Episode 50: The Force is Strong with this Pod

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A week or so ago in a galaxy not too far away, the Agreeing Loudly Alliance witnessed the legendary trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Not content with merely watching it, the Alliance decided it was vital that over an hour be spent discussing the next movie and making predictions so bold that not even the might of The First Order can stop them.

So grab your favorite Porg (or ice wolf) and listen to this month’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast! On one of the Outer Rim planets with a poor internet connection? Download it instead.

New Star Wars Trailer Causes Local Fan to Open a Direct Line to Disney’s Bank Vaults, $57,000 Transfer Imminent

by Troy M. Olson (“Agreeing Loudly” Bread and Circus Correspondent)

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Brooklyn, New York —

A local professional Star Wars fan has recently opened up a direct line to Disney’s bank accounts after sitting down this morning and watching the trailer for the latest installment of Star Wars. “Rogue One”, which will serve as the first standalone and non-episodic film set in the galaxy far, far away, further expands the fictional space fantasy universe created in 1977 by George Lucas. The Star Wars universe has proven to be the most successful fictional universe created since L. Ron Hubbard created scientology back in the 1950’s. Except after seven feature films, two television shows, hundreds of books and comics, and millions of toys and other merchandise sold, the Star Wars universe has proven to have some utility to it. Bringing quantifiable joy and meaning into the lives of millions worldwide, but as seen in this case, considerably lighter pockets.

Paul Smith, a 43 year-old blogger whose sole income is running a Star Wars fan site, was excited, pumped up, and….

Continue reading

Episode 17: Belated Best of 2015

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Now that 2016 is officially underway (let’s be honest, those first two weeks don’t count), the new and improved Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast crew is ready to reflect on what they liked most about 2015. Jered, Pat, and Bill discuss their favorite moments from politics, pop culture, and sports during a special weekend morning conversation.

What moments, events and media were impressive enough to make the Agreeing Loudly cut? Will Jered be able to stay awake during this episode? Can Pat put aside his distaste for Jered’s favorite hobbies? Will Bill be able survive once the beeping doors of death cut him off from the life giving California rains?

Listen now to find out the answers to these questions and more! If downloading is more your thing download it here!

Intro 0:00-2:15

Millennial Musings: Best of 2015 2:20-13:15

Political Parrots: Best of 2015 13:17-37:39

Pop Goes the Culture: Best of 2015 37:44-1:06:07

Sports Round Up: Best of 2015 1:06:15-1:18:53

Outro/Where to Find Us 1:18:55-1:21:11 

The Hero’s Journey: Meta, Myth, and The Force Awakens

by Troy M. OlsonThe Hero's Journey

First of all,

“Calm down, nerds!” – Wife of the Year runner-up (because my wife won this year)

An amazing response from opening night when a new-to-Star Wars audience member was asking her husband a question related to the expansive and unfolding Star Wars universe and three twenty to thirty-something year-old males in the row behind hyperventiliated and attempted to hush her.

Second of all,

Thank you, Devin Faraci.

And finally, my review:

I enjoyed The Force Awakens, especially upon further viewings.

While it is great to see so many general audience fans excited again for the future of the Star Wars film mythology, canon, and universe; it is mildly annoying to see so many so-called “fans” make non sequitor attacks against the creator of this mythology and film series, George Lucas. There are very few public figures in recent years who have endured more unfair, unrelated, and hyperbolic criticism than the man who created the Star Wars franchise, among other things he has accomplished. At least when political figures are criticized, there are often big things (rights, liberties, livelihoods) at stake.

But I did enjoy The Force Awakens, and the following will focus on what I thought was “good” about it, as well as a passing mention to a few areas that I thought were “bad.” The “ugly” portion has little to do with the film and more to do with certain aspects of the fan base (whether diehard or casual, it’s hard to know exactly).

This film did exactly what the first Disney-era Star Wars film needed to do. First things first,

The Plot:

(Spoiler Alert!! But I feel like there should be a limit to how long someone should be able to play that card).

Act One: the Set-up of the Political Situation in the Galaxy

Poe Dameron puts (Princess Leia) plans into a droid, BB-8 (R2-D2), who goes on a special mission to find Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Ben Kenobi), who has vanished/been in exile for many years. Along the way, the droid stumbles upon our new hero, Rey (Luke Skywalker), on the desert planet Jakku (Tatooine), who then runs into Finn (Han Solo), and they go on an adventure together, eventually leaving Jakku (Tatooine) behind.

Act Two: the Mentor and the Passing on of Knowledge

Our hero Rey (Luke Skywalker), receives mentorship from an older character, Han Solo (Ben Kenobi) who is our connection to the past few decades of events which have occurred off-screen (building of a New Republic and the rise of the First Order or in the case of the original film, the events of what became the prequels).

Before we enter the lead-up to the climax of our story, Han Solo offers our hero, Rey (Luke), a job working with him on the small crew of the Millennium Falcon.

Act Three: Destroying a Super-weapon

The good team, the Resistance (Rebel Alliance), which is more diverse and in touch with nature, and follows the Light Side of the Force, fights against the “machine” Government — the First Order (Galactic Empire), who secretly follow the Dark Side of the Force.

To protect their central base from certain doom after a frightening demonstration of the super-weapon destroys the Hosnian System (Alderaan), Starkiller Base (the Death Star) is attacked and a narrative time-lock is placed on the climatic battle of good vs. evil. Once the plasma of a nearby star is gathered into Starkiller Base, it is ready to fire (once the Death Star clears the planet, it is ready to fire) on our heroes.

The Good:

This is probably the funniest Star Wars film yet. The new characters were great, especially the series’ new protagonist, Rey, portrayed by Daisy Ridley in her first feature-length film. The other new main characters, Finn and Poe, were also wonderfully portrayed by John Boyega and Oscar Isaacs. Everything that was new worked very well in terms of character. Even BB-8, like R2 and Chewbacca before him, worked well in its ability to convey emotion to the audience without any dialogue that the viewer can readily understand. It speaks to the solid, universal, mythical foundations that are at the core of this unfolding saga. While it did not immediately jump out to me on the first viewing, I also am now digging the new Darth Vader, Kylo Ren.

So while the new characters, especially Rey, worked well for me, arguably, a more scrutinized portion of the film was always going to be how the beloved “legacy” characters were handled.

For myself, the most important character isn’t even a character, rather it is the score of John Williams, who is the Mozart of film scores.

The score to The Force Awakens did not immediately jump out at me, although it works really well within the story. After further viewings, I’m happy to report that at 87-years young, Johnny “Baby” (note: John Williams calls everybody “baby” and because he is a jazz musician, that is awesome) still has it. The score was wonderful and operated as its usual companion piece to what has always been a cinematic and visual treat (2D version that is, the 3D version, like all 3D films is just too distracting for me, but I digress).

The characters in the story were handled with the outmost care and respect. Most important, the story decisions made sense. Han Solo was great. The film is elevated to another level the minute Harrison Ford as Han Solo again enters it. Like many of the new characters, Solo was charming and funny. In a way, this is the most Han Solo we have ever seen him. While previous films alluded to his exploits and overall scoundrel-ness a great deal, this is the first time we see him in the middle of an adventure like that on-screen.

Not far from Han Solo is the always-loyal Chewbacca, who shines in this film and serves as an almost R2-D2-esque role in being the sidekick that helps our main characters get out of trouble time and time again.

Princess Leia, although a little light on screen time (I will get into this more later), was very much the character I imagined her to be at this age. She is a fighter and a scrapper, not a Princess or a completely political-figure. It also alluded nicely to the fact that she is very much, still a Force-sensitive and is in tune with the Force, even though she may have never trained as a Jedi officially (does anyone really anymore?). Leia still has it, and her banter with Han, her estranged partner, is both short and snappy (a la Empire). Carrie Fisher does a solid job, especially considering she has not acted in awhile. Beyond the film though, pretty much every statement she made during the press tour was priceless. If you haven’t seen her one-woman show or do not know too much about her when she isn’t playing a space Princess, do yourself a favor and embark on a tour of her witticism.

Finally, it wouldn’t be the continuation of Star Wars without Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). The first draft of the 1973 screenplay was titled “From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” for a reason. Luke’s story or hero’s journey may be over, or passed on to the next generation, but that does not mean his character arc is over. Probably one of the most controversial choices in the story was going to be the way they handled Luke one way or another. At least for this film, I have to say that they knocked this one out of the park. As much as I would have liked to see more of Luke, I completely understand this design decision. When a friend   and co-writer of mine and I were talking about what the story of Episode VII should be, we had trouble coming up with a serviceable story with Luke in it. He overwhelmed the narrative because of the heights we left him at in the previous chronological installment (1983’s “Return of the Jedi”). It makes sense to take him out of the narrative in the present sense and turn him into the over-arcing “MacGuffin” of the plot. Because of his importance via absence, this story decision works really well for this film, and also sets up the next two films in the “sequel trilogy” really well.

Speaking of plot devices, in 2015, “meta” was all the rage. From “Jurassic World” having a character reference how the first park (movie) was the “real deal” to The Force Awakens having C-3P0 referencing people wondering about “his red arm” and how he got it (hint: that was directed at the audience). There were so many fourth wall-breaking references that I lost count. So lets just go macro with it. Each of the major returning characters was in large part, written from a real-world perspective of how the audience sees each actor.

This movie isn’t just the first Star Wars film with the original cast since 1983, for many hardcore fans it was the first time seeing these actors again. It doesn’t matter how many times you remind everyone that Carrie Fisher has been one of the most successful script doctors in Hollywood, and is a very successful memoirist. Or that Mark Hamill has been a very dynamic and prolific voice actor, etc. To so many fans that operate at the pop culture surface level, the tag line of “where is Luke Skywalker?” could very well be “where is Mark Hamill?” Princess Leia being a discredited noble within the New Republic (not the once-solid, now professionally mediocre policy journal but the current intergalactic government situation in the galaxy far, far away) could be seen as a commentary on her being Hollywood royalty (Fisher is the daughter of two movie stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age”), which she shunned to be a writer and fighter. After all, being the offspring of Darth Vader would have its political obstacles, so it would make more story-sense that Leia is not a viable political figure in this galaxy anymore.

My favorite meta commentary is that of Harrison Ford, the only original star that never seemed to love his or her association with these movies. “You’re Han Solo” asks our heroine Rey, “I used to be”, replies Ford, I mean Solo. It’s super corny, but it is in-season and it works very well in this film. Because like the original film, we need a Star Wars in our lives. It is fun. It can be deep if you want it to be, but it can also just be a fun and thrilling adventure. The world is depressing enough at times. We all deserve to go into the theater and go on a journey into our imaginations.

Star Wars is successful because it taps into a very deep and psychological human need, not just to be entertained and delighted, but it speaks to our need for mythology. Our need to explain and understand the world.

The most important question I had going into this as a film fan, and a Star Wars fan, the question that needed to be answered in the affirmative for me to enjoy it was: Does The Force Awakens feel like a genuine continuation of the enthralling and endlessly compelling mythology told via the medium of film, as created all those years ago by George Lucas?

For me at least, it did feel like the genuine continuation.

The Bad: 

LA Times has one of the more negative reviews of the film I have seen and they bring up some interesting points. I don’t want to stress the bad too much, it has been repeated elsewhere by people who get paid to make these observations or opinions. I’m a film and Star Wars fan at the end of the day, so I’ll keep it brief (note: my version of brief).

No surprise given my deliberate description of the plot, The Force Awakens is highly derivative. It is so derivative that Lucas should have probably been given a “Story by” credit in addition or instead of the “Based on characters created by” credit. Speaking of Lucas, now that he has settled into a Gene Roddenberry post-season 2 of Next Generation-role, I could not help but notice the lack of the distinctive visual styling with shot composition and inventiveness, as well as the world-building of the narrative (mostly in terms of the stakes at hand: what are the politics? factions?)

Part of the weaknesses could be a course-correction gone too far. The more likely scenario though, the film was trying to replicate the original Star Wars as much as possible, and years of subsequent releases of further information and detail of this beloved galaxy have blinded us to the fact that if you just sit down and watch the original Star Wars without any other knowledge of anything, it is very similar to how little information you get in The Force Awakens. Chalk it up to perception and the “mystery box” at work.

The Ugly:

Nothing to do with the actual film itself was ugly, however:

The marketing campaign was cynical in certain aspects (constantly reminding fans of all the practical effects used, etc.), certain segments of the fandom’s treatment of Lucas continues to be embarrassing to watch, and some in the media picking up on the most negative aspects of Star Wars fandom is unfortunate (example: a few lone trolls and hateful people saying outlandish comments knowing the gullible and clickbait-based internet news media will pick it up).

The Bottom Line: 

Ultimately, who cares what I say, because the results and bottom line speaks for itself. This new Star Wars film is the most successful since the original Star Wars. That’s right, it may be blasphemous to say it, but The Force Awakens is already more of a phenomenon than The Empire Strikes Back, objectively speaking. Although, the original will no-doubt still hold the top spot (and probably always will).

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Box Office Mojo: The Force Awakens broke the all-time domestic record and is on track for top-2 or 3 worldwide all-time record. It recently surpassed the adjusted for inflation box office of The Phantom Menace to become the 2nd most successful Star Wars film at the box office but has some work to do to top the original Star Wars, which itself has benefitted from re-releases to be fair.

Academy Awards: will likely become the most nominated Star Wars film since the original film.

 

Episode 15: Moral Victories

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Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast is back with another exciting episode. This week your favorite podcast discusses whether or not millennials are truly hypocritical when it comes to war, the possibility of a brokered convention for the GOP presidential nomination, the recent Paris Agreement on climate change and how excited they are that Star Wars is less than one week away.

In addition, Pat leads a discussion on sports that eventually meanders its way into a spirited discussion on Daily Fantasy Sports and whether or not they should be considered gambling.

Will Troy hijack another episode with an unrelated rant? Who is going to be the first member of the Podcast to see The Force Awakens? Will Donald Trump continue to defy the odds and win the Republican Presidential nomination?

For answers to these questions and more listen now! Or be different and Direct Download the episode.

Intro 0:00-3:50

Millennial Musings: War, Outsiders, and the Problem with Polls 3:55-14:25

Political Parrots: A GOP Brokered Convention: How it Could Happen 14:35-39:12

Pop Goes the Culture: The Force Finally Awakens 39:16-52:59

Sports Round Up: Daily Fantasy Sports Silliness 53:05-1:08:15

Outro/Where to Find Us 1:08:19-1:11:39

The “Agreeing Loudly” Office Pool Awakens

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Note: all of the following questions are worth 1 point, unless otherwise noted.

Which character says “I have a bad feeling about this”?

Bill – Finn

Jered – Han Solo

Pat – Rey

Troy – Finn

Who, if any, gets their arm cut off?

Bill – Kylo Ren

Jered – Han Solo

Pat – Luke Skywalker

Troy – Finn

How many planets do we see?

Bill – 5

Jered – 3

Pat – 7

Troy – 6

Do Han or Leia say, “I know”?

Bill – Han Solo

Jered – Leia Organa

Pat – Both

Troy – Neither

Rey Random, Rey Solo/Organa, or Rey Skywalker?

Bill – Rey (Skywalker)

Jered – Rey (Solo)

Pat – Anakin?

Troy – Rey (Organa)

How many lightsaber fights?

Bill – 3

Jered – 3

Pat – 4

Troy – 2

Where is Luke Skywalker?

Bill – in self-imposed exile

Jered – he is a member of the Knights of Ren

Pat – he is secretly training Jedi

Troy – in self-imposed exile

Which major character, if any, dies?

Bill – Han Solo

Jered – Han Solo

Pat – Chewbacca

Troy – no one

Predict the Rotten Tomatoes score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

Bill – 79%

Jered – 85%

Pat – 80%

Troy – 89%

Within 10% (1 point)

Within 5% (2 points)

Within 2% (3 points)

Predict the opening weekend domestic (North American market) box office take for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Bill – 225 million

Jered – 250 million

Pat – 210 million

Troy – 215 million

Within 50 million (1 point)

Within 25 million (2 points)

Within 10 million (3 points)

BONUS QUESTION: If there is one-what is the plot twist?

Worth 5 points (I’ve got a bad feeling about this…)

Bill – Rey is an exiled, partially trained Jedi

Jered – Darth Plagueis is pulling the strings 

Pat – Yoda as a Force Ghost shows up

Troy – Luke Skywalker is already dead and is a Force Ghost

 

Episode 13: Wrap it Up

RUBIO BUSH

This week Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast attempts to overcome the unlucky episode 13 with the return of Pat Meacham and the Rick Perry Memorial Bracket where the final match up between Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush will be decided once and for all.

Also Jered, Bill, Troy and Pat discuss possible solutions to the income and wealth inequality prevalent in America, introduce another fun-filled game focused on Star Wars, and enjoy the glory of another decent week in Minnesota sports excellence.

We should warn you that this week’s episode exceeds all reasonable time constraints. You might want to grab a snack before listening to this week’s episode. If Direct Download is more your thing, click here.

Intro 0:00-3:15

Millennial Musings: Job Tips from Generation X 3:20-11:15

Political Parrots: Brackets and Wealth Inequality 11:17-37:00

Pop Goes the Culture: Star Wars Predictions 37:11-1:00:25

Sports Round Up 1:00:40-1:12:20

News From the Front: Minneapolis Precinct 4 Update

Outro/Where to Find Us 1:16:51-1:19:00 

Episode 12: They Are Who We Thought They Were

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This week Pat misses the the podcast to participate in the 5th Annual Hunger Games.

Fortunately, Bill and Carson return in an effort to prevent another episode of long winded monologues and try to steer the ship toward productive discussion.

Unfortunately, Bill has a hot mic and Carson has a few monologues of his own, so the productive discussion will have to wait.

In the meantime, listen to the 4 musketeers of rants and rambling wax intellectual on the state of race relations in America, a bit of sci-fi inspired pop culture talk, and the usual nonsense about Minnesota sports.

Can 4 white guys discuss racial issues? Has Jered completely given up on the Minnesota Vikings? Will Bill’s rent ever go down?

Find out the answers to these questions and more by listening to this week’s episode now!

Big fan of the direct download? You can also download the episode here.

Intro 0:00-2:35

Millennial Musings: Spread Around the Socialism? 2:36-12:32

Political Parrots: Racial Tensions and the Police Problem 13:05-35:42

Pop Goes the Culture: The Future of Star Wars 36:09-49:43

Sports Round Up: The Fall of the Minnesota Vikings 49:45-59:34

News from the Front: Bill’s Rent is Too Damn High 59:40-1:03:19

Where to Find Us/Outro 1:03:28- 1:05:31 

Episode 11: Evil Exists

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Now that the 10th episode has come and gone, the agreeing loudly crew soldiers forth and tries to find meaning in the podcast’s continued existence.

This week Troy goes on a lengthy monologue of what he thinks the attacks in Paris mean for America’s foreign policy future and makes an ill-fated attempt at a Simpson segue. Jered pops the culture with a discussion on the popularity of video games among adults and what this means for the future of gaming. Pat bookends things with discussions on the top millennial brands and the ups and downs of the Minnesota sports scene.

Will Troy set the record for longest monologue in podcast history? Will Pat be able to stay awake long enough to make it through this week’s episode? Also, where the hell is Bill?

For answers to these questions and more listen this week’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast

Want to direct download it instead? Click here!

Intro 0:00-3:00

Millennial Musings: Top 200 Millennial Brands 3:05-7:50

Political Parrots: Paris and the Future of American Foreign Policy 8:00-30:10

Pop Goes the Culture: The Popularity of Video Games with Adults 30:15-47:00

Sports Round Up: Vikings and Wild Are Getting it Done 47:05-1:01:40

News From the Front: Live from New York 1:01:45-1:04:00

Where to Find Us/Outro 1:04:00-1:06:39

Episode 8: Everything’s Historic

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This week your host with the most, Jered “pumpkin carver” Weber returns from his week hiatus to help bring a little more optimism to the podcast. Bill, Pat and Troy celebrate by voting on the long awaited Rick Perry Memorial Bracket Final Four, sharing their thoughts about the final Star Wars trailer, and discussing an up-and-down week in Minnesota sports.

Also, Troy begins his campaign to make Jered the next official radio announcer for the Minnesota Vikings. Will he succeed? Find out by listening to this week’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast.

Or Direct Download this week’s episode by clicking here.

1:00-10:30: Intros and Millennial Musings
27:52-40:47: The Rick Perry Memorial Bracket Final Four
40:48-54:54: Pop Goes the Culture: Star Wars Trailer Nerdery
55:00-1:01:30: The Historic Nature of Small Town America/The Longest Sign Off Ever Read