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The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood

Author: The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood

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Sonny Bunch hosts The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood, a new podcast featuring interviews with folks who have their finger on the pulse of the entertainment industry during this dynamic—and difficult—time.
192 Episodes
On this week’s episode I’m joined by Jennifer Esposito, the director, writer, and star of Fresh Kills, a mob movie told from the perspective of mob wives and mob daughters. We discussed her career in the movies and how that helped prep her to stand behind the camera, why it’s hard to find audiences for original movies telling stories aimed at adults, how social media is helping build a base of support, and the powerfully feral performance of Odessa A’zion. You can watch Fresh Kills right now from the comfort of your own home on your preferred VOD provider. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend!
Often, when people discuss television viewing these days they’ll conclude their chat with something like “But we just don’t know what people are watching.” That is an increasingly outdated view of the data, however. On this week’s episode, I’m joined by Dierdre Thomas, the Chief Product Officer for Nielsen’s Audience Measurement business unit. We talked about the evolution of Nielsen’s business measuring market share, how the company captures what people are watching and where, and how overall viewing habits have changed in the streaming age. 
On this week’s episode, I’m joined by Stephen Robert Morse and Seth Porges, the producers and directors of How to Rob a Bank. Streaming now on Netflix, the true-crime doc’s subject, Scott Scurlock (aka, the Hollywood Bandit), calls to mind Point Break in his commitment to living his life however he pleased and funding it through criminal activities. But, as Porges told me in our interview, How to Rob a Bank is also a subversion of the cinematic trope of the noble bank robber, a rejection of that idealized vision of criminality. It’s a reminder that what filmmakers portray has some impact on how we see—and take part in—the world. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to watch their movie. And if you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend!
On this week’s episode, I’m joined by John DeVore, author of Theatre Kids: A True Tale of Off-Off Broadway. In addition to discussing his life in the arts and the different species of theatre children—from the stage to politics to religion, theatre kids come in all shapes and size—we also talked a bit about the evolution of media in the post-9/11, pre-iPhone age. And we went back to one of my favorite topics: why no one can behave themselves in public these days! Get off our lawns! If you enjoyed this episode, you should pick up a copy of John’s book; it’s a quick read with just the right amount of melancholy. And please share this episode with a friend!
On this week’s episode, I’m rejoined by Sean O’Connell to discuss his new book, Bruce Willis: Celebrating the Cinematic Legacy of an Unbreakable Hollywood Icon. Breaking down Willis’s career—which has been sadly cut short following his diagnosis of aphasia—by comedies, action movies, work with auteurs, and “Die Hards,” the book is an exhaustive look at, mostly, the highs (and some of the lows) of Willis’s career. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend!
On this week’s episode, I invited David Poland on so he could talk us all of the ledge about the state of theatrical exhibition. And while he didn’t quite do that—his opening words: “It’s, it’s bad! Things are bad”—he did highlight why things aren’t necessarily disastrous and how both the studios and the exhibitors can help get everything back on track. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend!
This week, I’m joined by Bobby Miller, the writer/director of The Cleanse, to talk about the film’s long and winding path to a Blu-ray release. (You can buy it at Amazon or for five bucks less at the great DiabolikDVD.) We discussed getting that film made, the struggle to secure a release, and why owning a physical copy of a movie packed with special features like commentary tracks and making-of docs is a real thrill for a filmmaker who grew up absorbing the extras on features like Boogie Nights. We also discussed his voice-directing and editing work and why he wrote a novel. If you enjoyed this episode, please check out Bobby’s movie. And make sure to share it with a friend!
Documenting January 6

Documenting January 6


On this week’s episode, I’m joined by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix-Fine to discuss their searing look at the assault on the Capitol on January 6 perpetrated by supporters of Donald Trump attempting to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. We discussed how they got their footage, why the events are being memory-holed by embarrassed Republican politicians, and how you can help spread the word about this documentary so people aren’t allowed to forget what, and who, they’re supporting when they support Donald Trump. If this interview gets your blood boiling like it got mine boiling, you can watch The Sixth on your VOD provider of choice. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend. 
I’m thrilled to have Adrienne LaFrance of The Atlantic on the show this week to discuss her profile of Albert Brooks and more generally celebrate his greatness. From movies like Broadcast News and Defending Your Life, to voicework on The Simpsons and Finding Nemo, to his under-appreciated villainy in Drive, Brooks’s talents have wowed multiple generations of moviegoers and TV watchers. 
This week, I’m rejoined by Glenn Kenny to discuss his new book The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface. Among the topics discussed: What a Scarface directed by Sidney Lumet might have looked like; how the movie secured an R rating rather than a commercially disastrous X; and whether or not Scarface is a “political” movie. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to listen to our previous encounter (and pick up his book Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas, it’s a hoot). And please share this with a friend!
On this week’s episode, I’m rejoined by the Los Angeles Times’s Ryan Faughnder (read and sign up for his newsletter here!) to discuss Netflix’s big data change, why some in Hollywood are hoping for David Ellison to take over Paramount (though shareholders have a different view), and more. If you liked what you heard, share this episode with a friend!
As readers may remember, The Beekeeper has been one of my favorite movies of the year thus far. One thing in particular I loved about it was the costume design: It’s an underappreciated artform, conveying character through clothing, and the costuming in this film perfectly conveyed a range of characters, from “taciturn hero” to “crazed killer” to “crypto douchebag.”  Which is why I’m very excited to have Kelli Jones, the film’s costume designer, on this week to talk about The Beekeeper and her work elsewhere. From previous collaborations with director David Ayer on movies like Bright to the long-running FX biker gang show The Sons of Anarchy to Oscar-nominated biopics like Straight Outta Compton and Nyad, Jones’s work is a striking example of the importance of clothing in bringing a cinematic world to life.  And I have a favor to ask you. The next time you’re watching a movie, think about the silent—but very visible—work that costume design is doing. Look at the suits, soak in the dresses, think about how fabrics can convey period with a simple glance. 
On this week’s show I talked to Rod Blackhurst, the director of the new film Blood for Dust, about … well, a whole bunch of stuff. From his early shorts on the comedy website Funny or Die starring Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, to a documentary about Amanda Knox, to the horror short “Night Swim” (which recently received the feature-length treatment), to his new picture with the great Scoot McNairy and an all-star supporting cast that includes Ethan Suplee, Stephen Dorff, Josh Lucas, and Kit Harrington, we cover his whole career. Blood for Dust hits VOD and has a limited theatrical engagement six days from now, and if you’re in the mood for a western neo-noir that deals with people who feel real (and have real-feeling problems), you’re not going to want to miss it. 
I’m very excited to be rejoined by the Entertainment Strategy Guy (subscribe to his newsletter!) to discuss the year in streaming. What were the biggest hits in TV and film? What were the biggest misses? Could linear-like ad-supported streaming services be the future for big services like Netflix and Disney+? Is there a double standard for the tech-based streamers and the studio-owned streamers? All that and more on this week’s episode. If you enjoyed it, share it with a friend!
This week I was thrilled to chat with star David Krumholtz and writer-director Bob Byington about their new movie, Lousy Carter. It’s a wide-ranging conversation, touching on topics from shooting during the age of Covid to where Krumholtz was when he got the call to audition for Oppenheimer, and I hope you find it as fun to listen to as it was for me to conduct. If you enjoyed it, I hope you share it with a friend. A little extra this week: I hope you check out both Lousy Carter and Byington’s body of work. Everyone says they’re tired of the same old mush at the multiplex; well, here’s a chance to dive into a body of work you may not be familiar with. Some highlights: Byington and Krumholtz previously worked together on Frances Ferguson, which you can watch for free on Amazon Prime; it is charmingly dry and occasionally cutting without coming across as meanspirited. Star Kaley Wheless gives a realistic and somewhat complicated performance as the substitute teacher convicted of sleeping with an (of-legal-age) student, while Krumholtz’s turn at the end as a group therapist is both humorous and humane. Somebody Up There Likes Me (available for free on Peacock and for rental elsewhere) is an amusing look at a slacker floating through life starring Nick Offerman and Keith Poulson, and the framing device—we skip ahead five years each sequence, giving us 35 years in the life of Poulson’s character—is weirdly affecting. The passage of time comes for us all, or some such. Infinity Baby (streaming on Kanopy and Amazon) is probably the oddest of these four films: set in the not-too-distant future, Kieran Culkin’s Ben works for a pharmaceutical company that accidentally made babies that never grow older. He’s interesting as a free-floating cad—and Culkin is an absolutely magnetic screen presence—but I think the best performance belongs to Martin Starr (Silicon Valley, Party Down). He’s playing slightly against type here: rather than a sure-of-himself-know-it-all, he’s a little more fidgety, a little unsteady. And that unsteadiness pays off in the film’s closing moments, as we see the results of an unexpected responsibility.
The 2024 Stunt Awards!

The 2024 Stunt Awards!


On this week’s episode I’m thrilled to be rejoined by Brandon Struessnig and Bilge Ebiri, who spearhead Vulture’s annual Stunt Awards. We talked about the year’s big winner, John Wick Chapter 4, how folks kind of have to decide for themselves how much CGI is too much CGI when determining what counts as practical and what counts as digital, and compiling the 100 most influential fight scenes of all time. Some important links for you:  The winners of the 2024 stunt awards; Brandon’s tribute to Henry Kingi; The 100 most influential fights in action cinema; And a preview of The Fall Guy. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend!
This week I’m honored to be joined by Dallas Film Commissioner Tony Armer to discuss what, precisely, a film commissioner does. On this episode he discusses his own path to getting involved in the film industry, breaks down different kinds of incentives cities and states use to woo productions, and talks about how Dallas has made itself more attractive to major productions looking for a place to shoot. We also talk a bit about Tony’s podcast; do yourself a favor and check out the episode featuring a post-screening Q&A with cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was in town a few months back for a showing of Blade Runner 2049. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend!
This week I’m pleased to be joined by Abe Goldfarb, who is currently playing Otho for the touring company of Beetlejuice: The Musical and both starred in and co-directed First Time Caller (which I reviewed here). You may remember a few months back that Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert got kicked out of a showing of Beetlejuice: The Musical; well, Abe happened to be onstage when all that went down. After having a few laughs about that, we get into the world of indie filmmaking and his recently released project, First Time Caller. Turns out that one of the best ways to make money on a project like this is to make it and release it on an ad-supported streaming channel, yet more evidence that we’ve torn down the whole system just to reinvent cable. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to check out First Time Caller and Beetlejuice: The Musical, on tour now. And make sure to share this with a friend!
A couple years back I had Ian and Eshom Nelms on the show to talk about their new Christmas classic, Fatman. We had a great talk, so I was thrilled when their people reached out to see if I’d like to discuss their new flick, a sort of southern revenge thriller/neo-noir by the name of Red Right Hand. We discussed getting Orlando Bloom and Andie MacDowell to play somewhat against type, how drone usage helps expand the scale and scope without blowing up the budget on a picture like this, and the unpredictable vibe of Jonathan Easley’s script that attracted them to the project in the first place.  You can watch Red Right Hand on Apple, Amazon, YouTube, and wherever else you might watch a video on demand. It’s worth the price of admission just to watch Andie MacDowell play a vicious southern queenpin; trust me, you’ve never seen her quite like this before. If you enjoyed our chat, I hope you’ll check it out. And please share this episode with a friend!
On this week’s episode, we have the original Bulwark Goes to Hollywood guest, Richard Rushfield of The Ankler, returning to discuss his fabulous Hollywood Field Guide. How do you assuage actors, reassure writers, and make your way through the rest of Hollywood? Richard will guide you. Plus, we discuss the state of the box office, how Oscar season is shaping up, and more! If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to share it with a friend!