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717: Audience of One

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

I know so many people who have films that they have watched over and over, and I have never really gotten that. I always feel like there are so many films that I haven't seen-- why would I watch one again? But we get into these conversations, and there always comes a moment where I'm asked, well, what is the film that you've seen the most? And then I have to admit, it's The Poseidon Adventure.

Which I know is not a good film. It's this '70s movie about an ocean liner that gets hit by a tsunami, flips upside down, and the passengers try to make their way to safety. It's part of an entire genre of films, disaster films, that have never gotten any respect. Nobody thinks of these films as art, but I loved it at the time when I saw it.

It felt big, and it felt important, and serious. And I remember it was very emotional. And the reason that I saw it so many times, that this is the film that I saw more than any other, was not because I loved the film. It was because of where I saw it.

I was on vacation. We didn't take many vacations when I was a kid, but on one of them, we stayed at this hotel in Florida where the rooms had this thing where they offered a couple movies all day long. And this was so long ago, in the 1970s. My sisters and I, we had never seen anything like that. Even cable TV was rare back then.

The Poseidon Adventure was the film that they offered, and my sister Karen and I, we ate it up.

Karen

That was the movie we watched over and over again, yeah.

Zach

Oh, so this was like a very important movie.

Ira Glass

That's Karen and her son Zach, my nephew, who we tried to explain this to recently.

Karen

So we ended up watching it on TV, like at night, if our parents went out to dinner, or if it was a rainy day. Yeah, we loved it.

Ira Glass

The way that I remember it is that the hotel just had this movie on a loop. And just as soon as it would finish, it would start again. And the way I remember it is, that every time we would come into the hotel room you could turn on the TV, and you'd be somewhere in The Poseidon Adventure.

Karen

That sounds vaguely familiar to me. I don't totally remember that, but that might be right. Yeah.

Ira Glass

And I remember it having a lot of feeling. Do remember it having a lot of feeling?

Karen

What does that mean, having a lot of feeling?

Ira Glass

I remember feeling a lot of emotions.

Karen

Yeah, well, it's scary, and you're really invested in their journey to escape alive. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that.

Zach

Sort of are.

Ira Glass

Here at the radio show these last few weeks, we've been talking about the random films that people have strong attachments to, thinking that might be a good episode of the show. And I started to think about The Poseidon Adventure, and I wondered what it would be like to see it again. Like, would it have any feeling? Would any of it feel the way it did to me as a kid? Would it feel that way to Karen?

So my sister and I, we watched it. And I invited Zach, too, since he's the age that we were when we watched it back in the '70s. He's 13. I was 14 at the time. Karen was 11. And I want to say, I did not expect Zach to like it. He does not like a lot of films. And right away, the very first scene let us know the kind of film we were in for.

A little boy visits the bridge of the SS Poseidon, this ocean liner in the middle of a big storm. And the little boy is greeted by the captain, who's played by Leslie Nielsen-- who, at this point, had not made the career transition to parodying characters like this captain.

Captain

Mr. Shelby, you've picked a particularly fascinating moment to accept my invitation. These waves don't bother you, huh?

Shelby

I've surfed up to 18 feet, but these look more like 30.

Captain

35 to be exact.

Shelby

Wow, surf's really up.

Zach

Oh, my.

Ira Glass

What's "oh, my"?

Zach

Those lines. So cheesy.

Ira Glass

I didn't remember how wincey the acting got in some places. When Ernest Borgnine shows up, it's clear that the 1956 Oscar winner for Best Actor is not in one of his best roles.

Ernest Borgnine

Linda, you hear me?

Zach

Why is he so angry?

Ira Glass

Borgnine does seem to shout nearly every one of his lines in the film. One thing that kind of stunned me and I did not expect seeing the film again was how much of the dialogue I remember from decades ago. And I was also surprised to realize-- and I do not know what this says about me-- the lines that that I remember the most are the little comic zingers. You know, like when a crew member is asked if he's married, I know his corny response before he says it.

Woman

Are you married?

Man

No marriage for me, Mrs. Rosen. I've got a mistress.

Woman

What?

Man

The sea.

Man

Hey, that's good.

Ira Glass

Something I did remember, and remember liking from the film, was that this was an old-fashioned enough movie that the producers tried to insert some big ideas into the adventure, so it would all mean something. These big ideas are provided by Gene Hackman, who plays a rebellious young priest in a turtleneck, whose big theological idea is a very conveniently helpful one for people who are about to be capsized in the middle of the ocean.

God doesn't want you to wait for miracles. You have to take matters into your own hands.

Gene Hackman

Don't pray to God to solve your problems.

Ira Glass

This is from a sermon he delivers early in the film.

Gene Hackman

Have the guts to fight for yourself. God wants brave souls. He wants winners, not quitters. If you can't win, at least try to win!

Ira Glass

He comes back to this over and over through the film, rallying the passengers to fight on. I loved that as a teenager, that there was this idealistic guy with this principle that he's trying to live by and this idea about God that the film is testing. And I have to say, seeing it today, I still loved it, that they put that in there.

Anyway, soon enough, right at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, the tsunami hits, the boat flips, the plotline tips. In the wreckage of the upside down New Year's party, Gene Hackman convinces only eight passengers that they shouldn't stay and wait for God to send rescuers, but climb with him to safety.

Gene Hackman

Now please, for God's sake, come with me.

Ira Glass

They creep from deck to deck, barely escaping the rising waters as they go. The ceilings of the rooms are the floors that they walk on and the floors are the ceilings. There's a fiery upside-down kitchen. They go up slippery ladders and inverted staircases. And by the time they start dying, one by one, for Karen and me, and even Zach, it's no joke. We're in it. We care.

[GROANING AND SPLASHING]

Zach

Did she just have a heart attack? Wait, did she just have a heart attack?

Karen

Yes.

Zach

Wow. That's a pretty random heart attack.

Karen

Not really. Think about the fact that she just did all that swimming and she's out of shape.

Ira Glass

After Mrs. Rosen, the menschy grandma in the film dies, her husband discovers her dead body.

Zach

Oh, that guy's gonna be so sad.

Ira Glass

I remember this moment so well.

Karen

I remember this, too, really well. This was very affecting.

Zach

I've been really invested in this movie. It's sort of good.

Ira Glass

You do feel very invested?

Zach

Yeah. It's like I'm not sure what's gonna happen next, unlike most other movies.

Ira Glass

I'd wondered if Zack was gonna feel the same big feelings that I felt for the film at his age. And he totally did.

[SCREAMING]

Zach

Wow, she dies? No. Oh, he dies, too? No. They were so close. No.

Ira Glass

By the time we get to gene hackman's big climactic speech to God...

Gene Hackman

What more do you want of us? We came all this way no thanks to you.

Ira Glass

...it was clear: The Poseidon Adventure, it does its job. It gets to you. But thinking about the experience that Zach had watching the film and the one that I was having, it's so different, right? For me, it was like walking into a room from my childhood home and finding it intact and exactly how I remembered it. Or we would get to a scene and I would remember things I didn't realize I remembered. Is there even a name for that?

When we watch a movie together, we think we're watching the same thing, but we are not. For me, The Poseidon Adventure is a portal back to that vacation, and being in that hotel room with Karen, and knowing those movie stars from other things they made, and just that whole time in my life. I can't show Zack that movie.

Well, from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, after months of pandemic when so many of us have been staying home and seeing way more movies than usual, we thought here at our show, let's do a movie night, a show about movies.

And in particular, we decided to get people who've watched a film over and over, who see something in it most people don't see, films for which they are an audience of one. Including somebody who went this deep with a video online, and somebody who watched a classic kid's film over and over, a film that so many of us have seen. She loved it, and only learned years later as an adult that what she'd seen was only the first half of the film. Stay with us.

Act One: Putting the Ease in Disease

Ira Glass

Act One, Putting the Ease in Disease.

So back when the pandemic first took hold, a lot of people were watching or re-watching the movie Contagion, which originally came out in 2011. Maybe you've seen it. It's about a deadly and fast-spreading virus that is spread by respiratory droplets, goes around the world. Governments fail to contain it.

And I think we watch films like that or read books about the 1918 flu because it just scratches this itch, where we just want some way to think about what we're going through right now. And it's nice to just see somebody else go through some version of it.

One of our producers, Sean Cole, has never seen Contagion, but he found himself turning to this other movie, a movie about a virus, that you probably have not heard of. It is a very different spin on the subject. Here's Sean.

Sean Cole

You won't find this movie on Netflix or YouTube or anywhere like that, or at least I couldn't find it that way. I finally had to order a DVD from an online vintage movie store. It's clear my copy was pirated off cable-- skips a lot. And like all of the Contagion geeks, I was floored by some of the parallels to now, especially given that this movie came out in 1968, more than half a century ago.

For instance, in this movie, instead of a bat, the vector of the virus is a bird, a toucan that stowed away aboard a Greek freighter somewhere near Central America. Then the boat docks in New York Harbor for inspection, and the first mate alerts the military that a lot of the crew is sick.

Man

We'll have to hold the ship in quarantine indefinitely. If it a virus, my guess, it's a brand new one, some kind of a mutation. No telling how long it'll take to identify it.

Sean Cole

The toucan is still on board, held in a makeshift chicken wire fence. But then it gets loose, flies straight into the city, and starts infecting people. Just a few at first. The mayor of New York, an empty suit motivated mostly by money and poll numbers, holds a press conference, speaking into a microphone labeled WNYC, the public radio station in New York, where I used to work. It was weird.

Mayor

There is absolutely no cause for alarm. Only 47 cases have been reported so far. However, the commissioner of health recommends that you wear a surgical mask when you are out in public.

Sean Cole

He holds up a mask exactly like the one I wear every day. After the reporters leave, though, there's deep concern and dread. The health commissioner, an older Anthony Fauci-type, scolds the mayor for underplaying the threat everyone's facing.

Commissioner

True, we got a line on the 47 who reported to doctors, but--

Man

But when you feel good, you don't go to a doctor.

Commissioner

Lord knows how many more have it.

Mayor

But the virus only has a life of 10 days or so. You said so yourself.

Commissioner

Yes, but somebody who gets it on the 10th day, and has it for another 10 days, and a week after he gets it, he gives it to somebody else and so on. Theoretically, it could go on for years.

Sean Cole

Soon, everyone is scurrying around the city in a masked panic. Businesses suffer. A presidential envoy fast tracks the development of a vaccine. If it weren't for the 20-foot-long cop cars and A-line mod dresses, it feels like some of these scenes could've been shot in Manhattan last weekend.

Except, there's one major difference between this film and the Steven Soderberghian Contagion-like reality we're all living in. Because in this movie, the virus is not fatal. It doesn't even cause a fever or a cough. Instead, the main and only symptom is absolute euphoria. That's it. Everyone it infects experiences unbridled happiness and elation. Its victims begin acting kindly to one another, deferential.

In just a couple of days, the city is transformed from this--

Man

Come on, you jerk! The light ain't gonna get any greener!

Woman

Why, you lazy, no good, rotten, stinking--

Man

You're telling me when I came in?

Man

You're damn right I am!

Man

Who you shoving, mac? You own the sidewalk?

Sean Cole

To this.

Man

Good morning. Nice day, isn't it?

Woman

I'm sorry.

Man

Pardon me.

Man

May I help you?

Sean Cole

The movie's called What's So Bad About Feeling Good? It's a comedy-- a rom com, really. And it is not a good movie, which is why you likely haven't heard of it, even though the lead actors are George Peppard, from Breakfast at Tiffany's and the A-Team, and Mary Tyler Moore from Mary Tyler Moore.

And they do a good job. Pretty much everyone in the cast is really skilled, but the whole production is outlandishly campy and caricaturistic. There are a few very awkward choices. Cartoon word balloons emerge from the toucan's mouth sometimes when it squawks, so you know what it's thinking. Oh, and there's a schmaltzy AM radio theme song, kind of a knockoff of Burt Bacharach.

Male Singer

(SINGING) What's so wrong with that happy sensation, that sense of utter elation? What's so bad about feeling good?

Sean Cole

That said, it's also a great movie, in the way that silly B movies can be so satisfying, especially the arcane ones that make you feel like a kid watching adults mess up for the first time. I have a greatest hits list of them in my head. Wild in the Streets, about ageist hippies waging a coup against the US government. Invasion of the Bee Girls, about a race of murderous women, who are also bees. Both of which you can watch online for free.

But since it's so hard to find a copy of this movie, let me just continue taking you through the plot in a kind of abbreviated, radioified Cliff's Notes version, for your movie not-going enjoyment.

So George Peppard and Mary Tyler Moore are Pete and Liz, two characters who are tailor-made for this particular plot, because they don't contain an ounce of euphoria. They're brooding, existentialist arty-types that have dropped out of society, living in the East Village. They'd be boyfriend and girlfriend, if they believed in that sort of thing.

For no discernible reason-- or maybe cause the script wasn't working and they had to fix it quickly-- there's a lot of voiceover by these two.

Pete

A couple years ago, I was just like the rest of you conformists. I was in advertising, name on the door, carpet on the floor, an ulcer, headaches, the whole bit. But I wised up to that phony world and came down here. So did Liz. She was on the treadmill, too.

Liz

I sure was. Uptown supper clubs, singing schmaltzy songs to the drunks, fighting to get to the top of the ladder. And then my heart got into the act, and somebody stepped on it. Pills to sleep, pills to stay awake. Finally, I asked myself, for what? This was the answer.

Sean Cole

"This" being the communal building they live in with a tribe of other unhappy nihilists collecting unemployment. They all look a little like cave people at a gallery opening. One of them spends every hour of every day completely enveloped inside of a sack. They call her the Sack.

The Sack

Since the problems of life are insoluble, one should draw into complete isolation and live a life of total non-involvement with other people.

Pete

The Sack is right.

Sean Cole

Meanwhile, a little ways downtown, the Faucian commissioner of health pretty quickly figures out how the virus works.

Commissioner

And it has to be transmitted by respiration. All that bird has to do is get within breathing distance of somebody and pop goes the weasel.

Sean Cole

Cue the toucan, who flies into Pete and Liz's window one morning while they're sleeping, loiters for a minute next to Pete's face and leaves. Pete wakes up early.

Liz

What are you doing up?

Sean Cole

And heads up to the roof. Liz climbs up after him concerned.

Liz

Pete.

Pete

Come here.

Liz

What happened?

Pete

Come here. Look, in this cruddy pile of junk, a flower.

Liz

Pete, what's wrong? What's the matter with you.

Pete

I don't know. Ever since I got up, I've been feeling strange, kind of. I don't think I can explain it to you, but everything seems different. Hey, listen.

Liz

To what, the traffic?

Pete

Kids laughing.

Liz

You know why they're laughing? 'Cause they're not old enough to read the newspaper. You take a look at the front page, and then try laughing. The world's a stinking, hopeless mess. Oh, Pete, you're sick. You know, sometimes a high fever can make you feel this way.

Pete

I feel great.

Liz

That's what I mean.

Sean Cole

At this point, it's worth noting why someone might want to make a film about the need for euphoria in 1968. The front page Liz is talking about would include headlines like "Martin Luther King Is Slain in Memphis," "Robert Kennedy Dead," "Police Battle Demonstrators in the Streets," also "Viet Cong Storm US Embassy."

We were a nation at war, both abroad and with itself, with protests and riots in cities across the country, and a presidential candidate running on a platform of law and order, and also courting segregationists. And given all that, you might ask, what is so bad about feeling good? Which is what the mayor in the movie wanted to know.

In one of the first crisis management meetings with his cabinet, they're running down the symptoms for him, and tell him the virus stops people from brooding. But it's worse than that.

Man

Mr. Mayor, 82% not only stop brooding. They stop smoking. 93% stop drinking.

Mayor

What's wrong with that?

Man

In terms of dollars and cents, it's disastrous. Our city is facing a drastic loss in income from sales tax.

Mayor

That's ridiculous. 47 people? Drop in a bucket.

Man

But if this goes unchecked for a month, by mathematical progression, half of New York will have the virus. You know what that means? It means a loss in cigarette and liquor taxes, more than $180 million.

Mayor

$180 million? Brady, what are you sitting there for? Get that bird!

BRADY: Yes, sir!

Sean Cole

Brady is the chief of police. Capture the bird, they can extract its tissues, come up with a cure, and stave off an economic crisis. Because of course, what's the most important thing a politician thinks of in a potential pandemic? How to save the economy.

Meantime, Pete, much to Liz's horror, has shaved off his beard, cut his hair, and is talking about trying to get his old advertising job back. Which, quick digression, interests me because it's the opposite of subversive. Once these nonconformists get infected, instead of dropping out, they drop in.

Pete feels so good, in fact, that once he figures out what's, quote unquote, "wrong with him," he wants to share it with everyone, starting with Liz. In an age when all of us are actively avoiding each other's bodies like the plague, because of the plague, it's wild to watch someone actively trying to spread of virus like this.

Pete

One little kiss and you'll have it, too.

Liz

I don't want it.

Pete

Just one little kiss. You'll like yourself in the morning.

Liz

I don't want it, Pete.

Pete

We'll get married, a real marriage--

Liz

I don't want it.

Sean Cole

Chasing her around the room.

Pete

We'll get a little place in Jersey. We'll have some kids and I'll mow the lawn.

Liz

And give up all this?

Sean Cole

Eventually, in a completely unbelievable moment that would never have survived the MeToo movement, Pete disguises himself as a nihilist German philosopher and tries to pressure Liz into bed, finally settling for a kiss. He exposes the rest of the gang, too. They all shave, cut their hair, Queer Eye their apartments. The Sack climbs out of her sack, and the toucan, remarkably, keeps coming back, becomes their pet. They call him Amigo.

Pete

There's Amigo.

Sean Cole

At the same time, the mayor is bundled off to an emergency bunker, so that he doesn't get sick. A TV reporter buttonholes him on the way in.

Man

Tell me, sir, is there any truth to the rumor that there's been a spread in the epidemic?

Mayor

Epidemic? Well, I'd hardly call it an epidemic. After all, we only have 180 million-- 47 cases.

Man

Well, why then, sir, are you visiting the fallout shelter?

Mayor

Just a routine inspection last Friday of every month.

Man

But today is Saturday, sir.

Mayor

Well, better late than never.

Sean Cole

It took me watching this scene a few times, trying to figure out why it sounded so familiar. And then I was like, oh yeah.

Reporter

At the height of the protests outside the White House, President Trump was moved for a time to the bunker, something that hasn't happened since 9/11.

Donald Trump

I was there for a tiny, little short period of time, and it was much more for an inspection. There was no--

Sean Cole

Anyway, there aren't only 47 cases for long. And that is largely due to the efforts of Pete and Liz, and their friends. They wage a campaign to spread the virus intentionally by subterfuge. Liz and the Sack volunteer to hand out masks to their fellow citizens, breathing on them first.

Liz

While the Sack made sure that every mask was specially treated with the virus, I made sure that nobody got away without one.

Pete

I was in charge of transportation, assisted by Conrad. Our specialty was the subway at rush hour. Where the biggest crowds were breathing in, we were there, breathing out.

Sean Cole

They breathe on peanuts and feed them to the pigeons. Liz and another friend get jobs as burlesque dancers. Their shtick is blowing soap bubbles into people's faces. And in just a couple of days, the number of cases explodes to about 2 million, about a quarter of the city's population. Cabbies stop in the middle of the street to let pedestrians cross in front of them. Marriage license applications flood city hall, Pete and Liz's among them. Barbershop lines are staggering. People literally dance in the streets with joy. It's a disaster.

Finally, the president's envoy is helicoptered into New York City to save the day-- and frankly, to save the movie. It's Dom Deluise, from Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Robin Hood-- Men In Tights.

Jay Gardner Monroe

I have a statement from the president.

Sean Cole

Dom Deluise. I love Dom Deluise. He looms so large in my childhood comedy pantheon. He's atomically funny, even in this very not good film. His character, Jay Gardner Monroe, is way more confident and bossy and conceited than he is capable. He snaps his fingers at his aides. He uses the word "repeat," before repeating himself, like a military general.

Anyway, he heads straight to the bunker and tells the mayor and everyone that if the toucan isn't caught before the tally reaches 3 million cases, he's putting plan CC-27 into effect.

Jay Gardner Monroe

The bridges, tunnels, airports will be closed. Repeat, closed! Not one single person will get in or out of New York.

Man

But, Mr. Monroe, do you realize we have 52 conventions coming in next week?

Jay Gardner Monroe

Conventions? Do you realize what would happen if this got to Washington? Republicans agreeing with Democrats and vice versa? This bird could destroy our two party system, the very foundation of our great democracy.

Sean Cole

The tally board is at 2.2 million cases at this point. And this is really the final and maybe most alarming parallel between our story and real life. As Monroe watches the numbers tick upward, he shakes his head in disgust.

Jay Gardner Monroe

Those commies sure are sneaky. Oh, come on. You don't think for one moment that this thing is just an accident, do you? Do you? When that bird landed on that ship, its position was--

Man

Longitude 82, latitude 24.

Jay Gardner Monroe

24, not very far from Cuba, eh? Take my word for it, that bird is a hook-nosed missile sent here by You Know Who.

Sean Cole

You know who, Fidel Castro.

Jay Gardner Monroe

Look at the facts. When people get the bug, they suddenly love the world. Now, if You Know Who was getting ready to act up again, what would be better than to give Americans a sense of security, a false sense of security and euphoria?

Man

Mr. Monroe, you're not suggesting this virus was artificially produced in a laboratory?

Jay Gardner Monroe

Yes, a virus produced-- laboratory, yes.

Man

Medical impossibility. Just couldn't have happened.

Jay Gardner Monroe

Hah. That's what they said about the power failure here in New York in '65.

Man

And what about the Asian flu?

Jay Gardner Monroe

That came straight, believe you me, from Red China.

Sean Cole

Of course it's satire. And in that way, it's cathartic. But when I got to that scene, it suddenly felt like every other part of the movie had been an escape from what's going on. It's funny that one of the most ludicrous pieces of dialogue is also practically a quote we've heard in the news in 2020, and not as a joke.

There's so much more of the story left, but just to abridge, they finally managed to isolate the virus. Amazingly, because it's a movie, they develop a vaccine, like, that day. But they still have to test it out, so they spray it in Pete and Liz's nuptial bed, in the hotel room where they're spending their wedding night, and set up a hidden camera behind the air vent.

Everybody in the bunker-- the mayor, the Fauci character, Jay Gardner Monroe, all of them-- sit and monitor the couple on a big screen as morning arrives. Liz wakes up to Pete coming back from an errand. He's still wearing his suit, but he's disheveled, messy hair, smoking.

Liz

Good morning, darling. I didn't hear you--

Pete

Couldn't sleep. Went out for coffee and cigarettes.

Liz

Room service is probably up and I'll order breakfast.

Pete

Don't. I don't want any.

Liz

Oh, but Pete, you really should eat something.

Pete

Don't bug me!

Sean Cole

Jay Gardner Monroe, watching on the monitor from the bunker, is psyched.

Jay Gardner Monroe

Well, he's back to normal. It worked, Doc.

Man

Not her. She doesn't seem to have changed a bit.

Sean Cole

And I don't know what this says about me, but of all the scenes in the movie, this is the one I remember the most clearly from the first time I saw it. I've actually carried it around all of these years, because it's genuinely so sad. Liz looks like her heart is breaking in real time.

Liz

No, don't ask me to go back. Remember what we had. Remember it, cling to it.

Pete

You're kidding yourself. You talk about goodness and kindness. Read the front page and try and find something.

Liz

Pete, I can't go back. I couldn't live that kind of life ever again.

Sean Cole

Pete shrugs.

Pete

OK. You drink your poison, and I'll drink mine.

Jay Gardner Monroe

There's no doubt about him. That was certainly a positive reaction.

Sean Cole

Positive. There's a happy ending. Liz decides to leave New York and move home. But at the very last minute, she goes to say goodbye to Amigo, the bird, who's in a zoo now. And Pete's there, too.

Pete

Liz!

Sean Cole

They do that rom com running thing.

Liz

Pete!

Sean Cole

And just like that, they're back together. The city spews the vaccine into the air via factory chimneys and exhaust pipes, and most of New York lives miserably ever after. But some people stay pleasant and uplifted, because-- major plot twist-- 50% of the people who seemed to be infected actually never got the virus in the first place. The joy just rubbed off on them, and Liz was one of those people, which is why she didn't get, quote, unquote, "better" in the hotel room. Which is actually the moral of the movie, that happiness is a choice.

But watching the movie during this pandemic, I drew another, darker conclusion. Somehow, that wiggly weird jolt of recognition I got over and over again, what it felt like was, this is how it goes. When faced with a crisis like this, governments will minimize the severity of the danger. They'll value the wrong things. They'll focus on the economy over people's lives, and blame foreigners in an ugly, xenophobic way.

I'm sure there's a version of America where all that might not happen, but we're not living in that America right now. And Pete and Liz weren't living in it, either. If it's possible for human beings to do the wrong thing, we'll figure out a way. We're resourceful like that.

Ira Glass

Sean Cole is one of the producers of our show.

Male Singer

(SINGING) Man, I had the craziest dream. I danced with Mr. Clean and gave the white knight a helping hand.

Ira Glass

Coming up, OK, 5 o'clock somewhere, but in Wisconsin, they're asking when it's 5 o'clock here, does that really mean 5 o'clock? That's in a minute, from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

Act Two: Late Registration

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today's program, Audience of One, stories about people watching movies and watching some other things, too, and seeing something in them that other people do not. We have arrived at Act Two of our program-- Act Two, Late Registration.

So vérité political documentaries are not everybody's thing, especially if they are over five hours long and go straight to video. But one of our producers, Ben Calhoun, discovered one that he found pretty mesmerizing. It concerns Kanye West. As you probably know, Kanye West is running for president. He's not on the ballot in enough states to actually win the presidency, but he's in some key battleground states, including Wisconsin.

Of course, a celebrity on the ballot will always siphon off at least some votes. And in Wisconsin, both parties are scrounging for any little pocket of votes that they can get, because as you may recall in 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin by just 23,000 votes out of 2.8 million cast. So any tiny wedge votes could possibly make the difference and determine who wins the state this time.

Which brings us to the video Ben saw. Here he is.

Ben Calhoun

This 5 and 1/2 hour video is of the Wisconsin Elections Commission deciding whether Kanye West would get to appear on the state's ballot in November. Wisconsin, my home state, it's like a lot of places. If you're Kanye West or anyone who's not from a major party, you've got to collect a certain number of signatures to get on the ballot. In Kanye West's case, a company flew in canvassers, who started circulating petitions just one day before the signatures would have to be turned in to state elections officials, at 5:00 PM.

So they collect and collect. Next day comes, Tuesday, August 4, and we arrive at the deadline, 5:00 PM, a tiny moment cradled between 4:59 and 5:01, a speck on the surface of American history, but one that would spiral out into a marathon political debate.

Ann Jacobs

My name is Ann Jacobs. I'm chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. We are here for a special meeting.

Ben Calhoun

Here we are a couple of weeks later. It's Thursday afternoon. The Wisconsin Elections Commission gets together to decide about kicking Kanye West off the Wisconsin ballot. The setting is one that's familiar to a lot of people now, Zoom.

Ann Jacobs

Commissioner Spindell.

Robert Spindell

Here.

Ann Jacobs

Commissioner Thomsen.

Mark Thomsen

Here.

Ben Calhoun

The camera toggles between the six commissioners. There's three Republicans, three Democrats. Occasionally, it flips to some of the staff. Running the show, Ann Jacobs, the commission chair, a Democrat. Jacobs gets right down to business-- challenge to West's petitions. There will be a lawyer on each side. So first up, representing the challengers, the folks trying to bump West off the ballot, there's a lawyer named Jeff Mandell. And he looks a little like a young Jon Favreau-- the actor, not the podcaster.

Mandell appears in what looks like a cozy spot in his house.

Ann Jacobs

Go ahead.

Jeff Mandell

Thank you very much. May it please the Commission, the nomination papers submitted on behalf of Mr. West and Miss Tidball were untimely. They were filed after 5:00 PM. Statute 8.20, subdivision 8, section 8 AM says that nomination papers must be filed not later than 5:00 PM.

Ben Calhoun

That is very legal way to say, West was late. An attorney for his campaign, a woman named Lane Ruhland, she rolled up to the building in an SUV moments before 5:00. She shuffled papers around on her dashboard and then rushed in, as a TV news crew filmed her. And Mandell lays all of this out with the punch and swagger of a prosecutor on a capital murder case, when really he's just talking about a lawyer walking through a door.

Jeff Mandell

By her own admission, Attorney Ruhland was in her car at 4:59 PM. That's in paragraph 6 of her affidavit on page 928 of the commission materials. Miss Ruhland exited her car a couple of seconds after 5 o'clock. You can see that in exhibit A to the Remiker affidavit at three minutes and four seconds in the video.

Ben Calhoun

What follows is a Zapruder film style reconstruction of this whole scene at the front door of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the moment when West's lawyer rushed in with the petitions. Mandell has stitched all this together from affidavits of a TV news story and a video from a Democratic Party operative, who filmed all this, including a shot of his Apple watch for a timestamp.

Jeff Mandell

Miss Ruhland entered the building no earlier than 14 seconds after 5 o'clock. Her colleague followed eight or nine seconds later with the bulk of the papers. That left them no more than 36 seconds to walk the length of the first floor, to wait for the elevator, to ride to the third floor, to wait for the doors to open, to walk to the main desk of the commission, and to transfer the papers to the filing officer.

That cannot happen in 37 seconds. The staff memo reaches that conclusion on page 15. The papers were in the elevator and not in the filing clerk's possession at 5:01.

Ben Calhoun

Maybe you've seen stories about how Republican fingerprints are all over Kanye West's nebulous presidential campaign. There was no attempt to hide them in Wisconsin. The company that hired the canvassers, who got West's signatures, it's reportedly run by a Republican operative. It did the same thing for him in Ohio, West Virginia, Arkansas.

Lane Ruhland, the lawyer who dropped off his petitions in Wisconsin, she used to work for former Republican governor Scott Walker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin. She recently represented the Trump campaign in a lawsuit.

When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel dug into who was listed on West's paperwork, it found one Republican activist and operative after another. Black officials in Milwaukee have accused Republicans of helping West's candidacy as a cynical and insulting attempt to divert Black voters away from Joe Biden to aid Donald Trump.

Wisconsin Republicans haven't admitted that. They've also conspicuously not denied it. Asked about the Republican attorney who submitted West's paperwork, a GOP spokeswoman told the newspaper, quote, "it appears that Kanye West made a smart decision by hiring an experienced election attorney."

Back to the meeting. The attorney trying to knock West off the ballot goes through several other problems with West's petitions, and then it's time for the 10 minute response from the West campaign.

Ann Jacobs

You may begin your time to argue.

Michael Curran

All right, thank you. Good afternoon, Madam Chair, Elections Commission staff, and opposing counsel.

Ben Calhoun

Representing the West campaign is not the lawyer who filed the petitions, but a lawyer named Michael Curran. He looks unnervingly like billionaire Mark Cuban, and he appears unfortunately backlit, his face shaded and kind of hard to see. When he gets started, Attorney Curran makes what I suppose is the argument that he has to make, that walking in 14 seconds past the 5 o'clock deadline, that's not actually late.

Michael Curran

When we're talking about time periods, no later than includes the time frame and the reference that were used. For example, "no later than Tuesday" does not mean prior to Tuesday. "No later than Tuesday" means all of Tuesday. And to make 5:00 PM, quote, unquote, "late," the proper language would be "before 5:00 PM" or "prior to 5:00 PM" or "not later than 4:59 PM." But "no later than 5:00 PM" does include the full minute.

Ben Calhoun

The question the West lawyer is posing, is 5 o'clock a point in time, or is 5 o'clock all the space between 4:59 and 5:01? It's not actually such a bad question. Like. April 15 is the tax deadline. You get all day on the 15th to file, right?

The next plot twist happens when the first Republican takes his turn asking questions of the two lawyers. That's a Republican named Dean Knudson. He's a former state lawmaker. He's a veterinarian. Knudson's sitting in front of this folksy painting that makes it feel like he might be in the waiting room of his veterinary practice, and he's noticeably skeptical of the West campaign's attorney.

Dean Knudson

5 o'clock is 5 o'clock. So I understand you're trying to make an argument that 5 o'clock is 5:01, but it just seems to me that everything that starts with a 4 is before 5 o'clock, and 5 o'clock's the deadline. Maybe I'm just common sense and not a lawyer, but that's the way it seems.

Attorney Curran, if you set a timer on your phone to go off at 5 o'clock, when would it go off?

Michael Curran

It should go off at 5 o'clock sharp, as soon as the clock turned to 5:00.

Dean Knudson

Five, zero, zero, zero, zero, so on.

Michael Curran

Yes.

Dean Knudson

So if we had set a timer to go off at 5:00, would the papers have been in on time or not?

Michael Curran

Well, the first response would be, that's for the filing officer to determine. But to answer your question directly--

Dean Knudson

But if Knudson doesn't seem to be toeing the party line, the next Republican commissioner to ask questions, he seems more than ready to do the opposite.

Ann Jacobs

Commissioner Spindell, it's your floor.

Robert Spindell

OK, thank you.

Ben Calhoun

On camera, Commissioner Robert Spindell. He looks like he's being held captive in a supply room somewhere. He's against this white wall that has nothing on it. Pretty quickly, he goes really big on the West campaign's argument that 5 o'clock means you have right up until 5:01.

Robert Spindell

On your point about, is 5 o'clock 5 o'clock, I did a lot of time trying to plan something, and there's no real definitive action.

Ben Calhoun

Over the next few minutes, Spindell makes a number of creative arguments, trying to help the Kanye West lawyer. Like he says, since the petitions entered the building at 5 o'clock and 14 seconds, well, 14 seconds is less than half a minute, so that really rounds back down to 5:00 PM sharp, right?

Robert Spindell

I mean, that's just simply math in rounding type errors.

Ben Calhoun

Spindell also questions whether the West campaign team actually had to turn in the petitions in order for the petitions to be turned in.

Robert Spindell

And as I understand, she and her assistant got on the elevator with a staff person, just the three of them. Would you not consider that that could be transfer of documents at that time? That once the door closed to the elevator--

Ben Calhoun

To be clear, Spindell is contending that being in the elevator with a staff member and not handing the staff member the documents is the same as being in the office and physically turning them in. Can I say, there's something about how the action of all this plays out on Zoom, with all the normal Zoomy interruptions. It feels intimate. One commissioner keeps dropping off the call. At one point, there's a cat butt that pops into a frame next to a commissioner asking questions. And also, when people go at each other, it feels more personal somehow, because you just see them, and they're in their homes.

Like Ann Jacobs, the chair-- a few times, she gets into it with Spindell. And you see her in what I think is her living room. She's wearing pearls, and she's sitting in front of a fireplace and what looks like a silver tea set. So it's way less like a debate in some random government building or whatever, and more like family members getting in a fight on the phone or something.

Robert Spindell

I'd like to make a friendly amendment. Can I do that? You don't have to take it, obviously, but I'd like to make a friendly motion that we substitute the motion that we already passed.

Ann Jacobs

Just wait a minute, Bob!

Robert Spindell

I thought you said I could. I'm sorry.

Ann Jacobs

No!

Robert Spindell

OK.

Ann Jacobs

Just wait.

Ben Calhoun

But I still haven't gotten to the most memorable parts of Spindell's speechifying. They started when he talked about COVID.

Robert Spindell

Curran, would you agree that the pandemic has made life and everything else much harder?

Michael Curran

Yes.

Robert Spindell

In a situation like this, where the pandemic makes things harder, and where everything else is-- there's great efforts in the election process to try and make the procedure easier for all voters, then would you agree that we should try and make it a little bit easier--

Ben Calhoun

Spindell's essentially making an argument that democracy takes more time during a pandemic, and so people should get more time to do things. Which, let's just pause Spindell for a second here, because the Wisconsin GOP has systematically staked out positions to do the opposite.

This year, Wisconsin conservatives have fought the idea of giving more time for early voting and absentee voting. In April, Republicans also made it very clear that they opposed postponing an election due to COVID, including Robert Spindell, who said COVID was no reason to postpone an election. Still, Spindell had one more argument.

Robert Spindell

Wisconsin Democrats, which is the people that are bringing this challenge-- my question is, when are they gonna stop suppressing the Black vote? Here, they wish to take away from the Black population an opportunity to take a Black presidential candidate off the ballot and have a choice in terms of who they want to vote for. You know, what's next, in terms of trying to suppress the Black choice?

Ben Calhoun

This is where the meeting truly bent my mind, as if it would make sense for Democrats to suppress Black voters. Nationally, 87% of them identify as Democrats. I couldn't help but think, watching this, that here we are in the throes of this seismic election cycle, one in which lots of people on both sides argue that the people on the other side, they're out to destroy the country. It feels huge.

It's weird to think that the legitimacy of the election process over the coming weeks will hinge on what happens in so many rooms like this, on tiny screens like this, with public servants and volunteers, and campaign workers who will be wrestling over rules, and deadlines, and signatures, and postmarks.

This video, it's actually kind of a sneak preview. And honestly, I think we'll be lucky if it looks like this meeting. Absurd as it got at times, I respect this so much. These commissioners are paid a little over $100 a meeting. They have to read hundreds of pages of documents to prepare for this. And they went around, and around, and around, splitting this 14 second hair every which way.

For the vast majority of the time, people were thoughtful, and they were willing to step across party lines, if that's what they had to do to get to what they thought was fair. Mostly, they seemed like they were trying to do what was right. And in the end, a very simple argument won out. There was precedent, lots of it.

Many people had missed deadlines in the past, and whether by a lot or a little, they just couldn't accept it.

Ann Jacobs

I vote, aye, the motion is carried five to one.

Ben Calhoun

And just like that, Kanye West was off the Wisconsin ballot. The remainder of this video is worth mentioning. If you'll just give me one more minute here, I'll sum it up for you. While Kanye West's campaign made the headlines the next day, the Wisconsin Elections Commission also made another decision that night, one with the power to affect the outcome of the presidential race.

Also on the agenda that evening was a challenge seeking to bump the Green Party candidates off the ballot on something that's really pretty technical. See, during Wisconsin's signature collection period, the VP candidate for the Green Party seems to have moved. So her address at the beginning, it doesn't match her paperwork at the end.

Republicans were like, that's nit-picky BS. But the Democrats wouldn't budge. And the end result? The Green Party was gone, just like West, removed from the ballot. And you don't have to look far to see the enormous stakes of that decision. You remember how in 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin by 23,000 votes. That year, the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, she got 31,000 votes in Wisconsin.

Ira Glass

Ben Calhoun is one of the producers of our show.

After this meeting, the Kanye West Campaign and the Green Party candidates both sued the Wisconsin Elections Commission trying to get back on the ballot. What's happening with the Green Party is still in the air, but the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has ruled against Kanye West. Judge John Zakowski gave the final word on this debate over the meaning of time in the written decision, quote, "The court believes at the time a grandfather clock rings out 5 times is the moment it is 5 p.m. The court used the analogy of midnight. There is significant difference between 11:59:59 p.m. and one second after midnight. The passage of a second after midnight confers an entirely new day." In other words, quote: "The court finds that, basically, 5 o'clock is 5 o'clock."

Act Three: Many a Thing She Ought to Understand

Ira Glass

Act Three-- Many a Thing She Ought to Understand.

One of our producers, Diane Wu, spent most of her life thinking that she did not have a unique and personal take on the film The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music-- after all, everybody loves it. What's there to say? And then she learned, no, her take is very different.

Diane Wu

I watched The Sound of Music all the time as a kid. It was one of maybe six VHS tapes we had at home, along with Bambi and 101 Dalmatians. And a few years ago, I was talking with a friend about how much I loved the movie growing up. And he said, "Me too, though the Nazis scared me." And I said, "What Nazis?"

And that's when I learned I'd never seen the second half of the film. It turns out, the movie came out in a two VHS box set. And I, for some reason, had only ever seen the first tape. My dad doesn't remember a second tape, either. And why would you need one? The first half makes perfect sense on its own. Here's the plot.

It's a movie about a woman named Maria, who is sent to the countryside to babysit a giant family of children with a mean dad, the von Trapps. Maria shows up, bubbly, fun, and teaches them to sing, and play, and be kids, all against the wishes of their father.

But the singing wins him over. They sing together as a family. And finally, at a party, the kids sing a beautiful song for the guests. Farewell. And after that, Maria, having successfully fixed the family, leaves, just like Mary Poppins did when she fixed that family. And that's the end of the movie.

I had very clear, fond memories of the goatherd puppet show, and the scene in the gazebo where Liesl, the oldest daughter, secretly met with the mailman she was in love with. And they sang and danced, and it was so romantic. I had no further questions about any of the characters.

So when I learned that there were 70 more minutes to the film, I didn't bother going to look for them. The Sound of Music was a full, complete, and wonderful artifact from my childhood. I didn't want to taint it with Nazis.

But when my co-worker Lina, who's producing this week's show and is a musical theater fan, which I most definitely am not-- when she found out I still hadn't seen the whole thing, it seemed heretical to her. She couldn't let it stand.

So we watched it together over the internet one Sunday afternoon, and I prepared to have a childhood memory either slightly enhanced or completely ruined. Before we started, she had me predict what was gonna be in the second half.

Diane Wu

I want-- and this is based on my childhood memory and just what I would like to see, is the second half is just focused on my favorite two characters, Liesl and the hot mailman. I want to see their courtship, and then they get married, and that's the end of the movie.

Diane Wu

We hit play and started at the very beginning, started with the part I know. And the first half was more or less the simple, sunny movie I remembered. Seeing the kindly and dour nuns come on screen early on was like recognizing teachers I had in elementary school.

Bernice

Reverend Mother.

Reverend Mother

Sister Bernice.

Bernice

I simply cannot find her.

Reverend Mother

Maria?

Diane Wu

There is that gazebo scene, when the mailman and Liesl sing to each other.

Liesl

(SINGING) I am 16, going on 17. I know that I'm naive.

Diane Wu

Then whirl around the gazebo, dancing.

Diane Wu

Oh my god, this still looks like so much fun.

Watching now, though, I saw a lot of things that I had completely missed as a kid. Because as a child, I had apparently ignored anything that adults who were not Maria said to each other. Literally none of that dialogue registered. It was like the mumbly grown-ups in Charlie Brown. My kid self had edited full characters out of the film. I barely remembered the baroness, who wants to marry the dad.

Baroness

This really is exciting for me, Georg, being here with you.

Georg

Oh, trees, lakes, mountains. When you've seen one, you've seen them all.

Baroness

That is not what I mean, and you know it.

Diane Wu

So any of their plot lines that were not resolved in the first half, moot. I also missed, of course, how Maria and the dad supposedly fall in love. The dad, by the way, was even meaner than I remembered, just cruel to Maria.

Georg

Turn around, please.

Maria

What?

Georg

Turn. Hat off. It's the dress. You'll have to put on another one before you meet the children.

Maria

But I don't have another one.

Diane Wu

Because of that, I still had a lot of trouble squaring the idea that anything between the two of them was remotely romantic.

Baroness

He thinks he's in love with you.

Maria

But that's not true.

Diane Wu

Oh, they really spell it out.

Lina

Yeah, buddy. You missed kind of a lot.

Baroness

Surely you've noticed the way he looks into your eyes. And you know, you blushed in his arms when you were dancing just now.

Diane Wu

The one romance that still sparkled was between Liesl and the mailman. Though, watching again, I have to say, the mailman was not as cute as I remembered.

Diane Wu

It's the mailman! Oh, he kind of looks like a Nazi.

Rolfe, the mailman, comes back later in the first half to throw rocks on Liesl's window. That moment I remember. Again, so dreamy. But the one that followed was completely over my head as a kid.

Rolfe

I didn't see. I mean, I didn't know you were-- Heil Hitler!

Diane Wu

Oh, heil Hitler?

Diane Wu

Yeah, "Heil Hitler." The hero of my version of The Sound of Music, who I'd hoped the second half would center around, he was the Nazi. Also, not the mailman. Yes, he was wearing a uniform and delivering messages, but he was not employed by the postal service, as my child self had understood. He was some kind of military messenger.

The first half is peppered with a few more hints like this, that things are gonna take a turn, historically, in the second half of the movie. Uneasy talk about Austrian flags and something called an Anschluss, but all against the backdrop of a glamorous party. They're kind of easy to miss, if you're seven.

The last thing I missed as a kid? The big title card that says intermission in yellow script, that comes onscreen after Maria closes the door. Maybe it was on the second VHS. Lina and I fast forward through the music at intermission, and the second half starts.

Diane Wu

Oh my god, Lina. I can't believe--

Lina

This is like a second movie for you. This is really weird, you haven't seen any of this.

Liesl

Five, six, seven--

Diane Wu

Except as the second half starts, I suddenly feel like I have seen all of this. Watching the children play ball in their backyard felt strangely familiar. I'd spent so much time already with the von Trapps at their home that this new scene just felt like part of my memories.

This confusing deja vu sticks with me all the way through the scenes of Maria back at the abbey. It's not until the dad goes to meet Maria at the gazebo and declare his love for her that I am certain I have never seen this before.

Georg

Do you know when I first started loving you? That night at the dinner table when you sat on that ridiculous pine cone.

Maria

What? I knew the first time you blew that silly whistle.

Diane Wu

Oh my god.

Georg

Oh, my love.

Diane Wu

This is so gross.

Diane Wu

They basically just stared at each other three times, and now Maria was letting this horrible man marry her? I could not believe it. Just as I'm settling into the newness of the second half, gawking at Maria's wedding dress, everything in the movie shifts. The Nazis roll into town. It's incredibly abrupt, a cut from literal wedding bells to a bell tolling over a giant swastika flag on the town square. Lines of soldiers march across the plaza ominously. The colors seem to drain out of the movie. The children show up next in drab brown clothes against the stony backdrop, instead of their perky curtain outfits from the first half.

The characters, meanwhile, are dealing with their own whiplash. Rolfe surprises Liesl as she's getting into a car.

Rolfe

Liesl, Liesl!

Liesl

Rolfe!

Diane Wu

I'm basically as excited to see Rolfe as Liesl is right here, because maybe this is when we get to the version of the second half I'd been wanting to see, Rolfe and Liesl's courtship.

Liesl

Rolfe, I'm so glad to see you. It's been such--

Rolfe

Good afternoon. You will take this, please, and deliver it to your father as soon as he comes home.

Diane Wu

Ouch, Rolfe. He's standing in front of a Nazi flag. Liesl is clearly disoriented, but still hopeful as she holds the telegram and coyly asks--

Liesl

Don't you want to come over tonight and deliver it yourself?

Rolfe

I am now occupied with more important matters. And your father better be, too, if he knows what's good for him.

Liesl

But, Rolfe--

Diane Wu

Oh, Liesl, you chose a bad one.

This was the only relationship in the movie that interested me at all as a child. And it's sobering to see the whole realistic arc of it. As for the rest of the second half, it's predictable. You know their first escape isn't gonna work out. It's obvious they'll win the singing contest. Great songs from the first half are just recycled, in a weird way.

The one moment that moves me, though, doesn't have anything to do with the characters I was attached to from the first half. It happens, surprisingly, when the dad starts singing a love song to his country on stage.

Georg

(SINGING) Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you greet me.

Diane Wu

He's doing it as an act of gentle defiance that makes the Nazi official's mustache twitch. And as the crowd joins in with him, I feel my throat catch a little. They remind me of people all around the world this summer, in Hong Kong, Beirut, Belarus, here in America, who are longing to hold onto something as their own countries change, rapidly, excruciatingly around them.

Crowd

(SINGING) Edelweiss, Edelweiss, bless my homeland forever.

Diane Wu

The darkest moment of the movie is perhaps at the very end, when the family has almost escaped, but then Rolfe finds them in the abbey. He raises a whistle to turn them in, but the dad stops and reasons with him.

Georg

You don't really belong to them.

Rolfe

Stay where you are.

Georg

Come away with us, before it's too late.

Diane Wu

Rolfe looks scared and boyish. He relinquishes his gun and leans over, relieved. But then the dad takes it one step too far.

Georg

You will never be one of them.

Rolfe

Lieutenant! Lieutenant, they're here! They're here, Lieutenant!

Diane Wu

Rolfe chooses to betray them. It's such a sinister and dissonant scene held up against the cotton candy first half. The family still makes it out in time, but in spite of him, not with his help. And that's the actual end of the movie, as far as I know today.

So here's my conclusion, having seen it all. You don't need the second half. It's actually better without it. The second half just takes one of my kid self's favorite characters, Rolfe, and makes him a villain, then takes the worst character, the dad, and makes him a hero.

There are barely any new songs. Maria disappears as a person. Liesl just looks uncomfortable the whole time, trying to act like a child for another hour. Everything memorable and iconic about the movie-- My Favorite Things, the kids singing good night, "Doe, a deer"-- that all happens in the first half.

But then I was at the beach this weekend with a friend, staring at the clouds and the kids throwing sand. And he said a thing that changed my feeling about the second half. He told me that, lately, he can last about three minutes feeling like everything is normal before he remembers it isn't. It made me understand the urge to include the dark end of this story in the movie about the singing family. Because once everything in the world has changed, you can't really will it to stay outside the frame.

Ira Glass

Diane Wu is one of the producers of our show. Her mom, by the way, swears Diane saw the second half of the film as a child, even if Diane doesn't remember it.

Act Four: The Kid Namastays in the Picture

Ira Glass

Act Four-- The Kid Namastes in the Picture.

So our show today is about people who watch a film and then have their own very particular take on it. And not long ago, I learned about somebody like that. Here she is in Harry Potter glasses and a onesie with a Gryffindor crest on it, giving her version of the first Harry Potter film.

Jamie Amor

We meet Harry, aged 10, living in a house. Coming up to stand, take your feet wide, arms out and above your head, house pose. Harry lives at number four Privet Drive with his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, and his horrid bullying cousin Dudley Dursley. Now, Harry always tries to keep as quiet as a mouse. Coming down to your knees everybody, and tuck yourself up into a tiny little mouse pose.

Ira Glass

This is Jamie Amor, the host or, I guess, yoga instructor of a series of videos called "Cosmic Kids Yoga." Viewership of these videos skyrocketed during quarantine, from about 100,000 views a day to about a million. And a lot of her most popular videos for kids are her retelling the stories of children's movies-- Moana or Trolls or Star Wars-- and combining the stories with yoga.

This spring during quarantine, I watched a six-year-old regularly and very happily do yoga for a half hour with these YouTube videos before starting his day of remote learning first grade. I walked by, and I would just get totally caught up in these videos. And I have to say, a lot of my pleasure and complete fascination with them was seeing the ingenuity that Jamie Amor uses to incorporate the poses into the storytelling.

Like, for example, warrior pose for Elsa, making snow and ice in Frozen. Forward bends as Alice in Wonderland leans over to take a drink from the bottle that says "drink me" on it. In The Wizard of Oz, when the tornado arrives, Dorothy is on her bed-- in bed pose, of course.

Jamie Amor

Look out the window. There's that mean lady from the village. She's riding a bicycle in the sky. Lying on your backs, criss cross your fingers.

Ira Glass

Bicycle pose, of course. Pada Sanchalanasana.

Jamie Amor

Lift up your legs, and peddle your legs like you're riding a bicycle. She's cackling like a witch.

[CACKLING]

But she's not riding a bicycle anymore. She's on a broomstick with a black cat. She really is a witch. Coming into broomstick pose, lying on your tummies, everyone.

Ira Glass

This is Locust pose, Salabhasana.

Jamie Amor

And take your arms down by your side, and lift your feet and chest up at the same time, going whoosh!

Ira Glass

The videos are actually structured like a real yoga class, always starting with a sitting pose and namaste, and always ending with shavasana, resting pose. And each of the videos plays like a little half-hour yoga appreciation of a movie, though they're all kids films, so Jamie Amor's kid-friendly tone matches them perfectly.

But putting together today's program, we wondered what it would be like if she took on a film that's made for grownups and beloved by grownups, not by kids. So we reached out to her and her husband Martin, who makes these videos with her. And they were into it. And we considered a bunch of different films to turn into yoga-- Silence of the Lambs and Pulp Fiction and Parasite-- before we settled on this film. Jamie Amor prepared this for us.

Jamie Amor

Thelma & Louise are best friends. Let's do a hug pose, wrapping our arms around our shoulders, like we're hugging our best friend. They set out for a weekend away in the mountains to take a break. On the way, they stop for a cold, refreshing drink at a bar.

Thelma dances with a man called Harlan, coming into our dancer pose. Standing on one leg, we catch our foot with our hand behind us, and lift it as we reach forwards with our other arm.

Harlan wants to do more than dancing with Thelma, but she doesn't want to. Louise finds them, and is so angry at Harlan that she shoots him in the chest. Coming into our shooter warrior pose, standing one foot forward, one foot back, we bend our front knee and open our arms wide. Pow!

Thelma and Louise whizz off in the car, coming into car pose. Sitting with legs out long, arms forward to hold the steering wheel. Oh, dear. What have they done?

On the road, the women meet a handsome, friendly, young man called JD. Thelma rather likes JD and invites him for a sleepover. In the morning, JD wakes up. Coming up to stand, reaching our arms up to the sky, we wave and say, "Hello, sun."

And while Thelma and Louise go to breakfast, JD steals all of Louise's money. Oh, dear. Thelma feels really bad. To fix the situation, Thelma decides to become a robber and steal all the money from a nearby market. Naughty Thelma. Now the police are after them.

Thelma and Louise arrive at the Grand Canyon. Coming to stand in our mountain pose. Standing with our feet hip distance, arms by our side, we become as still and strong as the mountains.

They take a breath together.

[INHALES AND EXHALES]

Soaking up the incredible view and the peace of this place. All of a sudden, a helicopter thunders into view. Jumping our feet wide and clapping our hands up over our heads. The dust swirls and the sirens scream. Arms wide, we spin, side to side to side.

They're trapped. Thelma looks at her best friend. Listen, let's not get caught. Let's keep going. Louise checks if Thelma is sure. She nods. Louise cups Thelma's face and kisses her.

Cupping our faces to feel our cheeks. Louise steps on the gas, stepping one foot forward. As the car screeches forward, Thelma and Louise clasp hands. The car flies off the cliff. Coming into our flying pose.

Lifting up our back leg, balancing on our standing leg, and taking our arms out wide, we're flying. After all that action, we're ready to relax now. So we lie down and let our bodies feel heavy. We close our eyes and take a big, deep breath.

[INHALES AND EXHALES]

Ira Glass

Jamie Amor, her yoga videos for kids that mix movies and yoga-- but also, there are ones which mix video games and yoga and all kinds of other things-- are at cosmickids.com, or find their free YouTube channel, YouTube.com, Cosmic Kids Yoga.

[MUSIC - AILEEN QUINN, "LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES"]

Aileen Quinn

(SINGING) Betty Davis is probably lying, and Greta Garbo is probably crying while Robert Taylor is locked in her dying embrace. Chico, and Groucho, and Chaplin, and Lloyd are all super. Sweet Mickey Mouse, Shirley Temple, and dear Jackie Cooper. Let's go to the movies. Let's go see the stars.

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Lina Misitzis, and Noor Gill. The people who put together today's show includes Susan Burton, Ben Calhoun, Dana Chivvis, Sean Cole, Damien Graef, Michelle Harris, Chana Joffe-Walt, Seth Lind, Stowe Nelson, Nadia Reiman, Alissa Shipp, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, and Diane Wu.

Our managing editor is Sara Abdirahman. Our executive editor is David Kestenbaum. Special thanks today to Jason Smart, David Selassie, Hong Yan, Xiangqian Wu, Karina Longworth, BA Parker, Adrian Shirk, Paul Scheer, Luke, Sophie, and Olivia. And Cecil Ranieri.

This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Our website, where you can listen to any of our over 700 shows for absolutely free, thisamericanlife.org.

Thanks as always to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia, who says he has one rule about drinking during the pandemic.

Michael Curran

Before 5:00 PM, or "prior to 5:00 PM" or "not later than 4:59 PM."

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.

[MUSIC - AILEEN QUINN, "LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES"]

Female Singers

(SINGING) Let's go to the movies. Let's go see the stars. Red lights holler, deep Depression. What do we care? Movies are there. Only happy endings.