The Thin Blue Line

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Errol Morris & Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards

Errol Morris
Merrill Garbus

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Errol Morris on his new Netflix "hybrid" documentary series 'Wormwood'

Errol Morris is a legendary filmmaker with dozens of tv and film credits. In 2004, his film "The Fog of War" won an Oscar for best documentary film. Perhaps Morris is best known for his unique interview style, and his invention of the interrotron, which allows his subjects to see him while they are being filmed straight on. And of course, he is known for yelling questions off screen to his subjects.

Morris has a way of painting portraits of people in his films that's incredibly vulnerable. A perfect example of this is his first documentary "Gates of Heaven" released in 1978. It’s a film about pet cemeteries, and the connection people feel to their deceased pets. The documentary told through interviews of pet owners, and it's unnarrated. Some of his films, like "The Thin Blue Line" try to find objective truth. That film ultimately helped secure a innocent man's freedom from prison.

His films are nuanced, they're funny, they're tragic, and always fascinating. His latest project is a six-part miniseries for Netflix called "Wormwood." The series explores the CIA LSD experiments in the late 1950's, and the effects on a man named Frank Olson, a CIA employee and biochemist, who inexplicably jumped out a window to his death from a New York Hotel room in 1953. The story is mostly told through interviews of Frank’s son, Eric, who's worked for years to uncover the truth. The series is kind of a departure for Errol's signature style -- it blends dramatic reenactments and real life interviews.

Errol sits down with Jesse and they discuss the nature of truth, camera angles, and his new documentary, "Wormwood."

Listen to Errol's interview on YouTube!

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons:
Jason Perss

Song That Changed My Life: Merrill Garbus of the band Tune-Yards

Merrill Garbus of the band Tune-Yards on the song that changed her life -- "Moliva" by Johnny Clegg. Tune-Yards will be touring this Spring, and their new album "I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life" will be released on January 19. For more information visit their website.

Listen to this segment on YouTube!

The Outshot: The Commitments

Finally, for this week's Outshot: "The Commitments." Jesse tells us about a film his father and stepmother loved. Jesse never saw the film as a teenager. Few weeks ago, Jesse bought the VHS tape at a thrift store, and it turns out his dad and my stepmother had every right to love the 1991 film "The Commitments."

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Benedict Cumberbatch, Errol Morris, Craig Finn

Benedict Cumberbatch
Errol Morris
Craig Finn
Jason Kottke

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Jason Kottke on Children-by-Mail and a Physics Thought Experiment

Jason Kottke, proprietor of, a collection of some of the most interesting links the internet has to offer, joins us this week to share some all-time internet picks. First, he enlightens us about the practice of sending children through the mail. He also shares a mind-bending physics thought experiment -- if an airplane moves forward on a conveyor belt that's moving in the opposite direction at the same speed, can the airplane take off?

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Benedict Cumberbatch on Heroes and Villains

When Benedict Cumberbatch spoke to us last year, the interview centered on his portrayal of one of the most well-represented heroes in literature -- Sherlock Holmes. Jesse started off their discussion with talk of a more sinister role, however -- Cumberbatch's upcoming portrayal of the Star Trek villain John Harrison. With the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness so far away from the interview's original air date, that part of their chat didn't make the cut. Now that the film's release is a matter of months away, however, it seems a fitting time to revisit it.

Cumberbatch shares his appreciation for the mystery surrounding the new Star Trek film, deconstructs the challenges inherent in bringing a fresh perspective to his interpretation of the legendary detective for the BBC series Sherlock, and details how he emerged from a tremendous trauma with a renewed dedication to living life fully.

Both season one and season two of BBC's Sherlock are available now. You can also stream them online via Netflix and Amazon Instant.

(A alternate cut of this interview originally aired 5/15/12)

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Craig Finn on The Song That Changed My Life

Craig Finn is the lead singer and guitarist for the Brooklyn rock outfit The Hold Steady. Earlier this year, Finn released his debut solo album Clear Heart Full Eyes. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: The Replacements' "I Will Dare", off their 1984 album Let It Be.

(This segment originally aired 5/15/12)

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Director Errol Morris on Sussing out the Truth

Celebrated director Errol Morris's acclaim is well-earned -- his documentary films are all masterfully executed and extraordinarily compelling. Some of his films, such as The Thin Blue Line
(which ultimately helped secure an innocent man's freedom from prison) drive at an objective truth, while others are more concerned with the unique truths of individuals' experiences.

Errol Morris joined us in 2011 to talk about his film making process, celebrating reality versus fiction, and the enduring popularity of his Miller High Life commercials. Morris's most recent film, Tabloid, and most recent book, A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald are available in stores now.

(This interview originally aired 07/18/11)

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The Outshot: “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield

For The Outshot this week, Jesse basks in the warm, loving glow of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", and explains exactly why the singer's smiling face hangs on the wall above his son's crib.

If you've got a song that lifts you up like this one does, share the warmth on the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.

(This Outshot originally aired 5/15/12)

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