Transcript – Modern Technology Watches – Episode 302 – Sneakers (1992)

The following is a human-made transcript of Episode 302 of the podcast Modern Technology Watches. The discussion has been lightly edited for readability without substantially altering the content; if you need a verbatim quote for reference purposes, please confirm it from the original audio.


GILA:

With luck I might even be able to crash the whole damn system, destroy all records of ownership. Think of it, Marty; no more rich people, no more poor people, everybody’s the same. Isn’t that what we said we always wanted?

ROB:

Cos, you haven’t gone crazy on me have you?

GILA:

Who else is going to change the world, Marty? Greenpeace?

(Opening theme music)

ROB:

Hey, Gila.

GILA:

Hey, Rob.

ROB:

How are you?

GILA:

I am quite well. How are you on this fine day?

ROB:

I am fine. In fact, I’m better than fine because this is episode 302 of Modern Technology Watches!

GILA:

302?

ROB:

Episode 302, season three episode two..

GILA:

My goodness, we are just marching forward through time, aren’t we?

ROB:

On this here podcast in which I, Rob Vincent,

GILA:

And I, Gila Drazen,

ROB:

Show one another movies from our combined collection that the other has not seen,

GILA:

As a married couple of film geeks, and we have quite the collection.

ROB:

We do. And I have something I wish to show you on this installment of this podcast what we have, it’s a movie that I’ve seen and that I enjoy, and that I don’t believe you’ve seen.

GILA:

Well, this is all very exciting.

ROB:

And so I am going to take off my headphones, or “cans” as we say in,

GILA & ROB:

“The biz,”

ROB:

And go over to our shelf and pick it up.

GILA:

Fantastic. I’m facing away from the shelf, so I have no idea what’s about to happen. I’m just going to keep talking. And I’m going to say that oh, my goodness, I’m glad we finally got to this point because there were a few false starts because our neighbors kept flushing the toilet and washing their hands which, good for them for both of those things, but it does make it difficult to record audio when there’s you know, water noises in the background… And Rob’s back.

ROB:

He is. And yeah, it’s a good thing that we have the magic of editing. So, like, nobody has to know that people kept flushing their toilet and spoiling our intro. Anyway.

GILA:

Yes.

ROB:

I have this for you.

GILA:

This is upside down, hold on… ooh!

ROB:

What have we got?

GILA:

Oh my, we have the Collector’s Edition of Sneakers.

ROB:

Yep. Collector’s Edition DVD. I have not upgraded this one to “blurry” disc yet. But what do you, what have you got there? What does it look like?

GILA:

Um, well, there are a lot of people in this movie that I like.

“From the Director of Field of Dreams, Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier and David Strathairn,”

Now can I tell you – and, I’m sorry, the tagline is, “We could tell you what it’s about. But then of course, we would have to kill you.” Now. I will tell you that for a very long time, I would mix up in my head, Hackers, Sneakers, and Sleepers.

ROB:

(laughs) See Hackers, which we watched on the previous season of this podcast,

GILA:

We certainly did.

ROB:

And Sneakers, they’re kind of intertwined in interesting ways, but we’ll go into that later. But what’s Sleepers?

GILA:

Sleepers is about four young men, who were incarcerated at a juvenile facility and assaulted by guards, who then as adults come together, and one of them has killed one of the guards and one of them is his defense attorney.

ROB:

So this this was like a Disney animated feature.

GILA:

Yeah, absolutely. Very singy, very dancey. Very, very upbeat and happy.

ROB:

(laughing) Okay.

GILA:

No, it’s really rough.

ROB:

Well, check out the back of there and see what we’ve got.

GILA:

“A brilliant caper with a perfect blend of comedy action and suspense, says ABC.”

ROB:

Sounds good.

GILA:

“Robert Redford leads an all-star cast in one of the most satisfying suspense films. Computer expert Martin Bishop heads a team of renegade hackers, including a former CIA employee, a gadgets wizard, a young genius and a blind soundman…”

Well, that explains why David Strathairn’s doing that thing with his eyes on the front cover, I don’t like that at all.

“…who are routinely hired to test security systems. But Bishop’s past comes back to haunt him when government agents blackmail the ‘sneakers’ into carrying out a covert operation, tracking down an elusive black box. Along with his former girlfriend, Bishop’s team retrieves the box and makes a stunning discovery: the device can break into any computer system in the world. With factions from all sides willing to kill for the powerful box, Bishop and his team embark on their most dangerous assignment ever, in this exhilarating high-tech caper from Phil Alden Robinson.”

Well, this sounds like a fun romp the whole family will enjoy.

ROB:

It does. I mean, I knew I had this one in the hopper. I thought I would bring it up to now because, as you know, we just recently lost Mr. Sidney Poitier and I thought this might be a little fitting tribute. So you know, just be warned while you’re watching this movie, you’re not allowed to dislike his performance in it, because that would be insensitive.

GILA:

Oh, no, absolutely. Clearly, that’s not allowed. Although for what it’s worth, this was not one of the things that kept coming up in the hagiographies after he died.

ROB:

More’s the pity.

GILA:

You know, we got a lot of, like, Lilies of the Field, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and not so much Sneakers.

ROB:

(laughing) So.

GILA:

Yes.

ROB:

What do you say we take this digital versatile disc here, put it in our viewing device, play some music for our dear listeners,

GILA:

I like this plan.

ROB:

And then come back and talk about 1992’s Sneakers.

GILA:

I don’t have any sneakers from 1992. My feet, I mean, were basically the same size as they are now. But I don’t think I have any sneakers from 1992.

ROB:

1992’s Sneakers.

GILA:

Let’s do this.

ROB:

Let’s sneak.

(Interstitial music fades in, and fades back out.)

ROB:

Hey, Gila.

GILA:

Hey, Rob.

ROB:

Are we back?

GILA:

We are back.

ROB:

And we have just watched 1992’s Sneakers.

GILA:

We have, in fact, watched 1992’s Sneakers which… I said to you as soon as the movie ended, I liked it a lot more than I thought I was going to.

ROB:

I thought you might, I thought you might be a little dubious, and I thought you might be pleasantly surprised. And I’m glad that turned out to be the case.

GILA:

You were correct on both counts. very pleasantly surprised. You know, there were a few questions I still have and a few things that I thought were interesting that of course I want to discuss with you. But on the whole. I enjoyed myself.

ROB:

So this was a more positive cinematic experience for you than, say, Hackers.

GILA:

Yeah. And I think I figured out why.

ROB:

Tell me why.

GILA:

This is a movie for grownups.

ROB:

(laughs) Wow, the shade on Hackers will never end.

GILA:

It won’t. But the thing is that, like, this was a movie that was like, “okay, we’re going to tell you a story.”

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

“And these people have skills, and these people have abilities, and we’re just going to put you in the story. We’re not going to spend some time saying, ‘hey, aren’t they quirky and fun?’ We’re just going to do it.”

ROB:

But they were kind of quirky and fun.

GILA:

They were definitely quirky and fun. But you know, in Hackers that was kind of like, “we’re going to point out how quirky and fun these people are. Aren’t they quirky and fun? Now we’re going to tell a story about them!”

ROB:

(laughs)

GILA:

And this time, it was just like, “okay, here are these people. Enjoy!”

ROB:

Interesting.

GILA:

I think the world building was better. I think the filmcraft was better, but this was also not, like, wasn’t… Hackers was the first project for a lot of those people, right?

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

A lot of first time actors. I think a first time director, and this was a much more experienced group of people, and it showed.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

On every level, every single one.

ROB:

I mean, pretty much all the main cast were, like, your Oscar winners or nominees, a distinguished batch of actors.

GILA:

Absolutely. And you could tell. And again, you know, I listened back to our Hackers episode recently. And I know I said, I would not have looked at Angelina Jolie in this movie and said “she’s gonna win an Oscar in a couple of years.”

ROB:

(laughs)

GILA:

Because, no. But this is a high caliber cast.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

Having fun, and yeah, I think everybody who was in that movie was at least nominated for an Oscar.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

The main cast, all of them. Even Dan Aykroyd

ROB:

Even Dan Aykroyd. (laughs) There’s no “even” about Dan Aykroyd.

GILA:

No, I mean-

ROB:

Dan Aykroyd is awesome.

GILA:

Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix,

ROB:

I mean, Sidney Poitier.

GILA:

Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford, Mary McDonald, McDorman, McDougal, Mc… what’s her name?

ROB:

(laughs) Mary McDonnell.

GILA:

Thank you. Yes, her. David Strathairn won an Oscar. Okay. He might have been the exception at that time. He’s won an Oscar since, but I don’t know if he had been nominated at that point.

ROB:

We’ll check when we start clicking around wikis.

GILA:

Okay.

ROB:

Wicking around clickies?

GILA:

There were a couple of really sour notes that we’re going to need to talk about. But on the whole, I quite enjoyed it.

ROB:

I am glad. I can tell you a little bit about me and this movie.

GILA:

Would you please?

ROB:

Funnily enough, there is a bit of a hacker story behind it. I didn’t see it in theaters. I saw it on Pay-Per-View. Back in the days when I had access to Pay-Per-View, due to tinkering and not due to paying for the Pay-Per-View.

GILA:

You had an unscrambler?

ROB:

I didn’t have an unscrambler, I had just had a particular technical situation which I managed to tweak. (laughs) Maybe I’ll go into a little detail later. But suffice it to say there was a time in the early 90s when I had hacked out free Pay-Per-View for my household. I think, 1992, the statute of limitations has well and truly gone past on that. But that was something that I had done as an adolescent who was curious about how things worked and figured out a little something about a little something. And so yeah, due to hacking, I was able to watch Sneakers. And analog Pay-Per-View, back in those days, the channel would broadcast the movie over and over. So I saw it many times and loved it each time. Yeah, it was it was one of those early hacker movies, there was, like, very few hacker movies at that point. Certainly very few that were kind of aimed at the mainstream like this. You don’t have to be a nerd, like… The movie Hackers, if you’re watching it as a member of the hacker community, there’s a lot of like, little moments to punch the air or whatever, but if you aren’t into that culture, there’s a lot of stuff that will just bore you, or seem tedious, or other things that you seemed in our Hackers episode. This is like a functional movie for people who don’t know the tech.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

But like, a lot of the tech stuff – and there’s some, like, nonsensical magic in there – but a lot of the tech details in this movie ring true. They had professional security consultants on this film. They still bent reality a bit to tell their story, but it was fun.

GILA:

I mean, one thing I was thinking about when you’re talking about the difference between Hackers and Sneakers kind of made me think of Borat.

ROB:

Borat.

GILA:

Borat.

ROB:

How so?

GILA:

Borat was funny on its face. Borat is funnier when you know that Sacha Baron Cohen is speaking perfect Hebrew.

ROB:

(laughs) Yeah.

GILA:

So even if you don’t get all of the tech stuff, there’s still a lot to get in this movie and a lot to enjoy, as opposed to Hackers. Here it is, you ready?

ROB:

Go for it.

GILA:

Sneakers was a general audience thing. And Hackers is very much “we’re making this for this specific group of people.”

ROB:

Yeah, I can dig that.

GILA:

Hackers is not an inclusive film.

ROB:

Hmm, yeah, I could see where you’re coming from there. (laughs)

GILA:

It’s because I’m one who would not have pictured myself in that subculture, certainly at that time.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

Not an inclusive picture.

ROB:

Talking of that time, this movie came out in 1992, which was three years before Hackers.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

As you said, it was made for grownups, it was of a type, it was sort of an action, drama, comedy, spy film, there have been a bunch of films like that made. This one just happens to be really hacker-flavored and the main characters are a bunch of hackers with various skills who get together and hack.

GILA:

So much fun! This was fun.

ROB:

It was a fun ride.

GILA:

Definitely was, enjoyed a lot of it. And having learned a lot of what I’ve learned in the past few years, it was fun to see what everybody’s particular skill set was.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

Um… Whistler.

ROB:

Yes, Whistler. And we will definitely get to that as we start picking these characters apart. But as a whole, I would say the cast are kind of a fun portrayal of, like, if you go to a hangout with a bunch of hackers, as you have been,

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

As I have been. You can, if you look around, you can find certain archetypes that I think are well portrayed in this movie.

GILA:

Oh, yeah. 100%. It is fun. It was well done. And speaking as a token woman, in certain circumstances, it was nice to see the token woman actually have things to do.

ROB:

(laughing) Token woman representation.

GILA:

Token woman representation!

ROB:

You are never a token, you are half of this podcast.

GILA:

Thank you, but you know, when there are like, five guys and me.

ROB:

I mean, you don’t eat the burgers there.

GILA:

No, I do not.

ROB:

Shall we..?

GILA:

Wherever you want to go, let’s go.

ROB:

Let’s go. Okay. Let’s look at the cast section. I think this will be fun to do from the bottom up. Of course, we are on the Wikipedia article for Sneakers (1992 film). And at the bottom of the cast section there is James Earl Jones as NSA agent Bernard Abbott.

GILA:

It was such a kick to see him. I was not expecting to see him. I don’t, like… we heard the voice before, I don’t know why I didn’t think about it. But, you know, at a certain point, everybody in a ’90s movie who you assume was putting their voice through some sort of, like, modifier is going to sound like James Earl Jones. The fact that it was James Earl Jones was great. And it also sort of reminded me of when he played the chief on Mathnet.

ROB:

(laughs) Yes. You had a visible reaction when when he popped up. It was cute.

GILA:

I enjoy James Earl Jones.

ROB:

Who the heck doesn’t?

GILA:

There is an episode of The Big Bang Theory, I’m sorry to tell you, where Sheldon Cooper winds up hanging out with James Earl Jones and they run around LA pranking people. They ding-dong-ditch Carrie Fisher. They go to the sauna. It’s kind of, it’s fun. It’s funny.

ROB:

The Big Bang Theory.

GILA:

The Big Bang Theory.

ROB:

Was funny. You sure?

GILA:

Stopped clocks, and all of that?

ROB:

(laughs) I suppose so.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

We have Lee Garlington as Dr. Elena Rhyzkov.

GILA:

Why do I know her? For a second she sounded like Jennifer Coolidge.

ROB:

Let’s see… she’s been in, she’s guest-starred in a bunch of things, a bunch of ’90s TV –

GILA:

She’s in the book!

ROB:

West Wing, Seventh Heaven, CSI, Judging Amy, Will & Grace, Matlock, LA Law, Quantum Leap, Home Improvement, Roseanne, Get a Life, Two and a Half Men, Lie To Me. She was Rose’s daughter on The Golden Girls. She was the mistress of Joey Tribbiani’s father on Friends.

GILA:

There you go! Thank you.

ROB:

Jobbing actor, it looks like.

GILA:

Yeah. No, she’s in the book, which is why I was yelling. She was in the book, the Hey! It’s That Guy! book, which has been,

ROB:

So often invoked on this program.

GILA:

Indeed.

ROB:

Donal Logue as Dr. Gunter Janek.

GILA:

And I looked at you and I said, Didn’t you recognize him?

ROB:

(laughs) And I did not. Donal Logue from The Tao of Steve.

GILA:

The Tao of Steve!

ROB:

Discussed in season one of this program.

GILA:

Yes! Who also just keeps popping up in places.

ROB:

Yes.

GILA:

He was in What We Do in the Shadows in the third season.

ROB:

Sneakers was Donal Logue’s first film, apparently.

GILA:

Wow.

ROB:

And he looks very different in this film from how he looks in everything else I’ve seen him in. You know, he’s clean shaven and has long hair in this movie. And also you only see him from far away really, and he’s in the film for, like, a hot second.

GILA:

You’ve never seen Jerry Maguire.

ROB:

I’ve never seen Jerry Maguire.

GILA:

He’s in Jerry Maguire.

ROB:

I have a couple of VHS tapes of Jerry Maguire that I keep meaning to send to Everything is Terrible because they collect VHS copies of Jerry Maguire.

GILA:

Yeah, he’s in Jerry Maguire for like, a minute.

ROB:

Does he look like this?

GILA:

He looks more like this than he does Tao of Steve.

ROB:

Okay. He plays a brilliant mathematician who invents this codebreaker device.

GILA:

Brilliant mathematician.

ROB:

Yes, brilliant mathematician Donal Logue.

GILA:

Although I was annoyed that they kept pronouncing his last name “Jannick.” Because that doesn’t look like it should be pronounced that way.

ROB:

No.

GILA:

It’s probably like “Yanneck” or something.

ROB:

No. And I’ve also seen it thrown around that Lee Garlington’s character should not be named “Rhyzkov” because, like, her name should be “Rhyzkova.”

GILA:

Yeah, because she’s a lady.

ROB:

Because she’s a lady, and that would be the feminine version of the surname. And, like, she fully has the accent and everything so she’s supposed to be from there and not, like, a third-generation immigrant or something.

GILA:

Exactly. But also, yeah, I thought she sounded like Jennifer Coolidge.

ROB:

(laughs) George Hearn, as Gregor Ivanovich

GILA:

That was George Hearn?

ROB:

That was George Hearn.

GILA:

Huh!

ROB:

Yeah. How would you describe George Hearn?

GILA:

George Hearn won a Tony for La Cage.

ROB:

Mm-hm. Big, big theater guy.

GILA:

Big big theater guy. What else have we seen George Hearn in?

ROB:

What have we seen him in… a bunch of television, Star Trek, Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote, Sneakers, Garfield and Friends. Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU,

GILA:

Who was he in SVU?

ROB:

He played Charles Southerland in an episode called “Repression.”

GILA:

Okay.

ROB:

And on stage, yeah, he was in La Cage, he was in Wicked, he’s been in Anne Frank, Sunset Boulevard, Meet me in St. Louis, Sweeney Todd, has a Cable Ace award for Sweeney Todd. (laughs)

GILA:

Well!

ROB:

Tony Award won for Sunset Boulevard. He was also nominated for Putting It Together. He was nominated for La Cage.

GILA:

I thought he won for La Cage?

ROB:

Yeah, he was nominated for La Cage in ’86. He won for La Cage in ’84.

GILA:

Interesting. How does that work?

ROB:

He won Best Performance by Leading Actor in a Musical in ’84, and he was nominated for Outstanding Performance of the Year for La Cage in ’86

GILA:

Huh.

ROB:

And didn’t win.

GILA:

Okay.

ROB:

Yeah, big theater dude, George Hearn.

GILA:

Big theater dude.

ROB:

And he was the (in mock Russian accent) Russian diplomat.

GILA:

(mock Russian accent) Cultural attache.

ROB:

Eddie Jones as Buddy Wallace.

GILA:

I’m sorry, who?

ROB:

Eddie Jones as Buddy Wallace.

GILA:

Right, I heard all of that. But who?

ROB:

He was one of the NSA officers or you know, quote-unquote, “NSA officers.”

GILA:

Oh!

ROB:

The one who wasn’t our next entry on the list.

GILA:

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Okay.

ROB:

So he was the older, uglier one.

GILA:

He was the older, uglier one. Do you know I what recognized him from?

ROB:

Mm?

GILA:

A League of Their Own.

ROB:

A League of Their Own. What was he in A League of Their Own?

GILA:

He’s Marla Hooch’s father in A League of Their Own.

ROB:

Well, all right.

GILA:

As in “I know my girl ain’t so pretty as these girls..”

ROB:

Yes! Dave Hooch in A League of Their Own.

GILA:

“Don’t make my little girl suffer just ’cause I messed up raisin’ her.”

ROB:

Oh, he was the mechanic in The Rocketeer!

GILA:

He was Marla Hooch’s dad in A League of Their Own! He was a bastard in this movie!

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

He was an utter bastard.

ROB:

He was a good dude in The Rocketeer.

GILA:

So would this be against type for him?

ROB:

(laughs) Maybe. And Timothy Busfield as Dick Gordon.

GILA:

Hee-hee!

ROB:

The other quote-unquote “NSA dude.”

GILA:

All right. Timothy Busfield.

ROB:

You squealed with glee when he turned up. Tell me about Timothy Busfield, like were you a big thirtysomething fan, or…?

GILA:

I’m not a big thirtysomething fan, because I was, you know, nine something when it came out, but-

GILA & ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

Maybe even younger than that. But, you know, I know this will not surprise you here, I’ve always been very attuned to the zeitgeist. And even though thirtysomething definitely came on after my bedtime, I knew about this show. I knew who the actors were. Timothy Busfield, in my mind is just like the epitome of the ’80s. And I know people would disagree with me and they’d say, it’s the guy with the long hair who died in a motorcycle accident on that show.

ROB:

Okay.

GILA:

Horton, Gary Horton, I think. (laughing)

ROB:

You know more about thirtysomething than me, so you’re gonna have to explain this.

GILA:

There was a… one of the characters died in a motorcycle accident. That’s all.

ROB:

Hm. Okay.

GILA:

And that actor’s just, like, prototypically ’80s. But, like, Timothy Busfield, no, there’s just something that… Timothy Busfield was like at the height of his powers at this point. I enjoy Timothy Busfield, even when he’s playing kind of a dick.

ROB:

He was in Field of Dreams, he was in Quiz Show, Allison Janney’s love interest on The West Wing.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

All right, Timothy Busfield. And his ginger mustache.

GILA:

And you know, he’s the good cop.

ROB:

Yeah. Okay.

GILA:

All right.

ROB:

Get ready for this one.

GILA:

Okay, I’m ready.

ROB:

Stephen Tobolowsky is Werner Brandes.

GILA:

(laughing)

ROB:

And again, you squealed with glee when he turned up.

GILA:

I.. how does one not?

ROB:

Absolutely, absolutely legit.

GILA:

Okay, so here’s a story. In 2001, I was a senior in college, and a couple of friends of mine and I had plans to go see a movie, after one of our friends had come back from her honeymoon. Like the second week of the semester, we had plans on Tuesday night, and we were not able to go because all the theaters in town were closed because it was September 11th and the theaters were closed. We were supposed to go see Wet Hot American Summer but the movie theaters were closed, we were not able to go. So instead, we went to Blockbuster. And we went back to our friend’s house, and we watched it there, we wound up watching Memento.

ROB:

I remember that film.

GILA:

My friend’s husband kept walking in and out of the room and shouting, “remember Sammy Jankis!” We didn’t know what that meant yet, because we hadn’t seen that part of the movie yet, but he’d just walk in, “remember Sammy Jankis,” and leave.

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

So every time I see Stephen Tobolowsky in anything I am tickled.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

Because I remember Sammy Jankis but also, (as Tobolowsky) “Needle-Nose Ned, Ned the Head, come on, buddy, Case Western High, how do you not remember?”

ROB:

(laughing) Mh-hm!

GILA:

Oh, no, he’s just such a charming, nerdy, lovable,

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

He just makes me happy.

ROB:

He elevates anything he’s doing a bit part in. And he actually wrote a piece for Slate on the 20th anniversary of this movie, just a little reminiscence of how much fun he had making it. I’ll send you the link later, and maybe put it in the show notes.

GILA:

Excellent.

ROB:

But yeah, who doesn’t love Ned the head, Ned Ryerson, Stephen Tobolowsky. Mary McDonnell as Liz Ogilvy.

GILA:

Mary McDonnell as Liz Ogilvy. She was there. I appreciate the fact that the member of the team who did the most social engineering was the woman. I thought that was nice.

ROB:

(laughing) Yeah,

GILA:

No, you know, it was nice to see her. Yeah.

ROB:

I will tell you, and this is a total spoiler but if you’re listening to this episode, you should have seen the movie anyway, or not care about spoilers, but I appreciate- you know, watching it now, something I never really thought about when I would see this as a kid but watching it now, I appreciate that she didn’t end up with Robert Redford. They were the exes, they had a past, her first scene is her telling him “we’re not getting back together. I don’t know why you’re here, but we’re not getting back together.” And I feel like a lot of other movies that had this configuration and it would have like, ended the movie with them kissing or something.

GILA:

Oh, absolutely.

ROB:

And in this they don’t. She’s just, like, “eh, whatever. This all happened. You know, I’m here with my friends. Whatever.”

GILA:

Yeah. No, that’s very, very true. Also, I will say that when we first see her, the fact that her hair just completely defies gravity.

ROB:

(laughs)

GILA:

Fantastic.

ROB:

Yes. Huge 1992 helpings of Aquanet.

GILA:

Utterly.

ROB:

River Phoenix as Carl Arbogast.

GILA:

(sighs) He died in what, 1993?

ROB:

He died about a year after this. This movie came out September 11th, 1992, and River Phoenix died on Halloween 1993. So this wasn’t his final film, he had some other stuff come out after this,

GILA:

But.. ugh.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

I guess that’s the other thing I really appreciated about this team was that everybody had their skills, and everybody had their abilities, and they were just like, “great, you’re here” and it wasn’t like “hey, he’s the kid.” It was like, he’s got skills. He’s got abilities.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

We appreciate him.

ROB:

Yeah, he wasn’t, like, the Wesley Crusher.

GILA:

Definitely not

ROB:

He wasn’t the the annoying kid genius that the adults were kind of tolerating.

GILA:

Yeah. He wasn’t Wesley Crusher, he wasn’t Scrappy Doo.

ROB:

No. He has his bits to do on all these jobs. And like, from the beginning, Martin Bishop, his boss is telling him, “yeah, good job.” And it’s not like, “oh, come on you kid you.” You know, there are a couple of little moments here and there, where he, like, wants to see the couple messing around on the video camera and they’re like, “eh, grow up,” but, you know, by and large, he’s a member of the team, he’s doing his thing. And River Phoenix plays him well in this.

GILA:

Absolutely.

ROB:

I don’t know what else River Phoenix was doing at this point in his life, professionally or chemically. He seemed kind of like nervous and tetchy throughout the whole thing, and I don’t know how much of that was direction and how much of that was just River Phoenix at this point in his life.

GILA:

I think probably more of the latter, honestly,

ROB:

What’s left to say about River Phoenix that hasn’t been said? He went too soon. But he was good in this.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

David Strathairn as Irwin “Whistler” Emory.

GILA:

All right, so David Strathairn I also know best from A League of Their Own.

ROB:

He was in League of Their Own? How many of these people were in League of Their Own?

GILA:

That’s it. Just two.

ROB:

People today might know him from the Bourne movies.

GILA:

He won an Oscar for Good Night, and Good Luck.

ROB:

Good Night, and Good Luck. Oh, yeah, he played Murrow.

GILA:

Look, I like David Strathairn.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

I have so many issues with this character.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

We paused it for a second, and we were about to restart it, and I said, “okay, we gotta let the magical blind guy do his magical blind thing.” But that’s it. The whole thing is “magical blind guy.” And, you know, it’s a very common portrayal of “you can’t see use your other senses are heightened.” I would be very curious to know, first of all, what reaction from blind people and the blind community was to that portrayal? I’d also be curious to see, like, what a blind actor could do in that role.

ROB:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s that’s definitely legit. I think if they were making this movie nowadays they would cast an actor who was blind, at least there’d be a chance they would. They should have. That role should be played by a member of the blind community.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

A lot of the hacker characters in this movie have inspiration from certain real-life members of the hacker community, a lot of the early hackers, and there were multiple phone phreaks back in the day who were blind.

GILA:

The thing that struck me immediately, knowing what I know about phone phreaking and the history of phone phreaking, is I’m wondering if Whistler was supposed to be a callback or sort of a reference to the idea of being able to whistle the correct tones you needed at 2600 hertz, for example?

ROB:

Mm-hm, yeah.

GILA:

To make the calls.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

So I was wondering if Whistler was based on Joybubbles?

ROB:

Mm-hm, yeah. The role is inspired by a bunch of real-life people, but it is a fictional character. And it is a fictional character who is blind and who was played by a sighted actor, and that’s not cool.

GILA:

A sighted actor who’s also busy, you know, stumbling around. And I told you, I looked at the cover when you handed me the disc, and I was like, oh, David Strathairn is playing a blind character. Oh, God, why is he doing that with his eyes?

ROB:

Yeah. And if you look up the cover to the film Sneakers, or the poster to the film Sneakers, it is this picture of all of them, like, looking through a tear in a piece of paper. And they’re, all their faces lined up in a row and they’re all kind of looking at the viewer. And I don’t know if it would have been weirder if… if the one who’s blind was also looking at the viewer, or if he wasn’t, so I don’t know what the right answer would have been there?

GILA:

I don’t know. I don’t know.

ROB:

Yeah. I think Strathairn did well with the role.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

I think the role didn’t serve him particularly well. I would say he’s maybe my least favorite character in in the main cast.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

And of course they had to, because this is ’90s Hollywood comedy, they had to have the “oh, you’re blind, so we’re gonna make you drive a car” scene. So while while he shown using his excellent hearing to help the team, and that’s like, his whole job is he hears things and then he hacks things and the “LOL, blindness” stuff wasn’t great.

GILA:

No, and it’s a shame because I like David Strathairn and I think he does a lot of good things. He did what he could with this character, but this character – there was more character to a lot of the characters than you would have thought, this I think walked the line of caricature in a way.

ROB:

Yeah…

Dan Aykroyd as Darrin “Mother” Roskow.

GILA:

Dan Aykroyd.

ROB:

Dan Aykroyd.

GILA:

Dan Aykroyd.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

We, I think it goes without saying, are a Ghostbusters household.

ROB:

Yeah. There is a toy that I bought recently and it’s still on the couch.

(Electronic beeping and motor noises become audible.)

I haven’t put it away anywhere, because we’ve just been playing with it, and if you can, uh…

(Toy noises intensify, and then shut off.)

It’s a toy PKE meter from Ghostbusters

GILA:

(laughing)

ROB:

And we’ve been taking turns just pointing it at one another and-

GILA:

Scanning each other.

ROB:

Scanning for ghosts. (laughing)

GILA:

The thing about Ghostbusters – sidetrack for a second, here – in the pilot of How I Met Your Mother Ted is talking to his children about how wonderful this woman is because she can quote obscure lines from Ghostbusters. And the obscure line from Ghostbusters that she quotes is: “Ray, if someone asks you if you’re a god, you say yes.” All right. That is not an obscure line from Ghostbusters.

ROB:

No, it is not.

GILA:

No, it is not.

ROB:

No. Obscure lines from Ghostbusters travel back and forth between us in this household often, I would say maybe daily. At least a few times a week.

GILA:

And they have since we met, to the point where when we were making our very first date I said, “how about this,” and you said…

ROB:

“I love this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it. Let’s do it.”

GILA:

And I responded by (laughing) “dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.”

ROB:

(laughing) To which I responded “the walls of the 53rd precinct are bleeding, and you get so many bonus points.”

GILA:

And now we’re married.

ROB:

And now we’re married. It can happen to you listener. (laughing) Memorize obscure-ass lines from your favorite cult movies, and you’ll find that someone.

GILA:

But yes, we love Dan Aykroyd. So, knowing – I didn’t know much about this movie, but knowing that he was in it?

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

That helped.

ROB:

Yeah, he’s another one. He’s just like such a reassuring and cuddly presence. And not just because he’s Ray from Ghostbusters but because he’s from Saturday Night Live and he’s from so many things we love.

GILA:

You wanna know a movie he made better?

ROB:

Hm?

GILA:

A truly terrible movie that he made better?

ROB:

I think there are several, but tell me this one.

GILA:

Crossroads.

ROB:

Oh my God, he was in Crossroads?

GILA:

He was Britney Spears’ dad in Crossroads.

ROB:

Jeepers creepers. He was in the movie Nothing But Trouble, which is a goddamn dumpster fire of a picture, and he is fun to watch in it.

GILA:

He’s fun to watch in everything. He’s fun to watch in Driving Miss Daisy, which is –

ROB:

(overlapping) I remember watching –

GILA:

– really not good.

ROB:

I liked Driving Miss Daisy, but yeah, he elevated that. I remember watching the ’90s live action Casper, the Friendly Ghost movie with, I think, Christina Ricci in it.

GILA:

Yep.

ROB:

And that was just a dreadful piece of shit but I was watching with my little sister, and he turns up for a brief cameo as Ray Stantz in his full Ghostbusters suit.

GILA:

I haven’t actually seen that movie.

ROB:

There’s a bit where the ghosts are haunting the house, and they keep trying to get people to fix the house haunting. You see this montage of people running out the front door terrified, and one of them is Aykroyd in his full Ghostbusters suit, who just runs out the front door and goes (as Aykroyd) “who you gonna call? …Someone else.” and runs away. (laughing)

GILA:

(laughing) Okay, that’s adorable.

ROB:

Yeah. But we love Dan Aykroyd so much.

GILA:

So very much.

ROB:

But also, like, he was in Ghostbusters and wrote Ghostbusters, one of the creators of Ghostbusters, and part of that was because, like, his family had this spiritualist history, and he was kind of into the occult and all that stuff so, like, he could create fiction and technobabble that was inspired by what’s considered the quote-unquote “real” stuff in those lines. And it’s been said that he played the conspiracy nut in this movie because he’s enough of a conspiracy nut in real life. And that’s also kind of a hacker archetype which one might encounter out in the wild, whenever there’s a bunch of hackers.

GILA:

But he could even make that seem charming.

ROB:

He did. Yeah. I always loved the line. And you know, about Eisenhower talking to the aliens, and he’s like, (as Aykroyd) “yeah, and Ike said, give us your technology and you can have all the cow lips you want.” (laughing) And he keeps getting paired up with Sidney Poitier’s character who’s all like business and he’s just like, “I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” It’s great.

Sidney Poitier as Donald Crease.

GILA:

That’s the thing about this being a movie for grownups.

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

You wouldn’t have had Sidney Poitier in Hackers!

ROB:

No, no, you’re right. But I mean, you put him in anything and all of a sudden there’s gravitas.

GILA:

Absolutely.

ROB:

The man was walking gravitas in human form.

GILA:

Yes.

ROB:

Yeah. That’s Mister Tibbs right there, that’s… (laughing)

GILA:

And that was another moment I thought was a callback at the end, when the guard was super racist.

ROB:

Yeah!

GILA:

And I was waiting for something like, “they call me Mister Tibbs!”

ROB:

And you got it.

GILA:

When he hit the guy with the side of the long gun. That was pretty impressive.

ROB:

And yeah, the acting that’s happening when you just see him give that look.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

He was brilliant, sorely missed, elevated everything he was in.

GILA:

Very much gravitas machine.

ROB:

And perfect to play the member of the team who was, like, ex CIA, still buttoned-down and practical and, you know, “we’re going to do this the right way,” and…

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

Yeah.

Ben Kingsley as Cosmo.

GILA:

(deadpan) …Uh-huh.

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

All right, so the kid who played young Cosmo,

ROB:

Someone called Jo Marr, apparently.

GILA:

Right, who at the time was “Jojo,” that was his first film credit. And I thought it was young David Paymer, and it wasn’t young David Paymer, it was Jojo Marr, who did not have a discernible accent. So… you know, it was never explained, at least to my satisfaction. What he did that he, like, faked his death, and did they ever go into that and I missed it?

ROB:

No, no, it’s just he was in jail. It was thought that he died in jail but really he got spirited away by criminals, and built up his empire from there.

GILA:

And somehow acquired some sort of accent.

ROB:

Some some sort of accent. Yes.

GILA:

It’s like –

ROB:

Let’s go with that.

GILA:

– Ben Kingsley, with a little ponytail, and, ehhh…

ROB:

Yeah, a lot of this movie kind of ages okay? One of the nineties-est things in this movie is a middle aged man with long hair pulled back in a ponytail in a business suit. Very well-known English actor who does not have an American accent naturally, and would you say he has one in this film?

GILA:

No!

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

No! We know there are a lot of British actors who can pull off a convincing American accent, which often involves lowering their voice a couple of octaves. Famous examples including Hugh Laurie and Eamonn Walker, but Ben Kingsley is not really among them. And I know that we’re supposed to just all adore Sir Ben Kingsley. But like… okay. He’s there.

ROB:

He is. I mean, he kind of does okay at the, like, jittery dork sort of thing but also like with flashes of menacing. That’s what you need in a business-suited villain in an early ’90s action film.

GILA:

I have a very hard time with like Ben Kingsley as criminal mastermind. It doesn’t really, it doesn’t equate for me.

ROB:

Yeah. I mean, just him, like, throwing back his head and shouting “MARRRTYYY!” in this accent that sounds like he’s been, I don’t know, dipped in the Thames and then thrown in Boston Harbor? (laughing)

GILA:

Like a tea bag?

ROB:

Yes! (laughing) Yeah, it didn’t work well at all from what was supposed to be – I don’t think they said in the movie where he was supposed to be from. But the younger version of him did not have the accent. The older version of him was muddling together.

GILA:

Very true.

ROB:

And some guy called Robert Redford as Marty Bishop/Martin Brice.

GILA:

I got such a kick out of him in this movie.

ROB:

Yeah!

GILA:

There are things that we watch. And I’m like, I think they’re having fun.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

I feel like he was having fun.

ROB:

Yeah!

GILA:

Fun!

ROB:

That’s kind of his thing, like, in whatever he’s in he’s always had that kind of laid back attitude. Like, whatever character he’s playing. He’s like, (ultra-mellow Robert Redford impression) “okay, this is what’s going on. All right. Okay, let’s see what happens here. Sure.” And so he basically has that one character that he usually plays, and he’s playing that character but a hacker in this movie.

GILA:

But he does it so well.

ROB:

And he does it so well, great in a lot of stuff, and I think he was pretty great in this.

GILA:

Absolutely. A bunch of people at the top of their game, at the height of their powers, playing.

ROB:

Yeah. Oh, and there was one other credit that you noticed, when we were watching the end credits of the movie, that you perked up at, that I didn’t catch.

GILA:

Oh, yes. Sleight-of-hand consultant Ricky Jay!

ROB:

Ricky Jay. And there was sleight-of-hand in this movie because Ben Kingsley’s character, one of his things is doing little magic tricks with his hands. It’s like a twitch.

GILA:

Yeah, I was thrown for a second, I was like, what sleight of hand did he have to- oh, right, the aspirin thing.

ROB:

The aspirin thing, and before that he did a coin trick.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

The younger version of him did the coin trick. Tell us about him.

GILA:

Ricky Jay.

ROB:

Ricky Jay.

GILA:

Ricky Jay was a magician. He had been a professional confidence man. And he became an actor, and he became a consultant. He was a magic and con consultant for the film industry. He was in a lot of David Mamet movies. He played the auctioneer in the movie Heartbreakers, which I talk about all the time, but we’ve never actually sat down and watched. He died a couple of years ago, and just by all accounts was lovely and fascinating. And his wife, I think, put some of his collections up for auction. There’s an article I was reading last year about, just, stuff that he was interested in, the breadth of his fascinations. Very exciting always for me to see Ricky Jay’s name go by.

ROB:

So we’re now at the part in the episode where your brother, who listens to the podcast, likes to tease us about which is the bit where we mention that we’ve taken a break for a while and come back to record, and we’re going to edit it together so seamlessly that you, the listener, will be none the wiser,

GILA:

None the wiser. You would think we’ve just been sitting here the whole time, but in fact, some time has elapsed!

ROB:

And that… is podcast movie magic. Movie podcast magic?

GILA:

Movie podcast movie magic.

ROB:

It’s magic basically, is what I’m saying. But, uh-

GILA:

Is it Strange Magic?

ROB:

– why, what’s strange about magic?

GILA:

I don’t know, I just really liked that song.

ROB:

It might be just mundane magic.

GILA:

The song “Strange Magic” makes me happy. I couldn’t explain to you, why but it does.

ROB:

Well…

GILA:

We’re doing great!

ROB:

…It’s a strange and magical song.

GILA:

(laughs)

ROB:

So I have here the plot from the Wikipedia article for Sneakers, the film.

GILA:

Okay.

ROB:

“In 1969, students Martin Brice and Cosmo are ‘sneakers’ who hack into computer networks to finance socialist organizations.”

GILA:

Okay, I have, like, three questions right off the bat.

ROB:

What questions do you have off the bat?

GILA:

Does Cosmo not have a last name?

ROB:

Apparently not. Not in the movie, not in the credit roll, I don’t think, um…

GILA:

How is it that every other movie, we’ve gotten, like, there’s been bonus information in Wiki from, like, novelizations or other fan ephemera that has helped fill in the gaps, but THIS we don’t know?

ROB:

I don’t know. But I do have the novelization of this movie up on my shelf.

GILA:

Of course you do.

ROB:

(laughs) I recall it being okay as these t hings go.

GILA:

Okay. Did he have a last name in that?

ROB:

I don’t remember.

GILA:

Okay. We’re gonna have to look.

ROB:

We could look it up later. And this is another, like, this is Kramer from Seinfeld. Because, like, is “Cosmo” his first name or his last name?

GILA:

I don’t know. Well, “Cosmo” was Kramer’s first name.

ROB:

Yeah, “Cosmo” was Kramer’s first name, but is “Cosmo” Cosmo’s first name from Sneakers? Is he, like, Cosmo Smith? Or is he, like, Gerald Cosmo?

GILA:

No, I’m assuming it’s like “well, well, well, it’s Cosmo Brown.”

ROB:

(laughs) Meanest hacker in the whole damn town?

GILA:

“Well, well, well, it’s Cosmo Brown! …Oh.”

ROB:

(laughs)

“When Martin leaves for a pizza, Cosmo gets arrested forcing Martin to become a fugitive.”

GILA:

Wait, I had other questions, though.

ROB:

What are your other questions?

GILA:

So, Sneakers?

ROB:

Sneakers?

GILA:

Is that a term that we use? Or is that, like, made up for this?

ROB:

Funnily enough, someone wikilinked this to the article for “Sneakers (computer security),” but I don’t believe that’s a term that existed, I think that’s something people say now after this movie. Because if you do this kind of penetration testing, this kind of work, people will go “oh, like in Sneakers, the movie.” So I think it might be a neologism that this movie coined, but I would be open to being corrected on this fact.

GILA:

Okay. I mean, I think the other thing is that they use the verb “sneak” by itself.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

Like, “oh, we’re gonna sneak this organization, we’re gonna sneak this office.”

ROB:

Yes. “We’re going to do a sneak.”

GILA:

“We’re going to do a sneak,” and it’s not used with anything else. It’s not like, “sneak around,” it’s not “sneak up on.” Sneak is not – that’s a word you can’t say too many times! – to “sneak” I think is not a word that gets used by itself.

ROB:

No, and I don’t think they call it that in the movie. There isn’t a sign on the door of their warehouse-type thing that’s like “the Sneakers” or, like, “Sneakers: The Place.” They don’t say at any point, “hi, we’re the Sneakers.”

GILA:

“Sneakers: the Lunchbox?”

ROB:

“Sneakers: the Flamethrower!”

GILA:

(laughs)

ROB:

But no, they just say “we’re gonna sneak, we’re gonna do a sneak,” but they never called themselves Sneakers. It’s just the title.

GILA:

Interesting. I wonder what other titles they had in mind.

ROB:

Maybe… Hackers?

GILA:

Interesting, but they don’t say “hack.”

ROB:

No, they – that’s very interesting, too! They don’t, actually… I don’t know if they use the term “hack” in this movie.

GILA:

They tend not to. Briefly in the opening montage vignette situation, like, when Martin and Cosmo were young college students they say it occasionally? It’s something that we’ve talked about a lot on the radio show we do – Off the Hook on WBAI 99.5 – is that “hacker” has gained an almost-exclusively negative connotation and we’re working to fight back against that. But I wonder if they had said, “oh, we’re hacking,” “oh we’re gonna hack into this system,” that it would lose the air of credibility and root-for-these-people-ness that you would require going into a big budget film with this cast.

ROB:

That is very interesting! Because yeah, too, they didn’t dress this up as, like, a hacker movie. I don’t know if there was a way to dress something up as a hacker movie yet in 1992. Most of what we think of as hacker movies from then or earlier, again, don’t really use the word “hacker.” They’re just like, some computer geek does something, like War Games or Tron or things like that.

GILA:

(mimicking dramatic keyboard noises) Tap, tap, tap, tap tap… I’m in!

ROB:

(laughs) Yeah, they don’t say “we’re hackers, we’re going to hack into this thing.” They just, they describe, in sort of generic terms, what they’re doing, like, “oh yeah, we’ll tap into this, we’ll break into that.” I wonder if that was a conscious decision, because by 1992 people were calling hackers Hackers. But I think if they shied away from using that word in this movie, because they wanted to make a movie for, as you say, grownups and sort of the general public, rather than trying to paint it up as like, the rebellious cyberpunk kind of thing. Instead, they stealth it under like, it’s a heist movie. It’s an adventure movie. It’s your standard sort of PG-13 movie full of distinguished actors doing cool stuff.

But I think there’s also something to be said for the fact that this really “hacker” in general and also what they do in this movie, it covers so much more because like, when Joe Q. Public hears “hacker,” what they see is, you know, kid in basement in gaming chair with, like, Cheetos.

(laughs) Yeah. And wearing a balaclava while typing.

GILA:

Exactly. And for this to be- no, there are so many different things that you can do. There are so many pieces of the – oh my God, I’m such a nerd (laughs) – so many pieces of the infosec puzzle, if you will, and everybody’s got their – and I know we’re jumping ahead – everybody’s got their own thing.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

Right? So you’ve got these abilities that everybody has, these skill sets that enable you to see build, understand, work in these ways. And we should probably get to the introductory sequence, because we need to, because we’re talking around it so often. (laughs)

ROB:

(laughs) Kind of, yeah. Also just a little shout out to the people who play the young Cosmo and Martin, the guy who plays young Martin, whose name I’ve already forgotten since so long ago when we recorded the cast section, looks so much like younger Robert Redford. It was freaky, like, I thought it was him and they had just given him the Hollywood face-lift with the scotch tape around the back of his head and younged him up.

GILA:

No, you can’t young Robert Redford up that much. It’s not possible. The guy who played young Cosmo, I was convinced that it was David Paymer, which is only weird because David Paymer was not that young when they made this movie. David Paymer was already an adult. It was not David Paymer, but oh my God, they could be twins!

ROB:

No, it was Jojo Marr.

GILA:

It was Jojo Marr, who now just goes by “Jo.”

ROB:

“In present-day San Francisco, Martin, now called Martin Bishop, heads a security specialists team undertaking penetration testing.”

And that is what they call this sort of work in the real world. You’re testing, you’re-

GILA:

You’re attempting to penetrate their systems.

ROB:

Yes.

GILA:

In a way, you want to figure out the way that their systems could be messed up. But they’ve asked you to do it.

ROB:

Absolutely.

GILA:

So you can find the ways that somebody could get in and do it.

ROB:

And I do like the way they do in this introductory sequence, where they show the sort of heist-in-progress that they’re doing. They show that everyone’s got their little jobs. You know, this guy goes here, this guy goes there, they’re bickering over the radio and everything. And if you’re coming to this movie, not knowing anything about anything, you think, okay, they’re bank robbers?

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

And then he gets a big briefcase full of money, brings it upstairs and brings it to a bunch of suits at the bank and starts describing how they got in and, “but first, who’s got my check?” which very, very artfully, I think, paints a picture of okay, this is what these guys are doing. This is how they do it. This is their life. And so it’s very compact, and it’s a little bit of heist-movie coolness, right in the beginning.

GILA:

Absolutely. It looks like these guys are doing something bad! And, you know, you want to be on the side of Robert Redford, and Dan Aykroyd, and David Strathairn, and River Phoenix, and Sidney Poitier for God’s sake.

ROB:

Absolutely.

GILA:

So you’re like, “I can’t root against these guys! I hope they’re not the villains,” and you know what? They’re not!

ROB:

They’re not!

GILA:

Also fun fact. The bank teller with whom he closed the account is an actor named Denise Y. Dowse.

ROB:

Denise Y. Dowse.

GILA:

Yes.

ROB:

Y not Dowse?

GILA:

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know what the Y stands for, but best known in many circles – including the circle atop my shoulders – as Mrs. Teasley, who is the vice principal of West Beverly Hills High School on Beverly Hills, 90210. All right, carry on.

ROB:

Good bloody heavens!

GILA & ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

That may be one of my new favorite statements I’ve ever said.

ROB:

I dig that.

GILA:

“In some circles, including the circle on top of my shoulders.”

ROB:

That was very good.

GILA:

Thank you. I mean, maybe it’s more of an oval, really, but…

ROB:

(laughs) It’s an oblate spheroid, I think.

GILA:

(laughs) Yes, that.

ROB:

“The team includes Donald Crease, a former CIA officer and family man, Darren ‘Mother’ Roskow, a conspiracy theorist and electronics technician; Carl Arbogast, a young hacking genius; and Irwin ‘Whistler’ Emery, a blind phone phreak.”

So here we’re getting the full names of characters that we don’t really get throughout the movie, although I think they do say them on screen at one point.

GILA:

They do.

ROB:

That comes later.

“After performing their services for a bank, Martin is approached by NSA officers Dick Gordon and Buddy Wallace, He is asked to recover a ‘black box’ from mathematician Dr. Gunter Janek, developed under the name ‘Setec Astronomy’ supposedly for the Russian government. Martin is hesitant, but agrees when the agents reveal that they are aware of his true identity and offer to clear his past in exchange.”

And the bit of this that always interests me is when he goes to the rest of the group with this, and it’s evident they didn’t know about his past, and they’re all pissed that he’s been holding this information back from them. They start bickering about it a little and he’s like, “oh yeah, why did you leave the CIA” and this and that, and they don’t know the skeletons in each other’s closet.

GILA:

They don’t. The thing I thought was interesting was that they call him “Bish.”

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

They don’t call him “Marty.”

ROB:

Nope.

GILA:

They don’t call him “Martin.”

ROB:

Mm-mm.

GILA:

They call him “Bish.”

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

And that’s interesting, because that’s not even his real last name.

ROB:

Right. But if they were calling him “Bishop” the whole time, and you know, “Bish,” for short, that makes sense.

GILA:

No, absolutely. But what I’m saying is, like, do you think that’s the nickname he chose? Like, “hi, I’m Martin Bishop, call me Bish?”

ROB:

(laughs) It feels in the movie like a nickname they would have given him, they’re very tight-knit.

GILA:

No, definitely. And I’m also curious where all the nicknames came from.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

“Mother?”

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

Do you think that’s like for motherboard, or mother lode or…?

ROB:

Or Mother 3, his favorite Super Nintendo video game.

GILA:

Or Mother, Jugs & Speed. I mean, there –

ROB:

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?

GILA:

Whistler’s Mother. Whoa!

ROB:

Oh, man! Okay, okay! You have just noticed something that I have not noticed in 30 years of watching this movie. Those of you playing the home game, you know, check that off your bingo card,

GILA:

What, “Gila discovers something new in a movie Rob’s seen a gazillion times?”

ROB:

(laughing) Yes! We need a home game.

GILA:

We do!

ROB:

But yeah, that is awesome. I had not realized that before!

GILA:

I was curious- they never really talked about how they assembled the team?

ROB:

No, no, there’s no backstories or flashbacks or anything like that.

GILA:

So I kind of wonder if at some point, Whistler and Mother were working together. Because we talked about Whistler being Whistler and why he would be Whistler.

ROB:

Right.

GILA:

Potentially.

ROB:

Right.

GILA:

We’re assuming given all the magical blind guy properties that they have, it only seems to make sense that –

ROB:

Yeah, referring to the real world early phone phreaks who were blind and could whistle perfect pitch.

GILA:

Exactly. So, you know, Whistler, Mother, that works.

ROB:

That does work. Then why is Sidney Poitier “Crease?”

GILA:

Because that’s his last name.

ROB:

Yes. (laughing) But why did the screenwriters give him the name “Crease,” is that significant at all? Like maybe it’s the crease in his forehead when he’s doing his look of Sidney Poitier disapproval,

GILA:

It could be the crease in his forehead, or it could be the crease in his pants which are ironed so sharply.

ROB:

That’s true.

GILA:

And he moves so cleanly!

ROB:

He spends the whole movie in a jacket and tie. Yeah, he’s the very buttoned-down dude.

GILA:

Yeah, so maybe that’s the crease?

ROB:

While Aykroyd is in, like, band t-shirts. Some of the t-shirts Aykroyd wears in this movie are River Phoenix’s band, which he had at the time or which he had had in the past, I don’t quite remember –

That’s wonderful, actually.

But that just seems a very Aykroyd thing to do, certainly, given the public persona Dan Aykroyd that we know. Not that he’s our pal or anything, though if you’re listening, Mr. Aykroyd, we’d love to be pals.

GILA:

(laughs) We definitely would.

ROB:

“With help from his former girlfriend, Liz, Martin and his team secure the box, which is disguised as a telephone answering machine.”

GILA:

Okay, so this is the thing, in that they all have these skills, right? We’ve got the phone guy, we’ve got the wires guy, and the maps guy, and the computers guy, and none of them is really the social engineer. And that’s why we need Liz. Because like, you can tell when they’re all together and they’re trying to, like, talk to the guy on the phone and get the answers out of him, it’s not working. None of them has the social engineering skills required to pull off a heist of this nature.

ROB:

Right. You see a touch of the other characters doing social engineering, I think… which one of them is talking to a security guard over the phone pretending to be the alarm company? Was that Whistler telling him “good job?”

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

Redford going out there and being charming.

GILA:

Yeah, I mean, if you can’t be charming when you’re Robert Redford, God help you. But…

ROB:

(laughs) Yeah. And the answering machine itself was built from a real answering machine, which is the Panasonic Auto-Logic Easa-Phone answering machine model KXT-1450, which you are now turning your head to look at over on a shelf where I have one because I tracked one down because of how much I love this movie.

GILA:

When they first pulled out the box, I said “wait a second!”

ROB:

Yeah, because I told you when I had gotten this thing, “oh, it’s in this movie I love where it’s the MacGuffin.” There are a few such things scattered around the house that I have in my collection and you just, you know, took it in stride because you’re so good at living with me. (laughing)

GILA:

I do my best here.

ROB:

I got this answering machine and there is a Raspberry Pi set up in it. That means that I do have this answering machine and you open it up and there’s a cool little computer board inside that does fun stuff. Anyway, yes, the answering machine.

GILA:

The answering machine.

ROB:

And I always love the scene where they’re spying on Dr. Janek in his office and trying to look around with their camera view from across the road and see where the black box is. They’re listening in on this conversation with him and his girlfriend, who tells him (mimicking the character’s Russian accent) “I leave message here on service but you do not call.” Meantime, someone else had been describing what was on the desk to Whistler. And he’s, like, yeah, computer pencils, answering machine, this and that. And so he realizes, why does he need an answering machine if he’s using an answering service?

GILA:

A fair question.

ROB:

Answering services were kind of old fashioned at the time of this movie, but richer people could still be found using them.

GILA:

Oh, very much. and also just the idea of “ugh, call my service.”

ROB:

Yes, “I have people working for me who handle such mundane things as taking phone calls.”

GILA:

“Call my service!”

ROB:

And now answering machines are ancient technology because we all have voicemail.

GILA:

Yes.

ROB:

This Wikipedia article also glosses over one of my favorite gags in the whole movie, which is when Martin is walking around inside the building and comes up to Janek’s door, and he was readying some lockpicks in his hand. But then he sees an electronic keypad lock on the door. Then on the radio in his ear, he says to the other guys, “anyone know how to defeat an electronic keypad?” And Crease is like “those things are impossible!” which is funny now.

GILA:

(laughs)

ROB:

And then Mother hands him something and goes “oh, yeah, try this. It was from a friend of mine in Desert Storm. Of course, he was on the other side.”

GILA:

(laughs)

ROB:

So you then see Robert Redford apparently listening to instructions, from Crease reading something out of this sheaf of papers. And so he’s like, “Uh-huh… uh-huh… yeah… uh-huh…” and it just goes on like that for a while. And he goes, “okay, okay, yeah.” And then you see him go, “well, I’ll try,” and then he just kicks the damn door in. And he goes, “it worked!” (laughing)

GILA:

That was a… this is a fun movie!

ROB:

It is a fun movie! That may be the best gag in it. And there are some good gags in this movie. And then there’s the bit where he’s talking to the girlfriend, and claiming to be a private investigator for the wife, which of course doesn’t exist. There’s a fun bit of business when they’re dictating to them things to say… yeah.

GILA:

Yeah. But that’s the thing I’m saying about, like, skill in social engineering, is because there’s a line between social engineering and fucking with your friend.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

And, like, “I want to hear my friend say stupid things” versus “this is the information we actually are trying to get out.”

ROB:

Yes.

“During their subsequent celebration party, Whistler, Mother and Carl investigate the box, finding it capable of breaking the encryption of nearly every computer system.”

GILA:

Wait, pause, back up.

ROB:

Pausing, backing up.

GILA:

Does this discuss the part where they’re talking about how they’re going to spend the money?

ROB:

No, it skips over that.

GILA:

I like that!

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

It’s so cute! Because it’s also just like any bunch of people. And I appreciated that about this, because especially when you think about Hackers, which was three years later, and it was like, “we’re not part of society, man! We’re doing our own thing, man!”

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

“Fuck the system, man!”

ROB:

(laughs) Listeners, I don’t know if you can hear this sneer in her voice, but I’m looking at it right now.

GILA:

(laughing) So for these guys to be like, “we’re doing this, and we’re just like anybody else.” This is like a bunch of coworkers who are like, “hey, if we win the lottery on the tickets we pooled, what are we gonna do?”

ROB:

Yeah, yeah, it is cute. And they’re all, like, palling around, they’re buddies, you know? And they think they’ve just hit it big because they think they’re getting paid a big pile of money for what they just did.

GILA:

(overlapping) They’re getting paid a big pile of money for what they just did.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

(whispering conspiratorially) They’re not!

ROB:

(laughs)

GILA:

So as Whistler and Mother and Carl are playing around with the box, Crease and Martin and Liz are playing Scrabble?

ROB:

Yeah, they’re playing Scrabble on a coffee table

GILA:

and talking about Setec Astronomy.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

Right? Is that it?

ROB:

Yep.

GILA:

Setec Astronomy? Because we’re trying to figure out, everybody’s trying to figure out what “Setec” stands for.

ROB:

Yeah, they’re coming up with things that “Setec” might be short for or whatever.

GILA:

So finally, they dump out the Scrabble board and start doing anagrams with the letters for “Setec Astronomy.”

ROB:

Yes.

GILA:

Okay.

ROB:

Then this is interspersed with cuts of Carl and Whistler, tweaking around with the box and realizing what it can do.

GILA:

Yeah. The thing I was thinking of as they’re busy anagramming “Setec Astronomy” to figure out what it means because it has nothing to do with astronomy and that’s what’s confusing.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

The revival of Saved By the Bell, on Peacock, which is- the second season is really, really, really good, like the second season is wonderful. And there’s a throwaway line in the beginning of the season where Mack Morris, who’s the son of Zack and Kelly, says to the main character, “when you first meet someone always anagram their name to see if you can figure out their secret identity.” So near the end of the season, they’re trying to figure out who somebody is, so she starts anagramming this kid’s name, and you see it. So as they’re doing that, I was like, oh, yeah, always anagram someone’s name to see if you can figure out any of the secrets because as their anagramming “Setec Astronomy,” what comes up? “Too many secrets.”

ROB:

Yeah, after after a few false starts, some of which are funny.

GILA:

Yes.

ROB:

They get to, like, “cootys rat semen,” (laughing)

GILA:

(laughing)

ROB:

A bunch of other stuff, but that’s the one I remember.

GILA:

Yeah, naturally.

ROB:

It was a nice call forward that you then realize when the opening credits were anagramming the stars names..

GILA:

Yes, yes. So, by the way, on Saved By the Bell, the character’s name was Gil Vatooley.

ROB:

And what was “Gil Vatooley” an anagram of?

GILA:

“I go to Valley.”

ROB:

Ah.

GILA:

He was a mole from their crosstown rival.

ROB:

Oh, okay. Should we put a spoiler warning for people watching Saved By the Bell? The reboot, revival, whatever?

GILA:

It’s been out now for a couple of months already. I feel like we’re probably past the –

ROB:

(overlapping) Okay, we’re probably past the statute of limitations?

GILA:

You know, if you haven’t seen it yet, whatever, I accidentally got spoiled on that, which…

ROB:

Okay, so I’m happy that you’re happy with this show that you watch. We talk about many shows that I watch and you don’t, so it’s only fair.

GILA:

But listeners, the second season of the Saved By the Bell reboot is really, really, really good.

ROB:

I will take your word for it.

GILA:

Thank you.

ROB:

Can we talk about the hacking effects when they’re using the box? Because this is 1992 they’re not doing things over the Net, they’re dialing directly into modems. So Carl has a little black book of modem numbers that would be impossible to break into like the Federal Reserve, the Federal Aviation Administration, things like that. So the effect they illustrate this with is them dialing numbers on the phone, putting the phone in the modem cradle, and then you see gibberish ANSI characters all over the screen. But then you touch the wire to the box. And all of a sudden the ANSI characters sort of unjumble-

GILA:

(overlapping) Dance around the screen, yeah.

ROB:

-Dance around the screen and unjumble because, like, each character – and this is a text mode screen – and the characters start randomly changing until staying on the right one, which is a different color, and it slowly, like, clears up the whole screen. And so then you can read, oh yes, you’re in the Federal Reserve. “Anyone want to shut down power to the Eastern Seaboard? Anyone want to crash a commuter airline?” And the hacking effect again, like I said in our Hackers episode when they were doing the 3D, whooshy, math-flying-around illustrations of hacking,

GILA:

I liked that.

ROB:

That was clever, and it was nice in a movie because showing what actual hacking would look like would just be dull text on a screen. And this movie managed to kind of keep to dull text on a screen, but still fancy it up for like Hollywood action movie hacking, and I love the effect. “Martin works out that ‘Setec Astronomy’ is an anagram of ‘too many secrets’ and issues a lockdown until they can deliver the box the next day.”

GILA:

Liz says “I’m leaving.” “No you’re not, you’re staying here.”

ROB:

Sidney Poitier being imposing.

GILA:

I wouldn’t say no.

ROB:

Me either.

“Martin hands the box to Gordon and Wallace but barely escapes being killed by them after Crease discovers that Janek was killed the night before.”

Which is funny because he discovered this by looking at a newspaper that’s folded up in his own car.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

And it’s just on the front page there. Didn’t he, at some point, buy this newspaper, and wouldn’t he have noticed then?

GILA:

Well, he may have had it delivered and just picked it up and thrown it in the front seat of his car without looking at it.

ROB:

Maybe.

GILA:

I don’t know.

ROB:

“His friend Gregor in the Russian consulate confirms that the officers were rogue agents and that Janek was working for the NSA.”

GILA:

So, Martin Bishop has just discovered that the work that he and his colleagues have done was for bad guys.

ROB:

Yep. Oops! So not only are they not getting their fat paycheck, people are getting killed.

GILA:

People are getting killed, and they’re not safe anymore ’cause these bad guys know where to find them.

ROB:

And they’ve already killed Donal Logue.

GILA:

And they’ve already killed Donal Logue.

ROB:

In his first movie, poor guy.

GILA:

I have a feeling he’s gonna be okay.

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

Call me crazy.

ROB:

And Gregor, who is a Russian diplomat-

GILA:

Mm-hm, cultural attache.

ROB:

Cultural attache.

“Before Gregor can elaborate further, fake FBI agents kill him and kidnap Martin, taking him to a remote location where he is reunited with Cosmo, who Martin thought had died in prison.”

GILA:

Which by the way, the fake agents who killed Gregor they take Martin’s gun to do it,

ROB:

And leave it at the scene.

GILA:

And leave it at the scene. The killer was wearing a glove, so the only fingerprints on the gun are going to be Martin’s, so it’s definitely gonna look like Martin did it?

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

They set him up.

ROB:

Yeah. They set him up, they throw him into a trunk, like you do, and they keep knocking him out over and over.

GILA:

Marla Hooch’s father keeps knocking him out over and over again.

ROB:

I love how early seasons of the show Archer handled this, because that show kind of delighted in taking spy movie, action movie tropes and being a bit cynical about them. Because, like, someone got knocked out on that show, and Archer was like, “that’s, like, super bad for you!”

GILA:

(laughs)

ROB:

Like, being more realistic about it, which they never talk about in movies because, movies, you knock someone out, and they’re just, oh, they wake up later with a headache.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

And no, being knocked out is basically hugely life threatening, and he might die. (laughs)

GILA:

Yeah. Comas are bad, kids.

ROB:

Hmm. You don’t recommend them?

GILA:

I can say with authority, I do not recommend them.

ROB:

(laughs) Alright.

GILA:

It’s been a while, but I think that’s an experience I don’t have to have again.

ROB:

Kids, don’t go into comas. (singing) “The more you know!”

GILA & ROB:

(laughing)

ROB:

And, of course, he sees Cosmo again, who is now Ben Kingsley.

GILA:

With a ponytail.

ROB:

With a ponytail. A ’90s executive ponytail.

GILA:

A thing they don’t explain is where he’s, how he got out of jail, and where he’s been.

ROB:

I mean, he spins Martin a story, and then Martin says “I don’t believe you,” and then Cosmo kind of acknowledges that it was all bullshit but, at the same time, they never go into it further.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

He tells the story and the wiki here says,

“while imprisoned Cosmo developed ties with organized crime, who recognized his talents and later installed him as their money launderer and paymaster.”

And this is what Cosmo tells Martin, and Martin’s like “I don’t buy it.” They never go into what actually happened, so that’s the only story we’re getting.

GILA:

Right. It was said that he died in prison, how, like… (annoyed grunt)

ROB:

Then it’s funny because during this conversation, they go off and sit on what looks like a weird circular bench, and that weird circular bench is actually a Cray supercomputer, which was built in this weird sort of shape where it’s a pillar in the middle and then this extruded round area around the bottom of it that just happens to be at the right height to be sort of a circular bench seat. And people sit on them like that, but you’re sitting on a squillion-dollar supercomputer.

GILA:

Naturally.

ROB:

(laughs)

GILA:

Like you do.

ROB:

And Cosmo’s office, which is huger than any warehouse, soundstage, whatever, is full of aquariums for some reason and has a lot of things that have blinkenlights in the walls. And the lights are always off.

GILA:

1992,

ROB:

1992,

GILA:

Interior design.

ROB:

Yes. Normally, aquariums are not things you want to keep near squillion-dollar computers, but…

GILA:

Definitely not. But, if you had spent time in prison, and you had spent time away from living things in that way, like I can understand wanting to have plants, wanting to have fish… Am I reading too much into this?

ROB:

They could have just given him a cactus.

GILA:

Cactus?

ROB:

Cactus.

GILA:

That would have been inside baseball.

ROB:

Yes. (laughs) “Cosmo plans to use Janek’s box to destabilize the world economy and offers Martin the chance to join him. Martin refuses, whereupon Cosmo uses the box to break into the FBI’s mainframe and connect Martin’s current identity with his former name. Cosmo has Martin knocked out,” again, “and taken back to the city.” So now we’ve established the bad guy who was his pal in the beginning. That’s a trope.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

But, you know, it’s Ben Kingsley, now speaking in some accent that does not exist.

GILA:

Does not exist, and that young Cosmo did not have.

ROB:

No he doesn’t sound anything like JoJo Siwa or… Jojo Rabbit?

GILA:

(laughs) Yes, Jojo Rabbit. That was the thing that annoyed me the most, Ben Kingsley was the thing that annoyed me the most about this movie.

ROB:

Celebrated beloved actor, international treasure Ben Kingsley.

GILA:

International treasure, Oscar winner, celebrated actor Ben Kingsley. Yeah, annoyed me to hell in this film.

ROB:

He was Gandhi and he was in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

GILA:

Yeah… meh. But can we talk about what a murderer’s row this was that the weak link was Ben Kingsley?

ROB:

(laughing) Well-put, yeah! Everyone in this movie was such an awesome actor that Ben Kingsley is sort of the guy trailing behind going “hey guys, wait up, I can act too!”

GILA:

Yeah. Yeah!

ROB:

According to Stephen Toblowsky’s piece that he wrote about this movie 20 years later, talking about his experience on it, apparently Ben Kingsley was the one that everyone was crowded around in the makeup trailer while he would regale everybody with stories about his career and so on because, of course! He’s Ben frickin’ Kingsley.

GILA:

Yeah! I mean, the thing was that, I don’t know if it was Ben Kingsley’s performance that annoyed me so much as just the character but, again, what a murderer’s row is that when Ben Kingsley is your weak link.

ROB:

And you know, you talk about the character, we’ve established the sneakers as this a bunch of characters who all have their own sort of nice little wants and motivations and, like you were saying, about how they want to spend their money. You learn a lot about these guys. And Cosmo, he’s basically bad because he’s bad.

GILA:

He’s just there.

ROB:

He’s not a well-painted character. All you know about him was that he’s Martin’s old friend, and they were hacker buddies once, and then he went to jail, and now he’s Evil Guy because he’s evil and he runs Evil Co where he does evil.

GILA:

And it’s hidden as a toy company.

ROB:

Yes, a toy company called Playtronic.

GILA:

We don’t know that yet.

ROB:

We don’t know that yet.

GILA:

All right, sorry, jumping ahead, sorry.

ROB:

“Martin, now a fugitive from the law again, relocates his team to Liz’s apartment.”

Because of course, if the law were looking for Martin Brice, and they found out he was Martin Bishop, why would they ever go to Martin Bishops known associate’s house to look for him? They never explained to any satisfaction why Liz’s apartment is apparently a safe place.

GILA:

Because they broke up.

ROB:

So the Feds looking for Martin Brice are gonna be like, “we have a possible lead here. It’s somebody he was in a relationship with and somebody who lives in the area, and, well, let’s not go to their house because apparently, they broke up and we don’t want to be awkward (laughs) and ask somebody about their ex.”

GILA:

Do the FBI come off well in this movie?

ROB:

(laughing) Not so much. But we’ll get to that.

“They contact NSA agent Abbott, who wants the box but cannot offer safety until it is in Martin’s possession.”

GILA:

(imitating James Earl Jones) “Do you have the item?”

ROB:

(laughs) No, I do not have the item Mufasa… Darth Vader, I mean… Akeem’s dad. I mean…

GILA:

Mathnet Chief.

ROB:

Mathnet Chief!

GILA:

Can we talk about-

ROB:

(cutting her off) Oh my God, he was the Mathnet Chief in this!

GILA:

Yeah!

ROB:

Mathnet is the NSA. It’s confirmed. It’s all canon. (laughs)

GILA:

Can we talk about that scene, though?

ROB:

The scene with the phone call?

GILA:

The scene with the phone call.

ROB:

Yes, yes.

GILA:

Where Whistler has like, what, triangulated the call across the world?

ROB:

Well, he’s bounced the call through different places which is a legitimate thing. You know, they Hollywood it up, but that is a way to hide where your phone call is coming from, but they illustrate it with chintzy 1992 graphics of the map and lines being traced across the map slowly, which is adorable, really.

GILA:

“They’re 15 seconds behind us! You got 15 seconds!”

ROB:

And then they hook up a device which is supposed to be a lie detector which detects stress in the speaker’s voice.

GILA:

(laughs)

ROB:

Which is totally magical technology, nothing like that exists.

GILA:

(overlapping) “He’s lying!!” (laughing)

ROB:

Yeah, “Bish, he’s lying, hang up! He’s lying, Bish!”

GILA:

Everybody’s yelling, “he’s lying! They’re gonna find you! They’re gonna trace the call! Hang up, hang up, hang up!”

ROB:

(laughing) Yeah.

GILA:

It’s so sublimely stupid.

ROB:

Yeah, but it’s FUN stupid.

GILA:

It’s FUN stupid!

ROB:

It’s fun check-your-brain-at-the-door action-movie stupid,

GILA:

Absolutely.

ROB:

It’s, you know, right along the lines of like, yeah, the hero never runs out of bullets when he’s shooting all the bad guys. What’s up with that?

GILA:

Yeah, how did Jack Bauer’s shoes never come untied and he never has to go to the bathroom?

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

I mean, same sort of thing.

ROB:

Well, you know why Jack Bauer never poops. Because nothing escapes Jack Bauer… (laughing)

GILA:

…I’m gonna go, now.

ROB:

You’re not Jack Bauer, then, are you? (more laughing, which eventually gives way to a deep sigh) I miss 24 jokes.

GILA:

I don’t. You know why I never watched 24?

ROB:

(laughing) Tell us why you never watched 24.

GILA:

I never watched 24 because the bad guys in the first season were the Drazen family.

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

And because of that, on principle, I never watched that show, ’cause no one in my family wanted to blow up the world.

ROB:

I have met your family, they’re lovely people.

“Whistler analyzes the sounds that Martin heard during his kidnapping, and is able to identify the geographic area where Martin was taken.”

GILA:

Okay, that’s kind of a fun bit.

ROB:

It is a fun bit. He’s got a synthesizer and he’s like, “what did this sound like? Did you hear this, did you hear that?”

GILA:

Like when they’re talking about “did you hear water? Did you hear whatever it was? Okay, it was a bridge. Okay, what kind of, did you hear?” And they’re able to, like, rule out bridges in the San Francisco area based on what he heard.

ROB:

Yeah, based on him hearing the car go over seams in the surface of the road.

GILA:

So again, the magical blind guy stuff is a lot.

ROB:

Of course, they use the great bit where he’s like, “and then I heard a cocktail party.”

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

And Whistler’s like, “oh, I know what he’s talking about.” And then they drive off the road at a certain spot and there’s a bunch of geese,

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

And, just, their fluttering around and commotion sound like a cocktail party.

GILA:

(imitating a goose) Honnnk.

ROB:

That was in another movie, and I can’t remember what other movie that was, but I’m sure someone’ll write to us.

“They research the building’s security systems and identify Werner Brandes, an employee whose office is next to Cosmo’s.”

Played by?

GILA:

Stephen Tobolowsky!

ROB:

Ned Ryerson!

GILA:

Sammy Jankis!

ROB:

Needlenose Ned!

GILA:

Ned the head!

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

“Case Western High, come on, buddy!”

ROB:

Who, as we said in the cast section, is a goddamn delight.

GILA:

“Don’t say you don’t remember me because I sure as heckfire remember you!”

ROB:

I just, I want to watch him in so many more movies.

GILA:

Mm-hm!

ROB:

He should be in every movie.

“They set Liz up on a fake computer date with Brandes to obtain his keycard and vocal recognition codes, which Martin and the other team members use to initiate the recovery of the box.”

GILA:

So there’s a vocal entry code, right? You’re trying to get in and you have to say hi, my name is Gila Drazen, my voice is my passport, verify me.

ROB:

Right. They finagle this by, first she passes his ID card out the window of his apartment to them, and she’s also wired for sound and tries to steer the conversation, and she has a piece of paper with the entire phrase that she needs and keeps crossing off words as they come up.

GILA:

They’re out at dim sum and she’s, like, trying to get him to say each of these words, they have to go on a second date so she can get – the whole thing is, I mean, he’s creepy.

ROB:

He’s so good at that. He seems like someone who would have been computer dating in 1992.

GILA:

Yeah, definite, like, weird, proto-incel vibes off this guy. I’m sorry –

ROB:

(overlapping) Weird, proto-incel, nerdy. That was the world of nerds at the time.

GILA:

– That was who was computer dating at the time, absolutely! And that’s why you don’t talk about, people didn’t talk about computer dating in the ’90s.

ROB:

Yeah, or when they talked about computer dating it was as a dismissive thing. Like, “oh, these poor saps have to be computer dating.”

GILA:

It’s like if you met somebody while computer dating, you had to, like, concoct a cover story so people didn’t know.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

Hey, guess what?

ROB:

Hey, what?

GILA:

We met online!

ROB:

We did! We met on a dating app.

GILA:

We met on a dating app.

ROB:

(laughs) And it worked.

GILA:

And now we’re married. (laughs)

ROB:

We are, so, yeah.

GILA:

They do work, and you don’t have to be embarrassed about it.

ROB:

And they’re also not weird anymore, like everyone has apps.

GILA:

That’s true. (laughs) “Y’all turned dating into Seamless!”

ROB:

(laughs) Yeah. And the bit with the sound, and this is something that applies to real life. A lot of banks and places like that now offer a service, where you can identify yourself over the phone and get access to your account information. And that is –

GILA:

(overlapping) That makes me extremely nervous.

ROB:

That is a bad idea. Because the method they use in this movie, although they’re doing it with tape, with audiotape in this movie, it works! And you can very easily do it with Audacity, which is the program we’re recording this podcast on, and which is free and anybody can run. And computers still are not smart enough to tell when words have been chopped up and sentence mixed into what you want. And so somebody like me, or you Gila, we have hours of audio of our voices online.

GILA:

Mm-hm!

ROB:

You know, we’ve been doing radio, we’ve been doing podcasts, anybody can chop through our body of work and put together whatever sounds and words they need to fool one of those systems into thinking they’re one of us!

GILA:

Yeah, and just to make it a little bit more complex, listeners, if you go back to Episode 109, “Some Like It Hot,” you will hear us with a guest panelist, my mother, and we have very similar voices.

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

So I’ve always been concerned about a system like that, because one or the other of us could pretend to be the other without thinking about it.

ROB:

Right. And you could, I’m willing to bet the two of you could fool a computer.

GILA:

We’ve fooled relatives.

ROB:

Yeah!

GILA:

Not on purpose, I would like to tell you, but…

ROB:

And that is why – and here’s an actual real-life security lesson for you, listeners – do not sign up for the things that let you just identify yourself with your voice over the phone. It is bad news, and this movie from 1992 explained why, so it’s bad news and has been for 30 years! Okay. (calming down, catching breath) Rant over.

GILA:

(laughs)

ROB:

“Brandes begins to suspect Liz during the date and brings her to Cosmo at his office. Nothing appears amiss and Cosmo lets Liz go, but when she comments on this being a computer date, Cosmo recognizes Martin’s handiwork and locks down the facility.”

GILA:

(as Cosmo) “Wait, you two got matched on a computer date?”

ROB:

Yeah.

GILA:

“That would never happen.”

ROB:

Yeah, and that’s a fun moment that Cosmo gets, and he doesn’t get very many fun moments in this movie.

GILA:

No, he does not.

ROB:

But the idea that, like, he’s enough of a geek to know that, like, no, a computer would never do this, match up this dork with this beautiful woman.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

“Martin is apprehended and Cosmo once again tries to convince him to join him.”

GILA:

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

ROB:

Mm-hm?

GILA:

Are we skipping the whole Martin-getting-the-box thing?

ROB:

We are, and that was a fun whole bit. Cosmo’s office, which the box is in, like, they’re sneaking into his fake toy-company facility, and the sensors in Cosmo’s office will set off the alarm if there’s even something that has a different temperature from the surrounding area.

GILA:

Right. So there’s heat sensors, there’s motion sensors, the heat sensors will pick up anything that is warmer than the air around it. And the motion sensors will pick up anything moving faster than two inches a minute.

ROB:

Yeah, something like that.

GILA:

Two inches a second?

ROB:

Some weird-

GILA:

It’s very slow.

ROB:

Some very slow speed. The gag is that they hack into the environmental systems to heat the room up to 98.6 degrees so that the sensors won’t sense Martin’s body

GILA:

Because either we could cover you in neoprene,

ROB:

Yeah, and suffocate, (laughs)

GILA:

Suffocate, or we could turn it up to 98.6.

ROB:

Yeah, make you the same temperature as the air, which doesn’t make actual scientific sense. Your body is 98.6 degrees, but your clothes aren’t. So he would have had to get naked, or they would have had to heat the room up to a little less than body temperature. But I guess Robert Redford wasn’t going to slowly shuffle across a room naked for this movie.

GILA:

Also, there’s those of us whose body temperature is not 98.6. Isn’t that most people, actually?

ROB:

Yeah, yeah.

“Martin is apprehended and Cosmo once again tries to convince him to join him. Martin refuses and instead turns over the box. The team escapes before Cosmo realizes that he is holding an empty duplicate.”

So he just gets an answering machine, and everyone else drives away in the Sneakermobile, celebrating once again. This skips over the bits with the (sarcastically) hi-larious blind driving! Which, you know… they did that. They did that, it went there. Crease and Mother were in the van with Whistler, and Cosmo’s goons find them but, like, Whistler manages to hide. And so they bring them out of the van and, over the radio, Martin has to coach Whistler on how to drive so he can drive the van over and pick them up,

GILA:

Right, ’cause they were going to come over and pick up Martin and Liz and Carl who are- and the box, who are on the roof of the building.

ROB:

And yes, the blind driving gag; eh, it is what it is, it’s not funny. But they did that. And I think “Scent of a Woman” might have done it better.

“Back at their own offices, Martin’s team is surrounded by Abbott and his agents. After Martin points out how important the secrecy of the box is to the NSA, who could use it to spy on other agencies. Abbott agrees to clear Martin’s record and grant the requests of the rest of the team.”

GILA:

It’s cute. So everything they had wanted before when they were talking about what they were going to do with that money, they get now because they realize they’ve got the upper hand in this moment.

ROB:

Yeah. And the NSA, I don’t think was in the news in the ’90s in the same way as it is now.

GILA:

No, I think if I had heard about the NSA in 1992, I would’ve been like, this is made up, this is a fake agency.

ROB:

Yeah, nowadays everyone pretty much knows the NSA as one of those creepy-ass agencies that want to spy on Americans, and they say that in this movie. They’re like “the Russians use different codes,” which is something Gregor said earlier.

GILA:

Mm-hm.

ROB:

The Russians use different codes and everything so the box doesn’t even work for them, so you can only use this to spy on Americans. But then the movie takes the sort of jingoistic tack that, “oh, yeah. The NSA just wants to spy on the other agencies of the government so they could do their job better.” And not “the NSA wants to spy on every American citizen,” which is, you know, sort of their thing.

GILA:

(laughing)

ROB:

In real life.

GILA:

Yeah.

ROB:

Yeah. Martin gets his name cleared, his record cleared,

GILA:

The Creases go on vacation.

ROB:

The Crease family goes on vacation to all these places. And he’s like, “Yeah, we always wanted to go to Europe. So we went tickets to here, tickets to there, tickets to Tahiti.” And James Earl Jones was like, (as Jones) “Tahiti’s not in Europe!” He goes “when you get the box, you can give us geography lessons. But right now this man goes to Tahiti.” Mother gets a Winnebago. Carl, he can ask for anything he wants and he asks for the phone number of the cute lady NSA agent who’s holding him at gunpoint,

GILA:

Okay, that’s not creepy at all.

ROB:

That’s not creepy at all. And she hears this and she’s like, “wait, you can have anything you want, and you want my phone number? Here it is, I’ll just give you my phone number.” …They’ll never get their spin off, now.

GILA:

I mean, also weird, but not terribly, because in 1992, she said, she gives him her phone number, she gives him the seven digits. And then at the end, she says Area code 415.

ROB:

Mm-hm.

GILA:

Now, I understand there may not have been that many area codes in the San Francisco area 1992. They didn’t really start overlaying area codes until the late ’90s. But that’s just interesting to me, because now if you’re gonna give somebody a number, you give them the 10 digit number End of story.

ROB:

That’s true. And as I remember it, she gives a phone number that could be real, like she doesn’t give them a 555.

GILA:

I don’t recall that. I don’t recall it being a 555 number. It can be a real number.

ROB:

So maybe it’s a real number. What Whistler wants is peace on Earth and goodwill toward man. To which agent Abbott is like (as Jones) “We’re the NSA, we don’t DO that!” And (laughing) he’s just, like, “try. Peace on earth and goodwill toward man.”

GILA:

“Okay, we’ll try.”

ROB:

(as Jones) “We’ll see what we can do.” “After Abbott and the agents leave with the box, Martin shows he has rendered the box useless by removing the main processor.” Of course, maybe the NSA just won’t notice and, like, they’ll leave Martin alone and the sequel to Sneakers isn’t them coming back and, like, shooting him in the middle of the night and taking the processor.

GILA:

Yeahhh.

ROB:

Yeah. We can pretend, this is movie-land.

GILA:

This is movie-land.

ROB:

“In a postscript, a news report describes the sudden bankruptcy of the Republican National Committee and the simultaneous receipt of large anonymous donations to Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the United Negro College Fund.”

GILA:

Which is a very nice envelope to what Cosmo and Martin were doing at the beginning.

ROB:

Yes.

GILA:

Which was moving money around to organizations of that nature.

ROB:

That’s the end, roll credits, that is 1992’s Sneakers!

GILA:

I liked it.

ROB:

You liked it?

GILA:

I did!

ROB:

I like it a lot, I love this movie. This is another one of those movies that like I recorded off of television. I bought it on a VHS, I bought it on a DVD, I still gotta upgrade to the blu-ray at some point but this is one of those movies that I need a copy of. It’s a delight. It was inspirational to a young hacker in his teens in the ’90s, and I enjoy the heck out of it.

GILA:

Absolutely. And to reiterate what you said before, that it didn’t end with Martin and Liz getting back together.

ROB:

No, no, and that’s very neat! Other movies would have had them kiss at the end.

GILA:

Like, walk off into the sunset together, laughing-

ROB:

(overlapping) Yeah, hand-in-hand.

GILA:

But we didn’t do that. And I definitely appreciate that.

ROB:

Yeah. It’s a happy ending which one might not have expected in a movie like this.

GILA:

Correct. I got a kick out of it. Thank you for sharing this with me.

ROB:

Thank you for sharing it with me. I think we have a solid two fireflies up.

GILA:

I would agree, my firefly is up.

ROB:

Thank you out there for sharing this with us!

GILA:

For sneaking along with us,

ROB:

For sneaking along with us on Modern Technology Watches. Gila?

GILA:

Rob?

ROB:

If people wanted to use technology to contact us in a modern way, how would they go about doing so?

GILA:

Well, if you wanted to contact us in the most modern of ways on the social-media platforms, you can find us on twitter.com at username @MTPodcastNet. You can tweet at us publicly, you can direct-message us privately, we would love to hear from you. You can email us at watches at modern.technology. You can also visit our website, modern.technology/contact will get you to our contact page and if you’re really feeling sporting, and you wanted to call us, you can call us at United States telephone number 1-929-399-8414. Leave us a voicemail! We’re not going to answer that, that’s a voicemail box. We’re not going to answer that phone, you can’t talk with us. But you could talk to us.

ROB:

(Russian accent) “Leave message here on service and we will not call back,” but we may play your message on a future edition of this program.

GILA:

Or we can address your comments on a future episode of this program.

ROB:

Mm-hm!

GILA:

So that’s, again, United States phone number 1-929-399-8414. If you’re feeling sporting, we would love to hear what you have to say not just to us, but about us. If you would be interested in leaving us a review on your podcatcher of choice, we would really appreciate that, and tell your friends about us. We’re pretty spiffy.

ROB:

So, for Modern Technology Watches, this has been Rob Vincent,

GILA:

And Gila Drazen,

ROB:

And we will catch you on the flipside.

GILA:

We’ll see you at the movies

(Ending theme music fades in)

ROB:

You’ve been listening to Episode 302 of Modern Technology Watches with Gila Drazen and Rob Vincent. Go to modern.technology on the web for more on this show, our other work, and our social media passport. Our music is “The Promise” by Torley Wong, released Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. Find more from Torley at torley.com. Thank you, Torley!

Content from wikipedia.org is used under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0. This podcast is released under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0, and is a production of Joyful Firefly, LLC. Email us at watches at modern.technology and if you like us, tell somebody!

(Ending theme music concludes)

GILA:

Has anyone done a hacker themed Radiohead parody? “I’m a phreak, I’m a weirdo?”

ROB:

(laughs) What about “Super Phreak?” “Phreak On a Leash?” There’s a lot of “freaks” in songs that you could spell with a “PH” and totally-

GILA:

It’s so true. I mean, there’s, whoo, we could do a whole phone-phreakin’ album.

ROB:

(laughing)

GILA:

Freakin’ phone-phreakin’ album!

ROB:

Nice.