Culture Gabfest “Do Androids Dream of Chris Pine?” Edition

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S1: This Ad Free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. You. I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is the sleep culture Gabfest Do Androids Dream of Chris Pine Edition. It’s Wednesday, April 13th, 2022. On today’s show, Julia It’s on HBO. Max It’s a limited series that tells the story of the revolution in American cooking effected by Julia Child. It stars the transcendent Sarah Lancashire. And then we discuss after Yang, a dreamy sci fi meditation from the writer director of Canada. That’s not only a monitor, but a pseudonym. We’ll discuss that as well. And finally, hmm, it’s not in the air. It’s not the scent of pine, it turns out, Dana. No marital exception. Stephens carries a special torch into the pine grove. I’ll stop the deeply serious question. Here is Chris Chris Pine, our Robert Redford. She wrote an essay on it for Slate. Let me first introduce, though, June Thomas. June is the co-host of Working Slate’s podcast about the creative process. June, a delight to have you back, and it’s a double delight. I’ll explain in a second about, you know, why.

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S2: Well, thank you, Steve. And I’m very happy to be here.

S1: It’s the double delight, because you and I are huge fans of Happy Valley Last Tango in Halifax, and thereby Sarah Lancashire, who in 2014 you said deserve to be better known and her moment may have arrived. We’ll get to it. We’ll get to it. But I’m so psyched to be here to talk about that and other things. And, of course, Dana Stevens is the film critic for Slate and the author of the hit book Cameraman about the life of Buster Keaton, but so much more. A terrific book length essay on the 20th century and film Dana. Hey.

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S3: Hey, Steven. Thank you for those very sweet words about my book.

S1: And I flow easily Dana because they are sincere. It’s just a delight when a friend of yours triumphs. You know, you did a great job.

S3: Thank you so very much. Well, I had I had one word for listeners about the book since last week. I told you that I was going down to Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg. I should tell Boston based listeners that this week, in fact, the day the show drops on Wednesday, April 13th, I will be in Boston at the great Coolidge Corner Theater, an old movie house where Steve, if you remember, we once did a live slate called Your Gabfest.

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S1: I know that was that was the ignominious moment where I got goaded by the audience into singing and didn’t hit the side of a fucking barn with my pitch. But, you know, whatever, I’ve forgotten that day, and I’m glad that you’re going to supplant the stink of that with the scent of pine, the beautiful pine.

S3: I will be there showing the general and signing books and talking with Tiber. Former film critic for the Boston Globe. So if you live in Boston and you want to come see me, look at the Coolidge Corner Theater website for more information.

S1: Brilliant. Okay, guys, so we make a show. Let’s. All right. Well, Julia, it’s on HBO. Max. It’s a limited series about Julia Child. Not a totally unfamiliar subject. Of course, there was a meryl Streep movie and kind of know the story. But this one, this one’s interesting. It covers her move from cookbook pioneer to public TV star. It’s part marital dramedy. Her husband is played by the forever delightful David Hyde Pierce. It’s also part Mad Men esque period piece. It takes us back to an America still lost in the supermarket, a country without its own developed food ways and for whom French food was still pretty much totally alien. Child was out to create a real revolution, a bridge between the Cordon Bleu where she’d studied and the typical American housewife. The show delightfully stars Sarah Lancashire. We can’t wait to talk about her. She of Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax. But let’s listen to a clip. Let me set it up a little bit in this clip. We’re going to hear a snobby public TV executive who’s been a big naysayer about the idea of Julia Child hosting her own TV show. And she wins them over with a slab of paté and a sly wit. Let’s listen.

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S4: Listen. I’m glad you called. I’ve been thinking about your desire to do a cooking show, but.

S5: I’m a goose, and I entice you to try it. Allow me. I dare say we got off on the wrong foot. They have a man as intellectually curious as you. Producing my little show is an embarrassment of riches.

S4: Thank you. I couldn’t agree more.

S5: But I thought if you knew more about me. You know, my husband was a diplomat. A man of letters. I long.

S4: Let me cut to the chase, Mrs. Child.

S5: Oh, Julia.

S4: Julia, I appreciate this. I do. But you have to understand that I am not a frivolous person. I may be in the television industry, but public television is not television. Television. It’s not entertainment. I am not an entertainer. I’m not entertaining.

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S5: Completely. Sherry.

S4: Now you I understand you feel that what you do has substance and maybe to some ladies means it does. But public television is on a much larger journey. Oh, my God. You see, I wanted to change the way people think, the way they see, the way they live their lives. But so do I. But how can food possibly do that? That’s really very good. Thank you.

S1: June, let me start with you. I had a friend text me multiple times about this show. A very unlikely, you would have thought audience for it. And he said the reason to watch is the lead actress Sarah Lancashire. And I is a huge fan of hers. And Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax. Didn’t recognize the name you wrote about her in 2014, saying she’s about to be better known. These shows are coming to Netflix. I think people devoured the shows. Anyone who saw them was blown away by her performance in both.

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S4: Somehow she didn’t stay.

S1: The performance stuck, but something about her didn’t, you know? And but this is the role of a lifetime, would you think?

S2: Well, it’s it is super interesting. You know, I just happened to catch in the way that we still sometimes do the trailer for this show. I didn’t really it wasn’t something that was particularly on my radar. I it started to play and I didn’t cut it off, which is always the ultimate sign. And it was only when it ended. And I thought, who was that? Then I realized it was her. And this is someone who I have been watching since she was Isabel, since we both were very young. She was in my favorite soap opera. That was her big break. And, you know, I’ve literally been watching her for 40 years and I didn’t recognize her. And perfect subject, right? Who could not want to watch something about Julia Child? And I would suspect that I mean, I’m an older person, but I came to America a little later in life. And so I never saw Julia Child actually being Julia Child. And I think that possibly maybe most of the people who watch the show or certainly many of the people who watch the show and have consumed much of the Julia Child kind of biography, Metaverse will not really have that much familiarity with the original, but instead be kind of used to the impersonations or the biopics. And so it’s an odd thing because I both didn’t recognize Sarah Lancashire and also kind of wanted to watch it because of Julia Child, who I don’t know, like a very kind of perverse and meta experience, but I’m so glad I did start to watch it because even though it is in many ways a very sort of standard middlebrow, very low stakes in a way show. I found it absolutely compelling. It was a delight. It’s the ultimate kind of hit. Next one more episode kind of. So I absolutely loved it.

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S1: So with you, Dana, you know, I know she’s no Chris Pine, but Sarah Lancashire pretty great, right?

S3: Yeah. I can tell that pine is going to be the animating theme, so I won’t complain. Oh yeah. I didn’t feel any need for another show on Julia Child because Julian Julia the Nora Ephron, you know, double film about about Julia Child with Meryl Streep is Julia Child. And Amy Adams, as you know, the blogger who cooks all her recipes is sort of chapter and verse in our household. My daughter worships Meryl Streep, and we’ve watched that movie so many times. It’s sort of one of our comfort watches that I sort of felt like I don’t need to see anymore about Julia Child’s life story or anyone else playing her. But June, I was wrong and thank you for suggesting this show. It’s so much fun and so pleasurable and while I haven’t watched all the available episodes yet, I completely plan to stick with it. And like you say, it’s somewhat low stakes in terms of, you know, the big suspense of the show is essentially will this, you know, privileged, successful woman who’s already published a legendary cookbook that’s made her famous and who has a loving diplomat husband managed to make a successful TV show or not. So it’s not exactly life or death stakes, but it winds up being such a a wonderful story. And it is really Sarah Lancashire who anchors all of that. And it’s quite interesting that I mean, although I think Meryl’s Julia is is perfect for what it is. And I still love that half of that movie. I think the Meryl half is much stronger than the Amy Adams have of Julian Julia. But Sarah Lancashire brings a different edge to the character. I want to say that she almost plays her a little bit darker, isn’t quite the word, because she’s still a very sunny person and a sunny personality. And it’s well shown that that is what wins over, you know, viewers to watching what was at the time a really radical show, you know, watching a woman cook a meal. But she brings out a little bit of an edge in her that has to do with her ambition. And although Julian Julia is also about, you know, the vaulting ambition of this housewife who who wants to make a cookbook, this is a little bit different because it’s sort of about her pushing beyond what what anyone, even her adoring husband, thinks she should do and kind of feeling her way into something that no one has has yet done before. I don’t know how to describe it, but I feel like I feel like this is almost a sequel to Julie and Julia where you get to, you know, hop into a different metaverse and explore a different side and different chapter of the. That same character.

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S1: Right. It’s like it’s like Julia Child in David Hyde Pierce fanfic a little bit. I mean, it’s delightful for every reason that you enumerate and also for portraying a happy marriage in a realistic way. I thought, you know, it’s not without conflict. It’s not without competing ambitions at all. But it’s it’s just fun to be around the two of them. It’s always fun to be around. NILES And Sarah Lancashire, you know, is transcendent in the sun, but starting elsewhere for a second, I’m interested in the bumping up of the stakes because the stakes. To my mind, June, the stakes were high enough here, which is in this era. What does a woman have to do in order to be ambitious in a world completely dominated, personally ambitious in a world dominated by men, almost between the marital dramedy and that struggle. And she’s just entering menopause and realizing she’s not going to have a child, which is a very distinct moment of of grief for her, that the show, you know, sort of sets up as one of the reasons why doing something outside of the home is now maybe critically important to her sense of self. And I thought that that was enough. What about what about you, Jane?

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S2: Yeah, it’s funny, actually. I made a note here. The stakes question mark low but enough. And I think you’re right that in that in doing that, I in saying that I’m a little bit kind of erasing all of the tensions around women’s self-actualization and, you know, the rights of wives to have a life which is still really not enshrined in law. At that point, there were certain things that women could only do with their husbands permission by then. So I don’t mean to erase that. I guess, though, it’s more of a contrast is the contrast to what I think, you know, we’ve recently been referring to after an essay in The New Yorker by Pearl Segal of of what we’re shortening is the trauma plot. You know, compared to what we so often see these days, it feels low. But it also maybe that means that I can relate more than if it’s to, you know, life or death, ticking clock, blah, blah, blah. You know, fortunately, that’s not something that I have to deal with. Whereas, you know, the things that Julia Child was facing. I do. And I think you’re right to to point to other moments. It’s not just about Julia Child and her relationship with her husband. There’s also, you know, as you say, there are these these other plots that are sometimes feel a little kind of bolted on. But there’s one with that I found really quite delightful, which was with her editor, Judith Jones, who had been the editor who found or at least brought to life the the diary of Anne Frank and was, you know, one of the leading editors of her day. And Blunt connotes her boss is absolutely contemptuous of the work that she’s doing with Julia Child. She thinks that Judith Jones is wasting her life, wasting her talent, wasting her time by, you know, working with cookbooks. So, you know, this really strong, really successful woman who’s at the top of her career, another very ambitious and very successful woman, kind of both sets up this tension with the, you know, the high culture and cooking, but also, you know, with with what most women do. You know, it throws out a lot of questions. Again, something that TV does these days. You know, you’ve got to have not just sort of three plots in every show, but like 16 storylines that you’re juggling with the whole series. But I pretty much enjoyed most of them. So, you know, I had no complaints and I yeah, I and Sarah Lancashire she truly, you know, when I wrote that piece in 2014, I think in many ways the thing I wanted to do was say, this is someone you haven’t heard about because she’s northern she’s northern royalty. Her father was a writer for Coronation Street. She got her start on Coronation Street. She’s she’s basically been doing Northern shows. And, you know, usually that means working class shows. And, you know, it’s she just has never made the leap, as many people don’t, from the north. And I’m just just so glad to see her, you know, appearing on an American show with American stars and getting to kind of act against them. And I’m just so, so happy. And I hope I hope there’s more.

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S1: I’m right there with you, June. And I strongly suspect there will be. Dana, maybe one last thought, which is maybe we shouldn’t lower the stakes as much as we have. In the following sense. There’s a wonderful shot of a miniature scene of her and her husband in an American supermarket, I’m going to say circa 1961. And the. Which he makes is actually an interesting one. He’s horrified at the ingredients that she’s going to try to prepare French haute cuisine with. And she says, I have to select dried herbs. I have to select X, Y and Z from the shelves of the ANP or wherever they are, because that’s who these readers. This is what these readers of mine are going to have access to. And she is building an interesting bridge. And across that bridge came everybody else. Right. This kind of I mean, there was regional there were deep regional food foodways in the United States and always have been and always will be the South in particular, soul food, I mean, all kinds of things. But in some sense, it took Julia Child to begin a self-consciousness about food in a cosmopolitan way that then allowed for the food culture. I think probably we and all of our listeners are now steeped in, I mean, a completely different level of seriousness about home cooking. I think Alice Water crosses the Julia Child Bridge as well, ten, 15, 20 years later, affecting or sort of deepening that revolution. And eventually we get a consciousness of an entire integrated food system where food comes from, how to make it sustainable, etc., etc., etc.. I don’t actually don’t know how small that is. I think it’s hard to cram that into, you know, the expositional portions of a TV dramedy. But I. I believe it. And I think they’ve done an elegant job.

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S3: Yeah, it’s a show that values pleasure and that makes it a pleasure to watch. So I think you’re right that scenes like, you know, her thinking about how to translate her knowledge of French cooking into something that the average American housewife can understand, have some kind of value, an import beyond, you know, what they mean for the career and life of this particular character. I mean, we haven’t really mentioned much about how the show looks and sounds, but I just wanted to mention that it is one of the producers and writers. Daniel Goldfarb is someone who was also involved with the marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is a show we’ve talked about on this show. And to me, I tried to get into the marvelous Mrs. Maisel because it looks and sounds so beautiful. And, you know, the costume design is gorgeous and the use of mid-century music is fantastic. Ultimately, I found the main character too annoying and and the writing of the show kind of subpar. And I didn’t stick with it. But this has all of that pleasure element, you know, incredible costumes and wonderful colors and, you know, Frank Sinatra belting tunes on the soundtrack with, I think, a little more substance and a main character who’s much, much easier and more fun to engage with.

S1: Okay. Just a brief survey of the best selling cookbooks of all time give you some sense of the revolution she effected. Betty Crocker’s cookbook, The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. And there it is. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. All right. It’s on HBO, Max. Sarah Lancashire worship at the altar, please. She’s fantastic. It’s called Julia. Check it out and tell us what you thought. All right, let’s let’s move on. All right. Before we go any further, Dana, we typically talk business right around here on our show. What do you got?

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S3: Stephen Our only item of business this week is to tell listeners about today’s Slate Plus segment. This week, we’re responding to a listener email from a listener named Ross, who wrote to us saying, Based on the Canada bashing Winky face emoji from the February 2nd episode, I would love to hear the favorite piece of Canadian culture from the folks around the table. I should mention that favorite is spelled with a U. So I’m assuming this listener is Canadian. To be clear, I don’t think there was any actual Canada bashing going on. In our February 2nd episode, we were talking about Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, I believe, who of course, we would never disparage in a million years. But whatever we said, we really like this question from Ross. So if you’re a Slate Plus member, you will get to hear each of us talk about our favorite pieces of Canadian culture at the end of the show. If you’re not a Slate Plus member, of course you can sign up today at Slate.com, slash culture. Plus, when you are a Slate Plus member, you get ad free podcasts. You get bonus segments like the one I just described, which come on a lot of other Slate podcasts too. And best of all, you get unlimited access to all of the great writing on Slate.com. You will never hit a paywall if you belong to Slate Plus. And of course, you will be supporting us, our magazine and the work of all our wonderful colleagues. These memberships matter a lot to slate, so please sign up today at Slate.com slash culture plus. Once again, that address is Slate.com slash culture plus. Okay, Steve, back to the show.

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S1: All right. Well, the set up to after Yang is in its way pretty simple. A family has purchased an uncannily humanlike humanoid robot to help care for maybe even really be a sibling to their adopted daughter. The parents, I should say, are not Asian. Their daughter is Asian, and Yang presents as Asian becomes very important to the theme of the movie. When Yang breaks down, it is deemed beyond repair. The family’s father, played by Colin Farrell, goes on a journey to fix Yang, which may be hopeless, but also a journey inward into both his own and the memory bank of his son. All this prompts him to wonder Where does the soul live and exist in both us and the world? In addition to Colin Farrell, the movie stars Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin Lin as Yang. And I should repeat, it’s from the writer director Cannata. Okay. In the following scene, the family discusses Yang after he’s become unresponsive. The characters Jake, Kira and their daughter Micah are reacting to the maybe temporary, maybe permanent loss of their robotic family member. Let’s let’s listen.

S4: I know. Love you. Miss him, but you just can’t see him now. What about the family dance? We never had a dance again. Of course we will. But we might have to compete in the family of threes.

S5: How do we want to be a family of three?

S4: Mika. I want to go back. That he’s trying his best. He’s doing everything he can. I want him back to. I got you. Do you want him back? Of course I do.

S1: Oh, yeah. Great clip. Right, Dana, let’s, uh, let’s start with you. You suggested we do this. I enthusiastically agreed when you explained to me a little bit about Cannata, we’ll get to him. It’s always catnip. When someone is using a pseudonym, you don’t quite know who they are fully. But let’s start with the movie. It’s it’s it’s a lot about there’s a lot of metaphorical and non metaphorical discussion of grafting of plants and creating hybrids. It’s a, you know, it’s a it’s a movie about maybe the hybrids that we create or will create with A.I. and the hybrids that they turn us into. It’s an interesting film. What did you what do you make of this?

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S3: I mean, I feel a real sense of advocacy about this film and about coconut in general. Maybe listeners remember that just a few weeks ago I endorsed, you know, for my endorsement. I chose Coconut, his website, where he posts a lot of video essays. Some of them he made for Criterion, some of them he just makes for himself. And he started off as a video essayist before making two films. This is his second film, and to me they’ve just both been maybe I love his first film, Columbus, a bit more than this one, but they just are so sui generis, so imaginative and and so cerebral, while at the same time, to me at least, being emotionally moving and impactful. So I really hope that people seek him out because I notice that when you go to Showtime, which is where this movie is streaming, you literally have to type in the entire title of the movie before it comes out. They’re doing nothing whatsoever to promote it, so I hope this segment turns a few people onto it. I don’t know if you guys agree with me, but I just I find this movie so unique in its vision of a future. It’s set in this vaguely, very vaguely dystopian because it’s actually quite a beautiful world that they live in, right? I mean, their surroundings are beautiful and quiet and spare and it has this very austere kind of design. But there’s a sense that the world they live in has been through something terrible. At one point you see a bulletin board on one character’s wall that has some kind of clipping that says war ends after 60 years. And I got this sense that we’re somewhere late in the 21st century when there’s been some sort of global cataclysm and that, you know, they’re in a world that’s recovering from that and that somehow in a way that isn’t really explained. There’s no kind of expository dialogue to tell us how this is true, but that the existence of these androids that can be purchased in order to provide emotional experiences. Right. I mean, the reason that the couple has bought this this humanoid A.I. creature is because he is of Asian heritage or is he’s at least programmed to appear to be of Asian heritage. Chinese like their daughter, and he’s therefore able to impart knowledge about Chinese culture to her and the movie questions and critiques that social setup without, you know, without ever being obvious about it. I mean, Yang is a real character in the movie. We see him mainly in flashbacks because, as you said, he becomes nonoperational at the beginning of the movie. But there’s not really the usual sort of AI character question about is he human? Does he long to be human? I mean, he really is something else and he seems to be content with what he is, except for his relationship to his cultural heritage. So this also becomes a movie about being an immigrant, about being a stranger in your culture and in a way analogizing that to being, you know, a different sort of being, but also questioning that. So there’s just there’s a lot going on in this movie. It’s sort of about adoption and acculturation and artificial intelligence and what it is to be from a multicultural family and how to resolve that. And also, I think in a way, it’s about imagining a future, you know, and this future is strangely perched in between utopia and dystopia. I don’t know if you two felt that as well, but there’s all these little signals that not all is right in the world. And yet, you know, this family seems to live in a very cushy kind of atmosphere of beauty. They also seem to be lonely and alienated and to have kind of outsourced a lot of child care to yang this this A.I. robot Android they live with. And so there’s just I was taking notes nonstop throughout this movie and especially I don’t know what you all thought of this, but the sequences where the Colin Farrell character without spoiling anything, I can say that he gets a hold of a kind of chip that contains Yang’s memories, and it’s almost like a a movie that you can watch. So there’s this cool, you know, science fiction touch where he puts on these glasses, basically like opaque granny glasses that permit him to revisit some of Yang’s memories from this ship. And the way those memories are rendered is so imaginative and at first kind of almost off putting bizarre. And we kind of enter a whole different trippy landscape when we go into the Yang memory world. But by the end of the movie, when you become familiar with kind of how that memory landscape works, it becomes enormously moving.

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S2: Yeah, no, I agree totally. I both about the nature of this society where you think, okay, on the surface, superficially, their lives are so much. Better than when I was out today. They’re not living in a crowded apartment. They seem to have all the things they need. They have beautiful clothes. Their bodies are beautiful, and yet they have exactly all the same pressing psychological mental health issues that we have today, that they’re overworking, that they’re worried about work, that they’re neglecting their family and the people they love because of work. You know nothing. In that sense, nothing has changed and maybe things have just gotten worse. And they do seem lonely and unhappy and sad. And they’re also about the Yangs memories that Jake accesses. The whole thing about techno sapiens, as they call creatures like young in this world, are that in theory, at least, they’re biddable, you know, that they we we made them. They do our bidding. And yet you see that actually even a creature like Yang has very specific and very personal feelings. He has secrets. He’s, you know, is the ultimate human. He has the ultimate human element, which is that he’s mysterious. He has things that are unknowable from the outside, that he has memories and a previous life almost, that he doesn’t necessarily share with everyone. And there’s something really striking and beautiful about that. That’s also, you know, it’s a very quiet, meditative film. The music that we heard in that clip almost feels like it says as much about this movie as the actual words. You know, there’s just kind of a vibe that set. And yeah, I find it absolutely fascinating.

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S1: Yeah, it’s it’s very light tone. Tone, poetic, slow burn. It’s a curious movie. It takes, to my mind, a somewhat overfamiliar premise. You know, the Philip K dick do androids dream of electric sheep? And instead of, as Dana says, instead of going in the full Blade Runner direction, you know, they’re turning on us. Or maybe the humanoid machines will drain off our souls until we’re like them. You know, it has this interesting question and it asks it in such an interesting way. It says, what if we and they become soulful hybrids and there’s a gain and a loss on both sides of that transaction, this, you know, kind of grafting and merging of human and air identities. And so it takes place. Exactly right. Dana, in this liminal space between utopia and dystopia, that’s that’s so familiar, we’ve seen Ex Machina, seen Blade Runner, we’ve read Philip K Dick. It’s it’s it’s not new in some sense, and it’s not a self-consciously daring movie. And yet I don’t know that we’ve ever been in that sort of, you know, DMZ between Utopia and Dystopia before in quite this way. I really enjoyed this movie. I was profoundly grateful. I watched it, and I’m now going to watch Columbus’s first movie immediately. I had a funny part of it or unexpected part of it that I enjoyed almost the most, and the movie doesn’t spend a lot of time exploring. It didn’t go in this direction, which is fine, but when you’re in it. To me it was gripping, which is the ancillary worlds around technology, one being the commercial world. So it’s sort of an iPhone and Apple Apple parable. They keep saying Yang is a black box device. Like you’re not allowed actually to open up and find these memories. It’s totally illegal. You’re not allowed to unlock or explore it the way you’re not allowed to an iPhone. Clearly, the company that makes them sort of the one sinister well, there may be many sinister notes, but the most sinister note in the movie is the company is called Brothers and Sisters. And it’s clearly meant to be a stand in for Apple and like the super friendly kind of cultist, you know, sort of Bobo hippie cultist who interfaces with you at the at the apple like store is kind of wonderfully portrayed, but also a kind of black box hacker world, you know, anonymous collective grapevine that the father has to move through in order to possibly repair Yang or unlock these memories, plus a kind of curatorial museum world where the history of technology is being preserved in a somewhat it’s presented as a sort of dignified way, as a as a mode of public self understanding about the history of technology and how it’s kind of how the history of technology has unfolded. I thought each one of these was was incredibly subtle and sensitive in its own way. No one’s a villain. It’s it’s just leading you through what’s already true of us with the same degree of philosophical sensitivity as, for example, as is of Bruno Le War, which I admire to no end. And he’s all about the idea you are never going to isolate the human from the nonhuman in any primitive way anymore. I don’t know. I was totally enchanted by this.

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S3: Yeah. I mean, in all that thinking you’re talking about, it just occurred to me, as you were describing it has been. And before the movie was written and filmed, if that makes sense. Like it’s just so clear that Cannata is a very thoughtful person about all of these issues and that that kind of got boiled down into the script. So we don’t have to see, you know, the boring exposition happening where the thinking happens. It’s already kind of baked into the script. For example, the fact that that that rogue technician who illegally takes the chip out of out of Yang’s body is a conspiracy theorist, you know, and and he has all these ideas about surveillance and which may be true, we’re not quite sure. But he thinks that, you know, part of the function of an android is to to conduct surveillance on the family. Right. But then he also seems to have beliefs that are sort of, you know, racist and disturbing, but that also it was not exactly explored. He’s just a character with all of those contradictions. The same thing with a character played by Sarita Chowdhry, who is a scientist who studies this kind of human android, whatever you want to call Yang, this this artificial, artificially intelligent being techno sapiens is her name for it. Who wants to put the chip in a museum and sort of turn it into a display? So is that dehumanizing or is it an important way to study this new kind of being? You know, all of those questions, I think, are left up in the air and are complex and in a really unusual way.

S2: I just want to just put in to say, even though it is kind of it in a sense, it is contrast with the rest of the movie. It’s sort of, you know, the first few minutes as the credits roll are this incredible thing that’s referenced in the clip we heard earlier, family dance, a kind of competitive synchronized choreography that’s a competition, but also exercise and also family bonding. An amazing scene which then the rest of the movie is kind of set against. But I absolutely love that.

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S3: Oh, best opening credits of 2022 so far. I just wanted to mention one supporting actress in this who is something of a muse of coconut. I get the impression because she played the main character in Columbus, his first movie, which I really want to send people to as well. Her name is Haley Lu Richardson. Actually, we’ve seen her in something else that we talked about on the Gabfest. She was in Support The Girls, that wonderful movie with Regina Hall, directed by Andrew Budowsky that we talked about a few years ago. Hayley Richardson’s in that anyway she plays a supporting but really important part as someone from Yang’s past who is discovered when Jake the Colin Farrell character, starts to investigate Yang’s memories. And she’s fantastic. She’s just an extraordinary actress who really vibes with this director in particular. So Haley Lu Richardson, watch out for her.

S1: One last very cool comment. In the same way that Julia is about and a thing you don’t often see representative really supportive of a happy marriage. This one is a very realistic portrait of good enough parents. Right. And I was grateful for that. That really rang a bell with me. It’s after Yang. It is findable on Amazon Prime via a sub Showtime subscription, but it’s also on Hulu Plus where I found it. Check it out. Well, we’d love to hear from you about it. And his first movie, let’s let’s move on. Okay. I mean, I think the only way to do justice to this segment is to start out being my inane self. Dana What’s that? Pine tree shaped air freshener doing dangling from your rearview mirror. Do you? Is it really true what I’m reading that you make your spouse bathe in pine-sol? We have to get to the bottom of this. Why do you love Chris Pine? I can’t tell him. Apart from the other Chris’s. I mean, I have to go to Wikipedia to remember that he was young, Kirk. And I’m not saying I don’t love him, but today’s Robert Redford. I mean, I could off the top of my head, I could name 20 Robert Redford iconic Robert Redford roles and in Pine Takes Wikipedia. I mean, that could be just me.

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S3: Well, that’s the argument of the piece, though, Steve. I mean, the reason that I wrote this little appreciation, an assessment of Chris Pine career is because he has two new movies coming out. All the Old Knives is one, which is, I think, streaming only, and then one called the contractor. And neither is a great movie. I think All the Old Knives is a is a more exciting vehicle for him than the contractor is. But this came up because I was emailing with my editor saying, Why am I so excited that there are two new Chris Pine movies coming out, even though his movies are almost always slightly disappointing, unworthy vehicles of who I consider to be a really fun and and and quite rangy actor and somebody who I always look forward to seeing, even in movies that aren’t necessarily exceptionally great. And so that sort of developed into the argument of the piece, which is that although he may be the Robert Redford of our time or one candidate for such, there is no room for Robert Redford in the movie landscape of today. Right. So Chris Pine has had trouble finding his place. I think most people who know him probably do remember him as Kirk, because that Star Trek series, the J.J. Abrams series, is the thing that he’s most associated with. But he pops up everywhere. He makes all kinds of interesting choices. He was also great is Kirk, by the way. And I went into that movie thinking, you know, maybe somebody else could be Spock, but no one, William Shatner, could possibly get across the character of Captain Kirk. This is me as a big fan of the original Star Trek series going in, and I immediately bought him as the young Kirk and loved him in that. But that wasn’t as I get into in the in the Pine Assessment the first time that he had struck me, I talk about the movie Bottle Shock, which Steve you would love as an ona file of ever. You say that word. I’m also the wine drinking guy.

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S1: I’m also a Rickman’s file. Isn’t Alan Rickman in that yet?

S3: Bottle Shock is this movie from 2008. It’s a little indie that it’s about is about a real life story about the moment that California wines became started to become ascendant over European wines. And Steve Alan Rickman plays this snobby wine merchant, this British wine merchant who reluctantly goes to California to explore the Napa Valley, and there meets up with, among other people, Chris Pine, who plays this sort of I don’t know how to describe what he is. He’s sort of a a hippy ne’er do well cellar rat, as he calls himself, somebody who works at a vineyard but doesn’t take his job particularly seriously.

S1: We get a barrel sample.

S6: For this French wine snob. He doesn’t think we make real wine here.

S3: Anyway, it’s a super fun, somewhat lightweight but delightful movie. And I just remember going to it. And in addition to adoring Alan Rickman’s performance in it, I actually think it is one of his great roles thinking Who is that young hippie kid with the eyebrows? He’s just such a striking actor with a particular kind of buoyant energy, and he’s both very funny and kind of moving as this, you know, this kid trying to find his way in the world of Napa Valley winemaking. Anyway, that was where he first struck me. Then suddenly he was James Kirk. And after that, my radar was always up when Chris Pine was in anything. Of course, the role that most people know him in besides Kirk is as Steve Trevor, the boyfriend of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in The Wonder Woman movies. And again, I feel like he takes what could be a very bland role and just knocks it out of the park. So I don’t know if Chris Pine could do no wrong in my view. Therefore, I made this argument that we need to refashion the movie universe so that there is room for an old, old school movie star like him.

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S2: You know, Dana, I’m pretty persuaded by you. You’re right, of course, that we can’t expect to find these two iconic roles because the movie industry just doesn’t work that way anymore. But whenever I see him, I’m always struck by like how he’s he’s really very subtle. Like, one thing that I notice in those movies that I’ve seen him in, which is, you know, maybe three or four, I’m not like by any means a or file, but I am always struck by that. He can play like he often plays like the good boyfriend who is also a very strong person, who is also, you know, has skills of his own. He’s a an autonomous person, but he’s not sexist and he loves his girlfriend. And, you know, and also, obviously, you know, he has a great body and all of that. And he you know, that that kind of role can be thankless and can be bland and can be, you know, just a pretty face. And he is both a pretty face and, you know, a hot bod. And he does give you depth of, you know, this guy can can. This is a guy you would want to know. You would want to be this guy’s best friend or maybe his girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever. But it’s astonishing to be able to kind of pretty much constantly have that kind of feeling, given the kinds of roles that men like him are getting given these days.

S1: I can’t really come up with interesting things to say about Chris Pine, I have to confess, but about Robert Redford in the Hole in the middle of our culture, at least as I understood it growing up and as it hasn’t really transposed into, you know, my mid adult life is, you know, there was just the space that Redford occupied and maybe he occupied it alone and to expect anyone to occupy it again is nonsensical. The closest would be in the nineties when people started to understand that Clooney was handsome but had hidden depths, that he was politically thoughtful, represented a kind of liberal, you know, paragon in a way. And I thought that, you know, that would be the closest. But even now, we’re coming up on 20, 25, 30 years, you know, and I don’t I can’t see a sequel to that, really. You know, just briefly on Redford, I mean. You know, for someone of my age, seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, of course he’s Sundance. Of course, he names his, you know, really kind of enduring and astonishing institute after a film institute after the character, you know, the Sting, the second buddy movie he makes with Paul Newman and then all the presidents and, you know, this dark and serious movie about the bringing down of Nixon by The Washington Post reporters. I mean, every one of these occupies a social space that’s been modified nearly out of existence, including the kind of homo social bonding of those first two iconic roles with Newman. But, you know, also just got it. I hate Dana being a hopeless nostalgia act, but there is something about the you know, that that seventies period. Redford where you sensed I wouldn’t call him an actor of range. You could argue he’s an actor of some depth. He knew how to be quiet and look thoughtful, very thoughtful. But he also he played roles that were socially significant to someone like me, that a journalist could be a hero who could take down a corrupt president in all the president’s men, you know, is just a life, a life shaping thing to see. And it’s no knock on very pretty, very talented Chris Pine that he can’t be that anymore.

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S3: You know, Steve, you responding a little bit like some slightly trolly people to me on Twitter after I posted this segment where they wanted to wade in and just say, how dare you say that? I can name five iconic roles that Redford has taken on when in fact, they’re absolutely right. You know, those kind of roles don’t exist anymore, but I don’t think it’s because there aren’t the movie stars to play them. I think it’s because I don’t because the superhero ecology has completely absorbed, you know, film culture and in general, the sort of tentpole blockbuster ecology has made it impossible for movies that, for example, have a journalist as a hero and an auteur as a director. Right, to to find their way. So I guess I was trying in some way to express the melancholy of that, you know, that when someone comes along who has that kind of big personality and who, as June you point out really aptly, is despite his good looks, not necessarily best suited for macho roles, the kind of roles that Pine rarely takes on. Like you say, he’s really drawn to these kind of extraneous characters like Steve Trevor and The Wonder Woman movies. He can also sing, which Robert Redford couldn’t do. And I talk about him in Into the Woods, which was another revelation for me. Like, I really did not like that adaptation of Sondheim’s Into the Woods. And in general, I thought that it fell pretty flat, including most of the casting. But him as Cinderella as Prince was perfect casting. And it was just it was so much fun to watch him sing that duet of Agony, which he sings with Billy Magnussen in the movie.

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S4: Did I abuse her or show her disdain? Why does she run from me? If I should lose her, how shall I regain the heart she has won from me? You know, I. Your power of speech.

S3: I guess what I was trying to look at was, in a way, what happens when you have this, you know, who could be seen as a pretty boy movie star, but you could actually do much more if there was just room and space for him to do more. Somebody else I think about in this connection, although he’s a slight, maybe half generation older, is Brad Pitt right, who is also as good in character roles, if not better than he is playing a leading man. Right. I mean, who doesn’t love the funny Brad Pitt, the dumb stoner Brad Pitt roles, which he really, really kills, for example, in the Coen brothers movie Burn after Reading. I think Chris Pine is really set to take over that niche. But even that niche, the Brad Pitt niche, seems like it’s sort of disappearing, you know, and COVID has only accelerated that as theaters get more and more dependent on giant movies. So I’m sort of excited for Pine’s directorial debut, which is coming later this year. He’s about to he started his own production company, and he’s about to direct a comedy starring himself and also starring Danny DeVito and Annette Bening. And I’m really curious to see what he does with that, because I know when Brad Pitt started to move into, he hasn’t directed but into production and started to have more control over the projects he took on, he started to get more interesting roles. And I just I just know that the moment is going to come for my pine.

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S1: I know you’ll forgive me. Just really quickly. I’m lost in the in the blonde tresses of Robert Redford for a second. Let me just give you this murderer’s run here, starting in 67, going for about 14 years. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jeremiah Johnson, the Candidate, The Sting The Way We Were The Great Gatsby. Three Days of the Condor. All the President’s Men, The Electric Horseman, The Natural and Out of Africa, in which he’s a little bit of a you know, he recedes in that movie he’s happy to be the boyfriend to the Meryl Streep character. Now that Hollywood doesn’t exist anymore, I guess we can mourn it. But but maybe there’s an upside like no more macho since had white male saviors. You can’t be a movie star in that way anymore. That’s again.

S3: I. I That seems like another whole conversation, but it seems like we still have plenty of white male saviors in the superhero zone. All right, Steve, I’m going to counter you. And this is harder to do because of the time that Pyun is working on. I’m going to encounter you with five really essential Chris Pine titles for people who want to explore his work. And I should add, also has a proviso that even watching his bad silly movies or his just okay movies is also lots of fun because of what he brings to them. But here’s a few Chris Pine titles to get started with to really see what he can do. Bottle Shock, which I mentioned earlier, the first Star Trek movie, actually, all of them are good, but I think the first one probably showcases what he does with the character of Kirk the best into the woods where you can hear him sing, which I should mention. He’s also done with Barbra Streisand on one of her albums where she collaborates with different singers and he actually sounds great, harmonizing with Barbra Streisand on some standards hell or high water, maybe the best movie that he’s made. I don’t think we talked about this movie on the show, but it’s a really great Western from 2016 with Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster and Chris Pine kind of a neo-western. That’s really wonderfully done. Wonder Woman, the first Wonder Woman movie where you can see him create that wonderful Steve Trevor character who needs to be constantly rescued by Wonder Woman. It’s something I love about that first movie is that he is the damsel in distress. He’s the one who needs help. And then finally, as we await Pullman, his directorial debut later this year, watch All the Old Knives, which I write about a little bit in this assessment. It’s sort of an old school spy thriller, the kind of movie that Robert Redford might have been in, really a movie for adults. It’s a little bit slow moving at the beginning, but then you realize that that cat and mouse kind of slow burn is the whole point of the movie. It’s not a brilliant masterpiece, but it is a good vehicle for Chris Pine. It comes from his production company, so he chose it for himself. And it’s kind of a good way maybe to frame your little personal Pine Fest.

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S1: All right. Well, the piece is called How Chris Pine Became His Generation’s Robert Redford by Dana. It’s up on Slate now. Check it out. And Pine Files and you know others. Please send us email. All right, let’s move on. All right. Now is the moment in our podcast when we endorse Dana. What are you. What do you have?

S3: Steve I’m going to endorse an audiobook this week which I just finished listening to and which kind of revolutionized the way I think about Virginia Woolf. I’ve always loved Virginia Woolf non-fiction and essays more than her fiction, and it’s something that I am always embarrassed and feel unworthy about. I mean, I can admire the beauty and formal power of her fiction and its inventiveness for its time without necessarily ever being involved in it. And I remember specifically trying to get through to the lighthouse and just over and over again, kind of losing myself in the narrative because of that way that she has of skipping from one consciousness to another and just feeling like, I don’t know who these characters are and I can’t get into this novel. That was long ago, but I hadn’t read Mrs. Dalloway since college. I think I also had an experience of it where I sort of formally admired it without loving it. Exactly. But I just listen to Mrs. Dalloway as an audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson, the great British actress maybe known best to American audiences as the lead of truly, madly, deeply speaking of Alan Rickman, as we were earlier in the show, a great love story between Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman’s characters. Anyway, she has an extraordinary voice. Nobody can can sound like different people without doing voices like Juliet Stevenson. And I just had the best experience of listening to her read Mrs. Dalloway, and I finally feel like I get it for the first time was emotionally involved with a piece of Virginia Woolf’s fiction because of what Juliet Stevenson does with it. There’s nothing like listening to a great work of literature read by an audiobook narrator who truly understands it and truly loves it. And that’s what this audiobook is. So if anybody is looking for a really great listen, actually, spring is coming up. And Mrs. Dalloway is a spring book. It takes place on a June day when Mrs. Dalloway is wandering around preparing for her party. So listen to it. Put it in your ears as you’re wandering around on a spring day. Read by Juliet Stevenson.

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S1: Yeah, my favourite Virginia Woolf. June, what do you have?

S2: I have just have to say dinner. I need to do that because I’ve had the exact same experience with Virginia Woolf fiction. It’s made me feel OIK ish, so I’m going to check out Juliet Stevenson version. I want to recommend something that I feel sure must have been recommended by you. Cor Gab festers, but it’s something that this is the first time I’ve been on this show since I read it and it just felt like it is the exact Venn diagram of this show. It’s The Free World by Louis Menand. It’s about ideas from World War Two to the Cold War. And it’s just we’ve talked a lot in the show about range and oh my God, the guy whose range, the intellectual range, the kind of mastery, which is a weird word, but feels like the only appropriate word for for what he does in this book. It’s he writes about politics and art, you know, visual art and music, lots of different kinds of music and criticism and race and the women’s movement. And just about all, you know, on wars and all the big things that happened in that incredibly tumultuous period in a way that after I had finished, I just felt like I finally understood, like all of these things and how they fit together. It’s really an incredible book. And so I think anybody who enjoys this show will enjoy it. So if anyone still hasn’t read it, please go and do so.

S1: Interesting. Relatedly, I’m going to endorse the essay by Justin E.H. Smith, who I only just became familiar with through an interview he did. He’s written a book about, I mean, speaking about the hybridization of human beings with technology. That’s a subject that fascinates him. Apparently, he’s a philosopher and he made a move into into I mean, he apparently writes for Slate editor at large for Cabinet magazine. He, like Menand, is an academic who ventures into public interest or general interest, writing with total control and a lot. I mean, he has no problem communicating to a non-expert or non specialized audience. Apparently he has. In foreign policy, you can find it online. It wasn’t paywalled an uninhibited, intelligent assessment of the French novelist and sometime essayist Michel Welbeck. You know, who’s such a complex figure, a kind of prophet, for everything bad about the neoliberal era, who also. Exists within it in ways that will strike a lot of supposedly clean consciences as very dirty or compromised. I mean, really, you know, esoteric views about paying for sex and and immigration. And, you know, I mean, he’s kind of he’s a legitimate sequel to this lineage of French writers who are very public in the mode of shaka’s and and yet also dark and controversial like Bettye or Janay or really exploring the ID spaces of contemporary his contemporary culture. And I have a deep attraction, repulsion to Welbeck as a writer and Smith it’s it’s a rollicking good read. For one thing I envied almost every sentence for the intelligence, but also implied joy with which they were quiet. It’s not showoff at all, but the kind of quiet joy with which they were written. I mean, very many Indian, in a way, June. But but it’s also just it’s just a beautifully executed, subtle appreciation and hatchet job is a little strong but takedown of Welbeck you know without a tiny tiny not even the slightest taste of sour grapes. It’s a masterful performance and really is one of the best pieces of criticism I’ve read in a long time. We’ll link to it. It’s the punk prophet philosophy of Michelle Welbeck by Justin Smith. Check it out. June. Thank you. This was this was really, really fun. And I got to hear you say the news three times.

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S2: Good luck. Thank you for having me.

S1: Huh? Yeah, of course. A delight. And Dana, as always, just the total pleasure.

S3: Yes, it was a good one.

S1: You will find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page at Slate.com, plus Culturefest. You can email us at Culturefest. At Slate.com. We will really try to respond. We love getting emails, not just if you don’t hear from us the intro music to our shows by the composer Nicholas Britell. Our production assistant is Nadira Goffe. Our producer is Cameron Drewes. For June Thomas and Dana Stevens, I’m Stephen Metcalf. Thank you so much for joining us and we will see you soon.

S3: Hello and welcome to Sludge. Plus, the segment of our show for all of you beloved subscribers to Slate’s membership program. This week, we are taking on a listener question from a listener named Ross, who is asking us to stop our Canada bashing, our relentless bashing of our northern neighbor, and talk about some of our favorite things from Canadian culture. It’s really lucky that we have June on This Week because she happens to be a Canadian culture nerd. So, June, I’m going to start with you. I know that back in the day you used to in the days before, I guess streaming was available globally to us all. You used to travel to Canada for TV, watching trips. So whether or not TV is the first thing you recommend, I want to hear about your your travels in the past to watch Canadian TV.

S2: Well, that’s the funny thing, though. You mentioned the past because recently you had to kind of make a list of of trips that I’d made to various countries and realize it had been ages since we had gone to Canada, because when we lived in Seattle, we used to go to Victoria, which yes, is in Canada, as well as being a sort of imaginary tourist location. Like multiple times a year, four times a year or something. You spend a lot of time there. And I would the first stop was always, Monroe’s an amazing, very old school and beautiful and well-stocked bookstore on the main drag. Very similar to dance books on Marylebone High Street in London. Really fantastic bookstore. And I would just stand in front of the Canadiana section and just both the non-fiction and fiction like, Oh, what a joy. And and I also yes, one of my main motivations for going there was to see certain Canadian, but also British shows that used to air only at least in my getting in Canada. So I am a massive fan of Canadian culture. I think if I was asked that question about, you know, you going to a desert island, what books do you want to take? I might choose a Canadian author, Robertson Davis, whose books I find absolutely kind of endlessly fascinating there, books that I’ve read over and over again. His fiction, I would say I find his nonfiction impossible to read. Like there’s just so much there. I just absolutely love them. I also another Canadian guy that I love, Mordecai Richler. I do adore many Canadian TV shows like Street Legal Classic, Friday Night CBC show Rookie Blue. Some of the comedies from Newfoundland, Costco this hour is 22 minutes at least until the Mersa era. That guy is a curse on that country. I will never watch anything that he is on. He immediately makes me want to turn off the set. The classic eighties movie. I’ve heard the mermaids singing or anything really? By Patricia Rozema.

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S3: Oh, yes. Wonderful, wonderful.

S2: Man. Yeah. And then the actress who played the kind of the Polly in that movie was in a very sort of low brow, but actually very charming Canadian comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie. But I have to tell you and of course, let me I just have to pause for a couple more shout outs before I get to my ultimate endorsement. There’s a lot of Canadian sci fi or kind of fantasy that ends up on the sci fi network. I am particularly fond of Lost Girl, which I won’t even try to explain what it’s about, but it’s basically kind of it’s one of the very, very, very few supernatural themed shows that I can even bear and I love it. But my favorite piece, I would say, of Canadian culture, which I think is if I was just going to recommend one TV show it like in the history of TV now saying it’s the best TV show because that’s The Wire, maybe Foyle’s War.

S1: But I know what you’re where you’re going to. You will see. Go ahead.

S2: Being Erica, is that what you thought I was going to say?

S1: No, of course not. I was going to say slings and arrows.

S2: Oh, my God. But yes. Oh, my God. Fantastic, fantastic. But no being Erica, which is again, like it was, you know, a CBC show that just aired, you know, it wasn’t any like it’s not some big prestige move. It is one of the most creative, the most sui generis, the kind of richest texts of any like just network TV show. It was absolutely amazing. I think if you have not seen this show, it is something you should watch because it is just brilliant, like the people who made it, you know, made of this stuff. But both the main actress who was Erica, the person who was behind the show, it’s not like they really did a lot of other kind of shows on a similar level, but what it was was absolutely brilliant. And I just I would just say, go watch. Being Erica, it’s Canada at its best.

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S3: I was just madly Googling, being Erica, as you were describing it, June, and it is available right now on prime video and also on Hulu. So it’s out there if people want to watch it.

S2: Absolutely. Yeah. It used to be hard to find, but it’s very. You know, and it’s something we rewatch on a regular basis. It’s just an incredible, as I say, rich text.

S3: Wonderful. Steve, what have you got? And it better not be slings and arrows because that was going to be mine.

S1: No, you still have dibs. Let me begin by saying that every time I try to compliment Canada, I end up, you know, gravely insulting both it and the United States of America. So in that vein, you know, first of all, I love Canada. I go there, I love both French Canada. You know, I love Montreal and I love Anglo Canada, Toronto. I love the mix of the two have good friends in in Toronto. I have heard from both Canadians and Americans and I think I feel it too that just crossing the border over into Canada, a lot of the American agro that we incorporate into our semi-conscious minds and habits and beings evaporates. I There is some. Extra thing we have that I don’t know, we wouldn’t be better off losing a little bit of I find it to be a vacation from some of the vibe in this country. And and the second thing I would say is I don’t have very interesting or unexpected names to list in my sort of Canada Hall of Fame, but I might have a kind of interesting thing to say about them. So let me give you the list. I mean, where would the singer songwriter movement be without the troika of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen? I’m going through a Leonard Cohen. I mean, about Mitchell and Young. There’s probably virtually nothing more to say. Maybe Cohen, too. But I’m going through another Leonard Cohen phase in my life where both early mid-period and late Leonard Cohen each moves me in a different way. What an astonishing songwriter. I mean, if anything, Leonard Cohen is underrated, which to me is crazy. I mean, underrated because because he has such a kind of flat, unexpected singing voice. I don’t think as a melodist, just purely as a songwriter, he gets the credit he deserves. It’s when someone else like Jeff Buckley covers Hallelujah Hallelujah, or when Rufus Wainwright takes Chelsea Hotel and just turns it into a torch song to kill you from the inside out. You know, you really hear what a what a memorable composer of memorable melodies Leonard Cohen was. But, you know, he’s he’s right there for me, you know, and then then, you know, obviously, you know, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, you know, at different times have been profoundly moving to me. What I find interesting about the whole list, virtually, is that. You know, there are probably people listening who are like Neil Young’s not Canadian. I mean, maybe, maybe not, but, you know, perhaps even like Leonard Cohen’s not Kennedy. I mean, there is this sense of the relationship between the two cultures, between the United States and Canada being overlapping mutually regarding and highly productive, that that establishing a relationship with the United States, even as Atwood does, for example, in Handmaid’s Tale, as a very, very sinister presence lurking on a mammoth, unguarded border with her own country. You know, I find that interesting, trying to identify what’s distinctively Canadian about Canadian culture, because that hybridization runs deep. Saul Bellow being another example. I mean, you know, I think a lot of people who’ve read a fair amount of Saul Bellow would say, What do you mean, Canadian? He’s from Chicago, right? But he’s not. He’s from Canada. And you know of my list, you know, Dana, I think the only thing that doesn’t have a heavy American DNA to it maybe is Schitt’s Creek among my five or six favorite TV shows of all time, but I may have to immediately take that back. But it seemed to me there was something really deeply. It was like a kind of soul searching, hidden, soul searching, epic about Canadian identity in some weird way in sitcom form. But maybe I’m wrong, but that would be my list. I’m curious to hear your yours.

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S3: Oh, that’s a strong list and a very varied one. I guess I would love to hear from Canadian listeners about what they think a Canadian vibe is. I mean, my theory that I was going to float about the two things I’m going to mention is that, you know, the Canadian economy and the fact that it, at least at some point, subsidized culture, unlike some countries neighboring Canada I could name, may have been what gave rise to some of these unusual artists who might not have had a chance to flourish in a more market driven atmosphere. And to that end, the first one that I will mention will be David Cronenberg, who is a great Canadian filmmaker, who at the beginning of his career, I think was, you might say, especially Canadian in his sensibility. He helped found something in the sixties called the Toronto Film Co-op and was part of a kind of experimental film scene in Toronto. And his early movies, I believe his seventies movies, were were actually subsidized by the Canadian government, which is particularly surprising given what, you know, twisted, perverse and bizarre movies. They were, you know, movies like Shivers or Rabid. You know, if you’ve seen those those really kind of low budget, like grotty kind of horror movies that he made. I mean, David Cronenberg is always grody, but when he got to Hollywood, you know, obviously there’s a little bit more polish and more more stars connected with him. But, you know, the porn star Marilyn Chambers actually starred in several of his early movies. And they have just this feeling of really having come out of the underground and and they’re wonderful. So early, David Cronenberg, not that he got any less Canadian, but he did, I think, stop making movies that were supported by the Canadian government and filmed in Canada. That’s one. The other would be slings and arrows, which we’ve already touched on, in which I think I’ve even endorsed before on the show, which is just one of the greatest TV series of all time. Wouldn’t both of you agree?

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S2: Yeah, it’s really good.

S3: So it was a series that ran in the early 2000. It took a while to get to the U.S.. I remember people talking about this great Canadian series about a Shakespeare company and feeling like, I can’t wait to see that. And I think it wasn’t until 2005 you could watch it in the U.S. Now it’s streaming all over the place. You can find it on Amazon and Apple TV and pretty much anywhere. And it’s really small. Kind of perfectly small. There’s just three seasons. They’re six episodes apiece. So there’s only eight episodes. And each season concentrates on a different Shakespeare tragedy that this company, this Shakespeare company, fictional company is putting on. And it’s just it’s perfectly balanced between comedy and drama. Right. I mean, there’s there’s tons of comedy, including, you know, poking gentle fun at self-serious actors. But there’s also some really serious drama. There’s a familiar theme with behind the scenes, you know, theatrical plots where things in the characters, real life sort of echo what’s happening on the stage. But that’s done just so well and so cleverly in this show. And it just it has a very specific sensibility. It’s also one of the early projects of a bunch of really well-known Canadian actors, Rachel McAdams being maybe the biggest among them. Sarah Polley is also in it, but it’s just one of those shows a little bit like Freaks and Geeks. That didn’t last very long, but everything it did was just so tone perfect and so right. So slings and arrows. That’s my other great Canadian love. I think that’s all I’ve got. But do either of you have any other overflowing Canadian love fests that you have to express?

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S1: Very quickly, Dana, you reminded me that I think with the stipend money from the Canadian government, you got rock bands like New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene Love, Love Them. The indie rock scene in Canada has been so incredibly fertile, often during periods of relative famine and the American indie rock scene. So just wanted to include that.

S3: All right. Well, thanks for that. Great question. Listener. Ross because I was really fun to to dig up some of these. And now I know about being Erica June’s favorite Canadian TV show, and I’m going to look for it. So thank you to Ross for sending that question. If you are a listener who has a question or a topic you would like us to address in Slate. Plus, please email us at Culturefest at Slate.com. We really love hearing from you, and we’re always looking for good ideas to talk about, in and to all of you who are subscribers to Slate Plus. Thank you so much for supporting our show. We’ll talk to you next week.