It’s the first-ever Viewfinder Film Club minisode! Warner Bros. dropped the trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated Dune adaptation last week, and, spice addicts that we are, the full FC gathered for a shot-by-shot analysis of the costumes, the casting, the cinematography and, of course, the sandworms. We offer our best guesses at what might be happening from one scene to the next, and we submit our prayers to Muad’Dib about cameos we’d love to see. Steel yourselves for the gom jabbar. It’s time to go back to Arrakis — the weirding way continues!
Based on the book by attorney Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, director Destin Daniel Cretton's 2019 feature Just Mercy stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and presents actual events from the early years of his career. Arriving in Alabama after graduating from Harvard Law School, Stevenson begins working with convicts who, to that point, hadn't been able to find or afford proper legal representation. In particular, the story focuses on Stevenson's relationship with death-row inmate Walter "Johnny D." McMillian (Jamie Foxx); in presenting Stevenson's unflagging efforts to overturn McMillian's wrongful conviction, the film also shines a light on the systemic racism that continues to compromise the American legal system.
Join the Film Club as we discuss the film's added impact in light of recent events, examine the filmmakers' use of large-format optics, and take a few detours into the work of Spike Lee. And for those keeping track at home, take note: This was the episode when we (finally!) decided on a name for the podcast.
At last, it’s the episode you’ve all been waiting for! Burt Lancaster takes center stage as we examine director Fred Zinnemann’s 1953 classic From Here to Eternity. Based on the novel by James Jones, the story follows a group of U.S. Army soldiers in the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In charting the nation’s evolution from prewar naïveté to postwar cynicism, the movie also presents what could be read as an origin story for film noir. But it’s not all bleak! Join us as we marvel at Lancaster’s glorious coif, reveal the significance of his standing in the rain, and laud the film’s magnificent circumvention of the erstwhile Hays Code.
Set in 17th-century feudal Japan, director Kenji Mizoguchi's 1954 feature A Story From Chikamatsu — also known as The Crucified Lovers or Chikamatsu Monogatari — is a tale of star-crossed love that's rich with unexpected twists and revelations. Involving a grand scroll master, his wife, and his best employee, the story unfolds in deep focus and long takes, with expert cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa. Inspired by Mizoguchi's ability to illuminate the present through the lens of the past, the Film Club's conversation springboards into cloud technology as well as the pleasures and pitfalls of modern cinephilia. As the scroll master's wife, Osan (Kyôko Kagawa), reminds us, "Nothing is more unpredictable than a person's fate."
“You are about to enter a world where the unexpected, the unknown, and the unbelievable meet. A world where the mighty, the mad, and the magical will have their final battle. A world beyond your experience, beyond your imagination.” Those words, from the trailer to David Lynch’s 1984 feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, equally describe the conversation you are about to hear. Join the FC as we venture into the desert of Lynch’s compromised vision, worship at the holy mountain of Alan Splet’s sound design, and question whether the whole movie might just be a dream plucked from the world of Eraserhead. Along the way, we also confront the heretical visions of director Frank Pavich’s 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, and debate a film adaptation’s responsibility to its source material. Not even The Lord of the Rings, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, or Denis Villeneuve's yet-to-be-released (at the time of this recording) Dune are spared. It’s psychomagic in space!
Erratum: At the 17-minute mark, we misidentify the special-effects supervisor as Brad Dourif, who in fact appears onscreen as Piter De Vries. How could we make such an error? Because Brad Dourif is amazing, and we’re inclined to give him credit for everything that is right and good in this world.
Director Billy Wilder's 1953 comedy-drama Stalag 17 tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German WWII POW camp who come to suspect that one of their number is an informant. Adapted by Wilder and Edwin Blum from the Broadway play of the same name, the film left the FC marveling at its director's mastery of blocking, and questioning the logistics of shooting chronologically. Tommy, who leads this episode's discussion, ties in an on-point reference to Paul Schrader, and Jon makes a brief but impassioned appeal on behalf of Burt Lancaster's nomination for the 1954 Best Actor Oscar — the award that ultimately went to William Holden for his portrayal of Stalag 17's Sgt. J.J. Sefton.
Erratum: Toward the end of the episode, there's a fleeting mention of Animal House when, in fact, Animal Farm was intended. Forgive us, dear listeners — these conversations mess with our minds, too. (While we're on the topic, though, consider the possibilities: What if Animal House actually is a World War II allegory?)
Based on the novel by Don DeLillo, writer-director David Cronenberg's 2012 feature Cosmopolis follows 28-year-old billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) through a single day as he takes a limo across Manhattan in order to get a haircut. It proves to be a bad day for a car ride, as the President of the United States is in town, a water-main bursts, an anti-capitalist riot erupts in the streets, and Eric’s gamble on the Chinese yuan drains his fortune. Over the course of his journey, Eric will essentially live all facets of his life inside this limo while being joined by a string of characters, each of whom serves as a dark, fun-house mirror for the main character.
Buckle up for a wild ride—and some strong, conflicting opinions among the Film Club.
With a story that spans science and the soul, writer-director Alex Garland's eight-part FX miniseries Devs follows Lily (Sonoya Mizuno), who works at a pioneering silicon-valley technology company led by the messianic Forest (Nick Offerman) and his proverbial right hand, Katie (Alison Pill). After Lily's boyfriend, Sergei (Karl Glusman) is promoted to the company's top-secret Devs division, he goes missing. Lily's pursuit of the truth behind Sergei's disappearance sets her on a course that will begin to unravel the mysteries surrounding Devs.
Similarly, the Viewfinder FC embark on their own pursuit to unravel the show's deeper meanings. Either our analysis is brilliant or we have no idea what we're talking about—or, across the multiverse, both are true.
Writer-director Paul Schrader’s 2018 feature First Reformed presents the spiritual and physical crisis of a protestant minister named Toller (Ethan Hawke), the reverend at a small church in New York with a nearly nonexistent congregation. Toller’s struggles lead him down an unexpected road when he’s asked by one of his parishioners, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), to speak with her husband, Michael (Philip Ettinger), an environmental activist who can’t reconcile bringing a child into a dying world.
In this episode, the Viewfinder FC grapple with spiritual skeletons of their own, take a ride on the magical mystery tour, and present multiple interpretations of the movie’s finale. Also, Jon manages to mention American Gigolo not once but twice.
In the second half of our two-part dive into two masterpieces starring Nicolas Cage, we lose ourselves in the audiovisual odyssey of director Panos Cosmatos’ 2018 feature Mandy. The movie stars Cage as a lumberjack named Red, who embarks on a surreal mission of revenge after his beloved — the eponymous Mandy, played by Andrea Riseborough — is taken from him by demonic forces. Behind the scenes, cinematographer Benjamin Loeb and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson were among the key collaborators who helped Cosmatos alchemize his host of inspirations into a singular vision.