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The Letterboxd Show 2.23: Will Collins
[clip of It’s a Wonderful Life plays]
GEORGE BAILEY You’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than yours!
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
GEMMA Hello and welcome to The Letterboxd Show, a podcast about the movies people love watching from Letterboxd: the social network for people who love watching movies. Each episode your hosts Gemma—that’s me—and Slim are joined by a Letterboxd friend for a chat about their four favorite films. As you listen along, we have links in the episode notes, so there is no excuse not to add these films to your watchlists. Today, live from Donegal, our guest is Letterboxd member and Irish scriptwriting folk hero, Will Collins.
WILL Hello Letterboxd podcast! [Gemma & Will laugh]
SLIM Will is the writer behind the Academy Award-nominated film Song of the Sea and Wolfwalkers from the famed Irish animation house Cartoon Saloon. Never mind the Oscars, those films have won plenty of other important awards around the world. Will also wrote the Irish Independent feature My Brothers and the Netflix short Angela’s Christmas, and he hosts The Best Bits podcast with fellow Irish screenwriter Kevin Lehane. Will’s favorites are four tiny little unheard-of indie films by the names of Jaws, Fargo, Aliens, and because it’s a holiday season, It’s a Wonderful Life. Will, you’ve chosen four of the most iconic films in Letterboxd Show history.
WILL But yeah, listen, those films I know that maybe some of your listeners might not have seen those films. I’m sure they’re down the popularity rankings. But I’ve gotten to that age in my life, where I really don’t care about picking cool films as my favorites. I am at a stage in my life where I pick seminal films and films that are touchstone films for me. And those are my favorite films—the films that I will watch at least once a year that inspire me, that did inspire me, that I think helped me—or I suppose, poisoned me or infected me—to become a filmmaker of sorts. And they’re my touchstones. They’re the things I go back to, when I want to get to a place where I want to reconnect with my love of cinema. And every time I watch those films, I just feel that love. And it probably grows with age. So yeah, they’re my four favorites.
GEMMA I want you to know, I’m just gonna get it out of the way.
SLIM Get it out.
GEMMA I am a wild fangirl of your work and the work of Cartoon Saloon. Song of the Sea and Wolfwalkers are just the top two films in our house and have been since my five-year-old started watching movies with me.
WILL Oh golly. Thank you.
GEMMA Oh my god. And the day, Will, the day I stumbled across your Letterboxd profile, I think I might have wept and also done a happy little jig all at the same time. [Slim & Will laugh] The leprechaun in me just leapt out in excitement and I was like, ‘He is coming straight to the podcast.’ So it is a crazy pleasure to have you here.
WILL I’m delighted because, well, I’ve been using Letterboxd from when it started. I think I’m one of the first—well I was there from quite an early stage of whenever Letterboxd—when did Letterboxd first launch?
GEMMA Ah, October 2011 is when Matthew turned up to Brooklyn Beta and showed it to a crowd of lovely tech nerds and said, “This is what we’re doing.” But I think 2013 was when the general public were allowed in.
WILL There you go. I was definitely—if you look at my history, I have a diary there that goes back to probably 2013 I’d imagine. So I love—it’s a pleasure for me to be on Letterboxd and the Letterboxd podcast because it’s become my little resource and tool to kind of keep a track of what in the heck I’ve been watching and trying to sort through the films that I’ve seen and whenever I want to—I also, it’s just the nerd in me. The film nerd in me. I just think it’s a great resource. And I just love the films I’ve watched and try and do rankings for the year of the films that I’ve seen. And I kind of have a goal in the year, where I kind of say, “If I can hit 50, you know, if I can hit 50—” or there was one year, I said, “If I can get 100, I think I’m going to do great.” [Gemma laughs] And the pandemic hit and I could see my Letterboxd input for that year had really dried up and I said, “Okay, I’ve got to work. I’ve got to get some films in to get that number of films up and running again.”
GEMMA Have you looked back? Because I’ve had a look. And here you are on the seventh of April 2012.
GEMMA Coming in hot with a four-star review.
WILL Don’t say it! I don’t know what it is.
GEMMA Of a film I only just—no, no, no, it’s good. It’s good. I only just watched it this year for the first time and a weird, accidental double feature with that Russell Crowe seafaring movie. The Peter Weir one. What’s it called?
SLIM Master and Commander.
WILL A great double feature!
GEMMA Yeah, great double feature! It was actually brilliant because it’s the same story. I’s a mad captain and as a scientist sidekick, and you gave it a four-star review and called it “Wonderful”. So, there you are.
WILL Wow! Almost ten years. Wow. I’ve never looked back at my—I kind of don’t like reviewing now. You’ll see I’m reviewing when I’m not writing. So I just like to log. I like to just say, “I’ve watched this. This is my star rating.” And I have a question for you about the Letterboxd rating and ranking.
SLIM Uh oh.
WILL And there’s a thing about the Letterboxd rating that’s always confused me, right. Okay, I can give my my star rating, which is fine. And I could put things on lists, which I love. But then there’s the heart button. Right? How do you use the heart? In what context should I be using to heart button? The like button? I don’t understand this! [Slim & Gemma laugh]
SLIM However you want!
GEMMA How do you use the heart button, Slim?
SLIM I use the heart button—so like if I’m logging a movie, I watched it and I liked it. I’ll use the heart button. So if I don’t like a movie, then there’s no heart button attached. So there might be a star rating attached to it or otherwise. But if I didn’t like it, I’m not going to include a heart. How do you use it Gemma?
GEMMA Well, for example, and it’s changed over the years, I have to say, but if I watch something like Spice World, which objectively is maybe a two-star film, but I love it, then I’ll rate it two stars. and I’ll put a heart next to it so that anyone else looking and goes, ‘Oh, yeah, yes, it’s a two-star film. But also, it’s a film that we love.’ And so you can kind of build up this picture of—but, I changed my mind. I would totally rate Spice World five stars these days, because fuck it. Who gives a shit about ratings?
SLIM Eff ’em.
GEMMA What is a five-star film? It’s whatever you say a five-star film is, right? And it’s so funny because in my world, the greatest rating for a film is three and a half stars. [Will laughs] That is my sweet spot. It is where I live. It’s the kind of film I want to make. I want to make a film that when you go to Letterboxd, you hit that three and a half and you hit that heart. That for me is the perfect movie.
WILL Can I tell you my other favorite way to use Letterboxd?
WILL I’m sorry, I’m just fanboying on Letterboxd now. [Gemma laughs] I don’t use Letterboxd as social, kind of an interaction tool. I use it as a way to log things and have it as my film diary basically. But my favorite way to use it is the lists. I love the lists. And what I will do is—because generally critics will come up with their best-of-year lists, right? And because I’m not a critic and because quite often I don’t get to see the best films of that year. What I will do is I will just log the films I’ve watched for the first time. So my first watches of that year. And that’s my main list for the year. That’s the one where films are jostling for position. And at the end of year, I do deliberate over it. I kind of think about, ‘Okay, alright, Come and See versus, what did I see, Ghostbusters: Afterlife.’ I think Come and See is still gonna be at the top of the list on that particular you know 2021 list, probably still topping it. So yeah, that’s the one I kind of—that’s how I mainly use Letterboxd.
SLIM It works. It works. I do the same thing for my for my end-of-years too.
GEMMA I just don’t even—I’ve never done an end-of-year. I find it too hard.
SLIM Oh my god.
GEMMA I find it like choosing between all of your children, which is just—
SLIM Well you don’t have to rank them. You can just have a group of ten, unranked. Ten faves, right?
GEMMA Yeah, but even ten is just—
SLIM Even then.
GEMMA Even then!
SLIM Too much pressure.
GEMMA I know we need to get on to your four favorites, if we could just ask Steven Spielberg to wait one more minute.
WILL Sorry, Steven. Sorry. We have to top up my lists and— [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA I did find, track down, find and watched My Brothers this week.
GEMMA In anticipation.
GEMMA Something that I don’t know that I’m on board with lately and scriptwriting is characters talking about movies. “Have you seen this movie?” “No, I haven’t seen this movie.” “Why?” “Here’s the relevance of it.” We’re just killing time in order to get to the next scene. Something I love, however, that scriptwriters do in movies is something you did in My Brothers, which is when the middle brother is in his bedroom, and he starts quoting The Godfather. It is so, so genius. And it’s just coming out of that little Irish mouth. “You come into my room.” [Will & Gemma laugh] I love that. That works for me, because it’s kind of, guess, more realistic and more useful and more insider-y and funnier. I don’t know. There’s just more of a payoff, I think.
WILL That’s lovely for you to have watched the film. You’ve watched it more recently than I’ve seen it. And you’re probably maybe the thirteenth person to have watched it on Letterboxd. It’s not available anywhere. But I have to give, I think—if I’m right—I have to give the actor credit because I think he improvised that moment. We spoke about it before we went in.
WILL Because I was also, I was on set for that film as well. So I was—what’s the word? Not coaching them but I was basically making sure they didn’t tear the—our little van, our dressing-room van—apart. But I would also kind of read through scenes with them before they went in. And so I would just try and get their heads in the scene. Just kind of have a little chat about what was going on and stuff like that. And I think that was an improvised moment that we came up with beforehand that he did on on set.
WILL So I’ll give the actor credit for that particular moment.
GEMMA I loved it. And I love the 3D-glasses scene in the pub as well. That was so deeply ’80s.
GEMMA I love that. And Spielberg breathes a sigh of relief because he also just provided with Jaws 3-D, the segue way we needed.
WILL Ah! There we go! [Will & Slim laugh]
[music from Jaws plays]
SLIM 1975. Steven Spielberg. 4.0 average on Letterboxd. This is—I actually forgot, but this is the second time Jaws has popped up in our four favorites for this podcast. 8,000 fans. 8,000 other people that have this in their four favorites on Letterboxd. Synopsis cracked me up earlier, I think that Gemma wrote. It was a little bit shorter earlier. It only said “There’s a shark at the beach, but nobody believes him.” And that was the synopsis. I think that's a pretty amazing synopsis for Jaws. [Slim laughs] That could be on the cover art, that could be on the poster, that just works. So this is the second time that this movie has come out. And I was thinking back to when I recently rewatched this, about how it’s somehow like a whimsical adventure-horror movie. But what about you, Will? What was this movie to you? When did you first watch it? And how has it stayed with you over the years?
WILL I watched this when I was a teenager. And the television channel, the broadcast that I was telling you about, out local one, basically started screening films in widescreen for the first time ever. And you had the bars across the top and the bottom. So I remember it was these films were screened every Saturday night. And so Jaws was one of those films that they broadcast on widescreen. And I think I was in my kitchen, watching it on a portable TV, which is probably maybe eleven inches, maybe a little bit wider—eleven, fourteen inches wide, your phone might have a bigger screen. And I watched it while my mother was probably baking or ironing or doing something like that. And I was in the corner in this brightly lit kitchen absolutely transfixed by this film. And for me, it was—the emotions it elicited in me were joy, a sense of fun, adventure, but also complete terror in the right moments, in the right doses, shall I say. And the energy and the kinetic quality of the filmmaking and I suppose the visual beauty of it as well and performances. It came through that small television screen and that fluorescent lit kitchen, and absolutely pulled me through the screen. And I was there with them on Amity Island for two hours and it was utterly amazing. And I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times since and every time it gets better and better, I think. It’s fantastic, I love it.
SLIM Gemma, your first viewing of Jaws was this year, wasn’t it?
GEMMA It was—it was this year. Oh my god. Have we only been doing this for—
SLIM Yeah. Not that long.
GEMMA Talked about it before and I’ll say it again. It’s because I love swimming. And that is my safe space, being in the water. It’s where my best ideas come. And I don’t want anything interfering with that, and so I stayed away from Jaws. But also I had the kind of family—like my dad used to drag us into the city to see Spielberg’s serious films, you know? We went to see Empire of the Sun at the movies. We would see Schindler’s List rather than Jurassic Park, both of which came out in the same year. So, it wasn’t a film that we were taken to see. And we saw all sorts of weird art-house craziness for suburban kids, which I’m forever grateful for. But it meant that I missed Jaws for the longest time. And I’m kind of glad I saw it as an adult, because it means that—and especially in the context of the very beginning of the pandemic, because if you go on Letterboxd and look at recent reviews, it is so remarkable how a 1975 film just mirrors what has gone on politically over the last two years with the pandemic and people not believing it, people thinking it’s some kind of conspiracy. And it’s sort of being left to the public servants, the scientist and the cop, to go out and sort out this terror that is killing people and ruining the economy of the town. And I really appreciate that I came to Jaws at this time, because that one scene between the mayor and Police Chief Brody is just, I mean, it just sums up everything about the last two years, doesn’t it?
SLIM Every character in this movie is incredible. I mean, the writing in this movie, it’s so whip sharp. And I mentioned it earlier about the kind of whimsy nature of this movie. But when I rewatched it, I was still kind of taken aback about the kind of weird mix of genres in this movie. You know, you could say that this is like a family-adventure movie, but also a horror movie.
WILL You know, just an amazing gear change. But it’s at the heart of it, you still have Roy Scheider, and he’s your with him from the get-go in this film. And you know the journey he has to go on. And it’s kind of almost preempted in the very, very beginning to film where he’s saying he’s afraid of water, he doesn’t want to go into the water and whatnot. The film is almost telling you from the very get-go, this man has to go into the water. This man has to face the—inevitably, it has to go into the water. So I don’t think it’s—yeah, it’s a shift in genre, but I don’t think it comes out of the blue. I think it’s just beautifully crafted, and it goes to where it needs to go to. And ultimately, it doesn’t feel like they actually go that far out to sea because when they’re paddling back in, and the credits rolling, you can see land is just there. [Slim & Gemma laugh] It’s not a million miles away.
GEMMA As a writer, what is it about Jaws that you return to script-wise to to help your own work?
WILL I would say simplicity. That’s one thing. Directness, the forward propulsion of that story and the simplicity of that story and the clarity of it. The humanity and depth that’s given to all of the characters, even the smaller characters. Now a lot of that is brought through casting in the filmmaking process. But as I was saying to you there about the mayor, how the mayor does have an arc in the story, whereas in weaker films, he would just stay the mayor and he would just end up getting eaten by the shark. That’s what probably would happen to men in a lesser film, he would just be fodder for the shark. But in this film, they give him some sort of redemption, really, before the sea journey happens. So it’s also just the character writing. Each of those—Roy Scheider’s character, Chief Brody, and Richard Dreyfuss’ character’s name is escaping me right now.
WILL Hooper, there you go. The writing of those characters and the dramatization of them is so rich, they really pop off the page. And when they’re together on that boat, it’s almost like perfect alchemy. When you have these three characters in the boat, you could have spent a whole—they could have had a whole film with these three characters in a boat and it would have been incredibly entertaining, aside from all the stuff in the first half of the film. So I think it’s the rich character writing and a very direct, kind of, I suppose streamlined approach to the plot and the storytelling. That’s what I love about it. It’s entertaining.
SLIM Yeah. One of the reviews spotlighted by Jack who gathers our facts for each episode. “If the Babadook is a gay icon, then so is Jaws; big mouth, stunt queen, kills heterosexuals, just wants to be left alone to eat.” Comes from Aaron Michael. [Slim & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA I love that so much. And I also wanted to call out—we haven’t mentioned this before when we talked about Jaws but there is an all-time best parody account on Letterboxd called Friendly Shark. Mostly it’s half-star reviews of movies that just say “No sharks”. [Will laughs] But on Jaws, five stars, capital letters, “TRAGIC DRAMA. SHARK DESTROYED BY OWN HUBRIS. MASTERFUL.” [Will laughs]
WILL I love it!
[music from Fargo plays]
GEMMA It’s a thing of beauty. Speaking of being destroyed by your own hubris, let’s talk about Jerry, the small town debt ridden Minnesota car salesman with a ransom plan involving two thugs kidnapping his wife. This is Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 film Fargo. “Anything you can do, Marge can do pregnant” write Letterboxd member JR of the Coen brothers second-highest-rated film on Letterboxd. It’s the story of Jerry and his plan into Police Chief Marge, a coffee-drinking parka-wearing and extremely pregnant investigator who will stop at nothing to get her man or men or bodies, depending on which part of the storyline you’re in, in Fargo. This has a 4.2 average on Letterboxd.
SLIM Excuse me…
GEMMA Why out of all of the potential Coen brothers movies to have in your top four is Fargo the one to make it?
WILL Oh, because it’s the best. [Gemma laughs] I adore it. Because I think the Coen brothers for me are probably the filmmakers whose work I love the most. And I have an interesting relationship with each of their films in that the first—usually—my first viewing of each new film, I don’t like the film.
GEMMA Yes, 100%.
WILL I have a theory behind it. And I think maybe—I think Fargo, no, I think I liked Fargo from the first time I saw it. But my theory behind this is because the Coen brothers, they’re brilliant writers, obviously brilliant filmmakers. But they’re brilliant, brilliant writers. But they write in a way that is at times on unstructural or anti-structural, where they really take our audiences, they take us down unusual left turns where we as an audience have been preconditions to expect X, Y and Z to happen in the story. And instead they do X, they go yellow, and Tuesday. And they just take us on incredibly strange turns. And the first time—I’m trying to rationalize, I’ve tried to rationalize my own reaction to it. So for instance, let’s say I’ll give you No Country for Old Men, when I first watched that, I came out of it feeling really confused. But knowing that I’d experienced something special. And really, I found myself really challenged by some of the turns they had taken in the story. And then I went back and I almost went back within 24 hours and watched in the cinema again. And on my second viewing, I started to process because I kew the whole, I went back and watched it with a different lens. And then I kind of found the brilliance in this and it revealed itself to me. And I love how daring they are. They’re the type of writers—a term was revealed to me recently that there’s two different types of writers. There are ‘pantsers’ and there are ‘planners’. C. Robert Cargill actually told me this, the guy who wrote Sinister and such. And what he meant by that was that planners are the people who outline and they really know where their plot is going before they ever sit down and start writing a page of screenplay. And then there are pantsers who are the type of writers who just start writing a screenplay without really knowing where it’s going to go. And quite often these stories can kind of go on weird tangents. And for me, it seems quite clear that the Coen brothers are pantsers because they just start writing a screenplay and they stick and just might—maybe I think in the case of Fargo, they wrote one scene and they abandoned the screenplay for a year and just left it sitting there and came back to it thinking ‘Oh, I think I know what the next scene is going to be.’ And so it’s a combination of them figuring it out as they went along, you know? And then coming back and recrafting it and reshaping it. And it’s beautiful because I love it when films do that. When they massively break conventional form and they do it all the time. And it’s refreshing and it’s exciting. And they do it in such a great way. And for me, Fargo is a perfect balance of their world-cynical view, but also balancing that with the warm, coziness and safety, I suppose, point of view of Marge Gunderson’s, you know, she’s a Police Chief played by Frances McDormand. So I think it’s this wonderful balance of this horrible, cynical world balanced out by Marge’s warmth, and homeliness, and goodness and kindness. And to tell a parable that will stand the test of time to be of the best films they’ve ever made.
SLIM I wrote in my notes that I thought I had never seen this movie, but I feel like I remembered every scene when I watched it on Hulu this week. And I had never logged it on Hulu, but you know everyone talks about Fargo, Fargo this, Fargo that, like everything you said. And then when you sit down and watch it you’re like man, the writing is so good in this movie. And the cast is so good in this movie. And one of the reviews spotlighted from brat “Marge Gunderson is the only cop I’ve ever trusted.” And there are lots of ‘ACAB except Marge’ reviews that circulate around as well. Which is probably true. But what about you, Gemma, on your recent watch?
GEMMA Oh, on my reason watch, I love how there’s always a moment in a film where a character in it—and it’s usually a good character—but in this case, it’s Steve Buscemi and his scary mate, say the thing that we’re all thinking, which is—
[clip of Fargo plays]
CARL Why don’t you just ask him for the money?
GAEAR Or your fucking wife, you know.
CARL Or your fucking wife, Jerry?
JERRY Well, it’s all part of this—they don’t know I need it, see.
[clip of Fargo ends]
GEMMA I love it because the movie could end right there. Because these evil guys who we’re going to get money for, you know, doing this insane kidnapping scheme, which goes horribly wrong. Are just kind of going—trying to talk their way out of a job by coming up with the most sensible option ever. And I didn’t notice that the first time around. I just love it.
WILL Jerry is a really dumb criminal. He’s not a criminal. He’s a greedy, sniveling, cowardly man. And he’s in one way the protagonist of this film. But because he’s the kind of the main character throughout, Marge comes in. People think Marge is the main character but marriage doesn’t appear until half an hour into the film. She’s actually the antagonist of this film. This is going to be screenwriting terms. But Jerry, what I love about this film is that usually in a classical screenwriter terms, the protagonist is the character that undergoes the greatest amount of change, right? But in the case of Jerry, Jerry doesn’t change. All that happens to Jerry is that Jerry is revealed. You know, his true self is revealed. And as he’s pushed and forced into the corner more and more by his own actions, he’s stripped bare of another layer and his cowardly, greedy self as is revealed until the very, very end, where we see that in actual facts that the gods, the storytelling gods, have deemed that he doesn’t deserve redemption, he doesn’t get redemption at the end of the story. And Marge is an antagonistic force, she comes in as this really just smart police officer who’s doing her job, and she brings justice down on him. And I love it. I absolutely love it!
GEMMA I mean, we could go on all day. I just would like to say that I love, have always loved that Marge is pregnant in this film. You could see it as a cynical device to just add more to a character who also doesn’t change a lot. Or you could see it as the way I choose to see it, which is the reality of life that doesn’t happen often enough in films, which is that women doing their jobs are often doing their jobs with another person in tow. Whether that person is still in the womb, or whether those children are out. And same with fathers as well, parents in general. But I just love that and we still don’t see enough of it. And how is it that this was 1996 and we haven’t seen many pregnant characters since? I mean, I’m just trying to think of—yeah, there’s one producer in that insane Apple TV series, The Morning Show, which I love to hate to love to watch because it’s so bonkers, who’s been pregnant for the whole two seasons and still hasn’t given birth.
WILL Hold on! Really? [Gemma laughs] Are you serious? I never noticed! We just watched the second series. And there’s a producer that’s been pregnant for two series.
GEMMA Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pretty much. [Gemma laughs]
WILL And there’s a gap. There’s definitely a nine-month gap in the story timeline between season one and season two. I’ve got a theory. Maybe she’s just pregnant again. Maybe she just got pregnant again really quickly. So this is child number two!
GEMMA Yeah, possibly. [Will laughs]
WILL What we need is we need to eventually in season three to see these children appear in the scene.
GEMMA Yeah, bring your kid to work day and she turns up with nine of them. Yeah. I love that.
GEMMA Oh my god, did you just say that name twice in an episode that was gonna have no Tom Cruise in it? You’ll take any opportunity to just rub Tom Cruise in my face.
SLIM What a year for film. Cameron Crowe, the king.
GEMMA So I love—I really appreciate that you said what you said about Coen brothers movies, because I feel the same way. And I always—it’s sort of like, oh great, another Coen brothers movie, I guess. Right? I’ll steal myself and go in and see how I feel about this one. And then a year later, I’m still thinking about Llewyn Davis and that orange cat. And all of the ways in which it that film puts the finger on that one artist mate that you have who’s constantly trying to figure out their place in the world. And I’m still thinking about Inside Llewyn Davis years later.
WILL There you go.
GEMMA How do they do that? It’s the revealing. It’s the revealing, that’s the key.
WILL Yeah, they’re stripping. They’re drilling down into the characters in a very painful way, I feel like. It feels like they are revealing these characters for their true selves. They’re just wonderful storytellers, and delightful. There’s another thing I need to get off my chest about Fargo. And when Fargo first came out, I remember it had a really good critical reaction but I remember kind of hearing in the years afterwards that everyone would say, “Oh, yeah, Fargo was great, but that whole Mike Yanagita scene, you know, the whole Mike Yanagita stuff doesn’t make sense.” And Mike Yanagita is the character who shows up, who basically calls Marge in the dead of night, an old school friend and says, “Hey, I saw you on the news.” Because Marge is on the news because of this case. And basically Marge ends up, when she’s going to Brainerd to follow some line of investigation, she ends up having dinner with Mike Yanagita right. And everyone said, that the subplot doesn’t add anything to the film. And my argument is that that subplot is critical to the film, it’s absolutely critical in Marge’s solving the case. Because in Marge’s world, her community, they’re all, I suppose, what you see is what you get, or that’s what it feels like. That you take everyone in her personal world, they’re what you see is what you get. But when she meets Mike Yanagita, he obviously makes a move on her and she very, very cleverly and controllingly brushes him off and says, “No, I want you to sit…”—he tries to sit beside her—and says, “No, I want you to sit on the opposite side, please. I just don’t want to hurt my neck.” That sort of stuff. And she starts to casually ask about his wife and he says “Oh, you know, my wife she died, it was a fellow school friend and it’s really sad. I’m really upset. I’m really lonely.” And she’s like, “Well that’s awful.” Now what happens is, is the scene ends and it’s kind of like, Jesus, what was the point of that? But on the following day, Marge goes to interview Jerry Lundegaard, right. And she’s inquiring about these cars and all that sort of stuff. And Jerry Lundegaard, when he’s put on even the slightest bit of pressure, he cracks and William H. Macy completely cracks and it’s hilarious and it’s brilliant. He just snaps. And Marge gives him the benefit of the doubt the first time and she walks away. And Marge is about to leave to go back home to Fargo, when she calls home base from her hotel room. And she says, “Oh, I had a meeting with Mike Yanagita.” And she says basically, “Isn’t it so sad, his wife died.” And the buddy back home says, “No, they never got married. That woman is married to a different man and she’s got a whole family.” And the penny drops with Marge Gunderson. You can see it in her face. She goes, “Mike Yanagita is full of shit.” And in the next beat, she’s going, “That Jerry Lundegaard is full of shit.” And the next scene, she goes straight back to Jerry Lundegaard, she follows her instincts and puts him under real pressure the second time and we have one of the best scenes of the film that follows because of the Mike Yanagita scene.
SLIM Also amazing that Marge has never met a man full of shit until that moment. [Gemma & Will laugh] It took that many years for her to finally meet one and wheels to turn.
GEMMA Ah, dear Marge. Speaking of getting a beast off your chest—[Slim laughs]
SLIM The segue game—can I just call it out the segue game. Gemma has realized that there is a market for podcast segues and she has been nailing it for weeks.
WILL Can you do a workshop? If you do, I’ll sign up.
GEMMA Segue podcast, segue workshop coming up.
SLIM Master class.
[music from Aliens plays]
GEMMA Master class. Oh my god. When you suffer immense trauma, and then sleep for 57 years and then you wake up, and it’s still not over, AKA Aliens. The sequel to Alien in which Lieutenant Ellen Louise Ripley wakes up to find that James Cameron has taken over from Ridley Scott. Some jerk called Burke has sent a hundred people and their families to exomoon LV-426 and the Weyland-Yutani Corp have now lost contact with the colony, which means … the bitch is back. And it’s all Paul from Mad About You’s fault. We are talking about the 1986 sequel, which has a 4.1 average on Letterboxd. And as one of your top four favorites.
WILL Oh yeah!
GEMMA Let’s talk about why this alien, Will?
WILL Aliens. Absolutely. It’s my first Alien film. And it’s a film that I watched at a completely inappropriate age. My neighbor, myself, we used to rent out VHSes and share them. So one person would rent it out, you call the other person and say, “I got this!” and you just rush to each other’s houses, and you’d watch the movies. And she had watched Aliens, and was trying to convince me that Aliens was the best film that she’d ever seen. And I was, and still am, terrified and absolutely, you know, I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to horror films, but still love them. And she really, really thought I should watch this film. She really thought and said, “No, this is great. You have to watch it.” And I said “I don’t know if I can.” So I got her to tell me the whole plot. So she told me the whole plot, and I went, “Okay, that sounds cool.” And then we did kind of a cool viewing of the film where she talked me through where the scary bits were. So whenever a chest-bursting happened, she said, “Okay, a chest-burst is about to happen.” And I would cover my eyes. So I watched—it was a film that I watched at the wrong age, or the right age, and it completely scared the bejesus out of me, but completely thrilled me. And as I’ve gotten older, I think it is one of the best action films, war stories ever told, as in scripts. It’s a pure action-adventure-war movie with brilliant, brilliant central characters, but also populated by a collection of wonderful supporting characters as well. Amazing special effects. Amazingly shot. Beautiful score. And I just adore it! I absolutely adore it. What did Cameron call it? 40 miles of bad road. But I like it.
SLIM I agree with you. It’s a perfect film. But I do have one caveat. I think the special edition is a perfect film. So where do you land on the two versions of the film? Theatrical versus special edition? Because there’s 40 minutes of extra goodies in the other one.
WILL I’m actually prepared to answer this because on our podcast, The Best Bits podcast, which I do with my co-host Kevin Lehane, who wrote that really good horror comedy Grabbers actually.
GEMMA Oh my god!
WILL Yeah. You should check it out. It’s really good. It’s wonderful fun. He’s an advocate for the theatrical cut. And we did watch along for the extended edition. And he made a really good point that—I love the special edition. I think this special edition is amazing. But I think we both came to an agreement that if you were to watch Aliens for the first time, I would recommend watching the theatrical cut. Because it’s leaner, it’s sharper, it gets into the business a lot quicker. And it’s efficient, right. But as soon as you finished it, watch the extended edition and then forevermore watch the extended edition because all of the extended stuff, the stuff on LV-426 where we see Newt’s parents, her dad being the first person attacked by the face-hugger and all that business in there is fantastic. The action scene in the corridor with the sentry drones is fantastic.
GEMMA I was just about to say, I have no idea which version I watched until you just said that. I just watched whatever was on Disney+, which was so weird. I was like, “I need to watch Aliens. What’s it on? Oh Disney+, of course! Of course it’s on Disney.” [Will laughs]
WILL Critically, the big major difference between the extended cut and the theatrical cut is a scene in the first act, where Ripley is on board the space station. Everything’s safe, and she’s been rescued from the pod. Everyone knows what I’m talking about. And it’s the scene where she learns what’s happened to her daughter, which isn’t in the theatrical cut.
SLIM Ohhh yeah.
WILL And that’s missing. And apparently it was the scene that Sigourney Weaver, the reason she wanted to do the film, was for that scene. And it’s a really powerful scene and it fuels her decision to go back to LV-426. And without it, her decision to go back to LV-426 when she’s asked, you kind of go, “Why is it because she just has nightmares?” But no.
GEMMA Yeah, that’s so interesting, because I need to go and watch that now. Because I was like, so because they’ve threatened you with always just being in the loading dock for a job, you’re gonna go and do that?
SLIM Right, what’s her motivation?
GEMMA If I had been through that much trauma, I would probably be happy with a loading-dock job for life. Slim is usually me at this point in the episode, but I’m just going to let you know that this was a first-time watch for me.
WILL No way! Okay, we have to unpack a lot here.
SLIM A lot to review of what we just heard.
WILL So how was Jim’s ukulele playing? Was it up to scratch?
GEMMA He’s incredible. Oh, no, no, he’s a haole Hawaiian. He was brought up in Hawaii. He went to the same school as Obama, apparently.
GEMMA And yeah, he’s a beautiful player. He’s got a gorgeous, gorgeous ukulele. Yeah, he’s great.
WILL Oh my god.
SLIM So did Sigourney walk up to you and was like, “What did you think of Aliens, Gemma?” [Will & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA No, we had—well, we had a gig. Okay. So Avatar—my hometown for a long time was Wellington where Avatar was made and all of the other Avatars are slowly being made. I guess we’ll get to see them in about twenty—
SLIM Avatar 20, filming now.
GEMMA Yeah, exactly. And so of course, Sigourney was down for that. And it’s a small town. I’m sure it’s the same with Cartoon Saloon. It’s a small town. Right. So you know someone is working on something. And they found out that Jim was a ukulele player. And they said, “Oh, our friends are in a ukulele band.” And he was like “Get me to the gig!” And we had a gig that was sold out. But we kept some special seats aside for Jim and he turned up with Sigourney and their daughter, Charlotte.
SLIM Oh my god.
GEMMA And Jim came on stage and played with us. And my big brother was in town the same night. So I was like, well, I need to put him on the door. But I didn’t tell him what was going on because it was all happening too fast. So we just had these seats reserved and my my big brother walks in and finds that he’s sitting next to Sigourney Weaver. And instead of going, ‘Oh my god, I’m sitting next to Sigourney Weaver.’ He said he spent the whole gig going. ‘Just don’t say Alien³ was shit. Just don’t say it. Just don’t say it out loud. Whatever you do, do not say it out loud.’ [Gemma & Will laugh]
SLIM So what did you think of Aliens?
GEMMA Um, loved it. Loved it. Loved—I mean, I just love her. I mean, who doesn’t love Ripley?
SLIM She’s a god.
GEMMA But we love Ripley because it’s also Sigourney, right? It’s her height. It is the way that she shows that trauma on her face. It’s the eroticism of the scene when she’s getting the rundown on Dwayne Hicks’s personal friend. I absolutely love action scripts, where they tell you exactly what’s going to happen with things like the flame thrower that’s only half full, but functional. And you’re like, okay, great. She’s going to be using that half-full flame thrower at some point. And then it’s going to run out of flame and then she’s going to have to come up with the next thing. I’m fine with all of that, I just absolutely love clear signposting along an action highway. Big fan.
SLIM The one call-out too I want to make before we move on was, I watched a documentary on the making of, there’s like a three-hour Aliens documentary that is insane if you can track it down. It’s probably on YouTube, to be honest. One of my favorite things about the movie is the rear-projection special effects. I love Cameron’s use of rear projection for special effects. It’s so fun. And one other thread in the making of that came through the crew was just how much of a pain in the ass it was to work for Cameron. And is it Gale Anne Hurd?
WILL Gale Anne Hurd, yeah.
SLIM His then wife? Yeah. How much of a just awful work experience it was.
GEMMA Oh my god.
SLIM Because they were so demanding. And you know, in the end, they were right. You know, they made a perfect film.
GEMMA I’ve heard so many first-hand stories, even up until today. But I’m just sort of thinking, I know now why I didn’t see it at the time. So ’86. ’86, ’87 was for me, the years of Dirty Dancing and Pretty in Pink and, you know, everything Molly Ringwald and everything Jennifer Grey. And so I guess those were the female leads I was excited about and those were the movies I was going to with my girlfriends at the Starlight Cinema, at our local cinema. But I’m just so grateful for such brilliant female leads. And when I think about Wolfwalkers and what you’ve done for girls, everywhere now and into the future, what a gift, not just one, but two strong, wonderful, kooky female leads in a film. I’m sure you’ve heard this before.
WILL Oh, thank you.
WILL Well, listen, you know, I appreciate that. And it’s lovely to hear that particularly when you’re a guy writing female characters, there’s an anxiety, you know, of should I be doing this? But I think it’s, I think all creative people should have the license to try and empathize with characters and try and embody them and give them, I suppose, give them a full form and a full sense of life. But funnily enough, you’re saying in Wolfwalkers we had two strong female leads. For the first couple of drafts of Robyn, the little girl, she was actually a boy. And in the first—
WILL Yeah, Robyn was—we didn’t even change the name. Robyn was Robyn. And what I knew, even when writing those first two drafts, I think, the scenes between Robyn and Mebh, the girl who lives up in the forest, they just weren’t—they weren’t clicking for me. I just felt something off about their relationship. And it just had this weird—and it also kind of reminded me of the relationship in Tomm’s first film, the Celtic trilogy, The Secret of Kells, between Brendan, the little boy and Aisling, the little girl in the forest. And we got a note, we got a note from a couple of people, when we sent one of the drafts out. A lot of people, maybe three people came back and said, “Do you ever think about changing Robyn to a girl?” And as soon as we got the note back, we just went, ‘Oh, this has huge implications.’ But we immediately just went, ‘Yeah, that feels right.’ And I did a scan through the entire plot in my head. And I went, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re gonna have to change it an awful lot. But my god, this will give us so much more possibilities regarding the drama of the story.’ And as soon as I started writing them as girls, and as friends, all of a sudden, I could feel them connecting. It was just weird. It just felt right.
GEMMA Wow! And it’s so interesting to me to hear that that came from a note. And that you took that note and ran with it.
WILL We got lots of notes. [Will & Gemma laugh]
SLIM I was about to ask, what is that kind of collaboration and process of having that idea, working with the team and then sending out for notes? How long does that process take? And how often do you get notes like that?
WILL I started working on Wolfwalkers in March of 2013. And the film came out in 2020. So the story development and the script development process is about five years. So because it’s such a collaborative thing from the get-go, and when I was working with Cartoon Saloon, it was like that on Song of the Sea where it was me and a director. So it starts off with me and Tomm, and in the case of Wolfwalkers, me and Tomm and Ross. And we’re very much brainstorming the story together and figuring out the story together, and working out an outline. And once we get to a stage where we feel comfortable ourselves about the story we think we want to tell, I go away and write a screenplay. Then when we have a screenplay that we’re comfortable with, basically when we’re comfortable with sharing with our kind of brain trust, which is maybe very close friends, people we—I might have one or two friends that I will send it out to. So we kind of just send it out at the same time to this kind of collection of maybe ten people.
GEMMA Can I… can I be in your brain trust?
WILL Oh, please! Yeah! [Will laughs] Yeah, just bring your ukulele. [Will & Gemma laugh] Absolutely. So when you get the notes back, it’s really a matter of just kind of like sifting through the notes and kind of seeing if there’s a commonality or if there’s a certain note is coming out. But basically understanding where the note was coming from, if you can kind of reverse engineer, okay, why are they thinking that? And do we understand why they’re giving us that note? And do you think it can help us? Do you think it could help tell the story? And so you have—it was just a whole iterative process of basically taking those notes on board, making changes to the script and doing the whole cycle all over again. And we just redid it over and over and over again. And just every time, there seemed to be more people in the room. Eventually you get to the stage where you’ve a fairly solid script. And then you’ve got storyboard artists in. And then when you storyboard artists in, there’s going to be lots more notes coming in from storyboard artist. Anyway, it’s just a constant iterative cycle that goes on for five or six years.
GEMMA Slim, I looked up your review of Song of the Sea from a few years back and all it said was “Swooooooooon.” With like about 100 o’s in the middle of the word. And I’m just like, that is literally the word that applies to these films that you make with Cartoon Saloon. They’re just swoon-worthy. I read the other day, because I’ve been working with our Indigenous editor Leo Koziol, on a two-part essay about Native filmmakers, 20th century and 21st century. And as part of that, I read that the Indigenous Irish film industry was non-existent for almost five decades through the middle of the 20th century. And that your poor country was mainly used as a filming location for Hollywood movies, while Irish stereotypes continued on in mainstream movies. And so I guess, if there’s a question in that, it’s what is the importance to you, of the Irish folklore that you’re in the business of putting into movies now, after that long, long, long gap in cinematic storytelling?
WILL Yeah, well I suppose the lesson I’ve learned is that as a storyteller, I think you’re better off trying to tell the things that are in the world around you. And I don’t mean literally. But I feel that if you are telling the stories of the worlds that you are walking in, and I mean that in the sense of the relationships you have with people, the environments you’re in, the experiences you have in your life, but also the stories you were told when you were young, and that if you’re true to that, that tradition—tradition is the wrong word—that experience, there’s truth in that. That’s what I think is important. There’s a truth in that. And what can often happen, and what I saw was certainly with Irish films for a number of years is there’s a kind of a process where maybe they’re replicating the models of films coming out of America, instead of actually trying to tell their own stories and finding their own shape and their own form, and their own genesis. You know, rather than trying to do an action film set in Ireland, starring Pierce Brosnan, called Taffin, and if you haven’t seen it, look at the trailer and look at it on Letterboxd. And invariably, the result is going to be really, really mixed and weak. But if you start to tell stories that are really grounded in the earth and the roots around you, where you live, you’re going to find a verisimilitude and a quality that’s ultimately universal, even though it’s very, very specific to where you are. And that universality resonates with everyone because it feels true.
SLIM There’s a Letterboxd list we should spotlight from RKO Chester: 46 non-political and non depressing Irish movies. Which I think is a pretty important list, you know, some people probably think of movies from that era, and they’re like, ‘Ah, am I in the mood to watch one of those movies?’ But there’s just so much out there that broadens your horizon. So we’ll have a link to that list in the episode notes as well.
WILL In the last ten years, the output of Irish cinema, the quality has really gone up. We’re actually really well-known for our horror movies in the last few years. There’s a lot of good horror films. Grabbers, my co-host from The Best Bits pod, he actually wrote—his film Grabbers is almost a love letter to Tremors. It’s got that comedy-horror vibe. I’m not saying it because I know him, but I actually think it’s one of the wonderful example of how Irish cinema, how good genre cinema can come from small little countries like Ireland, like New Zealand. And of course look at the films that have come out of New Zealand.
SLIM Gemma said her favorite movie is the 3.5 movie. And Grabbers is sitting at a very respectable 3.2 right now on Letterboxd.
WILL Oh, that’s good!
SLIM I think that just shot up the watchlist for a few people. [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA Can you just, finally on your writing career, tell us about how Peter Dinklage is gonna give Paddington a run for his money? [Will laughs]
WILL Oh, lord. Yeah. So I’m adapting a lovely graphic novel by an author and artist called Ryan Andrews. And the book is called This Was Our Pact. And it’s been produced by Peter Dinklage’s company and another animation studio called Duncan Studios. Ken Duncan is going to be one of the directors and Ken is kind of a veteran of some amazing Disney movies and stuff like that. The novel is beautiful. It’s a beautiful, whimsical novel. It’s got real Song of the Sea vibes. I love that there’s an ambition for an American studio to do something that feels really indie. And so, you know, fingers crossed it gets made and fingers crossed you get to see it whenever it’ll come out.
GEMMA Can’t wait.
SLIM I love reading graphic novels. I’m a comic-book collector. And this fits a different bill than the regular mainstream comics. But I actually bought this graphic novel as soon as I saw that you were adapting the film. I’d never heard of this graphic novel. It looks gorgeous. And also, this is just kind of a funny aside that I wrote down that I was reading the article where they were talking about how Peter Dinklage, now attached, and your description of doing the adaptation—I just thought to myself, like god, he’s a good writer. Let me just read some of it. “From the outset, I knew these boys. I knew the joy and pain of their friendship. And I willed that friendship to triumph with every turn of the page.” And that was the line that I just like, sat back and I was like, okay, yeah, he is a very good writer. Goddamnit. And I just bought that book on Amazon. [Gemma laughs]
WILL Oh, well, thank you.
GEMMA Oh my god! Slim, maybe you could be in Will’s brain trust for this adaptation. [Will & Slim laugh]
WILL I could be setting up a new brain trust.
SLIM Gemma is willing that into existence like you willed that triumph.
WILL We’ll do a side brain trust, okay? We’ll do a side brain trust. That’s what we’ll do.
[music from It’s a Wonderful Life plays]
GEMMA Look, we could talk all day. We have one more favorite. And as we said at the beginning, it is officially holiday season.
GEMMA I don’t know when you’re listening to this episode, listeners. But as we record it, it is Thanksgiving in America and we are diving headlong into Whamageddon. You all know what Whamageddon is right?
GEMMA Oh, good, good.
WILL It’s not Christmas without a good bit of Wham! [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA So we go to the only movie of your four favorites that did not win an Oscar. And that, in fact, weirdly has only grown in estimation. We think that it would have been a massive hit at the time, but it has only grown an estimation over the years. This is Frank Capra’s 1946 classic starring Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life with a 4.3 average on Letterboxd. It’s the highest-rated non-Oscar-winning film on your list. A suicidal man from the small town of Bedford Falls is shown how his uneventful life has in fact positively changed everyone around him except mean old Mr. Potter.
WILL I love it. It’s a film that I only—I obviously was quite aware of It’s a Wonderful Life all my life. You know, particularly from that scene in Gremlins, where it’s on the TV, and the gremlins start attacking the mom in the kitchen. But I only actually got to see it in full in the last twenty years. And from the first time I watched it, I knew I was watching something that was deeply profound. And I understood why it is regarded as a seminal Christmas classic. Not because—I have a theory about what makes a good Christmas story. And for me, it’s not about Christmas decorations and presents and everyone having a jolly, no, that would just make a bad story. But really for me, what makes a good Christmas story is a story depicting a character who is very much isolated, out in the cold, in the frosty winter air, feels completely alone. And by the end of that story is brought into the warmth of family and community and friendship. And life has reaffirmed. And there’s a—joy is re-instilled in connections that we have with each other, and our place in the world and our importance in the world. And no other story does it as well as It’s a Wonderful Life. And this is a story where it’s a glorification of the every-man and every-woman and how every life is so, so important. And it’s amazing. I can’t believe how dark it gets. I absolutely love Jimmy Stewart. I absolutely love Donna Reed and I love their relationship. I love the surrounding characters. I love this world. And by the end of it, I am choking every time. And still, every time I watch it like I just don’t believe how dark it gets. But it’s magical. It’s wonderful and it’s life-affirming. And that’s what cinema, good cinema, does for me, is it makes me feel better about the world around me. You know, it just resonates out and it fills me up with something. And It’s a Wonderful Life does that, I love it all day long.
SLIM What a movie. This is the ultimate Christmas movie. It’s one of the ultimate movies. I turn into a puddle of sobbing mess every time I watch this movie. And I was looking back on previous Letterboxd reviews and how important it is to also have an amazing communication relationship with your partner. They’re like so many times in this movie where all he literally had to do is communicate with his wife, like, I need help. I’m in trouble. You know? And the whole scope of the picture would have changed. But I mean, obviously, as a viewer, you benefit because you get all these amazing moments with Potter. And when he shakes his hand, and then pulls back and realizes like, what he had done and the kind of impact of him potentially making an agreement with this evil man and what that means for himself. There’s just so much to love about this movie. Gemma, what do you think about It’s a Wonderful Life?
GEMMA I love what you said about the—if only men would talk to their dang wives. Because one of the other things this film does very cleverly is highlight the invisible mental labor of women. From his mother calling ahead to say he’s coming over to his wife—while he’s off, you know, attempting to commit suicide on the bridge—to his wife running out and telling the neighborhood what’s going on. And corralling the masses for that beautiful warm hug of an ending. So we think it’s all about George Bailey, but it is also about that invisible, emotional labor of the women in a small town as well. Yeah, I have to say this is embarrassing to admit. But this week was the first time I have watched It’s a Wonderful Life all the way through.
SLIM The tables have turned, Gemma!
GEMMA The tables have turned! I thought I’d seen this film, like, 25 times, every Christmas like everybody else. But it’s a weird thing. But in New Zealand, we get The Wizard of Oz at Christmas. In America, you get It’s A Wonderful Life. And so for the ten years that I was living in Brooklyn, I would turn on a TV station, and it will be there and I would watch half an hour of it. So I sort of feel like I’ve piecemealed the film over the years, but I’d never sat down and done the full watch. And there I was thinking, ‘Oh yeah, cool, I’m watching it to analyze the script, and I’m watching it to analyze the performances, it’s not going to get me.’ It gets you. There’s no way it doesn’t get you.
SLIM One of the things that struck me too in this viewing it, which at least is lost for me is the local banker, being this force for amazing good for the community. I don’t think I see that ever any more. You know, the idea that someone running a bank is really working for the community.
SLIM I don’t see that anywhere. [Slim laughs] I grew up with like a local branch of a non TD Bank or, you know, chain bank. But man, what a different time that hasn’t really translated at all to current day.
WILL We in Ireland, we still have things called, I don’t know if you have an equivalence, called credit unions. And during the recession, I know for a fact that the credit unions are all locally run, and locally managed and all this sort of stuff. And at times, things got really, really bad during the recession, where people were turning to the banks for loans. The credit unions opened their doors, and they gave people and they were kinda like George Bailey, they were giving people loans, because we knew you and you were a part of our community. And they were giving people little mini bailouts, when things were at their worst. And I think that’s another aspect of this film that I absolutely think is so vital. And a message that’s so important is that communities are so, so important for us to survive. We need physical—not online, it’s great to have an online community—but if you have a physical community around you, that you can rely on, that you can reach out to, that will be there when things go down. And unfortunately, in the last ten years or whatever, that has fragmented so much that we’re losing something vital in ourselves and I think it’s a message I think is so important as a takeaway from this film, that the power and importance of community in the human experience is vital. Without it we feel very alone, because we experienced loneliness and community can alleviate that so easily. So, so easily.
GEMMA And quite hard to do in secular society. You know, we probably all grew up a bit Catholic. And I know that for my family that our local parish was the source of a lot of support over the years which we don’t have anymore because we’re not churchgoers anymore. So how do we create that in secular society? Wow, are we moving on from talking about film to talking about how to change the world?
SLIM My god, we shifted into Catholic guilt almost instantaneously. [Gemma laughs]
WILL That’s the power of It’s a Wonderful Life. The messages in this film are so powerful and so strong. They immediately resonate into our lives and that’s so important.
GEMMA And there are angels but it’s not particularly religious, which makes it accessible to so many people as a film, which I think is important. Jack’s facts: It’s a Wonderful Life is our top-rated Christmas movie on Letterboxd. But I wanted to ask both of you, because my personal top-rated Christmas movie is and probably will always be The Muppet Christmas Carol. What are yours?
WILL Well, listen—you’re asking my top Christmas movie?
GEMMA Yeah, you’ve got a whole list of Christmas movies. I’ve got a feeling that you couldn’t name one.
WILL Oh, god. So obviously, It’s a Wonderful Life is at the top. [The] Muppet Christmas Carol is really up there as well is probably my favorite adaptation of A Christmas Carol. One of my favorite stories, ahead of the David Lean version. I think what they did and that is amazing. Other Christmas films I absolutely love, Scrooged, I adore. The original Miracle on 34th Street, the best Santa Claus. We have an episode coming up this Christmas for best Santa Claus scene, we’re trying to figure out what our best Santa Claus scene is. And something we realize is that there are very few good films where we have Santa Claus as a lead character. Very, very few. And the best one is Miracle on 34th Street. It’s an amazing film. Far better than that ’94 remake and the ’70-something remake as well. So yeah, those are my top ones.
SLIM Great list.
WILL Those are definitely some of my favorite Christmas movies.
SLIM We actually watch Scrooged every year and I’m personally getting to the point where I’ve seen it so often, I’m starting to pick it apart and hate Scrooged. [Gemma laughs] Do you ever watch a movie so often where maybe, ‘I need to put this back in the vault and not watch this for another few years because I hate it now.’ But I don’t remember—I don’t know if I remember my full thoughts on The Muppet Christmas Carol. I did recently watch this and I can’t remember what I thought about it to be honest, but maybe it’s time to go back.
GEMMA How can you not remember what you think?
SLIM I recently watched The Muppets Haunted Halloween and that eradicated all Muppets thoughts that I wanted to have ever, I think. ‘The Muppets Greenscreen.’
WILL Slim, I know we’re on your podcast, but let me suggest that you listen, we have just released an episode of the best Muppet scene and it is a serious breakdown of the Muppet movies. You will come out of it a Muppet enthusiast.
SLIM A believer. I will be converted.
WILL Yeah, you will.
GEMMA I listened to the episode and you made me cry, Will. Well, Kevin made me cry. The whole breakdown of Jim Henson’s death and funeral and the way that the Muppets dealt with it, to help us deal with it. Oh my god. If you need a good cry and you’re struggling for something to make you cry, just listen to Will Collins’s Best Bits podcast Muppets episode because—[Gemma laughs]
SLIM If you needed another reason to cry, you can listen along the Rocky IV watch-along episode. [Gemma & Slim laugh] Which I was listening to it this morning.
GEMMA We usually finish up this episode if you are a Patron member and unfortunately you’re not, you’re a Pro. I’ve got a few good quickfire questions for you, Will, to finish up with.
WILL Oh god. Great.
GEMMA We’ll start the Muppets. Are you a Kermit, a Fozzie, a Piggy or a Gonzo?
WILL I would say—Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Gonzo. I would say Gonzo. Yeah, I would say Gonzo. Yeah, definitely. That’s my answer. I don’t know why. But I just feel like Kermit is too organized. That’s not me. Fozzie’s just too funny and cuddly. And Gonzo is just a bit odd and kind of doing his own thing. And I feel like yeah, I too might come from space. So there we go. [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA I want to be a Gonzo but I just know I’m a Kermit, What about you Slim?
SLIM How disturbing was elder Gonzo’s nose in the ‘Haunted Halloween’ episode of The Muppets?
SLIM I mean, is there a more disturbing image of a nose on television?
WILL Yeah, in that whole [Muppets] Haunted Mansion thing, that single shot was the most terrifying thing in that whole thing, without a doubt. [Slim laughs]
SLIM Gemma, did you watch it yet on Disney+? Have you seen it?
GEMMA No, I tried to get my kid to watch it with me and he wasn’t having it. So now I feel like Halloween’s past. And Song of the Sea was my Halloween watch for this year.
SLIM I love Kermit. I love Kermit. I love the new Kermit voice. There’s a lot of vociferous people that hate new Kermit voice. It’s like new Coke. I don’t mind it. I think it’s fine. [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA I just love Kermit. And we don’t have Jim. It’s sad. And all I can say is, if you’re working too hard to go and see a doctor when you’ve got a bit of a cold that turns into a bad flu, just man up, and go and see your doctor. Anyway, next question. Who would win in a fight? U2 or The Pogues?
WILL Oh, The Pogues. Oh my god, The Pogues. The Pogues are just rowdy—unless they’re too drunk. That’s the only thing. But The Pogues really won’t hold their punches. They will just get dirty straightaway. And U2 might kind of show off and pose a little bit too much and be afraid to get hit in the face. Whereas The Pogues are just ready to rumble at any hour of the day. [Gemma laughs]
WILL Oh, that’s incredibly hard. Listen, it’s got to be The Commitments. When you’ve got Andrew—what’s his name? I can’t remember. Andrew Strong I think is the name of the actor who was the lead vocalist. He can belt out a tune. And even though I adored the kids in Sing Street, they don’t have a lead vocalist as strong as Andrew Strong. And y’know ‘Mustang Sally’ versus ‘Write It Like You Stole It’. I’m sorry, but ‘Mustang Sally’ is a better song. But I love Sing Street.
GEMMA Lovely. Alright. Two more questions. Who is your—if it was a story of your life, Will Collins—who would play your movie dad? Brendan Gleeson or Colm Meaney?
WILL Who would play my movie dad? Brendan Gleeson or Colm Meaney? I’d probably say—I’d probably say Brendan Gleason. And I don’t know why. But because I’ve seen Brendan Gleeson play a dad in one of my movies. [Gemma laughs] And so that’s probably the only reason.
GEMMA I thought it was gonna be, “Because he won’t do nothin’ for nobody for nothin’.” [Will laughs] Okay, Okay, last question I think. In the Irish heartthrob battle, who was the top of the leaderboard between Cillian, Aidan, Saoirse or Ruth?
WILL Cillian Murphy, Saoirse Ronan, Aidan Gillen and Ruth Negga? Is that it? Okay—is this an objective thing? Is it who is my favorite heartthrob? Who is my favorite or do you think it’s who would win from all these four?
GEMMA I reckon it’s your choice to interpret it how you want.
WILL Well listen, I’m sorry, but you know, Cillian Murphy and those dang eyes.
WILL Oh my god. I swear I’m sure he’s got some sort of superpowers going on there. They’ll either, they can burn a hole—or just steely gaze a hole through a wall or something like that. And those cheekbones. [Gemma laughs]
SLIM His hair, too! Sometimes when he has his hair long, it’s like hanging down the side. Good lord.
WILL He’s an incredibly handsome man. And yeah, it’s got to be Cillian Murphy all day long.
GEMMA That is the correct answer. [Slim laughs]
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
GEMMA Thanks so much for listening to The Letterboxd Show and thanks to our guest Will Collins. Give Wolfwalkers and Song of the Sea a rewatch this week and dial up The Best Bits podcast, why don’t you? You can follow Will, Slim, Gemma—that’s me—and our HQ page on Letterboxd using the links in our episode notes.
SLIM Thanks to our crew: composing dynamos, Moniker, for the theme music Vampiros Dancoteque. Thanks to Jack for the facts, our booker Linda Moulton for looking after our guests and Sophie Shin for the episode transcript. And to you, for listening. The Letterboxd Show is a Tapedeck production.
GEMMA And just a final happy birthday to Jack’s facts! I hope you get some town tasties.
SLIM Oh! Happy birthday.
[clip of Fargo plays]
CARL Hey, look at that. Twin Cities. The IDS building, the big glass one. Tallest skyscraper in the Midwest after the Sears and Chicago or John Hancock building, whatever. You ever been to Minneapolis?
CARL Would it kill you to say something?
GAEAR I did.
CARL No is the first thing you’ve said in the last four hours. That’s ahæ that's a fountain of conversation, man. That’s a geyser. I mean, whoa, chatty, stand back man. Shit. I’m sitting here driving, doing all the driving man, whole fucking way from Brainerd driving, just trying to chat, you know, keep our spirits up, fight the boredom of the road. You can’t say one fucking thing just in the way conversation. Oh fuck it. I don’t have to talk to you either, man. See how you like it. Just total fucking silence. Two can play at that game smart guy. Just see how you like it. Total silence.
[Tapedeck bumper plays] This is a Tapedeck podcast.