Cows in the field
By Blobcat Filmindustri
Cows in the fieldJan 29, 2021
104. LA Confidential (w/ Blake Howard)
103. Joe Vs. The Volcano (w/ Chad Perman)
Joe is going to die. But he has a chance to be a hero, and live like a king. Only, that means he'll have to jump into a volcano. Is Joe's story all of ours? We sit down with Chad Perman (Founder of Bright Wall / Dark Room) to dig into what makes this zany, existential, transcendent, hilarious, slapstick, profound movie so good. Along the way, we discuss the Kantian sublime, Heidegger's notion of being-toward-death, the meaning of life, and flibbertigibbets!
Before the episode, you'll hear a trailer for Die Hard on a Blank, a wonderful show hosted by former Cows guest Liam Billingham. Check it out, it's great!!
102. 24 Hour Party People (w/ Mattia Acetoso)
"The smaller the audience, the bigger the history." So, at least, said Tony Wilson, co-founder of Factory Records and larger than life character at the center of Michael Winterbottom's 2002 punk pseudo-music-doc, our topic today!
We are joined by Professor of Italian Studies at Boston College to explore the pull of nostalgia, anticipated retrospection, how the film's blend of fact/fiction/and legend reflects the mythmaking of its protagonist, and, of course, the music duh!
What do you think of the movie? What do you think of the show? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! Reach out to us on Twitter @cowspod! And find us on the web at www.cowspod.com
101. Aliens (w/ Brendan Hodges)
James Cameron's terrifying and overwhelming sequel ALIENS is a rollercoaster that Roger Ebert called "absolutely, painfully and unremittingly intense." We sit down with Brendan Hodges to explore the film's power over us, what all that goo and slime means, the film's anti-bureaucratic "strong individualist" conservatism and second wave feminist ideology, its use of space in allegorical and punishingly literal ways... and so much more. GAME OVER MAN! GAME OVER!
100. The Virgin Suicides
99. King Arthur (2004) w/ Jon Gabrus
Have you ever wanted to know the TRUE story that inspired King Arthur? Did you know that Arthur was a freedom fighter battling for the independence of Britannia? Wait until you see what armor Guinevere preferred to wear into battle! And don't forget Tristan and his faithful falcon! Join us and Jon Gabrus (High & Mighty, Action Boyz, 101 Places to Party Before You Die) to unpack this forgotten mid-aughts classic from Antoine Fuqua!
98. Starship Troopers (w/ Liam Billingham)
Liam Billingham (Die Hard on a Blank / OuevreBusters) joins us to discuss Paul Verhoeven's meta-propaganda Brechtian war film Starship Troopers. We discuss the film's odd mixture of big budget VFX with soap opera stars, how it's three movies in one, the nature of meaning in a world devoid of conflict, and art that risks embarrassment. It's a squishy, gooey, fun time, so jump on this one way rocket to Klendathu with us, folks!
97. Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace (w/ Matt Teichman)
The Phantom Menace has weathered the highs and (mostly) lows of fan appraisal. Once derided, then reclaimed, where does it stand in 2023? We issue the definitive assessment: it is good (kind of). Matt Teichman (Elucidations Podcast) brings his colleague Jar Jar Binks along for the ride, as we discuss pod racing, queen wardrobes, lightsaber battles, Jedi Stoicism, ineffectual bureaucracy, and the allure of fascism. Stay with us to the end for a blast of 1999 nostalgia!
96. Roma (w/ Agustín Rayo)
We sit down with my colleague Agustín Rayo (Professor of Philosophy, Dean of SHASS at MIT, and winner of the big number duel) to discuss Alfonso Cuarón's autobiographical film, Roma. We discuss memory, dreams, guilt, class, background, lenses, digital formats, and, of course, Mexico City.
95. Oppenheimer (w/ Bilge Ebiri)
Join us and Bilge Ebiri (New York Magazine / Vulture) to discuss Christopher Nolan's deconstructed biopic about the man who birthed a very big bomb. Deconstructed narratives, quantum mechanics, moral dilemmas, subjective inflection, brilliant and sure-handed intercutting... and we set the record straight on whether Nolan's films are funny and whether his female characters are poorly developed.
94. What Maisie Knew (w/ Daniela Taplin Lundberg)
Joining us to talk about What Maisie Knew (2012) is the film's producer, Daniela Taplin Lundberg (whose feature credits include The Kids Are All Right, Beasts of No Nation, and Honey Boy)! We talk about the challenges making independent feature films, the film's portrayal of divorce and new beginnings, and how it captures the feeling of a memory. After you listen, you should check out Daniela's podcast, Hollywood Gold, a series of interviews with Hollywood producers about the stories we know and love.
93. Tar (w/ Emily St. James)
We sit down with Lydia Tár expert Emily St. James to talk about guilt, repression, cancel culture, subjectivity, moral hazards, the Todd Field Cinematic Universe, and... you guessed it... Oklahoma! How is any of this possible? Tune in to find out!
92. Gremlins (w/ Brandon Polite)
Bright light! Bright light! We sit down with Brandon Polite (Philosophy, Knox College) to discuss Joe Dante's horror comedy masterpiece. Topics include: Chekov's rules of Gremlin lore, Mogwai metaphors, slapstick humor, why you shouldn't show this movie to young children, practical special effects, old and new Hollywood, capitalism, and what we can learn from Gizmo. Guess who had a stuffed Mogwai as a baby??
91. Solaris (2002 version, w/ Phil Iscove)
How did Steven Soderbergh remake an obscure Soviet art-house film based on an even more obscure science fiction novel starring the most bankable A-list movie star? And how did he pull it off?! We sit down with Phil Iscove (Sleepy Hollow / Podcast Like It's...) to unpack the film's poetry and vibes, and explore what it would do to someone to encounter their deepest regrets and desires manifesting in physical form. Come vibe on this very odd and intangible classic of the early aughts!
90. The Box (w/ Matt Strohl)
Our guest Matt Strohl (Philosophy, Montana; author of Why It's OK to Love Bad Movies) thinks Richard Kelly's 2009 film THE BOX is due for a critical reappraisal, and we agree. We talk about altruism, self-deception, faith, freedom, Hell, Sartre, and why this is a freaking Christmas movie! Buckle up for a weird and wild journey into the unknown and unknowable!
89. Manhunter (w/ Carly Severn)
Welcoming back Carly Severn, we take a moment to indulge in Michael Mann's existential police / serial killer drama Manhunter. We talk about the film's distinctive use of unexpected style to convey the inner lives of its characters, the film's (and Mann's overall) focus on the individual rather than societal, dreams, tigers, mental illness, men doing work, men playing god, and the angst of being called to do something impossible.
88. Body Double (w/ Matt Belenky)
Matt Belenky returns to gush over Brian DePalma's love letter to mediocre men and the women they fancy themselves saving. We discuss the deep anxieties about inadequacy at the film's core, and how DePalma creates magic out of a plot that's somehow both threadbare and unnecessarily complex. Even Pauline Kael, one of DePalma's great champions, thought this one was old hat, but not us -- no -- we positively LOVE its shaggy unreality. So jump on this nonstop train to Hitchcocksville -- we'll supply the telescope if you bring the drill!
87. Almost Famous (w/ Paul Keelan)
We hit the road with Paul Keelan (Cinematic Underdogs) and talk bands, touring, growing up, and more in this jam-packed episode on Cameron Crowe's memoir film Almost Famous. Paul shares his experience touring with bands, and we discover that we were once in the same room over a decade ago! We talk about the illusion and fantasy of life on the road, the desire to hold on to fleeting moments, and role of writers in crystalizing our most cherished memories in prose. We are not golden gods, but we are on drugs!!
86. Match Point (w/ Mary Beth Willard)
How should we engage with the work of immoral artists? We explore this question through the lens of Woody Allen's late period masterpiece Match Point. Mary Beth Willard (Philosopher, Weber State, and author of "Why it's OK to Enjoy the Work of Immoral Artists") joins us to discuss the aesthetic costs of not engaging with art, the expressive nature of uncritically loving the work of immoral artists, and we delve into the film's many themes: guilt, luck, meaning, and morality. These are complicated issues, and we are glad you are joining us to explore them!
85. That Thing You Do! (w/ Matt Pais)
We're joined by Matt Pais (author of Talk 90s with Me) to discuss a favorite 90s nostalgia flick, made thirty years ago about a time thirty years prior to when it came out. So it's nostalgia about nostalgia, or what some might call meta-nostalgia! We talk about the desire to hold on to the ephemeral, how the film explores the loss of innocence in the 1960s (and compares that with the kind of Gen-X cynicism that gripped the US in the 90s), connections to another film starring Tom Everett Scott (La La Land), and how being in a band on the rise is all fun and games until the 300th time you play your hit song and realize you're stuck in a loop you may never escape from...
84. The 2023 Blobscars (w/ Emily St. James)
83. Willow (w/ John DeVore)
With the release of the Disney+ show set in the world of Andowyne, we figured it was time to revisit a beloved fantasy classic from the 80s, Ron Howard's delightfully magical WILLOW! Big time Willow-head John DeVore joins us to talk about how the film was his fantasy gateway drug, and how it's about an adoptive family of ordinary folk who must undertake an extraordinary quest. We discuss all the wonderful action scenes as well as why the film passes the Bechdel test, why the Brownies are the best, and why the eborsisk was just a misunderstood two-headed dragon. Oh, and also John hates Tenet wtf?? That definitely comes up a few times.
82. Inside Man (w/ Roxana Hadadi)
Who is the INSIDE MAN? We sit down with Roxana Hadadi (Vulture / New York Magazine) to discuss Spike Lee's twisty bank heist thriller from the early aughts. We consider the film's central theme, which focuses around conflicts of duty and consequence, and takes a very even-handed look at a morally complex world. We also compare the film's insistence to call out racism with its casual dismissal of homophobia and sexual assault, and think about the challenge faced by those of us just trying to get by while up in unjust systems. We touch on topics of current concern: effective altruism and longtermism, and consider how the film illustrates what might be lacking in such perspectives.
81. Interstellar (w/ Jon Gabrus)
We hop into a black hole with Jon Gabrus (High & Mighty, Action Boyz, 101 Places to Party Before You Die) to discuss Christopher Nolan's spacetime warping epic! We consider the film's complex relationship with science, exploration, and family obligations; and we defend Nolan against the charge that he's an emotionless filmmaker. Naturally, we try to figure out which character we each are (can you guess?) and then Justin does his best to explain/understand gravitational time dilation. Don't miss out, this is a good one folks!
80. Minority Report (Reprise)
Join us for a re-release of our Minority Report episode from early 2020! We go running with Tom Cruise and discuss the future as it was projected in 2002, the nature of middle knowledge, themes of blindness/control/justice, and give our top five Spielberg movies.
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79. It's a Wonderful Life (w/ Emily St. James)
Join us and proverbial bringer-of-Christmas-cheer Emily St. James as we dive into Frank Capra's existentialist Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life! We talk about the film's overt and subtle political messaging, which got it labeled Communist propaganda soon after its release, and contrast the zero sum deadlocked conflict of Potter with the generosity and warmth of George and (especially) Mary. We consider various interpretations of what George learns in his journey through the alternate reality of Pottersville and how Capra underscores the communitarian and occasionally Christian values by cramming his frames full of smiling faces. So come find out why this thing we call life really is wonderful!
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78. Fight Club (w/ Brian Martinez)
We talked with Jack's inflamed sense of rejection and it told us to watch Fight Club with friend Brian Martinez, so here we are. We go into anger, violence, masculinity, misogyny, absurdism, meaninglessness, privilege, sexuality, narcissism, latent fascism, men's rights groups, male friendships, and also Reel Big Fish??
77. Dogtooth (w/ Jack Draper)
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76. The Babadook (w/ Libby Hill)
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75. The Exorcist (w/ Carly Severn)
It just so happens that one of us is probably possessed, and is in need of THE EXORCIST! Join us and Carly Severn (KQED San Francisco) to discuss the Friedkin / Pazuzu of it all. Why is this movie so deeply terrifying, even today, FIFTY years after its initial release?? We talk about parents -- being parents, being kids, dealing with parents, and kids, and why all those familial relationships are apt targets of twisted horror. We talk sacrifice, losing control, the many bodily fluids, and wonder whether Pazuzu is more of a David Blaine style demon, or Siegfried and Roy style demon (spoiler: obviously the latter). You don't want to miss out on this classic spooky movie and this spooky discussion of it!
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74. Bram Stoker's Dracula (w/ Bilge Ebiri)
Join us and Bilge Ebiri (New York Magazine / Vulture) to delve into Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 masterpiece. We discuss the early critical reception and why the broader consensus has come around to this sexed-up, theatrical, in-camera-practical-effects-driven, reinvention of the classic vampire story. We discuss the uncanny and the helplessness induced by the film's meandering epistolary style, as well Coppola's genre reinventions and the standoff between materialism and spiritualism. If you haven't seen this movie, CHECK IT OUT! And then come back and join us for a spooky conversation!
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73. Return of the King (w/ Jamelle Bouie)
We are joined by Jamelle Bouie (NYTimes / Unclear and Present Danger Podcast) to discuss the conclusion to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and bring our miniseries to a close. We pick up the discussion about heroism with Frodo's empathy towards Gollum, Sam's faithfulness to Frodo, and Aragorn's radical faith in the hobbits. Then, we discuss at length Charles Mills' recent essay about the racial ideology embedded in Tolkien's writings and consider what we should make of this in light of our love of these books and films.
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72. The Two Towers (w/ Agnes Callard and Robin Hanson)
We sit down with Agnes Callard (Philosophy, Chicago) and Robin Hanson (Economics, GMU) to discuss the second installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers! We talk about the film as a transitional piece that deals with the transformations of its main characters, the addictive and corruptive capacity of power, and wonder about who the hero of the film is and what that tells us about the notion of heroism. We consider Tolkien's religious inspirations as well as (drawing on Charles Mills' recently published essay) the racist shorthand he drew on to characterize good and evil. Will the heroes (and us) survive the night at Helm's Deep? Tune in to find out!
Listen to Agnes and Robin's podcast, Minds Almost Meeting!
Read Charles Mills' essay, "The Wretched of Middle-Earth: An Orkish Manifesto"
71. The Fellowship of the Ring (w/ Bennett Eckert and Rebecca Kuang)
Welcome to the start of our Lord of the Rings miniseries! We kick things off with the first film of Peter Jackson's trilogy, which marks the beginning of Frodo's quest and introduces us to the main players and themes of the books/films. We welcome Bennett Eckert (MIT) and Rebecca Kuang (Yale) to consider what makes Jackson's trilogy such a powerful and successful adaptation, and explore how on (Middle) earth he managed to make these films. We explore the film's central themes while discussing Tolkien's pessimistic view of history and the endless lore he infused into his stories. Find out who would try to use the ring and become corrupted by it, and who would refuse it, in this adventure-filled episode!
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70. Jurassic Park
It's time to visit Jurassic Park (1994)! We discuss the tenuous relationship between science/art and commerce, while thinking about the relationship between order, chaos, and personal responsibility. Does Spielberg see a bit of himself in Hammond, the doomed entrepreneur who wants to bring magic to the masses? It's a movie about procreation and playing god, but also coming to terms with limitations. Justin goes on a rant about why night time shooting doesn't look as good as Jurassic Park did over 25 years ago, and Laura reflects on the sheer size of that triceratops poo.
69. Closer (w/ Carly Severn)
Join us and Carly Severn (KQED San Francisco) to talk about Mike Nichols' 2004, super emo and eminently re-watchable melodrama, Closer. It's a game of sexy Tetris between four hot people, but also a contrapuntal reflection on appearance and reality, and also a movie about two dudes who can't get over the fact that the women they've slept with have slept with other men. We somehow hit on nice guy-isms, the film's use of elision, love, passion, and Damien Rice. Also, did you know that many of the photographs in Anna's studio and apartment are of famous philosophers?! Check it out!
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68. North by Northwest (w/ Adam Kane)
Today we're joined by friend of the show Adam Kane to discuss Hitchcock's bombastic spy thriller North By Northwest! We discuss film's confusing setup, symbolism (and Hitchcock's refusal to read into this film), the demand not to ask silly questions, how old Cary Grant's character is supposed to be, the many MacGuffins, the many love triangles, Mount Rushmore, and Saul Bass himself. This episode is sponsored by Crop Duster Assassins Ltd. -- if you need to take someone out and you want to do it in the least efficient way possible, give them a call!
67. Sully (w/ Chris Kaiser)
Join us to talk about the Miracle on the Hudson with friend Chris Kaiser (Columbia University / the podcast Said and Done)! We delve into Eastwood's hatred of bureaucracy and tease apart his complex feelings towards individualism and collective heroism. Is the film dripping with gay subtext? We explore the semiotics of a mustache and wonder what goes into Sully/Skiles slash-fiction. We also consider the possibility that, through his filmmaking, Eastwood is helping us repair our relationship to our own history. Also, Clint hates computers more than anyone who has ever lived. Welcome aboard!
66. Repo Man (w/ Toby Levers)
The life of a repo man is intense, which is why we invited friend Toby Levers to join us to talk about Alex Cox's punk rock satire Repo Man! We discuss the film's influence and influences, as well as how it manages to mash together genres in a style all of its own, fashioning the spirit of suburban punk on to a social critique of ex-hippy middle class malaise and the inherent contradictions of rebellion. We chew on the obscure wisdom of Miller (played by the magnificent Tracey Walter) before riding away into the night in a glowing green Chevy Malibu.
65. Friday Night Lights (w/ Edward Lewis)
It is with clear eyes and love in our hearts that we dive into this classic football parable from the aughts with friend and returning guest Edward Lewis. We discuss the role of suffering in achievement, the paradox of youth, and the cycles that shackle us to our communities. We think about regret and expectation, and above all share our love for the film, which has since been eclipsed by the TV show of the same name. Come toss the football and punt when you should go for a touchdown, it's Friday Night Lights!
64. Top Gun (w/ Sean Burns)
We stuff into a tiny F14 cockpit with Sean Burns (WBUR’s The ARTery) and fly into the danger zone to discuss why Top Gun is a sports film that forges a new American myth with dazzling imagery and zero subtlety. We consider the view that Tom Cruise is America's son and get into the trenches with Kelly McGillis to unpack their love triangle with Val Kilmer's Iceman. Also discussed: the effects of g-forces on the human body, what our callsigns would be, and why 80s American jingoism is quaint and endearing. Take my breath away why don't you??? Let's go!
63. It Follows (w/ Alison Willmore)
Not to be downers, but, everything alive must die. This is something the kids from David Robert Mitchell's devastating horror film must come to terms with, as they are stalked by a demonic entity that, no matter where they are, is constantly walking towards them. We sit down with Alison Willmore (Vulture / New York Magazine) to discuss how the film works as an allegory for social class, capitalism, personal trauma, sexual politics, and manages to channel both existential dread and the experience of a panic attack all at once. We wonder how to avoid the creature, what its scariest incarnation is, and whether a tale this bleak can have a happy ending after all...
62. National Treasure (w/ Keith Phipps)
We sit down with Nicolas Cage expert Keith Phipps (author of The Age of Cage) to discuss the second highest grossing film of Cage's career (second only to its sequel). We consider the point at which this film lands in the arc of Cage's career, and how he draws on his well of acting experience to craft a character that blends elements of conspiratorial mania and fifth grade boy scout energy, selling the four-quadrant appeal of a movie about treasure hunting and historical preservation to both children and adults alike. We wonder what makes the film's portrayal of patriotism appealing and then explore what could have been for Cage, concluding with some recommended overlooked Cage films to explore!
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61. The Da Vinci Code (w/ Andrea Rosen)
Have you ever wondered whether a famous painting contained a clue to a mystery that, once revealed, would upend the world as we know it? Well, you're in luck because in this episode we dive into The Da Vinci Code with museum expert and curator Andrea Rosen! We explore the tough questions of whether to reveal the lie at the center of Catholicism or just go on living your life because no one would care, and then discuss the film's art historical bonafides, whether Robert Langdon is a good professor, and whether this film, which has been mostly forgotten, deserves a dusting off and revisit!
60. Collateral (w/ Katie Walsh)
Join us and Katie Walsh (LA Times, Miami Nice) for one night in L.A. as we journey through deserted streets with a meek cabbie dreamer (Jamie Foxx) and his assassin fare (Tom Cruise). We discuss cities and alienation, indecision and action, order and chaos, psychopaths and empaths, coyotes and subways. We gush about Cruise and Foxx playing against type, and wonder about how taxi drivers manage to keep all those streets straight. You might be surprised to find out where this Michael Mann film stacks up in his filmography for Katie, someone who hosts a podcast about another Michael Mann film (Miami Vice), but you won't be surprised to learn that Laura loves the leanness of this ode to the city at night.
59. The First Annual Blobscars
Join us for a spoiler-free celebration of the very best films of 2021! We discuss our nominees and winners in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (non-gendered, pick 2), Best Supporting Actor (same thing), Best Score, Best Scene, and Most Overrated. Each film can win in only one category, so the stakes have never been higher! Tune in for the suspense, stay for the coveted, career-defining, awards.
58. Basic Instinct (w/ Matt Belenky)
Join us and Matt Belenky (Movie Talk Podcast) to dive headfirst into Paul Verhoven’s classic 90s erotic thriller! We try to figure out what happened and why, and then explore how the film dissolves boundaries between Sharon Stone / Catherine Trammell and Nick Curran / audience member. We consider the possibility that the film is simultaneously exploitative and empowering, and lavish in its many unnecessary Americana details. Finally, we get to the bottom of why this was the peak time for ice picks.
57. Twilight (w/ Matt Strohl)
What does it mean to say that a movie is so bad it's good? Is Twilight (2008) such a movie? We sit down with Matt Strohl (Philosophy, University of Montana), author of the new book "Why It's OK To Love Bad Movies", to talk about what it means to love and appreciate the beauty of bad films, and why bad movie love is an important and often overlooked mode of engaging with films. Along the way, we discuss the social aspirations of taste, what makes "Twilight" a potentially conventionally bad film and why those 'flaws' also contribute to its artistic achievement. Matt catalogs the various wide-ranging literary references embedded in the films and argues, contra the standard view that they push a conservative viewpoint about sex and marriage, that they are actually incredibly horny. We hope you'll join us to give this much maligned film a second chance!
56. The Usual Suspects (w/ Erich Hatala Matthes)
Bryan Singer's Accusers Speak Out (The Atlantic)
The sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey span decades. Here’s what we know. (Vox)
55. Spider-man 2 (w/ Sam Adams)
Come swing through the streets of Manhattan with us and Sam Adams (Slate) as we discuss Sam Raimi's melancholic and reflective Spider-Man 2! We talk about the film's major themes of grief and the burden of heroism, as well as Sam Raimi's view of humanity as fundamentally decent. We consider the film in light of the tragedy of 9/11 and how it highlights the heroic in all of us. We also marvel at how a big budget superhero film manages to have a climactic finale that consists mostly of two guys reflecting on how they have to give up their dreams in the pursuit of a greater good. Look out for guest appearances by the guy from the Tenet trailer and Chad Kroeger of Nickelback!