2nd Quarter 2023
Episode 952, 953, 954, 955, 956, 957, 958, 959

Note: The first episode shown during the Second Quarter 2023 was a rerun of #950 on March 20, 2023.

Episode #952: Existing Content
First Broadcast: 3/27/23
Repeated: 5/8/23
Everything, Everywhere, All At Once won 7 Oscars at the 95th Academy Awards--all well deserved! It wasn't nominated for Best Visual Effects, but the films that were made me wonder: Since so many films that are considered "animated" films use CGI animation, and since so many "live action" films use significant amounts of CGI that can dominate the movie, this confluence of events brings up the legitimate question, "What defines animation?" For example, a movie like Top Gun: Maverick or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness can have scenes that have multiple layers of effects generated by the same kinds of computers that generate imagery for a movie like Turning Red or Toy Story 4, but the former movies would never be considered as "animated" as the latter. Is it only the presence of humans that makes the difference? What about something like The Mandalorian, which can have a scene where Mark Hamill isn't in front of the camera, and he doesn't speak one line of dialogue, and yet his image and his voice are both being generated by computer to simulate his presence in the program enough to get him an on-screen credit. What would we call that, besides a cautionary tale about the potential for deepfake technology? Regardless, perhaps the critical and financial success of E.E.A.A.O. means that more studios in the future might be more willing to take chances on producing original films that aren't sequels or parts of existing franchises. Or, at least I can dream that they might.

Episode #953: Inside Baseball
First Broadcast: 4/3/23
Repeated: 5/22/23
The latest feature-length movies in the Marvel and DC superhero universes have been released: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania for the former and Shazam! Fury of the Gods for the latter. Both have similar ratings on IMDB (6.4/10 for Ant-Man and 6.6/10 for Shazam), and both were #1 at the box office for their opening weekends. Ant-Man to date has made over $471 million worldwide--way out in front of Shazam's $119 million worldwide gross--and yet even that giant haul doesn't yet put it within the Top 200 all-time worldwide box office hits, a list on which even former champions like Star Wars and E.T. now find themselves only halfway up the scale, outranked by films such as Fast & Furious 6 and Jumanji: The Next Level. So, despite their relative financial success, one might look at their ratings & reviews and--if they feel like it--take a personal viewing of the films as well; and if they come away from both movies as relatively "meh" as I did, one might ask the question, "Have we reached superhero movie saturation?" As it turns out, people have been asking this question for over a decade now, so I certainly wasn't the first one to think of it. But, have we reached that point nonetheless? Are Marvel & DC's upcoming release schedules the epitome of how completely risk-averse Hollywood has become in the 21st Century? Do we want to continue down a road where almost every movie in a theater is either a sequel, a Disney film, or part of an already existing franchise? Maybe the successes of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once and Cocaine Bear can help push movies into a more diverse direction in the near future, at least? This and $2.75 will get me a ride on the subway, I'm certain!

Episode #954: Address That
First Broadcast: 4/17/23
Repeated: 6/5/23
Is Call Me Kat failing where Miranda succeeded? Is the reboot of Night Court only a pale imitation of the original program with Harry Anderson? Do both of these make me pine for the much, much funnier three-camera sitcoms of the not-so-distant past? These questions and many more are up for debate this week, despite our lack of a live studio audience!

Episode #955: Unbridled
First Broadcast: 4/24/23
Repeated: 6/19/23
This week: Renfield! We discuss this latest Nic Cage film by talking about the parts we liked, the parts we disliked, and the parts we might have done differently if someone had put us in charge of this belated Dracula sequel. Regardless how you might feel about it, you still get Nic Cage acting like a vampire, so it can't be all bad, right?

Episode #956: Name On A Bag
First Broadcast: 5/1/23
Repeated: 7/10/23
Twitter finally eliminated all the legacy "verified" blue checkmarks from its user accounts--and then promptly reinstated them for a select few users who have high follower counts, which seemed to defeat the whole purpose of encouraging users to pay for "verified" blue checks in the first place. This mess prompted several celebrities to publicly announce that they did not and will not pay for those blue checks, regardless of whether or not Elon Musk gives them away for free. The end result: a blue check on Twitter is now mostly a symbol of being a sucker who pays $8 a month to one of the richest people on Earth for no good reason; and various people on Twitter have encouraged everyone to block all users who have a blue check in their profiles, a group variously described as "dead-eyed cretins who are usually trying to sell you something stupid and expensive," "chumps," "they're a white nationalist with 30 followers or they're hawking crypto or something," and "without fail the dumbest and most boring twitter users," who seem to be completely incapable of understanding what the intended purpose of a blue check was in the first place. Will all of this eventually cause Twitter to crater, just like a certain SpaceX launch pad that was destroyed because the company's CEO allegedly decided against building flame diverters for the rocket exhaust in order to make the launch happen on "4/20"? Only time will tell--which may be however long it takes for me to get a Blue Sky invite.

Episode #957: Long Dead Author
First Broadcast: 5/15/23
Repeated: 8/7/23
Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3? We think it's worth checking out. As usual, the soundtrack is pretty cool too, and we wonder if the use of a Zune in this movie holds as much nostalgia as the use of cassette tapes did in the first two. Did you know cassette tape sales have gone up 443% in recent years? What do you suppose it is that makes people nostalgic for old (and particularly analog) media? What makes a mixtape more special than a playlist, for example? And, while we're here: Support your local WGA strikers! They need all the help they can get!

Episode #958: Hot Take
First Broadcast: 5/29/23
Memorial Day was first established in 1868 as a day to recognize the Union soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War. Since then, it has become a day on which people recognize all members of the military who have died while serving in the various armed forces of the U.S., and perhaps having only one day to acknowledge that ever-growing group of honorees does more to obscure how many wars the U.S. has been in and how many different groups have been labeled as "enemies" since this day's inception. Would we, as a nation, be more mindful of fighting in more wars if we dedicated a new day to the dead of each war we fought? Do the right-wing extremists who advocate for a "national divorce" remember that the Civil War already settled the issue of whether states can secede from the Union? Even if such a thing were possible, how unfair would that be to the people in "red" states who disagree with all the horrible anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-black, anti-learning, anti-everything else laws passed by right-wing state governments recently? Is it better for people to move to states where they have a greater chance of being accepted and a lesser chance of being killed? Or is it better for them to stay and vote better people into office, like millennials and Generation Z seem hell-bent on doing? I can only hope younger voters have the resolve and the numbers to save us from ourselves, because the alternative is too grim to contemplate.

Episode #959: Apple Juice Flavored Rocks
First Broadcast: 6/12/23
The movie Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a spectacular work of animation, and possibly one of the most expressionistic American movies ever released in mainstream theaters. Almost every part of it is worthy of praise, with one possible exception: the ending, which was clearly in the middle of the story, to be continued in Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse in 2024. At least one reviewer and one of the film's co-directors have each compared this structure to that of The Empire Strikes Back, the second "Star Wars" film made in between Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, which seems to reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of both how Empire was produced and how it functions as a story, in that Empire was a complete story with an unhappy ending made without the certainty of a sequel to follow, not half a story that stopped with several parts left deliberately unresolved while a sequel was being made either simultaneously or shortly afterwards. This isn't quite a new trend--we've already seen this with movies within the Harry Potter and Dune universes, for example--but maybe serial stories should be left for TV, a medium where serialized storytelling has had a home for several decades. Movies, I think, are better told when they have definitive endings, and not endings that merely feel like placeholders for where the rest of the story should be. Aside from that, we also discuss the higher rate of homicides in the southern U.S.; and how fact-checkers seem to be a little less busy under the Biden administration than they were under Trump. Gee! I wonder why? [Insert eye-roll emoji here.]

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