FF67 - Darkest Hour

Intro by Adam Pranica

2017 was the year of Winston Churchill movies the way that 1998 was the year of Earth-killing meteor films and if Dunkirk is the self-serious Deep Impact, that must mean Darkest Hour is Armageddon. Maybe the strongest similarity between the films is tone. Now look: I am going to see this comparison through to its academic conclusions, so buckle up! You have got a thread that imperils the planet and one flawed man who can save the day. What my theory presupposes is that Winston Churchill is like a fat Bruce Willis. Are you following? The Churchill of this movie is a genius, but he is also a drunk who shows up to work in an open robe, who is cruel to a secretary, and he is loathed by his co-workers. It is basically John Roderick in the early 1990s except for the secretary part.

His rep is one of ”useful idiot” and that is a term I think a lot of people are more familiar with now than ever before. No-one wants the job he has been recruited for and most people believe he will fail, but he is the best idea that they have, he is their moon-shot! It is a serious moment in history and the situation is grave, but everyone is just so quippy. It is like if a war film were written by Kevin Williamson - I half-expected a Gilmore girl to be Churchill's secretary - but that isn't to say that it is bad because it is definitely not. This is a good film stacked with great performances: Gary Oldman is so amazing in his performance of John Roderick in the year 2040 that it has actually inspired him to start a juice cleanse and buy a gym membership. Thanks again for supporting Friendly Fire at maximumfun.org/donate.

The story is: Europe is on the brink of losing to Hitler. The story of Dunkirk is playing off-screen and some of the most intense parts of this film are spent in the bathroom. We barely see a weapon discharged and we only see one dead body in the entire movie, and yet the dread is so present in every scene, it is like walking into a room and seeing your lady-friend with your phone in her hand. And yet, by the time Oldman as Churchill delivers his fiery speech on the floor of parliament it is so affecting that you barely notice the Aerosmith tune swell into crescendo. The film steps out of the way at the end, allowing history to tell the rest of the film's story. It is like watching a film about the Civil War that was only about three speeches Abraham Lincoln gave. It shouldn't work, but just like Churchill's speech at the end you can't help but wave your hankie at it. ”Four more years!”, you are thinking, before remembering that this guy was voted out of office not long after.

Dunkirk and Darkest Hour are fascinating cinematic bookends depicting a moment in time very differently. In Dunkirk our characters are boots-on-the-ground and in the shit, but in Darkest Hour our main character is omnisciently looking down upon it all and often taking a shit. But will we look down upon this film? We will soon find out on today's Friendly Fire as we lack the gift of temperance during our review of the 2017 Joe Wright-directed Gary Oldman Oscar-bait film Darkest Hour.

Live Show Announcement

Exciting announcement. Friendly Fire is headed out on the road for our first tour of duty. We are coming to play live shows in a bunch of cities around the US, starting on May 20th in Brooklyn New York. We are going to be reviewing Top Gun. May 21st in Chicago Illinois we will be reviewing Broken Arrow and in Seattle Washington on June 3rd Commando. On June 4th in San Francisco The Rock, and on June 11th in Los Angeles California Raiders of the Lost Ark. Head to friendlyfire.fm/live right now! Get your tickets! That's friendlyfire.fm/live. Come see us live onstage!


B: Welcome to Friendly Fire, the war movie podcast. ”The evacuation of Whosehoosts shall not take place! I repeat: Shall not take place! I'm Ben Harrison.”

A: I’m Adam Pranica

J: And I’m John Roderick.

B: Halifax! Oh, some fun R.P. in this episode!

A: Is vice count a first name or a rank?

J: It is a rank!

A: Because it would be one of the great names, I think.

J: There are several pronunciations of it and every single one of them we are going to get flamed for.

A: Yeah! I started it off. Vice Counts is wrong, right?

J: Yeah, I think it's like…

A: Vice Count (in a fake French accent)

B: You can say vice cunt in Britain, but it has a different connotation.

Multiple films about the same story

B: So we put our thumbs on the scales and watched this movie outside of our traditional random selection process.

A: Are you ready to watch Churchill, the Brian Cox movie next for the three in a row?

B: Yeah, we do have a rule that you can't watch three movies about one Churchill.

A: 2017 was a crazy year for this story and its related stories because you have Dunkirk, this film, Churchill, there is also one called Their Finest, which was another Dunkirk / Churchill adjacent film. It is like the Armageddon / Deep Impact situation where there was a studio arms race to tell this story, it feels like.

J: I wonder if it is that we are finally ready to hear it! This story does not really comport with any of the mythology of the allies that we spent 70 years really propping up.

B: This film felt like propaganda to me. Dunkirk had moments that felt like that, but this really felt like it had its tongue all the way up Churchill's ass.

J: Yeah, there is a lot about this story that is incomplete. In particular the role that the entire Labour Party played in the whole story of fighting Hitler. The Conservatives were the ones that promoted appeasement and that stood to gain the most if they signed a peace treaty with Hitler, and it was Labor that pushed the Anti-Nazi agenda. We don't see any sign of them. Clement Attlee isn't even in this movie.

A: I was asking myself that question the whole time! Where is Clement Attlee? Where is he? I feel like I am going to be asking a lot of dumb questions as a baseline audience member proxy in this show because, much like Dunkirk, a film I approached without really knowing the story, I approached this film not really knowing the players besides Churchill in this film.

Germany violating the Treaty of Versailles

A: I think maybe one of the first questions I have to ask you is: What was the deal with Neville Chamberlain? And why was he being pushed out? The film makes the case that he did not ready the British military sufficiently enough to defend against Germany, was that it?

J: Oh no, that was the last of his problems or failings. His approach to Hitler from the very beginning was that Europe couldn't afford another war. Hitler was bound by the Treaty of Versailles, the Germans weren't allowed to rearm. There was a territory between Germany and France that had been demilitarized. They weren't allowed to have any kind of army in there and they were meant to pay all these tremendous reparations and little by little, as Hitler gained power, he just started defying the Treaty of Versailles and nobody wanted to hold him to account. There was a real passivity in the response to Germany's mobilization. Germany was absolutely forbidden from joining with Austria in a Central European German Empire, and then Hitler accomplished that, which was called the Anschluss when Germany and Austria became one unity, which was verboten.

A: Good word choice!

J: Thank you! But the British and the French and all of the co-signers did nothing. Western Czechoslovakia and a lot of central Europe was full of Germans. Poland was full of Germans and had been for hundreds and hundreds of years, for 500 years…

B: because the idea of Germany as a country was fairly new, right?

J: There was only a Germany starting in the late 1800s and Prussia only really became contemporary Germany after World War I, so Germany was a new idea.

B: They were like: ”Prussia is a cool name, but it sounds so derivative and we got to get our own thing going!

J: Let’s call it something else!

B: Bella Russia?

J: No, that’s taken! What's another good? Russia Stein? No! When I was in Romania in 1999 I was walking across Romania and I was up in the Vulcan mountains. This will appeal to you guys.

B : We've talked about neutral zones, now we are talking about Vulcan mountains? I am in!

A: You were going through Pon Farr at the time!

J: I was! I went into this little town, this little teeny town up a road where there was no outlet, it was just up a valley, and I was headed over the mountain, so I had to go through this little town. I went into a store to get some chocolate bars and some juice. The woman behind the counter, and this is way up in the mountains, is wearing her blonde hair in braids and is selling only German wares in her store and I spoke to her in Pigeon Romanian.

A: You went to St. Pauli Girl, the store?

J: I did! I went to St. Pauli Girl, the town! And she replied in German and so I talked to her for a little bit and she said: ”This is a German town. It has been a German town since 1380!” and I was just thinking about all the ways that this town had changed hands in the 20th century, and she said ”It is still a German town!” and that blew my mind and it made me realize ”Oh, they were serious!” The Germans were all over Central Europe and they believed it belonged to them in large part. That western part of Czechoslovakia The Germans felt was part of German territory because it was settled almost 90% Germans. The Czechs, the Bohemians started a little East of there. And so the Germans took it and Neville Chamberlain, whose responsibility it was as the prime minister of England to say ”All right, enough is enough! We have let you violate this treaty 1000 ways, but you can't just start carving parts of sovereign nations!”

A: To what degree was there an intelligence community able to fully grasp the problem? Because right now you could see that the U.N. would send inspectors to check out a country's ability to make nuclear weapons and then there would be all these things that happen later. But this is something that wouldn't happen in the late 1930s to early 1940s, so was this much of a surprise when all of a sudden Germany is able to pull the cloak off of 10000 Tiger tanks? Or was it known?

J: This was the era of diplomacy. All these old dudes that we are contemptuous of now were all still living in this world of backroom deals and negotiations at a high level between diplomats and that was the world they occupied. In the same way that Trump came in and most of the handshake-culture and agreed-upon normal conditions of diplomacy that we realized weren't actually written down. It was just a gentlemen's agreement, and Trump came in and was like ”Oh, we don't do that anymore! I don't show my tax returns! I don't divest myself of my businesses, and I run the presidency as I see fit!”

B: In order to primarily remunerate myself and my family!

J: Hitler did a similar thing. He came in and was very good at talking.

A: I have not heard Trump compared to Hitler before. That is interesting!

J: I know! It's weird! He was a blue collar guy and not a member of the aristocracy or the officer corps.

A: Blue Collar jobs do allow facial hair in a way that White Collar jobs don’t.

J: That one especially, right! The citizens of that part of the Sudetenland, of that part of Czechoslovakia, were Germans. They didn't have to go in with panzers. They just walked in and the people of that area hung Nazi flags out of their windows and were like ”Welcome! Willkommen!” and Hitler said ”All we are going to do is take this little slice of Czechoslovakia and then we are done! That’s it! And that is the last thing we will do and then we will have peace in our time!”

A: They just annexed it!

J: Yeah, that's exactly right. And at each one of these little incremental insults Chamberlain kept giving these little concessions to Hitler and then would come back and sell it to the English as ”Peace in our Time”

B: But it was a death of a thousand cuts!

J: Yeah, it was a long-winded story.

A film based on four speeches

A: It is the kind of context that I appreciate after watching a film like this, but I think I enjoyed the film without knowing all of that. I thought its performances and the way that the film looked was really striking and amazing. This is a film basically built around four speeches that Gary Oldman gives and then it is backfilled with these character moments.

B: It is four speeches with three temples interspersed between them.

A: Whoa! Hold on, your film paper is just coming in! Nicely done.

B: I am always trying to write for your ThreeTemple Theory.

A: I feel like if you were going to pitch this film as that… I don't think that is a very compelling pitch, the four speeches backfilled with whatever character moments that we can conceive of, often fictionalized character moments. A lot of these scenes were written for drama.

J: But these speeches are famous, famously famous…

A: …and they are so good!

J: … and Churchill's delivery of them was so crucial to their fame and to galvanizing the British people.

B: I read that the big one, the ”We'll fight them on the Beaches” speech was never broadcast until 1949. He recorded it for the first time then.

J: Right, but they quoted it on the BBC that afternoon.

B: You see it in Dunkirk, them reading the text of it in the newspaper.

J: We didn't get that incredible delivery of that recording from 1949, which is phenomenal! I highly recommend everybody listen to it! He is definitely doing a dramatic reading of his own dramatic reading.

Churchill’s secretary

A: The beginning of this film starts a little bit like downfall, doesn't it? With the hiring of a secretary and how difficult Churchill is to work with, kind of a screamer, kind of a mumbler, maybe it is the narcissism of minor differences that comes up between Churchill and Hitler. and that is a big part of their conflict!

J: I definitely struggled with trying to use the secretary as a way in to see Churchill because I didn't feel like the film followed all the way through on that premise. It's like ”Oh we are going to get to know Churchill through his 20 year old secretary!” and then it brings her back in when convenient, but she is not really the way that we learn about Churchill. We see plenty of scenes featuring her, but but the film doesn't take her very seriously. We don't know anything about her!

B: We don't have the 1980's video interview with her at the end, wondering what she could have done differently!

J: ”I didn't even know about the Jews! We don't even know Jews in Romania!”

A: Joe Wright is the guy who directed this film and he has directed a lot of films featuring Keira Knightley. Lily James was the actor who plays Elizabeth Layton and if you can't get Keira Knightley, she picked up the phone and did a great job!

J: She did!

B: I think the only thing I have seen her in other than this was Baby Driver, but she seems really good. I really liked her performance!

A: She had to show fear and embarrassment and confidence and she really did play a spectrum of emotions in this role…

J: … and a lot of sorrow. The fact that her brother was in Dunkirk is foreshadowed so hard! But she is still left as an actor to play that, because we are not let off the hook of it, even though there is no mystery there, it is not a Sixth Sense moment where the reveal actually impacts us like it is meant to impact Churchill.

A: She was dead the whole time! They replay clips of the film when Churchill is walking like a ghost into the map room.

J: Like Garfield without Garfield!

A: Crazy Churchill!

B: Whom is he talking to?

A: He is Jon Arbuckling his way through the film.

J: I think when they Sixth Sense this podcast they are going to realize that it was the three of us that were dead the whole time.

A: Sure feels that way!

B: Rob imagined us and just does really incredible voice work to impersonate three hosts.

J: This whole podcast is just Rob's drop-in music-beds, and people listen to it and love it!

B: Just a lot of long stretches of silence and then an occasional ”That is a hell of a combination!”

Backstory, Neutrality laws, not intervening with Hitler

B: I was reading about this movie and the thing that I found so interesting in this was the level of certitude that Churchill has that there is not going to be a reasonable way to sue for peace, that is a fool's errand, he is going up against Chamberlain and Halifax, and a more powerful faction of the government is arguing against his position. They have him by the balls because he needs their buy in to get done what he wants to do, and they are threatening him with resignation the entire time. My read on Wikipedia led me to understand that that wasn't really the case. They didn't necessarily agree on policy, but the idea that the British were waffling on whether to fight Hitler or the idea that having to go to war with Hitler was not inevitable wasn't really accurately portrayed here.

J: This is the part that this movie hints at, and I feel now is the time to revisit that period of 1938/39/40 as Hitler was running roughshod over Central Europe, and the UK and the United States really waffled about what the response should be. When Churchill calls FDR and asks him for aid…

B: ”Oh, hello Winston!” - ”Oh nice to hear from you as well!” - ”Problem with that: We have these neutrality laws, you see! You can tow them over the border with some horses!” - ”Hello? Hello? Winston?”

A: I want to see the horse tow movie!

J: War Horse, except just towing airplanes…

A: Is that what War Horse is about?

J: No! We should watch War Horse. I am sure that is on our list!

A: r/horsetow is also an open tab on John's computer.

J: The neutrality laws all through the late 1930s were America's attempt to stay out of global conflicts‚ all passed by a Congress that, although they were dominated by the Republicans, this non-intervention group, it was a Democratic Congress, and there was plenty of support for these non-intervention laws that made no distinction between invaders and the invaded. Hitler would invade Belgium and the United States would say: ”Oh, we don't supply guns or ammunition to either side of this conflict!” It was the ”both sides” argument that people are so upset about now in the Internet. The Spanish Civil War really tested the neutrality acts and the United States sold a lot of stuff to Franco through these various work-arounds and proxies. I am not talking about the government, but the U.S. allowed arms dealers to sell, armsmen, manufacturers. But then the Japanese invaded China and we wanted to support the Chinese, but the whole idea that the United States could sit this one out and that we saw in Hitler's conquering of Europe an invading and conquering France, and waging war against the United Kingdom and we still felt like we could sit on the sidelines and say ”Well, not our problem!" is not part of the story when we look back at our World War II heroism. We look back and say ”Yes! The U.S. got involved and defeated Hitler!”

A: ”A force for truth and justice around the world!”

J: But if the Germans hadn't been waging a submarine battle against American shipping, if the Japanese hadn't attacked Pearl Harbor, who knows? Would we have tolerated a Nazi Europe? I think the evidence is: Maybe!

A: Would we tolerate a Nazi America right now?

B: Henry Ford would have been thrilled!

J: Charles Lindbergh, too! Would we tolerate a Nazi America? For the 70 years of the 20th century and early 21st it was widely regarded as inconceivable there could ever be another Hitler. That answer was self-evident, but partly it is that we haven't really looked at our conduct in the late 1930s or early 1940s with very much clarity. We limped into this war! Chamberlain made that pact that if Hitler invaded Poland, that would incite war with England, but that was a threat and he had to go through with that declaration because he'd made that threat and he had finally been pushed to the wall. He made the threat hoping that Hitler would just stop, he didn't want war and none of the conservatives did! They weren't defending Poland because they cared about Poland, it is obvious they didn't because Hitler invaded Poland and they didn't do anything. It took them months and months and months!

A: Pretty fucked up!

B: The situation was a little different in the US., but does the fact that Hitler was on a more conservative portion of the ideological spectrum create less antipathy between the leadership in the UK and Germany?

J: The aristocracy in Germany made this unholy pact with Hitler because they hated communists and they figured that they could…

A: Whoa, just taking a breath after that statement! It is shockingly contemporary to modern times, right? Who are you willing to live with as your leader in order to get your legislation done?

J: The aristocrats of Germany felt like Hitler was a dummy and (check) they needed to preserve their hegemony (check) and the greatest threat to that was the radical left (check) and Hitler did a brilliant thing, which was present himself as an alternative that would galvanize the working class (check check check check check check check) and it turned out that the aristocracy supported Hitler and then they realized they couldn't control him. The British aristocracy had to have seen that, but again: They would rather have Hitler than Stalin.

B: Another thing that struck me watching this movie is when they start talking about their vast empire and protecting it: That is presented as a neutral to positive thing to want in this film. Also, the film papers over the idea that there is a huge amount of resources and troops that can be drawn on, given the scope of the British Empire at this point in history.

A: They really Michael Bay the montage there: Whenever they talk about empire they cut to the surface and it is street vendors and kids selling newspapers…

J: … in slow motion with some really heavy handed music!

God-shot for depicting war

A: This film does a couple of things visually to show you the empire and to show you the stakes. Ben, this is something I especially wanted to talk to you about, which was the use of the God shot: You never see war shot horizontally in this film, it is always top down. I wanted to interrogate the meaning of that with you because there are references in the film to making these god-like decisions for your people and right on the heels of comments like that we are made to see the refugees leaving France and then all of the craters next to it that are eventually re-bombed again.

B: He is always looking at it from a plane or just on a map and he talks about ”I've never taken a bus, I've never been in the subway before” and it really is a tabletop role-playing game for him in a lot of ways. I thought that was great.

J: That's an interesting technique!

A: I really liked it! There was a ”blink or you miss it” transition where you do the pan across the craters and then it dissolves into a corpse's face at the end that I thought was super well done.

J: Yeah, that was crazy! With the light of the fires in his dead eyes.

The English empire crumbling

J: The question of empire ties into Bridge on the River Kwai because the Japanese are attacking the empire from the other side.

A: Churchill's certainty reminded me a lot of Nicholson's in that film also, which is another way that I felt like the two were related.

J: And you have to remember that in India in World War II Gandhi had been leading an independence movement and so the empire was already starting to crack and Gandhi didn't open a third front or anything, but there was a lot of collaboration.

A: The last third front of Gandhi!

B: You know, this peaceful resistance thing? Let's toss it out in favor of armed resistance!

J: There was a lot of Indian attempt to use this conflict to gain independence. This war spelled the end of the British Empire, whether they liked it or not. Clement Attlee very crucial…

A: That's my guy! The absent Clement Attlee!

J: Almost the day after the war ended there was an election and Churchill was voted out of office and replaced with Clement Attlee who is 100% responsible for the introduction of the welfare state in Britain. He put in the National Health and the 1940s and 1950s was an era of organized labor and the dawn of English Socialism. All these things that we look at now in the UK… that all was what Margaret Thatcher was so upset about and what Reagan was so upset about and all the commentators here in the United States that are suspicious of Socialism.


B: This film came out in 2017 and a lot of critics reacted to it as a pro-Brexit propaganda thing, which really surprised me because the big quote at the end is about not giving up and I feel as a member of the American left that we are in a ”licking our wounds / trying to rebuild” phase of of politics right now and those platitudes seem designed to appeal to somebody like me, except for in the UK, and when this came out it was seen as an ”the UK should be independent from Europe” message. You can read into it and project onto it what you see in the world to some extent.

J: Be the Churchill you want to see in the world, Ben! That is the propaganda vibe that you are feeling.

How Churchill is portrayed

J: From a filmmaker's perspective: Everybody wants Gary Oldman to win an Oscar, which he does, and the way to have Gary Oldman win an Oscar is to portray Churchill in his most imperial. He is given a lot of character flaws…

B: … he shakes hands with a black guy, though! He is pretty cool with the minorities!

A: Pretty weird that they did the four step handshake in the underground, though! That seems like something out of time.

J: He is like an ally, Churchill for sure!

B: He speaks to women with great respect in the movie which he was famous for not doing ever.

J: He actually thanks his secretary at one point and it rang like a pot falling off a wall. I have no doubt that he never thanked any of his secretarial staff.

Churchills relationship with King George

J: We get a lot of dirt piled on Chamberlain because history has decided that Chamberlain was the ultimate cock and really that is the term for it. Hitler just made him watch, basically. Chamberlain's policies were very popular in his own time, so it wasn't that Chamberlain was a cock, it was that the British were really on the fence about what they wanted to do about this guy in this situation. But Chamberlain becomes a proxy and then Churchill is the wartime leader who will fight them on the beaches, who goes against his own class and his own party, and eventually wins over the king because we also want the king to be a hero, even though the king's brother was famously a collaborationist.

B: … and Churchill supported his brother, right?

J: Churchill did support his brother! His brother who was basically photographed in a swastika armband for all intents and purposes.

B: It is a good thing nobody in the royal family was ever photographed in a swastika armband ever again! Wouldn’t this be funny?

J: Every 25 years they have to try that one out!

A: Was King George as contemptuous of Churchill? Given the reasons you just said it seems like that would hold up, but was that out in the open or was that a trick of moviemaking to set up that conflict?

J: Churchill is an aristocrat‚ even though he has an American mother, which is why there are so many Americans who claim to be related to Churchill.

A: I thought it was just because Churchill liked to fuck that people make that claim! One of the great stick men in the game: Winston Churchill.

J: He was an aristocrat and Churchill's father was a Tory and there was some old-boy network energy between them already.

A: Is that why Churchill wasn't so subservient socially to the king, why he bowed but he didn't really bow?

J: That was the funniest scene in the movie where after their first meeting where Churchill accepts the nomination he walks backward out of the room but there is a lot of contempt in the way he is doing it. I just laughed and laughed, that was a wonderful moment!

A: When King George swipes the back of his hand on the back of his jacket, that was so great!

B: The way he holds his hand out like a flaccid penis to be kissed!

J: Churchill is no stranger to that world and at that level there is quite a bit less of that. The king is the head of the church and next to the right hand of God. That whole family are German interlopers and…

A: I was shocked that the King showed up in Churchill's dumpy room toward the end of the film. You never see his transit to there! Where was Churchill in the building or in the city at that moment?

J: That is all fake!

A: That strains credulity!

J: He is living at 10 Downing Street, he is right there, and the king could have taken a car, but that's just such moviemaking! The King is going to sit on his dirty bed and be like ”I'm with you, sir!”?

A: I bet that room at 10 Downing still smells like cigars.

J: No, Tony Blair was living in there wearing C.K. One for 12 years.

Developing nicotine toxicity

A: One of the stories I read is that Gary Oldman smoked 10.000 pounds of cigars during the production of the film and develop nicotine toxicity for it. He smoked a dozen a day!

J: Is that how you measure cigars? In pounds?

A: As in the value of them!

J: Oh, I see! ”Wow, 10.000 pounds of cigars?” I wonder how many pounds of cigarettes I have smoked in my life.

B: It was nice that their budget problems were solved by him expressing affection for his wife that one time. He initially offers to cut back on how many cigars he is smoking, but then it is really just a moment where he expresses a little bit more affection than normal.

J: ”We are out of money!” - ”I have always loved you!”

A: There is a piece of this trivia that confused me, though, in the way that sometimes where you place a comma or a period changes the meaning of a statement, like ”Let's eat grandma!”or whatever. Gary Oldman smoked twelve cigars a day, got nicotine toxicity, and had a colonoscopy during the production of the film, and I can't tell if the colonoscopy was related to the nicotine toxicity.

B: That is not how you do cigars, Gary!

A: Yeah, that's not where those go! That's a real commitment to the idea!

Doing business from the potty

J: The number one thing I worried about going into this episode was that there was so much potty time in this movie and I am just sitting on pins and needles, waiting for you guys to go into your potty routines, because I know you were watching the film just like: ”Ah, so many potty times!”

B: I mean, it's delightful!

J: He is in the potty a lot. This is something that our listeners may not know, but I have known Adam for a long time, ever since he was 18 / 19 years old, and I know for a fact that Adam does not like it if you text him when you are on the potty!

A: Why do you feel the need to tell people that you are texting them from the potty?

J: He feels if he gets a text from you on his phone that you sent him from the potty that he is going to get some of your poop on him through the texts, and he is very adamant about it. I don't understand it!

A: I like you a lot, John, I just don't want to think of you that way!

J: Oh, so it is a mental picture?

A: Yeah, I just see it and I don't want to see it!

J: Everybody poops, Adam!

A: Oh, I know! Me especially! Me more than anyone!

J: I do so much business from the potty. I'm not pooping the entire time…

A: You are famously a bath-man, though!

B: You are like an LBJ where you are taking meetings…

J: Yeah, I got a phone in there! Between the bath and the actual potty, 95% of my business is conducted from there. Adam is a weird one because he likes to make poop jokes, but he doesn't like to think of his friends using the bathroom.

A: I did really like seeing Winston Churchill getting business done in there!

J: He was yelling through the door a lot…

B: … coming out in a state of nature!

A: I am going to take that and use it forever! I love that line!

Smoking cigars, John’s trip to Cuba

B: Speaking of the cigars, I thought that they were a great leadership device in this movie because there are so many times when somebody drops a major rhetorical bomb on him or tells him news like that Belgium has fallen or whatever and he can pause and spend 30 seconds lighting a cigar up to collect his thoughts before he says his response to them. Maybe I should get into smoking?

J: If you smoke a pipe you can sit and fuck with it for 20 minutes, trying to get it packed and lit…

A: Especially if it is one of those Inglorious Basterds pipes

J: … and everybody has to just sit there and watch you and just twist in the wind.

A: Are you a regular cigar guy, John? Or just a sometimes cigar guy?

J: Merlin Mann went through a long phase, where…

B: Who?

A: Sorry, who?

J: A friend of mine who I occasionally podcast with went through a long phase of putting cigars at me every time I was in San Francisco. It was a thing, I guess in the 2000s that people did: Smoke cigars. I went to Cuba in 2007 or something like that, I was still smoking cigarettes, and I got addicted to cigars. I was smoking Cohibas all day…

A: … just right off the Virgin's thigh…

J: … and they were super–inexpensive and super-big and awesome and I got to the point where I was smoking three a day.

B: That was when you declared that you would not shave your beard off until the revolution was complete, right?

A: It sounds like you smoked enough to get a colonoscopy!

J: Oh, see! I wasn't supposed to… I was doing it wrong! I was constantly in a state of hyper-reality. If you smoke that much nicotine you are not dizzy, but you only have one foot still touching the earth.

A: On the rare occasion that I have smoked a cigar it really gags me hard.

J: Then I got back to the states and I realized that I had an $80 a day cigar habit and it actually inspired me to stop smoking because there weren't enough cigarettes in the world that would give me that and I didn't have the money.

A: No matter how many you rubber-banded together into a cylinder!

J: No, I was smoking cigarettes while I was chewing tobacco, just trying to keep riding the dragon, and I was like: ”No, man I can't! I have to get off this this evil drug!”

Cigar at Ben’s wedding

B: One of my groomsmen brought a Cuban cigar to my wedding to smoke with me and he lit it and passed it to me and somebody heard that there was a Cuban going around and came and asked for a drag and I passed it to them and then I never saw it again! My own fucking wedding!

J: You know what it was? It was probably CIA!

B: Pranica, did you get on that thing?

A: No, I didn't!

B: Did that ever make its way over to you?

A: You stuck me at a table super-far away from you, so I had to come down four flights of stairs to see where the wedding party was.

J: He couldn't handle the heat! I don't like this idea of a cigar getting passed around. It's not a joint!

A: Yeah, I don't want the wet end of your cigar!

J: Once you get your lips all over it, it belongs to you!

A: If you bring cigars to a thing, bring enough cigars for everyone!

J: Hear, hear!

B: It was just for me!

A: That's fucked up, Ben! You were done wrong!

J: Let me get a hit off that? That's disgusting!

A: You were done real wrong!

J: I'll say! You need to invite a higher class of people to your wedding!

A: You deserved nicotine poisoning that night!

B: I invited you, John and you didn't show up, so… you would have brought the average up!

J: I didn't go to either of your weddings, I'm sorry!

A: Maybe you will go to our next weddings!

B: When our wives just get so fed up with… ”On my podcast they like me talking about the bathroom, what about in the rest of life?”

A: We are giving them a lot of ammunition for a forthcoming divorce.

J: When you guys get married to one another, I'll be there!

A: It'll be a beautiful ceremony, I'm sure!

Churchill’s wife Clementine

A: Clemmy is a public figure that I was completely unaware of before the film. Was she a major public figure?

J: Oh yeah! After he died she became a member of parliament herself.

A :How would you describe her using today's terms?

J: Using terms of her contemporary Eleanor Roosevelt, she was in her own right a public figure that was a force for aristocratic beneficence.

A: I thought that Kristin Scott Thomas’ performance was great, even though she had very little to do. I felt a great affection for her and the care that she shows her husband who is a pile most of the film that she gathers into her hands, molds into a man and then pushes out the door every morning.

J: That incredible scene where she and her kids are celebrating his elevation to the prime ministership and she's like ”We've all sacrificed! We've all lost everything!”

B: He says ”I told you when we got together, baby, that you were going to share me!”

J: And he just sits there and twists while all of his kids reflect on what a terrible father he has been.

B: ”I'm really proud of you, you piece of shit!”

J: And she's like: ”Well, so we finally get our comeupance now because we are in power!” That is heavy, bro!

A: I think maybe in another actor's hands or maybe those words put into another character's mouth it comes across as a real fucking shot, but it said almost with love as all of her actions are in this film: They are gentle!

J: That was one of the things that feels a little bit like: Is this revisionist history where this conversation never would have happened or is this exactly how the aristocracy talked to one another and how the wife of a powerful man would just blow him away, right into his face, but done in such a dignified manner? It seems like the type of thing that at a cocktail party someone might say to someone else and drinks would go flying.

A: The idea of a dignified takedown is such a special weapon because the victim is often so taken that there is no response to it, other than a grudging respect.

J: ”Okay, well good! Glad to know how you really feel!"

A: I love their relationship.

Other Churchill films

A: There are so many other Churchill films, like The Brian Cox film of the same year that I really want to see because I love Brian Cox. I wonder if the other films show a little bit more of this relationship because that really interested me as I was watching this film.

A: Again I am making the case for a third Churchill film in a row.

B: I don't know if we can do it, man! I think we have to go back to random!

A: We don't have enough thumbs to put on the scale. I'm with you.

B: We'll watch it eventually. It's on the list, right?

A: Yeah!

J: John Lithgow portrays Churchill in the mini series The Crown and although you don't see as much of his personal relationship or his marriage, it is a great portrayal of Churchill in power and his relationship to the king and to Queen Elizabeth. I highly recommend that! The Crown is a pretty great miniseries!

A: I feel like we are entering into a very interesting part of John Lithgow’s career. The next 15 to 20 could be the thing that pushes him into the greats. I think he's got the ability!

B: I think he is already one of the greats!

John recording at Adam’s house

J: I should point out to the listeners that I have come to Adam’s house to record today, the first time I have ever recorded here at Adam’s. A couple of interesting things: Adams stands to record his shows. I don't know if this is common knowledge on the Greatest Gen, but he is an athletic guy.

A: Wow! First time I have ever heard that!

J: He got his set up here like the bridge of the Enterprise, except he is standing. He is number one, but there is no Picard

A: Which means if I were on the Enterprise I would be working one of those stations in the back that no one cares about. The first one to blow up when the ship is attacked.

J: He very nicely brought a chair in for me, although he says that he makes you stand when you come by!

A: Yeah, I figured that wouldn't go over well!

B: What? You have a chair there now?

J: Yeah, he has got a tall chair!

B: You said you didn't have one when I was there! You looked me in the eyes!

A: I didn't when you were here! That was the truth then!

B: Fucking asshole!

J: Crucially he doesn't have a boom mic for his guests, so he has clamped my mike into some kind of…

A: … a Manfrotto super clamp…

J. … videographer clamp, which is intriguing, but the sounds you hear in the background are: Every time I move my position I knock over some box of cat chow or something that he got under his desk.

A: That is our fan mail, and by ”our fan mail”, I mean ”the mail for me and Ben that we get”

B: He has been a professional podcast for a year and a half / two years at least and he still has not invested in a second microphone set up for his own house! He always makes his co-host bring their own mic!

A: Maximumfun.org/donate, so I can support the ongoing production of the show!

B: I don't think it is an issue of you not having the means. I think you have designed your life around making it inconvenient for other people to record at your house

A: Breaking Friendly Fire news: I have ordered a second SM7B on the way! All you will have to bring next time, John, is breakfast, your everyday carry bag, and a couple of guitars.

J: I did bring one guitar today.

A: What's great about my relationship to John is: The idea of the guitar case hung thick in the air when he walked in the door. I have not asked him about it. I am just waiting for that story to spill out of him. There has got to be a good reason!

B: There is a machine gun in that case!

J: The guitar is a is a very old Jazzmaster that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to my friend Ben King. I was borrowing it and today I am taking it over to M&M Guitar Bar in Ballad to put it on consignment because Ben wants to sell it, but I didn't want to leave it in the car, so I brought it in. I'm not going to plug it in and play you anything. I suppose, you've got a setup here, I probably could play… do you have a quarter inch? I could plug it in. I could play you some tunes!

B: After the credits!

Gary Oldman’s performance

J: How do you guys feel about Gary Oldman? This film is 90% Gary Oldman in a fat suit!

A: He gets he gets credit for Christian Bailing when he is only a handful of years younger than the age of the Churchill that he is portraying. He is not going full Bail!

B: He also didn't actually change his weight, did he? They just stuff some cotton in his shirt!

J: He was 60 and Churchill was only 64 during this period, but Gary Oldman looks better than Churchill.

B: Churchill had some city miles on him.

J: He did! He smoked that many cigars a day and was drunk all the time, morning, noon and night!

A: What was he drinking in the goblet?

J: Champagne! He would drink champagne in the morning because it was more genteel and then switch to brown liquor.

B: I've heard that the Paul Rose champagne house were the only people in France that knew how to get stuff to Churchill during the war because they shipped him crates of wine all through the war.

J: I was not, I'm afraid, 100% taken in by this performance. I was not!

A: You are breaking from the academy!

J: I'm afraid so! There were five different moments in the film where the lighting was dramatic enough and his lower lip protruded enough and he wasn't talking, that I was like ”It's Churchill!”, but the rest of the time I could not stop seeing Gary Oldman. I know that he did a wonderful job, I'm not saying that he didn't murder it, but I just never quite was there.

A: I feel like he murdered it! There are two ways that an actor can give a great performance, one of which is losing himself completely in the performance and that is what Gary Oldman does. I don't think there is any Gary Oldman in this, to whatever degree he is able to be Churchill, that can be questioned, but I don't see any of him in the performance of Churchill and that is one of the great things about the performance. Does that make sense?

B: He is a very versatile actor, he has played incredibly multi-various kinds of characters, it is not like Tom Cruise where you hire him to do one very specific thing.

J: No, he can play a drug-addicted psycho, he can play a drug-addicted psycho, he can play all kinds of drug-addicted psychos…

B: … and alcohol-addicted psychos!

A: I feel like we are on opposite sides of this take because your criticism might be that the impression isn't good enough that he is doing?

J: Churchill's voice is so distinctive and it has all these qualities of received pronunciation, but also there is the mumbling, there is the gravel, there is dramatic pausing that is crucial to the way he talks, there is also a very subtle lisp…

A: Not a King George amount of lisp, though!

J: No! I have never seen King George portrayed as having that precise kind of lisp, that was an interesting interesting portrayal, but Churchill's voice has so many layers, it is so rightly famous, it just didn't quite win me. What's crazy about John Lithgow’s portrayal of Churchill is that Lithgow is 6’4” (193cm), he is Ben Harrison height, and Churchill was 5'7” (170cm), and yet Lithgow somehow captures the stupi…

A: Lithgow is dwarfing in his portrayal, right?

J: Yes, he was dwarfing, he just put his knees in his shoes and got a real short golf club.

A: Dwarf on Churchill!

B: The makeup was really incredible to me! There are a million examples of big Hollywood movies that had a nearly unlimited budget to try and make somebody look old and failed, and I think that this was a real success story. Part of the performance is helped by the fact that you just can't even really identify Gary Oldman in it. It doesn't look anything like him, but it also doesn't look inhuman the way Prometheus looked.

J: Churchill was able to look like a jolly baby, but he was also able to look incredibly stern. That famous photo where the story is that the photographer reached out and pulled the cigar out of his mouth and Churchill glowered at him and then the guy took the photo and that is that iconic picture of Churchill with one eyebrow raise, just like ”Fuck you!”

B: That's one of the tabs on John's computer.

J: Oh yeah, that's my screensaver!

A: Churchill's head bouncing from corner to the frame

J: But he also had a winning smile, he was very charming, his eyes could twinkle, his face was extremely malleable, and Oldman’s Churchill's face, maybe because it was confined by prosthetics, or maybe it was an acting choice, but we never see him be charismatic and it didn't have very much range!

A: He is more sympathetic than he is charismatic.

Churchill’s character, fictionalizing part of it

B: One other potentially controversial thing I wanted to talk about was the scene on the subway train. It rang false to me watching it and I was gratified to learn that it was a total fabrication on the part of the film because it just seemed insane that everybody on this train car would have a very firm, strongly formed opinion about this, when it is depicted as being something that is very much up for debate in parliament.

A: It was an unfortunate choice because there are stories of Churchill walking the streets and being man-of-the-people-Churchill that were turned into this composite for expediency.

J: But how would it have played in the movie if that scene had been Churchill saying ”What should we do?” and the people on the train had been ”Aren’t you the prime minister? Shouldn't you be making that decision? We don't know, we are just doing what we are told! We are working hard here!”

A: Hitler actually had some pretty good ideas! Boy oh boy, what a public speaker!

J: ”Well I'm just wondering if you had any foreign policy!”

A: Boy, that could have really blown up in his face!

B: ”How do you feel about staying on the gold standard?”

J: ”Is that your job, govenour?”

B: He shows up in Parliament and got some great policy ideas from a black guy he met on the subway. That really went over surprisingly well with all those rich white people.

A: I have some notes for the chefs at 10 Downing: They should be spicing our food better!

J: But like Dunkirk the movie‚ things are fictionalized that only get in the way of the story that didn't need to be there. There is so much else going on at this moment in time and other complications could have been introduced in that moment that would give us a picture of how difficult it was for Churchill to step into that position of leadership in that moment, without ginning up some conflicts that weren't there, without making him more of a man of people than he was, without sending a Spitfire flying past the beach at 800 miles an hour four different times with its motor off.

A: If I, and by ”I” I mean the regular-ass moviegoer, going to see this film, who didn't know a bunch about Churchill beforehand…

J: You have a great ass, Adam! Don't let anybody tell you different!

A: Was I manipulated by this film? Or is this film giving me enough about Churchill where my feelings about him can be gotten to honestly? Or do I need to see another Churchill film to really get him or read a book or something?

J: All of this is getting to the question of how we look at history and how we interpret history. Up until very recently history was focused on great men and their great deeds. The victors wrote the history and you decided who the good guy was and who the bad guy was and which side of conflicts was the side that led to… with the idea that over the arc of time history bends toward justice and progress. We don't like looking back through history at battles and saying ”Oh, you know what? The bad guys won that one!” We don't want to go back to the siege of Constantinople or the salting of Carthage and say ”That was the moment that history went awry!” Now in the 21st century we are looking at history really critically, but most of history is lost to time. Interpretations were made, the books that conflicted with it weren't written or were burned, and there aren't a ton of contemporary records of Charlemagne that give a different story. Now we don't have to go that far back to reconstruct and a movie like this feels very propagandistic and feels like it is just heaping coal into the furnace of a story of Churchill as a hero of our time. We naturally bristle at it, and I am talking about you, me and Ben right now in this moment, because of all these unanswered questions of class and colony and appeasement, but I don't know 50 years from now whether this critical moment in time where we are being educated within a system that is suspicious of history, whether this will be the anomaly or whether this is the progress, and what role does history play? Do we need Churchill to be a hero to counter the total villainization of Hitler in the sense that he becomes the root of all evil in the world?

B: Churchill did some really awful shit, also!

J: It is a fucking terrible war. Churchill made decisions to do carpet bombing of cities and stuff.

A: He was into chemical weapons before that was even cool!

B: He was a chemical weapons hipster?

A: Are we capable as a people of carrying around that much interpretation all the time? Everyone is bad, except for who our heroes are right at this moment. We have heroes in our contemporary time that people are really reluctant to interrogate. You don't want to hear critical assessments of your Rock stars! You want to make really broad sweeping generalizations about your enemies and your heroes anybody says a peep about them, and they are immediately your blood enemy!

A: I like my Rock stars deeply flawed!

J: Yeah, I know! You love The New Pornographers!


B: In terms of politics there seems to be some capability on the left of self-criticism that is then capitalized on by the right.

J: I don't know, you have never gone online and said a critical word about Bernie Sanders.

B: I routinely do! I am no friend to the Bernard brothers!

J: We will see how the left responds to being criticized, though! There are fans of this podcast that every time I make any comment about leftism that isn't absolutely showering it with praise, there are all kinds of comments on Reddit about how I am a Boomer who's middle way is an insult to the future and I should be put into a prison camp.

A: You guys raise an interesting point because for as certain as Churchill was in his decision to fight and not advocate for peace in any way with Hitler, there was also expressions of doubt throughout on his part, and the idea of doubt as a quality of leadership as presented in this film gave me a lot to think about. It gave me a lot to miss in contemporary politics and leadership, where doubt is seen as such a weakness.

J: But that doubt wasn't public! We are getting that behind the scenes thing! Two crucial things: We are only 20 years after the end of World War I which cost the British an entire generation of young men. Churchill himself, it is hinted at in the movie, there is just one barb that Chamberlain threw, or maybe it was Lord Halifax, that threw Gallipoli at Churchill, but Churchill was one of the architects of this disastrous campaign where the ANZAC army, Australians and New Zealanders, were sent to invade the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. The Turks joined World War I on the side of the Germans because the Turks wanted to fight the Russians. This is what made World War I such a fun time. The Turks didn't give a shit about France, they wanted to fight the Russians over Crimea or whatever, but Churchill sent these Australians and New Zealanders into a meat grinder that became part of the story of Ataturk who became the democratizing autocrat of Turkey for a generation, and so Churchill had all that blood on his hands. Churchill was arguing it was a good plan, it just went south. He was first lord of the Admiralty right before this, basically Secretary of the Navy.

A: The guy's name was Ataturk? That's like if one of our presidents was like John States! John Law America. Lyndon law America.

B: At the end of the day, the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.

J: I love it!

Is this a war movie?

B: Is this a war movie, guys?

A: Are there pins on a map and decisions being made about those pins?

B: We see that general saying ”Good show, gentlemen!” before the bomb drops on him.

A: Is the only war-making we see in the film in the form of an aircraft dropping a bomb? I can't remember anyone with a rifle, for example, shooting anyone else.

J: Christopher Nolan made Dunkirk expressly to avoid watching the backroom deals. He wanted to make a movie of the people.

B: Hell, yeah!

A: This is a film for the rest of you guys who love those back rooms! I heard you like pins and maps and smoky rooms and typing pools.

J: That is how wars are won!

B: Christopher Nolan is the Bruce Springsteen of Dunkirk movie directors!

A: ”Santa Clause is coming to town!” That's the only Springsteen song you know.

J: This is war! This is where it all happens!

Moment of pedantry

B: I bring this up because I forgot to say my moment of pedantry earlier and I felt like this would give me a good opportunity: ”Blackout restrictions were imposed starting in September 1939 and strictly enforced, requiring all vehicles to be fitted with slotted covers that only allowed a tiny sliver of light to be directed downwards toward the road. However, all the vehicles in the street scenes had fully exposed headlights.”

J: I'm so infuriated by this that I didn't notice that!

A: Very lascivious! The entire headlight? Got to cover that up!

B: I'm surprised you didn't notice all those fully exposed headlights, John!

J: Shoot, it is usually what I zoom in on, but right now I'm zooming in on Adam's pronunciation of "lascivious”.

A: It is the Spanish pronunciation. That is a weird myth because a lot of films that we watch from this time period are pretty good about the headlight cover thing.

B: I wondered about it because they have that scene where he is sitting up on the top of the building with his umbrella, looking up at the sky. That is another one of those super top-down shots and it zooms way out and there are lights from cars and…

A: Escpecially for a film that seems obsessed with lighting. Every scene is so thoughtfully lit.

B: Almost over-lit in a way.

A :There is the scene where the King visits Churchill in his dumpy apartment, and that scene is lit differently than any other in the film because it is all top down and it skullifies everyone's eyes. Everyone's eyes are hooded in that scene and I thought that was really thoughtfully done.

B: I thought there was something wrong with my TV for a while in all the war cabinet scenes when the lights are flickering, but then I realized that was intentional. That bunker didn't have great super-clean power supply.

Alternative history

J: It is really interesting, because we go over this period all the time when we think about World War II, but the story is appeasement appeasement appeasement and then war. There are a lot of alternative histories and fanfic where Hitler and FDR get together in a hot tub and there is a lot of making out.

A: It will take a couple of horses to give me an erection!

B: That was David Strathairn doing the voice of FDR.

A: There was talk of making a sequel to this film with Strathairn and Gary Oldman.

B: The Yalta movie

J: Oh, I'd watch that! A lot of shit got given away at Yalta to avoid the next… There is a lot of appeasement at Yalta, appeasement of Stalin. Looking at Dunkirk and asking: ”What would have happened if the Germans had pressed their advance and taken 300.000 thousand British hostages? What if they had massacred them? What if Chamberlain hadn’t lost the government for two more weeks and in the space of that two weeks had sued for peace? What if the Japanese hadn't bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th? What if they had waited till June 2nd?

A: A couple of those questions are answered in the film The Final Countdown.

B: It is on the list!

J: You got to let history play out, brah!

Custom rating system

A: It is review time, guys!

B: Hell, yeah!

A: I'm the one that comes up with the scale, the scale of one to five things with which we assign our individual reviews. In Darkest Hour there aren’t many moments of comedy, but there is one that sticks out to me that is especially great. There is a scene where Churchill has… Churchill does not emerge from the bunker very often, but when he does he is out on the street, he is a man about town, he is having his picture taken, and notably he has his picture taken flashing the V back of the hand out, the back of the hand V. Strong move! V for victory is what Winston Churchill thinks at the time, until he is schooled by his secretary.

B: Oh I didn't think that at all. I thought he knew exactly what he was doing, but she thought he was too fancy to know what it meant!

A: I am accepting what the film is telling me about what the truth is of that moment and what the film is saying is that he did not know until Leighton pulls him around a corner in the bunker and is like ”You know what you did, right?” and Churchill is like ”What the fuck are you talking about?” Layton's like: ”You know what that means? That means up your ass! You've been telling everyone to shove it up their ass and your photograph is in all these newspapers!” and they have a great big laugh. It is a moment of levity in a film that is pretty dark and I really love that scene in it. It was maybe the scene that solidified Layton and Churchill's relationship with each other. She finally broke through. There is a moment in every like managerial and subordinate relationship, if you can get to it, when you finally break through the professionalism and know each other as real people. Layton and Churchill reached that moment. They had a laugh together, he goes off to do his work, It's done! It was great. That moment is, after having this conversation with you guys, emblematic of the film as a whole. The film is engineering a feeling and a story about Churchill that isn't entirely real and it is depending on your trust as a viewer to take it at face value. It is trusting you not to know what the V symbol means, really. It is trusting you to think that what Churchill is giving you is the V for victory, when if you know a little bit more about the story like a John Roderick you may be seeing the up your ass version of the V instead of what the film is trying to give you. That is going to be the rating scale for this film. It is the backwards V, one to five of them.

J: Up your bum!

A: Up your bum. I don't think the film is super-hostile and it's cramming of this version of Churchill up your ass. It is a gentle portrayal of a flawed person in order to make you love a public figure and by the end I did. I think the reason why is that I didn't know any of the other stuff about him, and in that way it was effective propaganda. As a film: I have rarely seen a film this beautiful and in reading some of the reviews of it, that was part of the knock. It is too Ghazi and beautiful, it is too much of a set piece film to be taken seriously, it is too much of a ”Let's get Gary Oldman an Oscar” vehicle. People were cynical about the film in a way that I wasn't for some reason, because I'm Friendly Fire’s chief cynic. I was expecting Sense and Sensibility goo all over the lens and it wasn't. What I found instead was just like a stylish, but not stylized film. It was beautifully acted, it was beautifully shot, it was a compelling story, it was a thrill for me to hear all these speeches as performed by Gary Oldman. I thought I it was great. I am going to give it a 4.5 backwards V’s. I really liked it! So that I guess would be nine fingers total!

J: Wait a minute, is the half V a middle finger or a first finger?

A: You know, a lot like watching this film, it is the lens that you view the review through that will give you the answer.

B: Separated from the hand, do you think you could even tell the difference between an index and a middle finger? I don't know if I could.

A: If you had a pile of severed fingers on your desk, are you saying: ”Could you pick out the middles?” That would be a fun exercise.

J: Nine severed fingers! I am pretty confident I could pick the middle fingers out of that pile.

A: You've done it before!

B: I'm going to come in with a kind of middling 3 V’s review. I thought that the performance was great and I was pretty swept up in the film until that train scene and the real gilding of this historical figure that I know to have done some pretty frightful things. We haven't watched it yet, but there is an Alan Turing movie on our list and he was chemically castrated after the war for being gay and I think Churchill had something to do with that. The idea that he was just a great man. Full Stop! I think they toy with the idea of complicating him in this movie, but in the end the movie makes the case for him being a great orator who saw the world as it truly was and saves the day. I don't know that that is exactly the right way to portray him. The second that the the scene on the train happened I lost my faith in the film. I do think it is a great performance and a beautiful movie and a fun movie to watch, but I didn't love it in the end.

A: You were really missing the chemical castration scene, it sounds like!

J: Yeah, that's what it needed!

B: The Animal House ”Where are they now?” at the end. Churchill went on to be a real dickhole.

J: What this movie needed more was more elucidation of the fundamental nature of class struggle to human history and also the scene where Churchill personally single-handedly chemically castrated Alan Turing. Leave India aside for a moment! My rating is the same as Ben's, maybe for different reasons. I felt like Dunkirk needed more context. Here was a movie about a fascinating moment, but we didn't know why we were there, we didn't know who the players were, it was just a set piece, but without a cover. This movie is zoomed in too far. We are watching a series of a few weeks from the time that Churchill takes charge, he is elevated to prime minister until he gives the speech that we are left to conclude turned all of England into a unified fighting machine for the rest of the war. We spend most of the movie in the basement of White Chapel or whatever, where you can feel the clammy dampness.

A: I really like those burgers at White Chapel. A little onion… You can get a whole bag of them!

J: This is such a terrible show! I don't know why anybody listens to it!

B: It was fun, that little cameo that Harold & Kumar got there though, right?

J: Dude, Where's My Car?

A: Road trip! Are we just yelling out late 1990s movie titles?

J: The main feeling I had watching this movie was that television has improved so much in the last few years that… You guys are seeing something in the beauty of the way this movie was filmed that maybe went past me, but it felt very much like a mini-series that, had it gone 10 episodes, it would have been an important work, but it was a mini series level of production condensed down to a feature length film. We see that the King doesn't have his support and then he wins the King's support, but we have no sense of the backstory. We have no idea who the king is.

A: I mean this is a compliment: It does have that masterpiece level veneer of a of a PBS legacy program.

J: It does it. And I say this in the context of having watched Season One of The Crown, which I think is and is an important work. I give it three, too and part of my three sets of victory up-your-bum fingers is also that the Oldman performance wasn't enough to carry me through a damp and claustrophobic political thriller. What were the stakes, I guess? We are going to negotiate with the Germans!

A: It sounds like I don't have enough sample size to really know Churchill yet if I am just approaching him as a film viewer.

J: I am a fan! I grew up being a fan of Churchill. I liked his pluck and I believed the stories.

A: He is a famous robes-man, just like you!

J: He loves a robe, he spent his retirement painting landscapes with a gangster fedora.

A: He loves the crapper.

B: Getting into the tub in a state of nature.

J: Yeah, he is in the bathroom three times a day. I think I'm with Ben on this one.

Who is your guy?

A: It is almost as if Ben could be your guy, but I know he is not, John.

J: Ben is always my guy. Ben is my number one guy!

B: In your face, Adam!

A: I'm right here, John. You are in my house! How dare you!

J: Adam's like: ”I'm going to give you the big mug because I know you like a lot of coffee” and I was like ”Awesome!” So he gives me the big mug and it has a one shot of coffee and he didn't double up.

A: There are two shots of coffee there and a cup of coffee on top, that is how big that mug is! I give you a hammerhead, dude!

J: Here is the indignity: He is like ”We only have almond milk!” I guess he wasn't expecting visitors

A: Not until this morning.

J: Oh that's right. I didn't give you a lot of advance warning.

J: My guy is the three little boys who in super slow-mo are revealed to all be wearing Hitler masks, who unfolded out of the passing scene like the little scorpions in Gallagher. When you reached level 5 and Gallagher and the thing goes ”boodeliup!” and all of a sudden one of the little UFO cats turns into three scorpions.

A: There is something magical about that scene, right?

J: It is a magical realism moment where we are all of a sudden in a dream space and these three little Hitlers are running through the streets. I am not sure what the filmmakers intended. It is very spooky. The Hitler masks themselves are spooky. They are somewhat reminiscent of the Guy Fawkes mask that became a symbol of anonymous and it has some weird resonance with the Brexiteers…

A: … the Viscons (?) have their own masks, but they are hard to find.

J: Those three little boys taken together are my guy.

A: Three little Hitler mask kids.

A: My guy doesn't even have a name. In one of the last scenes in the film Churchill is addressing parliament and it is before it happens: You get a couple of reaction shots to him stepping up to the lectern and there is a burble of the crowd in anticipation and occasionally you get actual dialogue among people. One of the parts of dialogue is a guy in a row behind another guy. He whacks him on the shoulder and he's like: ”Hey, here we go!” and the guy in the row in front of him gives him a look like ”I know!” My guy is ”I know”-guy…

J: Is the guy in the back row Ben? ”Hey hey hey hey!”

A: There are a lot of things about me that try my wife greatly and one of them is that I do not like talking in a movie theater with people around me, I don't like my companions talking to me in a movie at all, and so his react to what seems like a very theatrical moment, he is in the stadium riser seats, he is ready to watch the performance…

B: You would not be a good parliamentarian, is basically what you are saying?

A: No! Not at all! I would be the quietest parliamentarian.

J: The quietest parliamentarian! Everybody around you is like: ”No! No! Har har!” and you are like ”Shhhh, I can’t hear!”

A: No, that is too aggressive. I wouldn't want to start a fight in a movie theater by hissing or throwing an M&M at anyone. I would just stew. And that is me! I am the guy in front of that other guy, going ”Yeah, I know! Shut up!” That's my guy.

J: You did a Reddit AMA yesterday.

A: It is still going on, not when this is coming out, though.

J: I really enjoyed it and somebody asked you if you and I and Ben had ever gone to the movies together and your list of rules and expectations for someone going to the movies with you was very detailed. It was maybe one of your longer answer.

B: The Pranica manifesto, is that what you are referring to, John?

J: You were like: ”I'm going to sit in the middle in the back. I would appreciate it if Ben would not sit near me, and I'm assuming that John won’t!”

A: That's not what I said! I fully expected to sit next to Ben, but I fully expected you to be elsewhere.

J: No, I want to be there! I want to be on the other side of you so that it is an Adam sandwich.

A: You know, what is great about me sitting in the middle is that I won't have to get up to pee. I will not bother you with that.

J: Well, you can hold the popcorn and then I will just lean across you and talk to Ben and we won't bother you at all! ”Hey Ben! Hey Ben!”

A: That would be a nightmare!

B: No, I don't think we want the popcorn to be in Adam's lap.

J: Oh right!

A: You guys are too smart for that trick!

J: No thanks!

B: My guy is just Halifax for being a fucking coward. I saw myself in him, refusing to be made prime minister because: Too much responsibility, but then disagreeing with everything that Churchill did

J: Trying to undermine him the whole time, but then in the end realizing he had overplayed his hand.

B: That moment when Chamberlain takes his hankie out and mops his brow and the entire conservative bench erupts in waving their papers and you can see Halifax shitting himself in defeat.

A: Boy, you can see that Churchill wants to fight and Halifax wants none of it.

B: Yeah. I don't know anything about Halifax’s politics or anything, but the limp wristed way he ran his show I unfortunately saw a lot of myself in.

A: There is still time to change, Ben!

J: Right after this period of this movie Halifax got sent to the United States where he spent the rest of the war as the British ambassador to America. So Churchill got him out of the way!

A: Not a bad gig either if you don't want to be exposed to war. Mainland United States: Not a bad spot to be.

B: Chill gig!

J: Walking around with a bowler hat with an umbrella and everybody's like ”Oh cool! It is a British person!”

B: Yeah, your accent is suddenly sexy.

Selecting the next movie

J: Oh, I forgot my 100-sided die!

A: Oh no, it's an away game! We don't have the die!

J: Oh no! How are we going to generate… Let me see, I am going to go on the Internet.

A: We don't have anything for you to roll around in your hands.

B: If you punch ”random number generator” into a search thing, you can set a range.

J: I was just doing that. I was just doing that! God! You are such a micromanager!

B: Well I was going to tell you the number of movies we currently have on our list because we are not limited to 100.

J: Oh nice! Okay, let's do that!

B: We have 217 films on our list currently!

J: Adam is really adamant when people contact him on the Internet that they do not get to see our list, they do not get to comment on it…

A: No!

J: … we will never show them our list.

B: I tell people if a movie is on the list or not.

A: I think that's fine, but I don't think that they should see the list! It is our list!

J: 217 movies! Okay, are you guys ready to generate a number?

A: Yeah, generate it!

J: You are going to say ”Make it so!” What does he say? Activate! What does he say? Energize! No, he's got another word!

A: Fire!

J: Wow, out of 217 the random numeral generator picks 8.

A: Huh!

W: Wow! Well, this will bring us to our third consecutive World War II film. It is a 1958 film directed by Carol Reed. It is called The Key A man and a lady smooching on the poster…

J: ”A man and a lady had a little baby.”

B: Well, something to do with a British captain and a lonely Swiss Italian war widow.

J: Oh no, it is another William Holden movie!

A: Oh Ben, they are tugboat captains!

J: … and Sophia Loren!

B: Big movie! Well, that will be next week on Friendly Fire. I suppose we will leave it with our buddy Robs Robs Robs Robs from here, so for John Roderick and Adam Pranica, I've been Ben Harrison. To the victor go the spoiler alerts!


Friendly Fire is a Maximum Fun podcast, hosted by Ben Harrison. Adam Pranica and John Roderick. It is produced and edited by me, Rob Schulte. Our logo art is by Nick Dittmore in our theme music is War by Edwin Starr, courtesy of Stone Agate music. Feeling like helping out the show? Well, then head on over to maximumfun.org/donate to show your support. You can also leave us a five star rating and review wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you are using Twitter, make sure to use the hashtag #friendlyfire. You can find Ben on Twitter @benjaminahr, Adam is @cutfortime, John is @johnroderick, and I am @robkschulte. Thanks! We'll see you next week!

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