Blank Check with Griffin and David

By far my favourite podcast.

Griffin Newman is an actor (Arthur in The Tick) and David Sims is a film critic for The Atlantic.
It started out as two friends who began a Star Wars podcast and it sort of warped into a look at the filmographies of various film directors who achieve early success and are then given a series of blank cheques to make any passion project they want, sometimes those cheques clear and sometimes they bounce, ba-by.

I started listening about 4 years ago when they began their mini-series on Christopher Nolan. Each weekly episode concentrates on each film in order.
Nancy Meyers was good as was Jonathan Demme and Ang Lee. They’ve done loads of directors: The Wachowskis, Spielberg, Bigelow, Miyazaki, Burton, Ephron, loads!
I think I’ve listened to every single episode. At the start of the pandemic I had my phone in my back pocket and just had old eps playing the whole time. My pals Griffin and David kept me company.

They’ve just completed the March Madness voting which was a series of Twitter polls. Fucking disaster this year. Who knew that Twitter was full of complete arses? Bots were used and some guests were abused (apparently, I didn’t see anything like that. I just placed my vote and chipped the hell out).
Anyway, Gore Verbinski vs John Carpenter was the final and Carpenter won! They’ll go through his entire filmography at some point this autumn. I was hoping for Karyn Kusama. Wong Kar-wai or Jane Campion came close and they would have been great.

On the main feed they’ve just finished Musker and Clements. It was awesome. Very surprised by how much I loved The Little Mermaid and Moana. A pair of terrific films.
Elaine May is up next (April is May)
On the patreon episodes they’re going through the OG Star Trek films (more of a watchalong thing on those episodes). The Twilight series won the patreon-side vote. That should be good as director Chris Weitz is a semi-regular guest now.

They’re getting some pretty big guests now as it’s getting so popular. Jamie Bell was excellent on the Contact episode a few months back. Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas were brilliant on one recently too.
My favourite guests are their old film-nerd mates though. Emily Yoshida and Shirley Li are my best regulars.
I’ve not even mentioned Producer Ben yet. Shit! He’s so great.

Anyway, I think there are a few DiSer listeners out there so we can use this as a nice place to chat about it if you like

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only listened to a couple of these so not fully into it yet but the themetune is deeply embedded in my brain already

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anyone listen to the patreon episodes? the mcu ones were great,lost it at ben just casually revealing that he’s buried some jeans… for fashion

And that he did it in the middle of the night in his parent’s back garden while they were on holiday! He’s one of those just completely unique thinkers. I love him

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My favourite podcast too.

Pre-pandemic, my highlight of every week was downloading the new episode on a sunday, hopping on a train or bus somewhere and exploring new places while listening to the new episode. I have very fond memories of listening to the patreon episode where they’re at a basketball match, while doing a very pointless walk from Chorzow to Bytom, and listening to bt BFG episode while trying to navigate through a very rainy forest on a Sunday evening.

The post-pandemic series’ have mostly soundtracked me doing mundane thing in my home town, like cleaning the office at work, or the Tenet episode while painting the hall in my flat.

My favourite episodes are the ones that cover movies that no podcast would ever bother covering were it not for the parameters of the format. One particular one that I go back to again and again is the episode on Nora Ephron’s ‘Lucky Numbers’ with Alex Ross Perry. It encapsulates the show so well, and it’s super-long, and has probably my favourite part of any episode, which is David Sims 'narrating a poster (in this one it’s Analyze This)

I can’t remember which episode this is from, but here’s a great example: Blank Check Examines: The King Ralph Poster - YouTube

The core elements (Griffin, David, Ben and Ang when she was still there) doing what they do are the reason it works so well and I definitely prefer the episodes where they actually talk more about the film - The Back to the Future episode recently was really good - no guest, and I was surprised by how much I learned, despite feeling like I though I’d already heard everything there is to say about Back to the Future.

The guests are usually what make or break an episode for me, so it’s amazing that with however many episodes they’ve had, like 99% of the guests are great (IE the check clears) but when the guests are bad (IE the check bounces) then the episodes kind of suck. There aren’t many, but for anyone looking to take a dip into the podcast, then I would avoid the Brokeback Mountain episode (I don’t remember them talking much about the movie at all in this episode, and I quite like Las Culturistas - I just thought they were a bad fit) and the Babe: Pig in the City episode (where the guest, Travis McElroy, who has to be one of the most irritating people I’ve ever had to listen to, is just a constant stream of ‘listen ot MEEEE’ and I got the feeling that he had never listened to the podcast, and just turned up with an ‘I’m famous for podcasting, so I can do anything!’ vibe that totally didn’t work with the show). The only other one I can think of is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, where they managed to get Lulu Wang to guest, just as The Farewell was breaking, and I felt that the episode was more of a 1 hour interview with Wang about The Farewell, she suddenly had to duck out for another interview or something, and then the guys never steered the episode back to talking about the movie. Which was a shame, because I love that movie.

My favourite guests are Alex Ross Perry, who always chooses the films that least exist from a director’s filmography to cover, JD Amato (who I can imagine some people not liking, but I like that he clearly prepares stuff to talk about beforehand) and Bilge Ebiri, who just knows stuff. I realize I’ve just chosen three dudes as my favourite, but the variety of different perspectives that the guests offer are what makes it so interesting each week.

I’m currently watching The Heartbreak Kid, maintaing my record of watching every Black Check movie the night before the episode drops for… I guess a year?

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That was so gutting. If I remember rightly there were the general introductions, we established (to Griff and David’s delight) that Wang had watched all of the Miyazaki films (and even re-watched a load (subs AND dubs) as specific research for the episode), then they had a chat about, was it, Britney Spears? or someone for a bit before the publicist bowls in after 45 minutes to hoik her out! Argh.

Love all these lads too. Always offer something interesting. I know JD gets props for his gags but the Long Half-time Walk episode is just incredible from a technical perspective. Learned loads about frame rates!
Also, is it him who occasionally drops in amendments via Ben without their knowledge? I remember one where he disagreed with Griffin and David but he felt really bad that he didn’t speak out at the time so Ben dropped a little segment in after for him. Aw, loved that.

Definitely going to re-listen to the Lucky Numbers ep too now you’ve said that

I watched The Heartbreak Kid (1972) the other day too. Interesting film, loads to discuss I’m sure.
Just downloaded the new episode so here we go…

I really enjoyed the Elaine May series. My only knowledge of her before this month was watching Ishtar a few years ago, which I watched in the context of ‘lol, let’s see how bad this movie is’ and I was like, ‘Oh, some of this is really funny’. I liked that their episode of Ishtar had the take of ‘it’s not as bad a people think, but it’s not a bad movie’ and although I rolled my eyes when I first saw the choice of guest (Clint McElroy) because when I see that surname I just think ‘ok here we go…,’ but he dunked on his awful son (IE Travis) immediately and although I don’t think they redeemed Ishtar, they did enough to make me see it in a different way.

The highlight of the Elaine May series for me was Mikie and Nicky. I had no idea what this movie was before this series, and I thought it was some kind of movie about Mike Nichols, based on the title. I really enjoyed the movie, and I think I would absolutely never have seen were it not for Blank Check covering it. I also liked how in the Ishtar episode, Griffin points out that Elaine May was not shut out from Hollywood, or was never given another job (which is the popular opinion) but Elaine May pretty much decided "I don’t want to direct movies’ in the 1970s and it was Warren Beatty who twisted her arm to make Ishtar.

The next series is John Singleton. Interesting choice - the youngest ever nominee for best director at the Oscars, a record that may never be broken. I just hope that they mention that his last film ‘Abduction’ was written by the singer from Stellastarr

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Quickly becoming one of the first places I look when finished watching a film. Always seem to strike a good balance between being overly dry and overly jokey.

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Thanks for recommending this. I’ve been enjoying it loads. Started with sequel trilogy episodes and now I giggle like a child whenever I think of “the dead speak!”

Just wanted to bump this thread in case it attracts any newcomers to this podcast. The new mini series on John Carpenter starts on Sunday (August 8th).

I’ve been looking forward to this series ever since they announced the winner (usually the hosts pick which director to cover, but every March they do a competition to let fans decide). I’ve spent the last few weeks catching up with some of the Carpenter films I haven’t seen. I’ve only got Vampires and The Ward, and I’ll rewatch the others in the weeks leading up to each episode.

For other fans, what episode would you recommend for newcomers to start with? I think the OP does a good job of outlining what this pocast is about, but what do you think?

Although I have my favourites (most of which are Patreon episodes, I admit), I think the Back to the Future episode is a good starting point, although I would recommend doing what I did and starting at the beginning of the M Night Shyamalan series. The fact that they do entire filmographies means you don’t get The Sixth Sense until the second episode, so it’s a nice introduction to the two hosts making a point to cover every film, even if it’s two movies that don’t exist.

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The episode where they explain The Book of Henry to Ben hits a lot of the right notes for an intro episode I think.

Beyonf that though, the best starting point is probably a film you’ve seen and are familiar with but you were indifferent to or didn’t like. The episodes of films you love are great but they’re at their best talking about oddities or straight up failures as opposed to good films IMO

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I too have been nailing this podcast and have rewatched all of the Phantom Menace films as a result.

I agree that the Back to the Future ep is a good starting point (assuming you like BttF) but agree that they’re at their best when they complete w thorough takedown of a film.

Its less takedown and more “right, let’s try and get to the bottom of this” though which is the crucial selling point. It’s not a “rag on shit films” podcast it’s a “try and contextualise and work out what was going on here” podcast.

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You’re right and it’s very distinct from YouTube sniping at shit films for the most part.

I guess I meant that these guys really care about the stuff that matters (to them, and me) in films: the story, the characters, the pacing, the message and they are very good at pointing out failures in this regard.

Takedowns was probably the wrong word

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Really enjoyed the Dark Star episode!

Apart from a bit of hand wringing about whether John Carpenter is someone who is already over-discussed (I disagree about this) which I thought was a bit off considering the fans voted for Carpenter to be covered, it was really entertaining, and I really enjoyed David’s delight at reading the tagline for Macon County Line during the box office game " It was the fall of '54. A time when laughing was easy. And laugh they did, until they crossed The Line"

I like having these annual super-long series. Although I despise Tim Burton, I enjoyed how long it was as just how fed up they were by the time they got to Alice in Wonderland. Demme, Zemeckis and now Carpenter. I feel like I’m going on a long journey.

I’ve also been relistening to all the MCU commentaries while I’m off work, just loading one up and going for a walk around my home city.

For any fans of Blank Check - has anyone ever listened to 12 Hour Day, the intermittent podcast that JD Amoto does with Connor Ratliff? It’s a lot of fun, but each episode is 12 hours long and recorded more or less in real time, so you really need to have a whole day to get through an entire episode. The episodes usually just involve the two of them, and occasionally their friends, walking around New York, hanging in their apartments, just chatting about anything.

I found myself, a couple of years ago, with a lot of Sundays free so I would download an episode, leave my house and just go somewhere on the bus or train and try to time it exactly with getting home around the time it finishes. Listening back to those episodes, it’s kind of fun to remember exactly where I was at any given point in the discussion. There’s one episode, where they start recording immediately after walking out of the cinema after a matinee screening of The Wolf of Wall Street, and they start off talking about the movie, and then just keep going for 12 hours.

If you like the vibe of pre-pandemic commentary episodes of Blank Check, or the Chris Gethard Marvel performance review, where they are all hanging out in David (or Ben)'s apartments, then 12 Hour Day is aomething similar, although I prefer the relationship between the Black Check guys.

The patreon episode where JD Amato, Griffin and David walk through New York bemoaning the fate of high frame-rate movies like Gemini Man and Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk is a similar kind of thing.

Talking the Walk 2 (?). Loved that episode. Would be cool to do that same walk listening to that episode (but think it was probably edited down so you may have to jog a few blocks!).
Enjoyed Connor Ratliff’s Dead Eyes podcast a lot too so am tempted by this.

Not really a John Carpenter fan but loved the Dark Star episode. Almost made me want to watch it (having Emily Yoshida on for it probably helped too). Should be a fun series, especially with Ben’s contributions.

Listened to it (plus the patreon Pitch Black episode) whilst walking from Lambeth Bridge, up to Tower Bridge and then back along the north embankment where I came across this!

Spooky.

Agree, they’re such good company for a walk

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BC has been my favourite podcast for a few years now- there’s just something about the comedy/criticism balance that they get just right.

Dark Star has me super excited for the Carpenter series. I tend to be slightly less into the really long miniseries (Burton is a looot to get through for example) but Carpenter is so varied within a genre framework that it should make for great watching.

On the point above about a good starting point, the Matrox Reloaded ep is a great defence of a pretty maligned film that the hosts are fairly split on. The Wachowskis miniseries in general ruled.

He’s obviously not the best person but I am dying for them to do Oliver Stone - nobody else has made films that weird on that scale. He doesn’t seem to be high on the list though.

Currently listening to The Holiday episode and it’s very very funny

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listened to a few of these now:

they are too kind about some very shit films

why does griffin sound like he’s about to cry every time he finishes a sentence with ‘y’know’?

I think it’s a recent vocal tic he’s developed. He’s had a rough year or so it’s understandable. I’m sure there are plenty of people online letting him know about it.

I like how they don’t just slate films. Even ‘bad’ ones

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