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About JamesBrubaker

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  1. JamesBrubaker

    Episode 146 - Punch-Drunk Love (w/ Emily Yoshida)

    Long time listener, maybe first time poster? I might have posted years ago. But PDL is one of my all time favorites, so I had to come post. Sorry if this seems a bit rushed--I'm on my lunch break and know if I don't finish now, I'll probably forget to come back. So, many folks have touched on the film's emotional beats and how effective they are, and that's a huge part of this film's success for me. But over the year's the film has come to read as an incisive bit of film criticism. The absurdity of Barry's man-child behavior, the underdevelopment of Lena, the ease with which Lena falls in love with Barry--these feel like a critique of both the romantic comedy genre and of Sandler's comedic persona. In a way, these parts of the film, to me, feel like an examination of what would happen if a "real world" version of Sandler's early comedic characters (who are basically heightened representations of toxic and immature male behavior) fell in love. All of the beats of a traditional rom-com are present, but they function, in part, as a critique of the genre. Lena falling for Barry? Of course it's absurd. He's violent and emotionally unstable, a visceral heightened portrayal of the kinds of broken men who rom-coms typically have "saved" by leading ladies. But here, we're supposed to be aware of that absurdity, and Anderson seems to do that very intentionally. At the same time, the film also works as a love letter to Hollywood's romantic tendencies. The way we linger on the shot of Barry and Lena's kiss in Hawaii, the odd uses of light and color, the clear, blunt language about love ("I have a love in my life"), all point to a more sincere celebration of portrayal's of idealized romantic love, ideals which can be harmful for actual real people, but can also be very powerful and transformative. It's the film's ability to both critique and celebrate the genre, to exist as a nuanced, complex examination of the genre that makes this film resonate so deeply with me. It makes me feel, and it makes me examine the things that are making me feel. One of my faves.
  2. JamesBrubaker


    Here's why I voted yes: The Wrath of Khan is the pinnacle of Original Trek storytelling (and the best Trek story ever told, period). It's a thematically rich film that explores issues of growing old, family, and responsibility. It holds the beloved TOS characters accountable for the sins of their past, and it does so in a way that explores the depths of their interpersonal relationships. In a way TWoK is kind of like sci-fi's answer to The Big Chill--it's a movie about baby boomers entering a phase of adulthood that's not necessarily comfortable or natural to them, and they have to sort through it and deal with past mistakes while grappling with not being as young, beautiful, and seemingly impervious as they were in the past. It's maybe the first time in Trek that a crew was depicted as being utterly vulnerable, and the resonance of that vulnerability reshaped future Trek and led to some of its finest moments from subsequent series. So yeah, this is a movie about getting older and looking back, and it works as both an exploration of Star Trek's legacy up until 1982 (that deconstructionist approach as discussed in the podcast) but also as a thoughtful read on how we negotiate past failures and mistakes and try to continue to try to be our best selves as we inch ever closer to death. I'd go a step beyond that even, though, and say that TWoK isn't just the best Trek story ever told, it's easily a top 10 (maybe even top 5) sci-fi film of all time.