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

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

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.