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Unclear and Present Danger

Author: Jamelle Bouie and John Ganz

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New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie and freelance writer John Ganz delve into the world of 90s post-Cold War thrillers with Unclear and Present Danger, a podcast that explores America in an age of transition to lone superpower, at once triumphant and unsure of its role in the world.

6 Episodes
The Fourth War

The Fourth War


In the sixth episode of Unclear and Present Danger, John and Jamelle discuss “The Fourth War,” a late-period John Frankenheimer film about two crusty bastards who almost start the third world war over a personal grudge match. It looks like a TV movie and it’s not that interesting, but it was good fodder for a fruitful and fascinating conversation. Jamelle brings some 19th century American political history to the table, and John uses Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History” to get at some of the ideas in the film.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieLinks from the episode!New York Times front page for Friday, March 23, 1990Janet Maslin’s New York Times reviewRoger Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times review“The End of History?” by Francis Fukuyama, published in the Summer 1989 edition of The National Interest.A book worth reading: The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780–1860
The Package

The Package


In this week’s episode, Jamelle and John talk “The Package,” the 1989 conspiracy thriller from Andrew Davis, and the first of many Andrew Davis movies to come on this podcast. They talk class tensions within the military, the age-old American fear of standing armies and military bureaucracies, the anti-politics inherent in conspiracy theorizing, the role of ideology in shaping the actions of key actors, and how the shadow of the JFK assassination hangs over this movie.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieLinks from the episode!The New York Times frontpage for August 25, 1989.An information page for the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.The Wikipedia entry for “The Day of the Jackal.”The Wikipedia entry for “The Manchurian Candidate.”A little background on Nazis in the Chicago area.
No Way Out

No Way Out


On this week's episode, Jamelle and John discuss the strange, surprisingly sleazy 1987 thriller No Way Out, starring Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young. Topics of discussion include Costner's strikingly bland persona, the contradictions within Reaganite conservatism, the futile quest for national unity, and the late 1980s as the last hurrah for the idea of the carefree white man. Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieLinks from the episode!New York Times front page for August 14, 1987New York Times reviewTrailer for The Big ClockBob Dole's Washington Post obituary
Clear and Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger


In this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John discuss the show’s namesake, “Clear and Present Danger,” the third and final “Jack Ryan” movie of the 1990s, whose politics are one part arch-cynicism about American foreign policy and one part naive liberal optimism about the integrity of the national security bureaucracy. Other topics include the film’s connection to the Iran-Contra scandal, the way that it touches on American memory of the Vietnam War, the fantasy of unlimited American power that animates this and other movies in the Tom Clancy oeuvre and, of course, Harrison Ford.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieLinks from the episode!New York Times frontpage for August 3, 1994The Tom Clancy Companion1994 Entertainment Weekly feature on “Clear and Present Danger”
In this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John are joined by Will Rahn of Yahoo News to talk “Patriot Games,” the second Jack Ryan movie of the 1990s and the first to star Harrison Ford. They discuss Ross Perot and the 1992 presidential election, Irish nationalism (and Irish bars), the film’s unambiguously pro-C.I.A politics, WASP triumphalism and the politics of George H.W. Bush.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieLinks from the episode!New York Times for June 6, 1992Janet Maslin’s New York times reviewRoger Ebert’s review
This is the first episode of Unclear and Present Danger, a new podcast by Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times and John Ganz, a freelance journalist writing a book on American politics in the 1990s. It is a podcast about the political thrillers of that decade, and what they said — or did not say — about the United States in the last years and immediate aftermath of the Cold War. We’re going to cover a wide range of movies, but we thought we would begin with a paradigmatic example of the genre, John McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October, based on the best-selling Tom Clancy novel.A quick correction: In the episode, Jamelle said that McTiernan went to jail for tax evasion. This was incorrect. He actually went to prison for lying to the FBI.
Comments (1)

Todd Tucker

Great podcast, and a cool format, situating movies within news of the day.

Nov 28th
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