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The Letterboxd Show 2.07: Grace Spelman
[clip of All That Jazz plays]
VICTORIA [crying] Maybe you’re right. I’m terrible. I know I’m terrible. I look at the mirror and I’m embarrassed. Maybe I should quit. I just can’t seem to do anything right.
JOE GIDEON Listen, I can’t make you a great dancer. I don’t even know if I can make you a good dancer. But if you keep trying and don’t quit, I know I can make you a better dancer. And I’d like very much to do that. Stay?
VICTORIA [continues to cry] Are you gonna keep yelling at me?
JOE GIDEON Probably.
[clip of All That Jazz ends]
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
SLIM Welcome to The Letterboxd Show, a podcast about movies from Letterboxd: the social network for film lovers. Each episode your host Slim—that’s me—and Gemma are joined by a Letterboxd friend for a chat about their four favorite films according to their Letterboxd profile. We have links in the episode notes to the movies, lists and people we talk about, so you can follow along and add those movies to your watchlists. Today, our guest is a great entertainer, a great humanitarian, and our dear friend of 25 years. Comedian, musician and podcaster Grace Spelman.
GRACE Wow, that was good! And a little nod to one of my movies! I feel right at home already. [Slim laughs]
GRACE Thank you! [Grace laughs]
GEMMA And your four favorites are three cute little indie music films that nobody’s ever heard of and a political satire that inspired Veep. They are: West Side Story, All That Jazz, Whiplash, and In The Loop. And now—on with the show.
SLIM Grace, let’s be honest, let’s be frank with each other right now. You’re a bit of a legend in the music scene. It’s safe to say that, right now.
GRACE Yeah, that’s kind of why I’m like, did they mean to get me on the show? Like— [Slim laughs] Is this right? [Grace laughs]
SLIM This is a very musically themed show today. And for those—I think a lot of people will probably know you, but how much of your Letterboxd favorites have been deeply inspired by your ‘People Dancing to Steely Dan’ Twitter account? [Grace laughs]
GRACE That’s a new thing. For those who don’t know, I had a brief episode where I decided to take videos of people dancing, and then painstakingly set them to songs from Steely Dan. So it appeared they were dancing with Steely Dan. And believe it or not, they have nothing in common other than my need to, you know, waste time by entertaining myself via music. But thank you for bringing that up. [Slim & Gemma laugh]
SLIM Anytime I’m low at work, you know, it’s a dark day, I load up that Twitter account, play the pinned one, where that dude walks into the room. Oh my god.
GRACE That’s how I started it. And I will say people are like, why don’t you keep going?! But A, it was ruining Steely Dan for me, which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies. [Slim & Gemma laugh] And then also like, you just rewatch them again, you guys are fine! So leave me alone!
SLIM I was listening to a recent episode of The Ringer Music Show. And I can honestly say that I didn’t expect the do’s and don’ts of party playlists that I heard from that episode. There’s a whole thing going on!
GRACE Yeah, I recently did an episode on—they gave me the keys to the episode because my co host wasn’t there. And I was nervous out of my mind. And I was like, I’ll just talk about like, party etiquette, about like, what if you go to a party and the person who’s hosting it is just playing like the dullest playlist and you know what to play to get the party amped up! You know, when does it become too rude to be like, “can I grab your iPod for a second?” So I had a guest over and you know, we talked about you know, etiquette and arbitrary rules. So thank you for listening to that episode! [Grace laughs]
GEMMA So great. I would like to volunteer myself if you ever want to do an episode about music, like wedding reception music etiquette. Little known fact—my parents ran a catering business for a long time. My Saturday job was clearing plates in time for the speeches at many, many, many wedding receptions. And it gave me the opportunity to listen to many a wedding DJ, and observe the tracks that do and don’t bang on a dance floor.
GRACE Okay. Can I tell you something? In a few days, I’m going to like basically the first wedding I’ve ever been to, so I’m going to keep that on my mind. You know, I’ll be vigilant and make sure everyone’s following the rules and you know, no one’s doing any faux-pas.
SLIM I was gonna say, did you say the first wedding you’ve ever been to? Is that a real story?
GRACE I know, it’s so embarrassing. Well no, it’s the first like outside wedding. First of all, I didn’t go to college. So like, I didn’t get a lot of college invites through that, which is fine. But then I lived in New York City for a while and everyone has their wedding at like movie theaters or like a brewery or you know, or like a warehouse. [Slim laughs] And so this is my first like, in the woods in Portland sort of like dance floor wedding.
SLIM Oh nice.
GRACE I’m so fucking excited.
GEMMA This is gonna be amazing. I want a full report. I also, you know, for the listeners who are like, when are they going to talk about movies? [Grace laughs] I do want to add that movies have a lot to do with what bangs on a wedding reception dance floor. I can tell you that for the three years after the release of the Kevin Costner Robin Hood—
SLIM Ohhh mama mia.
GEMMA That god damn song. (Everything I Do) I Do It for You was the first dance song for pretty much every couple who ever got married for the next three years.
GRACE That’s from a Robin Hood movie?!
[(Everything I Do) I Do It for You by Bryan Adams plays]
GEMMA Kevin Costner has been involved in some films with banging soundtracks, man. I mean—
GRACE Does it play during the credits or something?!
SLIM Grace’s face right now.
SLIM It might shock you. But I think that song still plays to this day at wedding receptions, quite often.
GEMMA It doesn’t shock me.
SLIM I don’t think the wedding reception music has changed a whole lot in the last 40 years.
GRACE And here’s the thing I’ll say—wedding music will go on until we die. And that’s how I felt about ‘Uptown Funk’. ‘Uptown Funk’ will be played at weddings when our grandchildren are dead. There’s something about wedding music that will just outlive all of us. Forever.
SLIM We need to get into some movies right now.
GRACE I’m sorry! [Gemma laughs]
SLIM We need to get into some movies. All That Jazz is in your favorites right now. 1979. 4.2 average on Letterboxd. It has 1,200 fans, so 1,200 other people have that in their four favorites on Letterboxd. Roy Scheider, Bob Fosse, Joe Gideon. The top of the heap. I saw this for the very first time. I snatched up a Blu-ray from Criterion. So this week, I think Gemma also had to track down a DVD to watch this movie.
GEMMA Oh, it was quite the epic journey. I had to go out into real life and into public. [Slim laughs] You know, there’s nothing downloadable. There’s nothing streaming. The library didn’t have it. Our last remaining video store didn’t have it. But then I remembered the wonderful Real Groovy Records who have secondhand DVDs.
SLIM Nice, nice.
GEMMA And they had a nice one box set with New York, New York. Hello Dolly and All That Jazz.
GRACE It is so hard to find it is. Which is—because I want to show it to every single person that I hold dear to me, but it’s just so hard to get your hands on. So honestly, props to you!
GEMMA Yeah, it seems crazy given Fosse/Verdon, right? Anyway, I’m just gonna share some of Jack’s facts. So every week at Letterboxd we get Jack to pull some facts about the four movies. All That Jazz won four Oscars for Editing, Costumes, Art Direction and Original Score, and frankly, should have won Best Picture. It’s Bob Fosse’s highest rated and most popular film on Letterboxd—even ahead of his Best Director winning Cabaret. And it’s in our Top 250 of All Time at number 191. And it won the Palme d’Or, of all things. It tied with Kurosawa’s Kagemusha. [On Broadway by George Benson fades in] So that’s pretty amazing. And it’s in a whole bunch of great Letterboxd lists, including interesting death film theory list. And apparently, it’s David Fincher’s all time number one movie.
GRACE You know what, I’m not gonna come in here and pretend that I have cool unique taste or something, that’s like, not popular. You know, if people love it, I love it. Like, you know? I am not ashamed of that. So I hear those stats, and I’m like, yeah, damn right we all love this movie! [Gemma & Slim laugh]
SLIM Do you remember the first time you saw this movie? And where it was? You have any memories of that time?
GRACE So I have two very specific memories of this movie. The first one, I kind of wish I could take back but it kind of ties into my next one. I mean, the first time I watched it, I was depressed, in my bed, laptop, lights off. And so many people when I show movies was like, you know—like I said, I don’t know why you guys had me on this podcast because like, I’ll watch movies on my laptop. And some people will like DM me and be like, “why aren’t you watching this on your giant screen TV?!” And I’m like, “I don’t own that!” If you want to buy me one, then sure. [Slim laughs] Um, so I was like depressed, in the dark, feeling very creatively stifled like I wasn’t going anywhere, in my bed. And it just, I mean, it hit me like a ton of bricks so much so that I think that I didn’t watch a few movies after it. But the next time I saw it, like the very next time I saw it—I lived in LA for six months in 2019. And my friend Gabe Gundacker who’s also kind of big on Letterboxd—
GEMMA Oh, yeah, we’ve had Gabe on the pod before, we love him!
GRACE Oh you have?! Oh! [Gemma laughs] And one of his favorites is All That Jazz and he said it was playing at the American Cinematheque, which I’m still not entrenched in LA enough to know if I’m right about this, but it was like a small theater in Los Feliz that kind of had like Egyptian stone wall kind of feeling or whatever. And I never dreamed that I would see it in theaters. And I think this was the first movie I ever saw that was like, old, like that had already come out years ago, but was playing in theaters, because I just wasn’t really a movie goer for a really long time. And so I was sitting there with Gabe and his then girlfriend and I’d only seen it on my laptop. And I’m so sensitive to sound, like, you know, sound is huge for me. The quality of sound. And so I’m sitting there watching it. And it’s moving me but you know, the third act, which is that hospital hallucination scene, I am just sobbing, quietly sobbing the entire hour! Because it’s literally him, like Scheider, sitting in a director’s chair directing his whole hallucination. And so you’re like, okay, okay, Fosse is sitting in his own chair, directing a guy who’s supposed to be him and he’s probably in a chair too, directing the other guy who was in a chair! And it just became so personal. And I remember we were leaving the theater and Gabe and his like, then girlfriend, we’re walking out and going down a sidewalk, and they’re walking, like regularly paced. And I’m like, slowly—going—behind them. [Gemma laughs] Because I’m still sobbing! I’m still crying! [Grace laughs] I’m just like, looking down. And they’re like ’Gr—oh Grace are you—awww Grace!’ [Slim laughs] So I wish I could count that as my first experience. But you know, it’s not very cool to be like, I was in my bed depressed.
GEMMA It’s 100% fine to own, you know, a mental health laptop bed watch. I’m here for it. We aren’t like, honestly, The Letterboxd Show has no judgement where and how you watch movies.
SLIM No judgement zone.
GRACE I know you guys don’t. But, you know, there are some people—you know.
SLIM I don’t even want those people as listeners. Get them out of here if you’re judging right now!
GRACE Get ’em outta here!
SLIM Shut off the podcast app! [Gemma laughs] My backstory with this is some of my friends have logged this. And I was like, what is this movie? I’d never seen it. Roy Scheider as a choreographer, successful director, in the musical theater. In my head, I was like, okay, I need to see this movie. What is going on here? That dance sequence, that like erotica dance sequence rehearsal scene?
GEMMA Oh my god.
GRACE I mean—
SLIM Are you kidding me right now with that scene?!
GRACE He was a famous choreo—I mean, Fosse was known for being a choreographer, but specifically, like, small, very personal, intimate sort of movements. Not you know, like, you know, flashy like jumping up and down, but like, you know, the placement of a hand on someone’s back. And so it’s got this really like—I mean you saw it, and for anyone hasn’t seen it—it is sexual. It’s like the horniest dance sequence I’ve ever seen, including Dirty Dancing! [Slim laughs]
GEMMA Yeah, including Dirty Dancing. It’s incredible. I was moved to watch the special features on the DVD that I watched the movie on for the first time, which I was stoked about that. But Sandahl Bergman, who’s the lead dancer in their erotica dance sequence, who gets her top off at the end. And it is like, you know, in this like full abandonment. She talks about being called out in LA by Bob Fosse three days before shooting that sequence, to say, “I’ve just fired the dancer that I’ve rehearsed. And I need you. You’re the only person who can do this.” And she’s like, “I’m about to go on holiday. What do you do? Well, of course, I got on a plane and went to Bob! Of course I would!”
GEMMA And that his only direction for that final part of that dance sequence was abandonment. And you go—yes! Yep! That’s the word. That is the word. Oh my gosh, she’s incredible.
GRACE She’s amazing.
GEMMA And it is so gratifying to hear her because, you know, obviously as a viewer we’re watching these extraordinary, sweaty, sweaty—can we talk about the sweat?
SLIM The sweat alone.
GEMMA Sweaty bodies! Oh my god! So much real, true, actual sweat. This is not, you know, a mister being applied by costume department. But she, it’s so gratifying to watch something that’s sooo sensual so all about the body and hear the dancer say, it is all about the body. That dance is all about the body and Bob loved bodies and the camera bodies. And what she appreciated about it was you can see the full—from the tip of your fingers to the tip of your toes. You can see the full body in the shot, which we just don’t get enough anymore!
GRACE No, it’s usually like in musicals, which I don’t hate, but I’m thinking of musicals like Carousel, where they’re in flashy things, and they’re jumping off the roof and doing backflips and stuff. But this is so much more—you know, it’s the body.
SLIM How about the boots that Roy was wearing in that movie?
GRACE He looks so hot throughout that whole movie!
SLIM God! Like I wrote down in my review that like Roy in this era felt like Willem Dafoe, before Willem Dafoe. His physique in this just felt very Willam-ish. You know? Very like, kind of—[Slim laughs] Grace’s nod is cracking me up!
SLIM But it’s true though, right?!
GRACE I mean, I’ve heard some things about Willem Dafoe! I don’t know if you’ve talked about it on the show. He did that really like—was it a sex movie?
SLIM Was it the the Antichrist one?
GRACE It was the Antichrist, right? Where they were like his—his—can I say dick? [Slim & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA You can say dick.
SLIM He might have had a few movies where that appeared. I can’t remember if it was just Antichrist. But there was something else too.
GRACE Well, apparently it was like bothersome how big it was. [Slim laughs] And I feel like Roy has like big dick energy in this movie!
SLIM He does.
GRACE So your Willam comparison is very apt!
GEMMA I mean, if you’re gonna say dick, can I just call out one of my favorite lines in the movie? Which is, which I love because Bob Fosse puts this in the mouth of Roy Scheider playing Bob Fosse essentially. So it’s Bob owning how much of an asshole he is. And it’s when one of his many lovers says ’I just wish you weren’t so generous with your cock.’ And he goes, ’Mmm. That’s good. I can use that sometime.’ [Gemma laughs]
GRACE And that’s who he is! He’s not a good guy! And something that like, when we were talking about, something I was thinking about before I came on and something I really like that is kind of specific that I appreciate—and in the grand scheme of other theater creators—is when we were talking about this like overwhelmingly erotic scene, it’s being done in front of these like suits. These musical theater guys who are expecting good clean family fun to get butts in seats into theaters, which is like kind of the way that Broadway can be sometimes when it’s really about the money. And that scene, that dance sequence we were talking about starts off like pretty tame, and then slowly gets into this like, outrageous, the complete opposite of what these producers wanted. And it’s just—I mean, the guy’s a dick. He’s a dick to his wife. He’s a dick to his ex wife. He’s a dick to his girlfriend. He’s a dick to so many people. But my favorite dickishness that I love is this way he was like, fuck you guys. Like I’m not doing, you know, I’m not gonna play by your rules because he was already successful. And it reminded me—and this might be for like, my real big musical theater nerds who want to listen to this and you’ll know what I’m talking about. And this is also like a kind of autobiographical work is Stephen Sondheim, who is like, if you read his books, he was kind of like, ’This musical sucks. And this other musical I don’t like and that guy’s dumb!’ But the closest thing he ever had to autobiographical work was this musical Merrily We Roll Along, which was basically about him and a writing partner, trying to make musicals. And in one part, they go visit a producer, who’s played by Jason Alexander, and they want to get their show on Broadway. And they perform for him and Jason Alexander is like, immediately put off. It doesn’t sound conventional enough for him. And he’s like, “Oh, that’s not a tune you can hum, that’s not a tune you go bump, bump, bump, de-dum.” And so then on their feet, they tried to like change it to make it like a little more conventional, but it doesn’t appease Jason Alexander. And so he sings, he goes “Just write a plain old mellow.” And then he goes “de-de-de-de” which is a direct nod to South Pacific a musical that Stephen Sondheim hated. And so it’s this like, I just, I don’t know! As like a theater fan, you love watching these geniuses be like, I’m the fucking king! You know? [Gemma laughs] Like, fuck you guys! And fuck everyone who thinks like, you know, what conventional theater should be. And so I think one of my favorite parts that isn’t talked about enough is just like, you know, how much he was like he was a dick. But he was dick to these people who wanted things by the book and wanted butts in seats and wanted tickets sold. And that’s like, the most endearing part to me.
GEMMA We need to move on to a film that is seemingly the anomaly in your top four. [Grace laughs] In terms of not being a musical, but I would argue that there is in fact, quite a lot of choreography in Armando Iannucci’s 2009 political satire In The Loop.
SLIM This is a 3.8 average on Letterboxd. 161 fans, so 161 other people have this in their top four on Letterboxd and I’ll be—again, this is my moment to be brave on the show. I had never even heard of this movie before last week. So listen, people out there, I’m with you. If anyone is like me. So how did you discover this movie yourself? And what was your first viewing of this movie experience?
GRACE So, like you know, I probably got into it—I wish I could be like, oh, I liked his radio shows first and bleh, bleh, bleh. [Slim laughs] But that’s not true. I watched Veep first and it blew me away. And I am an improviser myself and have a strong interest in politics and how dumb everybody is. And so I watched his show, The Thick of It, which I fell in love with and then later listened to as Alan Partridge stuff, and his earlier satirical works like On the Hour, which then became like a sort of absurd farcical TV show called The Fay Today. And so, I mean, guys, listen, it was a very depressing year for me. [Gemma & Slim laugh] The year I watched all these movies, so I did the same shit! I watched it alone! And I loved it. I love it. And it is choreography, but it’s just—I mean, it was a movie, and I really, I am not a big rewatcher of movies. But the fact that the dialogue—and this is very much how Veep dialogue is and how much his show The Thick of It, which is pretty much the movie In the Loop is inspired by The Thick of It. There is one character in it, Peter Capaldi, who is the only one guy in that TV show who plays the same character in the movie, the Scotsman who’s swearing so much.
GEMMA So for anyone who might need a reminder, it’s Malcolm Fuckity-Fuck Tucker. I mean, he is one of the greatest characters ever invented for British television ever in the history of British television.
GRACE I mean, yes.
GEMMA He’s the government director of communications right? And in The Thick of It series, he’s in both government and in opposition, you know, over the course of the series, and he—my god. His mouth is so— [Gemma laughs]
[clip of The Thick of It plays]
MALCOLM Okay, go ahead and print unforeseeable. Listen, see what I tell your wife about you and Angela at the Blackpool conference. What are the best? An email or a phone call or what? Hey, I could write on a cake with those little silver balls and write ’Your hack husband betrayed you on October fourth and congratulations on the new baby’. Yeah, maybe it’s better to spike it. Yeah. Okay. Fuckity bye!
[clip of The Thick of It ends]
GRACE Here’s the thing. It’s music, man! You know? And this is another thing like I was saying, rewatch it. It is constant dialogue being fired at you. So much so that like, I had to watch it like again the next day because of course you don’t remember. It’s not like, you know, well thought out like elegantly placed dialogue. It’s people fighting and people doing really funny jokes! And so, I mean, the rehearsal process, it is a lot of improv. So it’s hard to compare it to music, but it feels like music to me. I mean, that’s not even my favorite part. It’s just a bonus that it feels like that. [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA What’s your favorite part?
GRACE I think the reason why this movie means a lot to me is because I do like political satire and I do come from an improv background. And it’s so fun to see smart people, you know, do jokes like this. But something I discovered, and I think this is a personal thing. So when I lived in New York City for a while and when I first lived there, I actually lived in Massachusetts, and worked in New York City and then commute back and forth every day through Grand Central Station, which is New York’s most famous train station. It’s a little bit smaller than Penn Station, but it’s more famous.
SLIM Looks nicer.
GRACE I mean, it looks nice. I mean, don’t even get me started on what they’ve done to that station.
GEMMA Oh my god!
GRACE It breaks my heart. Um, it’s sooo crowded, it’s just people just smashing into each other. And a huge part of the people, at least, I mean, especially during rush hour at Grand Central are these Wall Street nice suit guys going on the train back to their nice homes in Connecticut. But still the nature of the train station is fuck, the train is going to leave and these trains leave exactly on time! And and I would spend a lot of time in the train station because I get there an hour early due to anxiety. I’m afraid I’m gonna miss my train. But something I would discover, and something I realized is probably one of the funniest things now, is people in nice suits just running, being stressed, or like falling down or looking stupid. [Gemma & Slim laugh] And so it was these guys in great suits and they’d be like [Grace makes panting noise] And they look ugly and they don’t know where they’re going and they trip and they fall and they lose all of their power immediately. And I remember being like holy shit, this is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. And then it made sense to me why I love shows like Veep and In the Loop and The Thick of It is because here are these like guys with a scary amount of power and they’re sooo dumb. They’re so dumb! [Gemma laughs] And it was just like, okay, this is it. Like this is who I am. This is the stuff that I love.
GEMMA My favorite—okay, here’s a confession. In another life, I was a governmental press secretary.
GEMMA Too much of this film feels true. [Slim laughs] It is true that you have very, very clever people doing really dumb shit. And that something that you can have been working on for three years could be suddenly undermined in one meeting by one guy who just has slightly more power or a vested interest that you’re not aware of. You know, you can totally get sideswiped at any minute. It’s a scary, scary place. [Gemma laughs] And then when you get to the UN, because there’s also a UN element in this, and that’s where it really goes off the rails in In the Loop. I remember doing some filming at the UN and I got told off for eating my sushi in the wrong part of the building.
GEMMA And I just went, oh my god! I thought this was like, whoa, the United Nations, but it’s just like a bigger New Zealand parliament, which in itself is just a bigger high school, which in itself is just a bigger elementary school. Like, all of this shit is just school-ground politics.
GRACE And I feel like that’s the thing with Armando too. And like, this is what I would hear people say, which kind of bothered me. But like what you were saying about how you had worked in government and being like, this is so real. I mean, this is what people had said when Veep was coming out and something would happen in the Trump administration. And they would be like, Veep predicted it! Which I think is stupid. I think what it is, Armando just is good at tapping into what drives selfish, you know, greedy, vindictive people who are always chasing their next career high. I don’t think he was like, ‘one day we’re gonna get a like an orange guy in the White House, and it’s gonna be like this’ or whatever. I think what it is, and the reason why, you know, you felt like that and the reason why we’re all like, oh my god, this is how it is, is because, you know, it’s a funny, it’s like farcical but, you know, these are the people that are in charge and stuff like that. So there’s definitely like an element of like, worrying realism to it, you know?
SLIM Just as bad as the Veep predicted is The Simpsons predicted it. I grew up on The Simpsons. I can’t stand it! Enough with this. Please!
GRACE Here’s my thing. If gun to their head, do they really think, you know, the writers of The Simpsons in the nineties are thinking about that or do you think they’re just trying to make The Simpsons family as funny as they possibly can?
SLIM It makes me sick, Grace.
GRACE Ugh, bothersome.
SLIM Makes me literally sick when those articles come out.
GRACE If you have to step off camera and go throw up, I will understand. [Slim laughs]
SLIM Thank you, Grace.
GEMMA Maybe just pour a glass of wine. It’ll all be okay.
GEMMA I just love that In the Loop also shows the many farcical layers of politicking in DC, from the pretend committee to the real committee, the real committee that’s got a different name. And then all their house parties, like the diplomatic parties happening in all the houses which leads up to one particularly beautiful scene that I know you loved, Slim.
GRACE Is this when they’re in the bedroom?
SLIM Oh my god! When they’re sitting on that bed and he’s using the keyboard.
GRACE Genius! [Slim laughs] Genius! I think it is another just example of like sound completely making the scene.
GRACE I mean, they’re trying to calculate the number of troops that would be required, they’re in some little girl’s bed at this party have a rich person trying to get away and you know, talk about this very serious issue. And so he’s like, “uh—uh—” looks around at the toys, picks up a calculator that’s about like iPad size. [Grace laughs] And is trying to do some math about troops but every button you press is just like “One! Two! Three!” [Slim & Gemma laugh]
[clip of In the Loop plays]
[kids toy sounds play]
KAREN CLARK Your military hardware is impressive, General.
GENERAL GEORGE MILLER Yeah well, not anymore it isn’t. So you add these together. [kids toy sounds plays] This is the number of combat troops available for an invasion according to these figures.
[clip of In the Loop ends]
GRACE But because he’s such a good actor, he is so committed, and he was a great casting choice because he’s just doing math the best way that he can is an actor. And then you have these nonsense kid sounds and it’s just, I mean, it’s one of the most brilliant things. Sometimes—and this is kind of like with that whole—they’re good at like giving people props. Like they’re good at giving people like what is the silliest, funniest thing that this person could hold that isn’t too crazy? And that was just, you know, a total example of it. I’m glad you guys like that scene also!
GEMMA It’s a beautiful thing.
SLIM Speaking of props.
SLIM Drumsticks. We need to move into Whiplash.
GRACE Sorry! [Slim laughs]
GEMMA I want you to know that in a strange twist for the sixth episode of the series of the podcast, this is the one film of a guests that I failed to rewatch, because I told myself I would probably never watch it again.
GEMMA And yeah—so let’s dive into Whiplash! One of your four favorites! [Gemma laughs]
SLIM So this is a 4.3 average and Letterboxd.
GEMMA Too high!
SLIM This has 22,000 fans.
GEMMA Too many. [Slim laughs]
GRACE Oh I love this!
SLIM We need to mute Gemma’s mic during this section. This is getting too spicy.
GRACE No! No! It can’t just be me, you know, puffing myself up! [Gemma & Slim laugh]
SLIM So this is a famous movie under the direction of a ruthless instructor, a talented young drummer begins to pursue perfection at any cost. Miles Teller, JK Simmons. This is a movie that I personally had not seen until this week. This was like in the upper echelon of like, you know, La La Land, Whiplash. Five bangers. Like if you didn’t see this movie, you’re an idiot. I finally did watch this movie. But you’re a creator, you’re a musician. What was your experience seeing Whiplash for the first time?
GRACE Good lord. First of all, let me say, I hated La La Land. Maybe you could ask me about that later.
GEMMA Okay. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GRACE La La Land, it felt like I ate too much candy and I feel like I was gonna throw up.
GEMMA Okay, we’re friends again. We’re friends again. It’s all good.
GRACE God, couldn’t stand it. I would never watched it again. But the first time I watched it was not alone in my bed. It had already come out by then. And it was with my roommate who was like, “I feel like you’d liked this movie.” [music from Whiplash fades in] And I mean, this was before I would just sort of like, well, if a movie comes out, I’ll watch it when I watch it. As opposed to now where I’ve like, definitely taken an interest more and you know, growing my own opinions and you know, caring more for film, but back then I was like, okay, sure. And definitely one of the more memorable movie experiences, because like, I shit you not—and this is like, it sounds like it’s maybe a joke. But the movie ended and I realized, like, my ass had been clenched for like an hour and a half. [Slim laughs] My whole body! I was literally—it was almost like I didn’t realize until the movie was over that I was like [Grace exhales] and then like every muscle in my body, sort of, was released. And I think if I want to, like get a little by autobiographical here, I think it was because of the storytelling and the way that they capture, you know, tension and you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, and there’s like all this uneasiness and unpredictability, given JK Simmons character. But I think the reason it like hit me especially—and other people too, I’m not saying like you have to be a musician to fully understand it. Because that’s not true! Because the storytelling is so good. You don’t need to know about like the dynamics of a rehearsal room. You get it right away. You get it.
GEMMA It’s a sports movie, right?
GRACE That’s a good point.
GEMMA Yeah, it’s a movie about obsession, basically. Obsessive, just an obsessive need to improve no matter what it is. Yeah. So no, you don’t need to understand about music and you do learn quite a lot about drumming throughout.
GRACE Yes, you do.
SLIM Gemma putting a positive spin on her comments from earlier. [Gemma laughs] She’s trying to even the playing field.
GRACE Listen, I don’t know anything about basketball. And I watched Space Jam. And I learned a little bit that day. [Slim laughs] Same with all the other sports movies. With the Aaron Sorkin one, he forces baseball rules down your throat with that one, you know, so—[Gemma laughs]
SLIM I was the same. When I watched this this week, I realized—this is another brave moment for me—I realized I hadn’t looked at my phone in like an hour and a half when I was watching this movie.
SLIM And then I was like, okay, something’s cooking here. And you’re right, the last twenty minutes of this movie are maybe one of the top five last scenes of a movie I’ve ever seen. I think.
GRACE Yes. Correct? Yes.
SLIM Should Fletcher be in prison? I ask you. This instructor. [Slim laughs] JK Simmons character, I want to knock him out throughout the entirety of this movie.
GRACE Of course you do! But like there are so many guys like him that exist. In terms of intensity. I don’t think all of them are throwing symbols at kids heads. But that sort of like psychological abuse is—like to give you an example we had—and this is like another reason why this is related to me, to bring myself into it. So I used to sing competitively in choirs and stuff. And I’m like very familiar with, like the stakes that go into it. But there are things that happen in this movie, where in another movie, you will be like, okay, whatever. But for example, losing a binder. Losing a binder of sheet music in this movie means something completely differently than in another sort of setting. And I had this conductor in one of my groups where she would do this thing where she’d put extra sheet music on the piano in the rehearsal rooms. And sometimes we would memorize our pieces. And sometimes we wouldn’t. But either way, if you forgot your music or you hadn’t memorized it, it means you would have to go up to the piano in front of everyone to get an extra copy. And it was the scariest thing in the entire world. And it was not okay to go up and get your sheet music. And another one I had, if you did that, she made you sing I’m a Little Teapot in front of the whole class. The whole class!
GEMMA She should be in prison with JK Simmons. [Gemma laughs]
GRACE Exactly! They should be prison together! But it is that like, it’s that thing! And it invites you into this world where if I had been like—and this had happened, you know, one of my choral groups would compete at Carnegie Hall. And if I had said, “Hey, I’m competing at Carnegie Hall” to a person on the street, they’d be like, “Cool, good for you.” But when you’re in that world, it is—you’re sweating! And you’re nervous! And every single second and part of rehearsal, you know, it has 100 times more weight. So you know, that touched me immediately.
GEMMA Hey, Grace, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?
GRACE You practice, practice, practice. [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA Just checking! Just checking!
GRACE I say that all the time. And it holds up! How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You have to practice.
GEMMA I just, I want to say—I don’t hate the film. I just don’t need to have my ass clenched through that experience again. The love for this movie on Letterboxd is insane! I think when I look through the reviews, it’s either because people have great dreams of being great themselves and are responding to, to seeing what it takes. Or it’s just purely JK Simmons as a character, you know, on screen. And we love a good Betty right?
GRACE Exactly! I was wondering looking at the reviews, what it was that would drive it. I had guessed that like the thing most mentioned would be the ending, because that’s the thing that you know, everyone talks about. [music from end scene of Whiplash plays] But I will say, JK’s arms look really good in that movie. And so that did it for me.
SLIM He’s always ripped! I don’t know what his regime is. I need to figure it out.
GRACE He’s so ripped.
SLIM Him in Roy Scheider probably do the same thing.
GRACE Yeah! Black t-shirts. Wow. Okay, maybe there’s something there for me that I have to talk to my therapist about. [Grace & Slim laugh] But the thing you were saying about the driven artist, like, I don’t know, I’m like, why would you? I mean, here’s the thing! The thing about the girlfriend. You’re right. I hate that too. Because he’s a dick to her. He’s a dick. I don’t know why anyone—I mean, I get it. We all want greatness, but I do not—I mean like, to relate to that guy who’s essentially like—
GEMMA Run, Nicole, Run! [Gemma laughs]
GRACE Right! Exactly! So I hope nobody relates to that guy, ’cause he sucks! [Grace laughs]
GEMMA Before we move on to West Side Story, I just want to point out some of the hilarious lists that Whiplash makes an appearance in on Letterboxd. White people jazz. Anxiety. Secretly an A24 film. Good movie dads. Boys crying a single tear. Homoerotic?
GRACE Homoerotic, I believe that. That one I believe. What was the—piss baby? [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Pissbaby. Okay, I’m just gonna get a little more info about this one.
GRACE Does he pee himself?
SLIM We need to click through on this, maybe incognito mode.
GEMMA There we go, I’ve clicked through. The full title of the Piss Baby list by Kennedy, this is genius. Movies in which a hetero white man with a god complex as router literally everyone for his own personal gain and sense of achievement. This list could also be titled the Piss Baby.
GRACE So is Piss Baby JK Simmons or is it Miles Teller?
GEMMA Oh! Good question. I’m thinking Miles?
GRACE Yeah, I mean, JK Simmons, there’s a scene where he’s nice to a little girl, but I guess he kind of asked to be or else we’d be like, this guy needs to be in jail right away. [Grace laughs]
SLIM Speaking of crime. West Side Story. 1961. 3.8 average. 926 fans. Broadway musical, 1957. Talks about Upper West Side of Manhattan. Jets versus the sharks. Everyone’s familiar with this and probably familiar with the music, they might not even remember it’s from this movie. Tell us about West Side Story and Grace Spelman. [music from the West Side Story fades in]
GRACE Okay, so 3.8, I’m going to credit to two things. Okay, here’s the thing. For this movie, I guess it’s my favorite movie. But for me, it is a vehicle to listen to what I believe is the greatest music of all time. It’s also got a bonkers runtime. I remember a guy I was dating in 2018, he was trying to like play the moves. And he was doing a good job. He was like, “I want to watch West Side Story with you. I want to watch you watch West Side Story. I want you to explain all the things in West Side Story for me.” Which hits all my buttons. I get excited about things. And when a guy’s like, I want you to talk about them. I’m like, “Oh yeah!” So I sit down. And he’s like, “Almost three hours?!” [Slim & Gemma & Grace laugh]
GEMMA “I’m not getting laid for three hours?”
GRACE He was like “Sex isn’t worth this, I guess?!” [Gemma & Slim laugh] He didn’t say that. But that was the underlying message! And I was like, fuck you, Tom! So then I had to sit there being like, okay, let’s watch this musical number. And then fast forward and be like, well, they’re going—just for context—they’re going here and then you have to watch this. And it sucked and it was awful! It was awful.
GEMMA Hey, that can go in our bad movie dates podcast series that we’re going to develop. [Slim & Gemma laugh]
GRACE I would love to talk about that! But for me, I mean, okay, it’s music for me. The desert island album, question about what three pieces would you bring to an island, I love music so much that I can’t answer, but I only know one. And it’s West Side Story. And I do love it for, you know, the set. I love the movie for the set and for its interiors and the gorgeous costumes. But like I said, it’s a vehicle for listening to the music. And also, it should be noted that I listened, it did start as a Broadway show. But when I listened to it, I listened to the movie version, which I believe to be better. And for my fifteenth birthday, I only asked for one thing, and I asked for the DVD. But I think the thing that is my favorite, because I do love storytelling through music, and through dance, is the prologue. So I will differentiate that. For those who don’t know, a prologue is different from an overture. Sometimes people get them confused. An overture in musical theater, it’s played when the curtain is closed. And it’s when you hear the musical themes, or snippets of the song that you’ll later hear throughout the show. But the prologue is the first ten minutes of the movie, and there’s basically no dialogue. But here’s the thing about it, it is the part of the movie where you separate the boys from the men in terms of audience. Because—and this happens so often—you sit down with people and within the first 30 seconds, the gang members start snapping. And this is when you lose people, and I can’t count the amount of times that people have been like what? They’re snapping? Like they’re a gang and they’re snapping? And not to be like, you know, like elitist or whatever. I don’t want to get mean on the show, but it makes me really mad!
GEMMA I want to say the thing about musicals, right, is you have to be really on board with the idea of people singing their thoughts and dancing their feelings. And I want to know what is wrong with people who are not on board with that?
GRACE Well, I feel like these are people though who can do it with Sound of Music and they could do it with La La Land or something like that. But it’s this like, in the city, you know, basketball court summer hot heat tension thing that’s just, I don’t know, breaks their brain?
SLIM I was gonna say, so I watched this for the first time this year for my podcast, and—
GEMMA Are you talking about your podcast again, Slim?
SLIM Sorry, I didn’t say it! Not gonna plug myself.
GEMMA 70mm pod—
SLIM 70mm. We did West Side Story, our community voted for this movie for us to watch for the first time.
GEMMA And this is in 70 right?
GEMMA Panavision 70. It’s in 70.
SLIM Also, I was lucky enough to watch this in 4K.
GEMMA Oh, wow.
SLIM Grace, I’m not sure if you’ve watched this in 4K.
SLIM This movie effing slaps in 4K. It’s ridiculous! So the dancing to display emotions is probably where people get lost. Like dudes that don’t fight but they dance to express emotion.
GRACE They dance ballet!
SLIM That’s probably a huge disconnect for the audience.
GRACE And especially like, and it’s not like, you know, In The Heights, which is like, it’s a little different, but these guys are gang members, and they’re not doing like, you know, like gang dance moves. They are doing ballet. Jerome Robbins has them doing ballet. And it’s the way that the music and the dancing in that prologue is character introduction. And it is storytelling. But it is like, you know, like you were saying the dancing, in 4K especially.
SLIM It’s nutty.
GRACE It’s, it’s incredible. And it’s like, it’s a whole 21 minutes before we get a song. Before we get singing. It’s like, this is up to almost twenty minutes of snapping and snapping and dance feelings.
GRACE Listen, if this were a music podcast, this would be a three hour episode. [Slim laughs] And I am not joking! I was poor. I would print out the full orchestral sheet music and I would just read it on the train. I mean, it’s amazing. But, but even lyrically, and you know, and this is some, I mean, lyrically does touch on things like being an immigrant and coming to America and dealing with poverty and dealing with racism. But the theater version is so much more racist than the original.
GRACE But, I mean that’s a conversation that we can maybe have when we talk about the original. But the songs are—I mean, they are—immaculate. And it is love songs, but it is also like brilliant songs like Officer Krupke where these Jets who talk about, you know, living in middle class or lower middle class and they are, you know, being shuffled around from foster home to court judge to social worker to therapist.
[clip of Gee, Officer Krupke of West Side Story plays]
It’s just our bringin’ upke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!
Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
We never had the love that ev’ry child oughta get.
[clip of Gee, Officer Krupke of West Side Story fades out]
GRACE And they’re just—it’s so tight. And not only is it tight lyrically, but the way that Leonard Bernstein plays the music and the way that he uses instrumentation. More Latin American music for scenes with the Sharks, and you know, you get your American jazz when you have the Jets, and it just, and you could close your eyes and watch this movie, you know?
GRACE I mean, we all know the story of Romeo and Juliet, and it’s been told in hundreds of different ways and, and will be again. But for West Side Story, specifically, the thing about Romeo and Juliet is that the two families are essentially the same class. But they’re just at war, right? And so that’s what kind of leads to the conflict. Whereas with West Side Story, you’re adding in socio economic status, immigrant status, racism, gender politics, class politics. And it just stacks the odds so much more.
GRACE And the police as well!
GEMMA And the police, yeah.
GRACE Who also played a role. And I will say that like something—I mean, you know, both of the gangs hate the police, which is like, okay, hell yeah. Like you do not root for the police. But, you know, at the end of the day, when the police are in the scenes, they’ve got the backs of the Jets more than they have of the Sharks. Which makes it like, you know, Romeo and Juliet—god, it’s been forever since I’ve read that—but it’s definitely the police are this like, third element, because, you know, they’re trying to have these fights under the bridge, but they can’t tell anybody about it, you know? So they have to fight this war as quietly as they can.
SLIM When I watched it, some of my friends were logging on Letterboxd ahead of time, and I hadn’t seen it. So there was a few reviews calling out the you know, the problematic nature of the characters, the Puerto Rican characters that were wearing brownface in the movie.
GEMMA The Puerto Rican characters played by Greek Americans and—
GRACE Natalie Wood.
GEMMA Or Natalie Wood, oh my god.
SLIM It’s insane! Right? Like looking back on it and and watching it, you know, different time, etc, etc. But still, doesn’t hold up that well. But Spielberg is making a new version of this. What are your vibes on his updated version?
GRACE I mean, he’s a great director. So that’s good. I’m basing it off the trailer here. [Grace chuckles] My first thought, and this is my nerdy thought, was like, are they going to do it in the same key as the original movie? [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Please! Please!
GRACE I’m trying to think about Ansel’s vocal range. And I’m like, well, they can’t do it too high, they can’t change the key. And so because I am such—because the music is such, you know, it lives inside my brain rent free, to use a term that everyone uses. But you know, I think in 2021 the casting will be way more appropriate.
GRACE But also, how are they going to stray in terms of the story, I’m wondering, because throughout the movie, the Jets, who are the white gang, aren’t the bad guys. You kind of root from them. But they are incredibly racist. So story wise, I don’t know how they’re gonna cover that because it is really important to highlight that feud. But in terms of like visuals, from the trailer I’ve seen, I mean, in the original, the first thing they set up is this, like, aerial shots of the Upper West Side, and they paint this picture of a New York that’s gritty but beautiful. And in the trailer, we kind of get a few glimpses of that as well. And there are some shots of Maria up on the balcony who’s Rachel Zegler, who I’m friends with on Twitter, shout out Rachel, if you who can hear this, you’re so much cooler than I am. Despite being so much younger. Uh—please think I’m cool! [Gemma laughs] But like some shots, where she’s like, she’s wearing almost the same dress and she’s looking down on Tony. And it’s almost like the same shots. I have a feeling—I don’t know. But I also don’t want to be one of those people who’s like, ya gotta stick to the original! You know, because I hate those people! [Gemma laughs] And when other movies do that, I’m like, be creative! Let directors do their own thing! But for this, I’m like, “Oh, that looks just like the shot from the original movie. Nice!” [Gemma laughs] Which I don’t like in myself.
GEMMA Yeah, I just want to say it’s pretty exciting to see that Ezra Menas is playing the role of Anybodys because we all know that Anybodys was a cute little baby, non-binary gangster in the original. But just not, you know, not, obviously. And in 2021, we get a fully realized cute little baby non-binary Anybodys in the cast and it’s really exciting! It’s great.
GRACE Yeah, that role. I don’t remember. They don’t use pronouns in that movie regarding them, right?
GEMMA Well, right near the end, when he says, “You did good” and they reply “thanks Daddio.” They say “Thanks buddy boy” or something like that? Yeah.
GRACE Ohhh okay.
GEMMA That’s the only time when anybodys is referred to as potentially the gender they identify with. But other than that, they don’t use pronouns. No.
GRACE That’ll be great. Yeah.
GEMMA Pretty exciting.
SLIM The shot in trailer with the shadows, that fancy shot.
SLIM That looked pretty baller, in that trailer.
GRACE Woof. God, I’m gonna cry. You guys. I’m going to need an ambulance waiting outside the theatre when I see this movie. [Slim & Gemma laugh] I don’t care if they’re like “No going into theaters!” and delta has like zombie apocalypse everyone. [Gemma laughs] I’m going to be like crawling on my elbows to the theater to see this movie! So very excited. And I’m glad I got to talk about it.
GEMMA Okay, I got two important questions. Three important questions. Question number one. Are you a Shark or a Jet?
GRACE Well, I’m white. So I’m a Jet. [Gemma & Slim & Grace laugh] That’s kind of—yep, that’s obvious.
GEMMA Question number two. Have you ever wanted to dance fight to settle an argument?
GRACE Ah, yes, because I hate fighting. And I hate conflict. And I feel like if I had some dance moves, they would go a lot easier for me. And maybe they would just laugh and be like, you’re so bad at dancing, nevermind, let’s not fight!
GEMMA I just want to use this opportunity to point out that there’s a severe and dismaying lack of dance fight, dance battle lists on Letterboxd. And we need a listener to fix this. And so if someone can fix that between now and the next episode, we will give you a shout. And the final question. I mean, it’s a big question, given how much you loved the entire soundtrack. But for each of us, if you could pick one song from the West Side Story soundtrack that you could take with you to heaven, which would it be?
GRACE C’mon man! [Grace laughs]
GEMMA Slim, you go first.
SLIM Ah, gosh, I think I wrote it down here. Where is it? ‘One Hand, One Heart.’ That song feels very Catholic. I grew up like Catholic. That just like hit me like, am I in church again, right now as a kid? That’s a great song. But ‘One Hand, One Heart’ with the two of them singing together is unreal.
GEMMA I didn’t think it was a Catholic thing, Slim, but maybe it is! But it’s ‘One Hand, One Heart’ and the reason is because my big sister figured out how to play it on the piano and because it’s a duet, would make me be Tony to her Maria, and sing it over and over and over again.
[‘One Hand, One Heart’ from West Side Story plays]
Make of our lives, one life,
Day after day, one life.
Now it begins, now we start
One hand, one heart;
[‘One Hand, One Heart’ from West Side Story fades out]
GRACE Oh my god.
GEMMA So yeah, it’s embedded in me.
GRACE I so relate to that as someone who grew up with a sister who would be like, “You be the boy and I be the girl” and like, you know, “no, I want it to be that part!” “you can be that part next time!”
SLIM Grace, Grace. It’s time. You can’t wait any longer. You can’t delay it.
GRACE No, here’s the thing. Mine is kind of like a cheat answer because ideally, I would pick every single song.
GEMMA You’re gonna say ‘Overture’ aren’t you? You’re not allowed. [Gemma laughs]
GRACE No, I’m not gonna say ‘Overture’ because that doesn’t count. But—[‘West Side Story Prologue’ plays] I’m gonna pick the ‘Prologue’ song and that is because it is my favorite part of the movie. It is where we get—I mean, do love lyric. Lyrics are great but I am an orchestration girl over a lyric girl. And so, in the ‘Prologue’, we get these like crazy percussion sounds, there’s like seven xylophones at once. And that’s the Sharks and then we get like this like badoom-doom-doom-doom like baseline, and that’s the Jets. And so, and it’s six minutes long. So, you know, the longer the song, the better. But I think it paints the picture the most. And it encompasses the characters to me, the most. I will say it’s not as like, melodic, so you don’t get much of the love story in the ‘Prologue’. There aren’t like the strings of Maria, which is a beautiful song. But if I had picked Maria, then I would be like, well then where’s the percussion? I mean, Maria is one of the greatest love songs of all time. But if I had to pick—and I know it’s boring because I talked about it already—but it would be the ‘Prologue’. Yeah, just great.
SLIM Shocker of an answer.
GRACE Ah ha!
SLIM We’re rapidly running out of time, but we do have I think, at least one or two more segments that, I think, hopefully our community has come to expect on Letterboxd.com rated higher than average. So we looked at your profile on Letterboxd to see what you’ve rated higher than the average on Letterboxd. So there are a few on here. The movie that I 100% agree with on this list is Annihilation. Natalie Portman. Underrated.
GRACE Ah! Don’t even get me started on this movie. Probably in the last five years, probably the movie I saw the most in theaters. I think I saw it five times in theaters, never done that before. Bought the book on the subway home from the movie. The first time I saw it. Read it in less than 24 hours. Made friends with the composers.
SLIM Oh god.
GRACE Not only that! The alien soundtrack at the end was—so when I was living in New York, I just lost my job. I’ll make this brief cuz we’re going over time. But I was wandering SoHo and I just kind of wandered into the Bose store. For like the sound quality. And I was just looking at, you know, headphones, and one of the guys was like, “Do you want to come in to the Bose surround sound room?” And I was like, sure, why not. And so I went in there, and I’m sitting there and it kind of looks like a living room. But with this crazy sound setup, and they’re playing The Greatest Showman, which I don’t ever want to see. [Gemma laughs] And so they’re playing it for me. And the sound was great! And I was like, this is amazing. And then I went home and I was like, I told my followers, I was like, I need to watch Annihilation in the Bose sound room. [Slim laughs] And I was like, everybody tweet at Bose, that I need to watch Annihilation. Because when I first saw Annihilation—I have a video of this. I’m leaving the theater and my hands are shaking, because I love experimental music. I love music that scare—my favorite music is music that scares the fuck out of me. And so in the third act of Annihilation, is one of my favorite third acts, and a large part of it is because of the music. And so I’m like, “everyone tweet for me to watch it at the Bose store.” And so then enough people tweeted that they DM’d me and they were like, “hey, just get the Blu-ray and you can come watch it.” And then of course, I moved to LA for six months, and I still haven’t been able to do it! [Slim laughs]
SLIM Oh my god!
GRACE But, it’s the score. I’m telling you, man, if that score was not there, it would have a way—I mean, it all comes back to music for me. But it was great. I do love weird alien shit. God, I’m getting so excited, because I didn’t think you were gonna bring up Annihilation! [Slim & Gemma laugh] And I love that movie!
GEMMA So I think we need to shout out Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury for their composition.
GRACE Yes! Incredible scores.
SLIM We’ll meet them in Bose studio. We’ll all hang out with them and watch watch the Blu-ray the next time you’re in New York.
GEMMA Coming full circle, really. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, you have rated five stars, the Letterboxd community, generally speaking is like eh, 3.4 out of five. But for you it gets the full five. And this is again, Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge. There’s something about the way that Steve and Armando have managed to keep Alan Partridge through all the, you know, progression of society we’ve experienced over the last twenty years. He knows he’s irrelevant, right?
GRACE He’s just not a good guy. And you know that. I mean, he sells his friend out in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. But—god to go full circle again, this time with dating stories—this was actually the most recent movie I watched. And I watched it with a guy I’m seeing. And he did not like it. And I’m usually like, okay, it’s fine. We don’t have to like all the movies. But he did not laugh. And I laughed so hard. But I don’t know. I love it.
GEMMA Wait, are you still seeing him? [Gemma laughs]
GRACE Yes—I’m going to the wedding with him in a few days, so! No, he’s great. And, you know, you’re not supposed to like every movie with the person that you aren’t currently dating. But there are just some lines. Because Alan Partridge is a batshit radio announcer and he’ll be like [Grace in a British accent] “So next we’re asking, have you ever met a genuinely clever bus driver?” Like he’s just—like he’s mean! [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA He’s mean. He’s racist against the Irish, like, so racist against the Irish.
GRACE And he’s like, [Grace in British accent] “You can make fun of Jews—a little.” You know, and it’s like, it’s not—I mean, I don’t know, I could get cancelled for liking it, but I will acknowledge that like, he sucks! Like he sucks. And that feels like it’s fine, right? I’m okay? [Gemma laughs]
SLIM The main last question I have is, have you shown West Side Story to whomever you’re dating yet? And what was their reaction?
GRACE Let me go to his Letterboxd and see if he’s watched it. [Slim laughs]
GEMMA Well, he gets points for being on Letterboxd, so there’s that.
SLIM This is the big test. This could be the beginning or the end right now.
GRACE I think he has, because I would remember being like, you haven’t seen West Side Story?!
GEMMA It’s gonna be three hours until you get laid!
SLIM If he has a two star on Letterboxd right now, it could be the end.
GRACE He has not rated it. He has not rated it.
GRACE And I might just be afraid to ask. But he has not seen All That Jazz and on our movie list that we share a films we want to show each other. All That Jazz is on there, but honestly after showing him Alan Partridge, I’m like kind of nervous. So, I don’t know. [Grace & Slim laugh] I don’t know.
GEMMA Well, what would you say to—I was gonna say any person—but I’m gonna say any man, like my husband, who says ’I don’t like musicals’ with absolutely no personal experience to back that up. [Grace laughs]
GRACE We did a whole episode of this on our podcast, and I was literally like, Neil, I was like sliding down in my chair because my host was just like, “Musicals are bad!” And I was like, digging my thighs so hard into my hand, I was bleeding. But I think what it says is that maybe it’s too earnest for them? People singing. I think earnesty kind of turns off, especially in this like irony poisoned world. I think the earnestness of Hamilton turned away a lot of people, which is fine. And I think it’s the same thing where people don’t like Hamilton, because they don’t like the fan base. And I think a lot of people say they don’t like musicals, they want to say they don’t like people who like musicals. I think that’s a big, big part of it. And to be fair, we’re really annoying and a lot of us are really annoying. But you know if you can sit down and watch an arthouse film, you can sit down and like, appreciate music and stuff, even if it’s like—like in the movie Carousel they’re singing about clams. And a song is called ‘June Is Bustin’ Out All Over’, just a ridiculous name for a song. [Gemma laughs] And they’re literally jumping up and down because they love clams. It’s actually not that great of a movie, but you know, you know that no one would ever do this. So you appreciate the dancing, you appreciate the costumes. You know? I just think people who say that, having not watched many, it strikes me as someone with a very lazy mind. No offense to your husband.
SLIM Too late. [Gemma laughs]
GRACE I’m sorry!
SLIM Let’s pit Hamilton fans versus A24 fans to the death and see who comes out.
GRACE Yes! Let’s have them dance battle. And the musical theater kids would win! That’s the thing! [Gemma & Slim laugh] Their first win ever!
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker plays alone, fades out]
GEMMA Thanks so much for listening to The Letterboxd Show. And thanks to our guest this episode, Grace Spelman for sharing her love of her favorite movies. Her four faves again: West Side Story, All That Jazz, In the Loop, and Whiplash. You can hear Grace on The Ringer Music Show and she’s on Twitter too.
SLIM You can follow Gemma, Slim—that’s me—and our HQ page on Letterboxd using the links in our episode notes. Thanks to our crew, composing dynamos, Moniker for the theme music Vampiros Dancoteque. And thanks to Jack for the facts and our booker, Linda Moulton, and to you for listening. If you’re enjoying the show and have guest ideas, be sure to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.
GEMMA And that’s the show. I’m off to listen to some subsidized foreign vowels. [Slim laughs]
[clip of Whiplash plays]
FLETCHER Little trouble there. Pick it up at seventeen. Five, six, and—[music plays, stops abruptly] Not quite my tempo—Here we go. Five, six, and—
[clip of Whiplash ends]
[TAPEDECK bumper plays] This is a TAPEDECK podcast.