When you think of film criticism the names Siskel and Ebert are synonymous with the genre.
Beginning in 1975 on PBS, for decades Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert covered the latest Hollywood blockbusters along with championing titles largely absent from the public’s radar.
With their ‘thumps up – thumbs down’ system seen as a gauge of whether a new release was worth a ticket, the impact left by the duo inspired a legion of budding cinemagoers and paving the way for an explosion of movie reviewers to come forth in the new millennium.
In the ever-expanding sea of online film and television commentary brought on by the development of affordable technology and public interest to fill the void left by the sad passing of Siskel and Ebert, the dominant model of talking about movies has seen box-office figures and Oscar chances reduced to something akin to fantasy sports.
While this is not to say that individuals and brands with legions of fans don’t retain the same love of talking about movies that endeared Siskel and Ebert to the public, there is a tendency to rank films and discuss the casting of the latest instalment in a cinematic universe.
It may seem reductive to compress the history of film criticism to two men considering the work done by the Auteurs, Cahiers du Cinéma, Pauline Kael, Leonard Maltin and a host of others as long as the running time of Shoah, but in talking about movies – the filmmaking process, acting performances, meaning contained and to be read – the movie literacy of the general public was greatly enhanced.
Which brings up Linoleum Knife.
Beginning in late 2010 by critics and authors Alonso Duralde and Dave White, LK is a self-described ‘podcast of the cinema’, covering the latest releases and providing an insight into the lives of a couple you look forward to spending time with.
Having both worked as film reviewers predominantly in print and online, LK sees the couple give their movie insights as a weekly podcast.
Coming up on eight years this November, for anyone looking for a movie review podcast – equal parts film criticism and an insight into the domestic lives of a married couple – here are ten reviews to make you a fan.
God’s Not Dead
With the recent explosion of faith-based filmmaking throughout the 2010s, the biggest hit in the genre is undeniably Pure Flix’s 2014 release God’s Not Dead. Made for just $2 million and grossing over 32 times its budget, the interweaving story centres upon a Christian college freshman taking on an Atheist professor; providing an insight into not only the language of Evangelical Christianity, but Dave’s history with the church in his earlier years. Breaking down the ‘dog-whistles’ used to appease believers and present non-Christians as violent, spiteful individuals who reject God out of hatred and not rationality or empirical evidence, the review paved the way for an on-going inquiry into how religion likes to depict itself on screen (see also: Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, Believe, War Room).
That’s My Boy
Critics often indulge in the opportunity to take aim at Happy Madison Productions. Often to excess but not without some justification, the films of Adam Sandler provide LK to take a different route of critique. Most prominently in discussing the R-rated comedy That’s My Boy from 2012, the Sandler star vehicle predicated upon paedophilia and managing to one up the poor taste in the third act saw the duo at odds. In agreement over the low-brow trash presented over the course of nearly two hours, Dave’s glee in the grotesquery leaves Alonso bewildered. Reasoning his enjoyment of the film as a akin to the worst kind of fast food, additional insights into how acclaimed international releases often go unnoticed in favour of the anti-intellectualism epitomised by the likes of Sandler and co, the spirited debate does enough to make you want to reconsider the film, while going out to support independent and foreign releases (see also: Blended, Pixels, Grown Ups 2).
With the well-known Ayn Rand novel coming in three cinematic instalments, the LK treatment of the Atlas Shrugged series (2011-2014) takes aim at the way films about their ideology are ‘message first, artistic qualities second’. Belittling the series as ‘a Tyler Perry film for rich jerks’, the revolving cast and hilarity found in characters declaiming an objectivist philosophy (‘stupid atruism’) draws considerable ire. Acknowledging the criticism levelled at poorly-received ideological films from conservative commentators, the pair fire back in expressing their displeasure at the likes of Milk and Cradle Will Rock as being terrible movies despite featuring political philosophies they are in agreement with (see also: Son of God).
Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor
As one the most prolific filmmakers of the 2000s, playwright turned director Tyler Perry is a source of constant intrigue for Dave and Alonso. As regular supporters of his comedic Madea character, the pair’s reception to the ‘auteur’s’ dramas is a different story entirely. Taking glee in detailing every ludicrous aspect of 2013’s Temptation, plotlines involving infidelity, domestic abuse and a third-act reveal involving HIV will have you howling with laughter. Finding time to make mention of Kim Kar-thespian’s acting ability, the on-going discussion regarding Perry as a cinematic voice will leave you with a newfound opinion of the critically-panned director (see also: The Single Moms Club, Madea series, Alex Cross, Acrimony).
The Fast & Furious franchise
Dave White may claim ‘the arthouse is my jam’ on many occasions, but that’s not to say there isn’t love for the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Devoting plenty of time to the eighth instalment in what began as a Point Break knock-off, the Fast & Furious films represent more than high-octane stunts on LK. Drawing attention to the ethnically diverse cast and what that says about the state of representation in mainstream filmmaking, Dave and Alonso are just as capable as the average film fan in enjoying a big, dumb blockbuster – they would just prefer it be good (see also: Marvel cinematic universe, Star Wars).
The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)
As with any married couple, the personal tastes of each partner is at times likely to raise the eyebrow of the other. In the case of LK, the cinematic bloodlust enjoyed by Dave is a source of complete bewilderment in the eyes of Alonso. Taking pleasure in the total lack of subtlety on display throughout Tom Six’s 2011 The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), Dave’s joy at describing bodily mutilation and taking faecal matter to an uncomfortable extreme is conveyed with the kind of enthusiasm normally reserved for a fan boy at a midnight screening of the latest Star Wars. You may never want to subject yourself to films banned in other countries, but in hearing them described with such passion, it’s hard not to be at least slightly curious (see also: The Green Inferno).
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
For a lot of Western moviegoers the prospect of foreign cinema is a turnoff on subtitles alone. Taking great pleasure in evangelising films from other languages, Dave’s passion for filmmakers such as Béla Tarr, Lav Diaz and Hou Hsiao-hsien was first laid bare for all to see in early 2011. Regaling his adoration for Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the different rhythms, narrative structure and often lengthy running times associated are expressed in such a way that you come to understand the appeal of films viewed by some to be otherworldly. You may never have considered the Romanian New Wave, a four-hour Filipino retelling of Crime and Punishment or the total silence of a film where an assassin doesn’t kill anyone, but through the passionate LK perspective, you might discover an entire new world of film (see also: The Turin Horse, A Touch of Sin, Stray Dogs, The Assassin, The Woman Who Left, Manakamana, Romanian New Wave).
There are bad movies and then there are BAD movies – 2014’s The Identical is very firmly the second. Dedicating over half an episode to the absurdities of a fictionalised twin brother of ‘not Elvis’ existing in the same universe as Elvis Presley, the bizarre casting choices and original songs make for an instant classic review. Deriding the anachronism of skipping over 1960s landmark events such as the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam, but grinding to a halt to introduce a subplot concerning Jerusalem’s Six-Day War, the truly ‘what-were-they-thinking’ quality of a rare breed of BAD movie offers the LK treatment plenty to work with. While The Identical is a seminal moment in the show’s history, the various efforts from ‘favourite’ screenwriter Alan Loeb have made for jaw-dropping listening over the past 18 months (see also: A Little Bit of Heaven, The Book of Henry, the collective screenplays of Alan Loeb – Collateral Beauty, The Space Between Us, The Only Living Boy in New York).
“I’m not offended by this. All you can do is sit down and take a seat and let me tell you why you’re an idiot” – Dave White. Alongside occasional guest Louis Virtel, the LK takedown of the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart 2015 comedy Get Hard gets to the heart of films with complete tone-deafness. Revolving around a variety of gay-panic jokes and racial stereotypes thought to be from another time, the rationale of calling out films is framed in a way that puts the fault squarely at the feet of the guilty parties of retrograde moviemaking. Including an account in which at a junket Louis poses a no-holds barred question on the mean-spirited attitudes present throughout the 100 minute runtime directly to the film’s leading men, the discussion on the role of calling out socially irresponsible films is among the many reasons why LK is worth your time (see also: The Assignment, Partners).
While the discussion surrounding this 2014 Steven Knight drama may not be as instantly memorable as any religious film or Tyler Perry dramatic endeavour, Locke represents one of many under seen titles championed by Alonso and Dave. Given the synopsis of Tom Hardy spending 85 minutes in a car taking phone calls, the character driven drama and stakes involved resulted in a film that managed just $5 million at the box office, but gained plenty of admirers for its depiction of man with the world crashing down around him. Just like those who came before them, the ability to turn audiences on to something beyond the multiplex makes LK an opinion worth taking note of for some truly terrific features (see also: Marjorie Prime, Their Finest, Queen of Katwe, Short Term 12, Frances Ha, How to Survive a Plague).
Linoleum Knife is hosted by Alonso Duralde and Dave White. Episodes are usually released every Sunday (Monday in Australia). Additionally, you can subscribe to their Patreon to access content including extra podcasts and other exclusives.
Dave White is the author of Exile in Guyville.