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‘Argylle’ and the Unreality of Streaming Blockbusters

February 6, 2024
Notes
Transcript
This week Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) asked whether Nikki Haley should be persona non grata from Saturday Night Live. Then they reviewed Argylle, which is a strange combination of distressingly empty and absurdly overstuffed. Make sure to swing by Friday for our bonus episode, in which we will offer up some suggestions of stuff to see since the multiplex is letting us all down. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend!
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to this Tuesdays across the movie, I all presented by Bulwark Plus. I am your host SunnyBunch Culture Editor of the Bulwark I’m joined as always by the award winning Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post to Peter Sugarman of Reason Magazine. Alissa Peter, how are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:24

    Arms well.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:25

    I am happy to be talking about movies with friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:28

    First off in controversies and controversies. Nikki Haley went on S and L, and some people are pretty upset about it. Haley, of course, is not the first presidential candidate to be on the show. You we’ve had Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Longwell, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders. For years, S and L has played host to polls desperate for a bump in their polls.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:47

    Despite the fact that it’s a Quadreadial tradition to have politicians running for president show up on the venerable Skitch show, And it’s predecessors, you know, this trend started you could go back to Richard Nixon’s appearance on Laffin back in nineteen sixty eight. Right? Critics started looking askance at the practice following Donald Trump hosting the show on the way to his surprise twenty sixteen presidential win. Now members of S and L reject the idea that they, quote, unquote, humanized, Donald Trump, as one writer noted when he hosted the show, he was trailing Ben Carson in Iowa, and seemed kind of destined to flame out. But I would bet a million dollars if I had it to that he will never be on that show again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:24

    I don’t think they want to court that sort of controversy. The argument against having Haley on is apparently that she is no different than Trump. As one writer in the Guardian put the quote, the hypocrisy of S and L cozying up to Haley in order to bash Trump is so rich as to be sickening. There is zero daylight between the two, Haley’s record is just as full of racist anti Democratic policy and rhetoric as her former bosses. She is just outwardly less grotesque.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:49

    Presenting her as a reasonable alternative Trump reeks of liberal desperation, end quote. Look, I have my issues with Haley. I mean, I personally wish she was running a Chris Charlie Sykes style burned down the house sort of campaign against Trump. Though I recognize that’s probably not how you win a GOP primary. But the idea that she’s no different than Trump, that there’s no difference between her and Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:08

    There’s no daylight between her and Trump. Is the sort of thing that leads people to say, well, this is how you get Trump. Look, literally any GOP candidate who is not Trump is preferable to Trump, even if you don’t agree with a single one of their, policy positions. This isn’t to say you have to support Nikki Haley in the general. But I feel like it’s incumbent upon critics to, at the very least, recognize that she’s not gonna, you know, try to overturn the election if she loses.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:32

    Alright. I don’t like getting overtly political on the show. This is this, you know, this is a respite of sorts from politics. And Haley’s appearance itself wasn’t frankly that political. She poked fun at Trump for not debating her.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:44

    She poked fun at herself for not answering, slavery when asked about the origin of the civil war. Frankly, the biggest crime was that the skit wasn’t funny at all. These things are never funny. Course, no politician’s ever gonna actually let the show really savage them. And as a result, it’s all kind of toothless.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:00

    As far as these toothless things go, whatever. It was fine, which leads me to my suggestion, Alyssa. Could we please for the love of god kill this tradition once and for all? No more politicians on SNL. Just just don’t do it anymore.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:13

    Isn’t the controversy here that people still care about what happens on Saturday night live?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:17

    Great point. Who is mad about this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:19

    Yeah. Look. I mean, I just I was the resident lefty person on the show. I think Nikki Haley would be worse than Trump in terms of her ability to actually be competent and implement various conservative policies that, that I think are not good, that I disagree with. But she’s obviously better than Trump in that she believes in a peaceful transfer of power in our electoral system And she’s not, like, a lunatic who spends all of her time posting deranged things on social media and defaming little old ladies who they’ve been convicted of sexually abusing up.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:59

    Right? Like, I mean, I would not vote for Nikki Haley over Joe Biden. But I would obviously vote for Duncan Haley over Donald Trump if I believe that the state of American democracy is the most important thing on the ballot there.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:15

    Wait. Alyssa, you’re not a Republican primary voter. I I had you pegged wrong with this whole time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:21

    I mean Boy,
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:22

    I’m gonna we’re gonna have to have some real talks in
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:24

    a group chat afterward from Peter’s office.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:26

    To be fair, like, I am on, like, a normie quasi suburban mom of two and leader up a girl out troops. So I can understand how you would get that wrong. Like, I am in many ways, like, you know, like
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:37

    You’re a Vicki Haley voter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:39

    I’m a soccer I’m, like, I’m not a soccer mom because neither my children play sports. I’m not a security mom, but I am the kind of I, like, I’m a, like, capital m mom that people like to invent trends around. And therefore, like, you know, I someone who didn’t know me could look at me and be like, She might be a Glen Youngen voter. She might care about whether the schools were closed.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:58

    You don’t
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:58

    even live in Virginia.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:59

    I don’t live in Virginia. I don’t even live close to the Virginia line. But, I’ve sort of forget where I was going with all of this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:07

    Nikki Haley was on SNL, and people were like, that’s just as bad as putting Trump on it And that’s just dumb.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:14

    Yes. It’s
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:15

    all it’s dumb on every level. In some ways, it’s funnier than anything that happened in the Nikki Haley sketches on S and L. Also, it’s funny, but also a little bit infuriating that there are still people who write for prominent publications who cannot who tell the difference, who refuse to tell the difference between Donald Trump and any other candidate. And look, I I don’t think you can blame your blame the media at at, like, that’s not a sufficient explanation for why Donald Trump is the leading candidate in the Republican primary. Again, it doesn’t tell us everything, but it doesn’t tell us nothing at all either.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:55

    And there is a real sense in which Trump voters and a lot of the most hardcore Trump voters, that’s not It’s not that they’re voting for Trump just because of one bad guardian column or even because of many years of bad columns in publications like the Guardian. At the same time, when you talk to them about what they like about Trump, one of the things that you hear pretty consistently from Trump voters is, well, you know, we’re gonna vote for this guy because if we voted for somebody else, we’d be told that person is just as bad as Trump we’d be told there’s no difference. Okay. You’re gonna tell us there’s no difference, then then we’ll take you at your word. And it’s so without saying there’s a through line or direct causation.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:39

    There’s not, and people are responsible for their own votes. And I’m always like a little wary of, oh, it’s it’s the dumb media even though the media is often often publishes dumb things. That’s true. But what is causing this? Is at least a sort of a a kind of a a marginal factor here in the environment that did help create the Donald Trump phenomenon.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:05

    I I I also just think I think productions and institutions that are designed real that are supposed to be about entertainment and even about political entertainment. I I agree with Sonny here. Like, it is it is really long past time to, like, create a separation there between at least between SNL and, like, official top level political candidate. And this isn’t something that’s new. It didn’t start with Donald Trump going on S and L.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:37

    It didn’t start. I mean, it goes back to Nixon, but I mean, I I just pulled up a video just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating it. I just pulled up a video on YouTube that our older listeners may remember very well of Bill Clinton playing saxophone on Arsenio Hall. That really happened, folks. It was a an an actual thing in a, like, a in our culture in the nineteen nineties, but they all of this is dumb and terrible and and, you know, I I guess the the bad columns are funnier than Saturday night live is.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:09

    But
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:09

    Well, you know, I I’ll I’ll push back on that slightly insofar as I think it’s fine for politicians to go on interview style. Shows. Right? If you’re going on a Narsenio Hall or a tonight show or a Today show or late night, whatever, and you’re sitting there and you’re answering questions, even if it’s like kind of friendly venue. Like, I I don’t think anyone’s expecting, you know, Jake Tapper stuck questions, at these things.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:33

    But, like, At least there, it’s like, okay, they’re asking questions. This is but, like, the SNL thing drives me kinda crazy because it’s they’re never funny. They’re never funny. They’re never actually funny, which is the, you know, the Razon Deatro of the show. But also, like, they Wait
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:48

    a minute. I’ve seen S and L. It’s not obvious that it’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:53

    intended to be funny. It’s frequently meant to be. It’s frequently attempts to be funny. But, like, I I
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:59

    speaking of attempts to be funny, let’s talk about this week’s movie. No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:02

    That’s yeah. We’ll get to that in a second. But that but, like, alright. So, like, it’s not just that it’s toothless and, you know, quote unquote humanizing bad people that we disagree with, whatever. It’s just like destroying the reason for the show.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:15

    If I was in Charlie Sykes and L, I would have one last, have a candidate segment on, and I would just nuke them from orbit with all sorts of unscripted stuff. And, like, then nobody would ever do it again because they would all be terrified. Because I this is the only way this is gonna end. That’s the only way this is gonna end.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:31

    Sunny’s plan as always is to bomb people metaphorically or for real. It doesn’t matter which.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:39

    Well, it’s the only way to be sure. You’re nuke them for orbit.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:42

    I’ve seen this
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:42

    as we know. It’s a good movie.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:45

    Maybe maybe let me criticize my own position here. And say that, actually, it’s totally fine that, that Nikki Haley and other candidates are on SNL because it’s not obviously any less funny when she’s on. I don’t know. I guess I’m not a big SNL watcher, but doesn’t seem like it’s been particularly funny for a long time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:07

    You’re not a comedy watcher in general, though. You you do not watch comedies on it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:11

    Well, not not that kind of television comedy. That’s true. But, the one of the mistakes here that is that gets made when people gripe about this in addition to to being very wrong that there’s no difference at all between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. Just for the record, you can where I find many of my opinions about Nikki Haley all over the internet. But I agree with her on some stuff.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:35

    I think she’s very worrying about the stuff that I make fun sunny for. She likes to bomb people, and that’s bad. But Some
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:42

    people got it coming.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:43

    The the one the other mistake here is thinking that this stuff is in some way determineative or, like, really meaningful or, you know, that platforming Nikki Haley is is just like this great sin that SNL needs to atone for. Come on. It’s a comedy show.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:02

    That’s actually a really good point, Peter. Unless, I wanna get your take on this because there Another re response, to Nikki Haley’s appearance that I saw was, I I saw several several folks on social media saying that I owe at Abiri who was the the host. She’s, you know, kind of a she’s having a hot moment right now, star of the bear, and, she was at bottoms, and she’s very funny. Everybody likes her. But they’re
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:23

    like the suite East, which is Excellent.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:26

    You keep talking about this movie that we’re never gonna watch. But I I I take I take your I take your word for it that it’s excellent. But the I saw people saying like, oh, this should be the end of her indie darling status. You know, how how dare she how dare she, associate with these people And I’m just like, I’m sorry. There’s this almost sense of contagion, like personal contagion, which is which is how so many people organize their day to day life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:53

    I I don’t really know where I’m going with this, except to say that I think that it’s it’s it’s an interesting phenomenon that kind of dovetails with this idea that we are all judged by what we consume and what we pay for and that sort of thing. It’s a it’s a weirdly consumerist critique of modern society and art.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:09

    You mean, like, how Taylor Swift brought Zionist Lana Del Rey to the Grammies with her? And therefore, it should be, like, shot into the sun.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:17

    I mean Exactly. Exactly.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:19

    I don’t know, man. I think people’s relationship with celebrities are too intense. That’s something we’ve talked about on this podcast here. It’s better to have a real life than to write five thousand words in the New York Times about how Taylor Shipped owes it to you to be gay. And also just like
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:38

    It’s a real thing that happened.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:41

    What is it that what is it that people want from celebrities? Right? Like, if this poor actress had like refused to participate in this skit, I just I don’t understand what people want here. Right? Like, do they want all of their celebrity icons to, like, sit under a tree and attain enlightenment by the Buddha and by the sheer force of their beyonce ness or Taylor swiftness or ioedaberiness, like, solve everything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:16

    I just You know, and I am someone who comes from a point of, you know, having been more sort of absolutist and doctrinaire about this stuff than I am today. In part, because I just can’t figure out what the point is. Right? Like, mickey Haley’s policy positions are bad. I don’t know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:36

    I can’t even say at this point that she would like to get us into wars that Joe Biden is not gonna get us into because world is falling apart, and everything is terrible, and people keep attacking the shipping lanes. But
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:46

    Too many wars. We agree on this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:50

    But I just I don’t understand what people I just don’t understand what people want their famous people to do and what effect they think it will have. Right? It’s like and I don’t think people understand that there are cost to this stuff. Right? I mean, What is an indie darling actress who, you know, who’s, like, managers probably booked her on S and L and thought it was a big get?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:15

    Like, what is she supposed to do under these circumstances? Is she the one with the power here? Is Lauren Michael is the one with the power here? Like, you know, what is Kenon Thompson doing? And this could, like, what I what do people want?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:27

    What do people think is gonna happen? What do people think is going to be achieved? I don’t understand.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:32

    These people want the artist to look into the camera and say, I am exactly the sort of liberal or conservative that you are, and I agree with all of your policy position. That’s literally what they want. That’s all they want.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:42

    What happens the next day? Right? Like, what happens to the rest of your life and your politics and your work?
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:48

    You’re happy. Then you’re happy once the one says that they agree with you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:52

    But everything Does your does your rent become, like, does your rent burden suddenly become a manageable percentage of your income? Like, does
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:59

    I I saw the Tetris movie and it, like, totally confirmed all of my political priors, and then I was happy after that. And I’ve been happy for the last, like, seven months. Because I had one movie that confirmed all of my political prayers and I’m good now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:10

    But and it’s like I think it’s easy to make fun of this, but I do like Freddie deboer who’s sub stack, I think all of us, you know, read off and on, you know, spends a lot of times harping against consumption as politics. And there’s something sort of especially creepy about the consumption of other human beings as politics. Right? Like, the idea that another human being with agency and obligations and pressure and like cross pressures in their life and professional life Not only owes you something, but that is able to do what conventional politics can’t or has not proven able to do. Is Not only weird and creepy on its face, but sort of self defeating and deflating as a form of politics.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:56

    And I hate it, and also who cares about S and Ellen. I mean, truly, what are the ratings for a Saturday night live? Right? Like, what did Nikki Haley accomplish by going on this show? Like, I thought she came across as, like, pretty game in a lame sketch.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:08

    The, like, should have said it was slavery the first time. It’s like, that’s actually the kind of thing politicians should do more of in their interactions with, the normal human press. But this doesn’t matter for Nikki Haley. It doesn’t matter for anybody. It’s just it’s the snake is, like, has finished eating its own tail and is, like, upped the crown of its head.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:29

    And we’re almost done with this cycle here. It’s also stupid.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:33

    Alyssa, you’re totally correct to point out that the process asked here makes no sense to the extent that there even is one. And for the most part, there isn’t a process ask. It’s just I wish nothing that I dislike whatever happened because it makes me upset, which is terrible and ridiculous, but it’s also it’s also just totally anti art. You just don’t get good art by
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:57

    It’s anti art.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:58

    By getting it’s anti
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:59

    it’s anti human, Peter. Right? Like, it’s anti The idea that other human beings exist as independent actors is, you know, does not Literally
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:09

    as actors in this case.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:10

    Yet, is zeroed out in this worldview in a way that is just anti human and disturbing. Right? Like, is do what is what people want to slap on was like stupid virtual reality. Goggles that all the tech titans are trying to
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:24

    Oh, wait. And I’m in favor of this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:26

    And just disappear. Like, do people wanna be plugged into the matrix? Cause kind of what it sounds like is that a lot of people just wanna live in the matrix. And like I
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:36

    want my Applevisor Pro to come. Is that what it’s called? What the I want the dumb Apple thing that you slap on your face
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:42

    to come with my face.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:44

    To come with an app that makes everybody say the things I want to hear from them. So, like, if if, if I’m watching S and L instead of seeing the actual Skit, I owe Edaburi. It comes on and says, why would never vote for Trump and nobody else would, either.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:58

    A great news, Sonny. With AI, they can actually do this now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:02

    I think that’s true.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:03

    Clips of people on podcasts, you’re on the news, and they could make them say things that they totally didn’t say. And if you look at them and you even if you though that person is your friend, like, and you’ve you’ve you know they wouldn’t say that. You’d be like, that looks suspiciously like my friend saying something that they wouldn’t say. It’s great. I love the future.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:23

    I realized that I sound like I’m just losing my
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:26

    ever loving mind on this podcast. That’s just everyone.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:30

    But in all seriousness, right? Like, it’s one thing to choose to be plugged back into the matrix when the option is, like, gruel and, like, weird clothes and being cold forever and being hunted by robots, but the desire to sort of be plugged into a frictionless existence when the world exists and like There are dogs and cocktails, and Peter’s insane sound system, and children and playgrounds, and you know, the work of, like, color field painters and Monet. And so why do you want that? Right? Like, Alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:05

    People are insane.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:06

    Alyssa’s having an existential crisis, so we need to move on. Alright. So is it a controversy or a controversy that Nikki Haley appeared on Saturday night live Alyssa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:16

    It’s a controversy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:18

    Peter, it’s a controversy, but maybe it’s a controversy that we just spent twenty minutes talking about
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:23

    It’s a controversy. I demand the next time one of these politicians shows up on the on one of these shows. One of the actors who is on the scene just starts saying things that aren’t in the script or on the cue cards and, like, start just just to blow them up. Just just destroy them. And so nobody will ever do this again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:41

    That’s that’s how this ends. This only ends with a a feat of rhetorical violence because violence works Alright. Life is
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:48

    not a Zack Snyder movie, Sonny.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:50

    We’re done with this segment. Alright. Make sure to swing by Bulwark Plus for our bonus episode on Friday. In which we’re gonna give you a recommendation on what to watch because it’s just a wasteland out there folks. It’s just empty multiplexes everywhere.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:02

    Terrible. I feel bad for the theater owners having to rely on underwhelming fair like Argyle to fill auditoriums. Speaking of which, on to the main event. Argyle. ArGile.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:14

    I’ve the latest pirates favorites buy movie. The the latest from Matthew Bond, who is the direct of, one Jonathan v lasts all time favorite movie layer cake, as well as the Kingsman series, which I like a great deal, and the underappreciated kitty fantasy flick stardust is like the Kingsman movies and other spy flick, kinda sorta. Spoilers for the movie are to come. So please log off now If you don’t want to learn who the real agent Aragile is, we’re gonna tell you right now. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:43

    So here’s the setup. Ellie Conway, played by Bryce Alice, is a spy novelist who is putting the finishing touches on the fifth book in her agent Argyle series. We see the book as she imagines it in her head. Aubrey Argyle is brought to life Henry Campbell, who teams up with an agent who’s played by John Cena to stop bad guys from destroying the world, or some such, doesn’t really matter. When LA decides to visit her mother to get some advice on how to wrap up the book, she has stopped by Aiden, on the train she’s traveling on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:11

    He is played by Sam Rockwell, and he informs her that everything in her books has actually happened. She can predict the future more or less. She seems to be predicting world events. In order, To see what happens next, Aiden needs her to write the final chapter so he can get the drop on a group of special operatives turned rogue agents so he can get the chip that has the thing to it doesn’t matter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:32

    Turns out The McGuffin. You mean the McGuffin?
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:34

    The McGuffin. He’s gotta get the McGuffin.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:37

    It’s the knock list
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:39

    That’s exactly that’s how I described it in my review. It’s basically the knock list from, mission impossible, all over again. Alright. So anyway, it turns out Here’s here’s the big reveal. Turns out that Ellie is actually a spy herself.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:50

    She’s suffering from amnesia. And for the last five years, that she’s had the amnesia, she’s been writing these books, as part of an evil plot arranged by a devilish syndicate to get her to reveal all of her secrets to them. Again, like, the knock list is basically what this comes down to. Turns out the real Asian argyle was Ellie Conway all along. The problem with argyle.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:17

    The problem with argyle. The first problem with argyle isn’t just that it’s derivative, though it is that. It is the the real problem here is that it’s interminably derivative. Everything goes on about twenty percent longer than it should. Vaughn has mistakenly bought into this idea that more twists and turns you have make the movie better.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:35

    This picture has remarkably bad pacing issues. It just drags. Like, every scene just goes on way too long. But even that would be defensible. You know, sometimes movies drag a little bit if they lead to fantastic set pieces.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:47

    Like, I think you can make the argument that the mission impossible movies drag a that they often frequently go on very long in the exposition y bits, where they’re getting from scene to scene, but those culminate with, like, Tom Cruise jumping a motorcycle off a mountainside. Right? Here, all we get is Rockwell and Howard standing in front of a bunch of green screens. And this is the actual interesting thing about Argo, I think. It it’s not the plotting or the reveal or the attempt to tie it into the Kingsman universe of films, which this movie does in a post credit scene.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:17

    No. It said it it’s a rather perfect distillation of everything that’s wrong with the visual look of the modern streaming blockbuster. I do not remember a single exterior shot that felt real, that felt as if it was taking in a place in a real area with, like, actual locations. Right? Everything has the look in the vibe of green screens.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:36

    And at first, I thought that Von was maybe using the unreality of the green green to heighten the artificiality, the book’s Conway is writing. Right? Like, when her agent, argyle is watching Hong Kong fireworks go off, And then that scene kind of melts away and words appear on the screen. It’s like, okay, yes. This kind of works.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:53

    It’s like her idea of it. But then that same artificial look is endemic to everything. In the movie, to the real world she inhabits to there’s like a rooftop fight in London that looks, one hundred percent like it took place. In a warehouse in Atlanta somewhere where all the walls are covered with green. The the interior and the exterior of a tanker ship look the same, fake, awful, just bad.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:17

    It’s really distracting. It’s really distracting. And again, it it, like, kind of defines this whole era a big budget streaming pictures. Red Notice was the place where this was most egregious. But you also see it in the Star Wars shows, Every flying sequence in, Zach Snyder’s rebel Moon was a disaster.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:33

    Just look terrible. Everything looks off. There’s something wrong with the light. There’s something wrong with the background. There’s something, wrong with the focus of these things.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:42

    There there’s a weird parallax sensation that is created when the stationary objects in a room are are kind of put up against the the screens. It just doesn’t move right. It all looks unnervingly unreal. There’s a very real uncanny valley. Type effect happening here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:57

    I hate it. I wouldn’t be clear if you can’t tell. I hate this. I hate how it looks. But I do think it’s it is interestingly specific.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:05

    And like in twenty years, people are gonna look back on this period of time and be like, oh, yeah. This was a movie that was made between twenty nineteen and twenty twenty five or so. Just by looking at the backgrounds of these movies. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:18

    Peter, Why is this movie so bad?
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:21

    You are correct about how bad this movie looks. And what’s even more incredible is that Apple, which is the sort of principle backer here, which paid for, which bought the production and paid for the development and production here, even though there’s a different studio that’s doing the theatrical release here. This is kind of primarily an Apple film intended for Apple TV plus. And Apple paid two hundred million dollars for this movie. Now that doesn’t mean that this is equivalent to a two hundred million dollar production budget, but, because the way that these things work is that with streaming deals, they typically buy out the back end when I say buy out the back end, what I mean is that these that the stars and the above the line talent, the sort of top talent here would typically have gotten a big share of an of an expected large box office growth.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:14

    This is getting only a kind of token box office release. It’s not made very much money. And so there’s not very much money to to be had there. And so as a result, what Apple does, what Netflix does, also for a lot of these films, is they pay the top of the line talent, upfront, essentially as if the movie had made a lot of money. And so that makes this a two hundred million dollar movie, and it just looks awful.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:40

    It looks cheap and fake, and weird, and distancing in a way that isn’t interesting. It’s at best it’s sort of cartoony in a way that you could maybe argue. Well, it sort of works for the meta fiction of this movie. Sunny, you talked about that. But then there’s this further problem, which is that the movie keeps trying to create a distinction between the elevated silly fictional reality of Ellie’s books, and then her real world reality where She is caught up in something with Sam Rockwell who’s a real spy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:17

    And the movie gestures at this upfront when we first see Sam Rockwell. He’s he’s not big and buff. He’s got at that point at long hair. He’s sort of scraggly and kinda almost dressed like a a a kind of a a bum Right? And he notes the contrast between how he looks and how her dashing super spy of her novels looks, but then then the movie ends up engaging in exactly the same sort of ridiculous cartoon unreality that it is trying to draw a distinction with.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:49

    And maybe you can then further argue. Well, actually, it is all the reality because Her books were a real thing that happened and in fact this is all real, but it doesn’t it just doesn’t make it’s not just that it doesn’t make sense. It’s that it doesn’t tie together and visually, it looks kinda garbagey. There’s some creative bits here. There are some some interesting ideas in the set pieces, but they don’t seem to be drawn from anything in the world.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:19

    And You can see what Matthew Von is going for. If you’ve seen the Kingsman films, he has a bunch of kind of cartoony set piece action scenes in those movies. You can think of the first Kingsman movie where it it resolves in this absolutely kind of over the top glorious exploding heads bit where all of the kinda We wouldn’t call them liberal elite, the global anti pop elites. The global elite have all gathered right, in their secret, you know, super rich person chamber, and they all explode in this sort of ridiculously colorful thing. And it’s it’s supposed to be cartoony.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:55

    It’s supposed to be, almost a a looney tunes, bugs bunny ish, you know, take on James Bond. But here, the movie wants to create a distinction between the real world, which is more grounded and more realistic and the fictional world, but then it doesn’t bother to make that distinction. Ever. And it’s totally, totally dissociate. Like, it it just it ruins the the metafictional conceit of this movie.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:22

    But then there there are the pacing problems. Ron DeSantis actually slightly disagree with you. The first twenty five minutes or so of this movie are paced. I wouldn’t say great, but about but not so bad, up through the train sequence, which marks the the the transition from the first act to the second act. This movie almost works.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:41

    It threatens to work. It seems like it is poised to be, maybe not great, but a a perfectly fine and enjoyable trifle. And the instant that train sequences over and we get into the second act, I just like wanted to either fall asleep in my very cushy alamo lounge chair or get up and go for a walk because nothing happens then for the next hour. There’s some there’s some really ridiculous twists, but they spend all of the time, just kind of chattering about, about the knock list thing, which you don’t ever care about, which is a total, like, useless McGuffin. None of us can even remember particularly what it is.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:19

    They go to a statue in in London, I think, and just have this absolutely interminable conversation about satellites that, like, it’s it’s not a conversation about anything that’s real or that matters or that is determining of the characters or the plot. They’re just they’re just like babbling crap.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:36

    But Peter, if you forgot this Samuel Jackson gets to have a vineyard.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:39

    Yes. Also, Samuel Jackson gets to have a vineyard that I wouldn’t bet a lot of money because I’m not a betting man. I would bet a small amount of money that all of the outside vineyard sequences are effects creations of some sort that they are never actually walking around a real vineyard. That whole sequence. So maybe if they were at an actual vineyard, then that’s amazing because the whole thing looks so incredibly fake.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:04

    And then, yes, but then also, like, Sam Jackson shows up at the end of the second act to have a vineyard and sit at a desk and some and like a, like, for the third act, watch as a meter gets filled on this game.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:17

    When he’s not watching a Lakers game? When he’s not watching a Lakers.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:20

    That’s true.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:21

    He also watches basketball. What the hell is this movie? Why is it two hours and twenty minutes long? There is there is possibly there is possibly even without really reshooting stuff. A one hour and fifty five minute breezy cut of this movie that is watchable and that I would give a pass.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:40

    But this just doesn’t work. And so by the time you get to the the the most over the top, most interesting, most creative, still bad looking, but but interestingly staged set pieces in the third act, which should just hit you as a kind of a a glorious insane riots. You are so bored. That they don’t land at all.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:02

    But, the problem with those sequences, Alyssa, is that Vaughn has done that sort of thing better. I mean, Peter mentioned the exploding head sequence from the end of the first Kingsman movie, and that’s basically what the big, like, color smoke scene calls to mind at the end of this movie, or or that that awful. I don’t know
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:22

    how you guys felt about this, but the
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:22

    awful oil skating scene Yes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:26

    She’s, what?
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:26

    Where she’s, like, she’s, like, doing she’s doing, figure skating, but she’s got a gun and she’s on an oil slick. And, like, well, alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:33

    This is, like No. No. No. Just a gun. She’s murdering people with a bayonet.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:37

    I don’t know why it’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:37

    like She’s she’s using a bayonet. And, like, it’s the sort of thing that, like, okay, this could be kind of interesting, but it, but it all so cheap and bad that it it just is terrible and aggravating. Right? There’s certainly
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:48

    no oil in that sequence. It’s amazing how fake the oil looks like. Everything looks like the the globby, like, weird oil slick monster that kills Tasha Yar in the first or second season of Star Trek generation, which was like a TV budget effects in, you know, nineteen eighty seven. Yeah. And we haven’t even talked about the sort
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:09

    of you know, what’s supposed to be a cutesy, like, normal mousey woman, like, turns into super spy, but then it’s revealed that she’s, like, actually a super spy who’s been brainwashed into being, like, a mousey novelist, which is just done with no sort of charm or interest here. I love the Melissa McCarthy movie spy. It’s one of my favorite comedies the last ten or fifteen years. I think she is She is hilarious, and it, Jason Statham is hilarious, and it jude law is hilarious, and it Rose Burn, who doesn’t really do comedy anymore, is hilarious. In it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:47

    It’s just it’s a genuinely hilarious movie. And, you know, that is a movie that is really interested in the expectations of, you know, a woman who is not particularly glamorous and whose, you know, body is of a certain size and who has sort of had this desk job and this intense you know, attachment to someone who is probably never gonna love her back. And then, you know, sort of builds your respect for her as you actually see her in the field. And this movie takes this person who it’s, like, you know, not only is, like, sort of, like, presented as, like, mousey and pathetic, but it’s like an agoraphobic weird cat lady. And then it’s just like, oh, magic, actually, she’s not this at all.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:29

    Right? There’s not a journey here because the character just keeps getting told things, then being like, oh, okay. Like, I’ll go along with that. That’s fun. And so there’s no real character arc here at all.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:44

    It’s just like the And reveals are not a character arc. Right? I mean, like, having Brian Cranston, like, the ostensible bad guy be like, oh, actually, like, you know, be I’ve been masquerading as your dad. And, you know, her mom is actually something. I was just like, none of these characters are people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:00

    They’re just like, expensive paper dolls that Matthew Von is like shaking around in some CGI colored smoke and over an oil spill. Right? And Events are not in and of themselves interesting. Plot is not in and of itself interesting. And there are a lot of things that happen in this movie, but none of them mean anything.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:20

    Especially when the plot is weirdly kind of a like a a ripoff slash retrograde copy of the plot of the great nineteen eighties Arnold Schwarzenegger movie total recall where I don’t wanna spoil, like, I kind of do wanna spoil, argyle, for, for listeners here, but I’m not going to. It’s already shut off. Say if you’ve seen total recall and you know how, like, the the insane twisty way that that movie, which is which does all the things all that so many of the things that this movie tries to do much better. It is it is an insane kind of over the top rump with a whole bunch of twists that I kinda, you know, if you’re like really gonna think about them, they don’t exactly make sense, but it’s it’s shorter. The action scenes are are much better.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:11

    Just every one of the little of the little bits, is dialed in to create something like tension. And so even though it is cartoony and ridiculous, It is also just, like, it’s not a, I don’t know, a criterion classic, so maybe criterion, but, like, it’s one of these, like, great cartoon, ridiculous movies that just works on its own weird terms. And you can kinda see Matthew von going for that here, and it just just doesn’t work on a tonal level at all. In addition to the fact that so many of the scenes are absolutely worthless. You just get no information and they’re not painting, and a scene has to do has to do something.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:51

    In a movie and even in a long movie, even in a two and a half hour movie, if you’re gonna waste four minutes of screen time, then It should be either very funny, very entertaining, very cool, or very relevant to the story or the characters. And we get I don’t know six scenes in this movie that are three to six minutes long that you’re like, this this is not entertaining. And it didn’t deliver any information?
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:17

    This is the thing, right, is that I can I can excuse a lot of bad plotting or unnecessary plotting or, like, lazy Mcguffins, if if you bring us to a point where, like, okay, something something great and exciting is about to happen? Like the the most re I mentioned the most recent mission impossible, but that’s a that’s like a perfect example of a movie that can be insanely generic. I mean, literally, the the plot of that movie is the entity needs to get the algorithm or something. Some some like ridiculous, like, just awful nonsense, sequence sequence of words. Elemental.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:56

    It’s yeah. Sure. Right. But but like that moving. But that’s fine because what it what it all of that is in service in service of getting us to Venice.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:06

    Where there are some great fist fights that are gonna happen, or to the streets of Rome where there’s gonna be, an awesome car chase, or to the aforementioned motorcycle goal that, jump that that Tom Cruise is gonna do. Like, you can have a dumb plot so long as you’re paying it off in other ways. And this movie just doesn’t pay it off in any, in any way. I I am like, I’m genuinely kind of shocked that Matthew Von, who again, is a filmmaker who I think has no small amount of talent. I think he’s actually a pretty good filmmaker.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:34

    I will defend all of the Kingsman movies, even though I know I’m in in rare company there.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:39

    Third one’s a bit of a mess, but it’s at least an interesting mess.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:42

    It’s fascinating. It’s a fascinating movie, but the it’s neither here nor there. I just can’t believe he looked at this and was like, yeah, this this works. This this is good enough.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:49

    I Well, apparently, he wants to turn this not only into a franchise, but maybe kind of into two franchises. One of which is the argyle books, whatever the books are called in the the movie. And then the other one is argile the meta fiction. But then he also wants to connect this kind of dual franchise to the Kingsman franchise and have a have a a spy universe like, a cinematic universe that Alyssa is gonna have to learn all the lore for and see, like, if it works, it, like, it’s it just means the three times a year. We can watch we can go to the movies and talk about Matthew Vaughn’s spy verse.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:32

    And she’s well, Alyssa is having such a good time right now. You guys can’t see it. And, I’m just excited for the Disney Plus show that adds to the backstory of the Kingsman Argyle Cinematic Universe.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:44

    If this happens, I will quit this podcast.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:47

    I’m sorry. It’ll be on Apple TV. It’ll be on app
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:49

    not manifest this end of the world. Alright. Thumbs up for thumbs down on Argyle. Listen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:55

    Oh, my god. Thumbs down. It’s so terrible.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:58

    Peter thumbs down.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:59

    Thumbs thumbs down. It’s not a bad movie. I I really wanted to like this movie again. I I like Matthew von a lot. Man, it’s not not good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:06

    Alright. That is it for today’s show. Many thanks for our audio engineer Jonathan without whom this program would sound much worse. Make sure to swing by Bulwark Plus on Friday for our bonus episode. Tell your friends a strong recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast audiences, no grow, we will die.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:21

    You did not love two days, so please complain to me on Twitter at SunnyBunch. I’ll convince you that it is in your podcast feed. See you guys on Friday.
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