Wes & Erin continue their discussion of “Apocalypse Now.” Wes apologizes for asking Erin to watch something so disturbing, and we further discuss dueling conceptions of the arts, one Platonic and the other Aristotelian. We agree that “Apocalypse Now,” despite being challenging, is an aesthetic masterpiece. What about the narrative? Wes argues that it is very close to not having enough of an arc. What it does most successfully is to convey a kind of surreal, psychedelic mood, one that is meant to capture the insanity of the Vietnam War (and perhaps war in general), and so constitutes its critique. We end by reminiscing about watching “Notting Hill” together. But we fail to talk about an obvious hypothetical ….
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of “The Heart of Darkness”; pairing it with “Apocalypse Now” (up next). Erin wasn’t enthusiastic about doing the book, but got hooked. We muse about the Roman invasion of Britain, “Life of Brian,” and why it feels great (for Erin) to be an Italian. Erin is working on a list of classic movies for the daughter of a listener, and is elated to be moving to the gorgeous Eden that is Salt Lake City (via a road trip with her mom).
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of Thelma & Louise. It’s not at the very top of Erin’s list of favorite movies, but it’s among her top 200. She tends to become attached to certain stars and watch everything they’ve made, and Susan Sarandon is among her top three favorite living actresses. Speaking of Utah (where most of Thelma & Louise was filmed), Erin is moving there to get a PhD in English/Creative Writing at The University of Utah! Wes, on the other hand, has decided to stay home and watch such movies as Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (not good). Also not good is Barefoot in the Park, which both Wes and Erin coincidentally watched recently. The humor is dated, Jane Fonda’s character is insane, and it’s not clear what the play is about. On the other hand, Erin can recommend Cactus Flower with Walter Matthau, Goldie Hawn, and Ingrid Bergman. And catch Erin discussing Cool Hand Luke on the podcast Not Your Father’s Movies.
Wes & Erin say hello to Easter and goodbye to the Amazing Mr. Chekhov. Wes talks about his upcoming The Stoic Guide To Happiness course on the educational app Himalaya (promo cod STOIC to listen for free). He talks about how there’s some crossover between ancient Greek Stoicism and psychoanalysis (and not just, as has long been acknowledged, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Stoicism asks us to pry apart two different forms of suffering: on the one hand, everyday and ordinary suffering that we cannot avoid in our lives; on the other, suffering that is avoidable and the product of our vanity: this involves some sense of being wronged (or “narcissistically injured”) by other people, society as a whole, or even fate. Both psychoanalysis and Stoicism help to get us beyond such attitudes by teaching us to mourn our losses as losses (and something we can’t control), instead of holding onto them as a kind of personal insult. This state of mind becomes our liberating locus of control, if we can cultivate it.
Wes & Erin decide to do another week of Chekhov short stories, and then “Thelma and Louise.” So next time, we’ll be discussing Chekhov’s “The Student” and “A Medical Case.” We discuss “Bull Durham” and why the movie works. Tim Robbins is Wes’s doppelgänger. Susan Sarandon is ageless, and her role in the movie as spiritual and sexual mentor to baseball players is really something. Erin loves minor league baseball; Wes has never been. What makes baseball great? Sarandon’s character Annie says it all: “there’s a spacious non-time kind of time to it.” Relatedly, Wes lives in a spacious multi-family existence.
Wes & Erin discuss Wes’s Chekhophilia and Erin’s slavophilia. Wes once outlined a screenplay for “The Brothers Karamazov,” the 1959 movie based on the book with William Shatner as Alyosha. But he much prefers Chekhov to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and cannot forgive Tolstoy for his dislike of Shakespeare. Erin likes Tolstoy because he’s weird and Chekhov because he’s attractive and medical. Erin lists writers who were also doctors, and we try to say why they make such good writers. Chekhov ruminates a lot in his work about the tension between being an artist and being more practically engaged with the world. We talk about the incredible painter Ilya Repin, among the many artists and intellectuals who were Chekhov’s friends.
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of “The Godfather,” and the novelty of thinking about such movies analytically. Wes approaches the podcasts more like a Michael, and Erin like a Sonny. According to Erin, Italian Americans are so ambivalent about this movie because–despite the unfortunate associations it creates with organized crime–in many ways it’s so accurate when it comes to the culture. Wes is obsessed with movies from the late 60s and 70s, but isn’t as consistently enthusiastic about other eras. He did watch “Bridge Jones’ Diary” recently, and forgot how much is based on “Pride and Prejudice.” Erin likes seeing Darcy in a Christmas jumper, and Wes envies the way he can be so charmingly sullen. Erin’s students have fascinating ideas about “Pride and Prejudice,” and are fascinated by the fact that Erin has a podcast. We talk about how well the podcast is doing, and perhaps Erin assigning it to students will lift it even more. Remember: this podcast is business, not personal.
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of Annie Hall; Wes pines to revisit his many unwritten essays, including the one about love and nostalgia in Woody Allen films. We discuss whether Mike Nichols used crack, and the way Google’s algorithms mercilessly hunt Wes down to forcibly dose him with information about the director, all because of a few searches. Wes couldn’t get through Clue, but that may be due to the variability of his many movie moods, and in any case Erin’s Madeline Kahn impression captures a redeeming attitude. We discuss My Favorite Wife (my favorite life?). >> More
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of Macbeth, etc.
Wes and Erin continue their discussion of W. H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939.” Wes did some research on Linz, Luther, and Pericles’ funeral oration, as recounted/invented by Thucydides. Wes envies Joseph Brodsky, but Erin notes that envy can spur us into being creative and productive. (Thinking back to Billy Budd, perhaps there are two forms of envy, one better than the other). We talk of Dickens, Die Hard, and Wes’s Daily News. Die Hard is in fact a real Christmas movie. Wes doesn’t like the Lord of the Rings movies, but was into the books as a kid. For Erin: Strike That, Reverse It. Tolkien eschews women but loves escarpments, and gives a lot of boring descriptions of the natural environment, but never once has a pair of hobbits take a roll in the hay. We talk about giving up on books: for Wes, Harry Potter and Infinite Jest. But Erin was a Harry Potter fan as a kid. A.s. Byatt wrote a scathing review of adult Potterism, which Wes clings to. In conclusion, Peanuts will always win in any final showdown with a superhero movie.
Wes and Erin continue their discussion of W.H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” hard-to-pronounce last names, and much more.
Wes and Erin continue their discussion of “The Awful Truth”; how hard it is to do anything — much less record a podcast — on a Tuesday afternoon; His Girl Friday, Bringing up Baby, and the comfort of watching old movies; the surprising way women are represented in old film; how a character can be robbed of their vitality and agency when made the representative of a class or political goal; Wes’s hypochondriacal worries about early onset dementia; and Erin’s poem about the movie, a “sestina on steroids.”
We continue our discussion of Hedda Gabler. Wes reads more from contemporaneous reviews (“Hedda Gabler is manifestly a lunatic of the epileptic class”) and Erin from Elizabeth Hardwick’s essay on the play (Lovborg’s being shamed by Thea’s concern for his sobriety is an excuse in a way, a “violation of his rights to ruin”). We talk about the “The Thin Man” — the winning dynamic between William Powell and Myrna Loy, the film’s deviation from a typical romantic comedy, and the alien familiarity of old movies. We continue with a discussion of the best four film stretch by a director in history; our upcoming episode on “The Awful Truth”; Erin’s enthusiasm for Screwball comedies; the approaching one year anniversary of our first recording; Erin’s money pit in her house of gold; how the podcast got started, and the night we first met (at a viewing party for “North by Northwest”); Wes’s finding a pile of books on the sidewalk, including Alexander Von Humboldt’s “Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent”; and finally, Samuel Pepys’s propensity for rogering.
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of Billy Budd; movies they watched on Halloween, including the highly related titles “Libeled Lady” and “The Exorcist”; Erin’s fear of horror movies; Wes’s recent book review concerning meritocracy and his fortuitous use of a jump scare; Erin’s poetry writing; our new episode release schedule, necessary for the preservation of our sanity and to savor the readings; and Jewish leading men in Hollywood.
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of “The Great Gatsby”; the ongoing development of our approach to the discussions; Arnold Rothstein and the fixing of the 1919 World Series; Fitzgerald’s neighbors on Long Island, including Ring Lardner and Ed Wynn; the contemporary feel of the novel; the NYC movie-making scene in the early 20th century; Marilynne Robinson; and possibilities for the next episode, where because of a weird time warp we talk as if “A Woman Under the Influence” will follow “The Great Gatsby” when it has always already preceded it.
We’re back! Finally. Wes reveals that he doesn’t know the title of the film. We discuss why we avoided saying explicitly just what sort of “influence” Mabel is under. We talk about Charlie Kaufman movies and the possibility of doing an episode on “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” the origins of the word “kismet,” and the fact that Erin can inadvertently kill famous people just by thinking about them. Erin talks about her love of killer whales and we wrongly tease “Billy Budd” as our next episode. It’s actually “The Great Gatsby.” Then “Billy Budd.”
Is the podcast too long? Do we do too much synopsis? Erin reads more of Roger Ebert’s funny review of the film, and we try to figure out whether Benjamin an insufferable creep. We express some sympathy for Mrs. Robinson, and discuss whether she’s the only person in the movie you’d want to have a conversation (or drink) with. We thank new patrons, and Erin talks about Clouzot and back-to-school preparations. Wes is going to be busy this fall but will soon be moving to The Canary Islands. Next up, “The Great Gatsby.”
Wes & Erin discuss how the episode went; why we recorded one episode per stanza about a a 22 line poem; how popular we are in New Zealand; our cover art, and Wes’s nefarious plan to manipulate people into caring about literature via vintage advertising; our love of “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad”; and whether we should do an episode on Charles Bukowski.
With (post)script, get to know your quirky hosts, their existential doubts, and all the behind-the-scenes drama that’s concealed by their staid demeanors, not to mention an ample Patreon paywall. Wes talks about his experiences with alien abduction, and Erin cautions against the use of mayonnaise. Erin then recounts her former life as deep sea fisherman, and Wes reminisces about his Fleetwood Mac cover band. All this and more, except probably in fact none of this. We do, we promise, chat about something.
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Shows consist of an extra 15 minutes of discussion following the regular episode. Sometimes we’ll continue talking about the topic for that week. Sometimes we’ll discuss what else we’ve been reading, writing, and thinking about. When the time comes, we’ll be responding to listener emails. And sometimes we’ll talk a little bit about ourselves. Subscribing will also get you other bonus content, including full episodes and the chance to chance to engage with the hosts.