.A. Weekly; he's also interviewed scores of film industry writers, actors and directors over fifteen years of hosting the LA-based public radio show The Treatment. He's even ventured into filmmaking himself, producing a series of documentaries about race and success called The Black List.
But while he's been in the business of film criticism a long time, his manner or tastes can't be called conventional. Mitchell talks about his wide-ranging cultural appetite (which has room for well-executed films like Pootie Tang), the interplay between television and film, and how he got into the business of analyzing pop culture.
The brothers McElroy -- Travis, Griffin and Justin -- are in the business of giving advice, though they don't suggest you take it. This week, they answer listeners' queries about the collision of pop culture and personal relationships. The McElroy brothers host a weekly podcast called My Brother, My Brother, and Me.
Kevin Barnes founded the experimental pop group of Montreal over fifteen years ago, and the band's sound has morphed as often as (and alongside) Barnes' various stage personae and personal ups and downs. Of Montreal's original twee pop sensibility gave way to new sounds and increasingly complicated arrangements over the years, as the band experimented with electronic, R&B, funk, disco and psychedelic music within a pop framework.
Barnes discusses why he writes so much of the band's music on his own, the theatricality of the band's live performances (from elaborate costumes and skits, to a live horse), and more.
The band's latest release, Paralytic Stalks, is out now.
Jesse explains what makes David Letterman such an especially gifted late night host in a world of very good late night hosts.
Got a cultural gem of your own? Pick your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.>
This week, the Cinefamily in Los Angeles is hosting a unique film festival that features top comedians presenting movies that were personally inspiring or influential for them. The festival runs from the 12th to the 14th and features Garry Shandling (screening The King of Comedy); Margaret Cho (showing Darling); Paul F. Tompkins (presenting Topsy-Turvy); Doug Benson (discussing Cocktail!); Kevin Pollak (screening The In-Laws); and Andy Kindler (presenting Modern Romance). Each comedian will introduce the film, perform, and conduct a Q and A afterwards. It's sure to be a very fun and interesting series. I'm planning to attend and, if you are in the Los Angeles area, you should definitely join me. You can get tickets - which are only $10 - here.
The festival is being produced and hosted by actor and comedian Wayne Federman. Mr. Federman took a few minutes yesterday to tell me a bit about the aptly-named 1st Annual Wayne Federman International Film Festival and how it came to be.
Rebecca O'Malley (RO): What inspired you to create this festival?
Wayne Federman (WF): It wasn’t any one particular epiphany. It was a number of events that happened over several years. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Rob Cohen, who is a writer for The Simpsons, rented out a movie theater and showed the old Batman movie from the 1960s. It was very fun because it was communal and because he loved this film. And that really stuck with me as a fun, happy memory. Then, a few years later, I saw Patton Oswalt present a movie I'd never heard of called The Foot Fist Way. And it was so great to watch Patton introduce it because – one, he’s funny. Two, he was passionate about the movie. And three – what I liked most about it – was that he had no connection to the film. He wasn’t in it and trying to promote it for that reason. He wasn’t reminiscing about what it was like on the set – none of the usual type of presentation that you might encounter during a screening at a film festival. This was just someone I greatly admire being a fan of something he loved – and that was intriguing for me.
That’s when I had the idea to bring in comedians and have them pick a film - with the only criterion being that they cannot have been involved with the movie's production. Then we’ll show that film – do some stand up at the top - do a Q and A at the end – and just talk about this movie. Just nerd out over it. I thought that would be tremendously fun.
And every comedian that I asked to do it said "yes". They all liked the idea.
RO: That’s wonderful. How long did it take you to put the event together?
WF: It came together rather quickly. In a couple of weeks, actually. I knew all of the comedians. And I knew someone at Cinefamily. The key, really, was Garry Shandling. He was the first one to say “yes” – and he was so enthusiastic, so encouraging. He was very excited to see his movie selection in the theater again.
RO: Did he immediately know which film he wanted to present?
WF: He had a couple of ideas, but he kept coming back to The King of Comedy. He felt that it had a connection to Larry Sanders because of its backstage perspective and the way it was shot. And even beyond that he believes that this movie - and I'm sure he'll expand on this idea at the festival - it was so ahead of its time in terms of how it discusses the desire to be famous and what people will do to achieve fame. This was many years before reality television. It’s about comedy, in a weird way, and about talk shows. And about America.
RO: Did any of the other comedians immediately know which film they wanted to present?
WF: Some did. But most of them had never been asked to do something like this before – and they were very excited. Especially Margaret Cho. She truly loves the movie she is presenting, Darling. It's her favorite movie.
RO: If someone asked you to select a film to present, which one would you choose?
WF: That’s tough. One option that would be near the top of my list would be a movie called Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I’m sure you’ve never seen it, but it was written by Roger Ebert. So that’s already fascinating – to see a film written by someone who critiques movies made by others. But it is also simply a terrific movie to watch with a crowd. I would consider it for those reasons alone. It’s not influential to me in any way. It hasn’t informed my comedy or my acting; but it is very entertaining to share with a crowd. But, beyond that, I’m pretty boring. I enjoy the classics. I would probably choose a Woody Allen film or Casablanca.
RO: Casablanca could never be boring! So is this festival - as the name suggests - an event that you are hoping to host annually?
WF: Oh yes! Definitely! Next year I want to expand it and make it a special thing for comedians. It’s exciting because I live in Los Angeles - and this is one of the few places in the world where you could put together this festival and invite people to attend and join the fun for only $10. Because we don’t have to fly in anyone or put them up. There are no expenses; only great comedians who want to participate. And who can get here easily. It’s just a celebration of stand-up and film – together.
Some stories have such great charm and relevance that they can be told over and over again in many formats - and still win your heart. Certainly that's true of your traditional fairy tales or the Shakespeare classics; but there are also a few sweet modern tales that hold up well in multiple formats. One such story, in my view, is Mike Birbiglia's delightful "Sleepwalk with Me". It's a timeless story of one man's fear of love and maturity; but it is told - with terrific humor and stark honesty - through a chronicle of his struggle with a strange and dangerous sleepwalking condition.
I first heard Birbiglia tell the story on a 2008 episode of This American Life called "Fear of Sleep." If you haven't yet heard that episode, you must obtain it immediately. It will do nothing less than restore your faith in the power of solid storytelling.
The story later become so beloved that Birbiglia adapted it to a one-man show and then into a book. Now, with help from Ira Glass and This American Life producer Alissa Shipp, Mike is bringing the story to film.
Birbiglia directed the movie, and wrote it with Seth Barrish (who directed the stage version), Joe Birbiglia and Ira Glass. The film stars Mike, Lauren Ambrose, Jim Rebhorn and Carol Kane and was produced by Jacob Jaffke.
I've never been to Sundance - and probably won't make it this year - but I've never been more jealous of those who will be there. This film is going to be terrific.
Nicolas Winding Refn is the Danish director of the new film Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Refn had a very specific vision for the film, which included trance-like music and throwbacks to the aesthetics of films of his childhood. Drive is a moody thriller that combines elements of fairy tale, noir, 80s pop and 70s grit. The film won Refn the Best Director award at Cannes.
Drive opens in theaters nationwide on September 16th.
JESSE THORN: It's The Sound of Young America, I'm Jesse Thorn. My guest, Nicolas Winding Refn grew up in the world of cinema. His father, Anders, edited the Danish classics Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark for director Lars Von Trier, among dozens of other films. He grew up in Denmark, but spend his teenage years in New York City. He briefly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before being expelled, allegedly for throwing a chair into a wall, and passed up one of six slots at a very prestigious Danish film institute when he had the opportunity to develop what had been his application short film into a feature. That movie, Pusher, went on to become a European cult crime classic.
His new film is his first American production. It's called Drive. It won Refn the directing prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Its nearly silent protagonist played by Ryan Gosling is a professional stunt driver by day and a getaway driver by night. It's a movie that somehow both brutal and serene, and because the main character almost never talks, it's tough for us to encapsulate with a clip of dialogue. So instead, suffice it to say that on those evenings when he isn't committing a crime, the protagonist called the driver cruises the roads of Los Angeles listening to music like this.
Nicolas, welcome to The Sound of Young America.
NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Thank you.
JESSE THORN: It's really great to have you on the show. I want to ask you, having only seen one passing reference to you throwing a chair into a wall at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I thought I would go to the horse's mouth and find out what got you booted.
NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It was a table instead of a chair. It was great because I hated authority anyways, so it didn't turn out the way I thought it was going to be, but that was maybe good, because if it hadn't maybe I wouldn't be sitting here. So I was the happiest person smashing a table into the wall and being told that was unacceptable.
“Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadvanture” is a documentary about audio verite: the art of capturing and reproducing audio from day-to-day life without commentary. It centers around two young men, Mitch Deprey and Eddie Lee Sausage, who live in a cheap, run-down apartment in San Francisco in the late 1980s. Their neighbors, Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, are two old drunken men who belt out profane yet oddly comical arguments nightly. Mitch and Eddie record these arguments and begin sharing the resulting audio with friends. Although the circumstances around the arguments are disturbing and even mildly frightening, the material is also weirdly compelling and sometimes amusing as Raymond and Peter exhibit a unique and intricate style of verbal abuse. Over several years, the tapes are circulated via underground networks throughout the country and become a viral phenomenon that inspires songs, plays, comic books and essays by artists and writers as varied as Kevin Peaty, Daniel Clowes and Devo.
The film explores how the tapes spread so widely and the impact of the material’s popularity on the lives of both the recorders and the recorded. It also examines the thorny legal, artistic and moral issues around developing commercially successful projects from material that the artist found and recorded, but did not create.
It was directed by Australian filmmaker Matthew Bate who kindly answered a few of my questions about the film.
Follow this link to read our discussion.
The French fashion house Balmain came up on my style blog (they were selling an $1800 hoodie). It reminded me of the opening lines of this song, which is featured in Hotel Chevalier, the short film that was distributed with Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited.
The film is below.
Author and filmmaker Jon Ronson has started a fascinating documentary series called "Escape and Control". It's going to explore who controls the internet and how they do so. That would be interesting enough, really, but the manner in which he is making the documentary is equally intriguing. As you can see from this trailer, he will be releasing bits and pieces of the film as he makes it.
You can look for future episodes on his You Tube page, "Esc & Ctrl: Stories about People Trying to Control the Internet". In the video, Ronson says he will release the first hunk when he has something interesting to show; but his website says that his "first adventure will launch in early September."
Considering the number of compelling recent new stories on the subject, it's bound to be must-see web viewing.
I'm prepping to interview Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of "Drive," a really remarkable film that Julia and I saw a couple weeks ago. It's a crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling (along with a bunch of other brilliant folks - Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman), but it's disconcertingly quiet. Punctuated, every so often, by shocking violence.
This trailer is really just an early scene from the film in its entirety.
The song "A Real Hero" serves as a sort of theme for the movie, and for Gosling's character. It reminded me of an early 80s score by Tangerine Dream. It's both inspiration and reserved, almost melancholically so. Like the movie, though, it really gets under your skin.
Our guest host this week is MaxFun's very own Jordan Morris! He's a host and producer on FuelTV's The Daily Habit and of course, co-hosts our own podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go! You can also see him performing comedy at numerous venues throughout Los Angeles. Fun fact: Jordan is one of the original co-hosts of The Sound of Young America, so this is a return to form. He'll talk to a man of horror movie legend, Bruce Campbell.
Bruce Campbell is best known as a B movie icon and one of the stars of the Evil Dead films. He's also a writer and producer who's continued to have a DIY aesthetic and feeling infuse his work (including his own film, My Name Is Bruce). He talks to us about finding a niche in horror and black humor, obsessive fans, and more.
JORDAN MORRIS: This is The Sound of Young America, I'm Jordan Morris. My guest today is Bruce Campbell, an actor, director, and author, best known to film geeks as the star of the cult classics Evil Dead, Maniac Cop, Bubba Ho-Tep, too many to mention. He can now be seen on the television program Burn Notice, the HIT television program I should say. The Burn Notice feature length film The Fall of Sam Axe is on DVD and Blu-ray now. Bruce, thanks for coming on the show.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Great plug, by the way, great plug.