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I Think You're Interesting

The entertainment industry is brimming with interesting people who are responsible for your favorite movies, TV shows, and more. Join Vox’s critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff every Thursday as she speaks with the very well known, up-and-coming and need to know folks responsible for the most exciting projects in art, entertainment, and pop culture – diving deep into their influences, inspirations, and careers in a frank, uncensored fashion. The series finale aired in December 2018.

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Why 2001: A Space Odyssey is still one of the greatest films ever made, 50 years later

Even if you haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s mind-melting 1968 science fiction epic, you probably know at least something about it. It’s one of those movies, like Star Wars or Citizen Kane, that has become so thoroughly dissolved into our pop culture that you’ll have heard of the villainous computer HAL or know the famed music cue (Richard Strauss' “Also sprach Zarathustra”) that plays over its most indelible images.But how were those moments created? The story of 2001 is the story of an almost obsessive attention to detail, of a budget that almost completely destroyed the film’s studio, of an initial wave of terrible reviews that might have killed a lesser movie. At every step of the way along its production process (and even after its release), 2001 is a fascinating example of big-time moviemaking gone right.This week, Todd is joined first by Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson to talk about 2001’s long legacy, then by author Michael Benson, whose book Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece is the definitive account of the making of the film, to talk about how this titanic achievement came to be. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 5mins

25 Apr 2018

Rank #1

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Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein isn't just the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Vox (the site that produces this podcast, in case you were unaware). He's a major fan of superhero comics and the films based on them. For this week's episode, Todd sat down with his boss to discuss why he loves comics, how he avoids Twitter, and what he got wrong when he started Vox three years ago. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 6mins

3 May 2017

Rank #2

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The Americans' showrunners and star bid farewell to TV's best show

If you've listened to this show ever, or read anything Todd has ever written, then you know The Americans is one of his favorite shows of the past several years. Last night, it ended.For this special episode of the show, Todd is joined by star Matthew Rhys (who plays Philip) and writers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, who run the series, to talk about the series' incredible final season and its even more remarkable finale. There are spoilers if you haven't watched the entire series, but also lots of talk about finding the series' voice and the whole, wild six-season ride.And, if nothing else, if you've never heard Rhys's real, Welsh accent, well, you're in for a treat. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

54mins

31 May 2018

Rank #3

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The incredible true story behind Spike Lee's new movie BlacKkKlansman

The new movie BlacKkKlansman is careful to let you know very early on that, yes, its story is a true one, with a few embellishments for film. And it likely does so because said story — a black man goes undercover and becomes a trusted confidant of people in the Ku Klux Klan, including David Duke himself — would be written off as preposterous if it occurred in a fictional context.But, no, that man really existed. His name was Ron Stallworth, and as an officer with the Colorado Springs Police Department, he really did talk on the phone with local Klansmen and with Duke. And with the help of his white partner, he was able to infiltrate the organization and work to bring some of its local members down. It’s a great story that is made all the better by virtue of being true, and in both Stallworth’s book about the experience and in Lee’s film, the story becomes a way to look at both the ridiculousness and the poisonousness of American racism.Stallworth joins Todd this week to talk about seeing his life become a film, being a black police officer, and what was most changed for the movie. Then: stick around for a chat with writer-director Desiree Akhavan on her new film The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a beautiful coming-of-age story set at a fundamentalist Christian-run gay conversion therapy retreat. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 3mins

16 Aug 2018

Rank #4

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Holly Hunter, Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romano, and Emily V. Gordon talk about their movie The Big Sick

The Big Sick is a little slice of romantic comedy perfection and one of 2017's best movies. Based on a very real story from the life of very real couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the movie boasts a script by the two, with Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, two real acting heavyweights, joining them as Emily's parents. The Big Sick manages something too few movies do nowadays. As you watch it, you might find yourself hoping that everybody in it will end up happy and more or less okay, which is rarer than you'd think. From Nanjiani's work as a version of himself to Hunter and Romano's estranged-but-trying-to-fix-things couple, the movie is full of beautifully sketched characters, brought together by an unlikely medical emergency. Now, right as the movie hits streaming on Amazon Prime (on Friday, November 24), Hunter, Romano, Nanjiani, and Gordon joined Todd to talk about The Big Sick — but also everything from Gene Hackman and writing partnerships to the best ear of corn Ray Romano ever ate. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 5mins

22 Nov 2017

Rank #5

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Alan Yang

Alan Yang's series, Master of None, might be the best TV show of 2017. Yang, who co-created the series with its star, Aziz Ansari, also worked on all seven seasons of the beloved NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation, as well as the first season of The Good Place. But the free-wheeling, deeply empathetic Master of None is where he's had greatest opportunity to shine. He joins Todd to talk about the second season, why he loves New York after growing up in California, and what that final shot means. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 14mins

24 May 2017

Rank #6

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The best film and TV performances of 2017, according to our critics panel

Awards season is once again upon us. We’ll soon know which films and performances have been nominated for the Oscars, and the Golden Globes are receding into the past.But let’s talk about what’s really important: Which performances from 2017 did our panel of critics like most? Todd is joined by Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson and Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore to discuss their favorites. The list (across film and television) is wide-ranging, from Star Wars: The Last Jedi to the little-seen Chilean film A Fantastic Woman.Along the way, the three talk about how hard it can be to describe a great performance, whether Adam Driver breaks the new Star Wars movies, and who gave the best performance in Get Out. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 1min

17 Jan 2018

Rank #7

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Exploring the role of religion in the Trump era with Matt Carter, co-host of the Bad Christian podcast

Few religion podcasts have proved as vital to understanding evangelical Christian America in the Donald Trump era as Bad Christian, a podcast hosted by three friends, who all used to be in a band together. (Two of them still are in that band.) Hosts Matt Carter, Toby Morrell, and Joey Svendsen, all Christians, discuss their issues with the modern church, without flinching. They also reveal their personal journeys as believers, which serve as real-time markers of individual Christians’ evolution on particular issues, especially LGBT rights. Matt Carter joined Todd this week to talk about the role of the church in Trump’s America, but also his favorite chord progressions, how to protect your voice when you’re scream-singing every night, and how he thinks moving from small-town South Carolina to Seattle influenced his views — religious, moral, and political. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 10mins

29 Nov 2017

Rank #8

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How to build a civilization from scratch

Imagine you're a time traveler whose time machine has functioned somewhere in Earth's past — after humans have evolved but before they've, say, invented language or agriculture or any of the other pillars civilization was built upon. How might you try to kickstart that process with all these hominids you keep meeting? And how would you avoid rebuilding civilization with all of the flaws of our current world?That question is the basis of Ryan North's new book How to Invent Everything, a hugely enjoyable book that really does come close to achieving what's promised in the title. (You'll even learn how to invent a computer using a river!)North is probably best known to this point as the writer of comics like Adventure Time and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, as well as the creator and writer of Dinosaur Comics, a webcomic that has run since 2003 using the exact same clip art (of dinosaurs, of course) in all six panels for 15 years. Todd and North talk about the foundations of society, what you learn writing a comic whose art doesn't change from day to day, and why the best meals are sometimes those you can never have again.Then: Todd is joined by astronauts Mae Jemison and Leland Melvin to talk about leaving behind Earth's orbit — and how we just might find humanity's future on our next-door neighbor Mars. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 19mins

1 Nov 2018

Rank #9

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Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley on labor unions, capitalism, and his hit movie

The riotously funny, incredibly inventive new movie Sorry to Bother You has become one of the summer’s most acclaimed films, as well as an unlikely hit in arthouses. The movie’s tale of a young man named Cassius Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield), who takes a job in a call center, drifts wildly from genre to genre, sometimes seeming like a comedy, sometimes like a call to political action, and sometimes like a near-future science fiction movie.But uniting all these ideas is a commitment to forthrightly leftist politics, and director Boots Riley dropped by the show to talk with Todd not just about making the movie but about how he wants to use it to explore ideas about unions, about political organization, and about building a movement.We follow that up with a chat with Jonah Levy and Matt Silva, the makeup artists behind the movie Uncle Drew, who turned a bunch of NBA legends into their older selves. They talked to Todd about the basics of movie makeup and their favorite movie makeup designs of all time.I Think You're Interesting has been nominated for this year's People's Choice Podcast Awards! Cast your vote for I Think You're Interesting free before Tuesday, July 31st at podcastawards.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 2mins

26 Jul 2018

Rank #10

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Ken Burns’s name is synonymous with American history. His new film is eerily prescient.

For a large number of people, just seeing the name "Ken Burns" is mark enough of quality. Whether Burns is producing or directing, his long, multi-part documentaries have been PBS mainstays since the 1980s.His breakthrough film, The Civil War, released in 1990, announced him as one of the best-known, most beloved documentarians in America, and he's since chronicled just about every corner of American history through a variety of lenses, including the much loved projects Baseball, The National Parks, and The War, among others.Now he and co-director Lynn Novick have launched one of his most massive miniseries yet: The Vietnam War, a new PBS documentary told over 18 hours and 10 parts. Burns and Novick joined me to talk about the incredible scope of their new project, how they pulled it all together, how they managed to get the rights to all that great music from the period, and the eerie similarities between America then and America now. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 7mins

20 Sep 2017

Rank #11

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Tired of boring blockbusters? Our critics pick the best summer movies of the 2000s.

It's a special edition of I Think You're Interesting as Todd is joined by David Sims of The Atlantic and Alison Willmore of Buzzfeed to pick the top summer movies of the 2000s. Each critic picks their five favorites, and then the arguing begins. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 3mins

5 Jul 2017

Rank #12

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How to write a joke for President Obama

How do you write a joke for the president of the United States? How do you come up with something that will seem perfectly cutting but not too cruel, silly but not stupid? How do you not denigrate the highest office in the land with — sniff — comedy?Those were all questions David Litt, a speechwriter for President Obama and one of the folks most instrumental to Obama’s comedy monologues at the White House Correspondents Dinner, had to face when he worked in the White House. And after he left, he wrote his memoir Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, a whole book about his time working for the president, complete with lots of advice on how to write jokes for the president.Todd talks with Litt this week about the strengths and limitations of political comedy, the joke he wrote for Obama that he’s most proud of, and the similarities between working at the White House and his new gig at Funny or Die. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

57mins

21 Mar 2018

Rank #13

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Thanos and Roseanne: how two mad titans took over pop culture

This week on I Think You’re Interesting, we’re trying something different, by dissecting two of the biggest pop culture stories of the spring.First, Vox culture writer Alex Abad-Santos joins Todd to talk about the fallout from Avengers: Infinity War. The conversation is full of spoilers, particularly when it comes to the film’s controversial ending, which some love and some hate. If you haven't seen the movie and want to avoid spoilers skip ahead to 24:29 to hear Todd's conversation about the Roseanne revival with Vox culture writer Caroline Framke and Vox deputy culture editor Genevieve Koski. After being off the air for more than 20 years, Roseanne debuted with huge ratings and solid reviews but the show has quickly become better known for its star’s politics. As one of the most famous Trump supporters in the entertainment industry, has Roseanne the actress overwhelmed Roseanne the show? Todd, Caroline and Genevieve tackle that question and more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

49mins

2 May 2018

Rank #14

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Alan Sepinwall, on why he doesn’t like the Netflix model of full-season stories

Alan Sepinwall's blog What's Alan Watching launched in 2005, when he was working as a TV critic at Newark newspaper The Star-Ledger. The site would take the TV episode recap, something popularized on sites like Television Without Pity, and turn it into a place for almost instant analysis of readers' favorite shows. He's since moved on to Hitfix and Uproxx and has written two books, each on some of the greatest shows ever made. He joins Todd to talk about why he favors strong episodes to full seasons, the biggest changes to TV criticism over the years, and the greatest TV series ever made. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

46mins

21 Jun 2017

Rank #15

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Janet from The Good Place and Kelli from Insecure on making TV's funniest shows even funnier

We're focusing on TV scene stealers this week, as we head into a new fall season. These two performers take some of the best shows on TV and make them even better, sidling into any given scene and swiping it right out from under everybody else with a perfect one-liner or pratfall.First, we're talking with D'Arcy Carden of NBC's The Good Place and HBO's Barry. Her work as Janet (and Janet's evil twin, Bad Janet) on The Good Place is some of the funniest stuff you'll see on TV.As what amounts to a computer program running off the raw power of the universe and living in the afterlife, Janet is someone who can make cacti materialize as if from nowhere, who can vomit pennies, who can evolve slowly but surely into something almost godlike, all without breaking a sweat. And Carden's work as the character is all sunny chipperness and goofy fun. She's so good Todd listed her as creating one of his favorite performances of 2017 in an earlier podcast.Next up is Natasha Rothwell of HBO's Insecure. The series, about a group of women in their early 30s, charts the tumultuous process of becoming an adult and having to figure things out. But Kelli, the character Rothwell plays, is exactly the sort of friend who's pretty sure she already has it figured out, and she's not ashamed to tell you just what she thinks of whatever decision you just made.Rothwell is also involved in the writing process on Insecure, figuring out what's going to happen with all of the characters on the show, which makes her role in the series even more intriguing.Both women join Todd in this week's episode to talk about why they love what they do, how they got their big breaks, and why working in sketch comedy helped prepare them for some of TV's best shows. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 12mins

13 Sep 2018

Rank #16

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Love the look of Black Panther's Wakanda? Meet the woman who designed its costumes.

If you've seen Marvel's new movie Black Panther, you know that one of the best things about it is its use of costumes and sets not just to create the fictional world of Wakanda, but also to tell little stories about its history and culture in every single frame. Just looking at this movie, which opened to the second-biggest four-day box office in film history, is half the fun. That's why for the first episode in a post-Black Panther world, we wanted to talk to Ruth Carter, the designer of the movie's costumes, from that sleek superhero suit, to the Dora Milaje's battle gowns, to the plethora of other costumes that tell you, at a glance, which part of Wakanda certain characters are from. And that's to say nothing of the moments of high fashion, when T'Challa and his allies step out onto exciting spy missions.Though Black Panther is Carter's biggest movie yet, she's been designing costumes since the 1980s, having designed the costumes for almost every one of Spike Lee's films and received two Oscar nominations for her work on Lee's Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg's Amistad. Carter joins Todd to talk about telling the story of Wakanda through clothing, collaborating with great directors, and why every superhero movie is dependent on one workshop in Europe. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 1min

21 Feb 2018

Rank #17

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What happened in Hollywood in 2017 — and where it might go in 2018

From the Oscars mixup to the Disney-Fox deal, and from Netflix’s continuing inability to launch major movie hits to the seemingly endless stream of sexual misconduct revelations, 2017 was a big year for entertainment news, arguably the biggest in decades. Every new week brought a new story with the potential to alter the industry in incalculable ways. It was such a big year that a near-strike by the Writers Guild of America ended up being a footnote.Covering all of it was Richard Rushfield, a veteran entertainment journalist whose new newsletter, The Ankler, launched in 2017 and instantly became a must-read for anybody hoping to understand the business of show. Rushfield’s open, chatty publication broke major stories (like the existence of a group of powerful Hollywood women looking for a way to force the industry to deal with its sexual misconduct issues) and offered an often iconoclastic take on the biggest stories of the year.Richard and Todd got together shortly before the year’s end to talk about all of the biggest stories from 2017, where all of this might be heading in 2018, and (of course) Star Wars. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 10mins

20 Dec 2017

Rank #18

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Novelist Tom Perrotta on white privilege, gender identity, and Tracy Flick 20 years later

Tom Perrotta’s books have become one of our most consistently enjoyable dissections of a very specific sort of America — upper-class, wryly comic, and white. Even when his books dig into a world where something very much like the Rapture has happened (as in The Leftovers), they take place long enough after the catastrophic event for things to be reverting to the status quo. That makes him terrific at picking apart the foibles of our modern world, and it’s also made him a frequent target for Hollywood adaptation. His Little Children became an Oscar-nominated film in 2005, while The Leftovers turned into a tremendous HBO series. It’s Election, however, that won him the most fame. A book the author had largely given up hope of seeing published, Election found its way into Hollywood’s hands and became a classic 1999 film that helped propel Reese Witherspoon to stardom and cemented Perrotta as a novelist to watch. Now, nearly 20 years on from Election’s 1998 publication, Perrotta’s latest book, Mrs. Fletcher, tackles lots of meaty topics, from issues of white privilege to gender and sexual identity, from going to college to the ways the internet has changed all of our lives. They’re places many novelists fear to tread, but Perrotta tackles them with his same command of tone and sly sensibility. He joined Todd this week to talk about finding his way into the heads of characters very different from himself, seeing your book turning up on the big screen, and reading some of his most famous books all these years later. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

58mins

27 Sep 2017

Rank #19

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TV ratings, explained

The Nielsen ratings might not have as much power as they once held, but they still can decide the fate of your favorite TV show. If nobody's watching, it could be canceled. That's always been true. But what's also always been true is that the Nielsen data-gathering procedure is a little opaque and hard to understand.Don't worry, though, because we've got your back. This week, Todd and guest Joe Adalian, of New York Magazine's Vulture, take you through how the Nielsens work, how they decide which viewers to count for their statistical sample, and just how much networks still pay attention to their ratings in an era when all viewership has plummeted. (The answer is less than they used to but still more than you'd probably want them to if your favorite show has poor ratings.)Joe will also take you through the world of streaming services and how their refusal to release viewership numbers is and isn't changing the TV game, and he'll pull out some of his favorite ratings tidbits. Joe is one of the sharpest analysts of the industry, so if you just want to understand how the TV business works, this interview is a great place to start. And if you think you already know, you almost certainly don't know as much as Joe. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

56mins

6 Sep 2018

Rank #20