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‘Fast X’? More Like Fast Eccchhhs. Plus: Why ‘wokeness’ doesn’t explain Disney’s problems.

May 23, 2023
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman explain why the phrase “go woke, go broke” obscures more than it illuminates in the case of Disney and its various business dealings/struggles. Then the gang reviews Fast X, a bad movie with a very interesting (although also possibly bad) performance at the heart of it. Make sure to swing by Bulwark+ for our bonus episode this week on the destruction—and, soon, recreation—of the cable bundle. And if you enjoyed this episode, 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 across the movie aisle presented by Bulwark Plus. I am your host Sunny Manj culture editor of the Bulwark of mind, as always, by Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post and Peter Suiterman, of Reason Magazine, Elizabeth, how are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:23

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

    Before we get started, I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who showed up for the Across the Movie Isle Live Show at Crystal City Alamo Draft House, which is, by the way, just objectively speaking, one of the nicest movie theaters I think I’ve ever been in. It’s like brand new and the seats are all real nice. It’s got the little buttons to order, which we we don’t have at the draft houses here near me. You you just put up the card. Anyway, great food, great drinks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:49

    Great crowd and a fun movie in war games. So really got fun fun time meeting people. It was nice to see folks or see them again or meet them for the first time. Very nice. So thank you for Everybody who showed up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:00

    Hopefully, we will be able to do that again soon in the the the future here. And now on to controversies and controversies. One thing that happens when you gain a little more expertise in a topic is that when you see a monocosal explanation for a phenomenon, you realize that it’s almost certainly wrong. So in the case of Disney, for example, one phrase is often invoked to explain, basically everything happening at the company right now. Go woke, go broke.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:28

    People aren’t showing up to the movies because the company went woke. The streaming service is shutting subscribers because they went woke. Traffic is down at Disney Properties because they went woke, etcetera, etcetera. The problem with viewing everything through the lens of either Disney’s fight with Ron DeSantis or Disney’s, like, kind of comically diverse cinematic offerings like Strange World, is that it obscures all the actual market forces in play here. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:50

    For instance, when Bob Eiger canceled a planned development in Florida that removed thousands of potential jobs and billions of planned spending, Eiger was happy to kind of let the press right and left spin this as the thumb in the eye of Ron DeSantis. But the truth is that Eiger always hated the development. He thought his predecessor Bob Chapek was dumb to push for it. And is desperately trying to cut billions of dollars from the bottom line. Or like look at the Disney Plus subscriber numbers, the service has shed millions of users.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:16

    In each of the last couple quarters. And that’s disastrous. Right? Well, no. Wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:20

    The users they lost were low revenue accounts in India that dropped Disney’s hot star service because Disney decided not to spend billions on cricket rights. Subscriber numbers in North America have basically stabilized at Disney plus just as they have basically stabilized at the other mature streamer Netflix. Or look at the box office on Disney’s animated features, Light Year and Strange World. This is like key data point that people like to highlight when chanting Go Woke, go broke. Look, I will grant that on the margins, there is a real issue that Disney has, you know, kind of found itself in trouble with certain audiences by having same sex relationships in in the movies, whatever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:57

    The real issue though is that Disney itself has poisoned the well with is by emphasizing Disney plus so heavily and pivoting so severely to streaming during the pandemic and its aftermath. Why would you spend a hundred bucks to take your family to the movie theater when the movie you’re going to see will be on Disney Plus which you pay for already anyway in four to six weeks. It doesn’t help that the movies themselves are bad. Like, they they weren’t very good. But the the reasons for what we are seeing go well beyond you know, all the discussion about politics.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:28

    Right? The latest evidence that Disney is cutting costs in every conceivable way is the decision to jettison a bunch of streaming properties from Disney Plus and Hulu, which is a decision that is based almost entirely on saving. The company license fees paid to distributors. The way streaming works is that the streamers pay these fees regardless of how many people watch the shows in question. So when a show is watched by nearly no one, It is just eating up revenue and providing zero benefit to subscribers.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:55

    HBO Max has done something similar recently. Right? They cut low watch titles and they sent some other ones to some other streaming services, Disney thinks they can save even easy nine figures, maybe even a billion dollars in costs, while impacting nobody, so they do it. Alyssa, I wanted to have that whole preamble here because it is mildly frustrating as somebody who kind of has a foot in both of these worlds to see people insist contrary to all of the actual facts on the ground that their political preferences are what drive every single business decision Hollywood. Why is everyone so quick to project those ideas onto this world?
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:34

    I mean, I think because a lot of Americans are doing their politics through culture and cultural consumption now. Right? And more broadly, I think people look at a story like, the, you know, the general state of Disney, and don’t know very much about the entertainment business. And these are all sort of separate complicated business stories that are coming together all at once. And if you haven’t been reading the trades, or even just, you know, good, solid mainstream business reporting, it’s easier and more fun to jump on you know, a monocosal explanation that fits your political priors and makes you feel politically satisfied than to bone up on the very complex shifting business incentives, you know, in in industry that both plays in these political spaces and that everyone has strong feelings about.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:30

    And look, you know, I think Disney has made some mistakes. Right? I think that they have made some really meta investments in a way that were weird. You know? I mean, the Star Wars Hotel that they’re shutting down was, you know, astonishingly pricey had a sort of a real ceiling on the number of people who are gonna be interested in that sort of experience.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:53

    You know, they also have made political missteps. Right? Like, I I am not sure what the audience for Light Year was and then sort of overselling an incredibly, Anadine, not plot key LGBT relationship as, you know, some sort of milestone for the movie didn’t win at any particular championship or, you know, like role of honor a place in the role of honor of queer cinema, but it, you know, it was a way of the company know, and the people promoting it telling certain audiences, like, this is a thing that, you know, because you’re puritanical about the very existence of gay people in society that are trying to delay reckoning with your kids as long as possible. This movie is not for you. And so, I think this is a combination of Disney, legitimately screwing up in some areas.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:44

    Surfing a very tough business environment, being in this weird political fight with Ron DeSantis. I think thought he had an incentive to make all of this stuff look political, although who knows it’s actually gonna play out that way for him. And then people just being lazy about this complicated business story, the way that people tend to be lazy about complicated business stories.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:05

    The DeSantis factor here is important and kind of intro sting. And I do think that look, I I’ve said this before in the show, and some folks got annoyed with me. But the the initial response that Bob JPEG had to stay out of the big fight between Disney and, you know, that don’t say gay laws and all that, to say we’re gonna do things we’re not gonna attack this head on because it will just make us the target of attacks and we will we will lose that fight was right. I think it’s right and was born out It’s been born out in the polling. I mean I Disney has taken a reputational hit with GOP voters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:39

    You see it in the polls. That is not good for a family friendly brand. They don’t they don’t want to be taking sides on something like this. But at the same time, it creates a whole other set of weird incentives on Disney’s side. Right, Peter?
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:53

    Like, for instance, this this argument I I again, I think Bob Eiger was very happy to just say, oh, yeah. We’re we’re canceling this project because of Ron DeSantis. And that’s not really the case.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:04

    Yeah. That’s right. What these cuts do is is sort of cut against some prevailing arguments on both sides of the political aisle right now. So as you guys just talked about, like, on the one hand, it suggests that Disney’s trouble isn’t so much that it is producing woke movies. It’s it has just a bunch of other quite complex business factors that and and personality factors.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:28

    Right? As you mentioned, this was an Eiger Chepeck dispute in which one executive thought that it was gonna be great to move a bunch of people to Florida, and then another executive succeeded him and was like, I always thought that plane was stupid. We’re not gonna do that. But also, all of this is happening in a time of cost cutting. And if you look at this in in the context of the cost cutting, you see what this is gonna end up doing to production and to payments for production, And in particular, the high profile dispute at the moment is this is gonna change compensation for writers or at least this is going the signals coming changes for compensation for writers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:02

    Because one of the writers for the Ankler and then who also writes a separate substack is a a guy who goes by Entertainment Strategy Guide, does really deep dives into the business of Hollywood and streaming. And what he’s been arguing is that what this shows is that the streamers and the studios are willing to take very aggressive steps to save money on shows on streaming shows that actually cost them money. And the reason they cost money is because it they have to keep paying to keep those shows in their libraries. It’s not we buy the show and and it’s done in most cases. There are continual fees that are paid out to producers and to to sort of to to above the line talent, but also residuals that are paid to writers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:44

    And right now, writers are are attempting to negotiate for bigger streaming residuals. The argument here is that if they win that, What’s gonna happen is that studios will end up, of course, honoring the contract and paying bigger residuals for shows, but they’re gonna be investing in fewer shows. And they’re gonna not invest in the smaller shows that they know that don’t pay off because even though we don’t have data on this stuff, they have a lot of data So for among other things, he shows how some shows can simply cost a streamer money often because they’re weird. Like a like the SciFi show, raised by wolves, which is just a totally, like, bonkers bizarre production. I really kinda liked it, but it was obviously not gonna be the kind of thing that was gonna reach a big audience.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:27

    And I think the upshot of all of this, if you just sort of think about it in the context of of a producers looking to decrease spend of the negotiations with the writers is writers are negotiating for something that is ultimately going to leave us with less products, probably with less unusual or weird product, which means that experiments and sort of stuff that might be more interesting. Are gonna be less likely to be made. And it might even cost writers money in the long term if producers cut back on content spend accordingly so that, yes, you might you might be making more money per show. But there is less money overall going out and because there we’re in a, you know, sort of a we are in a crunch environment in terms of studio and streaming spend. This is gonna end up being the kind of response we should expect to see as studios look to to to cut back on cost on streaming.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:23

    What but don’t you think that that era of austerity, you know, it’s possible that the WGA negotiations, if they get higher streaming residuals, that will exacerbate sort of shrinkage in the industry, but look, like cash rules everything around me and the era of cheap cash for Hollywood and every other is over. Right? So, you know, some of this was coming anyway because the margins were just bonkers and unsustainable.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:50

    I agree with that completely. And there’s there was no way that that the next few years were gonna happen without some sort of some sort of retrenchment on the part of producers and streamers under any payment regime. That said, if you make it more expensive at the margins to hire writers, then that is some place where producers and people, you know, on the money end of things are gonna look to cut back even further and shows that might have made the the cut just barely. You know, some of these weird or more experimental shows are less likely to be made, and then the writers are not gonna get paid for those. Or writers who have already made things and might have been paid for them under the current regime might not be paid for them if they’re totally yanked off of the streaming networks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:35

    And in addition, it’s also just a forget the payments issue. There is just an odd thing. I mean, that is happening here, which is some of the streaming shows that are being yanked are not shows that you can get any other way. So something like Willow, which was made for Disney Plus. Now simply is inaccessible via any legal means.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:54

    And I think that’s not like a super friendly environment for creators. For people who worked on those shows, nor is it great for for viewers who might wanna catch up on that sort of thing? It mean, it’s it’s like, yes, there was never gonna be a sequel to Willow because it didn’t do so well, but it’s now a world in which stuff is just getting disappeared again in a way that has not happened for for quite a few years.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:15

    Well, yeah. But isn’t this also just a reversion to the historical mean. Right? Like, I mean, the for most of the history of television, if a show was low rated and not well loved and not watched, it just disappeared. It disappeared forever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:27

    Like, it would it was not in syndication. It was not on VA Chester or DVD. It just went away. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:32

    That’s why I said it hasn’t happened in a few years, but certainly that was the case in nineteen eighty or nineteen ninety. That was the normal thing to happen.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:39

    Well, and there I mean, there are huge numbers of lost films from earlier in Hollywood too. I mean, we our perception that we have access to everything is both a historical and inaccurate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:49

    At the same time, preservation has just become much more common, and there’s just there is a lot it’s obviously the case that some things have been lost and that some things that kind of should be accessible just rant art for a bunch for whatever reasons. Usually, like, complex rights disputes that would be too hard to summarize on a show like But I do feel like access for most certainly for a median viewer, especially a median viewer who doesn’t live in a big city is just obviously much better now than it was in nineteen ninety five or nineteen eighty five.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:21

    Yeah. Of course. But I mean, I I guess the question here is then how do you how do you square that circle. Right? So if you have a situation in which something that is not watched ends up disappearing forever, more or less, or at least gets moved to a different service that maybe has fewer subscribers or winds up on a, you know, a free ad supported streamer, which, you know, is is what we saw happen with something like Westworld.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:43

    How do you solve that problem? Because it’s like if we want to live in this utopian ideal society where we have access to everything that ever gets produced forever in perpetuity, but you also create a situation where it costs too much money to keep those things on. What’s the outcome here? How do you fix
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:00

    I can answer that very briefly. I think the one answer is you don’t, and the other answer is piracy solves that problem. And I that’s not an endorsement of piracy. But the way that you’re gonna be able to watch Willow in October of twenty twenty three later this year is that you’re gonna be able to pirate and that’s gonna be that, and it will be accessible to people who wanna seek it out that way. And then no one will get paid for it, and it’s not an ideal solution.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:25

    Yeah. But that’s it’s a terrible solution. It’s not it it screws the Bulwark. It screws the it screws the creators. I mean, I like I have no patience or sympathy for pirates and and their arguments.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:35

    But when
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:36

    someone is not aware But that is what is going to happen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:40

    Listen, let me I’ll I’ll direct this at you then. Why then should we not aim for something that I think the the networks have been fairly hesitant or resistant to, and frankly, the writers probably are as well. But basing all of these payments actually on number of times watched. Right? So if something is not watched, you don’t get a big residual for it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:00

    But at least it is on the thing, it is on the service forever, and people can watch it when they when they choose to.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:07

    Or why not, you know, move back to a multiple revenue streams model where you can rent or buy individual episodes of things? I mean, I don’t know how much you know, how many individual episodes of shows or seasons of shows you guys bought in the early days when you can do that on iTunes. But I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do some sort of, you know, sort of direct by episode by episode or season by season of this stuff. Through places like Amazon and iTunes where you can maintain a content library. Like, that just seems obvious to me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:40

    There’s still costs to that sort of hosting, and it seems like the writers guild is not is less interested in that because what they want is to somehow or another both get writers paid regardless of how much how often their show has been watched and not quite forced, but expect the streamers to keep paying for those shows even if they’re not being watched. Yeah. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:01

    Look. I mean, as I’ve said multiple times on this podcast, all sympathy and solidarity to the writers, but you know, the economic environment in which all of this stuff has taken place is insane and unsustainable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:12

    And just to just to be clear here, it’s insane and unsustainable because the Judios chased Wall Street Dollars and just made a series of terrible decisions.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:22

    Yeah. And, you know, the equilibrium is probably stuff more expensive, people making it make it be somewhat less well compensated, and there being less sort of weird, great experiments as of brand management. And that’s a bummer in a lot of ways, but the bill was always gonna come due for this particular or, you know, sort of drinking binge by the studios, and, you know, everyone is ending up paying some of it. And it just I mean, saying it sucks is, you know, sort of not very insightful or deep, but the situation sucks. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:58

    It’s like this was business model that worked well, that got blown up, and blown up briefly in a way that seemed like it was going to work for everybody, and it is collapsing in a way that works for nobody.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:10

    Yay. Alright. So what do we think? Is it a controversy or a controversy that everybody takes this extremely complicated complex situation that we just got frustrated and threw our hands up and said it sucks about and collapses it into well, this is why my politics proves that’s right. Alyssa.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:29

    It’s controversial. Peter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:31

    Well, it’s business as usual. That’s sort of how discourse in politics work and business. But it’s a controversy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:38

    I don’t know if it’s a controversy or an controversy, but it’s dumb and annoying, and I’m tired of it. Tired of people when I when I tweet something about this again in my mentions and saying, ah, yes. But don’t you understand that this is because of the wokeness? And I’m like,
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:52

    it’s not it’s there’s there’s a
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:54

    lot of other things going and maybe the locustness is part of it. I don’t know, man. I like, again at the margins, but just stop. Stop annoying me. That’s that’s what’s controversial, annoying, sunny bunch.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:04

    Alright. Make sure to swing by Disney make sure to swing by Bulwark Plus for a bonus episode on how we destroyed the cable bundle only to rebuild it anew in a possibly worse form. Now on to the main event. Fast x, should I call this fast x or fast ten? I need a ruling real quick, Peter.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:25

    X, fast x. Alyssa.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:27

    Fast
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:28

    x. Fast x. Fast x. The latest installment in the Interminable, Fast and Furious franchise. The series of films began about a bunch of DVD players stealing hot rod racers and has mutated into something like James Bond for the Himbo set.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:44

    With a fetish for the phrase, it’s all about family. It’s about family, man. It’s the family. That’s that’s all we care about is family. It’s the only series I can think of that kind of stumbled into theme, two thirds of the way through the series run, and and now uses that theme as an excuse to stage increasingly implausible stunts that defy basic physics in a way that would make Marvel blush.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:07

    So in This one, the villain. His name is Dante. He’s played by Jason Momoa, and Dante is the son of the villain from Fast Five because family. He wants revenge on Dominic Toretto’s team, of thieves, for killing his father, and we’ll come back to Momoa in a minute. All you really need to know is that he’s got a plan, and his plan involves bad things happening to our good heroes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:30

    The weirdest thing about this franchise I’m sorry. I’m not gonna recount the plot. I’m not gonna go plot point by plot point through this because it doesn’t matter. And if you get hung up on it, you’ll just go crazy. The weirdest thing about this franchise is that it has evolved into about, like, five different movies all playing out at the same time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:50

    Because there’s so many huge stars in this picture that getting them all together in one place, I assume would be nearly impossible. So Vin Deessel who plays Dom Toretto. He’s in one movie. Jason Stathoms in another movie that intersects briefly with tyrese Gibson and Lutacris’s movie. John Cena is in a third, almost entirely completely distinct movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:08

    That eventually intersects with Vin diesels. Charlie Sykes Theron and Michelle Rodriguez are in a fourth film that mostly takes place in an underground prison. That’s in Antarctica. And Brie Larson shows up randomly three or four times to participate in some shootouts. Shows up with a gun and she’s like, I’m gonna shoot some folks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:26

    I don’t particularly care about this movie as a movie. It’s dumb, and it’s bad just as nearly all of the movies in this franchise have been dumb and bad. But I am kinda fascinated by how it just works logistically. Like, how many days did they actually have John Cena on set? Was was there ever a moment when all the actors were in the same room together?
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:46

    How did they juggle the schedules? Were any of these sets actually real or is literally everything we see just a series a blue screens. Anyway, there is one interesting thing in this movie. There’s one interesting thing in this movie, and it’s Jason Momoa’s performance as Dante. Which I can only describe as I’m stealing this from John Potts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:04

    But it’s like Rip Taylor playing the Joker? That’s what his whole affect is. There’s like some Johnny dep Jack Spero there as well. And, like, there are bits where he’s playing, like, a real menacing serial killer darkness to some of the sequences, like when, for instance, Dante paints the toes of a pair of corpses in the midst of rigor mortis and their eyes are wide open and they’ve got fly crawling on them? Like, I feel like they were going for a weekend at Bernie’s rift here, but it actually calls to mind Lara von Trier’s horribly disturbing picture, the house that Jack built, I think there’s an almost identical sequence in that movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:37

    It’s very weird. Anyway, it is it is the whole thing. The whole thing is frankly a very bizarre piece. Of actorly Bulwark. One that is so nuts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:46

    I just I honestly cannot think of a similar antecedent in recent history. The the critic Manny Farber once wrote, of the distinction between elephant art, which is like, you know, bloated, pretentious European art house type movies, and termite art in which an actor or director burrows into a subject And I don’t know if what Momoa is doing here counts quite as termite art, but it is genuinely weird and subversive and interesting. I don’t know that it makes up for the rest of the movie being terrible. The movie is bad and momoa is probably bad in it as well. But at least he’s kind of interesting to watch, which I I you can’t say for anything else in this picture.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:21

    Peter, what did you make a fast x?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:24

    So as someone who actually likes the fast and furious franchise and is a fan of what Justin Lynn in particular has done with this franchise and reinventing it sort of in the middle of a what is now a ten or eleven film sequence, if you count Hobbs and Shaw. I did not like this movie, and I liked it even less the more I thought about it. So when the fast and the furious franchise is good. It’s light on its feet. It’s fun.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:53

    It’s unpretentious. It’s kind of Charlie Sykes not exactly unironic, but it’s earnest and it’s not super knowing it’s not, like, in on the joke of what it is because at every point that you might sort of it might, like, suddenly just say, yes. We understand this is all just a joke. It just, like, does the effect of, you know, sort of almost looking directly at the camera and looking right out at the audience and saying, oh, no. This is deadly serious.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:24

    Right? Because it’s all about, like, bro feelings and biceps and and, like, the importance of cars and corona. And there’s just a a kind of a a pleasant I don’t know, like, almost nonthreatening decency as well as a kind as a wit to the action sequences. And that combination can make these films not maybe good, but quite fun. And I would I would identify episodes five, six, and nine as the as the best, all of which were directed by by Justin Lynn.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:55

    And this movie is unforgivably not fun. The only time it approaches fun is when Jason momoa is on Jason momoa and John Cena are on screen But Johnson just is in some other movie that I might have liked better if it were the whole movie. It’s just a weird comic kid side adventure that happens to end up with, you know, to sort of play a small part in the finale of this film. And Jason Momoa First of all, he also is kind of in his own movie because, like, look at how rarely he’s on screen with any of the other big actors. He’s almost always just acting in front of a green screen kinda showing off and doing his weird thing, but not acting with or against anyone.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:37

    He’s just delivering lines in his gookie crazy way. And it’s just sort of unpleasant and loud and obnoxious and knowingly campy. It has decided to become in on the joke with the audience in a way that doesn’t Bulwark. In a way that destroys the undermines the fun of it. And then you combine that with the fact that the action sequences are just noisy and ugly and not very memorable.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:05

    I guess there’s some weird thing with a rolling ball that happens in Rome, but I couldn’t even tell you what the big beats are there except there’s a ball that rolls down a hill. And at the end, they’d save the Vatican, and it explodes in the water. I don’t like, the the best of these movies, you can remember key moments. You can scribe. These very specific sort of big, like, holy crap.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:25

    I’ve never seen that before on screen. That was ridiculous and enjoyable. And here, it’s just Like, this isn’t this is loud. And it’s aggressive and unpleasant, and it just kinda it it fails the fun test in a way that it really shouldn’t and that is somewhat disappointing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:43

    Peter, I’m sorry. You didn’t think it it had embraced its own silliness and devolved into campiness when they went in space when they when they shot a car into space in f not.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:53

    When they jumped a car between towers of a luxury building in Dubai
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:59

    or they chased they chased a submarine on the ice in f eight?
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:03

    The submarine thing was very silly, and I think f eight is the worst of franchise up until this one. A non Justin Lynn film and also one of the uglier entries in this. Those movies were silly. And you sort of veered into a kind of a camp. But this movie is does something different in tone.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:24

    That is More knowing, more ugly, less fun, and less less earnest about its characters and their very simple bicep related Felix.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:36

    Alyssa, what did you make of momoa in this movie? Because, again, I like, I’m I I I can’t really be bothered with the rest of it, but I do find what he is doing there to be, like, weird and Ron DeSantis, but also interesting.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:47

    So I am probably the one of us who likes these movies the best. And if you if you would like an extended treatment of my feelings about the franchise, you can listen to the episode of the podcast too fast too forever that I guessed it on a couple years ago at this point. And I’m also the one of us who is probably the most has spent the most time thinking about sort of the history of queer cinema. I don’t know if either of you have read Vidou Russo’s, the celluloid closet, which is sort of a history of, like, the secret gay history of Hollywood, basically. So I guess that positions me to say the thing that neither of you two have said about momo’s performance, which is, like, how feminine queer it is.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:27

    Right? Like, that’s the thing that’s really interesting about it. Like, he’s playing this incredibly violent, you know, sort of psychotic supervillain who is like, putting his hair up in scrunchies and wearing, like, is very into his nail polish and his accessories. And, like, spends a certain amount in the movie, like, swanning around in, like, purple silk. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:46

    I mean
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:47

    Those pants did look very comfortable.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:49

    It looks
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:49

    like I I think that’s I think that’s the implication when you describe him as Rip Taylor’s Joker. But, yes, Sure.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:54

    But, like, I mean, he is playing this. It’s like and if he is playing a, you know, fem, high camp villain, And interestingly, like, the fast and furious movies are in some ways, like an alternate vision of what like, queer inclusion in Hollywood could look like. Right? I mean, you have Michelle Rodriguez, who is gay, playing the main love interest in the movie as a character who is, you know, sort of notoriously unglammed up. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:23

    I mean, you, you know, you have the one sequence where she’s you see your doll up for her wedding and for, you know, in that, like, red dress in a fight sequence with, I think, Bronda Rousey. In five I believe that is. But, you know, she’s a character who is you know, she’s a, like, a queer woman playing a straight character who gets to be, like, the hot love interest despite being sort of notably clammed down. And to throw a just like a sort of camp throwback like this into the mix is really interesting. I don’t necessarily think it’s good or that it like works tonally with the movie, but it is fascinating to see a franchise of this magnitude, especially one that plays really big in China, which is not particularly LGBT friendly, lean into this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:14

    And to a certain extent, I think, the initiative of momoa himself. I mean, in the interviews that the director has given about the movie, he’s kinda like, yeah, Jason just got really into. And to go It’s choice. Yeah. Right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:28

    Like, it’s interesting to have this movie where it’s like, you know, like hunky leading man who’s like, Kald Drogo and Aquaman can be like, I just wanna like be a femme super villain where, you know, gay actress can play a straight character without having to affect sort of like the signifiers of Hollywood’s cis woman hotness. And, you know, the franchise never sort of sells itself that way. Right? Michelle Rodriguez never talks about herself in sort of those terms in the movie. And so it’s sort of a vision of Hollywood that’s incredibly inclusive without talking about its first without, you know, creating like a gay role for a gay actor to play instead of you know, letting a gay actor play a straight role.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:18

    It’s just it’s interestingly unselfconscious in its inclusiveness in a way that I think is successful and useful and important even when the movies are sometimes kind of garbage, which I think this one is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:31

    So thinking about that just a little bit more. I I I just wanna throw in one thing really quick here. The director of this movie is Louis Laterrier, who also made the first two transporter films. And the first two transporter films are, like, kind of, legendarily, gay action movies, not in the sense that they are, like, really overtly gay, but there is a scene in which with a Jason Statham transporter lead character talks like, says, oh, I’m not interested in you, Ma’am, because of who I am, that has been explicitly confirmed by Laterier among other people as the moment where he comes out. Laterrier said that Statham’s character in the transporter films was the first gay action hero.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:09

    I don’t know if that’s actually true, but, like, that was how he saw them. And I do wonder if there’s that’s a that’s some of Lateria’s influence coming through here given that he embedded a bunch of that in the last time he made a big car action franchise.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:21

    Alyssa, one thing I I I’m curious to get get your perspective on after that is I I feel like if this movie had come out in the nineties, it would have been protested by GLAD as a hate crime. Like, I like, you know, in the in in the in the in the in the same way that, you know, basic instinct came under fire or silence of the lambs came under fire. Feel like I can’t tell if it’s a sign of progress or what. But like, again, the way I describe the way I describe momoa on LetterBox was as as gay Joker. I mean, he’s he’s playing this this role as like gay Joker.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:53

    And like, it’s it’s very interesting to me to to kind of sit back and look look at the state of Iowa and be like I feel like thirty years ago, this would have been much more controversial than it is now somehow when we’re more aware of all this stuff.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:07

    Yeah. And it’s interesting. I mean, I would describe him as sort of as queer joker more explicitly. Just because His character is not sexual. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:17

    And, like, the thing that is transwestern about him is his gender presentation, not sort of necessarily any explicit you know, sexual contact with he has with anyone. And I had the same thought. I mean, walking out of the movie, I said Peter, I was like, I’m sort of excited to see the discourse about this one. Like, I would be I would be in an Andrea Long two SAA this performance is what I’m saying. But I think it you know, I think it’s a good thing just in the sense that, like, there are so many images of, you know, LGBT, men, and women that this one no longer feels defining.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:57

    Right? And it doesn’t feel like the fact that his motivation is sort of explicitly non sexual. Right? It’s like, it’s, you know, it’s the same sort of, like, manly, like, I’m going to avenge my father, family, blah blah blah. The source of his villainousness is explicitly separated from the queerness and campness of his persona.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:20

    Right? Like, he’s not, like, this is not some, like, repressed love he has for Dom. It’s not some, like, you know, he’s, like, breaking up his family, but not because, like, the nuclear family is evil and like, you know, cis heteros must be destroyed, but because it’s like, you killed my dad. And so I think it is different from the performances of, you know, the nineties that you were talking about. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:45

    The, like, buffalo bill is like trying to build himself a woman’s suit. Like, the source of his criminality is, like, that character’s transness. Right? But I also think there’s just, like, there’s just a variety of these roles and images now, even if some of them are, like, sort of dumb anodyne Disney, box checking nonsense, that something like this can exist without being threatening, you know, in the political environment, while like, I mean, look, I would not want to be a, you know, a trans or queer kid in Texas or Florida these days, there’s a lot of really, really legislation getting pushed and passed. But the political environment, you know, there were at least this, like, nationalized level pushback to that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:31

    Right? It is not the culture is not so monolithically negative about queer people. And so something like this can exist and just be a weird experiment without it being sort of definitive or the only queer character that people are gonna get to see on screen, maybe even in a big movie this year. You know? I mean, Pedro Pascal, who is, you know, like, this having this huge moment is like, play at a gay cowboy in a movie with Ethan Hawk that’s that can.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:02

    And so there’s just more space and room to breathe in the culture, and so something like this can be a weirdo artifact instead of you know, a cause for despair. And I think that’s probably a healthy thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:16

    Alright. So what do we think? Thumbs up or thumbs down on fast x. Peter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:20

    Sadly a thumbs down. I was really hoping to like this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:23

    Alyssa. Same, a disappointment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:26

    It’s definitely a thumbs down. It’s a bad movie, you know. But Again, I kind of hate all these movies, so I’m not I’m probably not the the person to to ask. Alright. That is it for this week’s show.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:35

    Make sure to head over to Bulwark Plus our bonus episode on Friday, make sure to tell your friends, a strong recommendation from a friend. It’s basically the only way to grow podcast audiences. If you don’t grow, we’ll die. You did not love two days episode. Please complain to me on Twitter at sonybunch.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:48

    I’ll convince you that it is in fact the best show in your podcast feed. See you guys next week.
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