TRANSCRIPT The Flop House Ep. 321: Call of the Wild, with Jesse Thorn

Jesse Thorn, host of Jordan Jesse Go and Bullseye, and podfather at Max Fun joins The Flop House to talk about the movie The Call of the Wild.

Podcast: The Flop House

Episode number: 321

Guests: Jesse Thorn

Transcript

dan

On this episode we discuss—The Call of the Wild!

stuart

[Howls.] Wipeout! [All laugh.]

music

Light, up-tempo, electric guitar with synth instruments.

dan

Hey, everyone, and welcome to The Flop House! I’m Dan McCoy.

stuart

I’m Stuart Wellington.

elliott

I’m Elliott Kalan! And who’s this special guest we’ve got with us this week?

dan

Mm-hm! It’s the boss! Not Bruce Springsteen, but Jesse Thorn! [Jesse laughs.]

jesse

[Through laughter] I always—that’s how I like to enter any podcast. As a mild disappointment. [All laugh.]

dan

I set you up and I knock ya down.

elliott

Here it is! The boss, straight from E Street in Asbury Park, New Jersey! It’s… Jesse Thorn!

jesse

Little Stevie Van Zandt!

stuart

Think about how bummed Bruce Springsteen would be if he agreed to do our podcast and then found out we were talking about movies and not just like… blue collar stuff. [Laughs.]

elliott

Yeah. Old trucks and things. The same thing that Steven King would be upset about if he was a guest on the podcast. Here’s the question—

jesse

He’s a regular on—do you guys not listen to Guitar Tone Cast?

crosstalk

Elliott: No. Jesse: He’s a regular on that one. Dan: He is?

dan

I mean, that makes sense. He’s in that… what, is it The Remainders? I dunno. That—

crosstalk

Dan: —bestselling authors—yeah. Band. Elliott: The Rock-Bottom Remainders?

jesse

Did you know that I know the founder—I knew. She’s passed away, sadly. But I knew the founder of the Rock-Bottom Remainders Literary Rock Band?

crosstalk

Dan: No. Stuart: No, I didn’t know that. Should I update the personal Wiki I have for you— Jesse: She was my boss.

stuart

—on my computer? [Elliott laughs.]

jesse

I have had all of one job in radio. Not counting the, like, three weeks that I was an intern on a morning radio show before I realized I could not get up that early.

crosstalk

Jesse: And my boss— Elliott: And you and the Mad Dog just never got along.

stuart

Yeah, yeah. [Jesse laughs.] You weren’t wild enough for the Zoo Crew.

jesse

I was literally not allowed to make eye contact with the hosts of the show. [Elliott laughs.] [Through laughter] That was one of the rules. Really.

dan

Oh, no.

jesse

But on this other wonderful show I worked on called West Coast Live—which was a public radio show out of San Francisco—my boss, Kathi Goldmark, was the founder of that band. Like, she had had every publishing job ever before she became producer of this radio show. And so she was just buddies with… Dave Barry; Amy Tan; Matt Groening; uh, Maya Angelou. All these people. And they would just come by. They would just come by the radio show and—to see their rock’n’roll friend, Kathi Goldmark.

crosstalk

Elliott: That’s really nice. Do you guys think that— Dan: That’s great. Stuart: That’s pretty fun.

elliott

—Bruce Springsteen ever watched Who’s the Boss on TV and was like, [Springsteen impersonation] “When are they gonna invite me on that show?” [Multiple people laugh.] “I’m right here!”

crosstalk

Elliott: “Just ask!” Stuart: Yep, he keeps looking in the mirror and he’s like—

stuart

“Am I the boss?”

dan

Yeah. There’s the time he actually went to set and was standing outside the door just waiting for a cue that never came.

elliott

Yeah. [Springsteen impersonation] “Maybe I’m supposed to go there! Maybe I’m supposed to start the idea!”

stuart

Dan, the scenario you described is just about sad enough to be the subject of a Bruce Springsteen song. [All laugh.]

jesse

He already—he did write one song about sitting in the movie theater with a single tear rolling down his cheek as he watched Boss Baby and thought about how he hadn’t been [through laughter] invited to be in it. [Elliott laughs.]

elliott

Well that his childhood—he never really got to free as carefree as a baby. Y’know?

crosstalk

Jesse and Stuart: Yeah.

dan

Yeah. Well, so for the possible new listener who’s listening right now, saying, “What the fuck is this show about?”

elliott

Being like, “I love Bullseye. Interviews with relevant and sophisticated cultural arts figures. So I followed Jesse Thorn to here, but what is this with these morons? What are they—” Dan, what do we do that they should know about? [Dan laughs.]

dan

Yeah. Well these real dinguses— [Elliott laughs.] —watch a bad movie and then talk about it. Or, y’know, a movie that has been either commercially or critically drubbed. And this week—as the announcement at the top said—we watch The Call of the Wild, based on the book The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

elliott

[in Cockney accent] ‘Ello, ‘ello! It’s me, Jack London!

crosstalk

Elliott: The most English-English name there is! Hello! Stuart: Oh, hey, Jack London! Dan: He was a famous American author. [Laughs.] [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

Oi, the Ripper’s struck again! In me, Jack London!

stuart

Mm-hm. Yep.

jesse

This whole thing was a setup for Elliott’s signature character.

crosstalk

Elliott: Mm-hm. Stuart: Jack London?

elliott

I’m so glad we have Jesse here because Jesse is, of course, the second native favorite son of Northern California, after Jack London. Jack London, of course, being Northern California’s favorite native son and Jesse being the second favorite. So what—you knew Jack London, right?

jesse

Yeah, we were good friends back in the 1890s. [All laugh.] In the prospecting. How would you rank the native children of Northern California? You’d say Jack London, number one; number two, Jesse Thorn, of course, because I’m the host of the least-popular NPR program, Bullseye.

crosstalk

Jesse: Then number three would be Joe DiMaggio? Elliott: But if you’re asking me—

elliott

If you’re asking me, the least favorite is—wait, wait, don’t tell me ‘cause I hate it so much. But— [Multiple people laugh.] No, I guess I don’t hate it.

crosstalk

Elliott: Yeah, then Joe DiMaggio being number three. Joe DiMaggio being—so Joe DiMaggio being number three. Dan: No, that’s fine. You can hate it. I hate it. Jesse: They’re nice people. I enjoy your show.

elliott

Number four and five tied, the Olsen Twins. Because Full House was set in San Francisco.

crosstalk

Jesse: Sure. Yeah. It did have that one San Francisco shot. Stuart: Mm-hm. Yep. Elliott: Uh—mm-hm.

elliott

Number six is the idea of uneven terrain. Very popular in San Francisco. And number seven would be… Johnny Pixar. Y’know. [Multiple people laugh.] Founder of Pixar, up in Emeryville, Northern California!

jesse

Yeah.

dan

Now I actually would like to spend just a second on the book, Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild, up at the top. I read that of course in middle school or early high school. I think it was an assignment rather than something I was reading for myself. What’s your guys’ experience with the book, if any?

stuart

I had the Classics Illustrated Call of the Wild, or The Call of the Wild, and I remember being a big fan? Although I remembered very little of the plot points. So this movie was all new to me, y’know?

elliott

I just got some late-breaking news that there’s been a change in the favorite sons and daughters of Northern California.

stuart

Oh, cool, okay.

elliott

Mary-Kate is number four. Number five is Boots Riley, and number six is Daveed Diggs, and seven is Ashley. [Sounds of astonishment and surprise from assembled hosts.] So the Olsen twins have—wow. I don’t know how one was chosen over the other? Again, I’m not from Northern California. I’ll have to ask my wife, who is a native of that area.

crosstalk

Jesse: Bad new for you, The Lonely Island. Dan: Now do you think they can survive this? [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

But as for Call of the Wild, it’s one of those books that I kind of—I think I must’ve read like an abridged version of it when I was very little and I never read the full book and I’ve always been curious about it. Since—for whatever reason—the Jack London book I know best is The Scarlet Plague, the book about a virus that kills all of San Francisco and not any of his better-known books.

jesse

I bought a copy at a thrift store thinking I would bring it up to my cabin and maybe my—one of my kids would want to read it at some point. And I ended up picking it up at the cabin and reading it with my daughter. And I had never read it as a kid? And it totally rules. [Laughs.] It is so cool! And badass and fun and like thrilling? It is definitely too brutal for kids. And I don’t know why it’s a children’s book.

stuart

Yeah, there’s like a dogfight in it! Like, a for-reals dog fight.

elliott

Well I was talking to my wife about this. She’s a children’s librarian. And we were talking about how there’s a lot of books that—because they are old, and maybe they have an animal in them—they become children’s books. When they were never intended to be juvenile literature? The same way that like—I think most people read like—it doesn’t have animals in it, necessarily, but most people read like Hemingway or Fitzgerald in high school and then never again? So it’s like, “Oh, yeah, that’s kid’s books.” But like it’s not. It never was. Like, Jack London’s not a kid’s author.

dan

The Call of the Wild was written for the pulps. And—yeah. The thing about the book, though, that I kind of wanted to bring up was just that a lot of the incidents in the book are actually in the movie. They are softened. Like, changes are made to make it much softer and the tone overall is much softer than the book. [Laughs.] By far. Because they are trying to make this a kids’ film, basically. But it’s weird. Like, a lot of the plot’s still there.

crosstalk

Elliott: Yeah. And they kept all the raps from the book. Jesse: Yeah, it— [Multiple people laugh.] Dan: Mm-hm. Stuart: Yep.

dan

When Kangaroo Jack showed up?

elliott

Yeah, yeah, when Kangaroo Jack London showed up and was like [with exaggerated Australian accent] “I’m gonna write this movie, g’day! Well, here’s a story about a dog and he lives down in a smelly bog!”

crosstalk

Dan: No. No. Jesse’s right here. Elliott: And they’re like, “That’s not what it’s about. Jack.”

dan

Famed rap aficionado, Jesse Thorn. And you are [through laughter] just butchering—

crosstalk

Elliott: Okay. So sorry. Yeah. Stuart: Yeah, and he’s currently transcribing Elliott’s lyrics into RapGenius.com.

elliott

Yeah. So Jesse, what kind of rapping did Jack London do? I apologize. [Jesse laughs.]

jesse

I—like, there is so much intense brutality in the book. Both dog—like, it is the story of a dog becoming wild. Right? Like, leaving the trappings of civilization behind and triumphing through pure ferality. And it is very strange. And there’s like brutality of the dog and by the dog and to the dog. All of them. And like… it is very odd to think that someone sat down and said, like, “Okay. How can I help seven-year-olds watch this?” [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

Yeah. Shall we talk about—let’s talk about the specifics of the movie then, guys. Shall we dive in? Alright. So.

dan

Let’s do it.

elliott

It’s a shocking movie. The first shock? The logo—it’s 20th Century Studios? Huh? That’s the 20th Century Fox fanfare and yet it doesn’t say “Fox” in the logo! This is the first movie I think I’ve seen come out from that studio since Disney bought it, and it was bizarre to me to see it not say “Fox.” Just said “Studios.” It was weird. Then—

jesse

Branding-wise, Elliott, I would say the most interesting part of that to me was that when they sat down to decide what to do with the 20th Century Fox name, they decided we wanna keep the “20th Century” part. [Multiple people laugh.]

crosstalk

Elliott: Mm-hm. Yep. ‘Cause it’s relevant. Jesse: And drop the part that everyone knows. [Laughs.]

elliott

Well it’s weird ‘cause it’s literally—

jesse

Like, keep the parts that’s wrong. Drop the part everyone knows. [Dan laughs.]

elliott

It’s literally like a hundred years ago that 20th Century Studios and Fox Studios merged to become 20th Century Fox. And it is weird that they have now separated out again. IT’s—y’know. A divorce after a marriage of almost a hundred years. Sad, really, when it happens. But the children will be kept away and never shown in repertory theaters again. Thanks, Disney! So we start with a voiceover from old man Harrison Ford. He tells us it’s the Alaska Gold Rush of the 1890s. They need big, strong dogs to pull sleds. Luckily, we’re about to meet a big, strong dog. His name’s Buck. And how would you describe the CGI used to create this dog? I would call it “off-putting.” [Multiple people laugh.]

dan

[Through laughter] Well here’s the thing. I don’t know—[sighs.] I probably just got Stockholm Syndrome over the course of the movie? Like, as the movie wore on it did not bother me all that much? At the beginning, like, Audrey at one point asked me, she’s like, “This isn’t all CGI, is it?” And I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” [All laugh.] “This is definitely all CGI.”

stuart

Yeah. The part where Buck is smoking a cigar and driving a taxicab? [Multiple people laugh.]

jesse

I read about the—so the director’s background is in animation. He co-created and co-directed Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon.

elliott

Stitch was his idea. Lilo was the other guy’s idea. [Jesse laughs.]

jesse

Yeah. And he—I read him describing this as like… they wanted to—they did like—they had an actor in a mocap suit and they did scans of a real dog. And then they kind of… animated him up a little bit? Because the dog is really the protagonist. Right? Like—in the book, and in the story, the dog —it’s about the dog. The owners are incidental and only the fact that it’s—that they happen to have gotten Harrison Ford to be one of ‘em, y’know, makes it so that that is 2/3 of the movie. But like, it’s about the dog. And he said he made him more animated-y, like, y’know, a little more exaggerated or hyper-real in order to address the fact that they would have to animate him or else—because they needed more acting than a regular dog could do. And—

elliott

I mean, it makes sense because dogs are notoriously hard to read emotionally? Uh— [Jesse laughs.] Dogs are—if there’s ever an animal that is just a stone sphinx, just a total mystery and enigma, it’s dogs.

stuart

I mean, if there’s—and if you’re making a movie. If there’s one animal that there is an extreme shortage of trained versions of— [Multiple people laugh.]

dan

[Through laughter] Okay. I mean, well there’s—this dog does do a lot of acting? And also is put in danger that you would never want to do to a real dog.

elliott

No, that’s true. That’s true. And so the—I had a similar feeling to you, Dan, where when I first saw him I was like, “Whoa. What is this cartoon dog doing here?” [Dan laughs.] But as the movie would go on, I’d—and again, maybe this was partly ‘cause I was doing the dishes while I was watching it. I kind of forgot he was a CGI dog until there were moments when he would be very CGI. And I would be like, “Oh, oh, yeah. That’s not a real dog. Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!”

jesse

Right at the beginning there are some like “Ain’t I a stinker?” moments for the dog? [Dan laughs.] And you’re like, [through laughter] wait, is this dog gonna tear a man’s throat out later? [Laughs.]

dan

Yeah. At the beginning the dog’s a real Marmaduke. Y’know—

elliott

He’s a real Beethoven. Yeah. He’s—

stuart

Yeah. Like, stop leaving chains of linked sausages lying around— [Dan laughs.] —for this guy to grab and run around with. [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

He’s—he lives in Santa Clara, California, with Judge Bradley Whitford. And he’s—yeah. He’s a real Beethoven. A Marmaduke. He does whatever he wants. He licks big blocks of ice in the street. He ruins big picnic banquets. Until—

crosstalk

Stuart: Everybody loves him, though. Everybody knows his name. Elliott: Everybody loves him.

stuart

They also know that you can’t mess with him because he’s the judge’s dog and if you mess with his dog, you’re gonna get murdered, I guess? I don’t know what—

crosstalk

Stuart: —the law is like at the time. Yeah. He looks like a hanging judge. Jesse: That’s what judges do. Elliott: Thrown in jail. The judge—yeah. Mm-hm. Dan: And Bradley Whitford—Bradley Whitford—

dan

—is one of a few times in this movie where I’m like, “You got like a name actor for this role?” [Laughs.] Like, he exists just to sort of look disappointed at the dog in the beginning and leave him outside the house.

elliott

This should’ve been—I mean, he also deserves bigger roles? But to me I was like, “Mm, this should’ve been a Brad Dourif role. They got the wrong Brad. They got Whitford when they should’ve gotten Dourif.” Okay. So one night, though, Buck’s idyllic life as the bad boy of Santa Clara is interrupted when he is kidnapped. He’s taken away by some bad men, and when he comes to, there’s as mean man with a club who teaches him the law of club and fang—that in the world outside idyllic Judge Brad’s house, it’s only violence that is the master. And Buck is like, “Ahh, I’m afraid of this club! I don’t like getting hit by it!” And he tries to escape, but he’s on a boat—to the Yukon. Jesse, you mentioned Lonely Island before? Mention ‘em again. ‘Cause Buck’s on a boat. [Multiple people laugh.]

jesse

Hey, they recorded a song called, “We’re on a Boat”!

crosstalk

Stuart: Uh-huh. And they recorded a song called “The Call of the Wild,” right? Jesse: Yup. Or roughly that. Elliott: Mm-hm.

crosstalk

Jesse: Yeah. Sure. Why not? Elliott: Oh, did they?

stuart

Yeah, Dan, can you sing a couple bars? [Multiple people laugh.]

dan

[Singing to a reinterpreted version of Europe’s “ The Final Countdown”] “It’s the call of the wild! Dadadaadaa. Dadadaadadaa.”

stuart

Mm-hm.

dan

Etcetera.

crosstalk

Stuart: Exactly. Yeah. Jesse: [Singing] I’m pretty handsome for a funny guy! [Stuart laughs.]

jesse

I have a slightly-exaggerated mouth size!

dan

Wow.

elliott

[Singing] Mm, you’re edging into anti-Semitism, Jesse! [All laugh.] [Regular voice] And now—okay. So they get to land. Buck slips his leash for a moment and has kind of a meet-cute with a Gandalf-bearded Harrison Ford. When Harrison Ford drops his harmonica and Buck returns it to him. But they don’t get to spend too much time together, because Buck is soon sold to Perrault, a Quebecois mail carrier and his… wife? Francoise? I didn’t—it’s—

stuart

You can just say partner, I think, is fair.

elliott

Okay. Partner. An Inuit woman that is also on this mail carrying mission with him. Buck joins the sled team of CGI dogs who are led by the mean Spitz, a bully dog who rules by fear. What’d you guys think about Spitz? [Dan laughs.]

stuart

Spitz is probably German. I remember when I was— [Elliott laughs.] When I read the— [Laughs.] When I read the illustrated version I was always like, “Man, that Spitz guy. He seems pretty cool.”

crosstalk

Stuart: Things go real well for that dude. Dan: Spitz McKenzie. Elliott: Mm-hm. Oh, yes. [Laughs.]

stuart

But I do like—one of the advantages of doing all cartoon dogs in this movie is that you can make the sled dog team all unique-looking dogs. They don’t all look the same. Having been to Skagway—which was very exciting to see Skagway depicted on the silver screen of my apartment—I’ve also met teams of sled dogs. And they all kind of look alike. I mean, they’re all good boys, obviously, but I half-expected like one of the dogs to be like an English Bulldog. [Multiple people laugh.] I’m wondering how deep into the production they were still considering, like, “Fuck, maybe we should just give them all—let’s just have all the dogs talk.”

crosstalk

Dan: Yeah. It did look— Elliott: You know there was a discussion at some point—

elliott

“Should we have the dogs talk and how radical and how much baditude should they have?” Yeah. [Jesse laughs.]

dan

It did look weird to have—I’ve already forgotten the main dog’s name.

elliott

Buck.

dan

Buck! It seems to me like it was weird to see Buck at the head of this thing for the reason Stuart talked about. It’s not like there were just like a bunch of huskies, y’know, as you might think or something like that. But—I don’t know.

stuart

And they also didn’t look that big and strong, despite what the opening of the movie suggested was needed in the Yukon.

elliott

Yeah. That was the surprise is, I think they were going visually just to help you set the dogs apart? But they really didn’t seem like—

crosstalk

Stuart: It didn’t matter! Elliott: It seemed like this was—

elliott

This was the ragtag kind of like, uh, what—Hoosiers of the— [Dan laughs.] —or Mighty Ducks of the sled dog team. It was gonna take a real charismatic guy to make them run fast. And we’ve met that guy. And his name… is Buck. Unfortunately at first Buck is a terrible sled dog. He almost leads them off a mountain at one point, it seems? [Dan laughs.] But! He has visions of a primordial wolf spirit, which inspires him to work hard and be tough. Guys, your thoughts about the wolf spirit?

dan

Uh… [sighs.] I didn’t have thoughts about the wolf spirit but I did want to say that like, part of this whole thing—this process of him becoming a better sled dog? Is the sled—the mail carrier’s unwavering faith in Buck as, y’know, like, he’s gonna be the greatest dog of all time kind of feel? And also he’s like constantly talking to the dog and encouraging the dog in a way that makes it seem like everyone in the movie expects the dog [through laughter] to understand human language. There’s a scene where the guy like shows—literally shows all of the dogs a map [through laughter] and he’s like, “We’re gonna go here.” [Laughs.]

elliott

Dan, have you met dog owners?

dan

Oh, that’s true.

crosstalk

Jesse: They do call—they do call that out in the movie. Dan: Yeah, no, uh—Jesse?

jesse

There’s a scene where the lady of that team says, like, “You know that they don’t speak English, right?” And he keeps talking to them. But it is—like, it speaks to the fundamental challenge of making a movie out of this book. Which is—this is as book about like lonely people with no one to talk to. [Elliott laughs.] And with a protagonist that cannot speak. And so you really have to figure out, how are we gonna make clear even what’s happening without internal monologue?

elliott

What you just described, Jesse, sounds like the Jim Jarmusch version of Call of the Wild? Just like a series of lonely people and a mute dog narrator who just kinda roams between them?

crosstalk

Elliott: Uh, now, Jesse— Jesse: The answer they choose is—by the way—

jesse

Is to have Harrison Ford break in intermittently for no particular reason before and after his character is introduced, while his character is on screen and not on screen with voiceover narration.

elliott

I think it’s a—the rationalization is it’s a good way to justify Harrison Ford being on the poster. [Dan laughs.] Because if you’re kind of hearing him even in the scenes he’s not in.

stuart

Now when, y’know, when you decide to go live off in the wild by yourself, who do you want to narrate the story of your life leading up to that point? Do you think Harrison Ford? Do you think Harry Ford would be your first choice?

dan

I wanna quickly say that I think Harrison Ford does a really good job in this movie. Like I think the rap on later-period Harrison Ford is—

stuart

Wow, you hoping to get him as a guest or something? What’s going on over here? [Elliott laughs.]

dan

I would love that! He’s my nostalgic pick for my favorite actor even though he’s often very, uh, sort of lazy about it. But here he seems to be actually caring about the material, which I—

crosstalk

Dan: —I like. Elliott: Well here I think—

elliott

The weariness that he shows in his other roles—which usually comes off as a, like, “I can’t believe I’m fucking doing this” really works for this character, who has a world- and soul-weariness that he has to overcome. And does overcome. But I would say probably Emo Philips?

crosstalk

Dan and Stuart: Yeah. [Jesse laughs.]

stuart

That’d be perfect.

dan

Or an Emo Philips type? Like a French Stuart, maybe?

crosstalk

Dan: Go slightly off to the left? Elliott: No! Not at all! No thank you!

elliott

If we can’t get Emo—one, I’ll be surprised—and two— [All laugh.] I don’t wanna FOMO to come in and pretend to be Emo. No thank you.

crosstalk

Dan: Uh-huh. I mean, who am I kidding? Jesse: I mean, Emo works, Elliott.

jesse

Like—you gotta do better than scale, I think,

crosstalk

Jesse: —to get him to narrate you. Elliott: Oh, no, no, no! We’d make it worth his while.

elliott

We’d make it worth his while. But I want him to do it. But at the—it’s not like—he’s not gonna be like, “Well, give me $10 million or I don’t get out of bed.” Y’know. That’s…

jesse

Yeah. But he gets good money for his Weekend at Go Bananas in Cincinnati. [All laugh.]

crosstalk

Jesse: He’s Emo Philips! He’s working! Yeah! He’s great! Emo Philips rules. Elliott: ‘Cause he’s amazing! ‘Cause he’s an amazing performer, yeah.

elliott

[High-pitched voice] That was when Elliott decided to go off the grid. [Regular voice.] That’s—oh, I would love it.

jesse

To your point, Dan, like, I went into this movie with the thought where I was kind of wondering whether Harrison Ford was even good at acting?

crosstalk

Elliott: Wow. Dan: Mm. Jesse: Like, I really like Harrison Ford?

jesse

As a movie star? But I thought—I was trying to think back to different Harrison Ford movies, and thinking like—did he do anything? Or does he just have some quality to him? And I agree completely. I thought Harrison Ford was fantastic in this movie. He did more than he usually does, and brought—carried it off very well. Which—and felt completely grounded talking to a CGI dog! Which is— [Laughs.] Like, very weird and awkward place to be as an actor. [Dan laughs.] And I thought he did beautifully.

crosstalk

Jesse: And I thought his voice sounded beautiful [through laughter] in the narration. Elliott: I mean, I’ve—

elliott

I also think he was really great. I think when dealing with Buck, he was drawing on his years working with a man in a bear suit. [Dan laughs.] In the Star Wars movies. [Jesse laughs.] Like, he’s used to having a furry companion who can’t be understood. But I’m—look. I’m gonna have a spoiler alert and say my summary is partly colored by my having really enjoyed this movie? And when I saw the trailers for it I was like, why did they make this movie? Who did they make an adaptation of Call of the Wild for? And then I realized—I was like, oh, dads. That’s who this movie is for. This is what I would call a kid’s movie for dads, where I was like, oh, I would get so much more out of this than my son would but I would make him watch this with me. Like, that—

crosstalk

Elliott: This is a kid’s movie for dads. Jesse: Well this was like—

jesse

—completely reshot and re-edited with input from what’s his name, the Ford v Ferrari guy.

crosstalk

Dan: Oh, Mangold. Elliott: Oh, James Mangold?

jesse

Yeah! He was—he gets a producer credit on the movie and I read that he like led them through a second round of shooting to like refocus the movie on Harrison Ford and make sure that it was a live action film and not an animated film and so on and so forth.

elliott

Oh, that makes sense. That is James Mangold, right?

crosstalk

Elliott: Who did Ford v Ferrari? Yeah. And— Jesse: Yeah, that’s—that’s right. That’s right. Yeah. Stuart: Yeah. Yeah. So this would be—

stuart

—a lovely double feature with Ad Astra or something like that.

crosstalk

Jesse: [Through laughter] yeah. Elliott: Yeah. Exactly. Dad movies. Stuart: The ultimate dad movie.

elliott

The— [Laughs.] [Dan laughs.] So like I said, he sees that wolf spirit and he learns to be hard and tough. And he also—and here’s the difference. He’s generous to the other dogs. He shares his food. He’s nice to them. Spitz hates that. But the other dogs love it. And Buck is now—

stuart

I’m really glad they make an effort to make Buck sympathetic? Because it’s really tough when a dog character’s introduced for the audience to side with them. [Elliott laughs.]

elliott

It’s maybe the most instant reaction that any audience in the world has, is the minute a dog enters the movie everyone is like, “That’s my favorite character in the movie!”

stuart

Yep. “If anything bad happens to that dog, I’m going to kill a human being!” [Elliott laughs.]

jesse

Stuart, I think you may be… you may be discounting the extent to which audiences hate a stinker!

crosstalk

Stuart: [Through laughter] That’s true. Elliott: That’s true.

elliott

As shown by the fact that Bugs Bunny—a noticeable stinker—has not had like a real major effort until these new cartoons on HBO Max whereas Mickey Mouse—perhaps the most un-stinker there ever was— [Dan laughs.] —is a huge merchandising sensation.

jesse

Yeah. In the book, Elliott, this black wolf in the movie is the titular call of the wild. Right? Like, it is an ineffable pull on the dog’s soul. That it feels and is like confused by, frankly, like, worried and confused by. As it is drawn further and further from the world of man. Right? And in the movie, what they decided to do was to put a wolf on a hill. [Dan laughs.]

stuart

Uh-huh. It looks like the cover of the Nattans Madrigal album by Ulver.

crosstalk

Elliott: I mean, I have to say—I think it’s a good— Jesse: That’s exactly what I thought, Stuart.

jesse

I said to myself, this looks exactly like the cover of the Nattans Madrigal album by Ulver. [All laugh.]

crosstalk

Jesse: Is what I said. Stuart: Yeah. [Dan laughs.] Elliott: I would say—

elliott

I would rather that than have them do like they did in Frozen 2, where it’s literally just a voice that comes out of nowhere for no reason—

crosstalk

Elliott: —and starts beckoning Elsa into the woods? Jesse: [Dramatically] The wild! The wild! Stuart: Nope. Nope. Give me—give me a spirit wolf.

elliott

Yeah. I’d rather have the woods. Yeah. I’d rather—that rather than something going, [mimics ghostly voice] “OoOoO!” in the woods and him being like, “Hr? Hr? Huh? Ruh-roh!”

stuart

I would do—I would go one step further and make it a little bit more, like, Lynchian? And in the snow there would be like an end table with an old-timey telephone that would be ringing? [Dan laughs.] That would be the call of the wild. [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Jesse: [Inaudible] actually— Elliott: And then a guy—

jesse

—had a cut of this movie before James Mangold got invited, and it had the narration from Harrison Ford. But the call of the wild wasn’t a wolf on a hill; it was Emo Philips. [Laughs.] [Multiple people laugh.]

stuart

[Through laughter] Oh, wow.

elliott

Again, works. Totally works for me, yeah. The—I love the idea now of a David Lynch version, Stuart, where the soundtrack is just like [sings slow, jazzy, bass impersonation with brushes on drums.] As they’re in a sled race. Okay. So Buck is now part of the pack and he loves it. Buck is everyone’s favorite. He even wins over Francoise when she falls into icy water and almost drowns and he saves her. And that night, a jealous Spitz—knowing that he is no longer the MVP—most valuable pack member—attacks Buck. And he keeps knocking him down with these jump bites? Stuart, as a fighting expert, how would you rate Spitz’s fighting style? Which is entirely jump-based.

stuart

Well I mean, he’s all fucking rush down, right? And you’re like, dude, as soon as Buck figures out your fucking, like, one-two’s, he’s gonna destroy you. ‘Cause all—he doesn’t even block. He’s just all attack. And of course that’s what Buck does—he gets a reversal on him. Picks him up in the air. He catches him out of mid-air and lifts him up and Spitz has a moment where he’s like, “Oh, fuck. Now he’s about to ground-combo me.” And of course he does!

elliott

Yeah. Exactly what happens. Buck is hurt, but the wolf spirit comes over and is like, “Get the fuck up and fuck up that dog.” And Buck does it. And he just makes Spitz submit. [Dan laughs.] And Spitz wanders off in shame, never to be seen again.

stuart

Well that’s what happens in the book, right? [Laughs.] [Elliott laughs.]

crosstalk

Dan: There is like— Elliott: [Through laughter] Yeah!

crosstalk

Elliott: [Through laughter] That’s what The Call of the Wild says in the book. Jesse: I mean, in the book he kills him.

crosstalk

All: Yeah.

dan

Whereas here there’s some of that dog acting we were talking about, where they give each other a look where he’s like, “Eh, you gonna stay down?” And the other guy’s like, “Alright. Okay. Cool.”

elliott

And Spitz is wandering off and looks back sadly as if to say, “I was a king once.” And then— [Stuart laughs.] —just wanders into the void.

jesse

“I had my own hole in the ice to drink water from.”

dan

And this harmonica-picking-up jerk—

jesse

The main way the express how—that he’s the boss. Is that he has a hole in the ice that he won’t let anyone share. [Dan laughs.]

elliott

Now there’s something in this movie that is something—I mean, I liked this movie, again, and I like the story. But there’s something I don’t like in it. Which is—I will call it the “Tarzan Fallacy”? Which is—Buck is kind of like a pampered rich man’s dog. But when he goes into the wild, he is the superior of everybody. And he immediately—or not immediately, but through hard work, but he is recognized as special and he rises through the ranks over dogs that are more experienced and more wild than him. And it’s the same way that Tarzan—who is an English baron who is lost as a baby—becomes king of the apes even though… why should he be king of the apes? There’s like a hidden sort of… not racial in this case, because they’re dogs, but this hierarchy of like a civilized person is still better than a non-civilized person? In a way that made me uncomfortable as the movie went on. When Buck is reinvigorating the wolf pack with his genes. In a way that makes them the uber-dogs. And I was like, later on, and I was like, “Uhh, I don’t know if I like the message of this movie anymore.”

crosstalk

Stuart: Yeah. Dan: Yeahhhh…

dan

I guess that part is true. I was gonna make an argument that like the highest good that the movie presents is being wild? But then like, yeah, he does make some sort of super-race by mingling with the wolf. [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

Which totally fits into the background of the kind of racial genetics of the late-19th, early-20th century. But anyway. The important thing is—the next morning, Buck insists on being the lead dog in the sled now that Spitz isn’t there, and the other dogs back him up. And Buck starts pulling them so fast that Perrault—the mail delivery guy—is like, “Yes, this is amazing!” And his cheers cause an avalanche. Are they gonna be killed? No! ‘Cause the wolf spirit shows up and is like, “Hey, Buck, there’s a shortcut through an ice cave right here.” Which was weird. ‘Cause it’s not like that’s information Buck knew— [Dan laughs.] —that was coming—like, now it’s just like there’s a ghost of a wolf that’s—

crosstalk

Elliott: —following him and telling him things. Stuart: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dan: It’s genetic memory, Elliott!

crosstalk

Stuart: And that’s the thing. Like, every time I’m— Elliott: Genetic memory of mail delivery routes, Dan?

dan

[Through laughter] Yup! [Laughs.]

stuart

I always—every time I’m playing Mario Kart I wish a fucking ghost spirit would show up and show me where the shortcuts are so I stop looking like a fool? [Dan laughs.] Of course, you’re probably wondering—just to let everybody know—when I play Mario Kart, I always play Wario. No one else. Only Wario.

crosstalk

Jesse: Whaa? Dan: Yeah. Now— Stuart: [Laughs.] Exactly.

dan

Who are you looking like a fool to in this scenario, Stuart? That’s…

elliott

Toad. Yoshi. The Princess. That’s the one that hurts the most.

dan

Okay. Sure.

stuart

Mm-hm. The Dry Bones.

crosstalk

Elliott: Now these sled dogs— Dan: [Laughs.] Your Bullet Bills?

crosstalk

Elliott: They were advertised back then as the original Mario Kart. Stuart: Bullet Bill can’t drive a car. [Dan laughs.]

elliott

So—but for the first time ever—thanks to Buck’s super-fast leading—they actually deliver the mail on time. And people—this is what, Skagway? Is this where they are now?

crosstalk

Stuart: I think so. And they deliver it in a shower of letters. Right? Elliott: And—yes. And he— Jesse: We know this is consequential—

jesse

—because earlier in the film, Francoise or whatever his name is—Jean-Luc Picard—says—he goes like—

crosstalk

Elliott: Perrault. Jesse: [French accent] “I want to try—I, Perrault—says I want to try and deliver the mail on time! But I never haaave!” [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

Yeah. And then he takes a big bite out of a baguette and— [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Dan: Which is weird, ‘cause again, he is Quebecois and [through laughter] not French. Stuart: Yeah. He—he—he—well I mean— Elliott: [Laughs.] Yeah. Not French.

elliott

They consider themselves more French than Canadian.

stuart

He rolls out a giant scroll that has all his life’s goals written on it? And that’s the only one that isn’t crossed off? Every other one has been crossed off?

elliott

Oh. Yeah, yeah. Have sex in the rain. That was crossed off.

crosstalk

Dan: [Through laughter] Which is why—which is why this scene— Elliott: Run a marathon. Stuart: Kill a man.

dan

Now that he has done it, he walks off [through laughter] into the forest—

crosstalk

Dan: —never to be seen again. Elliott: He walks off into the void.

elliott

Well, the second-closest thing. Anyway. People love the mail they get. Perrault is like, [French accent] “We don’t just carry mail. We carry lives.” And this was, to be honest, the Valentine to the Postal Service that I needed right now? There is that hidden critique of—the mail is never on time in this movie. And I don’t know what he means by “on schedule” since it’s like, I dunno, it’s the 1890s and you’re in Alaska with a dog sled? [Multiple people laugh.] How tough are they with the deadlines? I dunno. But Buck even shows he’s got a little heart by delaying the next day’s mail delivery until Harrison Ford can give them the letter he wrote to his wife about his grief over their dead son. More on that later. But when they get to the next place the mail route has been terminated. Probably the president trying to fix the election, I’ve gotta assume. They’re just pulling mailboxes out of the Yukon. The dog team is sold to these snooty dilettante gold-seekers played by Dan Stevens and Karen Gillan. That’s right, everybody—it’s the Legion-Nebula team-up we were all waiting for! [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Stuart: Uh-huh. And Dan Stevens— Dan: This is—this—

stuart

—is putting out some serious Waluigi energy here. [Elliott laughs.] And it also—it feels a little bit— [Dan laughs.] —like he’s like, “I need to tarnish my goody-goody image by beating up dogs and—”

crosstalk

Dan: Look, he is— Elliott: He’s very much the bad guy.

elliott

He’s a real Waluigi. Yeah.

dan

Yeah. He’s deliciously villainous. He has a villain’s moustache to go with his attitude. But also, Karen Gillan is one of the other, like, larger names that I’m like, [Through laughter] “What? What?” She shows up in like two scenes to be like, “Maybe we should listen to Harrison Ford.” And that’s it.

elliott

Yeah. She doesn’t have—I have to assume—like Jesse was saying, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a heavy edit done—what I would call—I call it a thin red line. Where the editing process removes whole storylines and even actors and things like that.

crosstalk

Elliott: So has that happened? The thin red line. Jesse: I thought Karen Gillan—

jesse

—did a great job but I would’ve liked to have seen comedian Natasha Leggero take this one on? [Dan laughs.] Like, lady in a Victorian dress relaxing on a dogsled, sipping a Bellini or whatever? Is exactly what Natasha would’ve kicked butt at?

elliott

Yeah. Yeah. That’s fair. Although we wouldn’t have gotten the MCU 20th-Century X-Men, Star Wars crossover that we get when Harrison Ford tells them, “You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re gonna kill all those dogs.”

crosstalk

Elliott: And they don’t listen. Jesse: Excuse me, Elliott.

jesse

This is a PBS crossover between Doctor Who and— [Dan laughs.]Downton Abbey? Thank you very much?

elliott

There’s gotta be—someone’s got to have written a Downton Abbey/Doctor Who crossover story. Right?

jesse

Yeah. They’d be fucking. [All laugh.]

elliott

I don’t think you know that much about The Doctor. He’s—he doesn’t really do a lot of that.

stuart

Yeah. But maybe he watches, Elliott. I mean, I don’t’ know what he’s into.

crosstalk

Dan: He’s got a lot of companions. Elliott: There must be some—

elliott

How great would a crossover be where it’s Tom Baker’s Doctor and Maggie Smith from Downton Abbey. She’s his new companion and they’re just traveling time and space. This like snooty, very sarcastic, rich, old lady, and the craziest man who was ever on television in any way, shape, or form, with a long scarf. What a great story. Someone write it. Send it to me. I’m not gonna write it. I don’t’ have time. I’ve got two children. Okay. Anyway. These rich jerks, they’re treating the dogs terribly. Harrison Ford tracks ‘em down and he frees Buck. But Dan Stevens takes the rest of the dogs away at gunpoint and you know they’re all doomed. You just know it. There’s no way they’re gonna survive.

stuart

Yeah. Including all—the other humans that are on the sled. [Through laughter] They’re doomed, too.

elliott

Yeah. They’re all doomed.

stuart

They never show back up.

elliott

And they leave knowing that they’re doomed. Ford takes Buck back home and he goes to a bar and Dan Stevens attacks Ford at a bar, saying everybody fell through the ice and died. He blames Harrison Ford for it? Because he can’t own up to his own mistakes. But who’s there to save Harrison Ford? It’s Buck. That’s right. He knows where his bread is buttered—with the nice man with the harmonica! [Jesse laughs.]

dan

Now guys, I’m looking at FanFiction.net right now, and there are 22 stories that are Doctor Who and Downton Abbey crossovers.

elliott

Great.

dan

Including such titles as “The Housekeeper’s Tale,” “The Madman and the Rebel”—

jesse

Wait, is that T-A-L-E or T-A-I-L?

crosstalk

Stuart: That’s a good question. Dan: Oh, I don’t—I didn’t see.

dan

We’ve got “Vera and the Dalek?”

crosstalk

Elliott: Just guess, Dan. Guess which one it was. Dan: “Ambassador to the Stars.” Anyway. Stuart: Mm-hm.

dan

So, y’know, god bless ya out there. Keep it up.

elliott

Okay. Now look and see if there’s any crossovers between Back to the Future and the monster cereal universe? Y’know, Count Chocula, Franken Berry. [Laughs.] [Dan laughs.]

dan

[Through laughter] This is—is this your way to keep me shut up, Elliott? Like—

elliott

No! Just to—I really like when you show the initiative to do research— [Dan laughs.] —and I wanna gratify that and keep it going!

crosstalk

Dan: [Through laughter] Okay. Mm-hm. Elliott: I wanna encourage it!

elliott

Buck, he knows that Harrison Ford is drinking too much. He takes Harrison Ford’s whiskey bottle and buries it in the snow and sits on it in what I’m calling a “dog-tervention.” And Harrison Ford explains to him, “Oh, I had a son and he died of fever. He always dreamed of exploring the unmapped areas of the Yukon. Hey—Buck—you and me could go off and do that together!” And they do. And they’re canoeing through the rapids and they get caught in rapids and I was like, “Oh, no, something bad’s gonna happen!” No, the boat just springs a leak and Harrison Ford goes, “I guess that’s the end of that boat.”

crosstalk

Elliott: And they just keep walking. Harrison Ford lets— Jesse: Well— [Laughs.] There is the part where Harrison Ford—

jesse

—has to explain to Buck what a boat is. It’s like, “It’s a boat! We’re gonna ride on it!”

elliott

[Laughs.] Harrison Ford lets Buck share his tent. They’re having an idyllic time and they have something between a father-son relationship and a man-dog relationship and kind of like two people who have just fallen in love and just can’t get enough of each other? And just wanna—can’t—they just don’t—never wanna be apart.

dan

Yeah. There was a part later on where Harrison Ford was talking to Buck about how, y’know, he and his wife just drifted apart after their son’s death and I did expect him to end it with, “And now you’re my wife.” [Multiple people laugh.]

jesse

He’s like, “But even before that we had a sort of arrangement.” [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

“My grieving wife and I have an understanding.” There’s a moment where they’re out in the wilderness and it’s beautiful there and Ford tells Buck, “Your ancestors used to roam here. And mine. Back when we were wild.” And I was like, “Your ancestors, Harrison Ford?” [Multiple people laugh.]

crosstalk

Jesse: Yeah. In Santa Clarita, California. Elliott: I’m not sure about that, dude.

jesse

[Through laughter] Where they shot this movie. [Multiple people laugh.]

crosstalk

Dan: I mean, I guess— Jesse: Where they obviously shot this movie. [Laughs.]

dan

If we go back to the cradle of civilization, maybe?

elliott

Yeah. Maybe. Maybe.

stuart

There’s a lot of scenes where characters, like, go outside and it’s snowy. But they’re, like, there’s no breeze and it doesn’t actually look that cold? It’s that kind of a cold winter spot, right?

crosstalk

Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. The— Jesse: The inter— Dan: Yeah.

jesse

There are many scenes of transportation—there are many, like, long montages of them cruising the dog sleigh through the, y’know, through the Alaska wilderness. That really look like they were… they look like they were painted by the Painter of Light™, Thomas Kinkade.

crosstalk

Elliott: Yeah, master. A true master. Jesse: Like, if you told—if you told him—

jesse

—like, “Take this still photograph we took of a hill in Santa Clarita and really Northern Lights it up.” That’s pretty much what—like, there is no… none of the movie outside of Harrison Ford’s face looks like something you could actually touch.

crosstalk

Stuart: Yeah. That’s fair. I assume that the—I was gonna see the— Elliott: Well I was—I mean, that even then—even then you’re gonna need—

elliott

Sorry, what were you going to say, Stuart?

stuart

I was gonna talk about how I assumed I was going to see the crowd from the podracing scenes from Star Wars behind every corner. But, y’know, it’s not that important.

elliott

No, no, I just wanted to warn our audience—even then you’re gonna wanna get Harrison Ford’s permission before you touch his face. [Multiple people laugh.]

jesse

[Through laughter] That’s true. Consent is important.

elliott

But it is—it does feel—like, there is a version of this movie. I’m sure—they made multiple versions of this movie over the years. I’ve never seen the ‘30s one, which—apparently this one takes some elements from? But there’s a—I guarantee you there’s some version of this movie that was shot in the ‘60s where they really went to Alaska and they really had real dogs and everybody hated making it and—but I kind of wanted a little bit of that in this? Like, it doesn’t have a—it loses a sense of reality that I would’ve liked to have seen. Either that, or I would have liked them to go all the way and just make this an animated movie. Like, there’s no reason this couldn’t be like a regular 2D Disney animated hand-drawn movie? And then you get some songs. Maybe the dogs talk a little bit.

crosstalk

Elliott: Like, you go as far as having— Stuart: Josh Gad gets a paycheck?

elliott

Josh Gad is like the goofy dog from the sleds? Like, [high-pitched voice] “Hey, Buck, hey, hey! Y’know, we gotta—hey! Y’know! What’s going on? Oh, that’s Spitz!” And Spitz is what, like—it can’t be Jeremy Irons again. Spitz would be like… Willem DaFoe, I guess.

jesse

Cut to a stack of screenplays on Elliott’s desk, all of which just say, over and over, “Josh Gad: “Hey! Y’know! Hey hey! Y’know!” [All laugh.]

dan

Well, I mean, like, this is a thing that we talked about when we were watching it here. That like—they could take this basic exact screenplay and exact tone and if—yeah. If Disney had made it like sometime around like Beauty and the Beast or something, everyone would be like, “This is great!” Y’know. It really—it feels like it should be that.

elliott

I wonder if they pitched originally as an animated movie and they said, “Guys, Balto exists. The animated Alaskan sled dog movie is taken.” [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Elliott: We can’t do it again. Dan: We’re never gonna erase Balto in people’s minds and hearts.

elliott

And they’re like, “Well, why don’t we just buy up all the prints and DVDs of Balto and pretend it never existed?” [Dan laughs.] “Y’know, like we did with—"

dan

[Through laughter] “Can’t cost more than five bucks!”

elliott

“Like we did with Shazaam, the Sinbad genie movie that did exist but we erased it from the permanent record forever?”

stuart

Yeah.

elliott

But Jesse, you were gonna say?

jesse

The thing that—the thing that’s a little bit of a bummer about the middle ground that they chose… in how they present the film—to me—is… there are a lot of things in the movie that work. Y’know. We talked about Harrison Ford. He’s wonderful. Like, I would just watch Harrison Ford in his elderly man giant ears and nose— [Dan laughs.] [Laughs.] Big David Letterman beard.

crosstalk

Jesse: Like, I would love to watch that. I know! Stuart: And totally ripped body! It’s that scene where he’s swimming and he comes up— Dan: Yeah, man! Elliott: He is—

stuart

And I’m like, “What the fuck?”

crosstalk

Elliott: Yeah. He’s in great shape. Jesse: All that dude—

jesse

All that dude does is puff j’s and do pullups. [Multiple people laugh.] So—

dan

What a life. [Elliott laughs.]

jesse

Like there’s a lot of great things about it but thematically… I think it is really poorly served by not having something you can sink your teeth into. And that was probably not the turn of phrase I should’ve used. ‘Cause it sounds like I’m doing a pun here. But like—

elliott

No, no, you’re the modern day Gene Shalit. Just go run with it.

jesse

The fact that there’s no grit in the movie—and there really is almost no grit in the movie other than Harrison Ford’s face—

stuart

Yeah.

jesse

Is not just a bummer because I like to watch a gritty movie or whatever. Y’know. Like, the screenwriter of this also wrote Logan, which I’m gonna alienate 60% of the listeners, but I thought stunk. But—and was very gritty. But like, there’s something about the theme that is served by grittiness. Right? Like, the story is… him descending into animalistic brutality, right? And like that—and that these human beings are drawn into it by their greed, outside of Harrison Ford’s character, and they like destroy each other. And that he has to—that Buck has to learn to live freely within this new set of more brutal and terrifying but ultimately more satisfying rules. As an animal. Right? Rather than as a false human. Y’know. In the judge’s household. Right? Like, none of that means anything. Like, none of him getting hurt and sick and being under threat and being beaten into submission by a club—like, none of that means anything in the context of a movie for seven-year-olds. Either make it just like sweet and pretty? Which you could do? Or… or give it something. That was—that was the bummer part to me about like the painted-on Northern Lights in every scene. It’s like I just wanna see one thing go wrong. And I actually watched—oh, what’s that called? Benji. I watched Benji not that long ago. Like, maybe like nine months? And it is boring and homemade. Like this is original Benji. It is the most 1978 independent film you could ever watch. [Dan laughs.] But… I think that quality of having an actual dog on screen—where it does the wrong thing a lot—draws you in. In a way that… having this perfect—but slightly hazy because they’re not quite good enough at the CGI—dog on screen… does.

elliott

I think that’s true, and also there is—I did get a sense from it that like—yeah. For a movie that is about a civilized dog being forced into primordial savagery to survive, everything comes a little easily to Buck? Like, he never—it’s like, oh, he’s working real hard, but he’s not really pushing himself to work hard. Like, everything is kind of dealt with—when a problem comes up it’s kind of dealt with right away.

jesse

And he feels consistent in a way. Like, it almost feels like he is ennobling his surroundings rather than being drawn into them and being transformed. Which I think, like… in some ways, the book is sort of like—is almost a satire of the idea of like—of a character learning and growing. Right? Because he is receding into his essential nature rather than expanding and becoming fancier and cleverer? And in the movie it feels like he’s kind of… he’s kind of a very friendly, handsome, big guy who goes into all these different situations and is like, “Eh, hey, guys! Let’s do it my way. I’ll make two holes in the ice for you to drink water from.” And everybody’s like, “Yeah, you are the best.” [Laughs.]

elliott

Let’s just say it—Buck is—in this movie, Buck is the Ferris Bueller of dogs. And everyone loves him and he never has to try very hard. He gets whatever he wants. [Dan laughs.]

stuart

And for—I mean, this movie lifts like the trajectory and plot points directly from the recent—the first Planet of the Apes movie from the recent batch? And Buck is very much like a Caesar type character and he ends up leading a bunch of wolves. And there’s even a moment where he like catches a stick in his mouth instead of getting hit? And I remember being… like, when I saw that Planet of the Apes movie, I was like, “Fuck, yeah! Beat ‘em up, Caesar!” But in this, y’know, it didn’t have that emotional impact.

elliott

No. ‘Cause he’s already triumphed over everything all the time. So Buck and Ford, they find an old prospector’s cabin. They decide to stay a little bit, especially when Harrison Ford finds some gold nugget sin the river while skinny dipping. We see his hot dad bod. Better than dad bod, even. This is like—I mean, he is—is he a dad? I don’t know. Anyway.

crosstalk

Jesse: Hey, Elliott, how could you tell those were gold nuggets that he found? Was it because they were like— Dan: It was weird when like— Elliott: Because they were like—they were like, “Gold! Yippee! Yahee! Hoo hoo!”

jesse

Like, highly-polished, like, refined— [Laughs.] Like, it truly looked like he found something that had been like spray painted High Gloss Gold seven times.

elliott

I mean, I’ll let the movie get away with that. That’s, y’know.

crosstalk

Elliott: Rather than him— Jesse: In case somebody wondered if it was brass [through laughter] that he found or whatever?

elliott

[Through laughter] Yeah. A trumpet got shattered in the cold and the pieces are just in the water.

crosstalk

Elliott: They keep panning for gold— Jesse: It was like—he’s like—

jesse

“I found diamonds!” And he lifts an engagement ring out of the river, was basically what it was like. [Multiple people laugh.]

crosstalk

Dan: Wait a minute, that’s the Hope diamond! Elliott: They’re panning for gold—

elliott

—and again, they’re panning for gold and getting nuggets. Which is—if—I’m gonna go with Jesse. That’s not how panning for gold works. You get dust when you pan for gold. But the—

jesse

I liked the idea that at the beginning of his pan for gold, he couldn’t see the like 2-1/2-inch diameter nuggets. [Elliott laughs.] That were in his one inch of water. [Elliott laughs.]

elliott

And Buck catches the eye of a sexy lady wolf, but she runs away when he tries to meet with her. But he wins over the wolf pack when—hey, guess what? He saves a wolf from drowning in the river. That’s what Buck does. He saves people from drowning. Show us something different that Buck does! [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Dan: And the wolves— Stuart: Neptune hates him! Elliott: Now— [Laughs.]

dan

The wolves all have these reaction shots like, “Okay! Okay!”

crosstalk

Dan: “I like this guy!” Elliott: Like it’s pretty—it’s almost—

elliott

You’re almost at the point of a wolf wearing sunglasses and like lowering the sunglasses to look over them at Buck. Now Buck, he runs with the wolves. Harrison Ford is like, “You know what? I’ve been cleansed by this experience and this adventure. I should go home.” He says goodbye, but before he can leave—who’s gonna return? It’s Dan Stevens. That’s right. The guest. But he’s no guest this time! [Dan laughs.] He’s an invader! He shoots Harrison Ford—

crosstalk

Elliott: —and he threatens Buck— Stuart: And how bummed were you guys—

stuart

—that Dan Stevens didn’t show up with fucking Spitz with him, right? [Multiple people laugh.] Shouldn’t they have shown up together? [Dan laughs.] C’mon!

elliott

I mean, that would’ve been the more Hollywood way to do it. Yeah. If it’s—all of Buck’s enemies are now banded together? [Laughs.] [Dan laughs.]

stuart

Mm-hm. And then Spitz has a monologue, like, a Richard III monologue, where he’s like, “Cast out and ignored! Now I shall have my day!”

elliott

Well you’d have the part where Dan Stevens is like, “I meant to have my whole family die in the ice. It was all part of my plan! You fell right into my fingers!” He threatens Buck with a club—that hated club—but Buck fights back. He’s not afraid anymore after cringing for maybe like a millisecond. He shoves Dan Stevens into a burning cabin [through laughter] to die horribly—and— [Stuart laughs.]

stuart

Yeah. Viking funeral.

elliott

Yeah. And Harrison Ford dies in Buck’s paws after a touching goodbye. And now—with his voiceover from beyond the grave—he explains that Buck has started a new pack. He’s had babies with the sexy lady-wolf. They even stare down a bear together. And the VO tell us—

stuart

Uh-huh. It’s a very, like, Last Unicorn/Red Bull moment?

elliott

Yeah, yeah, ‘cause he just chugs that Red Bull down and then the bear is like, “I don’t want any part of this.” [Jesse laughs.]

crosstalk

Jesse: [Through laughter] Just like in The Last Unicorn! Stuart: Yeah. This dude’s wilding.

elliott

And the VO tell us how, after going from master to master, now Buck is his own master. As he followed some primordial urge from the wilderness. And then title: The Call of the Wild. As if the title was trying to prompt Harrison Ford about what phrase he was supposed to end the movie on? And that’s the end of the movie.

jesse

Yeah. It—that ending is an example of a phenomenon throughout the film, which is like—every 15 minutes or so? There’s just a brief scene where someone says out loud, like, what’s happening and what the themes are? And each one of those things, like, some of them seem to have been part of the like added-in voiceover parts. Some of them are scenes that are between Harrison Ford and Buck, where Harrison Ford explains the themes in Buck’s life to Buck like a psychoanalyst. And it was—and they all have this goofy, grand eloquence. That is so [through laughter] unearned. So profoundly unearned. [Laughs.] [Dan laughs.]

stuart

Yeah. It feels very much like a dad has sat me down and he’s telling me a story and I’m like, dude, I know what you’re getting at. Just because you’re saying it slowly doesn’t mean it’s important. [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

And where would you rank this in the Harrison Ford voiceover pantheon? Better or worse than the Blade Runner: Studio Cut voiceover?

jesse

I like both versions of Blade Runner. Call me crazy. I enjoy them all.

dan

I’m on record by preferring the version with the voiceover, so… I mean, I know that he’s not doing much in that? But I mean I still feel like that feels appropriate to the character? So.

elliott

What, in Blade Runner?

crosstalk

Dan: Yeah, to not have like— Elliott: I mean—

elliott

Well in Blade Runner, it also does the necessary thing of explaining to you what’s happening in this movie that—where the scenes make no sense and don’t go together? I—y’know, but, okay. So let’s call it a draw, then. Call of the Wild Harrison Ford; Blade Runner Harrison Ford—equals.

stuart

Uh-huh. Equal in esteem. [Dan laughs.]

dan

Let’s do our Final Judgments, whether this was a good-bad movie, a bad-bad movie, or a movie we kinda liked. Guys? If I was like… 20 years old, say? I don’t think I’d like this movie. But if I was seven? I would like this movie? And now at 40, I also [through laughter] like this movie. [Elliott laughs.] And I think, y’know, like, seven it might’ve just been, like, lower standards and like seeing a cute dog having adventures. And now a lot of it is… ironically, since one of the problems with this movie as a Call of the Wild adaptation is its lack of brutality? What I enjoy about it is it’s kind of a throwback to a gentler… slower style of family film that maybe I’m just nostalgic for? I don’t know? But I think that, y’know, Harrison Ford does a great job. I’m glad that they didn’t really Hollywood-up the plot points all that much? Even though, y’know, they did somewhat. And, y’know, I—I thought it was fun! I—when Harrison Ford was about to get shot, I could see that this was gonna be the scene where it happened. Where Dan Stevens was gonna show up. And I was like gripping Audrey’s, like, leg. Audrey, who had lost interest long ago. But I was like, “No!” [Laughs.] [Elliott laughs.] “No! Dan Stevens is gonna shoot Harrison Ford!” And so the movie got me.

elliott

Yeah. I actually liked it a lot. I think I would’ve had the same trajectory as you, Dan. In that as a kid I would’ve liked it. As a young man, I would’ve been like, “Ugh. This middle-brow, gentle adaptation of a book—I don’t need it.” But now? It’s a movie that goes down real smooth. [Dan laughs.] And like, especially for a kid’s movie—you can say Call of the Wild may not really be the best material for a kid’s movie? But also for a kid’s movie, I don’t need something that is super gritty and raw or anything like that? And certainly as someone who is also not a fan of Logan, like, I don’t need the—I don’t need the Logan version of this where Buck is like cursing? And like ripping people’s heads off and stuff like that? This is—it—there was something about this movie just being a movie where I could be like, “I’m watching it. And I’m finding this pleasant. And by the end of it? Oh, y’know. I feel good about Buck.” Y’know, digging into it— [Dan laughs.] —into some of the like—like I was saying, some of the cultural subtext of it. That’s not a great idea. Don’t do that. ‘Cause you’re gonna be unhappy with it, maybe. But as a viewing experience—when I finished watching it I was like, “Oh, this is the rare Flop House movie where I wish I had watched this with my son ‘cause I think he probably would’ve enjoyed it.” Some of the dog stuff might’ve been a little scary for him, but that’s just him and dogs. Y’know? Any movie with a dog, he might’ve felt that was about. Although he did watch Oliver & Company recently and that’s a movie with dogs in it and he liked that. But yeah.

stuart

What about All Dogs Go to Heaven?

elliott

He’s never—I’ve actually never seen that. I’ve only ever seen little bits of it and they’re only the Hell bits? And it’s kept me from wanting to ever watch that movie. ‘Cause I don’t need to see dogs going to Hell.

dan

Well, also, Elliott, Sammy likes Oliver & Company mostly because it was an adaptation of Oliver Twist, which is—of course—his favorite novel.

elliott

Well that was the second reason. The reason he liked it most is because he’s such a big Billy Joel fan.

dan

[Through laughter] Oh. Okay.

elliott

He was like, “Finally! My two favorite things! Disney movies and the Bard of Long Island. They’re in one place! Finally!” But yeah. I actually liked this movie quite a bit. Okay, guys. Stuart? Jesse? Tell me why I’m wrong.

stuart

Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I’m gonna say I actually think this is a bad-bad movie.

elliott

Oh, wow.

stuart

But I don’t—like, I’m not—I ain’t mad at it. It just like— [Multiple people laugh.] There’s so little there. It feels very, like, rewritten. It’s not gonna stick in my brain. I don’t know. And there’s—I mean, there’s no grit at all. Like I don’t need it to be fucking Cormac McCarthy or anything, but— [Multiple people laugh.] But like, I don’t know. Like, it would’ve felt nice—it would’ve been nice if it felt like any of these characters were anywhere other than a soundstage or in a nice part of California.

crosstalk

Elliott: Yeah. That’s true. Jesse: Yeah. I—

jesse

I have watched a lot of really terrible children’s movies, and almost exclusively. Like, my—I have three children. The oldest of whom just turned nine. And my media diet has really dwindled to like… one comforting half-hour television program at the end of the day before I fall asleep. And movies I have to watch for work. For my NPR show, which tend to be, y’know, fancy indie movies. First Cow or something. And I have no complaints about that part of my life. That’s great that I get to do that for work. And then kid’s movies that often—unlike Elliott, I haven’t been able to trick my children into watching kid’s movies that I wanna watch very often? So Elliott is just hanging out watching Marx Brothers movies and The Adventures of Robin Hood and stuff, and like I try—

elliott

The Adventures of Robin Hood was a big hit. Big hit with Sammy. Yeah.

jesse

I tried to get my kids to watch Singing in the Rain and failed.

elliott

Oh, another favorite in the family. Two-year-old loves it.

jesse

Yeah. It’s a hoot! But I couldn’t get ‘em to go for it. So I’ve seen a lot of like, I’ve seen a lot of just… boring, lame-ass kid’s movies. And this movie is definitely better than those. It, like, y’know, it’s a two-star movie. It’s not a total failure. Harrison Ford is wonderful. It’s a—I like watching dogs. But— [Elliott laughs.] [Laughs.] I do think it’s a bad-bad movie. Like, even—it is ultimately betwixt and between. Like, they should have made a choice—either we’re gonna make a beautiful children’s movie that’s very sweet? Or we’re gonna make a movie with a little bit of zip to it. It doesn’t’ have any zip to it other than Harrison Ford’s face, as I mentioned. And it isn’t very beautiful! Like it really does—as Stuart says—everything looks like somebody just… somebody just used a stock animation for Northern Lights on top of a shot of a hill in Santa Ana. And—

elliott

But you know who I’m gonna blame for that? This is gonna be—sorry to interrupt. This is gonna be controversial. The cinematographer on this is Janusz Kamiński, and I’m totally gonna blame him. Because the last… twelve years? Fifteen years of his movies? Have been kind of that same, glossy, very post-CGI-y soft look. And like, he does all of Steven Spielberg’s—or most of Steven Spielberg’s most recent movies and they all have that same kind of, like, fake-y studio look. Yeah.

jesse

And I’ll say I watched a few of those Disney live-action reinterpretations of classic Disney cartoon movies? I saw Lady and the Tramp and I saw Beauty and the Beast, and those—

elliott

If it’s got an ampersand, you’ll watch it!

jesse

Yeah. [Laughs.] [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Jesse: Those, like, also have—those also have—those—those also— Elliott: If it’s two things with an ‘&’ in the middle! Dan: Well, he runs AmpersandFan.com. Elliott: [Laughs.] Fampersand. [Laughs.]

jesse

—have things to recommend them. Like, Beauty & the Beast has those wonderful songs and the Harry Potter lady is fantastic in that movie.

stuart

And Dan Stevens’s in that one, too!

jesse

Yup. But the aesthetics of them are such a garbage pile and I will admit that they are worse—it’s a worse version of the same thing. This kind of like, everything looks like a Thomas Kinkade painting. But everything has that weird softness to it in order to accommodate the fact that they can’t quite make the dog look right. And so it’s hardly the worst, but… but it’s a bad-bad movie. Like, if I watch it with my daughter ‘cause she wanted to watch it, I would’ve been grateful that it wasn’t total garbage? But having watched it by myself— [Laughs.] [Multiple people laugh.] ‘Cause my wife wanted to watch—‘cause my daughter wanted to watch a Harry Potter movie last night for big-kid movie night instead. I was bummed that I had wasted [through laughter] that chunk of my life on it.

crosstalk

Stuart: Yeah. Yeah. Elliott: Mm. Welcome to The Flop House, my friend. [Jesse laughs.]

elliott

Welcome to The Flop House. It’s all about wasting chunks of your life.

dan

Mm-hm.

elliott

Wow, a real split decision here! So I guess we’re gonna have to leave it up to our guest judge—Harrison Ford?! [Jesse laughs.] Harrison Ford, what do you think?

crosstalk

Elliott: Is this a movie you kinda liked or a bad-bad movie? Stuart: Weird that it’s not Bradley Whitford—

stuart

—‘cause he was the judge in the movie.

elliott

Yeah. That’s true. But he’s not a judge in real life. Unlike Harrison Ford, who is a judge now. On the federal bench. So Judge Ford, what do you think? [In Harrison Ford’s deep, growly voice] “Hnuh.” [Regular voice] Alright, well, thanks, Harrison! I guess it’s noncommittal. [Multiple people laugh.] So I guess we’ll just have to live with a split decision on this one.

dan

That was a pretty good Harrison Ford growl, I gotta say.

elliott

[Through laughter] Thank you. Thanks

dan

Um— [Laughs.] So.

elliott

Oh, one thing I wanted to mention—actually, this is a bit that I forgot I was gonna do. I didn’t—

dan

Oh great.

elliott

I had forgotten that Call of the Wild

dan

Sorry, should we put in our “Forgotten Bits” theme? [Laughs.] [Multiple people laugh.] Here?

elliott

Yeah. No, this is me saying what you guys were all saved from. That Call of the Wild is very similar to the plot of Dune? In that it’s about an outsider who comes into a more savage wilderness and becomes the leader of a—becomes part of a tribe and then the leader of that tribe? And so I was originally gonna start doing the plot as Tom Brokaw for those Flop House fans who love Tom Brokaw describing Dune? But I forgot to. So.

crosstalk

Dan: Hm. It sounds like— Jesse: Well, don’t do it now.

elliott

Throw that into Werner Herzog’s cave of forgotten bits.

dan

I mean, yeah, it seems like it would take a lot of setup for that bit. [Laughs.]

elliott

But what kind of Flop House bit doesn’t involve a lot of setup?

dan

True.

music

Light, up-tempo, electric guitar with synth instruments.

elliott

Music: Sophisticated electronic/string music. Teresa McElroy: Shmanners. Noun. Definition: rules of etiquette designed not to judge others, but rather to guide ourselves through everyday social situations. [Music stops.] Travis McElroy: Hello, internet! I’m your husband host, Travis McElroy. Teresa: And I’m your wife host, Teresa McElroy. Travis: Every week on Shmanners, we take a look at a topic that has to do with society or manners. We talk about the history of it. We take a look at how it applies to everyday life. And we take some of your questions. And sometimes, we do a biography about a really cool person that had an impact on how we view etiquette. [Music fades back in.] Travis: So, join us every Friday and listen to Shmanners on MaximumFun.org, or wherever podcasts are found. Teresa: Manners shmanners. Get it? [Music ends on a bright chord.]

elliott

Music: Fun, cheerful, soft music. Benjamin Partridge: If you’re looking for a new comedy podcast, why not try The Beef And Dairy Network? It won Best Comedy at the British Podcast Awards in 2017 and 2018. Also, I— [Audio suddenly slows and cuts off.] Speaker 1: There were no horses in this country until the mid to late sixties. Speaker 2: Specialist Bovine Arsefat— Speaker 3: Both of his eyes are squids' eyes. Speaker 4: Yogurt buffet. Speaker 5: She was married to a bacon farmer who saved her life. Speaker 6: Farm-raised snow leopard. [Strange electronic audio.]

dan

So, we’ve got a couple of sponsors. I would offer for Jesse to not be here for this, but they’re pretty—there’s just only two! So I’m forcing him to sit around. Elliott. Do you wanna take the sponsor for once?

elliott

Sure! I’ll take the sponsor! Today’s Flop House is brought to you by—you guessed it!—Squarespace. Look. Squarespace is the place for you to go to to create your own website. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while to create my own website. In the future we’re all gonna live on the internet. We’re all gonna need our own websites. You should get—go out there. Start making your website. And Squarespace makes it so easy! Your website will be beautiful. Let’s say you got a cool idea. I have cool ideas all the time. They just disappear into the ether ‘cause I don’t get around to make them into websites. I should use Squarespace.

jesse

Well, technically, Elliott, we have seen that pile of screenplays on your desk.

elliott

Yeah. Most of my cool—well, I need to make JoshGadHeyUhWhat.com. [Dan laughs.] Your place for screenplays that involve Josh Gad being like, “Hey, guy! Uh, hey, uh, over here!” So I’m gonna take that cool idea. I’m gonna use Squarespace to make it into a website. I can blog on there. I can publish my content. I can sell all my products—my Josh Gad “Hey, hey guy! Hey!” t-shirts— [Dan laughs.] —and services if you need me to put that into your screenplay. Does even more. And here’s how Squarespace makes the difference. Because they’ve got their templates. You can customize ‘em. They look great, so your website looks professional. You don’t even need to code to do it. World-class designers designed this website and these templates. Everything—

jesse

This is something that on Jordan, Jesse, Go!, Elliott, we really like to emphasize? There’s a lot of provincial designers out there designing templates? And if you want world-class designers? I’m not even talking about State Fair blue ribbon type designers. But international—

elliott

Olympics level. Yeah.

jesse

These designers… they—these designs, they work in Senegal. They work in Milan. Italy. That’s in Italy. The fashion capital of the world.

elliott

Name another place where it works! Give me another place! [Dan laughs.]

jesse

Sorry, I’m all out! But the points of [through laughter] the story is— [All laugh.]

elliott

Look. When Carmen Sandiego goes somewhere, she knows that her website is gonna work there. Because it was designed by a world-class designer. A where in the world is this designer.

stuart

Yeah. She could go to Milan. Or— [Dan laughs.] Wait, wait.

jesse

Senegal.

crosstalk

Stuart: She could go to Senegal, yeah. Wait. Okay. No. Just go. You go. Elliott: It also works in Senegal. These—no, just Milan and Senegal. Jesse: I wanna say Cleveland but I know that’s wrong. [Dan laughs.]

elliott

Let’s say you want your website to work on a mobile device and also on a computer? Does it right there for you! You don’t have to worry about that! Right out of the box! It does it! And you can use it to buy domains; you can choose from over 200 extensions; free and secure hosting; it sounds amazing. I had a website that I wanted to talk to you guys about. It’s called www.PrimordialSpirit.com. Sometimes we have trouble getting in touch with our primordial spirits. Buck was lucky enough that he just wandered by where his lives—the Yukon—

crosstalk

Elliott: But I haven’t yet— Jesse: On a hill.

elliott

I have yet to find mine, and I wanna find it. My primordial spirit? I don’t even know what it looks like. It probably looks and sounds like Emo Philips, to be honest. But I wanna make sure. PrimordialSpirit.com matches you with primordial spirits. Shows you where they live. Maybe they’re in your area. Maybe they’re not. In fact—well, we have one where it’s just an area that’s called Primordial Spirit Friend Finder, and that gets a little—that’s just for adults.

stuart

Elliott, will this primordial spirit help me find all the shortcuts in Mario Kart so I stop looking like a real jerk? [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

I can’t promise anything, but yes, I promise you that that is the case.

crosstalk

Stuart: Okay. Elliott: And I gotta go— Jesse: Stuart, take off your headphones for a second.

jesse

Elliott. Dan. I was watching Stuart play Mario Kart the other day. And this guy looked like a realll jerk!

crosstalk

Dan: Oh god, tell me about it. Just a dingus. Elliott: A real fool and a real jerk. Jesse: This guy looked like a jerk like you wouldn’t believe!

elliott

Oh, Stuart’s putting his headphones back on.

crosstalk

Elliott: Okay. Anyway. Yeah, no. Stuart: Hey, guys! Okay! What’s up? What’d I miss?

elliott

Nothing. I was just talking about how with Squarespace you can finally make the website you deserve. Just go to Squarespace.com/flop for a free trial, and when you’re ready to launch, use the offer code “flop” to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. That’s Squarespace.com/flop.

dan

Now before we move on, Jesse, I just wanna say—I appreciate that during the… thinking of places bit? Your restraint—I know that you’re famously unwilling to talk about San Francisco— [Jesse laughs.] So I appreciate that you held that line firm today.

elliott

I wanna mention also—so yes, we’re recording this the day after we did our live, online, The Boy Next Door screenplay reading. With our good friends of the podcast Hallie Haglund, Jenny Jaffe, Natalie Walker, and… Jordan Morris filling in at the last minute and really helping us out. And that will be up on our YouTube page in case you missed it at some point in the future!

crosstalk

Stuart: I think it just went up today, right? Dan: It’s there now!

elliott

Oh, it’s there now! Well, then at some point in the past when you’re listening to this! [Dan laughs.]

dan

Also, I think this comes out [through laughter] like two weeks from now. So—

elliott

What, is the YouTube link gonna expire?

crosstalk

Elliott: Did we not do it yesterday? Alright. So I’ll do my— Dan: No, no, no, no. I’m just—yeah. Stuart: Is YouTube gonna shut down? All your favorite creators are gonna be out of work, Dan!

dan

Yeah. If we sound tired it’s [through laughter] because—with the intro, outro, and just the fact that a reading takes longer than a movie, I think it was a two hour and forty minute marathon getting through that script. But I had a blast. I really had fun doing it and people seemed to enjoy it.

stuart

I had a really great time, but I—right now, Dan, I don’t think anybody has to explain why they sound tired. [Laughs.]

dan

[Through laughter] That’s true.

stuart

I feel like everyone sounds tired right now. [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Elliott: That’s the condition right now. Hey, guys— Jesse: I would add to that, Stuart—

jesse

I don’t think Dan needs to explain why he sounds tired. [All laugh.]

dan

Yeah. [Laughs.] Between my tendencies towards depression and sleep apnea, I—y’know, speaking of everything going on in the world, I woke up this morning thinking, like, “Hey! Why the hell do my neck and shoulders feel so fucking bad right now?” [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Dan: It might be because I’ve been carrying stress in them for the past five months. Stuart: Uh-huh. Did you figure it out? Jesse: Yeah. Elliott: Yeah. Probably.

dan

So that’s the only part where we’ll reference the outside world.

elliott

No, we’re gonna reference it one more time. Because—late September—my new book, Sharko and Hippo, comes out. That’s right! It’s a kid’s book by me with an all new set of characters. Sharko and Hippo. Anyway, the art is by Andrea Tsurumi, who did a great book called Accident that I love and Sharko and Hippo is coming out late September to bookstores near you. Order them through a bookstore and then have it delivered to your door because, y’know, of what’s happening in the outside world.

dan

Now, this Sharko, this Hippo, are they sort of an Island of Dr. Moreau Marx Brothers duo? Or—

elliott

Without The Island of Dr. Moreau part, yes.

dan

Okay. Great. Um, hey! Let’s read some letters. From you, the listeners.

crosstalk

Dan: Uh, this one— Jesse: Sounds fun!

dan

—is from John from Milwaukee.

elliott

[Singing] What’s that call out there? Do I hear something coming through the snowy wastes? Why, it’s Perrault the dogsled mailman bringing the letters bag to The Flop House! Sometimes our letters come from far away. Far away in the frozen North! The Yukon, where letters sometimes go, and sometimes come from. That’s how mail works. Letters come from and go to the same places sometimes. All the way from [snapping] Senegal to Milan! But in this case, it’s the Yukon! Where these letters are coming from! And here comes that dogsled of letters down the traaaack! To The Flop House.

crosstalk

Stuart: Yeah. It feels weird— Dan: Uh, I think—

stuart

—to be annoyed by those letters songs right now with the way—what’s going on with the Postal Service. [Multiple people laugh.]

dan

Yeah. They need all the encouragement they can get with your—

elliott

I’m trying to do my part. Yeah. Come on.

stuart

Yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Elliott.

dan

So this first letter from John says— “My wife and I recently watched—"

elliott

So “John”? That’s the full name? No last name withheld, just that’s the full name? John?

dan

Well, earlier I said “John from Milwaukee,” kind of forgetting the bit for a second. But yeah. John, last name withheld, writes:

crosstalk

Jesse: Yeah. It’s John from Cincinnati. Elliott: Oh, no problem. Okay.

dan

Mm-hm.

stuart

Oh, wow.

elliott

Writes and says, “Does anyone know what was going on in my show? ‘Cause I sure don’t!” [Multiple people laugh.]

stuart

“David Milch hasn’t responded to any of my texts!” [Multiple people laugh.] He must be bedridden again. [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Elliott: He must be busy— Dan: “My wife—” [Laughs.]

elliott

Dealing with all of his debts. Anyway. Continue. [Laughs.]

dan

John says, “My wife and I recently watched Green Room and enjoyed it, but even greater was near the end of the movie, the presence of the Dragonlance book, Dragons of Spring Dawning was on the console o the van. I read the hell out of that series in middle school and bought it for my sixth grader for Christmas. What aspect of your real life appearing in a film were you excited to see?” I remember—it’s not a film, but there were a couple of episodes of Mad Men where Don Draper’s tumblers—I guess they’re more like rocks glasses—were this sort of… y’know, obviously because of the time period they were mid-century modern. But also because mid-century modern was big because of Mad Men at that time period, I also had these tumblers. There sort of throwback tumblers with squares etched into the sides of the glass. So that’s the one I remember. What about you guys?

stuart

That’s not that far from being like, “I was really excited to watch Gremlins 2 because I had a full set of the Gremlins 2 trading cards I’d bought because of how much I loved Gremlins 2!” [Multiple people laugh.]

crosstalk

Dan: It’s true. It’s true. Elliott: I think you got it, Stu. I think you got it.

dan

It was—I mean, I… [Laughs.] We had them before we started watching Mad Men. Let’s just—

crosstalk

Jesse: Who hasn’t dreamed? Who— Dan: I liked ‘em back when they were cool. [Laughs.] I saw them— Stuart: Okay.

jesse

Who hasn’t dreamed of capturing the depths of sadness [through laughter] reflect in Don Draper’s— [Multiple people laugh.] —compulsive drinking?

stuart

Well. I don’t know. Like, I mentioned earlier that I got excited when—in the movie The Call of the Wild—they go to Skagway, because—what—two years ago, Dan and I and some assorted friends went to Skagway. That was really fun. Other than that? I dunno. Like, I was really excited when I saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin in the theater and I saw some of the miniatures that Steve Carrell’s character was painting and I was like, “Oh, wow! I have some of those!”

elliott

I think I’m gonna have to say—every time I see certain parts of New York, specifically, that I am well-acquainted with in movies, I’m like, “Hey! I know that place!” A movie that I love—The Landlord—was shot around my old neighborhood in Park Slope, Brooklyn. And there is a big Coca-Cola sign on a pizza place that was still standing for most of the time that I lived there? And I was like, “Oh, wow, that sign’s been up there for like 50 years! This is amazing!”

stuart

It was like when you saw Squid and the Whale and you’re like, “Oh, I jizzed in that book!” [Laughs.] [Elliott laughs.]

elliott

[Through laughter] Yeah. It’s like, “I—that diorama also reminded me of my parents’ divorce when I would go visit as a young man!” But the time, weirdly, that I felt that was the most was—there’s a very bad movie called Robot in the Family starring Joe Pantoliano and John Rhys-Davies about—it’s like a robot that can find gold? It doesn’t make any sense. But a lot of the movie—for whatever reason—was shot around this stretch of antique stores on Broadway between 14th Street and, like, 10th Street? In Manhattan? And that was literally the street I walked—those blocks I walked almost every day as an NYU student from my dorms to the classrooms. So when I watched this movie I was like, “I know that whole block! This is amazing!” [Dan laughs.] And I was like, “I could’ve walked through this movie, possibly!” So it was—

dan

“I could be in Robot in the Family!”

elliott

It was very exciting even thought the movie itself is terrible. Don’t see it.

jesse

The literal version of this for me, 100%, is the movie Sister Act. Which was shot, like, six or eight blocks from my childhood home? And seeing—

elliott

And also, Whoopi Goldberg taught you how to sing.

jesse

[Through laughter] Yeah, it’s true. Yeah, she told me, actually, that R&B hits of the 1960s were Gospel songs? [Elliott laughs.] Which was an unusual tact to teaching singing. But, y’know. And—I mean, it’s like when that professor—I had a music professor named Harold Hill, and he taught me that all I had to do— [Elliott laughs.] —to play the trombone was think that I knew how to play the trombone? Which also—similarly—unusual technique. But like seeing the church by my house with fake graffiti on it to make it look more scary and the Irish bakery by my house and so on and so forth. That was like, absolutely thrilling when that movie came out when I was ten or nine or however old I was when that movie came out. And—but the more metaphorical version is, my stepmother—when I was in my late teens—said she had heard about this new Bill Murray movie that she thought I would really like. And this was like right after, like, Operation Dumbo Drop or whatever. Was that the one that had Bill Murray in it? There was two—or was Larger Than Life?

crosstalk

Dan: Uh, Larger Than Life. Elliott: His was Larger Than Life. Yeah. Operation Dumbo Drop was like, what, Danny Glover? Jesse: Oh, okay. This was right after Larger Than Life—yeah, maybe so. Dan: Danny Glover. I think maybe Dennis Leary was in it? I don’t know. Elliott: Yeah, I think Dennis Leary was in it. Yeah. And Dumbo. Jesse: As like a 17-year-old—

jesse

—I did not yet understand like, Billy Murray was two years out of my demographic in terms of how good he was before his career revival. And it turned out to be Rushmore that my stepmother was telling me I should go see. And like, besides just being insufferable, another thing I related to Max Fischer about was that… like, I was also a poor kid who went to a really fancy private school and fit very awkwardly and also I was the president of a lot of different clubs? And…

stuart

This makes a lot of sense, by the way. [Dan laughs.]

jesse

[Through laughter] Yeah. And um, I actually had auditioned for Rushmore. I went to arts high school and they came and auditioned in their, like, search. But I didn’t even get to say a line. They—I was too tall. They like—I walked in and they said, “Sorry, you’re too tall” and I walked out. But I was—I think it was the first time— [Dan laughs.]

crosstalk

Jesse: —that I had seen a movie— Dan: Humblebrag.

elliott

—and like really directly related to themes in the character? And it was shocking to me. Like, there were aspirational characters? Y’know? Like, I dunno. Maybe I thought I would like to be more like… I don’t know. I was gonna say Pee-wee Herman, but that’s probably a bad thing [through laughter] to want to be like. [Dan laughs.] Pee-wee Herman is an asshole. The man is not an asshole. I’ve met him. He’s a really nice man. The character is an asshole.

stuart

Yeah.

jesse

But like, but in terms of like seeing things from my life on film? In an emotional sense? Directly? That was the first time. And it’s odd to admit that it was Rushmore, which is obviously a very stylized movie where the protagonist is not always sympathetic. But…

elliott

Never sympathetic, some might say. Me, in fact.

crosstalk

Jesse: [Through laughter] Well, it depends on whether you— Dan: Wow. [Stuart laughs.]

jesse

—had almost all of those [through laughter] experiences. [Elliott laughs.]

crosstalk

Jesse: [Through laughter] Whether your actual dad was a Vietnam veteran who was scarred by his experience there. Yeah. Dan: I—I loved Rushmore, Jesse. [Elliott laughs.]

dan

This next question is from Lena, last name withheld. Which is pleasingly alliterative.

elliott

It is. I just wanna mention something I never knew about Operation Dumbo Drop, looking it up now, is that it was set during the Vietnam War. Which—

crosstalk

Dan: What? What? [Laughs.] Elliott: Yeah. So it’s a kid’s movie that’s set during the Vietnam War.

elliott

With soldiers transporting an elephant through South Vietnam. So—

stuart

I’m assuming listening to like Lynyrd Skynyrd songs and…

jesse

Yeah. That’s when I—

elliott

Probably, yeah, yeah.

jesse

That’s when I first found out that my dad was a vet. I asked him if he had gone through anything like that in the ‘60s. He said, “Let me tell you.”

crosstalk

Dan: Mm. Stuart: Uh-huh.

jesse

“About my time on the carrier and that giraffe.” [Multiple people laugh.]

stuart

Showed you pictures of his friend who’s an elephant. [Multiple people laugh.]

dan

[Through laughter] Lena writes, “Dear Peaches, I’m writing to you in spite of Dan’s advising anyone who intended to write you a letter to—and I quote—‘Go to Hell’ in the last episode. Because I am in desperate need of your sage wisdom. My younger brother, 18, has recently become obsessed with slasher films. He talks about them constantly, analyzes their themes, gives his opinion on the merits of various sequels, and recommends movies he thinks you’ll like. He even wrote a research paper about the gender politics of the genre. The problem is? He hasn’t seen any of the movies he proclaims to love. Not one. He watches a lot of, like, horror review channels on YouTube, I guess, which is where I think he picked up this interest, but he never seemingly took the initiative to watch any of the movies he was hearing these guys talk about, and has just absorbed their taste in these movies into his own personality through osmosis. I can’t begin to tell you how aggravating it is to be told how interesting the way the third Halloween movie subverts the formula of the franchise up to that point is, by someone who hasn’t seen a single fuckin Halloween movie and has no idea what the fuck he’s talking about and obviously is just parroting someone else’s opinion down to the word. My question to you is—how do I get him to cut it out? Calling him out on his ignorance doesn’t seem to work, and neither does cutting mockery. Believe me, my parents and I have tried both, but the man is without shame. He’s not embarrassed in the slightest by the very silly thing he’s doing. It’s terrible. Can anything be done? What would you do if it was your little brother? Please advise. He’s driving me nuts. Yours in flop, Lena, last name withheld.” We’re kind of cutting into the McElroys’ business here. This is more of an advice letter.

crosstalk

Stuart: Uh-huh. Dan: But advice about movies. Elliott: You’re right. We’re not allowed to do that.

elliott

Forget it. Let’s not. [Dan laughs.] Sorry, Lena, can’t do it!

crosstalk

Dan: No, I like this turn! I like this turn! Jesse: It’s a zero-sum game, gang!

jesse

Flop House up, McElroys down! [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

Everyone’s got their thing and you can’t do anything else.

stuart

If they ever talk about movies, they have to stop immediately, I think.

jesse

It seems like the best strategy—like, this might not be the most practical strategy but it might be the most effective strategy? Is wait until he is not a 17-year-old. [Multiple people laugh.]

dan

Yeah. That was gonna be my advice! Yeah. Just—just let him be dumb for a while and then hopefully he won’t be dumb in the future. ‘Cause also, I think that if you argue with people too much, because humans are stupid and our brains are broken, often people tend to dig in even more at that point.

stuart

That’s pretty cool. I was gonna say— [Multiple people laugh.] —just keep sending him little, like, gifs of those horror movies? So over time he’ll have to watch all of it, even if he’s watching ‘em in short clips? [Dan laughs.]

dan

Yeah.

crosstalk

Dan: You’re—that’s what you’re doing— Elliott: I mean, the—

dan

—with Critters gifs to us, even though we’ve seen Critters? [Laughs.] [Multiple people laugh.]

stuart

Yeah. Critters. Critters 2. Various Japanese animation. Etcetera. Oh, and Full House. I think the entire series of Full House. [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

I think—yeah. Probably the only real thing to do is just wait it out. I’m curious why he hasn’t watched any of the movies.

crosstalk

Dan: Yeah. That seems odd. Stuart: I don’t think that’s the pleasure he probably gets out of it.

stuart

This is… not to, y’know, not become a therapist or a psychologist all of a sudden, but—

crosstalk

Elliott: ‘Cause again, that’s the McElroys’ thing. Stuart: But I think— [Laughs.] [Dan laughs.]

stuart

I’m guessing it’s more that he gets pleasure out of sounding smart about a topic? Or like figuring something out?

crosstalk

Stuart: Even if he doesn’t— Elliott: Yeah. It’s almost like—

stuart

—like the topic he’s figured out?

elliott

It’s almost like you wanna introduce something to him that he can be smart about that he also actually likes engaging with the main, primary thing? At the same time? But I definitely like—when I was young I definitely would be very opinionated about things that I had only heard about and not seen, because that’s part of being a young man. Is assuming that you need to have an opinion on everything, knowing that your opinion is based on nothing, and then pushing that opinion harder to try to make up for the fact that deep down, you know that you’re a fraud. That’s basically what being a young man is all about. [Dan laughs.]

stuart

And an older man!

elliott

And an older man. A man of all kinds. A man of all seasons— [Dan laughs.] —is one that knows that he is a fraud and cannot be the thing that he thinks he’s supposed to be.

crosstalk

Elliott: And so forces other— Dan: Yeah. A fraud that walks on four—

dan

—four legs at birth— [Elliott laughs.] —two legs—yeah. You know it. Three legs eventually. That’s how it goes, right?

crosstalk

Dan: “Three legs eventually?” Elliott: [Laughs.] Eventually he gets to three. [Through laughter] Three legs—that’s when the sphinx says— Jesse: [In exaggeratedly casual accent] Like, “Yeah, what walks on four legs at birth—"

jesse

“—and, uh, three legs eventually? It’s me, the Sphinx!”

elliott

That’s when— [Dan laughs.] When the Sphinx is telling its riddle while trying to answer an email at the same time? [All laugh.]

jesse

By the way, Elliott, would you say—what would you say is the most Sphinx-like animal? As you claimed earlier on in the show, dogs, or perhaps... sphinxes?

crosstalk

Elliott: Well— Stuart: That’s a good question.

elliott

Yeah. Sphinxes are closer to sphinxes than dogs. In terms of [inaudible] animals, you gotta go with a cat. Right? Because a cat always has a look on its face like you have just failed to answer a question properly that it has asked you.

crosstalk

Elliott: And it thinks that you’re stupid. Jesse: Yeah. Also, sphinxes have the head of a cat.

jesse

So it’s those two things.

elliott

Well, they have the body of a cat.

crosstalk

Jesse: Oh, body of a cat, face of a person. Elliott: And the head of a person.

elliott

The head of a cat on the body of a person is a fetish.

crosstalk

Elliott: Which I’m not gonna deny. Stuart: Well, I feel like if you were to—

stuart

I feel like if you were to tell a sphinx that it had a face like a cat, that would be a severe insult in sphinx culture. [Jesse laughs.]

elliott

Yeah, yeah. Now, then there’s also—you got your like Assyrian type characters who are—they’re sphinxes where it’s like a lion’s body with wings or an ox’s body, and then the head of a man with a long beard? And those always seem like—

stuart

Those are really cool.

elliott

—I’m gonna run into them in the real world and I’ll think they’re gonna say something really smart and instead they just go like, “Mraw.” ‘Cause that’s my experience with bison?

crosstalk

Elliott: I always think bison are about to tell me something really wise? Stuart: Yeah. It’s like a lamantu or something.

jesse

Elliott, I’m gonna let you keep going in just a second. I just wanted to let Stu and Dan know—what happened is, I had to go to the bathroom? So I just brought up mythological stuff so Elliott could do his thing for a while and cover for us.

elliott

Now, the interesting thing is the minotaur— [Jesse laughs.]

crosstalk

Elliott: —I think, traditionally— Dan: No. I—but now I don’t want to—hear— [Laughs.] [Jesse laughs.]

elliott

So I think—another thing that this—that Lena can do with her brother is to start introducing things—is just start talking to him about it. Really engage him on this topic of horror movies. But slip in, every now and then, something that doesn’t exist that you’re making up? [Dan laughs.] And see like what—and not as like making fun of. But to see how he reacts to it and what his opinion is suddenly on this thing that doesn’t exist. And I want you to keep seeding it that way until eventually you’re having a conversation where both of you are talking about things that don’t exist, all the time. And you know it. But he doesn’t know it.

dan

And I want you to write down his opinions on all of these fake movies and, y’know, send ‘em to us in the future!

elliott

Yeah. Yeah. So we can laugh and laugh at the thing we once were.

dan

[Through laughter] Uh-huh. Pardon me, I burped off-mic. Let’s go to— [Laughs.]

elliott

I like that you undid it by telling us about it, though.

elliott

Dan and Stuart: Mm-hm.

stuart

He’s bragging that he’s drinking bubbly drinks again, huh? [Dan laughs.]

elliott

Mm-hm. That’s why they call him Seltzer McCoy! [Dan laughs.]

dan

I’m rich in gas. Let’s… go to—

elliott

Oh, look at Jupiter over here, huh? [Laughs.] [Dan laughs.]

stuart

Yeah. Look at Bespin over here.

elliott

C’mon!

dan

Let’s go to the final segment in the show, which is to recommend movies—

elliott

I guess I’ll just break up the shale in Dan and get some of that sweet gas out of there!

dan

Jeez. Recommend movies we saw—often recently, but not necessarily—that we liked. I will recommend—I saw—I finally got around to… the Netflix Will Ferrell movie, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga? Which I’d been kind of interested in? Just because I like goofy comedies and Eurovision is certainly funny on its own.

crosstalk

Stuart: And it’s got Dan Stevens in it! Dan: But I—

dan

Yeah. Well, that’s—I was gonna—yeah. The connection—the Call of the Wild connection is Dan Stephens. And I’ll get back to him. But um… y’know I had been kind of Will Ferrell’d out, at least in terms of the man-child comedies he usually does? But I found this to be a… y’know, a better application of that. A sweeter application of that? Like, there’s a kindness in the worldview of the movie that I kind of wasn’t expecting? Now, don’t get me wrong—Will Ferrell was not the best thing about the movie. The best thing by far, I think, was Rachel McAdams as the equally-goofy but somehow simultaneously… grounded? Character? Of the two leads? I think she’s terrifically funny, like, almost all of the time and… she just somehow finds the way to act a totally weird character. And Dan Stephens is in it as—Stuart says—as the person who would normally be the villain of this type of movie? But I think what they ultimately do with his character is sort of touching and heartbreaking and sweet as well. And I really enjoyed it. And it’s got singing in it! which I always like.

elliott

Does Dan Stephens get pushed into a burning cabin in Eurovision Song Contest, also? [Multiple people laugh.]

dan

I don’t wanna spoil it, Elliott!

stuart

I mean, there is “fire” in the title, right? I’m gonna recommend a movie that just went up on Shudder recently called Host. It is the first of probably—I don’t even know if it’s the first. But I’m sure it’s one of a slew of… horror movies that’s made on a microbudget during quarantine. During—in a post-COVID time. And it is about a group of 20-somethings who are… set up a Zoom call to hang out with each other, and the theme for their Zoom call is—they decide to have a séance and it goes just about as well as you would imagine. It’s nice and short. It’s under an hour. They do some fun stuff with the limitations of Zoom call. But the thing I think that makes it work is that the stuff that happens before things get scary? Is engaging. And the stuff that happens after things get scary is also engaging. So it manages—I think the whole thing manages to work. So if you’re looking for a short slice of horror that is also topical, I guess, check out Host.

dan

Before we move to the next recommendation, just very quickly—there is a not-zero-percent chance that I said The Story of Ice and Fire Saga when giving the name? I—if I did, I was obviously thinking of Song of Ice and Fire. But there is just fire. There is no ice in Eurovision. Anyway.

stuart

Mm-hm. No Yngwie Malmsteen.

dan

Elliott— [Elliott laughs.] —you looked like you were about to go, so why don’t you go?

elliott

Sure. This movie—The Call of the Wild—I said, “I’ll recommend a movie with “wild” in the title!” So I’m gonna recommend Ah, Wilderness! This is the 1930s version of the Eugene O’Neill play Ah, Wilderness! starring Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore and one of my favorite actresses of the time, Aline MacMahon. And it was—the script was adapted by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, who wrote The Thin Man—one of my favorite movies—and it’s kind of a—another kind of “goes down easy” movie in a lot of ways. It’s a little slice o’ life story about a young man who has just graduated from high school in 1906. He’s about to go to Yale, and he has to be kind of saved from himself and his thinking of himself as a sophisticated man of the world who understands more than regular people. As he makes a couple of bad decisions and is pulled out of the kind of thing that nowadays would not have been a problem, but back in 1906 would have ruined his life beyond measure—namely, going on a date with a woman that he shouldn’t go on a date with and saying some things that might upset people.

dan

I wanna give a little factoid that is of no interest to anyone but me. I played said young man in the community theater production of Ah, Wilderness! when I was 17.

elliott

This is a—yeah. Thank you. [Through laughter] I’m glad you could bring that personal perspective to it.

dan

Mm-hm.

elliott

It’s very much a kind of picture of that mythical small-town turn of the century America that didn’t really exist, but which is a… I dunno. Something that a lot of jerks yearn for— [Dan laughs.] [Through laughter] —a return to. But it’s kind of like if Our Town didn’t have any of the metaphysical talk of the cosmos in it. But I really enjoyed it. It’s just a charming little movie. Ah, Wilderness!. Jesse, what have you got?

jesse

Well I’m gonna first recommend a book. Elliott Kalan—I went over to his house the other day. We’re quarantine buddies. And I was in a real mess. My life has been a really horrible mess lately, and I just—I asked him if he could loan me a book that would not make me sad at all and would be interesting the whole time. [Elliott laughs.] And he loaned me a book called The Devil’s Candy, which is about the making of the film of The Bonfire of the Vanities, Brian De Palma’s film. And it is as absolutely engrossing and fascinating as a behind-the-scenes book could be. The movie was ultimately a huge debacle, both critically and financially, but like involved all of these brilliant, amazing people. Y’know, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis and Steven Spielberg is in there. And it is a story—it is a book about, I think, the same thing that The Flop House is often about. Which is that making a movie is so complicated and has so many moving parts that even if you bring together a bunch of brilliant people… it is so easy to just get it wrong. And it's a very sympathetic book to everyone who is involved in the story? Even the executives, who are mostly just kind of doing executive meddling. But like I think—I think the easy read of it is that it’s the story of how executive meddling can ruin a film? But I think it really is the story of how a film can just go wrong. And it’s a very sweet in a surprising way and funny and it like… it shows you the fascinating stories behind every, y’know, one of the most interesting subplots of the book is the assistant director, who is a protégé of De Palma’s, trying to make his name by getting a perfect shot of a Concorde landing with the skyline in the background and the sun in exactly the right place. And he has to do like months of calculations by hand to figure out when the sun will be in the right place and so on and so forth. And he nails it. It’s the perfect shot. He wins $100 bet with Brian De Palma, and there’s—it’s mentioned in an article in American Cinematographer magazine, and all the credit goes to the cinematographer of the movie, who was not present. And it is—it is—it’s a really, like, it’s full of those fascinating stories of every kind of person. Like, people who worked on studio movies in the ‘50s? And people who are like totally go-go ‘90s and they’re trying to make the ultimate ‘80s movie. It's a great book. So thank you, Elliott, for that recommendation to me. And I pass it on to America via The Flop House.

crosstalk

Stuart: Mm-hm. Jesse: I will also recommend— [Elliott laughs.]

jesse

—a movie. It is probably my favorite movie. And I’m always glad to recommend it, especially to comedy fans and practitioners of whom I know there are many who listen to The Flop House. It’s called A Thousand Clowns. It was made in the early-to-mid 1960s as the 1960s were just starting to trend towards the countercultural 1960s? Where that idea was just being invented? Before Flower Children and so forth. It’s based on a play that won—I believe it won a Pulitzer. Won some Tony’s as well. And it’s a story about a comedy writer who is probably 40-ish. Who is unemployed. And he has quit writing on a children’s show because it was beneath him. But with him lives his young teenaged nephew. A 13-year-old kid who—for reasons that are explained in the film—goes by many different names. Turns out his uncle just lets him pick a new name whenever he feels like it. But this kid is being investigated—this kid and his uncle are being investigated by Child Protective Services basically because the uncle is unemployed and the kid is often out of school. And the kid is sort of brilliant and precocious, but never shows up for anything. And they’re worried that it is an unsafe environment for the kid. And the uncle is so resolutely anti-establishment and irreverent and amazing and charming… as only, y’know, Jason Robards could be. Like, it is a spectacular, hilarious, amazing performance. But you realize that the central conflict of this film is not this man against the establishment, but this man against himself. That he has to take responsibility for his own life. That just because he is anti-establishment and a comedy—and a hilarious, charming man—doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have to take responsibility for the effect that his choices have on others, especially ones—people that he loves. And it makes me cry every time, even though it is definitely a comedy. And it’s full of hilarious stuff. Full of wonderful performance. Martin Balsam was nominated for an Oscar for it. He plays the guy’s brother. And the—

elliott

And won!

jesse

And won! And won! Thank you, Elliott.

elliott

Yeah. Won Best Supporting Actor.

jesse

And there’s a wonderful performance by the teacher from Boy Meets World, who’s like, y’know—

stuart

Mr. Feeny?

jesse

Yeah! Mr. Feeny!

elliott

William Daniels.

jesse

Yeah. He’s like 35 years old.

stuart

John Adams?

jesse

He plays the kind of hard-ass—or relatively stickler—Child Protective Services guy. And it was actually written as… the character is actually based on Jean Shepherd? Who is the legendary radio host who was also probably—

stuart

I really thought you were gonna say Gene [Inaudible]. [All laugh.]

jesse

Who is the most—probably most famous for Christmas Story, right? But the playwright and Jean Shepherd’s relationship, they were very close friends, was ended by Jean Shepherd because of this play because it was essentially a critique of a guy who allowed his brilliance and charm and humor to get in the way of taking responsibility for his own life. Anyway, it’s a beautiful movie. For many, many years it was really hard to watch? It would come on Turner Classic Movies sometimes. There was a VHS that sold for $75 on eBay. But it has just been re-released on Blu-ray. Beautiful new Blu-ray that’s $19. And if you are the streaming type, I won’t say what tube you can go to to watch it on in relatively high quality.

crosstalk

Stuart: [Whispering] Oh, shit. Jesse: Because I think everybody involved should get paid. [Elliott laughs.]

jesse

But yeah. And in conclusion, the kid—the 13-year-old—he’s played by an actor named Barry Gordy who—as a younger child—was the voice of the song “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” and as a man was the voice of one of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. And in-between—

elliott

Donatello.

jesse

And in-between was the—

crosstalk

Elliott: The best one. Jesse: Thank you, Elliott.

jesse

And in-between was— [Dan laughs.] —became a lawyer and president of the Screen Actors Guild.

crosstalk

Stuart: [Muttering] The best one. Dan: Jesus. Jesse: For quite a while.

jesse

So there ya go. A Thousand Clowns, it’s called. There are no clowns involved. There are no clowns involved in the film. But there is a part where he leans out the window of his tenement apartment and says, “Rich people! Everybody out on the street for volleyball!” [Multiple people laugh.] Which is a lot of fun.

dan

And no clowns were hurt during the making of the film. Because of—

crosstalk

Elliott: No, no, that’s why they’re not in the movie. They were all hurt. Yeah, yeah. They were all injured. The— Jesse: I cannot promise that. Yeah. They didn’t wanna show it. That would’ve been, like—yeah. Dan: Oh! Oh.

jesse

That would’ve basically made it a snuff film. [Dan laughs.]

elliott

I mean, they were injured being driven to set. They just put too many clowns in that car. [Dan laughs.]

jesse

It was one of those things like that Rip Torn thing? Where Rip Torn beat the crap out of Norman Mailer or whatever?

crosstalk

Dan: Oh, wow. Elliott: Have you seen—

elliott

—that footage? It is brutal.

crosstalk

Dan: It is terrifying! Elliott: ‘Cause it’s in the movie!

elliott

Oh man. He hits him in the head with a hammer from behind his back! There’s one—that movie, A Thousand Clowns, it’s an amazing movie. And I just wanna mention there’s a performance in it—he’s only in one long scene. Gene Saks plays Jason Robards’s boss, who comes to win him back. And it is the most amazing scene of a man who is a—who is a performance—person who is a monster. An emotional monster. And just wants people to like him but is a bully and is terr—it’s an ama—it’s—that’s—that one scene, I think—always think—is amazing.

crosstalk

Jesse: Yeah. He plays like the children’s host that he used to work for. Elliott: [Inaudible.]

jesse

And what’s beautiful about it is he is like a monster, in that all he lives for is the approval of others, but it also like… it’s very sympathetic. Like, it… you understand that this is a sad man and that show business is sad. [Laughs.]

elliott

Yeah. [Laughs.]

dan

Okay. Well, I gotta pee, so let’s wrap it up! Jesse, thank you for being with us. Is there stuff you would like to plug? I know you, yourself, have many shows.

jesse

Yeah. I own a podcast network called MaximumFun.org. With a lot of great shows. [Elliott laughs.] The only one I would steer clear of is called The Flop House.

crosstalk

[Someone gasps.] Elliott: What?! But—this guy! Stuart: Oh, we walked right into that! Dan: Oh. The Prestige, guys! [Elliott laughs.]

jesse

I—I do—I do host and cohost three shows. I do an NPR arts and culture interview show called Bullseye. Of which I’m very proud. And if you like interviews with figures from arts and culture, including many… many filmmakers and folks involved in film, recently we’ve had… Steve Buscemi was on the show. That was a wonderful interviewer. A wonderful interview. A great actor and also a great director. And Kelly Reichardt, who directed First Cow. I mentioned First Cow. First Cow totally rules. What a great movie.

stuart

Yeah. I keep putting it off, but I need to—I just need to set aside some time and watch it.

jesse

What’s great about it is it’s so totally not a homework movie. Like, it’s so fun and it’s great. But anyway.

elliott

Well, it’s about the first cow to be elected president, right?

jesse

[Through laughter] Yeah. [Multiple people laugh.] And as you mentioned, Elliott, our mutual friend Jordan Morris—with whom I’ve been friends since we were 19 and 18 and I was his RA in college—and I do a show called Jordan, Jesse, Go! that is a silly bullshit comedy show of which—which has existed now—it’s now going into year 14? I think? Something like that?

crosstalk

Stuart: Wow. Trumped us! Dan: You’re ahead!

jesse

And it’s, y’know, it’s liked by people who like that sort of thing. And then I also do a show with—

stuart

And we’ve all been guests!

jesse

Yeah. Exactly. You guys have all been guests. You’re on the MaxFunDrive episode this year, or at least Dan and Stu are. So you can go listen to an episode with one of the Peaches. And I also do a show called Judge John Hodgman that’s a comedy version of The People’s Court. With the wise and hilarious John Hodgman as the judge and, y’know, in recent years he’s really backed off the key element of his comic character, which was bullying Elliott. So I’ve sort of had to take it on— [Dan laughs.] —in his stead.

dan

Yeah.

crosstalk

Elliott: Doing a bang-up job. Jesse: [Inaudible] Elliott.

dan

He does occasionally shift to me when he sees me? [Jesse laughs.] But he’s also gotten a lot nicer over the years.

stuart

That’s weird. He’s nothing but nice to me, guys.

dan

I know! ‘Cause you’re the cool one! [Stuart laughs.]

elliott

Yeah. He wants you like him!

stuart

I won’t like him.

dan

[Through laughter] Alright. Well— [Elliott laughs.] Thank you to all of you for listening. Y’know, go forth and spread the word however you may like. But… for The Flop House, I’ve been Dan McCoy!

stuart

Hey, thanks, Dirty D McC! I’ve been Stuart Wellington! [Multiple people laugh.]

elliott

I’m E—Ellia K? No, I don’t know.

crosstalk

Elliott: I wanna say— Dan: Elie Kazan.

elliott

Thanks also to listeners. Thanks to Jordan Kauwling for editing this mess into professionability. I’m Elliott Kalan. And—Jesse—what’s your name?

jesse

[Goofily] Jesse Thorn!

crosstalk

Stuart: Byeee! Dan: See ya!

elliott

Light, up-tempo, electric guitar with synth instruments.

dan

On this episode, we discuss—Call of the Wild!

elliott

Technically, The Call of the Wild! [Dan laughs.] But why start being pedantic now? [Jesse laughs.] [Music finishes.]

speaker  1

MaximumFun.org

speaker 2

Comedy and culture.

speaker 3

Artist owned—

speaker 4

—Audience supported.

About the show

The Flop House is a bimonthly audio podcast devoted to the worst in recent film. Your hosts (Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, and Stuart Wellington) watch a questionable film just before each episode, and then engage in an unscripted, slightly inebriated discussion, focusing on the movie’s shortcomings and occasional delights.

Follow @flophousepod on Twitter and @theflophousepodcast on Instagram. Email them at theflophousepodcast@gmail.com.

People

Host & Producer

Associate Producer

How to listen

Stream or download episodes directly from our website, or listen via your favorite podcatcher!

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