PHILOSOPHY AT THE MOVIES is an interview show, hosted by Shaun and Alex Baker, where popular movies are presented, with intriguing philosophical concepts through the arc of the narrative, choices the characters make as they face dilemmas, and through the inner dialogue of the characters.
Listen first, and then watch the movies, or watch first, then listen, if you would like to avoid spoilers.
The Third Man (36:52) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #073
What does this 1949 film, set in post-WWII Vienna, tell us about the black market in post war Europe? How does the story of Anna’s plight reflect the fate of citizens of East European countries occupied by Soviet forces? Why does Anna persist in her loyalty to black marketer Harry Lime even after being informed that his activities caused children who had contracted Meningitis to die after being given diluted penicillin? Why does Harry's old friend Holly Martins vacillate in that regard, even after having seen the harm first hand? Is it loyalty to Harry, or compassion for Anna? How does the charisma of the sociopathic Harry account for this moral blindness on the part of these two main characters? How does this movie cause us to consider the connection between physical, psychological or emotional distance and the capacity for inhuman behavior? Is it a cautionary tale for all of us?
After Life (33:54) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #072
What does this 1998 Japanese film, set in a way-station between life on Earth and an afterlife, intend to tell us about the connection between personal identity and memory? The recently deceased are assigned a sort of social worker who, over the course of one week, helps them pick one memory from their lives that they will recreate as a short film, and which they will carry into the afterlife as their only memory. Some of the characters in the film are unable to choose a single such memory, or do not want to do so, because they will also forget everything else about their lives. Is this a reasonable response to the program? Do they have a legitimate concern that they would be losing their identities, dying in a way, at the onset of the almost perfect amnesia? How does the film relate to other films, like Blade Runner, Nine Days, Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Heaven Can Wait, which also play with the connection between memory and personal identity, or work with the notion of souls being selected for embodiment in particular individual humans in particular circumstances, while having particular capacities? How does this genre of film present us with variations on political philosopher John Rawls’ “original position” thought experiment? Would that thought experiment serve as the basis of an engaging film itself?
12 Mighty Orphans (33:47) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #071
What does this 2021 film based on Jim Dent’s book of the same title, tell us about the life changing influence of Coach Rusty Russell on the boys in Forth Worth’s Masonic Home and School during the Depression? How does the film contrast his coaching philosophy with others? How does the film use the story of eventual NFL standout Hardy Brown to illustrate Coach Russell’s impact on their lives? Did Coach Russell and Doc save him from a violent and possibly criminal life? How does the film illustrate the nature of camaraderie in teams, how it developed within this team, and between the team and coaches? How does it portray Coach Russell’s creativity in coaching the undersized Mites? Does the telescoping of Russell’s 14 year career into one year detract from the film’s plausibility and appeal?
Locke (33:52) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #070
What does this 2013 film, taking place during a drive, involving the driver in a series of phone calls as he attempts to oversee a very important project while dealing with a personal crisis brought on by his own infidelity, tell us about Ivan Locke’s moral character? Did Ivan make the correct choice in leaving the major project, a concrete pour in order to be present for Bethan during birthing of his child? What can we say about his efforts to satisfy moral obligations toward both and his determination to tell his wife the truth? Did he make the right choice to not personally attend and manage the pour? What does this film teach us about making our best efforts toward being cognizant of the potential for unwanted ramifications in our behaviors? Why did Ivan Locke give inadequate consideration to the possible professional and personal ramifications of the one night stand? Does Ivan Locke redeem his moral integrity by the end of the film, and if so, to what degree?
Hoop Dreams (35:59) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #069
This groundbreaking 1994 documentary a ‘longitudinal’ documentary following two young men through four years of high school after being recruited to play basketball for a prominent private school in the Chicago area, tell us about the transactional nature of recruitment for athletics at prestige institutions? How is the high school recruiting experience similar to the college experience? What does the film tell us about the way the involved parties negotiate and navigate this transactional relationship during a school career? Are the players, their families, the schools, their donors and boosters all on a level morally speaking? Are all of them using each other in ways that are acceptable or not? Is there a disparity of power in the relationships?
The Dark Knight Rises (37:45) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #068
How does this 2012 film, the last in the Chris Nolan Batman Trilogy, reflect contemporary concerns with national security measures such as the Patriot Act? How does nemesis Bane’s takeover of Gotham City reflect revolutionary rhetoric and its rationalization of violence and injustice? How does it mirror the rhetoric that appeared in the French Revolution and other periods of history? How does it force audiences to consider similar rhetoric behind the contemporaneous “Occupy Wall Street” movements of the time? How is it that the film garnered controversy at both ends of the political spectrum? How does the film’s treatment of Batman’s ultimate fate explore the notion of founding myths and their connections with the maintenance of civil order? How does this mythology function in Gotham with regard to Harvey Dent, and now, Batman?
Centurion (32:30) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #067
What does this film, set during the Roman conquest of Britain, tell us about the effects of reciprocal barbarity between the Roman and British tribal kingdoms during wartime? How does the story of Etain, the Pict scout illustrate? How does the film attempt to fill in the historical blank with regard to the “Lost Ninth Legion” of Rome? How does the film fare in its portrayal of small unit dynamics in its development of the story of the small group of Roman soldiers lost behind enemy lines? How does it illustrate, in the fate of the character Marcos, the great risks taken by those that break trust in such situations? Why does the film largely pass on exploring the question of the tradeoff between the civilizing influence of empire and the often cruel means of forming or maintaining empire? Does this question of ‘civilizational warts’ explain the ongoing fascination American and British film-makers have with telling stories set during the Roman period?
What about Bob? (32:50) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #066
What does this 1991 Frank Oz comedy tell us about neuroses, narcissism and careerism? How are the personalities of the two main characters, Bob Wiley and Dr. Leo Marvin similar? How does the film show us the impacts of Marvin’s narcissism and careerism on his family relations? How does Bob’s taking on of a father’s role with the two kids, Sigmund and Anna, show Marvin’s lack in this regard? How does the film contrast the narcissism of the two characters as they battle? How do Bob’s manipulations of others reflect Leo’s manipulations? Does the film serve as a commentary on the faddish nature of psychotherapeutic trends in American pop-culture? What advice can we garner from the film, not only for would-be patients, but for therapists? How does the dissolution of Leo illustrate Stoic doctrine with regard to getting clear about what is and is not under our ultimate control? How does Leo’s luck in life lead him to think he has much more control than he does? How does Bob function in teaching him in that lesson? How does the ‘baby-steps’ philosophy, advocated by Marvin in his best-selling book, reflect good common sense?
Hari Kiri (37:10) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #065
What does this 1962 film, centering on the request by a Ronin (a wandering and un-employed Samurai) to be allowed a Hari Kiri ceremony on the grounds of a Samurai clan, teach us about the Samurai concept of honor? How does the main character’s quest for revenge serve as a commentary on two faces of Bushido code, one gentle and aimed to one’s own, the other cruel and aimed toward outsiders? What is Tsugumo’s intent in hunting down the three Samurai who had humiliated his son in law, Chijiwa and forced him to commit suicide? Why did he choose to cut off their top-knots instead of killing them? What significance does it have that none of the three are present during the Hari Kiri ceremony when Tsugumo requests they be his ‘seconds’ in the ritual? How does the cruelty shown by these three toward Chijiwa show they have failed in their stewardship responsibilities toward fellow Samurai? Are Tsugumo’s actions primarily motivated by a desire for revenge or search for justice? How does the film trade on an ambiguity in the term “honor,” one meaning tying honor to public perception, the other tying it up with the question of whether the clan actually behaved in a moral way?
Ready Player One (33:52) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #064
What does this film, which plays with the idea of a shared virtual gaming world somewhat like a “meta-verse,” tell us about the tensions between the creator of that virtual world and those that would monetize the creation? How does the film contrast the bleak real world of the gamers with the excitement and sense of mission that exists in the simulated world, OASIS? Why does the film choose to scratch the surface of the risk of escapism that comes with such technology? What are we to make of the film’s focus on the creator’s retreat from the risk involved in confessing his love for a love interest? What purpose does this backstory serve with regard to the main character? Why does the film not seriously explore the question of whether or not the OASIS is a good thing for humanity, given the apparent misery of the real world? Does the film in some way encourage such escapism even for those that are in less than dire circumstances? Why are the majority of people in the world of Ready Player One willing to spend so much of their biological lives playing in OASIS? Is this neglect of the real world why the situation on Earth has so seriously deteriorated? Why does the film so heavily indulge in in nostalgic reference to pop-culture of the 1970s and 1980s? What should we take away from this celebration of ‘nerd culture?’
John Carter (34:30) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #063
What does this 2012 film based on the science fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs, show us about his ability extrapolate from scientific and historical fact to features of Carter’s experiences on Mars, and the races with which he interacts? How do the psychological and moral characteristics of the Thark civilization reflect reptilian life on Earth? How do the Therns, an immortal race, resemble the gods of Greek mythology in their treatment of the other races and civilizations on Mars? Why does the film choose to underplay the complex political motivations of the different Martian races as they try to cope severally and collectively with the scarcity of resources on their dying planet? This feature of the source material, (Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series), is left undeveloped in favor of creating a straightforward adventure film. How does the film parallel Carter’s experiences with Apache, and the initial challenges of interacting with an alien culture, the Thark, and his eventual adoption of that culture as his own? How does the film modernize princess Dejah Thoris and Carter himself? Does this work? Why or why not?
The Battleship Island (34:41) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #062
What does this 2017 South Korean film, loosely based on the true story of the Hashima Island coal mines off Nagasaki, tell us about the motivations of so called ‘revisionist’ films centering on nations or ethnicities that were victims of WWII atrocities? How does the history of the island and Japanese treatment of Koreans, as well as the subsequent controversies over this past, reflect Japanese reticence to come to terms with the deeds of Imperial Japan? Why did the Korean producers decide to create a fictional prisoner escape and climactic battle between the desperate prisoners and the Japanese and collaborating Koreans? How does this film resonate with other revisionist films like 'Inglorious Basterds'? Do the black comedy aspects of such films do any sort of disservice to victims of atrocity? How does the film illustrate, in the person of the main character and his daughter, what seems to be a common human tendency, during times of extreme adversity, to act for the good of the group instead of being motivated by more narrow interests?
Klaus (32:45) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #061
What does the 2019 animated film, which presents an original retelling of the origins of the Santa Claus myth, tell us about mixed motivations when it comes to moral behavior? How does the character arc of Jesper as well as the children of the town of Smeerensburg, show that self-interest not only can incentivize moral behavior, but reap deeper change of moral character? How does the story illustrate the connections between historical events and personages and mythos? How does it illustrate this, using the comically mundane aspects of the efforts made by Klaus and Jesper to deliver toys to the children of Smeerensburg? How do these episodes function as origination points for elements of the Santa Claus mythos? How does the spirit of Klaus’s deceased wife work against his character’s centrifugal tendency and desire to live the life of a loner? How does the film contrast the relatively open attitudes of the children of the opposing clans, as opposed to the set ways of adults?
Tokyo Godfathers (33:10) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #060
What does this Japanese animated film, set during the Christmas season, tell us about family? How does the character arc of the ersatz family of homeless individuals who have found an abandoned infant illustrate the sometimes highly frictional dynamics of family interaction, and the respect and love that families also instantiate? What message about family and society is contained in the story of their discovery and the search for the parents of the child? How does each character’s reunification with their own biological families figure into the message? How does the film capitalize on setting the story in the Christmas season in order to lead the viewer into meditation on the distinction between merely meaningful coincidence and deliberate arrangement of meaningful events? How can you use the film to illustrate the difference between two concepts in information theory; so called ‘Shannon information’ and ‘specified complexity’? How does the film make use of theistic implications in the latter, by setting things in the Christmas season? How does the film work with the conception of redemption for flawed dysfunctional humanity by way of moral service to others? How does it raise questions about the power of extended family and community?
Black Hawk Down (32:17) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #059
What does this 2001 film, concerning a complex military operation to take two lieutenants of a Somali warlord, tell us about the complexities of peace-keeping operations and military operations in heavily populated urban environments? What does it tell us about state-building efforts that the UN took upon itself in Somalia in the 1990s? How does it presage similar efforts in the Post 9/11 world? What lessons should be learned from the substance or results of such efforts? How does it illustrate the level of complexity that is often involved in command and control in military operations, and the moral pressures that command and operators might feel when planning and executing such missions? How does it illustrate the tension that exists between humanitarian imperatives and stewardship responsibilities civilian command has with regard to forces they insert for high risk humanitarian missions?
Dune (35:20) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #058
What does this 2021 film adaptation of the 1965 Frank Herbert novel attempt to portray in terms of the predestination of Paul Atreides and his evolving attitude toward the leadership role toward which he is being groomed? Do Paul’s visions of his own future raise moral questions for him as to whether he should take on the leadership role he is apparently destined to take? How does the story capitalize on the “block theory of time” in the person of Paul? How does the story serve as a cautionary tale for charismatic political leaders? Does the story in some way support fascism? How does the story of Paul resemble the story of T.E. Lawrence? Does the weight of the novel’s political setting overburden both it and the film with exposition? What historical inspirations did Herbert have in mind when writing the novel? How does the film remind us of Saudi Arabia’s history and relations with the United States, Britain, or the USSR? How do the Fremen reflect the stresses of environmental factors upon human populations as they attempt to survive in harsh climates?
Net Worth (37:20) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #057
What does this story, set in 1957 Detroit tell us about the efforts of Ted Lindsey to unionize the players of the 'original six' teams of the NHL? How does the monopoly power over US teams, such as the Redwings and Blackhawks held by the Norris family illustrate points raised by Plato in his famous Ring of Gyges thought experiment? How does the insulation provided by great wealth and political connections mirror the magical powers of that ring? What does this thought experiment drive home about the relationship between morality and self-interest? How does the early history of the NHL ownership group, as portrayed in this film, also illustrate Plato’s point? How does the film illustrate the dangers of paternalistic rationalizations with regard to the players’ pension fund? How does the film’s portrayal of Gordy Howe’s relationship with Ted Lindsey illustrate the conflicting motivations, loves or loyalties of the players that made up the league in those days?
War of the Worlds (32:15) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #056
How does this 2005 Steven Spielberg film attempt to update the basic storyline from the H.G. Welles novel? What thematic elements does it leave out and why? Does the imagery, reminiscent of news coverage of the 9/11 attacks, convey any important message about that event? How does the film attempt to portray Welles’ meditations on empire or human relations to non-human animals we exploit for food or other purposes? Does it fail to reflect the aspects of the novel that engage the ‘problem of evil?’ How does the history of adaptations of the novel reflect a desire to update the basic storyline with contemporary interests or issues in mind? Does the family dynamic portrayed in the film work? Does the story of the son, Robbie, leave us dangling with his largely unexplained reappearance after having run into a raging battle between Martian tripod machines and US military?
Excorcist III - Legion (32:43) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #055
What does this film, a sequel to the famous 1973 film, tell us about the problem of evil? How does the friendship between police Lt. Kinderman and Father Ryan allow the film to explore the issues raised for belief in God posed by the occurrence of gratuitous evil of the nature portrayed in the film? How does the film raise the question with regard to Satan’s evil? Does it imply that evil is something that cannot be eliminated, even by God? How does the dialog between Kinderman and the spirit of the Gemini Killer explore the challenges faced by traditional dualistic views as to mind body interaction, via the premise of spiritual possessions? How do films like this contribute to the debate over whether such portrayals of shocking evil should be presented? How does the film, in the persons of police investigator Kinderman and Father Ryan, illustrate the moral injury burnout or exhaustion that can occur in certain professions?
The Long Halloween (34:35) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #054
What does this animated Batman film, based upon a graphic novel, tell us about Hobbesian views with regard to self-interest, social mores, legal codes and social contract? How does Batman’s motivation differ from the crime families portrayed in this film? How is he similar? Do his actions give support to Hobbes’ view as to man’s essentially selfish nature? Why do he, Gotham DA Harvey Dent and police Capt. Gordon agree to bend, but not break the rules as they attempt to take down the Falconi crime family? Does the Batman story serve as a reminder for Americans of how lucky we are to live in a society where the rule of law is respected, instead of one riven with tribal or familial conflicts and motivations? How is Gotham like Afghanistan or Iraq? How do the characters of Dent, and his wife Gilda, lead us to consider the relationship of revenge to justice? Is Gotham beyond saving? If so, what should be done? Do Batman films need to be so serious and bleak?
Worth (29:20) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #053
What does this film, based upon Ken Feinberg’s account of his work as Special Master of the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, tell us about the tension that exists between efforts to economically quantify the impact of the loss of human life and the sense of loss felt by surviving loved ones? What light does it shed on the uniqueness of individual human lives as the staff go about the process of interviewing survivors? How do the cases of Nick Donato and Graham Morris reflect the moral complexities involved in determining who gets compensated? How does the case illustrate the difficult work that goes into striking a workable balance between utility and justice? How do the interactions between Charles Wolf and Ken Feinberg show their sincere motivations, as contrasted with the cynical Lee Quinn?
The Junction Boys (33:14) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #052
What does this film, based upon the Jim Dent book of the same name, tell us about football coaching philosophies that were common in the 1950s and 1960s? Does Paul (Bear) Bryant come to the conclusion that he went too far in his efforts to break the lackadaisical culture at Texas A&M? What positive results did his hard tactics have with regard to character formation of players, many of whom went on to successful careers not only in football, but in other arenas of life? Why did the men come to appreciate the experience, even if it was an exercise in excess, and, at times endangered the lives of players? How can you use cases like that of Bear Bryant to illustrate Aristotle’s concept of the mean? How does the film portray Bryant’s guilt at having run such a harsh camp, and the players’ forgiveness and appreciation of Bryant? How does the film allow us to contrast differing coaching philosophies? How can you morally contrast military training, and life endangering risks contained therein with athletic competition and training? Can harsh athletic experience prepare one for the rigors of military life?
The Breadwinner (34:25) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #051
What does this film, set in 2000 Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, tell us about the misogyny at the heart of Taliban governance? How does the bully character Idrees instantiate this? How does the film's portrayal of Parvana and her father show they have values and goals that are in conflict with this world-view? How does Parvana’s disguising herself as her deceased brother show not only her bravery, creativity and moral courage, but the degree to which the society is retarded in its development due to its treatment of women and girls? How does Parvana’s choice to take on the role of a boy illustrate Stoic battle doctrine, or strategic advice as she adopts to what she cannot control, while taking on the role of male breadwinner for the sake of her family? How does the older, more sympathetic male Taliban character Razaq help her, yet illustrate the lack of moral courage and bet-hedging behavior in the male population of Afghanistan? Does this tentative and self-protective behavior on the part of most Afghan men doom any tentative steps toward progress or liberalization of the culture?
The Island of Dr. Moreau (32:47) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #050
How do two films, one produced in 1996 the other in 1932, based upon the H.G. Welles novel explore the ethical challenges posed by genetic engineering? What sort of commentary does it provide concerning the slide into morally dubious actions that can be brought about by scientific fascination with following a trail of research? How do the original book’s anti-vivisectionist roots explain elements of the story? How do the book and films provide commentary on the eugenics movement, popular at the time of the writing of the novel? How do the ‘ape man’ hybridization experiments undertaken by Soviet Russia in the 1920s illustrate these concerns, and show real world parallels with this work of fiction? How does the story connect thematically with Joseph Conrad’s story Heart of Darkness, and presuppositions at the root of colonialism of the day? Do the works of H.G. Welles fail to make the transition to successful film adaptations? If so, why is this?
Unforgiven (33:40) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #049
What does this 1992 Clint Eastwood film tell us about mythologizing of cruel figures in the so called ‘Wild West’? How does the character “English Bob” reflect the sanitizing fictions that were circulated in the press and popular culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? How does the film illustrate the real emotional and moral impact of killing? How do the differing reactions of Munny, Ned Logan and the ‘Schofield Kid’ illustrate the moral deadening and injurious effects of a lifetime as killer and outlaw? How does the character Munny illustrate that in lawless circumstances, in order to exact justice or retribution, or provide security, society often employs hard men, but then tends to push them aside when the emergency has passed? How does the treatment of the women in the film illustrate the morally shocking nature and misogyny of brothels? The victim of a viscious attack is treated merely as property that had been damaged. How do the women respond when they find they will not be protected by Little Bill, the sheriff? How does the film illustrate arguments in favor of legalizing such work which eventually carried the day in Nevada? How does the parasitical nature of the writer W.W. Beauchamp, and his desire to latch on to the three main characters illustrate the moral risks and harmful consequences of ‘yellow journalism?’
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (30:00) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #048
What does this 2017 Film about the origins of the HELA cell line used in biomedical research, and the family of ‘donor’ Henrietta Lacks, show us about the ramifying effects of the loss of Henrietta on her children and extended family? Would it have been more true to the rich source material (a best-selling book on this family's experiences) to have created a mini-series instead of a single film? How does the story highlight the ethical problems involved with taking samples from patients, propagating, distributing and using them for research without informing them or gaining their consent? What are the arguments against requiring fully informed consent for potential research purposes when samples are taken, and do they carry the water in cases like the HELA cell line? How does the film illustrate the stark contrast in medical care typically afforded black Americans in the 1950s, as opposed to white Americans? How does the fate of Elsie Lacks, Henrietta’s disabled daughter, who died at the Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane of Maryland, illustrate systematic racism in place at the time?
Source Code (31:30) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #047
What does this 2011 Science Fiction film, premised on the technological possibility of reliving the last few minutes of a person’s life by soul-jumping into their bodies in parallel universes, tell us about ethical issues that would arise in using such technology? Does the program director, Dr. Rutledge, believe that Source Code is merely a simulation, or does he think Colter Stevens is actually sent into alternate universes, occupying each universe’s Sean Fentress? How does Capt. Goodwin’s choice to honor Stevens’ request to take him off life support jeopardize the Source Code program? If Stevens is the only person capable of being used in Source Code, should she have acquiesced in Rutledge’s order to conduct the ‘mind wipe’ of Stevens? At first, Stevens is not aware that he was terminally injured, and is being held on life-support and a part of the Source Code program. Is the wrong inflicted upon him in this lack of fully informed consent offset by the millions of lives he saves? Would there be a way to more ethically conduct this program using mortally wounded soldiers like Stevens? Is it ethically similar to real world programs such the MK Ultra and Edgewood Arsenal studies? What happens to Sean Fentress at the end of the film? Is he killed, as Stevens’ soul takes up residence in his body? Should Stevens (now in Fentress’s body) tell Christina, Fentress’s girlfriend? Should he tell the Fentress family? He calls ‘his’ father, posing as an army friend, relaying Stevens’ dying words. Should he reconsider, and seek out ‘his’ father in that universe? Would that be morally and emotionally traumatic for the father, given there will now be two Colters in that universe?
The Trial (31:35) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #046
What does this 1962 Orson Welles film, based upon the incomplete Franz Kafka novel, tell us in its utilization of a nightmarish story? How does the illogic of transitions mimic nightmares? Do any of the characters surrounding and including protagonist Joseph K, truly know what is going on? Are they all in the same uncomprehending state with regard to their places in the world? How does Joseph K’s ‘throwness’ into his world reflect our own status, according to existentialist thought? How does this 1914 novel forecast elements of the legal systems of later 20th century totalitarian states in Germany and Soviet Russia? What does the fable of the man sitting in front of the doorway asking for entrance to ‘the Law’ represent? Does the Law represent God? Does the film present us with a meditation on the problem of evil, pain and suffering being allowed by God, and man’s inability to find justification or rationale for it? How does Welles symbolize human ignorance in the closing of the film, using the parable of the man at the gates of the Law watching the door close forbidding his entrance as he dies?
1776 (32:00) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #045
How does this 1972 film, based on the Second Continental Congress’ deliberations on Independence, reflect the times of its production, as well as the actual events surrounding the adoption of the Declaration? Does the effort to make the founding fathers more human work? Does the film accurately reflect the motivations of men like John Dickenson? Why does it simplistically portray some of them as primarily wanting to protect their wealth or land holdings? How does the film dramatize the debate over and excision of Thomas Jefferson’s section on slavery, and the rationale for that deletion? How does the language of the preamble of the Declaration illustrate the longer term strategy of Jefferson and others in regard to eliminating the slave trade? How does the story of Jack Warner’s and President Nixon’s concerns about one song illustrate the politics of the early 1970s? How did this musical film inspire Lin-Manuel Miranda to create the play Hamilton?
Chernobyl (36:29) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #044
What does this miniseries, based upon the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster and its aftermath, tell us about the contribution made to the disaster by the closed Soviet system, and its Marxist/Leninist ideology? How important was international media to the eventual clean-up and averting of an even worse disaster? How do the film-makers portray the heroism of ordinary citizens in the cleanup operation? How does the miniseries show the cynicism of ordinary citizens and party functionaries in the face of the failures of the Soviet system? How does it show the ordinary person’s courage and willingness to sacrifice their lives? How does this invidiual heroism contrast with the willingness of communist states to indulge in crude utilitarian calculus when it comes to mass sacrifice of human life? Should the Russian government have allowed people to return to live in the exclusion zone? Should people be allowed to visit the area? What level of respect to those who died should be shown by such visitors, and how has social media illustrated this? What books should one read in concert with watching this miniseries? Is the film intended to be anti-nuclear power?
The Steel Helmet (33:09) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #043
How does this 1951 film set during the contemporaneous Korean War explore racially connected issues in the U.S.? How does it go against type for so called “B” movies in its exploration of these issues? How does it reflect the communist world’s awareness of America’s faults and attempts to exploit the existence of racial bigotry? How does the director, Samuel Fuller’s, military experience lend credence to his portrayal of small unit climate and dynamics? How does the relationship of the relatively green Lt. Driscoll and experienced Sgt. Zack reflect the realities of these dynamics? Why did the Army react negatively to this film’s portrayal of the shooting of a POW? Why is there a relative dearth of films dealing with the Korean War, as compared with WWII and the Vietnam War? Does the ambiguous outcome of that conflict account for this?
Unbreakable (29:41) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #042
How does this film’s attempt at a realistic or plausible variation on the theme of superheroes work as compared with more mainstream films in that genre? How does Elijah Price’s disease, and his mother’s attempts to counter his fear, lead him to believe comic books contain a kernel of truth with regard to people that are physically impervious to harm, and how does this lead him to discover David Dunn? How does Elijah attempt to convince Dunn that he needs to play the role of protector? What was Elijah’s ultimate purpose in causing catastrophic incidents, including the train derailment that opens the action for Dunn? How does the scene at the train station, where Dunn intuits or sees various crimes illustrate a more realistic or down-to-earth superhero theme, in that he must conduct a sort of triage before he acts? How effective is the effort to place the super-hero theme in a more restrained and realistic environment, and how does it motivate the dilemmas the characters face? How does Shyamalan work with the comic book genre’s notion of a fatal weakness in order to ground and make plausible Dunn’s superior abilities?
The Man Who Wasn't There (31:32) Shaun and Alex Baker Episode #041
How does this noire film, which contrasts a barely noticeable wallflower of a main character with a set of boisterous ‘BS-ing’ characters, use this contrast, and for what purpose? How is Ed’s position in this ‘big wide world of yakity-yak’ like ours? How does Ed’s passivity illustrate points made by existential philosophers, with regard to alienation and 'authentic' existence? How does the introduction of aliens and UFOs symbolize Ed’s passivity with regard to his own life? How does Ed's defense attorney make use of an argument about the ‘plight of modern man’ to argue that Ed was incapable of the crime with which he was charged? How does Ed’s arc of development, as contrasted with those of other more active characters in classic noire films, illustrate the dark underlayment lurking in the existentialist notion of authenticity, when combined with its peculiar aesthetic view of morality or values? How does Ed’s desire to help Birdy start a musical career show his concern for not having led a meaningful life? Why is he shocked at Birdy’s tawdry response?