Today’s post is going to be really inside-baseball, so if you don’t watch or listen to Screen Junkies: Moviefights, you’re probably best off skipping this post.
I love movies, I love some foreign films, some art films, some blockbusters, a little bit of everything, I would consider myself a real cinephile. Three years ago, I found a podcast entitled “Screen Junkies: Moviefights,” by the creators of YouTube’s “Honest Trailers.”
Moviefights is pretty simple, three competitors argue about different topics of film (i.e. what current movie franchise should Polly Shore revitalize). Once a week, I am able to download the latest episode, and I listen for 1-2 days commutes depending on how long the episodes last.
I love listening to Moviefights, but it’s not without it’s flaws. As you continue reading, please keep in mind that I do LOVE this show, because it’s probably not going to sound like it.
This is a show in which people are debating highly subjective arguments, so pointing out that it is inconsistent probably seems silly, but let me explain. At least one round every episode comes down to the semantics of the question. “What’s the best Brad Pitt movie?” becomes an argument about whether or not that means the best Brad Pitt performance, vs the best film overall that contains Brad Pitt, vs best example of Brad Pitt’s style. So now you have 3 people arguing based on 3 different directions which tends to become a mess.
In addition to the semantics argument, is the inconsistent judging. I like Andy Signore who is the judge of most episodes, but his judging style is far from consistent. (I don’t think he’s nearly as biased as he is accused.) The show states the judging comes down to the arguments, and not the side, and mostly I think this is true, but if contestant A makes 100 points, and contestant B makes 10 points, contestant A is going to win, regardless of the quality of those 100 points or the opposing 10. Sometimes the points can literally be great people that are in the film. If contestant A is arguing in favor of Movie 43, vs the Godfather for best film ever, and says “Movie 43 combines the talents of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, the comedic timing of Stephen Merchant, Academy Award Winner Halle Berry, Richard Gere…” and the other argument is “The Godfather is like a beautifully acted play mixed with a wonderfully painted canvas” Movie 43 is likely to win, because the argument solely based on the point, point, point rhythm of their argument. (Obviously this is a bit of an exaggeration, because I’m pretty sure they’re not legally allowed to call themselves Screen Junkies if they choose Movie 43 over Godfather for best film.)
The characters on the show are both a positive and a negative, and I’ll explain both. Other than when they have celebrities come on to guest argue (which have pretty consistently been amazing episodes with Elijah Wood, Kevin Smith, and others) they follow something of a wrestling model, and they used to talk about it on the show. I love that they do this, it gives the show a fun dynamic especially considering how incredibly non-physical this show is.
You have wild-card characters like Mike Carlson, and Nick Mundy (Mundy is my favorite but hasn’t been on in a long time) who come up with the most bizarre answers, their answers make you literally think “that’s the worst fucking answer possible” and then pretty often at the end of the argument I end up agreeing with them, and on the other end when they give the most obviously correct answer, they tend to make you disagree by the end. These are by far my favorite arguments, because they’re so scattershot.
Then you have the heel, or at least I think he’s supposed to be the heel, Dan Murrell. Dan is the fact checker on the majority of episodes, and as the fact checker, I’m totally on board with Dan. He’s good. But then he gets into the fights fairly often, and I disagree with him, and he whines, and complains, and—because until recently he was the very long reigning champion— I think they’ve constructed this character of a spoiled brat who acts indignant about losing on little technicalities, even though he often won on them. The reason I think this is a downside, is that I can’t tell if it’s an act or not. He seems to genuinely be a sore loser, and more often a sore winner. Something that complicates this issue for me, is the fact that Murrell is one of the most academic film buffs, he knows his stuff, and so he makes great points, but ultimately it’s subjective, and so when he gets upset it’s tough to watch. (I’m very much this way, when I argue about certain ‘subjective’ issues, like the correct way to cook pasta, and I have concluded that my problem with Murrell as a contestant might be that he reminds me of my own shortcomings.)
As I said at the beginning of this post, I love this show, and so please don’t take this post as a dismissal, it’s more that I hope maybe they will stumble upon this and improve the show I already love. If you haven’t listened to or watched (I listen as a podcast but you can watch on YouTube) I strongly recommend it, because if you have even a cursory knowledge of films, you’ll find it entertaining. There will be fights for the arrogant movie snobs, plenty for nerd-viewers, and just a lot of silly shit that is endlessly hilarious.