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Saturday
Jul292017

Podcast: Dunkirk and Spider-Man Homecoming

In this episode NathanielJoe and Nick talk about the latest superhero movie (Spider-Man Homecoming) and the latest heroic movie without super powers (Dunkirk). Plus Nick has very exciting upcoming Film Comment issue news.

Index (42 minutes)
00:01 Nick talked to Jane Campion, omg!
03:15 Spider-Man Homecoming, Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei, and a brief sidebar to Avengers: Age of Ultron
13:33 Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan's recurring obsessions, and brief tangents to Detroit and The Beguiled

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunesContinue the conversations in the comments, won't you? 

Related Posts
• Revenge of the Twinks
• Review Spider-Man Homecoming
• Previous Podcast

Dunkirk and Spidey

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Reader Comments (17)

OMG love you guys but the Nolan women argument is my least favorite thing on this site, lol. (And yes, it happens all the tiime.) Please see my previous comments about Cotillard's stunning perf in Inception, Hathaway being the only truly great thing in The Dark Knight Rises and Carrie-Ann Moss' fascinating career best turn in Memento. *sigh* But sure, Dunkirk ignored women. Trust me, as someone who would never allow anyone to call him a bro, this queen is Team Joe - love his good films despite internet polarization!

With that said, love your podcasts mostly and can't wait for commentary on Detroit, which I thought was Bigelow's best film to date. :)

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Nat, I completely agree with your take on Nolan.

It's really burned me up that Bigelow has had to deal with controversies about ignoring Black women by focusing on a real-life incident in Detroit in which no Black women were present, but Nolan can make a completely fictionalized movie about Dunkirk with no women and not deal with any consequences. Why not make Rylance's son a daughter? There were women on the rescue boats. Why not include a character based on the women nurses who were at Dunkirk?

I think Nolan is entitled to make the type of movie he wanted to make, as is Bigelow But only Bigelow has suffered any noticeable backlash.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Dunkirk is a war movie. War movies generally focus on the men. If he had a female character on the boat (IF that would be historically accurate) or had a thread about a worrying wife at home, he'd get heavily criticized for that too. It is a war movie. If you are making a bibliography on someone's life, leaving out women completely makes no sense as women are everywhere, if you are making a historical British war/combat film.....this diversity complaint/criticism that is getting so popular is getting out of hand.


Sometimes a review is overwhelmingly negative but then you are surprised by the posts I've score. I wish reviews that are positive (say 8/10) would keep that ratio when talking about the film sometimes; like 8 things you liked and 2 you didn't, I'm honestly curious to find out what you liked it after hearing so much stuff you thought was bad.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

Joe saying you want directors to stay in their lane and not alter their path for groups whom the bulk of aren't watching their movies means you too cannot complain about other directors' weak spots in thematic material and execution. You're a film writer. You want to see people evolve and expand. But autuer theory becomes real with repetition alone. Thematic material and execution. Along with casting many of the same actors and crew members.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

"Dunkirk is a war movie. War movies generally focus on the men."

Gravity was a space movie. Space movies generally focus on the men - but Cuaron chose to cast Bullock in the lead role.

Zero Dark Thirty was a spy movie. Spy movies generally focus on the men - but Bigelow chose to cast Chastain in the lead role.

Alien was a science fiction movie. Science fiction movies generally focus on the men - but Scott chose to cast Weaver in the lead role.

Great things can happen if directors open their minds a bit.

That said, I agree that it's Nolan's movie and he can do whatever he wants - I just think the same argument should apply to other (female) directors.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Suzanne all those examples you gave are either modern war zones or futuristic, Nolans is a fact based historical (as in a long time age) war film. Completely different, Suzanne.


If Gravity had been set in the moon landing time, casting one of the lead astronauts as female would not be historically accurate. Not to say you couldn't do it (make a revisionist history with the only thing changed is gender) but you by no means are required to do so to keep the internet outrage at bay.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

Joe, your endorsement of Spider-Man is the most anyone has convinced me to see it and I hope I get to very soon. Nick, congrats on having a life-affirming conversation with a genius director. Nathaniel, I am super jealous you got to see Detroit.

I think the stay in your lane conversation is so fascination, especially having heard Coppola had already excised a real Hispanic woman in The Bling Ring. And I certainly think Nolan could've had a woman in it - hell, imagine including an arc about a nurse on a war rig who knows all the other rescue boats have been sunk, or making the blond guy a woman, like Suzanne said. Hell, a friend and I had this gender convo after seeing War for the Planet of the Apes, which so went out of its way to gender the female apes that I just kinda stopped and thought "Is it really just Lake and that human girl?".

But also, if a filmmaker is openly uncomfortable or unwilling to tackle a kind of subject, especially if they can make interesting broad strokes about groups of people or movements, I don't know how upset I wanna be about it even if they should expand and challenge themselves. Like, do I really want to see Coppola try and get a grip on Hallie if she thinks she shouldn't? I kept thinking about how weird Daisy Domergue felt in Hateful Eight where she felt so removed from the main conversation of the film, if not just poorly handled altogether. Which is so a biased example of what I'm saying but like. What's the right place to stand on someone being aware of their limitations if that limitation is people who don't look like them, even if what they can do in their comfort zone is still very obviously singular or unique? Is that fair?

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

I think Suzanne (and others) are right to suggest that there were women there but there was as a choice by Nolan as a filmmaker not to focus on them. Women were actually recruited in both WWI and(especially) WWII as nurses, WAAC, etc. They were there, and showed up during the evacuation which Nolan does hint at. The "it's a war movie so men only" argument just doesn't hold up.

If you do want to make an argument about men present then consider that there were also thousands of South Asian soldiers there and they don't even appear in the background (although there does seem to be a brief glimpse of French West African troops). It seems that the staunch defenders of Nolan want to have it both ways: screaming "historical accuracy in war" to defend all white men--but it is actually historically inaccurate to portray it the way he did. If you want to make the argument that he made a choice to focus on what he wanted it is perfectly legitimate to notice that men seem to be the dominant focus in most of his movies.

For a movie that many are lauding for being ground-breaking it's important to think about the ways in which it is not. It's not about "internet outrage" but rather thinking critically about art and historical representation of a major blockbuster that has had a huge social impact. Asking "why?" or "why now?" or "what's missing?" shouldn't be grounds for scathing defensiveness.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

Idk. He was focused on the British combat, having a storyline focused on a nurse, although possible, may not have been best for the film. Similar to say Saving Private Ryan's or The Bridge on the river kwai or the majority of historical war films, I don't blame those films for not focusing on the women nurses. At a certain point, we all get too PC. Not every film needs or should touch on everything.

it is ok to have films all about women, films all about men, a mix or a film all about the British young men at Dunkirk

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

Dunkirk isn't about combat other than the dog fights and the opening scene. It's about combatants being stranded and the largely civilian response to save them. So there is a lot of room for the sprawling cast to be more diverse. Again, this is not about "internet outrage" or bring "PC" but reflecting the reality of what happened and in so doing offering a more nuanced film.

As others suggested, how about focusing on a boat with a woman? How about making some of the men in the grounded boat (or one of the pilots!) South Asian? How about spending some time with the women on the hospital ships--maybe they were afraid and thinking about escape too? There were a lot of opportunities to open this movie up and they were not taken.

Agree that every movie does not need to cover everything but the fact that it is very easy to name several war movies that focus on white men and ignore women, people of color, etc. is actually sort of the point. It's about patterns. This movie confirms, rather than subverts, a lot of dominant tropes and patterns of war films despite being praised for doing the opposite.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. The criticism that a ww2 war film focused on the British soldiers stranded on foreign soil doesn't have enough women in it is bizzare to me. Like people are creating drama for the sake of it. The casting felt historically accurate to me. Not all ensembles should be diverse.


A film like 20th Century Women would be more apt to this type of criticism to be honest (casting blond white pretty actresses like Greta and Fanning in juicy roles that could have easily gone to Asian, Latina or African American actresses without losing anything or being bizzare).


BUT I'd defend that film too. Criticize Hollywood as a whole but to single out a film that actually is casting historically accurate, given the story it is telling is a bit much imo.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

Huh -- were you referring to me with Dunkirk I didn't think it was bad at all. I just couldn't hear the dialogue (not a negative as it turns out since it would have worked as a silent film). The time line thing didn't work all that well for me but it also wasn't a big distraction either. I think the film is a solid "B". It's technically so impressive that I was enjoying that a lot and the actors are all engaging and the color palette is gorgeous and i really admire the lack of gore (such an easy default for war movies but not necessary ultimately to suggest that war is hell). But did I find it tremendously moving or innovative as some people have? No.

Everyone -- i dont know what to make of the arguments for representation these days. On the one hand I agree with people who regularly complain about this. On the other I think the kneejerk reaction to complain is also problematic ESPECIALLY when it comes to period pieces and true stories. Everyone is focused on right now and most people dont like to think about context because it's harder to do (and also raises problems because it reinforces erasure of minority histories even if only accidentally sometimes since for a long time art was not reflecting even the amount of diversity we did have back in the day). Because if you're just talking reality when it comes to period pieces it is absolutely not true that the past was always as diverse as the present is. As the world shrunk (not literally) borders became more porous and whatnot, and society became less racist (yes we did become less racist as a society even though it sometimes doesn't seem like it -sigh - think of how common interracial relationships are now which was just absolutely not the case when I was a child and it was always controversial if TV featured an interracial coupple!) there is now much greater diversity.

But the way people talk you'd think the world has always looked the way it does now. In the US, for example, the population was 85% caucasian for most of the 19th century and slowly began to shift in the 20th century and now it's shifting rapidly... the last census was I think in 2015 and 72% white. So that's a big shift and everyone says that we'll soon be in a minority majority situation which is fine and will hopefully be healthy for the world because jesus chris all the racial tension is pointless and petty since we're all human. And of course Western Europe was even whiter than the States for a long time but Europe has also grown more diverse especially lately with immigration.

Gender of course is another topic altogether and super annoying. The world has been roughly 50/50 with men and women since Adam and Eve so the male dominance of stories and history has very little excuse for existing but for the power of the patriarchy.

July 30, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

2 million South Asians fought for the British Empire during the Second World War. Some were present and evacuated at Dunkirk. So, no, the all-white casting was not historically accurate.

There aren't a bevy of movies focused on middle aged women and their sons and the two women and one man who help raise him. So there's not really a pattern there. Nonetheless, those rare movies about or especially written or directed by women do often face criticism for their representational shortcomings (as Suzanne suggested. See recently: Detroit, The Beguiled). But this is like apples and oranges. Movies about men/war are aplenty and rarely face criticism. When people do offer criticism they are usually met with many who are over-eager to throw around terms like PC, idiot, and outrage to demean differing opinions.

As I suggested, there are a lot of movies about white men fighting in WWII which ignore the many different people who fought, died, and served. Dunkirk is the latest. So, again, it's about scale, patterns, and raising awareness about how to make movies more interesting/nuanced (which I think Dunkirk could have used).

Happy to agree to disagree but I remain mystified by the fervor with which people demean other people's opinions, especially when it comes to suggesting that diversity in art and cinema matter.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

catbaskets -- agreed about the lack of South Asian actors in British films, even period ones. I think a lot of Americans dont understand the UK's complicated history with India so these type of things go unnoticed by US viewers.

July 30, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Always a joy listening to you guys. Thank you!

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

NATHANIEL
I guess this is somewhat a testament to how your readers feel about your opinions: we want you to like (dislike) a film exactly as much as we liked (or disliked) it.

July 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRicopolo

@eurocheese - LOL. Those are literally only 3 performances. You know what all his films also have? Tons and tons of men. Not a great ratio.

August 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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