Episode 121: Jane Campion’s In the Cut (2003)

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In this episode, I talk about Jane Campion’s 2003 film, “In the Cut.” Meg Ryan plays, Frannie, an English teacher who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after parts of a woman’s body are found in her garden. She may have even seen the murder victim shortly before the crime. After the lead detective on the case interviews her, the two of them become involved in a dark, torturous relationship. “In the Cut” is a deeply erotic and feminist film that centers female sexuality and female pleasure. It also explores the dark side of desire and the complicated relationships between men and women. There are spoilers in this episode. I also talk explicitly and openly about sex.

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Episode 120: Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire (1988)

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In this episode, I talk about Wim Wenders’s 1988 film, “Wings of Desire.” It’s about an angel who falls in love with a trapeze artist and is willing to give up eternity and become human in order to be with her. I think this is such a powerful and poetic film about love, connection, and what it means to be human. It’s a life-affirming film that always reminds me of the beauty of being alive. There are spoilers in this episode.

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Episode 119: Joachim Trier’s Oslo August 31st (2011)

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In this episode, I talk about Joachim Trier’s 2011 film “Oslo August 31st.” It follows Anders, a young man just out of rehab for heroin addiction, as he walks around the city of Oslo, meeting old friends and trying to decide if life is worth living. I think this is a powerful and unforgettable film that reminds us of the beauty of being alive. It’s one of my favorite films from the 2010s, and I urge you to watch it if you haven’t seen it yet. There are major spoilers in this episode. I also talk about suicide and mental illness.

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Episode 118: RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)

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In this episode, I talk about RaMell Ross’s 2018 documentary, “Hale County This Morning, This Evening.” In 2009, RaMell Ross moved to Hale County in Alabama to teach photography and coach basketball. While living there, he started to film the people around him. He recorded over 1300 hours of footage. From that material, he culled and mined images that are startling, poetic, and beautiful–images that bear witness to the complexities and struggles of black life in the rural South. Through the documentary, we are introduced to two men: Quincy Bryant and Daniel Collins. As the film unfolds, we come to know their dreams, their hardships, and the world they live in–a world of basketball, catfish plants, friends, sunsets, storm clouds, rain, and all the details that make up their ordinary lives. This is a contemplative, lyrical, and unforgettable documentary. There are spoilers in this episode. 

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Episode 117: Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991)

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In this episode, I’m talking about Julie Dash’s 1991 film Daughters of the Dust. This is a dreamlike film that focuses on the Peazant family who live on the sea islands off the coast of the Carolinas. They gather together for one last time on the eve of their departure from the island. It’s a stunning cinematic achievement that looks at the bonds of family, the ghosts of history, and the rich lives of African American women. Dash has the distinction of being the first black woman to direct a feature film that was distributed in movie theaters. I talk all about this gorgeous film, including the grueling process of getting it made and I use an interview between Dash and feminist scholar, bell hooks, as a roadmap through the different themes and subjects that the film explores. There are spoilers in this episode.

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Episode 116: George Sluizer’s The Vanishing (1988)

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In this episode, I talk about George Sluizer’s 1988 film “The Vanishing.” It’s about Rex and Saskia, a Dutch couple who go on vacation in France and have their lives turned upside down when Saskia is abducted. To give away more would be to spoil this masterpiece of suspense. There are spoilers in this episode. 

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Episode 115: Lynne Littman’s Testament (1983)

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In this episode, I talk about Lynne Littman’s 1983 film, “Testament.” It’s about how a mother and her children in a California town survive the aftermath of a nuclear bombing. We don’t know who dropped the bombs, what has happened in the rest of the country, and we’re not provided any political details. The film is solely about this family and how they confront the gradual and horrifying deterioration of their bodies due to radiation poisoning and the breakdown of society. Without a doubt, this is the most terrifying film I have ever seen. I talk about grief and loss, what makes the film so emotionally powerful, and the difference between watching it before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are spoilers in this episode.

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Episode 114: Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

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In this episode, I talk about Olivier Assayas’s 2014 film “Clouds of Sils Maria.” It’s a complex film starring Juliette Binoche as Maria Enders, an actress who shot to stardom in her youth when she acted in a play about an older woman who is seduced by a younger woman. 20 years ago, she played the younger woman but now, in a revival of the play, she is set to play the older woman. This role brings up her fears about aging. Kristen Stewart stars alongside Binoche as an assistant to Maria Enders. To me, the heart of the film is the complicated relationship between these two women and the different ways they see life and the world. I also think this is a fascinating film about the process that an actress goes through to get into character. I talk about all that and much more. There are spoilers in this episode.

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Episode 113: John Cassavetes’s Opening Night (1977)

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In this episode, I talk about John Cassavetes’s 1977 film, “Opening Night.” It’s about an actress named Myrtle Gordon (played by the magnificent Gena Rowlands) who witnesses the death of one of her fans and begins to spiral into a breakdown as she struggles to do a play that forces her to confront her feelings about aging. I talk all about why I love this film and Gena’s performance but I also talk about some complicated and overwhelming feelings I’ve had since turning 30 last year and how women can feel anxiety about getting older in a world that worships youth. There are spoilers in this episode.

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Episode 94: Nicolas Philibert’s To Be and To Have (2002)

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In this episode, I talk about Nicolas Philibert’s 2002 documentary, “To Be and To Have.” It focuses on a small school in rural France where the kind and patient teacher, Georges Lopez, instills a sense of worth in all of his students and connects with them one-on-one. The film shows the dynamics between the students who range in age, from kindergartners to teenagers and also looks at some of their struggles. I talk about childhood, separation, nostalgia, the importance of school in my own life, and the impact that various teachers had on me.

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