[FYI] The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast

baspLOGO

In the summer of 2008, Matthew Hurwitz (of Sissy Laffs, previously of Cinemachine) and I launched An Alan Smithee Podcast. Just under six years later, we released the final, one hundredth episode.

The podcast started as a general discussion of modern film, but soon became a targeted discussion of two films, one good, one bad. Only they were not necessarily films we thought good or bad. Good consensus, bad consensus. Sometimes the bad films were the ones we liked, sometimes not. Sometimes we didn’t like either of them. Only later did we even relent to the common sense of pairing the films thematically.

Until now, all of the episodes have been available on iTunes or through MP3 links on the Alan Smithee website. There has been some renewed interest in the podcast of late, with people finding the episodes linked from who knows where. Matt and I thought instead of letting people stumble onto the podcast, perhaps we should offer some structure.

That structure is The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast, presented here on The Stop Button, every Monday for 30 weeks as we revisit 30 of our favorite episodes.

If you missed these the first time around, now begins your second chance to take a listen. And you should listen. Matt and I are smart fellas.


Subscribe via iTunes.


Halloween2commentary

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode One

Audio Commentary: Halloween II (1981, Rick Rosenthal)

Originally posted: August 22, 2009


robocoptrilogy

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Two

The RoboCop Trilogy: Robocop (1987, Paul Verhoeven) / Robocop 2 (1990, Irvin Kershner) / Robocop 3 (1993, Fred Dekker)

Originally posted: January 9, 2010


psychoII&98

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Three

Psycho II (1983, Richard Franklin) / Psycho (1998, Gus Van Sant)

Originally posted: February 19, 2010


batman89commentary

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Four

Audio Commentary: Batman (1989, Tim Burton)

Originally posted: March 9, 2010


watchmen-fixed

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Five

Watchmen (2009, Zach Snyder), the ultimate cut

Originally posted: April 26, 2010


darkmantrilogy

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Six

The Darkman Trilogy (1990-96, Sam Raimi and Bradford May)

Originally posted: June 30, 2010


piranhaBOASP

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Seven

Piranha (1978, Joe Dante) / Piranha (1995, Scott P. Levy)

Originally posted: August 14, 2010


texaschainsawBOASP

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Seven

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper) / Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994, Kim Henkel)

Originally posted: November 10, 2010


werewolf

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Nine

An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis) / An American Werewolf in Paris (1997, Anthony Waller)

Originally posted: December 9, 2010


FlashPopeye

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Ten

Flash Gordon (1980, Mike Hodges) / Popeye (1980, Robert Altman)

Originally posted: December 31, 2010

Subscribe via iTunes.

Subscribe via iTunes.

The Streetfighter (1974, Ozawa Shigehiro)

There’s not much story to The Streetfighter. There’s some, but it’s usually dumb. Director Ozawa isn’t interested in developing lead Sonny Chiba as a character. He’s one of the best “karate men” (I really wonder if that term’s just the subtitles) in Japan and he’s a mercenary. He’s got a chubby, lovable sidekick, Yamada Goichi, who cooks for him and dotes on him. It’s a weird subplot, as the film’s first attempt to make Chiba likable (through Yamada) immediately goes dark after Chiba kills some guy and sells his sister into prostitution.

The Streetfighter doesn’t have any good roles for women. It’s questionable whether it has any good roles for men, but it really doesn’t have any good roles for women. They’re either disposable, evil or just around to fall over Chiba. Oddly, only the “bad girls” are any good at fighting. In its longer scenes, when there’s nothing but bad expository dialogue, it’s hard to avoid its problems and the fundamental misogyny is its biggest problem. The other big problem–it being, you know, dumb–is more forgivable.

So there aren’t any good roles for women, Chiba’s got no character, the bad guys are really lame. But The Streetfighter has something else. It has Chiba the movie star, the presence, the karate man. He makes exaggerated faces and barbaric noises. He looks like a caged beast during the fight scenes, every attack he makes the door to freedom opening. It doesn’t make for a good film, but it makes for some great scenes.

Director Ozawa and editor Horiike Kôzô know how to do the fight scenes. Horiike’s editing is good throughout, but the fight scenes–slowed down, sped up–are phenomenal. Ozawa’s hit or miss. Streetfighter doesn’t have the biggest budget and Ozawa occasionally stumbles when trying to hide a short cut here or there, but the film’s solidly produced. Except for the fight scenes. They’re amazing. The penultimate fight scene, with Chiba working his way through bad guys in the bowls of a ship, almost redeems the entire film. It might if the final fight scene were anywhere near as good.

The Streetfighter tries to make a point of its meanness–especially in the graphic violence–but it’s a confused gesture. Chiba’s not mean. He’s so matter of fact, he’s as absurd as the villains. Until he starts kicking ass. Then he’s magic, then The Streetfighter’s magic. The rest of the film is just waiting for those moments.

Nice photography from Tsukagoshi Kenji and a fun score from Tsushima Toshiaki help.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Ozawa Shigehiro; written by Takada Kôji and Torii Motohiro; director of photography, Tsukagoshi Kenji; edited by Horiike Kôzô; music by Tsushima Toshiaki; production designer, Suzuki Takatoshi; released by Toei Company.

Starring Sonny Chiba (Takuma Tsurugi), Nakajima Yutaka (Sarai Chuayut), Yamada Goichi (Zhang Rakuda), Masashi Ishibashi (Shikenbaru Tateki), Yabuki Jirô (Shikenbaru Gijun), Shihomi Etsuko (Shikenbaru Nachi), Suzuki Masafumi (Masaoka Kendo), Kawai Nobuo (Tsuchida Tetsunosuke), Kazama Ken (Kan Senkaku), Sumitomo Shiro (Onaga) and Watanabe Fumio (Mutaguchi Renzo).


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Trainspotting (1996, Danny Boyle)

Trainspotting moves. More than anything, director Boyle concerns himself with the film’s pace, whether through Masahiro Hirakubo’s glorious editing or lead Ewan McGregor’s narration, the film immediately sets a fast pace and keeps it throughout the film. Nothing can slow the film down, not even big events, because there’s no real plot. It’s sort of a character study, though McGregor’s narration should make him far too subjective to be the character studied. Only John Hodge’s screenplay doesn’t use the narration to move the plot–it does occasionally help keep track of the summary storytelling–mostly that narration is Trainspotting‘s version of exposition. The film drops the viewer into McGregor’s world of heroin addicts and their acquaintances (and their families and their acquaintances’ families); the narration gives the viewer some context. Not a lot, but some.

The first act of Trainspotting, which it turns out is a flashback–Boyle and Hodge only have ninety minutes and change and they maximize it through a lot of nice narrative tricks–introduces the lovable cast of heroin addicts. McGregor’s the most normal, most relatable, Ewen Bremner’s an adorable screw-up, Jonny Lee Miller’s the sort of loathsome but amusingly obsessed with Sean Connery James Bond movies one, Robert Carlyle’s the non-using, loathsome, awkwardly funny, psychotically violent one. Kevin McKidd’s another square. The heroin addiction gives Boyle and company opportunities to visually impress, but it’s not really the center of the film. The relationship between the characters is the center, only it’s not a particularly healthy relationship. Trainspotting has a sort of pithiness to its self-awareness. It’s a whirlwind. It doesn’t calm down until after the end credits have started.

All of the acting is excellent. McGregor’s great, but he has nowhere near as much time to shine in his regular performance as he does in the narration. Carlyle’s just too distracting. Even when Carlyle doesn’t have lines, he’s distracting. He’s this incredibly strange, incredibly dangerous presence in the film. Even though Boyle can visualize the heroin high, realizing McGregor’s internal experience on film, it’s almost impossible to understand how Carlyle can exist in the film. There’s fantastical and then there’s otherworldly. To Boyle, Hodge and Carlyle’s credit, they realize the character. They make it work. They make you believe the bull belongs in the china shop.

Nice smaller supporting turns from Peter Mullan, James Cosmo and Eileen Nicholas. Kelly Macdonald has a good part as McGregor’s love interest.

Great photography from Brian Tufano. Great soundtrack.

Trainspotting is an easy film about difficult subjects. It’s painstakingly objective but almost disinterested in the idea it should be judgmental. There’s no time for it. Boyle’s got to keep things moving.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; screenplay by John Hodge, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh; director of photography, Brian Tufano; edited by Masahiro Hirakubo; production designer, Kave Quinn; produced by Andrew MacDonald; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Ewan McGregor (Renton), Ewen Bremner (Spud), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy), Kevin McKidd (Tommy), Robert Carlyle (Begbie), Kelly Macdonald (Diane), Pauline Lynch (Lizzy), Shirley Henderson (Gail), James Cosmo (Mr. Renton), Eileen Nicholas (Mrs. Renton) and Peter Mullan (Swanney).


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Moth (2016, Gergö Elekes and József Gallai)

Most of Moth is “found footage,” only really not because it’s multi-camera found footage and at some point, directors Elekes and Gallai push too hard on the concept and break it. The film tracks the progress of university lecturer Lídia Szabó as she investigates Mothman sightings in Hungary. One of her students, played by director Gallai, tags along. They trade the camera back and forth, though there’s a lot of them talking in two shots in the car. The car has a mounted camera, which eventually helps break the gimmick.

Though, the gimmick is never as impressive as how Elekes and Gallai exploit it and how Elekes edits it (along with Sándor Gál). Gallai’s screenplay is well-plotted. Moth has some rather nicely done sequences–both “first person” camcorder footage and third person dramatic–but between them, only Gallai’s pace and then the editing make the film move well enough. Eventually, the screenplay falls apart and Gallai just becomes a jerk. He and Szabó don’t have any chemistry. The film’s in English, though the stars are Hungarian–and there are way too many American pop culture references to give it a broader appeal. Is it a good commercial decision? I don’t know. I’m not exactly the target audience for found footage horror movies, but the movie certainly would’ve been better if Gallai and Szabó didn’t worry so much about being as Western-friendly as possible.

I mean, that concept–two people from different countries only able to communicate in non-native English while hunting a mothman creature in Hungary–it’s a better story. Because Gallai struggles to give his characters back story, he struggles to give them content. And then he can’t even muster enthusiasm when he’s trying to get through the expository dialogue. It kills run time between thrills, yes, but it doesn’t build anything.

Moth’s real independent and Gallai and Elekes show a lot of creativity with their limitations. The found footage approach does help them get away with some things, but not enough. It’s not the defining thing about Moth, even though it’s technically well-executed.

With better performances, same exact story, same exact filmmaking, Moth would be a lot better. The acting is just too lean, too perfunctory. Both Gallai and Szabó (who has the ludicrous subplot of wanting to be an actress instead of a university lecturer) just seem like they want to get through their lines so they can be off screen again.

Nice photography from Elekes, though not as impressive as he and Gál’s editing.

1/4

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Gergö Elekes and József Gallai; written by Gallai; photography and music by Elekes; edited by Elekes and Sándor Gal; production designer, Zoltán Jakab.

Starring Lídia Szabó (Thora) and József Gallai (Adam).


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