On The Island

Taylor Gaines and a rotating cast of co-hosts talk "Survivor," Television, Movies, Podcasts, and the Latest in Pop Culture.

Tag: Ryan Gosling

Fireside Chats: ‘Blade Runner 2049’

For each movie in the “Denis 2049” series, Taylor and Sam will sit down and bounce some thoughts off each other, off-mic. Their brilliant minds will unleash many words. Make of them what you will. This time: “Blade Runner 2049.”

Taylor: Wow.

After weeks and weeks of build-up and hours and hours of watching and talking about old Denis Villeneuve movies, we’ve finally – truly – arrived.

“Blade Runner 2049” is here, and it’s amazing. It’s everything I dreamed of and more. I’ve seen the Lord, and his face is brightly shining!

What should we even talk about with this one, Sam? I feel like I could write 77,000 words about this movie.

Sam: I want to start from the very beginning. Partly because I know the deeper into the movie we go, the more deeply I’ll be confused, and partly because it took me approximately zero seconds to be sucked all the way into this movie (and partly because Jared Leto isn’t in this part).

Look, I came for Dave Bautista farming worms, and that’s where I want to set up shop for a couple of sentences. I could watch that life every day. Dave wakes up. Dave puts a kettle of coffee on the stove. Dave shuffles around his house with a normal-sized cup of coffee that looks tiny in his hands and puts on normal-sized glasses that look tiny on his head. Dave looks out the window at the grey landscape and taps out a couple notes from a sad but familiar riff on his sad but familiar piano. Dave bites into a strudel, zips up his hazmat suit, gets his lunch pale, and Dave goes and FARMS WORMS. Dave goes around and inspects each worm. He feeds them. He tends to them. He probably has a folding chair that he keeps in the farming tent to sit and watch his worms do whatever the hell. Occasionally, a Blade Runner comes in to retire him, and Dave buries them under his worm farm. It’s a movie all to itself.

Holy cow, is this movie stunning. I need to see it again so my senses can corroborate what I’m pretty sure I experienced. It was what I imagine heroine is like – and even though I’ve never had the luxury of purchasing an ounce (a gram? a rock?) of the liquid lady, I can’t imagine it costs any more than an IMAX ticket – and let me tell you, was worth every cent of the 200 dollars I spent to see it. We can talk about the plot if you want, but all I really remember is the way this movie felt. Like someone took the original “Blade Runner,” “The Fifth Element,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the Tupac Hologram, a neon light, a rock, a wool coat, the skeleton of Harrison Ford and a trumpet blast to my eardrum, and put all of it in a burlap sack and hit me over the head with it. It was perfect.

What should we talk about? I have no idea. Here are some starting points you can choose from:

– Flying cars

– Landfill orphanages

– The end of the phrase “happy birthday”

– Mackenzie Davis

Taylor: As many words as I could write about the end of the phrase “happy birthday,” let’s save the Leto of it all for later.

For now, listen.

You hear that?

That’s the sound of someone coming to a stop and catching fire because they walked into a movie theater right as Mackenzie Davis came on the screen. As a Halt Head (who, admittedly, has not watched the final season yet), I’ve gotta take that choice and start there.

She pulls some Anthony Hopkins-level work here (in the sense that she shows up for like three scenes but makes a huge impression by virtue of being interesting, mysterious, gross, pretty, thoughtful, rude, and just an all-around great robot lady) in BR2049.

The thing about Mackenzie Davis, though, is that there’s only one thing people will really remember about her in this movie.

You know what I’m talking about.


This scene was the strangest, ballsiest thing I’ve seen in a “big blockbuster” movie in a long time, and sitting in a theater on opening night watching the people around me try to figure out what the f*** they bought a ticket for (and even watching some people straight up walk out at this point) was an experience that made me weirdly giddy.

What did you think of this scene, and more importantly, what did you think of Villeneuve deciding to take a movie that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and just play it out in the slowest, weirdest way possible?

Sam: I’ve never heard of Anthony Hopkins being described as “all-around great robot lady” and I have no intention of going far enough in “Westworld” to find out if he ever is one, so I’ll take your word for it.

I think Big Mac Davis – while being a robot – is arguably the most human part of BR. This movie spends 2 hours and 575 minutes exploring humanity’s most boring question: “What does it mean to be human?” But here, in Ryan Gosling’s cool-guy-futuristic-Disney-Channel-SmartHouse apartment, she dives into some of the more poignant questions about humanity and why we do what we do for a living, like, for instance, “uh…what the hell is going on and why is this taking so long?” I know that’s not literally what she said, but with her apprehensive head-grabbing and frustratingly imperfect physical synchronization with Joi that reminded me of shooting a free-throw in NBA 2K5, she’s basically screaming the words, “I should really try to go back to school.” Her I’ve-done-this-before-but-it-never-gets-less-weird approach to this scene really resonates with me and makes her more relatable than most of the real humans in Blade Runner. Surely more so than Robin Wright’s Lieutenant Joshi.

Which, let’s talk about Joshi now — more specifically, the LAPD. This is a long one, but I think I’m uncovering something about a corrupt system.

Based on the location of Joshi’s office at the precinct and the amount of resources and time allocated to the Retirement Division, it’s no wonder to me that there are literal landfills full of abused and neglected children. Why are the plights of three or four generally peaceful robots (i.e. Dave Bautista, worm farmer/book reader/glasses wearer) the primary focus of the Los Angeles Police Department? I know we only see the actions of one unit and maybe there’s a team of homicide detectives that are cracking down on actual crimes, but as far as I can see, the Blade Runners have infinite jurisdiction and the state of California really needs to intervene. K goes to Las Vegas! That’s unacceptably far outside the reach of power for a municipality’s police force.

Here’s what I think is going on.

The blackout of 2022 was like a futuristic terrorist attack. Terrible thing happens, a bunch of people die, and the government needs to “respond.” Now look at Deckard’s boss in the original Blade Runner, basically a tired beat cop who took the desk for extra cash and the ability to drink on the job. His office was dusty and crappy AND he was a Captain (according to Wikipedia, that’s at or above the rank of Lieutenant). After the attack, all of a sudden Joshi, a lieutenant, is partying it up in the penthouse of a very wealthy LAPD.

The LAPD is cashing in on the public’s fears! They know people can’t afford to move off-Earth, and the government is just promoting the idea that while you’re here on scary Earth, terrible stuff is going to happen – just like 2022 – unless we protect you. I don’t know, man. Smells like conspiracy. Who’s in charge here? Who’s the governor, the Terminator? Who’s the president, Biff Tannen? (wait.)

Back to Joshi. The bottom line is, I felt nothing when she got axed, and California taxpayers are better for it. What’s with the humans in this movie, and why are they at best unremarkable and worst, Jared Leto?

Taylor: I laughed when she had her head smashed into her futuristic version of the gin-soaked captain’s desk. Is that worth something?

To answer your question, let me say this (we’ve wasted more words on “Westworld” than that show ever deserved, but bear with me): I think “BR” accomplishes something “Westworld” either failed miserably to accomplish or accidentally accomplished, I’m not sure which. It highlights the humanity in the robots by showing the lack of it in the humans. Now, in “Westworld,” this rears itself as a series of characters that may or may not be human or robot but it really doesn’t matter because you don’t give a shit about either and also the reason you can’t tell the difference is because both the robots and the humans are uninteresting. But in “BR,” I felt like the humans have allowed themselves to be smashed into submission – as you pointed out – to the point where they don’t have any personality or depth to them. They’re just shuffling through the day so they can go home and eat their holographic dinner cooked up by their holographic wife.

The robots, on the other hand, find personality and drive in their very subjugation. The simple act of living is rebellious and adds layers of color and intrigue to each one. You talked about Bautista, for example. I wanted to spend another two hours with him at his worm farm! There was something palpable and real there that was lacking with other characters, in the same way the movie seemed to come alive when Joi walked into the rain or when Gosling felt his soul coursing through his veins. My point is, in this movie, it works for me.

Your well-founded concerns about the LAPD looking the other way on serious child labor crimes while also sending officers to other states notwithstanding (though, trust me, I also find this deeply concerning), I think it’s time we get to the nitty-gritty: Tell me your thoughts on Jared Leto, and give me your guess for what planet his character is from in this movie.

*dives into bunker, covers ears*

Sam: I like the idea that these robots are rebelling just by existing. It makes them seem like parasites in a system that actually needs them to survive. It’s amazingly subtle how backwards and robotic the people are compared to the actual robots.

Speaking of parasites … Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace.

I don’t want to guess irresponsibly about the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to casting Leto as the titular villain (maybe Denis was trying to impress his 14-year-old stepdaughter?), so I won’t get into the why on Earth was this decision made discussion but will try to only discuss his on-field performance.

I’ll start by trying to answer your question: I have no idea what planet Wallace is from, but I’m guessing it’s a world a lot like Earth except that it is inhabited by blind humanoids who are deeply philosophical, malicious, and don’t read scripts. Leto for sure showed up on set without having seen the original “Blade Runner” or having read anything but his own lines.

He definitely thinks he’s stealing the show with every word he says, and it’s almost entertaining how not true that is. If Gyllenhaal serves every movie he’s in by being the best actor but recognizing the star of any given scene and giving them the space to ball, then Leto is the anti-Gyllenhaal, the inverse Jake. He doesn’t care who the star is supposed to be in BR2049 because he really thinks that by the end, it’s going to be him. He steps all over a quiet and thoughtful Gosling and out-shouts old Harrison Ford. He knows a trailer line when he sees one (“happy birthday”), and he gives it the max oversell possible. Jared goes full Leto in this movie, and it doesn’t really help anyone.

That’s enough nitty-gritty.

I have no more grits to nit, but since we’re talking about bad actors, let me ask you this: Are we glad Harrison Ford came back for this? He was responsible for the coolest fight scene of the year.

Taylor: Leto is responsible for putting me in a place that I like to call “30 Seconds to Bars.” It’s the idea that any single Leto line reading or acting choice could drive everyone in the audience to a bar to start drinking in less than 30 seconds.

Harrison Ford, on the other hand, is more like “30 Seconds from Bars,” in the sense that he’s never more than 30 seconds away from a bottle containing alcohol at any point in this movie.

I presume you’re talking about his first fight scene with Ryan Gosling, and I concur: it’s dope.

The strobe lights, the intermittent Elvis interjections, the punch after punch after punch to Ryan Gosling’s pretty face (one of those was real!). The thing that I loved about it most, though, was what I mentioned on the podcast: Harrison Ford was trying! I was sure that he would be in “Star Wars” mode and be like “listen, I don’t remember filming this movie 25 years ago because I was doing a lot of drugs then and I’m cool so I have better stuff going on, so just give me my paycheck and cut me loose from this shit.”

But no! He was trying! (You can always see when Harrison Ford is trying.) And it was fun! Was he good? Not important! The fact that he committed is all that matters.

It’s like my theory about being the coolest cat on the dance floor: If you act like you know what you’re doing, people will think you know what you’re doing. And Harrison Ford loves doing that (and also not caring, what can I say, he’s a man of many contradictions).

I’d like to just spend a little time now reveling in the sheer beauty and wonder of all the early-movie Joi scenes.

*deep exhale, closes eyes, man starts yelling phrases at me (“CELLS INTERLINKED CELLS INTERLINKED CELLS INTERLINKED”)*

Sam: You know what makes you the coolest cat on the dance floor, Taylor? Not using the phrase “coolest cat.” My 8th-grade history teacher used to say “coolest cat,” and he once told us that his favorite band was a tossup between Maroon 5 and Barenaked Ladies.

Anyway, this is our last movie in the Dilliverse, so it’s only appropriate to compare how far we’ve come with the women of Denis’ work over the last nine movies (I’d add the men from his movies, too, but they are almost universally less interesting than the women*).

*with the obvious exception of Jake Gyllenhaal because I mean come on. It’s Gyllenhaal.

Here are the advanced metrics:

“August 32” – A car crash survivor named Simone. She bleeds, is able to leave her house without explicit help from Ryan Gosling, and can pee, so she gets a 10/10 on the biological human scale. But her inexplicable desire to get pregnant in Salt Lake City and her propensity to indirectly put her friends into comas lands her at a 0/10 on the humanity scale.

“Maelstrom” – Sucks and is unstudyable.

“Polytechnique” – Valérie goes through the most brutal and tragic and gut-wrenching experience of all of Denis’ characters. She just wants to be an engineer and not get harassed by her male professors or shot by a guy. In a movie where every scene is more jarring than the last, the most powerful part is when she wakes up in the middle of the night in terror only to stare herself in the mirror with dread knowing that she’s alive, years after the shooting took place. She earns a 1000/10 on the humanity scale and a 0/10 on the “how excited am I to rewatch this movie” scale.

“Incendies” – The mom survives prison at the hands of a war criminal who is also her son (and her children’s father) only to die and leave a will that basically says “violence isn’t the answer.” She earns herself a ?/10 on the “uh…what?” scale and a -5/0 on the ability to do simple math scale.

“Prisoners” – Maria Bello lays on a bed, and Melissa Leo kills a bunch of kids. Bello gets a 0/10 on the “likelihood you’ll remember she was in this movie” scale, Leo is up one-zip over Hugh Jackman, and I lose ten points for getting the names Maria Bello and Melissa Leo mixed up in my head always.

“Enemy” – Gyllenhaal’s wife gets a 4/10 on the “potential ‘Spiderman 2’ villain” scale.

“Sicario” – Emily Blunt gets a 10/10 on the “Wait, why is Jon Bernthal getting paid more than me?” scale.

“Arrival” – Amy Adams gets a 10/10 on the “not being Jeremy Renner” scale but loses 5 points for marrying him. She gets those points back when they divorce.

“BR2049” – Joi. The only character in Blade Runner with any believable emotion. She’s the least sophisticated robot by technological standards, but the most endearing by actual standards. She is a robot, so she gets 0/10 for being a human, but 10/10 for having humanity. That scene when Gos comes home and she just wants to hang out with him and cook him dinner while he smolders is the best. It’s a marriage of the creativity of Denis with the likeability of Joi. Even though she’s trapped inside a SmartHouse (TM Disney Channel) program, she’s the most … uh … joyful part about this movie to the point that it feels like a well-earned cinematic climax that she should be able to feel the rain.

R.I.P. Joi Flashdrive.

Taylor: Wow. Well said.

Now that we’ve talked at length about this movie, pop quiz!

Tell me one thing you remember about the plot.

Sam: Uhhh. Gosling is an orphan with very few toys? Harrison Ford impregnated a robot? Edward James Olmos was in this movie? Something about a landfill?

Taylor: Perfect.

Sam: Final Denis Power Rankings:

  1. “Arrival”
  2. “Prisoners”
  3. “Blade Runner 2049”
  4. “Enemy”
  5. “Sicario”
  6. “Polytechnique”
  7. “Incendies”
  8. “August 32nd”
  9. “Maelstrom”

The end. 

Denis 2049: ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Taylor Gaines is joined by Sam Hensel for the thrilling conclusion of the Denis 2049 series, where they break down Villeneuve’s latest film, “Blade Runner 2049.” They talk about the audacity of its ambition, the top box office hits of 2017, the movie Jared Leto was in versus the movie Denis Villeneuve was making, and where it falls in the Villenouvre.

Thanks for coming along for the ride! You can find the old Fauxworthy episodes still in our feed or on our new website, OnTheIslandPodcast.com. Please go review us on iTunes! It helps so much.

Find the written companion piece here. Thanks for following along!

BONUS Denis 2049: ‘Blade Runner’

Bonus episode! What good is “Blade Runner 2049” without its predecessor, Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”? On this episode, Taylor Gaines and Sam Hensel set the table for Villeneuve’s newest movie by talking through the 1982 film and how it might play into “2049.” “Blade Runner 2049,” Denis Villeneuve’s newest film, is in theaters this weekend.

Next time: “Blade Runner 2049

You can find all of our previous podcasts on our website, OnTheIslandPodcast.com and on iTunes. Subscribe, rate, and review!

As always, thanks to Levi Bradford for the theme song. You can find his music at poblano.bandcamp.com.

(Now On The Island!)

Fauxworthy Podcast Episode 42: Someones In The Crowd


Today on the podcast, the guys work through some stuff. Bryan has some issues he needs to get off his chest.

They unpack the film “La La Land” and internet culture, including talk of the other two Ryan Gosling-Emma Stone films (2:00), why Taylor loves “La La Land” (3:00), whether there is enough music in the movie (9:00), why Bryan is fed up with the internet (10:15), Taylor’s strategy for dealing with the hot-take culture (13:00), “pure” art consumption versus influenced art consumption (17:30), whether or not Bryan will change his internet usage tactics (21:45), whether or not “La La Land” achieves its goal (23:15), Taylor’s conflicted thoughts on “Manchester By The Sea” (25:30) and Dr. Gaines’ diagnosis (27:50).

They also discuss upcoming TV shows and Taylor guesses what each one is about, including “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (29:45), “Taboo” (31:10), “The Young Pope” (31:50), “Legion” (32:25), “Big Little Lies” (34:00),

Finally, they discuss some other shows that are coming up in 2017 (35:15) and whether or not Taylor is an enlightened TV viewer (38:30).

You can find all of our previous podcasts on our website, TheFauxworthyPodcast.com and on iTunes. Subscribe, rate, and review! We are also a proud member of the Establishing Shot Podcast Network.

As always, thanks to Levi Bradford for the theme song. You can find his music here at poblano.bandcamp.com.

‘La La Land’ and the Past, Future and Present

I saw “La La Land” late on a Friday night. It was something like a 10:20 p.m. showing. The crowd was underwhelming. I easily got my favorite seat in the theater: front section, back row, dead middle. I took my routine trip to the bathroom after the second trailer and sat back down. Film rolled.

Two hours later, I floated out of the theater, the molecules that used to make up my body bouncing off the walls, some of them wandering up into the stars. I assume they were dancing up there. It was cold when I went outside. I didn’t feel it really. If the theater wasn’t closed, I probably would have turned around and walked right back inside to see “La La Land” again anyway. I think I would have easily paid twice the price.

I could have lived inside “La La Land” forever. I could have met a girl, raised a family, worked on my 401K or something, and died peacefully inside “La La Land.” I never wanted it to end.

Damien Chazelle views the world through a lens more beautiful than I can ever imagine. Justin Hurwitz hears the world through speakers far too expensive for me to purchase. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone perform in ways the English language is not even properly equipped to describe. Their chemistry sparks in ways I highly doubt any language is equipped to describe. The production design, the set design, the costumes; everything is simply elegant. To call it aesthetically pleasing is insultingly inadequate when I consider how at home and comfortable and joyful the movie made me feel. The songs are in my bones now it seems.

I don’t like to gush like crazy about things because I think that makes it easy to not take people’s opinions seriously. So I’ll get off this train. The experience is passed. Instead of ranting and raving, let me just get some of my thoughts out here. There’s a lot of meat on the bones of “La La Land,” and I just wanted to throw out some of the ideas I’ve been thinking about since seeing it.


I don’t think anyone would tell you “La La Land” is a sequel to “Whiplash,” but in the, you know, “spiritual sense,” it kind of felt like it was. Damien Chazelle clearly loves jazz and loves movies more than I’ve loved anything in my entire life, and it comes across in every frame and musical note of this movie. (Note: Score by Justin Hurwitz.) And when it comes to “Whiplash,” I felt like “La La Land” explored areas of music and movies that “Whiplash” simply didn’t have the time or energy to explore.

In “Whiplash,” Miles Teller alarmingly dumps the charming and beautiful and fantastic and no-I’m-not-in-love-with-her-and-I-definitely-haven’t-seen-every-episode-of-“Supergirl”-why-are-you-asking Melissa Benoist for no other reason really than he’s a major dick. It’s brushed aside and the movie pretty much moves on. The music was always more important. In “La La Land,” it felt like Chazelle wanted to explore the flip side of that relationship: a world where the relationship is more important, one where putting art above it is a mistake.

It’s not that cut-and-dried of course, and I’m pretty sure for Chazelle art always wins out, but watching “La La Land” unfold, I felt like it more deeply explored what it truly meant to chase an artistic dream. Not just the blood and sweat and tears and J.K. Simmons-yelling-in-your-face-40-times-a-day of it all but the emotional toll it takes on your relationships with those you love.

Chazelle doesn’t speak through his character’s words as much as through their actions and Hurwitz’s music. He couldn’t have picked better vessels in Gosling and Stone, and his music and production squads are second to none.

The film builds to a moment where Emma Stone’s Mia is auditioning for one last movie. She’s at a point that is truly make-or-break. And in that moment, she lays her heart on the line. “Audition (Those Who Dream)” is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful song that will knock you on your ass in the theater. It’s an ode to those really willing to fight and take risks in order to make it artistically, and Stone’s performance shows the toll that fight has taken on her character.

The interesting bit comes from the way the song (and movie) frames the idea of that fight. It constantly reminds us of its heavy cost, but it also romanticizes the journey in a contradictory and deeply human way.

This was best exemplified in the film’s final number (SPOILER ALERT) where Mia and her husband sit in on a performance by Gosling’s Sebastian at his jazz club in Los Angeles. Mia and Sebastian have both “made it” in their respective fields, but things don’t seem quite as romantic as they imagined. Because the price was their relationship. Everything that one is reaching for and everything that one has already reached seems much more romantic outside of those particular moments.

In fact, Sebastian’s piano transports Mia back to her year with Sebastian and tints it, alters it, re-imagines it in a slightly more positive way, one with a happier ending, one where everything works out and they’re still together. The music takes her on a beautiful, fantasized journey of everything that happened in the film previously. It’s not the same, of course. There are no downsides, no fights, no struggles. And in the end, Sebastian is the one who walks into the jazz club with her that night. But then the music stops, and Mia is right back where she started, wistfully imagining a much more romantic version of her life than the one she wound up with. What she doesn’t realize in that moment is that the reality of everything that happened before is just as beautiful as the way she imagined it. The reality was as breathtaking as her imagination. And just because she is looking back on it differently doesn’t mean those things aren’t true, or that those things didn’t happen.  “La La Land,” in all its wonder and whimsy, reminds us of the breathtaking grandeur of everyday life and the awesome beauty of the struggle. I wonder if it’s bombastic ending will keep even us from recognizing that.


The characters in “La La Land” talk often about the past versus the future. This is quite fitting for a classical musical being made in 2016, particularly one that’s goal seems to be “bring back musicals in the movie theater.” Mia represents the future, a passionate artist thinly veiled as a cynic. Sebastian represents the past, a vestige of jazz music of yesteryear desperately trying to hold on to the way things were before.

In the movie’s final musical montage, “La La Land” unites the past and the future and shows how beautiful the result could be if we didn’t spend so much time debating which was more important and focused on the present itself. (In the same way, the characters in the film are constantly looking forward to something or backward toward something that has already passed.) During those final moments of the film, everything is united and beautiful and perfect. Then, the future and the past smile at each other and go their separate ways, leaving the rest of us in the present on our own.

I wish I could have held on to that feeling of beauty and perfection. But eventually I was back in my apartment, staring at my computer screen, just thinking about watching “La La Land” again.

I think I missed the point. What a waste of a lovely night.

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