Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

The Plastic Podcast

An audio program about movies. Listen with your iPod or computer.

Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

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Daily Plastic is a Chicago-based movie blog, a collaboration between Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks, the same pair who brought you the wearable movie tote, the razor-thin pencil pocket, and that joke about aardvarks. If you know the whereabouts of the blue Pontiac Tempest that was towed from the Plastic Parking Lot on the evening of August 7th, 2008, or more importantly if you've recovered the red shoebox that was in its trunk, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Davis was the chief film critic for the late, great Paste Magazine (which lives on now as a website) from 2005 through 2009, and he counts this interview with Claire Denis among his favorite moments. Every once in a while he pops up on Twitter. He's presently sipping puerh in Chicago, even at this hour. Meanwhile, Parks, whose work has appeared in TimeOut Chicago, The Hyde Park Herald, and Paste, is molding unsuspecting, college-aged minds in the aforementioned windy city. Media types are warned to stay clear of his semester-sized field of influence because of the distorting effects that are likely to develop.

The © copyright of all content on Daily Plastic belongs to the respective authors.


Visit Daily Plastic tonight to follow and participate in our live commentary of the Oscar broadcast. We promise no remarks on fashion or hair, except in extreme circumstances.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927)
Brian Darr recently researched the history of the Academy Awards, which were first issued in 1929, and he compiled a slide show about the Oscars that played before the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's Valentine's Day screening of Sunrise.

Cynics like me think of the Academy Awards less as a celebration of quality filmmaking than as a promotional tool, both for the nominated films, which coincidentally tend to come into the marketplace just at the time when "Awards Season" hype puts their titles on people's tongues, and for Hollywood as a whole. But it wasn't always so. Announced 80 years ago this week, the first-ever Academy Awards for the 1927-1928 business year were decided upon not by a large voting pool but a small cabal of judges in a smoke-filled room, handpicked by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences founder (and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio chief) Louis B. Mayer. The surprising thing is that the winners really were some of the best cinematic achievements of the year.

The best two books I know that provide a behind-the-scenes, unofficial history of the Academy Awards are: Inside Oscar by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona, and Behind the Oscar by Anthony Holden. Read them! — BD
Louis B. Mayer

Mayer had instigated the creation of the Academy as a means for staving off unionization efforts in Hollywood. As the story goes, his attempts to use MGM workers to construct his new Santa Monica beach house were foiled by a 1926 union contract which made studio laborers prohibitively expensive to employ for outside projects, even those strong-armed by the Big Boss. Mayer was outraged; he had been able to use MGM art director Cedric Gibbons to design his beach house because designers, as well as writers, directors, actors and producers, had not yet organized into guilds. By inviting prominent members of each profession into a fraternity (and it was mainly men at first; Mary Pickford was one of three women among the founding 36 members) known as A.M.P.A.S., Mayer staved off the further alphabet-souping of Hollywood talent into the S.A.G., D.G.A., W.G.A., etc. for several years.

Awards were an afterthought in the initial A.M.P.A.S. meetings, but they soon grew to become a crucial strategy of studio/employee relations. "I found that the best way to handle [moviemakers] was to hang medals all over them," Scott Eyman quotes Mayer in his biography of the mogul. "If I got them cups and awards they'd kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That's why the Academy Award was created." This quote might help explain why that first year, the statuettes (also designed by Gibbons) were often given out for a body of work, not for a contribution to a particular film. For example, Janet Gaynor won the first Actress award for her work in three films: 7th Heaven, Sunrise and Street Angel. German star Emil Jannings won the Actor statuette for two roles he played during his brief stint in Hollywood: The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh, which is the only Academy-Award winning performance in what is now considered to be a "lost film" — if you find it please inform the Academy Film Archive!

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Ishika Mohan / Fox Searchlight / Lol Crawley
Left: Danny Boyle in India. Right: JimMyron Ross and Tarra Riggs in Ballast.

On this edition of the Plastic Podcast, Robert Davis first talks with Danny Boyle about his new film, Slumdog Millionaire. Among other things, they chat about what drew him to the project, his impression of India, working with his co-director Loveleen Tandan, his strategy for editing multiple timelines, and the film's surprising depiction of torture — over a game show.

Then Rob talks with Lance Hammer whose debut film, Ballast, is moving gradually around the country. They talk about the music he almost added, the eye of an art director, the impact of Godard and the Dardenne brothers on the film, the way he gleaned dialogue from his extensive, "architectural" process of rehearsal and improvisation, and the tone of the Mississippi delta.

0:00 Intro
3:09 Interview: Danny Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire
17:24 Interview: Lance Hammer on Ballast
33:43 Outro

Further Reading and Listening

Update: 15 December 2008
Excerpts from the interview with Lance Hammer appear at