Author Archives: michaeljglass

345 – Death on the Nile (2022)

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The latest in a long line of star-studded adaptations of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, Death on the Nile sinks without trace under the weight of Kenneth Branagh’s all-consuming ego. Failing to understand that one of the pleasures of such films is the attention given to the impressive cast, he instead gives his focus entirely to his own performance as Poirot, engaging in mythmaking and heroics at the expense of everybody else. In its limited capacity, the focus on Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express worked for Mike – here, there’s no defending it.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

344 – Uncharted

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Having gone through fourteen years of development hell, the first of Sony’s planned videogame adaptations arrives – Uncharted, starring Tom Holland, turns the famously cinematic action-adventure treasure-hunting puzzle-solving games into surprisingly enjoyable action-adventure treasure-hunting puzzle-solving cinema.

Well, “famously” is relative – Uncharted is an enormously successful blockbuster series with which Mike is familiar, but José didn’t even know there was a series on which the film was based. With the benefit of his experience, Mike discusses how the film adapts five games’ worth of material and the expectations he had, and we consider the characters’ relationships and personal stakes, conceptualisation of the action, the similarities and differences to Indiana Jones, and Antonio Banderas’ villain.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

343 – The Apartment

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As Birmingham’s Electric reopens following a protracted period of uncertainty as to whether it was gone for good, it turns to a programme of classics to invigorate its audience. We catch The Apartment there, Billy Wilder’s dark romantic comedy, which Mike has never seen and José not for years, to discuss corporate alienation, whether the suicide story structure works, the cynicism in Wilder’s work and his personal history that it can be seen as a product of, the appeal of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, and the takers, those who get took, and the mensches.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

342 – Belfast

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Kenneth Branagh writes and directs a drama based on his own childhood in Belfast, at the time the Troubles began. We discuss the portrayal of a happy family, the lack of effect almost every visual decision has, problems with the storytelling, and the nostalgia that runs throughout the film. It’s not a skilful film, but it is a likeable one.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

341 – Nightmare Alley (1947)

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Listen to our discussion of 2021’s Nightmare Alley here.

We explore 1947’s Nightmare Alley, directed by Edmund Goulding, and compare it to Guillermo del Toro’s new adaptation of the material, which we find superior in almost every way. Mike in particular finds, in the reflection of Goulding’s version, useful ways to appreciate del Toro’s, which at first blush he found uninspiring. We discuss the portrayal and use of the geek, the differences in the introduction of the protagonist (played by Tyrone Power and Bradley Cooper in the old and new films respectively), del Toro’s greater focus on mood and scene setting, and how thoroughly Goulding’s film adheres to the noir genre. And we express our joy at seeing del Toro’s version at the grand reopening of the Electric, the UK’s oldest working cinema, which we completely forgot to do in the last podcast.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

340 – Nightmare Alley (2021)

Listen on the players above, Apple Podcasts, Audible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Listen to our discussion of 1947’s Nightmare Alley here.

We talk swoony visuals, alcoholism, a femme fatale pastiche, moral descent, Bradley Cooper’s sexual presence and more in our discussion of Nightmare Alley, Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel of the same name.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

339 – Parallel Mothers

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José gives Mike a history lesson on the Spanish Civil War, the scars it left on Spanish culture and society, and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s own relationship to it and the dictatorship to which it led, under which he grew up and which fell in the few years prior to his ascent to prominence. His new film, Parallel Mothers, inspires this review of the past, embroiled as it is in confronting Spain’s modern history and, José argues, adapting elements of it to the melodrama of motherhood that forms its primary plot – a plot which is used to explore questions of lies, psychic violence, and instrumentality that are part of the film’s critique of Spain’s Pact of Forgetting, its political and cultural agreement to avoid confronting the legacy of the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, which the itch to scratch historical memory is seen to disturb.

It’s a film with serious flaws, and a disappointment given Almodóvar’s estimable body of work, especially the masterpiece that was his most recent film, Pain and Glory, but a film that creates this kind of discourse is to be valued. It’s pat, one-dimensional, and with a leadenness of tone that isn’t typical of Almodóvar, whose sense of humour is usually so reliable – but still worth seeing.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

338 – Titane

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We talk feminism, body horror, monsters, trans tropes, masculinity and more in our discussion of writer-director Julia Ducournau’s shocking, transgressive, and surprising Titane.

Polina Zelmanova’s video essay, “Horrible Bodies: The (New) Body Politics of Horror”, to which we refer in the podcast, is included below, and her accompanying essay can be read at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

337 – Licorice Pizza

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We’re remotely joined by filmmaker, previous guest, and, crucially, Mike’s brother, Stephen Glass, for a discussion of Paul Thomas Anderson’s period romance, Licorice Pizza. Stephen last helped us explore Anderson’s previous film, Phantom Thread, and again brings his knowledge of and passion for the director’s work to our discussion.

We consider the efficiency with which Anderson creates rich portraits of characters and their lives from few details; how the blossoming love between the protagonists, a boy of 15 and woman of 25, avoids feeling exploitative or uneasy as the age difference suggests it might; how the film is able to feel loose and free despite conforming to its genre; the likability, or otherwise, of the setting and era; Anderson’s focus on faces and use of reflective surfaces; and whether one particular running joke that begins as hilariously, stunningly outrageous, overplays its hand and ends up in the realm of the unacceptable.

Licorice Pizza is a sweet romance draped in a loving portrait of a particular place and time, and laced with good jokes. Still, your mileage may vary, as Mike’s devoted, grumpy intransigence in the face of José’s and Stephen’s enthusiasm demonstrates, but even he has to admit it’s a very good film.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

336 – The Lost Daughter

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Maggie Gyllenhaal’s debut feature as a director, The Lost Daughter, paints a powerful portrait of Leda, a middle-aged woman for whom motherhood never came naturally, and whose exposure to a young family on holiday ferociously reminds her of her experience of raising two daughters. It’s a film that bravely and forcefully repudiates the notion that motherhood should be natural to women, the key expectation of them, and joyful.

We discuss Olivia Colman’s performance and the appealing ordinariness she’s conveyed on television and in film for two decades, and Gyllenhaal’s direction of a script she wrote, which arguably omits too much context for some of what we see, but which is at its core devoted to telling its story visually, taking opportunities to spend time exploring Leda’s state of mind – although it could work through some of Leda’s behaviour more convincingly. Nonetheless, The Lost Daughter is a striking, expressive film that tells a story we don’t often hear, about a kind of person we don’t often see.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.