The M&M Report: “Inside Out”

Inside Out Pod

This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed Pixar’s Inside Out. Devin’s two-word description of the movie at 6:55 pretty much stands on its own, but we also discussed the ins and the outs of Inside Out and reflected on the last two decades of Pixar as they unfolded parallel to our childhood.

I also reviewed the movie for my blog,. Check out The Dissolve’s interview with director Pete Docter for more context about the film’s development. And A.O. Scott’s New York Times review is well worth your time.

Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast.

“Inside Out”: Mind’s Eye

Inside Out

Some movies go to great lengths to show you profound they are. Others just assume you’ll pay attention. Inside Out is the latter.

The latest Pixar movie follows an 11 year-old girl named Riley, who moves with her family from her childhood home in Minnesota to a dingy apartment in San Francisco. The move makes Riley sad. She misses her best friend, her hockey team and her childhood innocence. But her parents, despite good intentions, are too busy settling in to notice that Riley is struggling.

This is a story you’ve seen many times before, more likely in your life than at the movies. That’s because the story doesn’t appear to have much in the way of exterior stakes. And it doesn’t. But Inside Out finds a way to make the interior stakes exterior by zooming in right between Riley’s temples, where emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black) take turns influencing Riley’s actions from a sleek control center in her cerebal cortex.

Influencing is the key word. Inside Out wisely avoids drawing a direct link between emotions and actions. It’s correlation, not causation. Dramatizing such abstract relationships would seem near impossible, but director Pete Docter and the team at Pixar have pulled it off with stunning complexity.

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“Jurassic World”: Less Dino, More Problems

Jurassic World

During the climax of Jurassic World, two dinosaurs tear into each other with ferocity and menace. The movie builds to this moment, capturing its CGI spectacle in loving wide shots with Michael Giacchino’s nostalgia-tinged score pumping in the background. But for a few seconds, the camera pans to the movie’s three main characters, who are darting in between the dinosaurs’ legs, scrambling to get out of the way.

I wish they had. Human characters are a necessary component of any movie in which dinosaurs terrorize a theme park full of unsuspecting vacationers. But Jurassic World makes a convincing argument that future installments (of which there will undoubtedly be many) ought to do away with them entirely. The movie squanders good actors and does bad no ones no favors. It seems confident that its characterizations have one or two more dimensions than they actually do. And it’s hard to build up a dino-fueled head of steam when the action periodically pauses for another round of unconvincing dialogue.

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“Veep” and “Silicon Valley”: Going Out on Top (or At Least Tied)

Veep4

The fourth season of Veep clattered to a halt Sunday night, ending indecisively as the election contest between sitting president Selina Meyer and challenger Bill O’Brien culminated in a rare electoral college tie. The finale, which I discussed with Devin Mitchell and Kevin Werner on the M&M Report, had much of the outstanding previous episode’s balletic rhythm but fewer punchlines, instead pivoting into rare dramatic territory for this typically farcical series.

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“Community”: Six Seasons and a Moving End

Community

Community has ended several times. First, in season 3, it completed a trilogy of excellent seasons of often genre-bending, frequently fourth-wall-breaking, occasionally tearjerking comedy on NBC. Then the network unceremoniously dumped the show’s creator and guru Dan Harmon, leaving the show’s rabid fan base with a superficial shell of a fourth season that retained the show’s stylistic inventiveness but lost nearly all of its humanity. It ended on the show’s worst episode to date, a sour end to a misguided attempt at brand extension from a network and production company that had clearly misunderstood what viewers actually wanted out of the show.

But then, miracles of miracles, the show returned again, and Dan Harmon with it. The fifth season was bumpy, especially because it had to deal with the loss of integral cast member Donald Glover and his lovable teary-eyed jock-turned-nerd Troy Barnes. But it was the show again. And then it ended, somewhat unremarkably.

Except it didn’t end, thanks to the #NewRules of television economics.

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The M&M Report: “Veep” Season Four

Veep Election Night

This week on the M&M Report, Devin and I welcomed returning guest Kevin Werner to discuss the fourth season of Veep, which ended its ten-episode run on HBO this past Sunday at 10:30.

We talked about the highs (Jonah and Richard, the cult of Tom James, the plight of Catherine Meyer) and the lows (fuzzy electoral math, overly dense finale plots) of this season, and we touched on our expectations for the next one, the first under replacement showrunner David Mandel.

The show’s creator Armando Iannucci is moving on from the show. He explained why in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. Another piece worth your time: former senior adviser to the president Dan Pfeiffer argues on Grantland that Veep is America’s most realistic show about politics.

Last time Kevin joined us, we talked House of Cards (or rather, Kevin and Devin talked House of Cards while I frowned in the corner).

Devin and I last discussed Veep during its third season in 2014.

Note: Devin and I are testing out a new M&M Report approach: one topic per episode. This week’s entire podcast is about Veep, with spoilers aplenty. Tune in next time for more.

“Orange is the New Black”: Welcome to the Fun Zone

OITNB

The third season of Orange is the New Black (which arrived three hours early on Netflix tonight) opens on a sex joke – nay, several jokes about bad sex jokes. Thus begins one of the most loosely plotted episodes in the show’s history.

That’s a smart move on the part of Netflix and showrunner Jenji Kohan. The structure of a television season that unfolds weekly need not apply to a television season that’s intended for speed-consumption (I’ve been trying to purge “binge-watching” from my vocabulary, with mixed success). As soon as the first episode is finished, you can cue the second one without even lifting a finger.

It’s smart, then, for OITNB to return on an episode that immerses viewers in its richly detailed world without submerging it in a sea of intertwined plotlines just yet. And Orange, more than most shows, sustains such an approach. Seeing all of the Litchfield inmates again is like being reminded of a group of old friends you haven’t thought about in a while. For a few minutes, all you can do is think about the good times and the great one-liners. Then reality sets in, and you remember that sometimes you had issues with those friends. Or rather, that they had issues of their own.

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