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The Letterboxd Show 3.21: Chandler Levack
[clip of Almost Famous plays]
ELAINE What’s that under your coat?
ANITA It’s unfair that we can’t listen to our music—
ELAINE It’s because it is about drugs and promiscuous sex.
ANITA Simon and Garfunkel is poetry.
ELAINE Yes, it’s poetry. It is the poetry of drugs and promiscuous sex. Honey, they’re on pot...
ANITA First it was butter, then it was sugar and white flour, bacon, eggs, bologne, rock and roll, motorcycles. Then it was celebrating Christmas on a day in September, when you knew it wouldn’t be commercialized! What else are you gonna ban?
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
GEMMA Hello, you’re listening to The Letterboxd Show, our podcast about the movies people love watching from Letterboxd: the social network for people who love watching movies. I’m Gemma, Slim is right here, and it is indeed Christmas in September. As we speak, Venice is in full swing and the Toronto International Film Festival is about to kick off. TIFF is a, capital letters, Big Deal in movieland. So we have scoured all of Canada for the most expert of experts to tell us why it’s a—capital letters—Big Deal. And we couldn’t believe who we found...
SLIM She is a Toronto resident, check. She’s an occasional movie critic for The Globe and Mail, check. She’s a filmmaker with a movie premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, check. That film is about an insufferable cinephile who wants to go to film school, check. And it’s called I Like Movies—check, check, check. Chandler Levack is also a Letterboxd member—
GEMMA Check! [Gemma laughs]
CHANDLER Thank you. It’s a terrific honor to be here. Just before we start, I want to say that it’s actually the Toronto Air Show happening right now. So if there’s any like crazy jets that happened to just sound-off in the background, I’m not being like, bombed... [Chandler & Gemma laugh] There’s just like weird war planes that are flying over the Canadian National Exhibition, but I apologize. I know you guys were like, “Sound is important.” And I was like, “Got it covered.” And then I was like, “Oh, wait, it’s the Air Show!” [Slim & Gemma laugh]
CHANDLER I saw that you liked Vanilla Sky and I was like, ‘Hell yeah.’ [Gemma & Slim laugh]
SLIM Amazing. We’ll just turn this into a Vanilla Sky lovefest.
GEMMA No we won’t. No, we won’t... [Slim & Chandley laugh] I’m out. I’m out.
SLIM Gemma’s leaving!
GEMMA I will leave the room. [Gemma laughs] Chandler, I’ve got an important question for you. You are a film critic who was about to have your debut feature premiere at one of the most prestigious film festivals on planet Earth. Do you need a hug?
CHANDLER Yes! [Chandler & Gemma laugh] I feel like my brain has totally exploded and, you know, yeah, I lost my phone like six times this week already. But I mean, in all seriousness, yeah, it’s a tremendous honor. I think this is the seventeenth TIFF that I’ve that I’ve gone to since I first started going, you know, as a film student at the University of Toronto in 2005. So yeah, a premiere feature at TIFF feels like literally insane. Incredibly exciting. I’m very, very honored and, you know, all of my most like profound experiences in my life I think have happened during the festival, just seeing movies or interviewing directors or just having these incredibly surreal experiences. I think just TIFF is like, it’s like Christmas for me. I love it.
GEMMA Oh my god.
CHANDLER Christmas in September. [Chandler laughs]
GEMMA I’ve had a couple of shorts, a narrative short and a doc short, in the New Zealand International Film Festival but never a feature. And even just shorts was so exciting. It’s not just that it’s your local festival, it’s that it’s a big-ass festival, right? And the shorts are being programmed against someone else’s massive feature, and yeah, it’s a really thrilling and, you know, quite personally, proud feeling, but it’s also scary! I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine what it’s gonna be like. Do you get to walk a red carpet?
CHANDLER Oh god, I hope not. [Chandler & Gemma laugh] But probably, I guess, I don’t know. I did buy a dress that I like, but it’s very nipply so I had to buy these like weird nipple covers. [Gemma & Slim & Chandler laugh] Just dealing with things that as a film critic, you know, nobody cares about my nipples normally, you know? [Gemma & Slim & Chandler laugh]
SLIM Amazing pull-quote.
GEMMA Do you think that—I was just looking at the photos of Timothée Chalamet on the Venice red carpet and that slinky red number. Do you think he’s got nipply, weird nipply things?
CHANDLER I think, didn’t he wear like, I remember that harness outfit that he wore a couple years ago—
GEMMA Oh yeah, and the sheer blouse. I don’t know, Slim, do you worry about your nipples on the red carpet?
SLIM I mean, what was the Oscars he wore that like, suit coat, but with no shirt underneath? I can’t just like sit down wearing one of those things. I’d be so preoccupied with how I look sitting down without a shirt on. I don’t know how he does it, but more power to him. [Gemma & Chandler laugh] We’ll get into it later in this episode. But I mean, how does it compare, the fictitious red carpet we’re talking about, compare to working in an actual video store? [Chandler & Gemma laugh] I mean, does it compare?
CHANDLER Oh yeah! From carpet to carpet.
SLIM Yes! [Gemma & Slim laugh]
CHANDLER Well the Blockbuster one I think was just gray. [Chandler laughs] And I did have to vacuum it a lot. Yeah, I really wanted to kind of pay homage with this film to kind of my formative education in cinema, you know, before I went to film school, my real film school was a Burlington, Ontario Blockbuster in the year 2003. You know, and that’s kind of, I was just like, such a movie-nerd in high school and utterly obsessed with film. And you know, that was kind of mostly my whole identity was just like, knowing about movies, talking about movies, loving movies. And so that’s kind of what I wanted to sort of encapsulate. This very formative coming-of-age movie or experience where I think a lot of people which was like, kind of falling in love with popular culture as a teenager, at a time when physical objects still existed. [Gemma laughs] And yeah, and I just feel like so nostalgic for that experience, that I went and made a movie about it.
SLIM This feels like Gemma and I are gonna role-reverse. Usually Gemma has anecdotes about the movies, but I also worked in a video store. I think 2001 to 2002. [Chandler gasps]
CHANDLER You did?
SLIM I worked at West Coast Video.
SLIM And I remember Vanilla Sky coming out on DVD during my first week. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the greatest day of my life! Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe!’ So we’ll get into that I think a little bit later with I Like Movies and maybe our shared history of having the greatest job on the planet. [Gemma laughs]
CHANDLER Oh my god.
SLIM Where we were paid six dollars an hour. [Slim laughs]
CHANDLER Yeah, but you got ten free rentals a week, so it was all worth it.
SLIM That’s true, that’s true. [Chandler laughs]
GEMMA But speaking of Cameron Crowe, shall we dive into your first of your four favorites, which is Almost Famous, from the year 2000, the distant future. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe. It has a 4.0 out of five average on Letterboxd. That’s good, huh? 11,000 fans of which you are one—that has a stadium concert of fans for Almost Famous, which feels appropriate. For those who still haven’t seen it, it concerns in 1973 William Miller is a fifteen-year-old with an unabashed love of music, inspired by his big sister, and an aspiration to become a rock journalist, and he lands and assignment from none other than Rolling Stone magazine to go on the road with up and coming band, Stillwater led by lead singer Jason Lee, oh my god.
SLIM He looks amazing. He looks incredible in this movie as a lead singer, right? With that beard? He’s so tall.
CHANDLER So good. “I’m only the lead singer...” [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA So in this show, we have Jack, Jack Moulton, behind the scenes who delivers us Jack’s Facts. He writes, “Cameron Crowe’s most popular and highest rated film and from the year 2000, it is the sixth most popular film overall.” So this is a popular film. This is a big film. It sits on Letterboxd lists, including Yazz’s list When you’re feeling a little lost. Andrea’s list Coming-of-age movies that make us feel seen. And starboys list Films that took an already amazing and well-known song and made it better by adding a cinematic moment to it that you are always reminded of when you hear the song, which is the theme of so many Letterboxd reviews about this film and its use of Tiny Dancer. So let’s get into it. When did you first see Almost Famous?
CHANDLER I mean, I saw it at the most perfect time when I was like, literally the same age as the character. And I think my soul just like imprinted on that movie in like the most profound way possible. I mean, I felt—you know, I think there’s some movies that just gave you this vision of like, who you want to become. And when I watched that film, I just, I wanted to be William Miller so badly. And I became a professional music journalist at age eighteen because of this movie. I ended up, you know, writing for my alt-weekly when I was eighteen, like in my first year of university. I moved to New York when I was twenty and did an internship at Spin Magazine...
CHANDLER And just like, you know, I feel like—but you know, that it also made me want to be a filmmaker too. I think Cameron Crowe is entirely responsible for every choice you’ve ever made in my life. [Chandler & Slim laugh] Professionally... And yeah, I’m obsessed with this movie. I even did a live-read of the screenplay in Vancouver a couple of years ago and Finn Wolfhard actually played like the young William Miller in it, so...
SLIM Oh my god.
CHANDLER Yeah I go deep on this movie. [Gemma & Chandler laugh]
SLIM That is very deep. Have you ever had the chance to meet Cameron Crowe?
CHANDLER No, I think I would explode internally. But he did retweet the Almost Famous live-read and I cried on the floor. [Chandler & Slim & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA So over the years, as you’ve got—it’s a funny one isn’t it, when you watch these sorts of movies, when you’re the same age as the main character, and then you go on to do all the things and then you come back to watch it with new intel about how this world actually works, how has the film changed for you, with your intel about the music world?
CHANDLER That’s a great question. I mean, I still love it every time I watch it, you know, it’s always perfect to me. During the pandemic, actually, there was a five-part podcast that Cameron Crowe did about the making of Almost Famous where he talks to a lot of the cast and collaborators. And you find out about some of the early casting, like originally Sarah Polley was going to play the Kate Hudson role.
GEMMA Ahh, whoa!
CHANDLER And Brad Pitt was getting to play the role that Billy Crudup does, the Russell character, which is fascinating. So that’s a great thing to check out. Yeah, I remember watching it one night by myself during the pandemic, like at my dad’s house, and I got like, super drunk, and I cried through the whole movie. And I just realized, you know, how much I still really related to the character. And I think my vision of William really changed. Like, I think instead of empathizing—I still empathize with that character, but I just think about how alone he is, throughout the whole experience, like how much he’s not actually a part of the scene, how much he’s always still an observer, the whole time. And just how it’s actually like a really lonely movie, I think now, like how much he wants to be seen and included and understood by these people that are, you know, using him. And, you know, he has this talent, and he has this really, these really big dreams of, you know, writing about music, and he has these really deep, profound relationships to art. But he just so badly wants to be a part of something that, really, he’s not part of. And at the end of the day, he’s just responsible for kind of writing this, this piece about this experience that really shaped and that’s also has a lot of elements of heartbreak in them in his own relationship to like, his own family that’s broken and, you know, trying to find a new family and I don’t know. Yeah, it was a different reading of it than I think when I was fifteen and just was like, ‘Wow, Stillwater. Greatest band on the planet.’ [Gemma & Chandler laugh]
SLIM Almost Famous had escaped my viewings, when I started—so like normal listeners know, regular listeners know I’m a huge Tom Cruise fan, but I’m also huge Cameron Crowe fan. Vanilla Sky is in my four faves. So around this time, I had like, discovered myself, Cameron Crowe movies, so Jerry Maguire, eventually Almost Famous, and then Vanilla Sky and I had this huge amount of respect for someone like Cameron Crowe to do a movie like Vanilla Sky after this series of movies. Looking back, it just feels so strange, like a strange trajectory. And I always watched the director commentaries with him. And he would always talk about how he would play music on the sets, like it was a very loose environment when they filmed. So a lot of the music you hear in his movies, it was just on like loop. He would just play albums while they filmed for the cast to just relax to. And I, just growing up, Cameron Crowe just felt like one of the coolest directors to me for the times. And he has these movies that have stood the test of time for—I mean, Jerry Maguire, I love Jerry Maguire. I don’t care what anyone says. [Gemma laughs] But movies like that over the years, they still hold up!
CHANDLER Except for Elizabethtown... [Chandler & Gemma laugh]
SLIM We don’t talk about Elizabethtown, Chandler, okay? I wasn’t gonna bring it up. You know, we just leave it out. [Chandler & Gemma laugh] Who knew Orlando Bloom, you know, wasn’t going to be the next big thing? Who knew the script just wasn’t perfect, you know? Who knew at the time?
GEMMA I came to Almost Famous for the first time after five years of traumatic involvement with the music industry, music media. So I’d been on our, you know, I’d spent two years as a reporter on our very first music television station. I’d also come out of five years of college radio, where all the bands came to us. New Zealand’s a small town, so they’d go to the mainstream and they would all come to us as well. You know, well, we had Beastie Boys, we had Radiohead. We had everyone in the door. K.d. lang, Canada’s own, one of my favorite interviews of my entire career. I asked her what the best sex was she’d ever had. And she said, “Any sex because it’s so few and far between these days.”
GEMMA Which is such an Almost Famous thing to say, right? Because you’re on the road and—
SLIM Also, what a ballsy question, too. [Gemma laughs]
CHANDLER Yeah, that’s an amazing question.
GEMMA I was like 21, we did these things when we were 21.
CHANDLER So cool.
GEMMA I would never ask it now. I would never. Chandler, what’s the best sex you’ve ever had? No—[Gemma & Slim laugh]
CHANDLER I don’t have sex, I just watch movies.
GEMMA Movies are sex. Movies are sex. [Gemma laughs] So yeah, my first viewing of Almost Famous was was quite cringe as much as I agree—
CHANDLER Oh, I can imagine.
GEMMA Yeah, that Cameron Crowe is a fantastic storyteller. It was quite cringe because I knew those bands, like that were burned into my soul. But coming back and watching it again this week... Ah, so beautiful. I really did, like you say, responded to the story of William Miller and Penny Lane actually. I was reflecting on Penny Lane a lot when I think about what’s going on with fandom at the moment. And, you know, Harry Styles with two films coming out this festival season and having social media in the mix as well and how tricky it is and how young women are being kind of weaponized with internal misogyny to hate on female creators that have anything to do with these male stars. And yeah, let’s just say Almost Famous, they were more innocent times.
CHANDLER They are, but then there’s also these like weird pockets of darkness, right? Where she gets like, sold to Humble Pie for a case of beer...
GEMMA Oh my god!
CHANDLER Like a sex slave. And, you know, the moment where she gets really drunk and, you know, only William Miller’s there to like, get her stomach pumped. And I think came across was always really written really multifaceted female characters, like Say Anything…, Ione Skye’s character.
GEMMA Oh my god.
CHANDLER Yeah, I mean, you’re right. I mean, it is a more innocent time and I think he’s definitely looking at the ’70s kind of through rose-colored glasses and the sort of groupie element of things is like, mythologized, you know, they’re band aids. But I think even so, there’s way more nuance and complexity to the script, even the fantastic character of Frances McDormand plays like as the mother.
SLIM Yeah, she’s great.
CHANDLER Like another version of this movie, which is also been made before too.
GEMMA Yeah, she’s amazing isn’t she, the Frances McDormand character, because she could be—the way she’s acting at the beginning and then the things that Zooey Deschanel, her daughter, is saying to her, you could imagine that she’s some extreme conservative, right-wing Christian, but then it turns out, she is a college professor who just knows too much, and that’s what it’s all about. But yeah, in terms of the way that Cameron Crowe films women—it always occurred to me that when Zooey leaps into the car with her boyfriend to driveway to San Francisco, that could be the last we see of her. But then he cuts to her in the car looking back out the window at them and we see the whole process of her processing what it means to leave her family, even though she wants to. And it’s just that one shot adds more to that character than—you know, it’s all it takes guys. Just put the camera back on her. [Slim laughs] For another minute. [Chandler laughs] Should we move on to Catherine Breillat’s 2001, this is one year later, French—
CHANDLER These are all Blockbuster movies, cleary. [Gemma & Slim & Chandler laugh] My cinematic education stops from like, 2000 to 2004.
GEMMA Your Blockbuster years. So from your Blockbuster years also is, in English Fat Girl, but in French the original title À ma sœur! which means ‘To my sister!’ which feels more apt. This is a 3.5 average, that’s, you know, in my mind it’s the perfect rating. But for this... [Gemma laughs] We’ll talk about it. Just 176 fans on Letterboxd, not many. And this is Catherine Breillat’s most popular movie. It’s the second highest rated on Letterboxd behind her other film from the same year actually, Brief Crossing—two films in a year, that’s just greedy, Catherine, good on you. And what is this film about?
SLIM The synopsis is rough, I feel like. So I was reading this earlier and I actually couldn’t tell, ‘Is this the real synopsis?’ And it is. “Anaïs is twelve and bears the weight of the world on her shoulders. She watches her older sister, Elena, whom she both loves and hates. Elena is fifteen and devilishly beautiful. Neither more futile, nor more stupid than her younger sister, she cannot understand that she is merely an object of desire. And, as such, she can only be taken. Or had. Indeed, this is the subject: a girl’s loss of virginity. And, that summer, it opens a door to tragedy.” I mean, what a synopsis!
CHANDLER What! That sounds like it’s like an erotic-thriller on Cinemax or something. [Slim & Chandler laugh]
SLIM Watching this with wavy lines at 1am.
GEMMA Imagine being described like, your parents are asked, “What is your daughter like?” “Well, she’s neither more futile, nor more stupid than her other sister...” [Chandler & Slim laugh]
CHANDLER “She can only be taken as an object of beauty...”
SLIM I feel like something was lost in translation or something with the synopsis. So I’ve seen this poster for a very long time. This is a first time watch for me, I love the poster. It’s gorgeous. Cinematography, also, is fantastic in this movie. But tell us about your first experience watching this?
CHANDLER Well, again, I worked at Blockbuster, this time that I took a chance at the, you know, foreign films section and came across Fat Girl, and I was like, ‘Well, I’m a fat girl. Maybe I’ll like it!’ [Chandler & Gemma laugh] No, there’s something again, I think it’s just that cover art that really drew me in and I watched it and I was like, I’ve never been so profoundly shocked by an ending in my life. And I don’t even know how many foreign films or French films at the time that I’d probably watched like, I think this was maybe one of the first exposures I had seemed to really like, boundary pushing art. And especially by like a female filmmaker too. Yeah, in a similar way to I think the first time I watched like, Welcome to the Dollhouse, I was kind of shocked by just the sort of portrayal of a punishingly cruel film, for when you’re like an outsider or a young woman that. doesn’t sort of fit the way that society wants you to fit, and just the ways that that character is both like an innocent but also kind of having her innocence lost, and the ways that the movie examines women and beauty and sexuality and sort of the really cruel indictment of both the older sister character but then also kind of like, saying like, “You are a monstrous, you are going to be punished, bad things are going to happen to you.” I just found the whole treatment of the movie like really surreal and haunting, especially as a young woman watching it at that age.
SLIM God, this would have shocked me to my core. I was thinking—sorry, not to bring up my video store experience again... [Chandler laughs]
GEMMA Bring it up.
SLIM The movies that I watched around this time that shocked me was Irreversible.
CHANDLER Ohhh, yeah!
SLIM I rented Irreversible from Gaspar Noé and I was like, ‘Am I done watching movies for the rest of my life?’ [Gemma & Chandler laugh]
CHANDLER That’s the thing. It’s like when you’re a kid, nothing, like movies hit you so hard, in a way that they actually, I think they can scar you or they can... they impact your psyche.
SLIM It’s absolutely true. So I went in totally blind. I didn’t read any friends’ reviews that were not, you know, spoilery—and maybe I should have. But this movie, I mean, towards the end of the movie, something happens that just literally shocks you. Knocks you on your ass. Gemma, what did you think of Fat Girl? What was your experience? Do you have a history with this movie?
GEMMA My history with this movie is avoiding it until now, and... [Slim & Chandler laugh]
CHANDLER Why did you avoid it?
GEMMA Same way that I’ve avoided Irreversible until one day somebody puts it in their four favorites, some sicko puts it in their four faves. [Slim laughs] Why did I avoid it? Good question, because I actually did put it on my watchlist this year after Kate Hagen wrote her beautiful essay for us about fat girls on film and the portrayal of them and the way we need that to change in a big way. She’d have mentioned Roxane Mesquida’s performance, which is itself pretty extraordinary. But man, I felt uncomfortable watching this. You both talking about this ending, which does kind of come out of nowhere. Not to mention after about twenty minutes of just driving, driving through the day and the night on French motorways. It’s like the driving sequence is so—
GEMMA Yeah, it’s unnerving. It plays with anticipation... and here we go, Sally Jane Blake’s review, I think is one of the best on Letterboxd at explaining this: “She touches on horror movie tropes of anticipation and expectation before her exclamation point ending,” that’s it right there. “but it’s numbness that we’re left with, not horror. Breillat understands that the everyday is just as horrifying as any slasher film, and she lets us linger on it.” And so I guess that’s for me, I’ve always found horror movies, horror horror movies, slasher movies, creature features, they’re like comedies to me. I’m not that scared. I like a good jumpscare, can still get me, but I don’t find them her effect because it’s all pantomime. This is the kind of film I find horrific. And it’s really interesting to hear you both kind of call out the ending because there’s pretty much a very long scene, like a seven minute uncut shot, somewhere in the middle, that for me was already horrifying around the negotiation of sex, while the other sister is sleeping in that same room. And I’m like, ‘Wait, there’s worse to come?’ [Slim & Chandler laugh] Because that, for me, was the horror scene. And I was like, who—like I’ve read and I’ve heard a bit about Catherine Breillat, and she’s definitely one of those French filmmakers who was just not here for the MeToo movement. She’s not having it with criticism of Polanski and co. So I thought, well, I was watching it on Criterion and so I’ll watch a few of the other videos related to this on there. There was a behind the scenes making-of, where she talks about how for her cinema is the “art of the impossible,” equating it to like, what’s the point of being a mountain climber and climbing a hill when you can climb a mountain? And that’s what she’s doing with her filmmaking, which chicks out...
CHANDLER Yeah, I mean, when you were saying that about horror movies, it kind of just made me think about like, it’s sort of, if you’re a woman, every day is like a horror movie, or there’s something about her films and the way that they portray sexuality—that’s like The Piano Teacher, holy god.
GEMMA Holy god is right.
CHANDLER Or she has this other movie that I saw at the Cinemateque a long time to go called, like, 36 Fillette or something. And it’s like this sort of, it’s just the carnality but also like, this movie almost to me feels more like a fairy tale, like a grim fairy tale. It has this kind of like dark, fatalistic, kind of morality tale element to it, that’s, like, so cruel and punishing, and then, when she—I don’t want to spoil anything, because the ending, I really don’t want to spoil it. But there’s something—it’s like, the whole movie, this girl has been told basically that she’s a monster, you know, and you just see her, sometimes she just wants to eat and, you know, go swim around in a bathing suit. And like, the whole world is just telling her all the time, “You’re hideous, stop enjoying pleasure, stop taking pleasure from life, be more like your sister, you have to live in her shadow, like you basically don’t deserve to exist.” And then at the end, she almost meets this counterpart, but it’s the only moment of the movie, that’s actually like, there’s tenderness in its kind of horrible destruction at the same time. And it’s kind of this letting-go where she sort of transcends into this sort of like, monstrous creation that it’s like a transformational experience. I don’t know how to explain it, but—
GEMMA She speaks for herself. Right? There’s a moment at the end—
CHANDLER Yeah, there you go. Yes. And she stands up against her sister. And it’s almost like, yeah, you’re right. There’s this retaliation.
SLIM There’s so many scenes in the front and middle of this movie that are also just like completely repulsive. Like the dude, I mean, I can’t remember—
CHANDLER Oh my god.
SLIM This dude, oh my, I would annihilate this guy. [Gemma & Chandler laugh] He’s so like—the scene where they’re just like making out at the breakfast table and they cut to her just eating right in front of them.
CHANDLER Oh yeah.
SLIM That was like, my very first note. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this movie is nuts.’ But also, there’s several scenes in bed are just... you could say that like, ‘Oh yeah, I totally get what the scene is doing.’ But it’s like an excess of that. So it’s like, the absolute worst that you could probably experience in this kind of situation. Because it’s almost like a real—not almost—it’s like a real conversation that dudes have. And then I think I glossed over the fact about how young she was until they were outside of the house. And he’s like, “I can’t be seen, you’re not even sixteen yet.” And I was like, ‘Oh my god...” [Slim laughs] I think I was like pulling off my imaginary tie collar as I was watching that scene. But yeah, there’s so many scenes like that. And to be honest, I think I’m one of the—maybe Gemma and I, in our friends groups, obviously, this is in your top four. But there’s so many of my friends that really enjoy this movie. They don’t, maybe ‘enjoy’ is the wrong word. But they’re just like you, they appreciate the kind of complexity in the darkness that is being shown on screen. And they have a huge respect for, I mean, that it even exists. And that’s hard for some people to watch.
GEMMA Here’s the question. You’re at Blockbuster, it’s the year 2001. Who are you recommending Fat Girl to?
SLIM Oh my god.
CHANDLER Oh my god.
SLIM Was this a ‘Chandler’s Pick’ on the rack, on the employee list?
CHANDLER It would have been 100% been a ‘Chandler’s pick’, it would have been like the Dawson’s Creek Season One DVD, Fat Girl... [Gemma & Slim & Chandler laugh]
SLIM Plus that’s also like a gateway, if someone comes back to be like, “Who’s Chandler? I really liked those two picks.” You know, you get a clue like, ‘Okay, this person is not too bad,’ where they’re, you know, they’re either going to be my best friend or I never want to talk to this person.
CHANDLER Yeah, the only date I ever went on in high school was this like 25-year-old guy who picked me up when I was working at Blockbuster by renting Best in Show. [Chandler laughs]
CHANDLER I had my first kiss like, watching Eugene Levy’s eyebrow—[Chandler & Slim laugh]
SLIM That’s a keeper, you know, Waiting for Guffman, you find someone renting that movie like, “Hey, what are you doing later?”
CHANDLER He was also like, a Rastafarian... [Chandler laughs] A white Rastafarian. [Gemma & Slim laugh] He drove a Vespa...
GEMMA Oh, no. Did he have the dreadlocks? The white dreadlocks?
CHANDLER No, but he did say the word ‘ja’ a lot. [Chandler & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Ah, Toronto...
CHANDLER And then he broke up with me after two weeks and I was like, not into him. But then when he broke up with me, I was like, “I want you back!” [Chandler & Slim laugh] Anyways...
GEMMA This is amazing. So Burlington, the Burlington. The heady, heady teenage days of Burlington... [Chandler laughs] …is what you are portraying in your film I Like Movies.
CHANDLER That’s right.
GEMMA Which is premiered at TIFF, very, very exciting. Slim—honestly I started watching this and I immediately Slacked Slim and I was like, “Dream movie.”
SLIM I need this movie hooked into my veins, Chandler.
CHANDLER Oh my god!
SLIM I love this movie. I wrote in my Letterboxd review, this is my favorite of the year so far. And I was telling some of my friends last night, like I was describing the movie and I was like, “Well, it’s about this narcissist who works in a video store... So you might imagine why I might like this movie.” [Gemma & Chandler laugh] But the journey of the character is what I want to call out. So it’s premiering at TIFF, I give my highest recommendation for people to check out. It takes place around 2003 in the video store, Lawrence. But it’s not just like, that’s not the pitch, the pitch that I would tell people, it’s about a narcissist kind of coming to find out that they’re kind of an asshole from people. And, you know, can things change? Because I think in some of your writing, you talk about working with film bros and music bros, and they’re just like that their whole life. And I appreciate in this movie that they’re given a chance, like this is your moment to just get out of that or stay in there forever. And the journey is tremendous. So I loved it. So five—I can’t read it yet. It’s gonna get five stars, Gemma.
CHANDLER Oh my god!
GEMMA On the 9th of September. Oh my god.
SLIM September 9th, I’m dropping that rating.
GEMMA When the embargo is up.
CHANDLER It’s the highest honor, that means so much to me.
GEMMA I told everyone, “Stop the clocks, we found the TIFF People’s Choice winner.” [Chandler laughs]
CHANDLER I saw it. I thought you were being ironic. [Chandler & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Oh my god! I’m gonna change that review to say, “No irony intended.” No, because, you know, it’s gonna go to Glass Onion[: A Knives Out Mystery] or, you know, some big movie.
CHANDLER Of course.
GEMMA So a girl can dream, anyway, a girl can dream and that’s why I wrote that.
CHANDLER Oh my god. That’s... that’s so nice. I can’t even process it. That’s really, really extraordinarily kind of you to say. I was so petrified that people on Letterboxd actually we’re gonna hate this movie. [Gemma & Chandler laugh]
SLIM No way. No way.
GEMMA How can we hate it? We’re all narcissists and it’s about us. I mean... [Chandler laugh]
CHANDLER I’m a narcissist, too.
SLIM You filmed this, this is like one of those Covid movies, you know? I mean, but it’s also your first feature film. That probably had to be the like one of the hardest, maybe worst experiences ever, do your first feature film in that kind of environment. What was it like?
CHANDLER It was crazy. And it was the third wave of the pandemic in Ontario. So full lockdown, like you couldn’t buy anything in a store. Basically, it was just this time in, you know, Ontario, where it’s like, if you see or touch anything or anyone you will die. So, you know, and it was a micro-budget movie, so 15% of our budget actually had to go to Covid protocols to have a Covid officer on set. I had to direct in a face shield. There was a point on set where my AD, there’s so much anxiety about Covid, that she was like, “All of your extras have to be wearing masks.” And I was like, “Yeah, everyone’s wearing masks between takes, like no problem.” She’s like, “No, while we’re filming, they have to still be wearing a mask.” [Slim laughs] And I was like, “But you know we’re making a 2003 like, period piece that doesn’t take place during a plague. Like how are we gonna do that? That’s just nuts. Like, are you trying to break me psychologically? Because like, I’m already there. I don’t need more of this.” And yeah, and she’s like, “Well, maybe we can just like hide their strings or they can be like, you know, facing away from the camera,” and I was like, “Okay, let’s try a take, let’s try and see if it’ll work.” And we did one take, and I was like, “No, I can see everybody’s masks, we’re never going to do this again.” You know, at that time, that was almost a reasonable suggestion, just because of the true, you know, fear and anxiety about what was happening then. So I’m very lucky that, you know, we didn’t have any positive cases on set, our production never got shut down. But it was weird, because, you know, video store is supposed to be really bustling, especially in the suburbs. And like, the only people who wanted to be extras were my parents, who were like, clearly the most vulnerable of all. [Chandler & Gemma laugh] So, yeah, I mean, I was just like, “Okay, I’m putting my parents—” you know, everyone on set was literally risking their lives to make my first feature. And, you know, that’s a really bizarre layer to put in to the making of your first film, in addition to everything else, just about the artistic process of it.
GEMMA Man, you know what? You have made a list on Letterboxd called Movies that are like I Like Movies, which is very cool. But I think you also need lists of Lawrence’s picks...
CHANDLER Oh yeah!
GEMMA Each of the Sequels Video characters their own picks... [Chandler gasps]
CHANDLER That’s such a good idea. I’m totally going to do that.
GEMMA Do it! Do it! [Gemma laughs]
CHANDLER Lawrence’s Staff Picks.
GEMMA Everyone should see this film on the big screen. But for those of us who got sneaky screeners ahead of this episode, we have the privilege of pausing and being able to look at details. And I just want to point out, Lawrence’s resume... [Gemma & Chandler laugh] When he comes into Sequels, the video store, to try and get a job, under ‘Major Achievements’ he wrote, “filmed a sequence of meaningful, powerful clips for our school’s year-end video.” [Chandler laughs] And then in ‘Additional Skills’, “Proficient in iMovie 2, amazing director, keen eye for aesthetics.” [Chandler & Gemma & Slim laugh]
CHANDLER That wasn’t actually me, that was our amazing art assistant, Natasha, she made that resume and she just presented it to me and I like, fell down laughing. It’s perfect, amazing filmmaker.
SLIM We should call out too, the Alana character who works at the video store. There’s so many good moments and really, the big shift in the storyline itself takes place between these two characters, they strike up a friendship. I mean, I remember getting my video store job, I probably had a resume like that. I don’t even know what the hell I would have put on my resume.
GEMMA “Proficient in iMovie 2...”
SLIM I was probably proficient in iMovie at the time. [Chandler & Gemma laugh]
CHANDLER Just Ken Burns those effects.
SLIM Maybe I put on a Ken Burns wig when I went in for my interview. [Chandler laughs]
CHANDLER Talked about jazz a lot and baseball...
SLIM Yes, yes. [Chandler & Slim & Gemma laugh]
[clip of I Like Movies plays]
OWEN Lawrence, you have an amazing opportunity right now. You’re working for a company that’s only growing and expanding. So... if you play your cards right, I could see you having a career in the video store industry for the next 30 to 40 years!
SLIM The conversation they had where he tells, he talks to Alana, and he’s like, “Don’t you want to have a career? You know, don’t you want to do something different?” And she’s like, you know, manager or assistant manager at the video store, and she’s like, “I have a career...” I remember so often when I was younger, the video store actually probably was the end of the line. And like even still, if I win the lotto, I would probably fire up maybe a VHS CRT video store and just maybe work three hours a day. [Chandler & Gemma laugh] But I loved how there were those conversations between the two characters where you start to push them in different directions. She has a story in a life before this video store that brought her there, but between the two of them they push each other to ask uncomfortable questions between the both of them. I loved it.
CHANDLER Thank you so much. I mean, it was so interesting, because, you know, while I was editing this movie, Licorice Pizza came out—
GEMMA I was going to ask...
CHANDLER Which is a movie about, like kind of a stocky, sixteen-year-old boy and an older woman named Alana. And I was blown away by like the similarities to it and that dynamic. But I feel like in this movie, it’s kind of like what that relationships like in reality, you know?
GEMMA I feel like you’ve almost you’ve almost made a discourse-proof feature film. [Chandler laugh]
CHANDLER Oh, that can’t be true. My eventual cancellation is imminent. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Well, let’s just talk about—I mean, we’ve got two more of your four faves to talk about. But let’s talk a bit about Lawrence, Isaiah Lehtinen, oh my god, he is sooo good as Lawrence.
CHANDLER Oh yeah.
GEMMA He’s so awkward and narcissistic and anxious. [Chandler laughs] And does that coming-of-age arc so well.
CHANDLER Thank you.
GEMMA So well. How did you find him?
CHANDLER Oh my god. I mean, he was just a part of an open casting call. But, you know, we had a lot of interesting people audition for the part. Like Jared Gilman, the lead of Moonrise Kingdom auditioned.
GEMMA Sorry, Jared.
CHANDLER Yeah, Jared is on Letterboxd, I know. And he was great and big fan. He was great. Yeah, Graham Verchere, who was in Stargirl. Percy Hynes White who plays Matt Macarchuk in the movie originally auditioned for Lawrence. You know, I really wanted to find an actor who could really be like the author of the film, you know, the way that like, you’ll always think of Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade or like, Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore. This kind of special, singular, like super specific person where it’s like, for the rest of their life, you know that’s Lawrence. And Isaiah was one of the last people to audition, there was a lot of pressure for me to like, lock it down and pick someone. And, you know, like young men who want to be actors, a lot of times, they don’t really have a lot of the same lived experience that someone like Lawrence has. They don’t have that kind of intense, like immersive relationship to popular culture. They’ve, you know, if they’re the star of a CW show or something. And Isaiah, when he audition, he was wearing a t-shirt from The Lighthouse. [Chandler laughs]
GEMMA Ha ha!
CHANDLER And he did his audition, he was just really straightforward and sincere and calm and kind of—and I was like, ‘Oh my god, who is this? This isn’t how I pictured this character in any way but it’s, it’s so much more interesting and rich and detailed.’ And then the more that we hung out, like the first time that he auditioned, it was over Zoom. And he was like, “I don’t want to do movies that I’m doing on like, the Disney Channel, I want to do like, real shit. And my favorite actors are like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Danny DeVito, and that’s the kind of career I want to have.” And I’m just like, “Oh my god, who are you?” The more that we talked, we would just spend, you know, even though I was still auditioning other people, we would talk on Instagram for like, three, four hours. [Chandler & Gemma laugh] My mom was like, “Why are you always talking to this like, little boy?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I think I might...” Actually, the funniest thing was like, I remember showing my mom his audition tape and she was like—and it was the dinner table scene—and she was like, she watched it. and she was like, “Don’t cast him.” And I was like, “Why?” And she was like, “He’s very talented. He’s going to be a movie star, but he’s too much like you and I think people are going to be freaked out and they won’t like it.” [Gemma laughs] And I was like, “I think he just got the part...” [Chandler laughs]
GEMMA He’s amazing. Although, one word of caution. Your film’s embargoed, but there are already a couple of capsule reviews up on Letterboxd including one that says: “Isaiah Lehtinen owes me $600. Do not support this actor.” But on closer investigation, the writer appears to be Isaiah Lehtinen, so... [Chandler & Slim laugh] I think we’re good.
CHANDLER He’s amazing. I mean, he’s a TIFF Rising Star this year as well, alongside the lead actor of The Fabelmans, which is kind of funny.
SLIM Is there a [The] Shining homage at one point where he is looking—
CHANDLER Oh, his close-up? Yes.
SLIM Yeah, so funny. So funny. [Chandler laughs] This is just me gushing through my notes at I run through the movie. The shot of him, I can’t remember the line that Alana says, but she says something that shocks him and she’s like, “Don’t get a boner or anything.” And he like kind of laughs and then he goes back to the counter and he just like, looks left or right. It’s just such a strange edit that left that in. I loved that. [Gemma laughs]
CHANDLER He’s asking her what her favorite movies is and then she’s like, “Redrum, Redrum...” And then he’s like, “Whoa, Stanley Kubrick?” And she’s like, “I just thought that would give you a huge boner.” [Gemma laughs] And then all the VHS Rewinders that he is rewinding pop up at the same time. [Slim laughs]
SLIM It’s so good. It’s so good.
GEMMA So, listeners, you’re getting a feeling for this movie. I mean, I’m just looking at the rest of Slim’s and my notes—
CHANDLER It sounds demented when I tried to explain it.
SLIM No, it’s beautiful.
GEMMA We’ve got to move on because the rest of our notes is basically just lines of dialogue. [Slim laughs]
[clip of I Like Movies plays]
LAWRENCE And Matt, Wild Things has a three week late fee on it—$46, man! Like... I don’t care that that’s your favorite movie to jerk off to! My store really needs it back! Okay?! It’s important!
SLIM When the one customer is looking for him, the older guy that comes to the counter and he tries to describe what he looks like. [Slim & Gemma laugh] Oh my god!
CHANDLER That happened to me at Blockbuster. [Slim & Gemma laugh] For real!
SLIM What that an exact quote?
CHANDLER Yes! Yes! I was helping a customer at Blockbuster and then I walked off and then he’s like, “This girl was trying to help me,” and they’re like, “Okay well what does she look like?” Just like, “Just very Jewish, I don’t know! Well not actually Jewish, she could be a Jew on television. She was TV Jewish!” [Gemma & Slim & Chandler laugh]
SLIM The delivery of that actor cracked me up, oh my god.
GEMMA I have never, in all our years of doing this show, I’ve never seen Slim cry laugh. This is an amazing moment. [Slim & Chandler laugh]
SLIM All this to say, check this movie out. Add it to your watchlist when it’s readily available so that you’ll get notified once it’s out and about, hopefully. We do have to move on though. We have two more movies to get to and we’ll see how much time we can give them. But our next one on the list is another classic, The Apartment. 1960, Billy Wilder, written by IAL Diamond. 4.3 average, that’s very high, my god, on Letterboxd. 4,000 fans. “Bud Baxter is a minor clerk in a huge New York insurance company, until he discovers a quick way to climb the corporate ladder—by lending out his apartment to the executives as a place to take their mistresses.”
SLIM “Meanwhile, Fran runs the elevators in the same insurance company, hoping for her life to change for the better.”
GEMMA Just a note about that synopsis, I added the Fran bit in.
SLIM Oh, thank you.
CHANDLER It wasn’t there before?
GEMMA It wasn’t there before, it was all about Bud.
SLIM It was all about Bud.
CHANDLER Oh wow.
GEMMA I know. Rude.
SLIM Bud, it’s not all about you, Bud. Was this a 2000-ish watch? [Chandler laughs] This is not released in the 2000s. But, we have to ask.
CHANDLER That’s a good question. I don’t remember the first time I watched it, actually. Oh my god. You know, it’s funny because, okay, I sound like I’m insane. But Cameron Crowe actually wrote this book called Conversations with Wilder where he goes through all of his movies and he spent like a whole week with Billy Wilder just interviewing him about his entire catalogue, which is based on the Hitchcock Truffaut book where François Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock. And it’s great. And yeah, I don’t remember how this came into my existence. But once I watched it, it will never leave me. And I’ve seen it, I don’t know, probably 35 times since. I love this movie so, so, so much.
SLIM We covered this, I think, maybe it was last year. So that was the first time I’d ever watched The Apartment, believe it or not.
CHANDLER Oh wow.
SLIM This was like one of those watchlists movies. I actually have had the blu-ray for the same amount of time that’s been on my watchlist. Just been collecting dust in this room. But man, I fell in love with Shirley MacLaine like, immediately in this movies
CHANDLER Yeah, oh my god.
SLIM Holy smokes, what an actor and what a character too in this movie. 1960, and this is this is what’s happening in this movie. So pretty forward thinking, in my opinion.
GEMMA Well, no, I think there are a lot of storylines like this back then. And there aren’t enough storylines like this now.
GEMMA Yeah. I think the more I watch older movies, you know, mid-century movies, the spicier they are. And it’s partly, I guess, because of the code, they had to be spicy in dialogue and suggestion. But people were doing these things, right? And whereas now, it’s... I don’t know, I don’t know. I just, I want to live in all these old movies.
SLIM I was gonna say we talked about Cameron Crowe earlier but I mean, Billy Wilder’s movies always have some of the best writing.
CHANDLER Oh yeah.
SLIM So I’m wondering if these are the kinds of movies also that have just hugely influenced you and in writing I Like Movies?
CHANDLER I mean, very much. I mean, I love, also like romantic-comedies. And I feel like this movie is one of the most adult romantic-comedies I’ve ever seen. You know, I haven’t seen a romantic-comedy where there’s like a suicide fake-out before. [Chandler laughs] And, you know, where there’s just like, I remember watching this movie with my my friend, Matthew Rankin, who did The Twentieth Century, and we watched together and he was talking about how for him, like romantic comedies are about like, justice, right? And it’s like, there’s an injustice when like the people that you don’t think deserve love, don’t get it. And, you know, what’s interesting about this movie is there’s so many different power imbalances, you know? And nobody has—the only person who’s kind of free of cruelty because he’s such a horrible narcissist is the Sheldrake character played by Fred MacMurray.
GEMMA Ah, Fred MacMurray.
CHANDLER I know. But like, you know, Fran is trapped in this this horrible relationship. She doesn’t really think that she’s good enough to be loved by Jack Lemmon. She kind of, he’s like a Baxter, you know? I think that movie The Baxter that Michael Showalter did is based on, because I think his name’s CC Baxter in the movie and so that became like a cultural trope in the 1950s where sort of this, in romantic-comedies, where there’s sort of this lovable like underdog that’s trying so hard to like get the woman that’s only going to be kind of like tossed over and stuff until she eventually realized this is like innate goodness, you know? No, it’s just a very adult movie about like, true loneliness and sort of being alone in a huge city and just wanting somebody to like, really recognize you and love you. And yeah, and just, I don’t know, all those scenes together when they’re in the apartment, and he’s like, making this spaghetti out of the tennis racket.
SLIM The tennis racket.
GEMMA Oh my god.
CHANDLER It’s so unbelievable.
GEMMA It’s just iconic.
CHANDLER And just Jack Lemmon’s like, physicality. And there’s another phrase, actually, this is another inspiration for I Like Movies too, the scene where he’s at home and he’s watching Grand Hotel on TV and he has this like sad little like chicken dinner and then he’s like, “Grand Hotel!” And they’re like, you know, and they keep announcing all the different cast members, “Greta Garbo!” He’s excited. He’s like, “After this commercial...”
GEMMA Yes! [Gemma laughs]
CHANDLER And then it just keeps going.
GEMMA And he gets so enraged about the commercials, which is all of us, ever.
CHANDLER I just like love moments where you’re alone and watching someone privately at home and by themselves. I feel like you see that so rarely in film, you know, and just the kind of way that it shows people’s private lives and sort of isolation and desperation of trying to connect with people and being alone and wanting love but also, being afraid to actually recognize your own humanity or something.
SLIM One Letterboxd list that cracked me up: Male Protagonists that I Could Easily Beat Up in a Fight. [Chandler laughs] That’s Claira’s list.
GEMMA Claira has the best lists. Yeah, it’s so true. Interesting though, Melissa’s list Manic Pixie Dream Girl, it’s often been said that Fran Kubelik is one of the original Manic Pixie Dream Girls and also Kate Hudson’s character in Almost Famous. But, you know, I think the thing about Manic Pixie Dream Girls is when we don’t get to find out much about them, when they live in service of all of the male characters. And that could be said to certainly be true for half of The Apartment, nut then, we do get to know Fran and Shirley MacLaine—I mean, we never go to her house, do we? Back Shirley MacLaine transcends the trope she didn’t know existed that hadn’t even been invented at that time...
CHANDLER Oh, yeah. I love the scenes where she’s at the Chinese restaurant, you know, and the guys like, “Hello lady. Nice to see you again.” And she’s like drinking her like sad daiquiri, waiting for Fred MacMurray to, you know—yeah, I mean it’s sort of like, I mean yes, it’s such a dazzling, like incandescent, you know, performance and of course, she’s so adorable and stuff but there’s a real sadness to her. I mean, there’s a real giving up and kind of depression, ring of depression that both those characters carry around with them all the time. And I feel like she is really fleshed out in a way that very—you know, that was a great era for women in movies, like I love The Lady Eve.
CHANDLER But yeah, I feel like she does hold her own. As much as it’s about Jack Lemmon’s character, her character really centers and that love relationship between them, it’s one that, you know, it’s not a movie where I think even they end up together at the end, you know?
GEMMA Really? Ah...
CHANDLER I don’t know...
GEMMA Hmm! You think they might have a couple of good years and then move on?
CHANDLER I don’t know like, can you see them really like moving to South Orange and maybe having some kids? [Chandler & Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA No. I will give 100 points to the person who can think of a perfect segue from The Apartment to Crime Wave. The 1985 piece of Canadian weirdness written directed, produced, acted-in, edited, designed and filmed by John Paizs. 3.8 average, 60 fans on Letterboxd. 60 fans, that’s a decent sized house party—you and 59 others could get together and party.
CHANDLER That’d be great!
GEMMA And talk about Crime Wave, we can find them for you. So please tell us... [Gemma laughs] exactly what, because I still don’t know after watching it, exactly what does Canadian comedy pastiche of 1950s pulp films is all about? [Gemma laughs]
CHANDLER I don’t know, it’s just about like Winnipeg wackiness, I guess. [Gemma & Chandler laugh]
GEMMA Right, there is a synopsis. There is a synopsis. “Steven Penny is an aspiring ”color crime” screenwriter who suffers from writer’s block and can only write at night by streetlamp. His landlord’s daughter Kim is excited to have a real ”movie person” living nearby, and she tries to help by putting him in touch with Dr Jolly, a strange Texan who advertises his services as a co-writer.” This film premiered—this is the link directly to you, Chandler...
CHANDLER Oh yeah! That’s right!
GEMMA This film premiered at the 1985 Toronto International Film Festival. And John, in an interview with the Brooklyn Rail about a decade ago, said: “I suppose you could say I had screenwriting on the brain when I embarked on the Crime Wave script, making it very self-reflexive.” So this is like... Slim... [Gemma laughs] What was in your brain watching Crime Wave.
SLIM I’d never heard of this movie. But my overall take on this movie is I love that John was able to make this happy.
CHANDLER Yeah, yeah.
SLIM And that it just screams love for this property. And I mean, all of the work he put into this, he had a vision for it. He put in what he loved and it shows in the final product. So I mean, for you, was that something that connected with you on first viewing that like, maybe it was early viewing of it, but like, ‘I could do this too...’ At least that’s what it speaks to me, that if I had seen this when I was younger, I’d be like, ‘If this guy can do it, so can I.’
CHANDLER His early shorts are really incredible, too. I mean, for those who’ve never heard of John Paisz before, he’s like a filmmaker from Winnipeg. He kind of came, I guess, of age in sort of the mid-’80s and was sort of in the same community that when when Guy Maddin was first starting out. And yeah, I think I watched this film for the first time at like a Cult Cinema screening or something in Toronto. And, you know, I’d heard other people were like, “Oh, you got to see Crime Wave, it’s gonna blow your mind.” And I saw it, and I just, I couldn’t believe how funny and absurd it was. How great, how captivating John is, as like a leading man. Even though there’s kind of like a sad like Buster Keaton kind of energy to his performance. I love the little girl who’s sort of his foil. I feel like it’s like a precursor to The Simpsons, it has that same kind of like, irony-drench, like visual-gag humor, self-reflexive, pop culture, kind of energy to it. And then yeah, he later went on to direct some episodes of Kids in the Hall.
CHANDLER And he made another movie called Top of the Food Chain, but I think that was kind of a tough experience for him. So then after that, he never made any more films.
GEMMA Oh, that’s such a bummer. I was looking, he was saying—I mean, to give some context to those who haven’t seen it, and it’s available on Amazon Prime Video, actually. He already knew of John Waters and was a fan.
CHANDLER Ohhh, cool!
GEMMA But he didn’t know if David Lynch and Blue Velvet came out the same year basically, as he was editing his film, and he went, “Oh, no, we kind of made the same film...” And so I think, I don’t know, maybe the wind was knocked out of his sails a bit. But if that gives you, if you’re a John Waters slash David Lynch lover, you will love Crime Wave. I had so many notes about this. Is Steven the greatest artist you’ve never heard of, or the greatest psychopath? [Chandler laughs] There’s a scene where he’s just standing sitting across the road eating a bag of nuts while watching firefighters do a jaws-of-life rescue. [Chandler laughs] It’s kind of like ‘everything is material’ sort of approach that writers sometimes have. There are murders and killings in this film that are kind of hilarious. The shooting of the shoe of the foot... The most violent thing I’ve seen in a film all year was the cyclist getting doored, that I felt personally attacked by that. But he has attacks of self-doubt all the way through. There’s a hilarious bollocks tutorial that the landlord’s daughter gives her parents, like all the way through she’s narrating Steven’s story.
CHANDLER Oh yeah, I love her parents.
GEMMA But she’s also explaining to her parents how filmmaking works. [Gemma & Chandler laugh] It’s amazing. But the number of Letterboxd reviews of this film that basically start off the same way with, “I knew I was watching something special within the first five minutes.” There’s a lot of love for this movie.
SLIM Yeah, Sally Jane Black has us on a Letterboxd list, Punk. Weirdo Watchlist by Tyler. Your comment about The Simpsons. I didn’t think of that until you had mentioned that but I can totally see that, some undertones to so many bits The Simpsons do in this movie. Some of the notes that I put down, I loved him as Spielberg later in the movie, he’s wearing that like Spielberg hat. [Chandler & Gemma laugh] And that beard, that was cracking me up. There’s that one shot of the town backdrop, where like remember they got to the sales town and they couldn’t proceed. So they just showed that empty town, that was gorgeous looking, that backdrop thing?
GEMMA And John Paizs painted it with a friend on glass.
GEMMA Oh, yeah.
CHANDLER Wow! I didn’t know that!
GEMMA Oh, yeah. I looked up all these details. Oh, yeah.
CHANDLER That’s so cool.
SLIM So cool. But yeah, this is such a strange movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something that I can compare this to. I was trying to think of another movie. What’s that other—is it American, is it American Movie where those two dudes trying to make their own movie?
GEMMA Oh yeah, I love that film so much.
CHANDLER Oh, yeah, that was a huge influence for I Like Movies as well.
SLIM I felt like I was getting a similar vibe to that. Where like, when you watch that movie—
SLIM Yeah. [Slim & Chandler laugh] When you see them talking about making a movie, Crime Wave like made me think of that. And maybe it’s just kind of like a movies that are a kind of, you know, do it yourself inspirational type things, but I felt they were kind of in the same, you know, mini genre. Like, you can do this, if you have the desire, if you have the heart, this could be you, you can do whatever you want.
CHANDLER Yeah, I mean, I just think it’s just such an extraordinary piece of outsider art that’s still really fun and accessible and hilarious. And I always think about like, you know, the crazy graphics of like, “Will the bitch goddess of success...” [Gemma laughs]
SLIM Yes, so good.
CHANDLER Or that like spinning cake that goes all the way around. I mean, it’s literally insane. Imagine being John Paizs and working on your scenes with like this little girl and trying to explain like, how did she—what did she think she was in? But she’s so great. It’s like a totally geillis, amazing performance from her. I don’t know. I mean, it’s just, yeah, you’re right. It is a really great inspiration that you can make anything you want. And that there’s no rules and like, I mean, I’m sure the making of it was probably extremely difficult. But it lives on, you know, the fact that people on Letterboxd are still, you know, finding out about this movie and sharing their love for it 30 years later, is like, amazing.
SLIM So usually at the end of the show, we’ll take a peek at our guest’s Letterboxd profile, we’ll spotlight a few things, we’ll ask a few questions that warrant further investigation. But you’ve recently watched Funny Pages.
CHANDLER Oh, this is very intimate for you to look at my Letterboxd. [Slim & Gemma laugh]
SLIM I scanned and we picked some things out that we have to talk further on.
SLIM Tell us about what you thought of Funny Pages from A24?
CHANDLER I loved it! I feel like, you know, it’s like your experience with I Like Movies. [Chandler & Slim laugh] It might be my favorite movie of the year so far. I just, I loved how, I love the super gnarly, super 16 cinematography that was by Sean Price Williams. I love the demented casting, where like every person looks like someone at Zabar’s rifling through the herring aisle. [Slim & Gemma laugh] I thought it was so funny, I thought it was so original and personal and really like, talking about willfully unlikable characters that are like maybe borderline mentally unstable, and the kind of doubling down on a future for yourself that is like truly horrifying. Like, that basement apartment...
SLIM The basement. Can you imagine living in that basement?
CHANDLER I cannot imagine it, like you guys have to see this movie for just the production design of this like disgusting basement apartment that this like privileged, you know, eighteen-year-old rents in` Trenton, New Jersey. There’s like a disgusting fish tank with no fish in it, absolutely horrifying. Like a plastic covered couch, everyone’s just like dripping in sweat. These like disgusting middle-aged men that are his new roommates. It was haunting, really haunting.
SLIM Also when he walks in that one scene, they’re like, I think they’re watching YouTube video or they’re watching movies on a laptop. The one guy’s got his barefoot out. It looks like he’s like clipping his toenails, it’s 100 degrees. I wanted to dry-heave watching that movie.
CHANDLER It’s so real, it’s too real. Yeah, you can feel the like skin flakes everywhere. [Slim & Chandler laugh]
SLIM I think so. We’ve got comic books, we’ve got movie store—
CHANDLER Shrek... jokes. [Gemma & Slim & Chandler laugh]
SLIM We’ve got Tom back, literally saving cinema. He saved cinema this year. So, thank you Tom.
GEMMA Oh and Marcel the Shell [with Shoes on]. Like, this is it. This is your year.
SLIM Oh, yeah, yeah.
CHANDLER I loved Marcel the Shell [with Shoes On].
CHANDLER And it’s only just beginning because there’s there’s so many amazing movies at TIFF this year too.
CHANDLER I heard the font’s not in Papyrus anymore, so I’m not interested. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Oh my god, I do have to, before we move on from Funny Pages, I do have to call out that our dear Jack’s Facts did actually talk to Owen Kline about his favorite movies, and that piece is up now on Journal. And it’s so good. But in that piece, I learned for the first time—maybe I should have known—that Owen Kline is of course, the child of Kevin Kline’s and everybody’s—or at least my favorite teenage crush—Phoebe Cates. Oh my god.
CHANDLER I know, it’s wild.
SLIM They’ve been married for a long time. It’s one of those like rare, long-term relationships that worked. So, props to them.
GEMMA Honestly! Drop Dead Fred is one of the best films ever made and nobody can argue with me about that. Finally, you have a list of movies you can’t wait to see at TIFF.
GEMMA Including your own, which... you know, is sensible. I don’t think that’s narcissistic, I think that’s sensible. Quite a lot of films on this list. Are there one or two that you want to call out?
CHANDLER Yeah, absolutely. Okay, let me think about this... I’m really excited for The Maiden by Graham Foy, who’s a friend of mine from the Canadian music videos scene. It’s his first feature and it’s premiering at Venice, before it comes to Toronto. And he shot it on 16mm film with the same demented micro-budget grant that I got. And you know, he’s just such an incredibly talented filmmaker. It’s a coming-of-age story. Early reviews are saying it’s kind of like Gus Van Sant meets like Apichatpong... I don’t know how to pronounce his last name, I’m very sorry. But he just plays with like the concept of time and coming of age tropes and tells these really beautiful, incandescent, super cinematically teen stories, but there’s always like, a lot of play with them and like visual storytelling, and he’s just magnificent. So I think that’s kind of going to be of the movies at TIFF that you’re not going to want to miss. And then I guess the other movie I’m excited about is The Fabelmans, like Steven Spielberg’s film... because my friend Peter told me that there’s a scene where there’s literally, the main character screens his year-end video to his school, and there’s a person that later tells him how much it emotionally moved him, which makes me wonder if me and Steven Spielberg made the same movie. [Chandler laughs]
SLIM An obvious homage to I Like Movies from Steven Spielberg.
CHANDLER Yeah! [Chandler laughs]
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
GEMMA Our guest today was Chandler Levack and her film I Like Movies has its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, mere days after this episode drops. I’ll be at the fest with the Letterboxd Crew, so keep an eye on our socials and an ear on our podcasts and an eye Journal, our online magazine, for all the goss. And because I’ll be there, I won’t be here... So we’re enormously fortunate to have our Weekend Watchlist bestie, Mitchell Beaupre, step up for a few shows. Maybe, who knows, I’ll get to go on Weekend Watchlist... It seems like a clean swap, Slim...
SLIM Sorry, Gemma, you broke up a little bit. I didn’t hear what you said. But we have to move on. I’ll just assume it was nothing important. Be sure to listen to Weekend Watchlist, our other weekly podcast where me, Mitchell and Mia explore the latest releases in cinemas and on streaming every Thursday. And thanks to our crew, Jack for the facts, Brian Formo for booking and looking after our guests, my doggo who just came down to say hello to me as I record this outro, so making a lot of noise...
SLIM Sophie Shin for the episode transcript, Samm for the art, and to Moniker for the theme music. You can always drop us a line at email@example.com. We had a lovely letter this week from Jimmy who writes, quote: “I love the pod. I just finished the latest four faves episode. I had to pause it halfway through in order to watch Take Shelter, which was great. I wonder if I’m the only one who does that. Thanks for the context guys.” Thank you Jimmy!
GEMMA Aw, thanks Jimmy! Great letter. The Letterboxd Show is a Tapedeck production. Goodnight Slim, and remember, tomorrow is another day...
[clip of Crime Wave plays]
On the color prime movie strip, you don’t see the blank parts between when one picture is projected to in the next picture is projected. Everything is blended together into one moving picture. Do you see how that works?
Yeah, very interesting.
And did you know that since it takes a projector more time to move between frames than to project them, we’re actually looking at a blank screen for longer than anything.
Well, next time we go to movie, I have to demand a cut rate!
[Tapedeck bumper plays] This is a Tapedeck podcast.