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On 10th Anniversary, ‘Now Playing’ Hosts Talk Milestones, Memorable Moments

Jason Latham

Let’s jump back in time 10 years to summer 2007. Sam Raimi had just tanked the Spider-Man franchise, the Fast & Furious films had stalled with Tokyo Drift, and nobody knew if George Lucas would ever launch another Star Wars trilogy.

This was when Now Playing Podcast first went on the air. Back when we still believed Crystal Skull might be good and before they rebooted Freddy’s origin story to make it, just, icky.

Not only does 2017 mark Now Playing’s 10th anniversary, the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes review marks its 700th episode. That’s a lot of movies (and also the occasional failed TV pilot or one of those superhero shows that played theatrically in Bulgaria or wherever).

To mark the occasion, the show’s hosts came together for a Q&A about their time behind the mics and what’s changed during the last 10 years.

Venganza Media Gazette: What do you remember thinking after you heard your voice for the first time on Now Playing?

Arnie: “Well our first episode was recorded in a car in the parking lot of a Toys r Us. So my thought was, ‘For being in a car that doesn’t sound TOO bad.’”

Marjorie:I was used to hearing my voice on Star Wars Action News but I still thought I sounded under 13. And then you have the thoughts such as ‘I really sound like that?’ or ‘What if people find my voice irritating?’”

Stuart: I like to be behind the scenes — directing, writing, evaluating other people’s art. It was pretty painful to step in front of a mic and even more awkward listening to myself on some of my early shows. I was grateful that there weren’t too many listeners back in 2008 and early 2009.”

Jakob: “I was no stranger to hearing my voice; I had sang in bands and had been podcasting on and off for a few years prior. But at the time a huge part of our listenership were horror fans, a genre I wasn’t very familiar with. So there was some anxiety with having my introduction with the SAW movies and having to speak about a genre I just didn’t have a lot of exposure to.”

Venganza Gazette: What’s changed about you as a host?

Jakob: “I watch a lot more movies and I discuss them a lot more — not just with my co-hosts, but with my family. We spend a lot of time discussing why a film does or doesn’t work.”

Marjorie: I have a different view of movies now. I see so much more that goes into a movie. More than just ‘it was good.’ I also can’t ever ‘turn off’ reviewing. When I see movies I’m not reviewing, I tend to dissect them.” 

Jakob: “My wife and I share what we consider great scenes with our girls, even if they may be too young for the entire movie. Is it crossing a line that we reenacted the ‘I drink your milkshake’ scene from THERE WILL BE BLOOD for our 10 and 6-year-old?”

Stuart: ”The biggest change for me is the zip code where I record. I’m no longer ‘Stuart In L.A.’ When I started Now Playing I always worried that things I said might come back to haunt me working in the Los Angeles entertainment industry. Now that I’ve stepped away from that scene, I sleep better at night.”  

Arnie: The differences are greater than the similarities, in my mind. What’s the same? A rotating cast of hosts and we devote one episode to one movie. What’s different? Everything else. Now Playing started as a show where we would record short, spoiler-free movie reviews.”

The first Now Playing Podcast episode, a review of "Spider-Man 3" was released on May 4, 2007.

The first Now Playing Podcast episode, a review of Spider-Man 3 was released on May 4, 2007.

Stuart: “A long show in 2007 was 30 minutes. Now we go twice as long on an episode of Twin Peaks.”

Arnie: “They weren’t going to be edited at all, as editing takes five-to-10 times the length of a given show.”

Brock: I do remember editing the first show I did with my wife – back then it was a two person review show, much like what Arnie and Marjorie do on Star Wars Action News.”

Arnie:As I had Star Wars Action News already I didn’t feel I had the time to undertake more editing. So they would be instant reaction thoughts, recorded immediately upon leaving the theater, and published as-is [with] minimal editing, [and] we also were going to focus on new releases only. Now we go through the history of film, with spoiler-filled critiques that are very long, and very well edited by a great team including Heath and David.”

Jakob: “We just go so much more in depth now. But for me, personally, I approach the show with a different attitude. When I first came on, I had a MST3K mentality. I mean, I had to review a bunch of SAW films — not really my thing — so I thought, ‘How many jokes can I make?’ Now, while we still shoot for humor at times, I try focus on the filmmaking and storytelling so I can articulate how those contribute to a film, good or bad.”

Brock: “Today we are a well-oiled machine, even more comfortable sharing our opinions and talking with one another. The shows back then, and especially when we started the roundtable format, had the best we could do technically at the time, and now the production values are insanely great thanks to our equipment, sure, but mostly because of the countless hours Arnie puts in producing each and every episode. And also the incredible, tireless work of our talented editors who make us all sound so good.”

Marjorie: “We are all so much older and wiser! I think that we all found our rhythm with each other. I have a natural rapport with Arnie because we are married and therefore spend a lot of time together. But Stuart, Jakob and myself had to build that.” 

The July 14 review of War for the Planet of the Apes will mark Now Playing Podcast's 700th episode.

The July 14, 2017 War for the Planet of the Apes review marks Now Playing Podcast’s 700th episode.

In addition to hitting the 700th episode milestone, several of the hosts are racking up big numbers behind the microphone. When the War for the Planet of the Apes review is released, Arnie will have hosted 676 Now Playing episodes, Stuart will have hosted 618, and Jakob will have hosted his 469th show.

Venganza Gazette: Do you have a favorite Now Playing episode?

Stuart:INCEPTION was an early favorite of mine because I think it was such a turning point for the show. Now Playing proved in that podcast that we could do more than heckle. On top of really liking the movie, I was proud of the way we broke down all of Nolan’s multi-level storylines and daunting thematic readings in a very concise 73 minutes.”

Arnie: I really am proud of PROMETHEUS. That was a film with disparate, and surprising, opinions from the hosts, and yet the conversation was always lively, and I think everyone made such great points. I re-listened to that show recently because of ALIEN: COVENANT and so it’s recent to my memory, but even before that it was a go-to for me to see three of the hosts bringing their A-game.”

Brock:I really liked what the guys did with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Sometimes with a really good movie, a classic, practically flawless movie the show can be a little harder for us panelists to do. You can’t tear it apart, and there aren’t always opportunities to make jokes because the jokes have been made for 30 years already. Everyone is so familiar with the movie itself and the behind the scenes information already and on top of that the listeners know going in it that the hosts are all going to give it a green arrow. The team embraced all these challenges and showed us why Now Playing is as good as it gets with review shows. The guys did a great job with the commentary, the trivia, and played off one another beautifully making an entertaining show that was structurally and technically proficient. So much so that I have enjoyed listening to that show multiple times over. A highlight for me is when Stuart brought up the CASABLANCA correlation; not many people get that aspect of RAIDERS and I’m glad he did and shared it with the audience.”

Jakob: “I’m really enjoying our current Now Peaking discussions for TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. What’s fascinating is we had the chance to do a whole David Lynch retrospective building up to this new series. With Lynch, as an auteur, there is so much of him in this return to Twin Peaks. It feels like a culmination of his entire aesthetic and viewpoint. Within the first two episodes we had brought up the influences of ERASERHEAD, BLUE VELVET, LOST HIGHWAY, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and INLAND EMPIRE. I’m still not sold on this third season, but it has been insightful to discuss it in the context of Lynch’s complete works and not just the original run of the television show.”

Venganza Gazette: What’s the most positive feedback you’ve ever received from a listener?

Arnie: I can’t begin to express how touched I am by some listeners’ messages to us.  From troops stationed overseas who use our show to experience movies they can’t yet see to adults who say our show is like a conversation with friends, each message means so much.”

Marjorie: There have been a few people who have written to us about how listening to Now Playing got them through a rough patch in their life. And I think it’s utterly amazing that, even remotely, I was able to help someone.” 

Stuart: I never thought three people riffing on movies had the potential to heal, but I have been incredibly moved by all the stories fans have shared over the years about how we helped them laugh away depression, death, and some real big life challenges.”

Arnie:A handful of people have e-mailed with a very specific message and I’m humbled every time I read them.  These are people who have been in bad situations: illness or accident, divorce, job loss, the death of someone close to them, or sometimes a combination of those.  These are people who tell us they felt hopeless.  One person said, ‘I felt like I would never be able to laugh again.’  A couple people mentioned contemplating suicide.  These are deeply personal moments being shared via e-mail with us. Then their notes change tone and discuss how our show helped them through. We entertained them, in that one case we gave him the first laugh he’d had. We took their minds off their troubles and brought them a bit of happiness. That is my dream come true — to be able to entertain people and give them a few moments where they aren’t thinking about their day, their responsibilities, and their problems.”  

Stuart: “I never expected to have such impact on anyone, and I’m incredibly humbled by that.”

Arnie:It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I considered being a lawyer or a stockbroker. But in high school I realized the importance of entertainment in my life.  I had my own dark days in my teen and early adult years. What got me through those times were video games, movies, television, books – entertainment. So starting in high school, and really for the rest of my life, my goal has been to entertain. I wanted to give people that escape the way Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Will Wright, and Stephen King helped me to escape. My path to finding podcasting as that vehicle was a winding one, but it was the outlet I found. And I can’t express how touched I am when I read what we do does provide that for some of our listeners.  It fills me with purpose, and reminds me that we’re not just discussing the eighth in a bad series of direct-to-video sequels, we’re hopefully also entertaining and informing at the same time.”  

Venganza Gazette: What’s the strangest feedback you’ve ever received from a listener?

Brock: “I was at a Comic Con, talking to the vendor on the other side of the table about an action figure or something, and this guy standing next to me exclaimed ‘Hey, you’re Brock! I recognize your voice!’ That was pretty cool to be picked out by my voice alone.”

Marjorie: “I had some weird messages from guys who liked my voice.” 

Stuart:It was pointed out very bluntly a few times on Facebook that I have a ‘squeaky voice’ when I get excited. Hey, I’m not going to say that’s untrue, but there’s only so much I can do about that until I finish going through puberty. How I wish I could hire Barry White to say all the things I’ve got to say!”

Brock: “There was this one [comment] we received years ago that accused me of trying to sound professional, putting on a radio voice when I talk or something. Arnie told Stuart and I about this thing one night when we were recording, and we all got a great laugh because this is how I talk! I wouldn’t have the patience or the discipline to put on a fake voice for hours on end, each and every time we do a recording session. I mean, I guess that is sort of a compliment, that my voice sounds that way, but the guy clearly didn’t have a clue about what he was talking about.”

Jakob: “One listener offered to pay for my dental work after he punched my teeth out because of my views on one film. I wonder if the police I had to involve became fans of Now Playing after I reported [him]?”

Arnie: I need to be vague about this for privacy, but a listener wrote in and told me how, in 2012, he had a workplace encounter with Bradley Cooper [and] he ended up turning Cooper on to Now Playing, specifically our HOWARD THE DUCK show. The next day Cooper told him he laughed his ass off listening to that podcast. He said he downloaded some other shows, including our ROCKY reviews. That is totally surreal to think of the voice actor who performed in GUARDIANS has listened to our HOWARD THE DUCK review.”  

Stuart: We get a lot of positive feedback when we slam a problematic movie like HOWARD THE DUCK or HALLOWEEN III.”

Venganza Gazette: What’s the one film you’re still waiting to review?

Jakob: I’d love the work through Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER. It’s a film that I’ve done a complete 180° on since its theatrical release. Originally, I recognized the amazing acting but the story left me cold. I recently re-watched it with my wife, who is a huge Phillip Seymour Hoffman fan. As we worked our way through the film, she helped me realize what a heartbreaking romance it is in the midst of some heavy ideas about religion and post-war America. I would love to discuss such a dense piece of work.”

Stuart:THE MANITOU! There is no crazier horror movie from the 1970s. It would be a perfect Easter Egg pairing with THE OMEN and ROSEMARY’S BABY franchises.”

Marjorie: “I would love to do a 70s disaster movie retrospective. There was a small heyday of disaster movies.”

Arnie: DONNIE DARKO is a favorite film of mine that I think is so rich for analysis, even if the director did make it so obvious with various supplements and the director’s cut.  

Brock: BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. It’s my favorite movie, and the first movie I say when people ask me for a film recommendation. Every time. Not enough people watch it anymore but they really should. It’s not a traditional western, but can be a hard sell to people who deeply dislike westerns. Perhaps we can bundle it THE STING and that sequel they made in 1979 with Tom Berenger. I have avoided watching that sequel but I’d watch it for Now Playing.”

Arnie:I made a vow to never watch S DARKO, the cash-grab DONNIE sequel with hardly anyone from the original involved.  If we reviewed DONNIE I’d probably have to watch S, and I really don’t want to taint my love of the original with a super-shitty sequel.”

Now Playing Podcast will release its War for the Planet of the Apes episode as part of its 2017 Spring Donation Drive. Supporters of the show can hear the review, along with all of the episodes in the Planet of the Apes series, at NowPlayingPodcast.com.

 

9 Responses to On 10th Anniversary, ‘Now Playing’ Hosts Talk Milestones, Memorable Moments

  1. Joe Black Reply

    July 12, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Congrats on your 700th episodes. This podcast has meant so much to me and others. Sometimes you need some humor, or a friendly voice or some deep thoughts to take you away from the bad things in your life. For 10 years Now Playing has provided that for so many people. From the bottom of my heart, Thanks for being there.

  2. Brett B. Reply

    July 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I need to know which movie review got Jakob’s teeth punched out!

    • Chuck White Reply

      July 16, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      It HAD to be Batman and Robin! Lol!

  3. Jason W. Reply

    July 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    One of my favorite episodes is still Dr. Strange (1978). As much as I like to hear Stuart be in pain for the bad superhero movies (Green Lantern), I love it when he is pleasantly surprised by a movie in a genre I take to heart. It was nice to hear him so enthusiastic about a TV movie! I just wish Dr. Strange (2016) wasn’t such a letdown!

  4. Glenn Ferrara Reply

    July 12, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    The Manitou! What a lovely gob of trash. Love it! Watch that one with Prophecy (1979) and you’ve got one hell of a drive-in double feature.

  5. Rattrap007 Reply

    July 12, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Always love these guys. You are the best. I listen to several podcasts as well as yours. I listen to The Simpson Show, Seincast, Twilight Pwn, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. You are my tops. I’ve donated platinum every time since LotR, Kickstarter donated, bought almost all the eps off podbean (5 Easter Egg and Excorcist left) and now Patreon. I love getting to support you guys.

    You all surprise me a bunch. I was shocked when an Easter Egg podcast for Making Contact showed up. I nearly did a spit take. I knew the film. “Oooh Stuart is going to rail on having to watch this.” Nope HE picked it. In fact lots of the easter egg ones are his picks. They go above and beyond so much. Listen to Arnie’s recommend on KISS Meets the Phantom. It is epic!

    Also love the bloopers. Sad that Stuart moved and we will no longer get interuptions like neighbors fighting, planes overhead and such. I remember one blooper that was five minutes of him giving play by play of a neighbors argument. Just hilarious.

    Even when it is a film that doesn’t interest me i listen. I’m not a Lynch fan but still have them in my up next to get to soon.

    Thank you again guys for the hours of entertainment.

  6. Todd Gillette Reply

    July 12, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Since 2009, there is no entertainment I look forward to more than Now Playing. Even for movies I have no interest in seeing, the quality of every episode still makes it worth a listen. And for the movies I love, numerous listens are a must. Here’s to 700 more!

  7. Bob Latchaw Reply

    July 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Great, great podcast. I’m with Marjorie- 70s disaster flicks! Now, please!

  8. Frank Harburn Reply

    July 19, 2017 at 2:37 am

    Congrats on the milestone guys. I love your shows, are been listening and donating for years and spreading the message in U.K. and Ireland where I am based. Keep up the good work and I too like the idea of a disaster movie retrospective by decade perhaps. Cheers

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