Why Predator — A Discussion of the Film Franchise on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #133


Thanks to the new film Prey by Dan Trachtenberg and Patrick Aison, we now have six films (starting with 1987’s Predator) featuring the dreadlocked, camouflaged, infrared-seeing race of alien hunters who have apparently been flying around collecting our skulls for 300 years.

Thankfully, the new film is good, and adds to the recent spate of Indigenous-centered media, with its young, female Comanche protagonist taking on evil French bison-killers, her sexist peers, and a mountain lion, in addition to a relatively low-tech version of what many comic books have called a Yautja.

We talk about what makes for a good Predator film, the appeal of the monster (and when in the films it gets revealed), the pacing of the films, the music, direction, effects, humor, social commentary, and more.

A few of the articles we consulted included:

This marks the first episode of Pretty Much Pop season three, where Mark Linsenmayer’s recurring co-hosts will by default tentatively be those you will hear today: Philosophy prof/entertainment writer Lawrence Ware, novelist/writing prof Sarahlyn Bruck, and ex-musician, ex-philosophy grad student, and now ex-research manager Al Baker. The various convocations of musicians, comedians, et al, will still happen too, but will at least alternate with some permutation of that core group.

Hear more Pretty Much Pop. Support the show and hear bonus talking for this and nearly every other episode at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Revisit Louise Brooks’ Most Iconic Role in the Too-Sexy-for-Weimar Silent Film Pandora’s Box (1928)

“There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks.” — Henri Langlois

On this side of the 20th century, it’s hard to imagine a time in cinema history when Louise Brooks wasn’t an international silent icon, as revered as Dietrich or Garbo. But the actress with the unmistakable black helmet of hair nearly ended her career forgotten. She gave up the industry in 1938, after refusing the sexual advances of Columbia Pictures boss, Harry Cohn. “Brooks left Hollywood for good in 1940,” Geoffrey Macnab writes at The Independent, “drifted back to Kansas where, as a fallen Hollywood star, she was both envied for her success and despised for her failure.”

She would move to New York, work briefly as a press agent, then on the sales floor at Saks Fifth Avenue, after which, as she wrote in her autobiography Lulu in Hollywood, her New York friends “cut her off forever.”

Her two most legendary films, made in Berlin with German director G.W. Pabst, were critical and commercial failures only screened in heavily-edited versions upon release. Most of her silent Hollywood “flapper” comedies were deemed (even by Brooks herself) hardly worthy of preservation. It would take later critics and cinephiles like Kenneth Tynan and Henri Langlois, famed director of the Cinémathèque Française in 1950’s Paris, to resurrect her.

By 1991, Brooks was famous enough (again) to warrant a hit New Wave anthem by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, who introduced a new, young audience to Pandora’s Box in their video (top) cut together from scenes of Pabst’s film. Pandora’s Box (see the trailer above) combines two plays by Frank Wedekind in a contemporary story about Berlin’s sexually free atmosphere during the Weimar era. Brooks plays Lulu, a seductress who lures men, and eventually herself, to ruin. “In her Hollywood films,” writes Macnab, “Brooks had been used (in her own words) as a ‘pretty flibbertigibbet.’ With Pabst as her director, she became an actress.”

As Brooks was rediscovered (learn more about her in the documentary below) and achieved a second round of fame as an essayist and memoirist — so too were the films of Pabst, who also directed Brooks in Diary of a Lost Girl. Both films had been shown in truncated versions. Pandora’s Box, especially, caused a stir on its release, upsetting even Weimar censors. German critics were unimpressed and audiences objected to the casting of the American Brooks. (Its American release substituted a happy ending for the film’s downbeat conclusion, Macnab notes, “one of the strangest death sequences in cinema: creepy, erotic and with a perverse tenderness.”)

According to Charles Silver, film curator at the Museum of Modern Art, “audiences of 1928 were not ready for the film’s boldness and frankness, even in few-holds-barred Weimar Berlin,” a city Brooks described with her usual candor:

… the café bar was lined with the higher-priced trollops. The economy girls walked the street outside. On the corner stood the girls in boots, advertising flagellation. Actor’s agents pimped for the ladies in luxury apartments in the Bavarian Quarter. Race-track touts at the Hoppegarten arranged orgies for groups of sportsmen. The nightclub Eldorado displayed an enticing line of homosexuals dressed as women. At the Maly, there was a choice of feminine or collar-and-tie lesbians. Collective lust roared unashamed at the theatre. In the revue Chocolate Kiddies, when Josephine Baker appeared naked except for a girdle of bananas, it was precisely as Lulu’s stage entrance was described by Wedekind: ‘They rage there as in a menagerie when the meat appears at the cage.’

Despite the film’s initial failure, in Berlin and in the character of Lulu, Brooks had found herself. “It was clever of Pabst to know,” she wrote, “that I possessed the tramp essence of Lulu.” A fiercely independent artist to the end, she rejected the opinions of critics and audiences, and heaped praise upon Pabst and “his truthful picture of this world of pleasure… when Berlin rejected its reality… and sex was the business of the town.”

You can purchase a copy of Pandora’s Box on DVD, courtesy of Criterion.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Beyond the Visible: Hilma Af Klint: Watch a Documentary on the Swedish Abstract Painter Free Online

From Kino Lorber Films comes a documentary on the Swedish abstract painter, Hilma af Klint:

Hilma af Klint was an abstract artist before the term existed, a visionary, trailblazing figure who, inspired by spiritualism, modern science, and the riches of the natural world around her, began in 1906 to reel out a series of huge, colorful, sensual, strange works without precedent in painting. The subject of a recent smash retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, af Klint was for years an all-but-forgotten figure in art historical discourse, before her long-delayed rediscovery. Director Halina Dryschka’s dazzling, course correcting documentary describes not only the life and craft of af Klint, but also the process of her mischaracterization and erasure by both a patriarchal narrative of artistic progress and capitalistic determination of artistic value.

You can find Beyond the Visible: Hilma Af Klint listed in our collection of Free Documentaries, a subset of our larger collection 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

To watch more free-to-stream Kino Lorber films, click here.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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How The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Invented Psychological Horror Film & Brought Expressionism to the Screen (1920)

Even if you’ve never actually watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it throughout the century of cinema history since the film first came out, during which its influence has manifested again and again: in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Tarsem Singh’s The Cell, and Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley — not to mention much of the filmographies of auteurs like David Lynch and Tim Burton. These are just some of the films referenced by Tyler Knudsen, better known as CinemaTyler, in the video essay above, Dr. Caligari Did More Than Just Invent Horror Movies.”

“A case can be made that Caligari was the first true horror film,” writes Roger Ebert. In earlier cinematic scary stories, “characters were inhabiting a recognizable world. Caligari creates a mindscape, a subjective psychological fantasy. In this world, unspeakable horror becomes possible.”

The techniques employed to that end have also convinced certain historians of the medium to call the picture “the first example in cinema of German Expressionism, a visual style in which not only the characters but the world itself is out of joint.” Knudsen places this style in historical context, specifically that of Germany’s Weimar Republic, which was established after World War I and lasted until the rise of the Nazis.

Politically unstable but artistically fruitful, the Weimar period gave rise to a variety of new artistic attitudes, at once enthusiastic and overwhelmed. “Whereas impressionism tries to depict the real world, but only from a first glance or impression instead of focusing on details,” Knudsen says, “expressionism tries to get at the artist’s inner feelings rather than the actual appearance of the subject matter.” Hence the bizarre sets of Caligari, whose every angle looks designed to be maximally unconvincing. And yet the film is entirely faithful to its particular reality: not the one occupied by Weimar-era Germans or anyone else, but the one it conjures up in a manner only motion pictures can. 102 years later, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari remains a haunting viewing experience — and one expressive of the sheer potential of cinema. You can watch it above.

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From Caligari to Hitler: A Look at How Cinema Laid the Foundation for Tyranny in Weimar Germany

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How German Expressionism Gave Rise to the “Dutch” Angle, the Camera Shot That Defined Classic Films by Welles, Hitchcock, Tarantino & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

RIP Jean-Luc Godard: Watch the French New Wave Icon Explain His Contrarian Worldview Back in the 1960s

For almost forty years, we’ve been losing the French New Wave. François Truffaut and Jacques Demy died young, back in the twentieth century; Henri Colpi, Éric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol followed in the early years of the twenty-first. The last decade alone saw the passings of Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, and Agnès Varda. But not until yesterday did la Nouvelle Vague‘s hardiest survivor, and indeed its defining figure, step off this mortal coil at the age of 91. Jean-Luc Godard didn’t launch the movement — that distinction belongs to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, from 1959 — but in 1960 his first feature Breathless made filmgoers the world over understand at once that the old rules no longer applied.

Yet for all his willingness to violate its conventions, Godard possessed a thoroughgoing respect for cinema. This perhaps came from his pre-auteurhood years he spent as a film critic in Paris, writing for the estimable Cahiers du cinéma (an institution to which Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol, and Rivette also contributed). “It made me love everything,” he says of his experience with criticism in the 1963 interview just above.

“It taught me not to be narrow-minded, not to ignore Renoir in favor of Billy Wilder.” A contrarian from the beginning, the young Godard disdained what he saw as the formalized and intellectualized products of the French film industry in favor of viscerally crowd-pleasing pictures made in the U.S.A.

“We Europeans have movies in our head, and Americans have movies in their blood,” says Godard in the 1965 British television interview above. “We have centuries and centuries of culture behind us. We have to think about things. We can’t just do things.” To “just do things” is perhaps the prime artistic desire driving his oeuvre, which spans seven decades and includes more than 40 feature films as well as many projects of less easily categorizable form. But this went with a lifelong immersion in classical European culture, evidenced by a filmography dense with references to its works. The weight of his formation and ambitions took a certain toll early on: “I’m already tired,” he says in a 1960 interview at Cannes, where Breathless was screening. Did the permanent revolutionary of cinema suspect, even then, how far he still had to go?

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Jean-Luc Godard Takes Cannes’ Rejection of Breathless in Stride in 1960 Interview

How Jean-Luc Godard Liberated Cinema: A Video Essay on How the Greatest Rule-Breaker in Film Made His Name

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RIP Jean-Paul Belmondo: The Actor Who Went from the French New Wave to Action Superstardom

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Two Women in Their 90s Recall Their Teenage Years in Victorian 1890s London

Mud everywhere…and where there wasn’t mud, there was fog, and in between was us, enjoying ourselves. – Berta Ruck

Berta Ruck and Frances ‘Effy’ Jones were teenagers in the 1890s, and while their recollections of their formative years in muddy old London are hardly a portrait of Jazz Age wildness, neither are they in keeping with modern notions of stuffy Victorian mores.

Interviewed for the BBC documentary series Yesterday’s Witness in 1970, these nonagenarians are formidable personages, sharper than proverbial tacks, and unlikely to elicit the sort of agist pity embodied in the lyrics of a popular ditty Ruck remembers the Cockneys singing in the gutter after the pubs had closed for the night.

“Do you think I might dare to sing [it] now?” Ruck, then 91, asks (rhetorically):

She may have known better days

When she was in her prime

She may have known better days

Once upon a time…

(Raise your hand if you suspect those lyrics are describing a washed up spinster in her late 20s or early 30s.)

The 94-year-old Jones reaches back more than 7 decades to tell about her first job, when she was paid 8 shillings a week to sit in a storefront window, demonstrating a new machine known as a typewriter.

Some of her earnings went toward the purchase a bicycle, which she rode back and forth to work and overnight holidays in Brighton, scandalously clad in bloomers, or as Jones and her friends referred to them, “rational dress”.

Ruck, pegged by her headmistress as an “indolent and feckless girl”, went on to study at the Slade School of Art, before achieving prominence as a bestselling romance novelist, whose 90 some titles include His Official Fiancée, Miss Million’s Maid and In Another Girl’s Shoes.

We do hope at least one of these features a heroine resentfully brushing a skirt muddied up to the knees by passing hansom cabs, an imposition Ruck refuses to sweeten with the nostalgia.

As the British Film Institute’s Patrick Russell writes in 100 British Documentaries, the Yesterday’s Witness series, and Jones and Ruck’s episode, in particular, popularized the oral history approach to documentary, in which the director-interviewer is an invisible presence, creating the impression that the subject is speaking directly to the audience, unprompted:

The series’ makers successfully resisted any temptations to patronize or editorialize, and aimed at sympathetic curiosity rather than nostalgia. The two women tell their stories fluently, humorously, intelligently – offering considered retrospective comment on their generation’s assumptions, neither simply accepting nor rejecting them…Unlike textbooks, and other types of documentary, films like Two Victorian Girls gave the youth access to the modern past as privately experienced. 

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Winnie the Pooh Went Into the Public Domain, and Someone Already Turned the Story Into a Slasher Film: Watch the Trailer for Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood

Where Christopher Robin plays

You’ll find the enchanted neighborhood

Of Christopher’s childhood days…

Those sweetly sentimental lyrics were penned not by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-The-Pooh but rather the Academy-Award winning songwriting team of brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, who also penned the scores of Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Jungle Book.

If you are under the age of 60, chances are your concept of Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit and Tigger is informed by Winnie the Pooh and Honey Tree, the 1966 Disney cartoon that launched a successful franchise, not E.H. Shepherd’s charming illustrations for the 1926 book, Winnie the Pooh, which entered the public domain this year.

This means that Milne’s work can be freely reproduced or reworked, though Disney retains the copyright to their animated character designs.

Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, told the Washington Post that the bulk of the inquiries she fielded in the lead up to 2022’s public domain titles becoming available had to do with Winnie the Pooh:

I can’t get over how people are freaking out about Winnie-the-Pooh in a good way. Everyone has a very specific story of the first time they read it or their parents gave them a doll or they [have] stories about their kids…It’s the Ted Lasso effect.We need a window into a world where people or animals behave with decency to one another.”


Judging by the trailer for their upcoming live action, low budget feature, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, Jagged Edge, a London-based horror production company, is not much interested in Ted Lasso good vibes, though they do manage to stay within the limits of the law, equipping a black clad Piglet with threatening tusks, and dressing the titular “silly old bear” in a red shirt that doesn’t exactly scream Tummy Song.

More like Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Producer-Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield whose as-yet-unreleased credits include Peter Pan’s Neverland Nightmare and Spiders on a Plane told Variety that “we did as much as we could to make sure [the film] was only based on the 1926 version:”

When you see the cover for this and you see the trailers and the stills and all that, there’s no way anyone is going to think this is a child’s version of it.

Here’s hoping he’s right.

The trailer traffics freely in slasher flick tropes:

A bikini clad young woman relaxing, obliviously, in a hot tub.

A hand held camera tracking a desperate, and probably doomed, escape attempt through the woods.

Unnerving warnings written in blood (or possibly honey?)

The childish scrawl on the sign demarcating the 100 Acre Wood is both faithful to the original, and unmistakably sinister.

Equally disturbing is the lettering on Eeyore’s homemade grave marker. (SPOILER: as per Variety, a starving Pooh and Piglet ate him…and apparently discarded a human skull nearby.)

The “enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days” has gone decidedly downhill.

Director Frake-Waterfield paints Pooh and Piglet as the primary villains, but surely the college-bound Christopher Robin deserves some of the blame for abandoning his old friends.

On the other hand, when a college-bound Andy tossed his beloved childhood playthings in a giveaway box at the beginning of Toy Story 3, Buzz and Woody did not go on a murderous rampage.

As Frake-Waterfield described Pooh and Piglet’s devolution to HuffPost:

Because they’ve had to fend for themselves so much, they’ve essentially become feral. So they’ve gone back to their animal roots. They’re no longer tame: they’re like a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey.

An interview with Dread Central offers a graphic taste of the violent mayhem they inflict, even as Christopher Robin, as clueless as a bikini clad innocent in a hot tub, bleats, “We used to be friends, why are you doing this!?”

Unsurprisingly, the film’s tagline is “This Ain’t No Bedtime Story.”

View production photos, if you dare, here.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto Her allegiance has long been with the 1926 version. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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Kino Lorber Puts Online 50 Free Films: Watch Classics by Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Taika Waititi & Other Major Filmmakers

Even cinephiles who know little of the business of film distribution will have developed associations, however unconscious, between certain pre-feature corporate logos and the exhilarating cinematic experiences that tend to follow. What sort of picture comes to mind, for example, when you read the name Kino Lorber? Perhaps documentaries on such compelling subjects as New York Times street-fashion photographer Bill Cunningham or gone-viral Winnebago pitchman Jack Rebney; perhaps international genre spectacles of recent years like Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night or Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Let the Corpses Tan.

Then again, your own taste in Kino Lorber-distributed movies may run to the likes of Goodbye to Language, Jean-Luc Godard’s 2014 meditation originally screened in 3D — or Derek Jarman’s autobiographical last testament Blue, which plays out entirely on a solid field of the eponymous color.

These are just a few of the more than 50 films now available free to watch on Kino Lorber’s Youtube channel. (Note that the actual number of viewable films may vary depending on your location.) Spanning various eras, genres, origins, and forms, together they offer a sense of the niche Kino Lorber has carved out for itself during its 45 years in business so far.

You may spot an old favorite on Kino Lorber’s Youtube channel, but the greater joy of exploring it lies in discovering films you missed the first time around. Gabe Klinger’s Porto, for instance, went practically unseen despite its evocative vision of the title city and posthumous showcase of acclaimed actor Anton Yelchin. Boasting a cast of Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda, Tim Roth, and Eric Stoltz, Michael Steinberg’s Bodies, Rest & Motion screened at Cannes as an Un Certain Regard selection back in 1993; surely the time has come for its reappraisal as a distillation of Generation-X ennui. Even Taika Waititi once made lesser-known movies in and about his native New Zealand. Thanks to Kino Lorber, his fans can can watch Boy, which launched him on the journey that has made him one of the most globally popular directors alive. See the complete playlist of films here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

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