Culture Gabfest “Running Up That Flaming Hill” Edition

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Stephen Metcalf: This Ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. You.

Stephen Metcalf: I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is the sleep culture Gabfest running up that Flaming Hill edition. It’s Wednesday, June 22nd, 2002, on today’s show. Netflix Scores Or Does It with the Adam Sandler Joint Hustle about an aging basketball scout betting his career on a young Spanish unicorn? Dana knows what that means. He’s a true stretch five with a troubled past that also stars Queen Latifah and watch Herman Gomez. Plus, there are tons of NBA cameos that that kind of thing. Interest, too.

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Stephen Metcalf: And then RRR. It stands for Rise Raw Revolt. It’s a three hour Bollywood, though not exactly will get into it style epic. It’s also on Netflix. This bloody funny wild ride is a three hour anti-colonialist bonanza. It’s also the most expensive Indian movie ever made. And finally, nearly 50 years after she became the darling of the British music press, i.e., given the commercial kiss of death, Kate Bush is a top of the charts superstar. Stranger Things, indeed, will be joined by very good friend of this program, Chris Molanphy. But joining me first is Julia Turner. She’s the deputy managing editor of the L.A. Times. Julia, hey, how’s it going?

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Julia Turner: Hello. Hello.

Stephen Metcalf: And of course, Dana Stevens is the film critic for Slate. Hey, Dana.

Host 2: Hello. Hello.

Stephen Metcalf: So much to discuss. Two juicy, juicy films, I’d argue. Let’s let’s do it. Let’s make a show. Adam Sandler is Stand Sugarman. He’s an aging NBA scout for the Philadelphia 70 Sixers. He’s feuding with the current owner, a little born on third base bitch, as the Sandler character calls him, over a young nobody that he, the scout played by Sandler, has found hustling pickup basketball in the ghettos of Spain, something much bigger than WS. Mel’s rides on this kid, succeeding egos, i.e. entrenched egos, a way of doing things. And above all, sugar moons and the kids fates.

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Stephen Metcalf: Hang on his tryouts, the movie star Sandler, as I said, also Queen Latifah plays his wife and Juancho. Herman Gomez is Beau Cruz, a hothead with a heart of that question mark. That’s kind of the movie. All right. In the clip are about to hear Sandler as Sugarman is asking Bowe if he has it in him, really has it in the inner stuff to go all the way and become an NBA player. Let’s listen.

Speaker 4: If you love this game, I mean love it with your whole heart because if you don’t, let’s not even bother. Let’s not open that door. They’re just going to slam it right in our face. I love this game. I live this game. There’s a thousand other guys waiting in the wings who are obsessed with this game. Obsession is going to be talent every time you’ve got all the talent in the world.

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Speaker 4: But are you obsessed? Is it all you ever think about? Let’s face it, it’s you against you out there. When you walk on that court, you have to think I am the best guy out there. I don’t care if I’m a bronze player. So let me ask you again, do you love this game? Yes. Is there a newborn kitten purring in here right now? I couldn’t hear you. Do you want to be in the NBA? Yes. Well, let’s make that happen.

Stephen Metcalf: Uh huh. Yeah.

Julia Turner: I do. My I’ve got a request for Cameron. Every time I talk on the podcast. From now on, can that swelling music rise underneath me? Do you guys want a podcast?

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Speaker 4: Do you want to be podcasters? We say magazine.

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Stephen Metcalf: No. All right. So, Dana, do you love this game? Dana?

Host 2: Steve, I cannot even follow this game. And that makes this movie very hard to watch. For me, this has been actually an ongoing joke in my household for years because my partner watches a fair amount of basketball, not a you know, not a follower of every game. But he’s from Philly and he was he watches the Sixers. He will probably watch this movie and recognize all the players in it. I mean, a complaint I had I remember when we talked about Ted Lasso is that it was this purported movie about a soccer coach that had hardly any soccer in it. And, you know, I remember saying at the time, I mean, I’m not a big sports or sports movie person, so I’m not personally asking for more soccer. But it just would make sense if we actually saw Ted Lasso doing some coaching. Well, I should have been very satisfied in that case. Buy this movie because there’s tons and tons of basketball. There’s tons and tons of coaching.

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Host 2: That scene that we heard is actually fairly atypical in its. Yes, you know, in its the swelling corniness. I mean, this movie actually feels a little bit unusual for a sports movie. And maybe you guys can talk more about why as bigger fans of sports and sports movies than me. But there is no shortage of basketball trivia, you know, massive amount of cameos from from basketball players, which most of which I didn’t recognize until the end. But the end credits are nothing but, you know, this unfurling list of so-and-so as himself, you know, everybody. Dr. J is himself. LeBron James is not in. He’s actually one of the producers of the movie. But Steve, can you name some of the other real life basketball stars that we see?

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Stephen Metcalf: Oh, sure. You got Anthony Edwards as kind of the on court nemesis of the unicorn kid. Bo, you’ve got I want to really want to shout out Kenny Smith. It’s not a cameo who plays Kenny Smith, of course, is the X player. He was very good as a player, great as a college player, but he’s become more famous as an announcer. He sort of co-hosts with Ernie and Shaq and Charles Barkley. The sort of go to NBA halftime and pregame show casting agents would be crazy not to have this guy in other movies.

Stephen Metcalf: It is a very confident, very in in exactly the way this is calling for now a non-actor. I don’t he’s not anymore. But, you know, it’s confident of the way a non-actor is very unlikely to be. Is it just no overacting at all? But he’s also his presence on screen. It’s like, you know, I guess it’s anyway, he’s used to having a camera in his face. He has that going for it. It’s not the same as acting. He’s terrific. They’re bunch of other ones. I mean, Dr. J appears, as you say, you get Shaq himself, you get Barkley, you get, you know, all these veterans. You get current guys, some of whom I don’t really recognize. There’s a great really the best cameos, Dirk Nowitzki, who’s quite funny and but apt and it’s like well-played in terms of the plot.

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Stephen Metcalf: There’s there’s a lot Julia I got a lot to say about this movie, but why don’t you go?

Julia Turner: I loved this movie. I love sports movies. I love sports more than sports. I love the sport can be genre. I love the swelling the swelling strings. But you’re totally right that. That the swelling strings are tonally an outlier. Yeah, this is like a very subtle movie. Weirdly, like, it just doesn’t over signal itself. And it’s like it’s a movie that assumes its audience is quite smart and can keep up with the emotional beats, which are like quite quiet and subtle in a way that makes it really easy to watch and enjoy, I guess unless you’re Dana.

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Host 2: Enjoyed it. I found it pleasant enough and Adam Sandler was great.

Julia Turner: Adam Sandler’s like life and circumstances and family are very economically conveyed and they’re not horrible and they’re not amazing. You know, it’s just sort of he’s got some, like, middling troubles and they they put him in a challenging position. And the challenging position causes him to potentially overinvest in the potential of this kid he’s found in Spain. And then he takes a lot on training the kid. And there’s a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of training montages. But they’re fun, they’re good, they’re interesting, and they don’t take too long.

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Julia Turner: And there really is like only one speech like that. Like it’s really not speeches like that. You know, there’s like a couple other moments. There’s a I mean, without giving anything away, you know, the the relationship between Sugarman and Cruz, the the the scout and the kid is sketched so economically but deeply. And there’s a really amazing for this kind of movie quiet moment at the end where through a change in without giving too much away like Castro costume wardrobe makeup. Just quietly registered by the camera conveys how much the Sandler character has meant to cruise. Yeah, like it is frickin incredible in the context of this movie that that change didn’t get like a change.

Speaker 4: This thing about the way he looked, how much you mean to me, I think.

Julia Turner: It’s just like it’s really sophisticated.

Stephen Metcalf: It’s so good. Julia swish and dish and Julia Turner. It was like a sports movie watching you do just there. Dana Stevens going up for the block, you stuffing it back in my face. I love this movie. It’s not only a terrific sports movie, I call it one of the best sports movies I’ve ever seen. For exactly that reason, it knows how to underplay it. Everything. It’s it’s one of the better movies I think I’ve seen, American movies I’ve seen in years.

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Stephen Metcalf: I should have said the director’s name. He did an amazing job. Jeremiah Zager. This is very early in his career. He this guy, he knows how to get a great performance out of everybody on the screen. It’s just the cannot be a coincidence. And the other thing I want to say is that’s not a surprise when it comes to Adam Sandler when we were bumping around ideas whether we wanted to do this movie, my case for it was that Sandler, to me, hands down, is the best SNL alum in movies. Unless you can give me another name. Full stop. I mean, he is gone. He has. He’s gone, in my estimation. He was always something of an annoying frat boy. Sorry for the frat boys in the audience. And he has grown up to be like the wise rabbi of American movies. He’s just he’s just he he just is a tremendous dramatic actor, in my estimation. I don’t think there’s another white dude playing middle age better than him.

Stephen Metcalf: I think the movie’s terrific on the page. Everything is underplayed, everything is fleshed out fully. To get that right is seriously good writing and filmmaking. And I thought that exactly. It’s like it’s like Julia. How did they hit every fricking beat that you expect in a movie like this and yet deliver something you felt like you’d never really seen?

Stephen Metcalf: And it’s just Herman Gomes, who’s a real NBA player who who plays this kid. He’s terrific. He doesn’t have a ton of lines. They don’t overdo it. There’s no speechifying. He seems you feel like you were watching. I mean, in the best sense, this is a total complement, almost sum of the parts with him in it are almost like a documentary. Right? It’s like, what would it be like if this fish out of water kid who’s hustling basketball in like construction workers boots because he can’t afford anything else on some court in the middle of Spain. Like what would it be like if he has to make the transition to the NBA in rapid fashion and it’s just. Queen Latifah’s amazing is the wife. I believe that family was a family. I loved the daughter. It’s all real. Last third of the movie is very traditional and much more predictable. It had to be that way, but it delivers a love. This film. I was very impressed by it.

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Host 2: Steve, I’m really with you. On Adam Sandler being great in this movie. I do feel like something I’ve noticed in the coverage and this is nothing to do with the movie really. This is just me kind of pushing back a bit on the coverage of the movie and of Adam Sandler in general. I feel like every time Adam Sandler does a dramatic role, there’s this wave of critical responses of people saying Adam Sandler can actually act. Who knew? And I feel like that has been happening for literally 20 years since Punch-Drunk Love in 2002 to like we get it Adam Sandler can act in fact he’s in more movies like this now or like uncut gems right. Than he is in broad comedies, although he still does some of those, too. I mean, you could argue that Adam Sandler always plays himself, but that’s a whole different conversation about acting. The fact is that the character he plays really does spring from his own kind of machines, and most of the movies he’s in are hangout movies where you’re essentially just enjoying the company of this, you know, particular antic personality. But there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s really fun to watch in this movie, and it’s the hang out movie, part of this movie that I enjoyed. So as far as that goes, he’s great.

Host 2: All the basketball players who are apparently coached by some amazing acting coach that they were all in love with have, you know, have kind of discovered a way to also project their personhood in their sports and and off the court personality on screen. And so that all makes it really watchable, even if, like me, you’re not a huge basketball person. But I have to say that I, I do disagree that it doesn’t hit too many familiar beats. I mean, the swelling music scene may have been somewhat of an exception, but I really did feel like a bit like with King Richard, the tennis movie recently with Will Smith, I kind of felt like, okay, let’s get to the big, you know, last game because we all know where this.

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Julia Turner: Is going, you.

Stephen Metcalf: Know? But let me let me just say, I said that it hits every beat. The shock is how it hits them. Julia with such subtlety and shrewdness that it feels new.

Julia Turner: Yeah, it just feels really lived in. And I want to see what this director does next, like the combination of underplaying, not over telegraphing, and then eliciting this set of performances from this array of characters. I mean, it’s not just like a bunch of good performances from a bunch of NBA people that I may or may not have heard ever been aware of. It’s I think this is like one of Queen Latifah’s best performances in a while to in addition to Sandler, like, I don’t know, sign me up, whatever this guy does next. I mean.

Stephen Metcalf: It’s just one of the most pleasant surprises in American movies. Okay, it’s hustle. It’s on Netflix. We had interesting, divergent opinions. We’d love to hear yours. Shoot us an email. Okay, moving on. Right now is the moment in our podcast we discuss business. What then? What do we have today?

Host 2: Steve We have three pieces of business this week. First of all, Slate is hosting a live event. Live Slate events are starting to come back after the pandemic. Now, we’ve had one from the Political Gabfest. Now we have one coming from the judicial side of the magazine. It’s going to be Archer and pretty soon and I can’t wait to get back to live shows the focus of this event, which is Thursday, June 23rd at the Bell House in Brooklyn, not far from me. Is everything that’s happening on the Supreme Court right now, which is, of course, a great deal. So at this show, you’ll hear from some great Slate writers and podcasters, including Emily Bazelon, Mark Joseph Stern, Christina Carucci and more. In addition, there will be a special live recording of the Slow Burn podcast at the same event hosted by Susan MATTHEWS. Once again, this is all happening tomorrow, June 23rd, at the Bell House in Brooklyn. For tickets, you can go to Slate.com slash supreme. Our second item of business is just to remind our listeners about summer strike.

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Host 2: We’ve been talking about this a few weeks now. This is our annual tradition where we ask listeners to send us their favorite upbeat summer songs, preferably something you can strut down the street to. We compile them into a Spotify playlist, listen to it. Over the course of a few weeks and late in the summer, we will choose our favorites and talk about them in a special, all strapped episode with our beloved Chris M.A., who also joins us this week to talk about Kate Bush. So please email us at Culturefest. At Slate.com. Put the word summer straight into your subject line. So we know to put your song in the playlist and remember to include the name of the song and the artist in the body of the email, we’re really excited to check these out. We’re starting to compile them now, so please, it’s not too late. Send in your summer start suggestions.

Host 2: And our last piece of business is just to tell listeners about this week’s Slate Plus segment, inspired by our discussion of the basketball movie Hustle with Adam Sandler. We will talk about SNL players and who has translated well from that sketch show onto the movie screen. In other words, who is your favorite former SNL comedian who is now a movie star? If you are Slate Plus member, you’ll hear that later on in the show. And if you’re not, as always, you can sign up at Slate.com slash culture plus.

Host 2: All right. That was a lot of business, Steve on with the show.

Stephen Metcalf: RRR stands for Rise Raw Revolt. It’s an Indian movie in the Bollywood tradition. It’s not Bollywood. It’s actually tollywood. We’ll explain what that means later. But it is the most expensive film in Indian filmmaking history, and it’s broken box office records, not only in India, but across the world. And it was in June, the most watched foreign film on Netflix. And it’s it’s whatever else is true about it is kind of incredible.

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Stephen Metcalf: For all its plot twists and wild extravaganza set pieces, it’s a pretty simple story. It’s takes place in pre-independence India. Suffering under the British Raj, one Indian boy has grown up into a staunch defender of the crown, another into an anti-colonialist avenger. Each has befriended the other without knowing the other’s true identity. Within and around this there are fight scenes, dance numbers, there’s songs, each of which I think is remarkable in its own right, as well as plot detours, flashbacks, it adds up to a cinematic feat of total derring do. It’s it’s really a remarkable document. Why don’t we listen to a clip now?

Stephen Metcalf: Now, a lot of this movie, they’re complex. There’s talk about complex backstories. The movie was originally in Telugu language, spoken, as I understand it, more in the south of India. It’s been dubbed in Hindi. There are scenes all in English. These overwhelmingly feature the white colonialists. That’s the only reason we’re going with this clip is because the majority of our listeners will understand it. In the clip we hear of a Village Avenger who is apparently coming to the city to retrieve a stolen girl from the village. The British officers discuss this among themselves.

Speaker 4: We have a hunter targeting the governor roaming free. We shouldn’t really be bothered by these imbecile tribals. However, our good friend, the Nizam, who knows the promise of these tribals, seems to think so. And since this is a matter regarding the governor, we should act on it with a good deal of bother. All right, sir. We will apprehend this bugger, though I would rather roast this swine on a bed of cows. Well, first, let us have the file, sir. Yeah, well, yes, that is the catch of sir. We have nothing on him. You mean nothing? Identifying features, criminal history. It’s quite an impossible task. How the hell are we supposed to catch him?

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Stephen Metcalf: Okay. I meant to add the film stars Ramiro and Raam. Chiron. And it’s directed by S.S. Rajamouli.

Stephen Metcalf: Danny, you’re the film critic. This is it is quite the cinematic banquet. How did you end up taking it all in?

Host 2: Well, I mean, first of all, I just wanted to make a note of, you know, as a film critic, my first impression of this movie are my my first sense of what it was before we had ever decided to talk about it on the show, before it dropped on Netflix, which is that it had I think it had a really brief run in New York City earlier this spring. And that night it was screened for critics. Was just one of these rare moments. Actually, an analogy I can think of is when Parasite first started showing at festivals, whatever festival it first showed at, you know, where it was this huge sensation. And suddenly everyone in my Twitter, my film Twitter world was screaming the word parasite. And it was that kind of sensation where with RRR and parasite, both where there was almost a wordless cry of pleasure and shock at this movie. It was, you know, the tweets were things like, you know, just 280 characters of ours in capital are some sort of sensation that was ineffable.

Host 2: And so I was immediately obviously excited and intrigued to see what this movie was. And it seems like it’s landed on Netflix internationally with a similar kind of frisson, you know, just that it’s somewhat rare that a movie from the Indian market breaks out in this way. And especially, Steve, as you were saying, one that is not even from the Bollywood, you know, sort of mainstream industry product of Indian cinema, but this sort of alternative, more regional cinema from from southern India.

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Host 2: All of that said, when I sat down to watch the movie, I was still not prepared for what an eye popping spectacle it actually is. And my notes actually read a little bit like those tweets full of capital art, you know, in that I had all of these things to bring in and say, but it really is sort of has to be experienced as a series of sensations is just such a kinetic and like vigorously choreographed movie that you really can’t stop paying attention for a second, even though, as you say, Steve, the story is very, very simple. You know, there’s just a lot of characters, there’s a lot of action and there’s constantly something utterly insane going on. And we can get into what some of those things are. But, you know, there’s attacks with jungle animals. You know, there’s flaming chariots. There’s people being sort of trans substantiated into Hindu gods. There’s really a lot to take in.

Host 2: And it took me a while to start having any sensation besides that, you know, feeling of being pleasurably flattened by the sensations that the movie occasioned to start feeling a little uncomfortable about something in it. I try to read as little as possible going in about it. I had not read any of the articles that will get into the talk about the movies, nationalism and, you know, the way that it poses various ethnic communities and religious communities in India against each other. I hadn’t I hadn’t gone with any prep about that on purpose. I just wanted to learn it all later.

Host 2: But I just started to think, especially around the time that this flag, which we’ll talk about more, there’s this image of a flag which becomes really important and it’s actually kind of a prop in one of the battle scenes. And I just started to think there’s something a little flashy about this movie. There’s something about it’s it’s patriotism and nationalism and the way violence is tied into that, because this is an extremely violent movie, very stylized violence, to be sure, almost like a martial arts movie, right? Where there’s very loud chopping and punching sounds and a lot of blunt force trauma. You really, really have to prepare for lots of big, hard objects, you know, hitting human bodies.

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Host 2: But the way that that violence is used in service of nationalism, I ultimately found kind of disturbing. It’s an almost three hour long movie. And so by the end of it, you’ve really experienced a lot of sensation. And I ended up feeling, I think, that it left a bit of a bad taste because of politics that I don’t fully understand. But that seemed to me to be, you know, somewhat objectionable. So that’s that’s a big reply. So I guess I would say if you’re interested in international cinema and in just having a wild time at the movies, you should see RRR. But you should go in knowing that you should be watching with some sort of ideological grain of salt, or at least be ready to read about it afterward.

Stephen Metcalf: Also, I think we should say that the filmmakers added a sort of disclaimer placard at the beginning of the entire film saying, You know, this movie doesn’t represent any specific real people or demographics or tribes. I think it’s fair to point out, though, that, you know, that’s probably there for a reason. And the reason is many people were inevitably going to interpret it that way as they have Julia. It’s again, it’s just it’s just an epic bonanza. It’s unclear where to even start. So I’ll just throw you an open ended question. Did you did you like this movie?

Julia Turner: I did like this movie. And I also really liked you know, it’s one of the the glorious things about Netflix at this particular moment and what it can do for you, which is bring you the, you know, most expensive Indian movie. Made that is becoming a global sensation, just like into your living room on a Sunday night for you to check out, which is marvelous.

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Julia Turner: And then also, you know, confronts you with all the things you if you don’t know about the history of Indian cinema and the different regional aspects of Indian cinema there. There’s a ton of references and contexts in the film that I was aware of not getting as I watched it. What you do get isn’t and then it’s really fucking cool when two guys who’ve never met each other exchange a couple of mild hand signals which apparently conveyed to them like, Let’s do this insane gambit where one of us rides a horse and the other a motorcycle off a bridge in order to save a boy and a little basket in the middle of a burning river that is subsumed by flames from that train crash. And, you know, like what was amazing and crazy and wild and and fun.

Julia Turner: And, you know, one of the one of the films it reminded me of in watching it was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In a certain way. It’s a very different stylistically that there’s a kind of. There’s less bombast in that film, which I haven’t seen in years, if I remember correctly, but just the sense that like these characters are human, but they’re also superhuman. But but they’re human. Like, they’re not. They’re not magic, but they can just sort of, like, float to rooftops and and, you know, pick up motorcycles and wield them like, cudgels. You know, so it’s marvelous to behold.

Julia Turner: And then at the same time, it made me want to like dive into more reading about the film, watching more Indian movies, to understand the reference. I mean, it sort of opened up a box of questions that I wanted to research and think more about, which I love. When a movie does that, you know, it is fundamentally dramatized parable about revolution, which made me feel like, okay, so is this an Indian? HAMILTON But with like less talking and more Marvel Cinematic Universe vibes. And, you know, in the and then if it is, what do I need to understand about, you know, Indian history to understand the point, you know, to have the opinions about the point this film is making. But I’m dying to know what you made of it, Steve.

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Stephen Metcalf: I love this movie. I hear Dana’s reservations and probably share them. But but first, I want to talk about what I loved about it. It’s two. It was to me, two things. It’s the anti Marvel Action blockbuster of my absolute dreams. It’s just a triumph of scale and epic storytelling. It’s also the anti Gandhi of maybe my dreams. It’s the story of Indian independence in the spirit more of Franz Fanon’s wretched of the earth than, you know, Gandhi’s principles of nonviolent resistance. It’s very much a violent anti-colonial document. We get to that in a sec.

Stephen Metcalf: But I just wanted to say how much I appreciated its ability to deliver its beats, made it to me an extraordinary movie that all of the hubbub of it and gigantism of it would be for naught if it, at its core didn’t know how to tell its story and tell it really beautifully. I mean, I thought that that made me love it as a piece of cinema almost without reservation.

Stephen Metcalf: I also wanted to say anti marvel in this simple sense is that in a way, Marvel has made a noble effort to reach out to really accomplished independent directors, auteurs, or whatever you want to call them to make big budget action movies. And they often end up with people don’t know how to direct an action scene, which is just the fundamental kernel of the Marvel franchise, you would think. But here the choreography is absolutely perfect, and it made me think about how hard that is that that is an art form up there with any kind of poetry or painting. And it’s, it’s a need for a certain kind of craft and precision. I just thought that that was extraordinary. I think the performances are amazing.

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Stephen Metcalf: The one thing I would say is where my political issues with the movie begin was someplace unexpected, because I’m perfectly willing to go all the way with the theory that the British were, you know, a brutalist and occupiers who had to be ejected by absolutely any means necessary. They’re a little bit. They’re not a little bit they’re substantially flattened in the white devils. And I think that that works at a visceral level that’s closer to a Rambo movie than it is to what I thought the best parts of this movie represented.

Stephen Metcalf: And that made me sufficiently uncomfortable to take seriously the argument of people who really know the backstory, the politics. I can’t pretend to know what those are. But Dana, I think there’s no getting around it. There’s a fash is such a strong way of putting it. But I dunno, I one of the things that most makes me most uncomfortable as a moviegoers having my bloodlust successfully activated. So there is a desire for revenge against the oppressor in this movie that is both noble and a little bit disturbing.

Host 2: To me, the more disturbing political thread that ran through it.

Host 2: And on this, I think you should go to Slate if you’re interested in this part of the conversation and read Natasha Power’s piece on this on this film, where he gets more into, you know, not only its antecedents in Indian cinema, but sort of how it relates to Indian politics in their current formation. Is that this movie about, you know, Indian nationalism and about this moment of, you know, waving the flag and starting to emerge as a post-colonial power is being made in a very right wing India right now.

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Host 2: Right. The prime minister of India, Narendra modi, is he’s in that zone of the Trump’s and the Bolsonaro’s. And, you know, that’s kind of in some ways stoking ethnic tensions in his country in order to consolidate power. And I don’t know a ton about Indian politics, but I know enough to know that to be a flag waving nationalist about essentially a Hindu superhero who is named Ram like the God Rama and is is explicitly compared to him in many scenes, has a very specific, freighted feeling in India right now at a moment of strong anti-Muslim sentiment. There’s no Muslim character in this movie who’s an actual Muslim. There’s someone who disguises himself as one for a while. But there’s not any sense at the end of this movie in which we see this big gallery under the closing credits of, you know, Indian nationalist heroes of various regions, there’s not really any sense that Muslims or non Hindus or, you know, diversity in general is part of this great fabric of India.

Host 2: And and so as much as I love many, many moments in this movie, The High Point for me being the bromance montage, when you watch the movie, you will know exactly what I’m talking about, where you see these two men, you know, bonding and literally playing piggyback and, you know, running through fields together. As much as I loved so much of the character stuff and the songs and, you know, the precision with which the action was directed, I started to feel in the end like I was being stirred and roused to something I didn’t want to be roused to.

Julia Turner: To me, it was actually the violence of the film and almost the blood lust of the film that made me the most uncomfortable. That there’s this sense of, you know, there’s there’s some just I mean, endless sequences of grotesque Gore and Gore that the camera really lingers on almost in like I mean, I never watch the saw movies because they sounded too gross. But, you know, we see someone get flogged and with a succession of ever more brutal whips and, you know, watching tools of torture drag across someone’s skin. I mean, it’s really. Mm. Grisly.

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Host 2: It’s very Mel Gibson esque. You know, I thought of The Passion of the Christ. You know, there’s a similar kind of delectation of the torture scenes and and not necessarily because you hate the character being tortured. You know, there’s some sort of martyr like scenes as in Passion of the Christ, where you are meant to sympathize and kind of identify with the torture victim.

Stephen Metcalf: Hmm. Okay. Well, I thought it was just a rapturous piece of cinema, but I was glad to read interesting shadings of that afterwards. It’s RRR. It’s on Netflix. Check it out. We’d love to get mail on this.

Stephen Metcalf: Let’s move on. What’s that you say? The original outer space post Rock and Roll. Which Vixen auteur has a decades old song on the charts? Holy number one’s with the bullet, Batman through the beam into the Gotham Sky. This is the case for Chris Molanphy. Okay, I’ll be less dorky in the introduction going forward. Chris Molanphy, of course, is the host of the Hit Parade podcast and a beloved Slate columnist in front of this program. Chris, welcome back.

Speaker 5: Thank you, Steve. How are you?

Stephen Metcalf: I’m apparently a little too good, but I’m having fun. I love everything about this story and even more than the fact that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is once again being exposed for the asinine concept it is Kate Bush. I just love that we have an excuse to talk about Kate Bush. I beloved Lea endorsed her on this show. I really she is I respect a nobody more in the rock and roll can and then Kate Bush she deserves to be in the hall and isn’t. But thankfully this is really about her getting her due in another way. That’s commercially what’s going on here. It involves several separate questions, sub questions. But let’s why don’t we just begin with Bush herself and of course, stranger things.

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Speaker 5: Yeah. So thanks to Stranger Things on Netflix, which prominently features the song running up that hill in its fourth season, not just as kind of an ambiance but really as a character, it’s my wife gets very angry when I reveal spoilers of TV shows, but I’m going to risk her wrath again by pointing out that basically the character Max, played by Sadie Sink on the show can be broken out of the upside down when she hears her favorite song, which is Kate Bush is running up that hill.

Speaker 6: And make it to God. Dance a small.

Speaker 4: Delicious food no matter what do you do? You run up.

Speaker 5: You know, this song recurs in multiple episodes. And Stranger Things now, Stranger Things has been on the air for four seasons over the course of the last, I don’t know, six, seven years. And it’s made ample use of eighties specific period music before. Previous seasons have included the clashes. Should I stay or should I go? LA Malls, you know, synth pop chestnut. The never ending story played a significant part in their third season, but no song has hit with the gale force. And not just in America, but around the world. Lest we forget that Netflix is available around the world. Running up that hill has basically re debuted on charts around the world. Roughly a dozen countries have seen running up that hill reenter their charts. And, you know, in a situation like this, you have to ask how much of this is sort of the power of the tube and how much of this is the power of the song? And the answer to both questions is yes. It’s it’s both.

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Speaker 5: Yeah. Because there’s really something exceptional about what running up that hill is doing right now. And in terms of the charts, among its feats now in its third week of this unprecedented chart comeback, it is now number one in the UK, her native homeland. She has had number one hits in England before, but this is her first in decades. And when it charted the first time in the UK, it only got as high as number three. It’s now a number one hit. And in America last week it got as high as number four. It slips a little bit this week to number five. I was a little disappointed it didn’t go any higher in America this week.

Speaker 5: But, you know, the competition is tough. It’s song of summer season. And but the mere fact that Kate had it now has three weeks in the US top ten she re debuted at number eight which was already 22 positions higher than the song ever went back in 1985. It only ever got as high as number 30 in 1985. So she ready bude on the hot 100 at number eight, climbed to number four and is still hanging tough in the top five at number five, which is just mind blowing.

Stephen Metcalf: So for those of our listeners who are not super familiar with Bush, describe a little bit about the circumstances under which she broke with what her sound is like. Of course, we’ve heard it in the segment already, but what her sound is like and just how she’s still tomorrow’s news, right? Isn’t that part of the story as much as strangers things? It’s just this isn’t a nostalgia trip, right? I mean, this movie was I mean, this 3 to 1, this music was a harbinger of so much. I mean, Bjork being just one screamingly obvious one, but many other trends in music, it was a harbinger of all of that. It doesn’t sound dated to me. At least at all.

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Speaker 5: Yeah. No. And when you pointed out in your intro that there are a few, you know, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame level artists you respect more. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have voted for Kate as a Rock Hall voter three times. All three times she’s been on the ballot. And the reason I’ve done that is because her influence is vast and unmistakable. I mean, there are whole wings of, you know, Lilith era nineties, you know, singer songwriter pop that owes a debt to Kate Bush. You know, she turned a track of hers. This woman’s work became a hit for the R&B singer Maxwell. I mean, you know, Big Boi of Outkast is an enormous fan and has pointed to her influence and Outkast’s work. So the list goes on and on.

Speaker 5: But to go back to square one. Kate Bush broke in England in the late seventies as a teenager. Really? If you can make an analogy here, you can think of her as the Lord, slash Billie Eilish, slash Olivia Rodrigo of her day, precocious, really smart, really capable at a young age. She’s even a bit of a Taylor Swift figure insofar as she was writing her own songs in her early teenage years, and she was discovered by none other than Pink Floyd member David Gilmore, who executive produced her debut album, her 1978 debut, The Kick Inside and plays guitar on the album, including on its lead single Wuthering Heights.

Speaker 5: And by the way, that is the last time Kate Bush was number one in her homeland way back in 1978 as a teen pop star with the totally, wonderfully off the wall, dizzying, plush and ornate Wuthering Heights. And we might want to listen to a little bit of that right now, because it’s sort of an amazing record that has been covered and has inspired flash mobs to dance like Kate Bush in the decades since.

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Host 2: Chris, an incredible fact. I read about that song Wuthering Heights. In your consideration of running up that Hills resurgence is that it was the first song written by a female performer for herself. In other words, the first self-written song by a woman to ever hit number one in the UK. Is that correct? In 1978.

Speaker 5: In 1978? That is correct, yes. And of course, it should be pointed out and this is the difference between England and America, that was not a hit here. It bubbled under the hot 100, I believe it peaked at something like number 108. It didn’t even officially make the hot 100. It was covered in 1979 by singer Pat Benatar, whose version was not a hit but you know, is probably the version that was heard by more Americans in 1979 than Kate Bush’s own version was. She continued to have hits in the UK, including a string of number one albums like The Dreaming and, you know, Hounds of Love, which gave us Running Up that Hill and, you know, great songs like Babushka and Army Dreamers.

Speaker 5: But frankly, the line I’ve often heard and I heard it again this year when she was on the Rock Hall ballot and friends were warning me, I don’t know if you want to throw away your vote on Kate. Bush was she’s just, quote, too British for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And I don’t know if she’s too British, which is ridiculous. But at the same time, I see their point. It’s probably why she hasn’t been inducted yet, and it’s why to get back to the charts. She hasn’t had a serious hit here prior to what’s happening this year. Only running up that hill had ever cracked the American Top 40. It peaked at number 30. And, you know, so the minute Kate Bush re debuted in the top ten at number eight, she immediately had her only American top ten hit and her biggest hit by, you know, a long shot. And so here we are.

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Julia Turner: Can you talk a little bit about her sound? I mean, just the singular ness of her career and the history making this up. It has been so interesting to learn more about with this resurgence of her music right now. But part of what’s so striking is that if you told me, you know, that she was a completely new singer who emerged today and produced Running Up That Hill, you’d be like, Yeah, cool. Can we hear her next stuff? Like, can you talk a little bit about her sonically? And yeah, it’s interesting about it.

Speaker 5: I mean, even for the sort of New Wave era of the late seventies and early eighties, Kate Bush’s music was especially lush and ornate and, you know, quirky as is. And I mean that in the best sense. You know, Wuthering Heights, for starters, is a song about the Bronte novel where she’s kind of living the plot of the book and imagining herself as a character, in effect, in the Bronte novel. Or, you know, her top five UK hit, Babushka is, you know, a song about tricking her husband into, you know, lusting after her by wearing, you know, a different outfit. And it’s got this kind of, you know, bouncy bopping, but, you know, not quite Americanized pop sound.

Speaker 4: Scott Borchetta.

Speaker 5: Mostly all of her music sort of had this Anglophone, you know, quirk to it that just didn’t register in America. At least it didn’t. You know, 30 to 40 years ago.

Speaker 5: Now, a point I made in my article is that a song like Running Up that Hill? Absolutely. Sounds of a piece with Billie Eilish and the Weekend and, you know, glass animals that number one hit Glass Animals had earlier this year heat waves. Time to go.

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Julia Turner: Back to school. I.

Speaker 4: If I can be, I. I’ll make you happy all night.

Speaker 5: All these records live in a world Kate Bush helped create. You know, she used synthesizers and, you know, self-produced a lot of her material. She was an expert on the Fairlight synthesizer when that was still a new instrument. And now these kinds of lush synth sounds are, you know, the lingua franca of current pop.

Speaker 5: So what sounded sort of left field and strange in 1980, 82, 85 now sounds absolutely normal by current pop standards, which I think is why to go back to the question of why this song coming out of this TV show, yes, TV makes songs, hits, but none not even Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin, you know, nothing. That’s you know, when it was on The Sopranos 12 years ago, nothing is this big, because I don’t think any. 30, 40, 50 year old song sounds as current as running up that hill sounds. You could drop it into a playlist of very current pop music, and it would sound to your point. Julia absolutely. Like it just fits right in. Like it’s right in the pocket.

Host 2: Yeah.

Host 2: Chris In terms of how modern and contemporary she sounds right now, I think I’ve said this on the show before. I remember endorsing Billie Eilish before she was a thing when she was just a, you know, YouTube sort of teen sensation and describing walking by my daughter’s room, listening to her, listening to Billie Eilish and thinking, how did she discover Kate Bush on her own? I was aware that she must have somehow, you know, algorithmically stumbled upon my old teen fave. I was obsessed with Kate Bush in high school as a teenager. But as it turns out, there are just, you know, young women making music, not necessarily directly inspired by, but with some of that same sonic texture right now.

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Speaker 5: Yeah. And I mean, I love that you were a fan back in the day. I was, too. But back in the eighties, Kate Bush fandom in America was sort of like a secret handshake for Anglophiles. You know, the same way of being a fan of, I don’t know, Monty Python, but even deeper than Monty Python being a fan of Fawlty Towers or something, or Blackadder. That’s what Kate Bush fandom was like being an American in the eighties. And again, now, it just doesn’t sound strange. It doesn’t sound out of place. She was the alternative to the alternative back then.

Speaker 5: But, you know, now it’s kind of like Pop has caught up with Kate Bush, which is a wonderful thing to behold. And here you have this pure evidence on the charts. You know, basically, you know, between streaming and digital sales and even, by the way, radio airplay. There is a chance that if you turn on a current top 40 station one that plays current music, they’re spinning this 37 year old hit by Kate Bush in current rotation, which is remarkable there. They’re actually, you know, promoting it on current radio stations and it sounds like it fits in there. So, you know, go figure. It does have something to do with the song itself.

Stephen Metcalf: I know it is the sound of one hand clapping the thunder of the future. I don’t know. Anyway, it’s something. It’s great. It’s great is what it is. There’s so many. Even from Hounds of Love Alone, there are so many other great Kate Bush songs. Cloud busting Chris Molanphy is always just bits is more than a pleasure to have you on. It’s just a dizzying array of enlightening stuff synthesized beautifully, really sincerely. It was a great segment. Thank you.

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Speaker 5: Thank you. And I look forward to seeing you all for Summer Straight when we’ll probably wind up talking about Kate Bush again.

Stephen Metcalf: Brilliant.

Stephen Metcalf: All right. Well, now is the moment on our podcast when we endorse, then what are you what do you have this week?

Host 2: Steve My endorsement is in part an atonement for a prior endorsement in which I made an error. It was an error of genuine and knowledge of poetry. Which brings me great shame. As a former literature student, a listener wrote in to tell me that. Do you remember when I read the Melville poem as my endorsement? It was probably a couple of months ago. That beautiful, beautiful Melville poem was called Art, and I read it aloud as my endorsement. I continue to love and endorse that poem, but it is not. As I said, it was at the time, a sonnet. I was tricked into thinking it was a sonnet because it’s in iambic pentameter and the last two lines rhyme, and I think it was about 12 lines or something, but it wasn’t 14. It didn’t have the correct structure to be a sonnet and a sharp listener whose name I don’t have in front of in front of me right now wrote in to say, Hey, love that poem, but it’s not a sonnet. He’s absolutely right. And as atonement, I’m going to endorse a crown of sonnets. Do you know Steve? Fellow poet, poetry lover, what a crown of sonnets is.

Stephen Metcalf: I do not know what that is. Tenor and lightning.

Host 2: I only learned it from reading this particular crown. A crown of sonnets is a series of sonnets. I think it is 15, or at least in this case it’s 15. I think it’s usually 15 in which the first line of of each sonnet is a reworking of the last line of the sonnet before it in the series. So you can imagine what a technical achievement it is to pull one of these off. And it just so happens that I came across sometime during the last year a crown of sonnets on the site, literary matters by a poet named Alexis Sears, who I’d never heard of. And it’s really, really incredible this the series is called For My Father A Sonnet Read to Play, and it’s 15 sonnets addressed to her late father, all of which have that pattern of picking up the last line of each and starting a new sonnet with with based on that line. And yet they are so vernacular and speech like in their rhythms and patterns. I don’t have time to read one aloud because we’re going long this show. But you will see if you go and read one of these aloud.

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Host 2: Did it sounds exactly like a contemporary person speaking to you and you don’t realize until the end, oh wait, they were speaking in iambic pentameter rhymed according to this structure, you know, and each one picking up the line before it. And it’s one of those amazing, amazing things poetry can do where it’s sort of like the most worked that language can be, but also sounding, you know, completely spontaneous and every day. So I really, really encourage anyone who is interested in poetry and language to go and read for my father. The Poems by Alexis Years in Literary Matters. We’ll put a link on our show page.

Julia Turner: Oh, that sounds amazing. It sort of sounds like turning sonnets into villanelle’s. I think a villanelle villanelle’s the final year where you’re repeating lines and making them do different things. I love it.

Stephen Metcalf: Brilliant.

Stephen Metcalf: All right, Julia, what do you have?

Julia Turner: Okay, I have a cheap hack. Two kitchen luxury. If you if you want to imagine yourselves into a Nancy Meyers kitchen, here is what you should do. It is as if you like baking at all and you’re a precise cook rather than a throw it in cook. But if you are the kind of cook who ever uses measuring spoons to bake with by yourself, like four sets of measuring spoons go nuts, you know, they’re like 799 a pop, right? So shell out, you’re 32, you’re 40 bucks. Get yourself, you know, four or five complete sets of measuring spoons, maybe get a couple of different sizes. Some of those little skinny ones that you can put down into like a caper jar, some of the big round ones that work for when you’re measuring oils and then get one of those little tins from the container store those little bins, and put them in one of your doors and just fill it with measuring spoons. And then every time you bake, just take the little tin out and put it on the counter.

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Julia Turner: And then you know how sometimes you’re like, Oh, I got to measure the baking powder with a half teaspoon. But then I also have to like put I have teaspoon of yogurt in this and then it gets sticky and then you can use the half teaspoon in the turmeric. I don’t know what I’m baking in this imaginary example, but like it’s it is a mild a very mild annoyance. You have to stop and wash your one half teaspoon measure in the middle two after you put it in the sticky stuff to put it back in the powdery stuff where after you put it in the flavorful powdery stuff to put it in the leavening powdery stuff, and if you just shell out your 28 bucks, you just never have to do that again.

Julia Turner: It’s so glorious. I like I can’t tell you how fun it is to bake with an overabundance of measuring spoons. It’s like the greatest investment in kitchen happiness I’ve made strong. If, like, if you’re the sort of person who is hearing me saying this and thinking like, What a lunatic, don’t do it. But if you’re the sort of person whose heart has leapt with excitement at the thought of never, ever having to wash off the yogurt spoon before you put it in the turmeric, like do it immediately, click it up. It’s so great. So great.

Stephen Metcalf: Oh, that’s fabulous. Can I. Would you ever go so lunatic as to file them in separate tins according to size and then display them on a pantry shelf? Will.

Julia Turner: Are you saying you’ve done that?

Stephen Metcalf: No, but I mean, I’m like life hacking your life hack. I’m you know, I’m bumping it to the next power here.

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Julia Turner: That feels like a little to the home at it to me. Like, it’s not that hard to, like, rustle around in a little bin.

Stephen Metcalf: Oh, okay. All right. I’m the crazy one. All right, fine.

Stephen Metcalf: All right. So I’m just going to pull out of the segment with a couple of quick music endorsements. One is that I didn’t know that Elvis Costello one is fairly much younger. Days had actually sung with his one of his heroes, Chet Baker. And if you really know Elvis Costello, you know that a lot of his music was made with after his kind of punk phase and maybe even kind of during it, arguably made a lot of his music with Sinatra and Chet Baker, you know, very much in the forefront of his mind. I mean, he really wrote a lot of torch music. He to my mind, Elvis Costello’s one of the most underrated singers in popular music history. I don’t know that people really think of him as a wonderful singer. He is incredible. Fraser I think he just has a musical sense came from his father, who was a big band guy, really steeped in jazz and very interesting chromatic, you know, melody and changes. So you’ve put on YouTube, you put in Chet Baker and Elvis Costello. You’ll find at least three tracks of them performing in a club setting together.

Speaker 4: I see your face. It is every flower. You and stars.

Speaker 5: It’s just the thought of you.

Speaker 4: The very thought of you. My.

Stephen Metcalf: It is amazing, amazing to watch. And you walk away with a whole new respect for Elvis Costello’s voice. So check it out. Dana, thank you so much.

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Host 2: Thanks. Steve has a good day.

Stephen Metcalf: Yeah. Julia, thanks. This was really fun.

Julia Turner: Thank you.

Stephen Metcalf: You will find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page that Slate.com slash Culturefest. And you can email us at Culturefest at Slate.com. Our intro music is by the wonderful Nick Britell, the film composer or other composer. Our producer is Cameron Druse. Our production assistant is Nadira Goffe for Julia Turner and Dana Stevens. I’m Stephen Metcalf. Thank you very much for joining us. We will see you soon.

Julia Turner: Hello and welcome to the Slack Blues segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest. Today we are going to answer Steve’s rhetorical question. Are there any SNL graduates who are better at acting than Adam Sandler? The question that we’ve all been waiting to tackle lo these many years in podcasting, it’s a it’s a provocation. It’s an interesting idea. And Steve, you want to dilate a little bit on your assertion and any other examples you consider before making that claim?

Stephen Metcalf: I’d like to courageously walk back what I said.

Speaker 4: In the body of the show, because I.

Stephen Metcalf: Wasn’t even thinking about Bill Murray. You know, Bill Murray wasn’t on SNL very long, was he on like a year? I can remember two seasons he came. I mean, what’s funny too is he was an afterthought because he had the impossible task of replacing Chevy Chase, did not do an especially great job at the time. In retrospect, it was really pioneering comedic work. But he didn’t you know, no one thought that he’d lived up to Chevy Chase. I mean, arguably also the most overrated SNL player of all time. But, you know, so chase it. For those who don’t know this history decamped become the breakout star of SNL, which is incredible when you think about who else was on that initial cast, decamped to Hollywood movies very, very quickly.

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Stephen Metcalf: After a year or two, it was replaced by Murray. Murray did weekend update on and on. Everyone thought it was. It was everyone thought he couldn’t fill the shoes and hadn’t. And then he goes on in Ghostbusters becomes really a huge, huge movie star, which he’s been ever since. And then, of course, he’s had multiple lives. He made tremendous movie after tremendous movie. Like, what’s the matter with Bob? I mean, you know, I’m not going to be able to think of them. But he went on Groundhog Day being the really obvious one before going on to an indie kind of I wouldn’t call it afterlife. I mean, in some ways, it may even be the most fertile part of his career.

Stephen Metcalf: And and now that’s trailing off a little bit. I mean, it would be hard to argue exactly that Sandler’s you can’t argue that he’s bigger. Better is qualitative in ways that I’m not entirely comfortable with. What I will say is that Sandler is going into places as an actor, as a straight, dramatic actor with comedic undertones and overtones that always that that Murray, I don’t think ever did. So I would place them at a dead tie.

Stephen Metcalf: There are so many others, Dana, to speak of, but I’d love to hear where you come out on that.

Host 2: I mean, I guess when you said that during the segment, it went by so quickly, I didn’t really think to to object or add a different name, but I would not put Sandler in that category for the reason that I talked about in the segment. I mean, I think he he is wonderful at Sandler Dim and he is also has seems to have really good taste in the projects he chooses when they are not in his happy Madison mode although you know that also has its its its charms. It is not a dissimilar character from the one he plays straight. I just don’t see him as having a ton of range which, you know, as I said in the segment, is not the only mark of of good acting or someone that you want to watch. But in addition to Bill Murray, who you discussed already, I think Kristen Wiig was the person who came to mind for me. I mean, to.

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Julia Turner: Me, she’s.

Host 2: She’s completely credible in dramatic roles. She’s done all kinds of different things on screen. And I feel like she could have a big career ahead of her doing other different kinds of things on screen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her, you know, in a in a straightforward, dramatic, you know, Oscar type movie as well as Barb and Star go to Vista, Del Mar or Bridesmaids or, you know, all the comedies that she’s kind of made her own. But it’s it is odd how rare it is that there’s a that there’s an SNL star who translates to the big screen for more than a couple movies. You know, I mean, I guess Chris Farley and John Belushi can’t really count because they flamed out so quickly that we didn’t get a chance to see what kind of movie stars they could have become. But there aren’t many that have had a great longevity on screen.

Julia Turner: Well, I mean, I would also shut out Bill Hader, who I think is doing amazing work on Barry, which I need to make my stipulation that my husband works at HBO and talking about that. But like that transformation from being just the kind of antic voice guy to someone who can carry a really interesting, thoughtful show and create it is a fascinating afterlife. You know, we talked earlier about Ted Lasso, too, in this context, like Jason Sudeikis, you know, and I don’t I’m not sure as sure about reins like Jason Sudeikis and Tina Fey obviously have both carried. TV shows carried quite successful TV shows subsequently and played characters that, you know, I’m not sure I would put Tina Fey’s performance on 30 Rock at the pinnacle of acting. I think that remains in the kind of like comedy comedy camp in in in a slightly different way than Kristen Wiig, who I agree is the just the name that came to mind for me.

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Stephen Metcalf: Yeah, listen, I mean, this is just one of those classic, like, you know, giant rhetorical gambits that blows up in the host’s face. I mean, all of those names have, you know, I mean, listen, first of all, neither Dana nor I, as critics have ever believed in the slightest, in ranking or, you know, even top ten lists are sort of excruciating at some in some way. And this is great or that’s better. Like like like kind of quantitatively evaluative criticism is so beside the point in a way. I mean, there’s Mike Myers who did extraordinary things, kind of expanding this approach into movies that really worked as comedic movies, I thought.

Stephen Metcalf: You know, Kristen Wiig is a really great one. I feel stupid for having not even really thought of it when I said it. You know, Murray obviously is just the one that has had I mean, Murray’s been a major, major Hollywood star for 40 plus clips, closing in on 50 years, doing a variety of things. You know, very. I mean, like, well, doesn’t even cover it. I mean, he’s one of the great Hollywood stars of all time. I mean, you know.

Stephen Metcalf: So setting that aside, here’s how I would modify it, which is that my sense is that Sandler in a way that others I mean, Janeane, you talk about rent. I’m not sure I believe in range is good for character actors and maybe theater trained actors, more classically trained actors. You know, the ability to inhabit a wide variety. You know, there is this way in which you’re like, that’s an amazing trick that an extraordinary thing for a certain kind of acting artist to pull off. I think a lot of movie stars and a lot of, you know, they essentially play themselves mood and move him is kind of the centerpiece of the theory of star studies, whatever that is.

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Stephen Metcalf: But, you know, I mean, and that lack of variation doesn’t bother me because of the combination of to portray depth of feeling subtly and not only straight to the bottom depth coming to the surface, but quite the opposite. Like things that can’t surface, things whose, you know, pathway to the surface of an actor’s face and eyes is obviously fragmented by life experience to do all of those things in a tiny, tiny way from someone who began as a skit actor.

Stephen Metcalf: But just even setting that aside, I think Sandler is doing something special now. It’s also true that I’m his age. I, you know, I suffer from exactly that same framework of doubts and and self-doubts and and, you know, and on and on and on. So, I mean, there’s just a degree of like narcissistic mirroring going on here that that makes me attached to it. But I do think he’s doing something special. That’s where I’d land.

Julia Turner: I just want to call out that somehow. Steve in this segment has like radically reframed the idea of acting quality involves the ability to inhabit personas other than yourself, and presented it as like kind of a contrarian idea about acting that Dana has raised. That’s just and I just want to nod to that rhetorical game that.

Speaker 4: Listen, I.

Stephen Metcalf: Just think that movie stars.

Speaker 4: Play. Now.

Julia Turner: We just talked about Tom Cruise like Tom Cruise is doing Tom Cruise.

Stephen Metcalf: Did you ask right. Did you ask Bogart and Spencer Tracy to have range? I mean, I did.

Host 2: Did I not specify when I said that Adam Sandler does have range? I mean, it enters into the discussion of who is the greatest SNL performer on screen. I feel like if you’re going to say the greatest and I agree that, you know, quantifying and ranking is kind of silly, then, you know, range is a skill that you bring in. But actually this is a conversation we have constantly around my house because I’m bringing up an actor. You know, I have a kid who goes to a performing arts school and is constantly studying, acting, talking about acting, theorizing about acting. And so we talk a lot about this, you know, that sort of central question of when you’re acting, is it all about projecting your Eunice or channeling other people’s them ness? And it’s two different conceptions of what acting is, both totally valid. I mean, many of my absolute favorite performers are essentially beers rather than doers, you know, so so I think it’s a live question. But if you’re going to put to me, you know, which SNL star has done the most interesting, varied range of things on screen, it’s not going to be Sandler.

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Julia Turner: Okay. Well, a couple of things I think we should note before we wrap up here. You know, one is we were praising Bill Murray’s extraordinary career before. And we should note for our listeners that the film he’s currently working on is, I believe, on pause. I think there was an accusation of some kind of misconduct by Murray that’s currently being investigated. So we should note that for our listeners, you know, we also should go back to just some some legends from not the. Very, very beginning of SNL, but an earlier era, obviously, Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who were both obviously amazing performers.

Julia Turner: And then the the the other person who I think has gone unmentioned from more recent eras is Molly Shannon. I think my Shannon is is actually capable of really amazing things that you would not necessarily have anticipated from her from her career. So. All right. Well, it’s an abundance of talent. We heartily. Harold Adam Sandler and his gifts among them. And we thank you so much, Slate Plus listeners for listening to this bonus segment of our show and for supporting Slate as Slate Plus members. We will talk to you next week.