Sunday, August 24, 2014

Max Brooks on WWI, the Harlem Hellfighters, Zombies & Him

Max Brooks’s own military service was cut short after a year in the ROTC (pronated feet), but he’s a serious student of warfare and military history. He’s written about those subjects fictionally in his novel World War Z and factually in The Harlem Hellfighters. The latter, a graphic novel that cracked the NYT best-seller list earlier this year, tells the story of a heroic black U.S. regiment in World War One who fought the Germans abroad and racism at home. Max and I talked about the Hellfighters and the nature of bigotry then and now. Also:

  • His thoughts on the “Great War” and its lingering impact on the U.S., 100 years (almost to the week) after its outbreak.
  • The responsibilities of war-waging and nation-building.
  • Our shared affection for Studs Terkel and his oral histories.
  • The popularity of Zombie fiction. Max has been described as the “best-selling zombie writer of all time.”
  • His own battles with dyslexia, self-doubt and the stigma of being a “legacy kid” (he’s the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft).
  • His current efforts to turn the Harlem Hellfighters into a movie.

Click the play arrow above to hear the show, or the download icon on the upper right to get your own mp3.

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Members of the 369th Infantry Regiment, aka “The Harlem Hellfighters”

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Show for Aug 25, 2013: Henry Jaglom on Orson Welles.

It’s tempting, if you’re tempted by clichés, to call Orson Welles “larger than life.” But he was after all an ordinary mortal, however prodigious his gifts and imposing his persona. He was also, among other things, a struggling artist, and his travails should be familiar to anyone who’s sought creative fulfillment in a practical world.

One person who saw past the Wellesian myth and beheld the man was the filmmaker Henry Jaglom. Their friendship began in 1970, when the upstart Jaglom impertinently asked Welles to be in his first movie (A Safe Place) and the master improbably assented, and it continued until Welles’s death in 1985. They were frequent dining companions at LA’s then-trendy Ma Maison, and Henry recorded many of their conversations. Now film historian Peter Biskind has transcribed and edited some of the Welles-Jaglom tapes into a book, My Lunches with Orson. Though the dishy parts have drawn most of the media attention, I was more interested in the sheer breadth and insight (both Orson’s and Henry’s) on display. In this interview, Henry Jaglom describes the Orson Welles he knew and loved.

Click the Listen arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)


Orson and Henry

Great interview with OW and Dick Cavett, c. 1970?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Show for Jan 20, 2013. David Thomson—In and Out of Love with the Movies.

The critic David Thomson is so alert to the seductions and subterfuges of film it’s hard to imagine he was ever a sucker for cinema. Of course, we were all young and innocent once. Now he’s uneasily aware of what movie-watching entails: the voyeurism, the passivity, the ideologies concealed in images, characters and plots  (“advertisements for things that don’t exist”). He charts his – and our – increasingly distanced relationship with film in his latest book, The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies. David and I talked about how moviegoing has changed over the decades, what the medium has done to us, and our new infatuation with other, smaller screens. Along the way we discussed immigrant filmmakers and American mythmaking, Citizen Kane, California light and Germanic shadow, film noir, masculinity and movies, Hitchcock and Tarantino.

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You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Show for Aug 19, 2012. Errol Morris Confidential, Pt 2 of 2.

I continue interrogating the interrogator in this second of two wide-ranging conversations with filmmaker/detective/truth-seeker Errol Morris. Among the many subjects discoursed on:

  • Whether and how much the past can be recaptured through the art of investigation.
  • Errol’s latest book A Wilderness of Error, about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder case.
  • How he gets people to spill the beans on camera.
  • Errol’s beef with his former PhD adviser, historian of science Thomas Kuhn.
  • His next movie (The Fog of War with more fog?).


Errol Morris, conducting an interview using his interrotron.

Click the Play arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)