Cows in the field
By Blobcat Filmindustri
A movie podcast inspired by a Werner Herzog quote, “We have to articulate ourselves, otherwise we would be cows in the field.” Hosted by Justin Khoo (professor of philosophy at MIT) and Laura Khoo (art historian turned fundraiser).
69. Closer (w/ Carly Severn)
Join us and Carly Severn (KQED San Francisco) to talk about Mike Nichols' 2004, super emo and eminently re-watchable melodrama, Closer. It's a game of sexy Tetris between four hot people, but also a contrapuntal reflection on appearance and reality, and also a movie about two dudes who can't get over the fact that the women they've slept with have slept with other men. We somehow hit on nice guy-isms, the film's use of elision, love, passion, and Damien Rice. Also, did you know that many of the photographs in Anna's studio and apartment are of famous philosophers?! Check it out! Carly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeacupInTheBay Cows on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cowspod Cows on the web: https://cowspod.wordpress.com/ Cows shirts: https://cowspod.threadless.com/
August 05, 2022
68. North by Northwest (w/ Adam Kane)
Today we're joined by friend of the show Adam Kane to discuss Hitchcock's bombastic spy thriller North By Northwest! We discuss film's confusing setup, symbolism (and Hitchcock's refusal to read into this film), the demand not to ask silly questions, how old Cary Grant's character is supposed to be, the many MacGuffins, the many love triangles, Mount Rushmore, and Saul Bass himself. This episode is sponsored by Crop Duster Assassins Ltd. -- if you need to take someone out and you want to do it in the least efficient way possible, give them a call!
July 22, 2022
67. Sully (w/ Chris Kaiser)
Join us to talk about the Miracle on the Hudson with friend Chris Kaiser (Columbia University / the podcast Said and Done)! We delve into Eastwood's hatred of bureaucracy and tease apart his complex feelings towards individualism and collective heroism. Is the film dripping with gay subtext? We explore the semiotics of a mustache and wonder what goes into Sully/Skiles slash-fiction. We also consider the possibility that, through his filmmaking, Eastwood is helping us repair our relationship to our own history. Also, Clint hates computers more than anyone who has ever lived. Welcome aboard!
July 08, 2022
66. Repo Man (w/ Toby Levers)
The life of a repo man is intense, which is why we invited friend Toby Levers to join us to talk about Alex Cox's punk rock satire Repo Man! We discuss the film's influence and influences, as well as how it manages to mash together genres in a style all of its own, fashioning the spirit of suburban punk on to a social critique of ex-hippy middle class malaise and the inherent contradictions of rebellion. We chew on the obscure wisdom of Miller (played by the magnificent Tracey Walter) before riding away into the night in a glowing green Chevy Malibu. Follow us on Twitter! Buy a piece of Cows memorabilia on Threadless! Find us on the web!
June 24, 2022
65. Friday Night Lights (w/ Edward Lewis)
It is with clear eyes and love in our hearts that we dive into this classic football parable from the aughts with friend and returning guest Edward Lewis. We discuss the role of suffering in achievement, the paradox of youth, and the cycles that shackle us to our communities. We think about regret and expectation, and above all share our love for the film, which has since been eclipsed by the TV show of the same name. Come toss the football and punt when you should go for a touchdown, it's Friday Night Lights!
June 10, 2022
64. Top Gun (w/ Sean Burns)
We stuff into a tiny F14 cockpit with Sean Burns (WBUR’s The ARTery) and fly into the danger zone to discuss why Top Gun is a sports film that forges a new American myth with dazzling imagery and zero subtlety. We consider the view that Tom Cruise is America's son and get into the trenches with Kelly McGillis to unpack their love triangle with Val Kilmer's Iceman. Also discussed: the effects of g-forces on the human body, what our callsigns would be, and why 80s American jingoism is quaint and endearing. Take my breath away why don't you??? Let's go!
May 27, 2022
63. It Follows (w/ Alison Willmore)
Not to be downers, but, everything alive must die. This is something the kids from David Robert Mitchell's devastating horror film must come to terms with, as they are stalked by a demonic entity that, no matter where they are, is constantly walking towards them. We sit down with Alison Willmore (Vulture / New York Magazine) to discuss how the film works as an allegory for social class, capitalism, personal trauma, sexual politics, and manages to channel both existential dread and the experience of a panic attack all at once. We wonder how to avoid the creature, what its scariest incarnation is, and whether a tale this bleak can have a happy ending after all...
May 13, 2022
62. National Treasure (w/ Keith Phipps)
We sit down with Nicolas Cage expert Keith Phipps (author of The Age of Cage) to discuss the second highest grossing film of Cage's career (second only to its sequel). We consider the point at which this film lands in the arc of Cage's career, and how he draws on his well of acting experience to craft a character that blends elements of conspiratorial mania and fifth grade boy scout energy, selling the four-quadrant appeal of a movie about treasure hunting and historical preservation to both children and adults alike. We wonder what makes the film's portrayal of patriotism appealing and then explore what could have been for Cage, concluding with some recommended overlooked Cage films to explore! Follow Keith on Twitter! Follow us on Twitter! Buy merch!
April 29, 2022
61. The Da Vinci Code (w/ Andrea Rosen)
Have you ever wondered whether a famous painting contained a clue to a mystery that, once revealed, would upend the world as we know it? Well, you're in luck because in this episode we dive into The Da Vinci Code with museum expert and curator Andrea Rosen! We explore the tough questions of whether to reveal the lie at the center of Catholicism or just go on living your life because no one would care, and then discuss the film's art historical bonafides, whether Robert Langdon is a good professor, and whether this film, which has been mostly forgotten, deserves a dusting off and revisit!
April 15, 2022
60. Collateral (w/ Katie Walsh)
Join us and Katie Walsh (LA Times, Miami Nice) for one night in L.A. as we journey through deserted streets with a meek cabbie dreamer (Jamie Foxx) and his assassin fare (Tom Cruise). We discuss cities and alienation, indecision and action, order and chaos, psychopaths and empaths, coyotes and subways. We gush about Cruise and Foxx playing against type, and wonder about how taxi drivers manage to keep all those streets straight. You might be surprised to find out where this Michael Mann film stacks up in his filmography for Katie, someone who hosts a podcast about another Michael Mann film (Miami Vice), but you won't be surprised to learn that Laura loves the leanness of this ode to the city at night.
April 01, 2022
59. The First Annual Blobscars
Join us for a spoiler-free celebration of the very best films of 2021! We discuss our nominees and winners in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (non-gendered, pick 2), Best Supporting Actor (same thing), Best Score, Best Scene, and Most Overrated. Each film can win in only one category, so the stakes have never been higher! Tune in for the suspense, stay for the coveted, career-defining, awards. Justin's ranking of 2021 films
March 18, 2022
58. Basic Instinct (w/ Matt Belenky)
Join us and Matt Belenky (Movie Talk Podcast) to dive headfirst into Paul Verhoven’s classic 90s erotic thriller! We try to figure out what happened and why, and then explore how the film dissolves boundaries between Sharon Stone / Catherine Trammell and Nick Curran / audience member. We consider the possibility that the film is simultaneously exploitative and empowering, and lavish in its many unnecessary Americana details. Finally, we get to the bottom of why this was the peak time for ice picks.
March 04, 2022
57. Twilight (w/ Matt Strohl)
What does it mean to say that a movie is so bad it's good? Is Twilight (2008) such a movie? We sit down with Matt Strohl (Philosophy, University of Montana), author of the new book "Why It's OK To Love Bad Movies", to talk about what it means to love and appreciate the beauty of bad films, and why bad movie love is an important and often overlooked mode of engaging with films. Along the way, we discuss the social aspirations of taste, what makes "Twilight" a potentially conventionally bad film and why those 'flaws' also contribute to its artistic achievement. Matt catalogs the various wide-ranging literary references embedded in the films and argues, contra the standard view that they push a conservative viewpoint about sex and marriage, that they are actually incredibly horny. We hope you'll join us to give this much maligned film a second chance!
February 18, 2022
56. The Usual Suspects (w/ Erich Hatala Matthes)
How should we feel about and how should we engage with art made by immoral artists? We consider these questions in the context of The Usual Suspects along with Erich Hatala Matthes (Wellesley), whose new book on the topic (Drawing the Line: What to Do with the Work of Immoral Artists from Museums to the Movies) provides a philosophical guide to the complexities of these challenging issues. We consider whether the film's aesthetic value is diminished by the behavior of its creators, and discuss why, considered on its own, there's a lot to recommend this tightly-wound neo-noir. So join us to think through the question yourself, and return to this 90s classic that reignited Hollywood's obsession with twist endings. Bryan Singer's Accusers Speak Out (The Atlantic) The sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey span decades. Here’s what we know. (Vox)
February 04, 2022
55. Spider-man 2 (w/ Sam Adams)
Come swing through the streets of Manhattan with us and Sam Adams (Slate) as we discuss Sam Raimi's melancholic and reflective Spider-Man 2! We talk about the film's major themes of grief and the burden of heroism, as well as Sam Raimi's view of humanity as fundamentally decent. We consider the film in light of the tragedy of 9/11 and how it highlights the heroic in all of us. We also marvel at how a big budget superhero film manages to have a climactic finale that consists mostly of two guys reflecting on how they have to give up their dreams in the pursuit of a greater good. Look out for guest appearances by the guy from the Tenet trailer and Chad Kroeger of Nickelback! Read Sam's piece on Spider-Man 2! Follow Sam on Twitter! Follow us on Twitter! MERCH!
January 21, 2022
54. The Matrix Resurrections (w/ David Chalmers)
It's time to go back to the Matrix! Join us and David Chalmers (Professor of Philosophy at NYU) to discuss the fourth Matrix film, and distinguish what we like and don't about its meta- and first-order narrative interpretations. We bring in past and future guest Emily VanDerWerff to provide some broader context about the film and what makes it great, before turning to discuss whether what happens in a simulation is real and whether we can live a good life in a simulation. We also consider whether we are computer programs, what obligations we might have to computer programs, and the nature of human/computer program sex and procreation inside of the Matrix. Buy Chalmers' new book Reality+! Justin's review of The Matrix Resurrections Emily VanDerWerff on The Matrix Resurrections and trauma
January 07, 2022
Bonus Episode: Revisiting Forrest Gump (1994)
We don't have a new New Year's episode for you, but we do have a classic episode of us battling to the death over whether Forrest Gump is a good movie. We hope you enjoy this discussion and may you celebrate the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 more joyously than Lieutenant Dan does in this movie. We'll be back with The Matrix Resurrections next week!
December 31, 2021
53. A Charlie Brown Christmas (w/ Emily VanDerWerff)
It’s the coldest time of the year, which means we need community more than ever to help us stay warm and remind us of the ongoing project of humanity and our part in it. So consider us the luckiest Peanuts on block, since we get to welcome back Emily VanDerWerff (Vox & Arden Podcast)! We talk about endings, opportunities for renewal, and the melancholy that comes with our experiences of the holidays. We also delve into our personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and how they interact with our feelings about Christmas and choosing our communities. And, of course, no conversation about Charlie Brown would be complete without a discussion about Charles Schulz and his complex feelings about Christmas and droopy trees. So, don't be blockhead -- hitch a ride on our sleigh and recite the annunciation to the shepherds with us! Read Emily on the modern family! Follow Emily on Twitter!
December 17, 2021
52. Eyes Wide Shut (w/ Carly Severn)
It's the holiday season, and what better way to start than with a veritable Christmas classic, Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut! We sit down with Carly Severn (KQED San Francisco) to discuss noble lies in relationships and society, Tom and Nicole's challenging (and, ultimately destructive) performances, and the interrelations between power, anonymity, powerlessness, and nakedness. Along the way, we explore how social structures prop up divisions and reinforce fantasies that may be either ruinous or essential to the well-functioning of our social lives. So, bring your mask and cloak, don't forget the password (Fidelio), and join us at the Somerton Estate for a Christmas celebration like none other!
December 10, 2021
51. 12 Monkeys (w/ Barry Lam)
This week we are joined by Barry Lam (Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College and host of HiPhi Nation) to discuss Terry Gilliam's manic time travel science fiction masterpiece, 12 Monkeys! We explore how the film manifests the philosopher David Lewis's theory of time travel, while also depicting the madness of foreknowledge and the futility of attempting to change what's already happened. We discuss the possibility of closed causal loops, the challenges of political activism, pandemic tie-ins, and how the film uses Brad Pitt as a spokesperson for Gen-X dissatisfaction (something he would more famously go on to embody in Fight Club a few years later). So climb aboard this nightmare train to madness and keep an eye out for hamsters! This episode is sponsored by Paramount Pictures' THE DEEP HOUSE, now available On Digital and On Demand! When a young couple sets out to explore a house at the bottom of a lake, they discover a sinister presence. Can they escape the underwater house of horrors before it's too late? Buy or Rent THE DEEP HOUSE today to find out! Unrated.
November 26, 2021
50. Sunshine (w/ Vishal Dave)
Join us on an interstellar journey with friend Vishal Dave as we attempt to reignite the dying sun -- it's Danny Boyle's unfairly overlooked 2007 sci-fi masterpiece, Sunshine! We discuss the ethics of self-sacrifice and the nature of embarking on a journey of no return. We ponder the enormity of the universe and what it might do to someone to confront that head on -- how might facing the limits of human knowledge and exploration affect the individual? Religious readings and humanity's need for spirituality are also discussed in the context of our increasingly secularized society. Don't miss this epic adventure!
November 12, 2021
49. Dune (w/ John DeVore)
We sit down with fellow Dune-head John DeVore to discuss two DUNE movies -- David Lynch's 1984 troubled masterpiece, and Denis Villeneuve's 2021 re-imagining of Arrakis. Can Villeneuve's film live up to the inevitable hype? How do the two films capture the mystical weirdness of the book? What is that weird spider-person in the Harkonnen's palace? Join us as we drink the juice of Sapho and ride a spice maggot into the folds of space and beyond! Follow @JohnDeVore on Twitter! Read John on Dune here: https://medium.com/humungus/this-scene-in-dune-screwed-me-up-in-the-head-26cc68cd4b4d https://johndevore.medium.com/?p=6dbf9a9fddad https://decider.com/2017/06/23/dune-david-lynch-john-devore/
October 29, 2021
48. Punch Drunk Love (w/ Sean Burke)
Join us on the harmonium as we revisit Paul Thomas Anderson's (not-)musical tragicomedy Punch Drunk Love with Sean Burke (Founding Partner, Whistler Partners). We discuss how Adam Sandler embodies the awkwardness and anxiety of male adolescence, and how Anderson mixes color and sound to create an overwhelming kaleidoscope of social panic, rage and repression, and fear of public humiliation. Yet, underneath it all, we find a simple and pure love story -- perhaps one of the most hopeful in recent memory -- yet one that also depicts love in all its complexity and difficulty. Where does this gem rank in your list of Paul Thomas Anderson films??
October 15, 2021
47. In the Line of Fire (w/ Bilge Ebiri)
Bilge Ebiri (New York Magazine / Vulture) returns to talk with us about this classic nineties Wolfgang Petersen conspiracy thriller that pits an aging Secret Service Agent (Clint Eastwood) against an anarchistic terrorist (John Malkovich) intent on assassinating the President. We reflect on how the movie reflects cautiously on Eastwood's broad career, regret and second chances, and consider the virtue of sacrificing oneself in defense of democratic institutions (flawed as they may be in practice). Along the way, we wonder about duty and growing old, as well as give due praise to John Malkovich and interrogate the social conventions of winking. Read Bilge at Vulture; follow @BilgeEbiri on Twitter!
October 01, 2021
46. The Mummy & The Mummy Returns
The cows journey to Hamunaptra to find some ancient artifacts, and along the way revisit perhaps Brendan Fraser's most famous works. Laura confesses her love for Brendan Fraser and Justin confesses his love for Arnold Vosloo, and attempts to make the case that the Mummy is a misunderstood villain. The cows enjoy the dual parallel love stories and show appreciation for the depiction of a healthy, loving, relationship between characters Rick and Evelyn, and definitely do not discuss a certain questionable CGI Scorpion King.
September 17, 2021
45. George of the Jungle
Have you ever seen two cows swing through the trees? We talk about Brendan Fraser's ultimate committed performance as George of the Jungle in this most silly and juvenile and heartfelt movie. We wonder about heroic fools, praise the film's strategy of giving the central arc to Ursula, and comment on the film's questionable presupposition of human language learning. Along the way, Justin reveals his ignorance about children's movies and Laura pens her love letter to Brendan Fraser.
September 03, 2021
44. Encino Man
The cows begin their Frassersance mini-series with this wonderful curio of the 90s, about a pair of high school dorks (Sean Astin and Pauly Shore) who find a frozen caveman (Brendan Fraser) in their backyard. We discuss the film as an adoption story, and explore what parents can learn from the innocence of their children. We also dig into Pauly Shore's character Stoney Brown, who embodies the atelic ideals of striving just to be, rather than to accomplish. Don't wheeze the jah-uiceeee!
August 27, 2021
43. Office Space (w/ Robert and Sheryl Khoo)
We are joined this week by special guests Robert and Sheryl Khoo (parents of a co-host of this very podcast) to talk about Mike Judge's TPS-ridden middle-class satire, Office Space! We talk about our experiences working within soul-crushing bureaucracies, and also the surprising upsides of meetings. We consider the case for Lumbergh and the plight of the middle manager, and wonder whether it is possible to earn a living within a capitalist economy without losing yourself in the process. And we evaluate the movie and Peter Gibbons' plight with the hindsight of the ongoing computer science boom, which likely would have found programmers like Peter earning millions and sipping Maui Thais on a beach with Milton.
August 13, 2021
42. Rounders (w/ Anders Schoubye)
We sit down at the poker table with Anders Schoubye to discuss perhaps the greatest poker movie ever, confronting our true calling, and what the movie gets right, and wrong, about poker and gambling. Who is team Damon and who is team Teddy KGB? Tune in to find out!
July 30, 2021
41. The Last Days of Disco (w/ Whit Stillman)
We are joined by the writer, director, and producer of The Last Days of Disco, Whit Stillman, to talk about his film, his fascination with complex female friendships and group social life generally, as well as the appeal of shaggy narratives. Whit regales us with stories that inspired the film, his experience with disco, his days in publishing, and getting to know George Plimpton. If you haven’t seen The Last Days of Disco, you should check it out now! It’s truly a wonderful film and Whit is a hilarious and humble and articulate person. We hope you enjoy this special episode!
July 16, 2021
40. Ali (w/ Blake Howard)
We get into the ring with Blake Howard (One Heat Minute Productions) to discuss Michael Mann's incredible biopic of Muhammad Ali. Despite being a major box office failure, we make the case for revisiting this stunning and complex portrayal of the greatest boxer as he transitions from brash fighter to heroic inspiration for a social movement. We explore how Michael Mann and his astounding cast and crew (including a career-defining performance by Will Smith) manage to simultaneously humanize and glorify Ali without glossing over the details of his complex life and relationships. Where does Ali rank on your list of all time biopics??
July 02, 2021
39. Tampopo (w/ Nick Riggle)
Join us for a noodle-filled extravaganza as we dig into Tampopo with Nick Riggle (Philosophy, University of San Diego). We explore the interrelations between film and cuisine, and why ramen makes an ideal subject for a food film combining elements of both high art and (so-called) low art. Our love of Guy Fieri comes up more than once as we wonder about the role of the film's many zany side vignettes and how they are used to celebrate pure aesthetic values, while Nick unpacks what it is to be awesome and teaches us how to suck just a bit less in life.
June 18, 2021
38. Inception (w/ Tom Shone)
The cows are joined by author and film critic Tom Shone (The Nolan Variations) to discuss Christopher Nolan's epic dream-heist blockbuster, Inception. We discuss Nolan's obsessions with knowledge and self-deception and his ambivalent obsession with fantasy and escapism. We explore the film's central premise -- that the cinematic experience is akin to a shared dream -- and how Nolan weaves the premise into the the core of Inception through repetition and intentional plot holes. And we finally close with a celebration of Inception's oft-overlooked emotional centerpiece -- its many-layered ending, which combines reconciliations with goodbyes and renewals of hope.
June 04, 2021
37. Amadeus (w/ Edward Lewis)
The cows are joined by friend Edward Lewis to revisit one of the greatest films of all time, the shortest three hour movie, Milos Foreman's Amadeus. We witness genius through Salieri's eyes, marvel at his ability to appreciate and translate the beauty of Mozart's music to the uninitiated, and resign ourselves to our own mediocrities. We also discuss the relationship between historical accuracy and authenticity, and how it achieves ecstatic truth through fabrication. And we ponder the renewing possibilities of confession and absolution. This movie is not to be missed!!
May 21, 2021
36. Mission Impossible (w/ Adam Kane)
The cows are joined by friend Adam Kane to talk about Tom Cruise's first outing as Ethan Hunt. We discuss what makes spy movies so appealing and fun, and situate the movie in the broader cultural context of the post-Cold War nineties. We explore the weird and wonderful career of Tom Cruise and how he managed to harness Brian DePalma's stylistic flourishes to create one of the tightest, most stressful, spy/heist movies ever.
May 07, 2021
35. Midsommar (w/ Emily VanDerWerff)
Emily VanDerWerff (Vox) joins us to discuss Ari Aster's folk horror masterpiece, Midsommar. We discuss how the film subverts folk horror genre tropes to craft a compelling story about the loss of a relationship, self-discovery, and adoption into a new family. Emily articulates a trans reading of the film, and we discuss how it grapples with the challenge of accommodating our desires for individual autonomy alongside our impulse to find acceptance within a community. Bear suits and Taylor Swift also come up. Read Emily on Midsommar: https://www.vox.com/culture/21307689/midsommar-trans-review-ending-spoilers Follow Emily on Twitter: https://twitter.com/emilyvdw
April 23, 2021
34. True Lies (w/ Van Lathan)
The cows revisit True Lies with Van Lathan (The Ringer), discussing how James Cameron inverts the hero’s journey to tell a story about a spy struggling to connect emotionally with his wife and kids while saving the day and causing a lot of mayhem and destruction in the process. Is it the best action comedy of all time? Is it Arnold’s best performance? How does its portrayal of terrorism and American militaristic impunity play today? Tune in to find out! Follow Van on social media: @VanLathan Send us a voice message!
April 16, 2021
33. Bonus Episode: Another Round (w/ Paul Keelan)
We crack open a few cold ones (figuratively) with Paul Keelan (Cinematic Underdogs) to unpack and disagree about the Oscar-nominated Another Round. How does the film experiment with existentialism, and how does it explore our complicated relationship with alcohol? Is it worthy of being recognized as among the best films of the year, or is it just Old School dressed up with Kierkegaard quotes? We also react to its portrayal of gendered divisions of labor and explore the film's attitude towards its characters. We hope you enjoy this unusually critical episode. Let us know what you think about the film!
April 09, 2021
32. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans w/ Keith Phipps
We head down to the Big Easy with Nicolas Cage scholar Keith Phipps (author of The Age of Cage: Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career) to discuss Werner Herzog's hallucinatory tale of a bad cop trying to do the right thing, of addiction in the swamp, of nature's ever-encroaching wildness into our staid lives. We dive deep into Cage and Herzog both, exploring why they make a perfect pair and how their take on Bad Lieutenant differs so radically from Abel Ferrara's original. We consider the possibility of absolution in a godless world and whether we can ever really escape our animalistic impulses -- two themes that seem to perfectly encapsulate the careers of Cage and Herzog. Listen to the end for a breakdown of various scenes and some recommendations of Cage movies to check out next!
March 26, 2021
31. The Brood (w/ Jed Shepherd)
Do you suffer from intergenerational trauma that is manifesting itself in physical malformations on your body and raising red flags for your significant others? Then join us and Jed Shepherd (writer/executive producer of Host) to discuss David Cronenberg's self-described "more realistic Kramer vs. Kramer," a film about a couple working through some issues while plagued by demonic children in matching snowsuits. If you haven't seen the movie, listen to the first 13 minutes for our spoiler free pitch for the movie, and then after you've seen it, dive in to talk with us about the nature of body horror and physical media, the terrors of parenthood and why no one in a horror film acts the way you want them to. Along the way, Jed shares his vast knowledge of horror films, and offers up more than a few horrifying recommendations for the unafraid.
March 12, 2021
30. Clueless (w/ Andrea Rosen)
The cows take the 405 to Sherman Oaks with friend Andrea Rosen (Fleming Museum of Art) in this revisit of Amy Heckerling's totally wicked rom-com about modern girl friendships. We discuss the nature of Chers and Karens, how power relations structure what counts as knowledge, and who does and does not count as "clueless." We revisit our past selves in high school, reflect on the linguistics of Valley Girl speak, and laugh about which characters we were and who of them is most smooch-able. Dance along to No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but keep an ear out for some surprise appearances by the Insane Clown Posse and Cannibal Corpse!
February 26, 2021
29. The Master (w/ Dan Harris)
The cows are joined this week by Dan Harris (Philosophy, Hunter College) on their journey through past lives to uncover and exorcise a few trillion-year-old traumas. We consider how Paul Thomas Anderson depicts a divided soul across three individuals struggling to find order and humanity in a chaotic, animalistic, world, and explore how trauma and masculinity intertwine to forge vulnerabilities, and even love, between two men whose life trajectories seem pointed in opposite directions. We can't pick just one favorite line, but we do note an homage to Nacho Libre and Anderson's debts to Kubrick and Huston. [02:55] Dan's Introduction to the Master [09:59] Trauma and war [22:39] Freddie, Lancaster, and masculinity [33:26] Divided souls in Freud and Plato [1:02:32] Cults and demagogues [1:14:34] The significance of the ending [1:28:24] Favorite lines [1:41:08] Outro [1:43:25] Bass traps are not garbage!
February 12, 2021
28. Groundhog Day (w/ Kieran Setiya)
We are joined by Kieran Setiya (Philosophy, MIT) to discuss what makes life worth living, what's lost in an infinite time loop, and to what extent flourishing within such a loop is possible. Along the way, we explore grief, the midlife crisis, atelic actions, the Buddhist concept of Saṃsāra, Kierkegaard, female agency in a world dominated by the male perspective, and the metaphysics of time loops and time travel. Supervenience violations and imaginative resistance are considered, as is Bill Murray's career arc and also lessons for our current situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow Kieran on Twitter: @KieranSetiya Read Kieran on the midlife crisis Listen to Five Questions How many days did Phil relive in the time loop?
January 29, 2021
The cows reverse entropy to discuss Christopher Nolan's bewilderingly dense sci-fi masterpiece in this surprise bonus episode. Part one is a spoiler-free pitch for the movie, while part two explores themes and philosophical issues. Justin argues that the movie is a thematic trilogy with Inception and Interstellar about the evolving nature of parenthood, while Laura makes the case that Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) is the emotional core of the movie. Also covered are: what it is like to interact with time-inverted objects/people, the metaphysics of time and free will, and which confidently delivered obscure line is best. Listen to the end for a recreation of a pivotal scene! Justin's diagrams: 1, 2, 3. Inspirational quote from Ives: "Don't get on the chopper if you can't stop thinking in linear terms."
January 22, 2021
26. The Conversation (w/ Robert Pierce)
The cows are visited by longtime San Francisco resident and old friend Robert Pierce to discuss Francis Ford Coppola's 70s paranoia thriller. Situated in the tumultuous transition period of the mid-1970s, the movie captures the cynicism of a generation slowly being engulfed by the temptations of urban renewal and fears of privacy violations. We consider how Coppola and Hackman craft a compelling character study out of a protagonist riddled with contradictions by injecting elements of their own lives into the story. We also explore the pragmatics of focal stress and marvel at humans' ability to understand complex nuances of language and film conventions without conscious thought. Episode webpage, including Robert's photos of San Francisco: https://cowspod.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/the-conversation-1974/
January 15, 2021
25. Excalibur (w/ Bilge Ebiri)
The cows revisit the Arthurian legend with Bilge Ebiri (New York Magazine and Vulture). We discuss how the film weaves together opera and Jungian archetypes while exploring humanity's complex and often violent relationship with nature, the challenges of self-governance, the allure of a benevolent dictator, and the tragedy befalling the virtuous leader who desires not to lead. Thematic links to the rest of Boorman's filmography are considered, as well as how Excalibur compares with other portrayals of the quest for the Holy Grail. Follow Bilge on Twitter; read Bilge at Vulture!
January 01, 2021
24. Happy Gilmore (w/ Tim Gilman)
The cows hit the links with Tim Gilman (WMBR 88.1 FM Boston) to finish off 1996 with a comedy that just might be a bit deeper than it lets on. Why is Happy so angry? Could it be in reaction to the contempt shown by the moneyed elite to the working class, a response that reflects the current rise in popularity of populist demagogues across the world? Or might it be a reflection of his inner turmoil at being terrible at what he loves most? Along the way, we discuss our obligations to care for our elders, property tax rates in Connecticut, the joys of Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin, and the worst athlete commercials of all time.
December 18, 2020
23. Bonus Episode: On the Rocks (2020)
The cows watched Sofia Coppola's latest and came to very different conclusions, which necessitated an emergency episode to sort it all out. Join us for a maybe autobiographical discussion of the complexities of modern parenting, gendered divisions of cognitive labor, and not losing yourself when asked to shoulder the emotional labor of your friends and family.
December 12, 2020
22. Fargo (w/ Molly Perkins)
The cows freeze in Minnesota with friend Molly Perkins in this revisit to the Coen Brothers' 1996 folktale noir. Themes of faith, deception, encountering the inexplicable, Scandinavian roots, and ecstatic truth are all discussed, along with highlights of favorite supporting cast members and a head-to-head comparison of psycho killers Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).
December 04, 2020
21. Space Jam / Kazaam (w/ Vishal Dave)
Join the two cows on their journey into the world of fantasy basketball-star-crossover vehicles, featuring guest Vishal Dave! It's 1996 and Michael Jordan is fresh back from retirement, ready to take on the Monstars and save the NBA from a bunch of talentless hacks. Is there a tragic emptiness at the core of Space Jam, marked by Jordan's self-destructive quest for dominance? And how does it compare to what might be its polar opposite -- Kazaam, a rapping genie movie about a child who comes to accept the imperfections of his parents, starring the ebullient Shaquille O'Neal? Tune in to find out and dig in to some mid-nineties pop classics!
November 20, 2020
20. Bottle Rocket / Hard Eight (w/ Mattia Acetoso)
The cows are joined by Mattia Acetoso (Italian Literature, Boston College) to discuss the feature debuts of Wes and Paul Thomas Anderson. What might we learn about these original and influential directors' first films? Both movies center around misfits who retreat from a random and often harsh reality to form their own surrogate families and find new ways of living. Along the way, genres are subverted, narratives obfuscated, and souls redeemed.
November 06, 2020
19. Scream / The Craft
The two cows discuss the social complexity of female high school friendships and the sexual politics of teen horror in their reappraisal of these two '96 classics. They explore how cliques can provide social insulation as well as opportunities for emotional manipulation, and consider how the "horror movie rules" encode a Puritanical ethics towards sex and drugs while also aiming to satisfy the male gaze by providing copious instances of such behavior.
October 23, 2020
18. Independence Day
The two cows start their journey through 1996 at its blockbuster peak, revisiting Roland Emmerich's game-changing blow everything up alien disaster extravaganza, Independence Day. What made the 1990s such a fertile time for disaster flicks, and what makes ID4 one of the best movie star vehicles ever? The cows also explore neoconservative themes of US military dominance on the world stage, and discuss the case for Randy Quaid being the emotional center of the film.
October 09, 2020
17. Mulholland Drive (w/ Agnes and Abe Callard, and Ryan Clark)
The cows take a drive with Abe and Agnes Callard (Philosophy, U. Of Chicago) and Ryan Clark into David Lynch's fantastical and depraved version of Los Angeles. What mysteries will they find in Club Silencio, or on the set of the Sylvia North Story? What explains the continued appeal of Lynch's absurdist masterpiece? How does he deploy narrative and filmic tropes to subvert his audience's expectations and what are we to make of the often frustrating and contradictory results? Follow Agnes on Twitter and read her academic writing here; follow Abe on Twitter and Letterboxd.
September 25, 2020
Things get scary when the two cows are stranded in a motel on a rainy night with James Mangold. What makes a good twist? What’s the appeal of Agatha Christie? Is this a movie about white guilt, or flaws in the criminal justice system? Tune in to find out!
September 11, 2020
15. Forrest Gump
The cows revisit 1994’s Best Picture winner, Forrest Gump. Is it a conservative agenda piece, portraying Forrest’s racial colorblindness as the envisioned end of racism in America, or is it a sober reflection on the history of violence and racism baked into contemporary America and American cinema? Is Jenny’s the story of an entire generation’s complex relationship with shifting power dynamics and its reckoning with an inability to impart lasting social change? Tune in for this and much more in our longest episode yet!
August 28, 2020
The cows go back to Titanic and explore how Cameron weaves together themes of love, memory, duty, and class into a massive scale disaster flick. Is Titanic, which was at the time the most expensive and highest grossing movie ever, secretly an anti-capitalist propaganda piece? Or is it just the pinnacle of Hollywood bombast? Tune in to find out!
August 14, 2020
13. Vampire's Kiss / The Assistant
The two cows journey into the madness of toxic masculinity, pairing the madcap Nicolas Cage classic “Vampire’s Kiss” with the recent Kitty Green masterpiece, “The Assistant.” How do artists use hyper-realism and non-realist expressionism to depict challenging and often elusive problems? What is the significance of using vampirism as the framing device to portray workplace misogyny? And how can we cope with the moral harms toxic masculinity imposes on those of us forced into the orbit of a serial predator?
July 31, 2020
12. Searching for Bobby Fischer
The two cows visit the chess hustlers in Washington Square Park to dive deep on one of the best sports/parenting movies, Searching for Bobby Fischer. What does the pursuit of excellence demand, and is it ultimately worth it? How should we as parents or mentors advise those who would strive for such greatness? Also discussed: the tragic and cautionary tale of Bobby Fischer, Jordan vs. LeBron, contempt vs. compassion for one’s opponents, and the fashion of IZOD polo shirts.
July 17, 2020
11. Children of Men (w/ Vishal Dave)
The two cows are joined by friend Vishal Dave to visit humanity in its final days in Children of Men, a movie that seems in retrospect sadly prescient for our current times. What would knowledge of the imminent end of humanity mean for the final generation of humans and how might it affect what matters to them? How does Cuarón weave does art and iconography into the film and what themes does he use art to invoke? Why does Julianne Moore rule? And more!
July 03, 2020
10. The Blair Witch Project
The two cows delve into the Black Hills Forest to sort out why the Blair Witch Project was the tenth highest grossing movie of 1999, why it took so long for Hollywood to capitalize on found footage horror, the nature of horror itself and why we desire to be horrified, as well as what makes the Blair Witch Project so especially horrifying.
June 19, 2020
9. No Country For Old Men (w/ Edward Lewis)
The two cows head to Texas with their pal Edward to consider one of the best film adaptations of a book ever. Topics discussed include encounters with the unintelligible, grappling with our shared fate of becoming lost to the passage of time, Sartrean bad faith, and Anton Chigurh’s quarantine haircut.
June 05, 2020
8. The Social Network
The two cows revisit a more innocent time, when Facebook was just a silly site where people posted relationship statuses and the only concerns about it involved whether your mom saw that frat party photo your friend tagged you in. Is Sorkin overrated? Is this a breakup movie? Is it a movie about revolutions without ideals? What is Jesse Eisenberg like in real life?
May 25, 2020
7. Contact (w/ Molly Perkins)
The two cows are joined this week by special guest Molly Perkins; together, they embark on an interstellar journey into the bureaucratic maze of academic funding. Join us for a discussion of aliens (where are they?), McConaughey vs. Fichtner (who best?), scrunchies (what do they signify?), our favorite first contact movies, and whether this is Robert Zemeckis's masterpiece! [0:02:08] Overview [0:25:31] McConaughey: good/bad? [0:44:57] Aliens!! [0:51:40] Laura's scrunchie breakdown [1:13:32] Talking Zemeckis [1:19:23] Favorite first contact movies
May 17, 2020
6. Minority Report
The two cows go running with Tom Cruise and discuss the future as it was projected in 2002, the nature of middle knowledge, themes of blindness/control/justice, and give their top five Spielberg movies. 10.44: Future talk 28.34: Justin's philosophy corner 41.31: Theme and variation 67.22: Spielberg ranked
May 07, 2020
5. Five Streaming Double Features
The two cows recommend five double features, all streaming on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. The themes are: High and Low, Paranoia, Families Falling Apart, The Rules of the Universe, How to Win Friends and Influence People. . . . . Movies recommended: High and Low (0:59 Bringing out the Dead // 5:00 Inside Llewyn Davis) Paranoia (9:27 Clue // 12:53 The Conversation) Families Falling Apart (15:52 Suspiria  // 20:03 The Squid and the Whale) The Rules of the Universe (25:13 Killing of a Sacred Deer // 29:34 Highlander) How to Win Friends and Influence People (33:14 Aguirre, Wrath of God // 37:16 Mitt) ++ Two bonus recs (44:22 // 51:04)!
April 18, 2020
4. Can't Hardly Wait
The two cows go back to high school to revisit this classic 90s teen comedy and discuss house parties, a real life Trip McNeely story, and Siskel & Ebert's rating scale.
April 13, 2020
3. Joy Ride
The two cows take a road trip to discuss how a decade of bored contentment in America gave rise to both the gen-X slacker and prank culture, laying the seeds for a generational conflict that takes center stage in this highly rewatchable 2001 John Dahl thriller.
April 05, 2020
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The two cows discuss time travel, religious themes, and the nature of sequels in this action-packed episode.
March 30, 2020
1. The Departed
The two cows go to confession with Martin Scorsese's Boston crime drama.
March 19, 2020