Reheating Heat: Blake Howard on his marathon movie podcast One Heat Minute

Blake Howard’s forensic fan podcast One Heat Minute is the ultimate act of Michael Mannia, talking through one film minute of Mann’s 1995 crime classic per podcast episode with a medley of guests. Nick James goes head to head.

Nick James

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Heat (1995)

Heat (1995)

In 1995, when the notoriously detail-obsessed writer-director Michael Mann first made his durable crime epic Heat, even he could not have envisaged that 24 years later there would be a podcast (what then would have been thought of as a recorded radio broadcast), every episode of which would be dedicated to just one minute of his film. ‘Insane’ would have been the verdict then as it still is now to those who hear about it for the first time. Who has the time to listen to such a thing? How could it not be boring? Yet One Heat Minute has built a substantial base of keen listeners and a roster of estimable contributors.

Heat, of course, is a violent neo-noir portrait of a criminal, Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), his tooled-up crew and the relentless cop, Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), who pursues them; but it’s so much more than that. Yes, it caught the two greatest actors of their generation at peak performance levels. Yes, Mann himself was on a golden run of terrific films that rival anybody else’s for drama, depth and visual panache. But it has many other dimensions that help it linger in the imagination.

So rich in great scenes and dialogue is Heat that it had already built a very loyal base of devotees – likely to quote lines at you – by the end of the 90s. I know this because in 2003 my book-length account of the film, Heat, was published in the BFI Modern Classics series. In 2010 I met the actor Tom Hiddleston on the set of Terence Davies’s The Deep Blue Sea and found he knew virtually all of Heat’s dialogue by heart. The film ‘goes deep’ with some people.

But to come back to One Heat Minute. Surely no other film made by anyone has received such detailed attention – unless maybe you’ve watched 24 Hour Psycho for five days and nights straight without sleeping, eating or drinking. OHM is the achievement of Blake Howard. It’s some time now – probably two years – since I first heard from him. He had begun the project and wanted me because of the BFI book. I was elusive, but in the meantime he got much more illustrious people to take part – including Manohla Dargis, of the New York Times, a long-standing Mannophile.

Howard is a very persistent man. He did not give up. I saw, eventually, that I was being a schmuck, and took part, commenting on a minute of the famous coffee shop confrontation between Hanna and McCauley. It was a lot of fun.

Since then One Heat Minute has continued to build until Howard achieved his number one goal, to get Michael Mann himself for the film’s finale. Mann’s contribution is a terrific listen (as is everything else I’ve caught there, which is only a tiny proportion). To celebrate that moment I decided to swap roles with Howard. I would be the hunter, he the hunted. We met in virtual coffee shop somewhere in the Twittersphere – and when two Heat nuts get together, the language does tend to follow a certain pattern.

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995)

Nick James: Michael Mann makes this great epic of 170 minutes in 1995. Wasn’t that enough for you?

Blake Howard: Nearly 25 years, countless viewings, a university thesis, tens of articles, there was never a time in all those scores of words that I felt like I had exhausted what I had to say about Heat. Never enough steaks in the freezer. You looking to become a pod-ologist?

You looking to become King Nerd? We’ve got readers who live through cinema, barely know what daylight looks like. That you?

What do I wanna be royalty for? That’s for Queen Manohla. You must be imagining some Jamie Kennedy kind of dipstick film nerd.

We’ve published all kinds. But I gotta ask you. Were you in nappies when you saw Heat for the first time? I mean, was it some kind of trauma for you?

I was adolescent. Trauma, no: muscular, cool, violent and beyond my grasp at the time. Stuck around like Jimmy Macelwain’s advice on the yard. Later, a profound enduring inspiration.

A podcast for every minute of the film. That’s some fanboy shit.

You see me doing thrill-seeker hot-takes with an MCU tattoo on my chest?

No I do not. Mann made a great film and you’ve got your head all the way up it. You’ve got royalty like Manohla, but who are all these other bozos talking on the pod, for, what is it, how many hours? How did you find ’em?

I have about 130 hours. A cohort better than anyone in Folsom B Wing and some great grill men. The beginning: podcaster Stu Coote, online trailblazer Garth Franklin, maverick critic Luke Buckmaster.

This crew was good. Technically proficient. We developed a reputation and a network grew. Critical titans like Bilge Ebiri, Matt Zoller Seitz, Walter Chaw, Craig Mathieson, Travis Woods, Fran Hoepfner, Joanna Di Mattia. Filmmakers Joe Lynch, Anthony Maras, Bill Duke, Abe Forsythe.

Then Mann’s men like Pasquale Buba (may he RIP) and Dante Spinotti. Even a guy that wrote the book on Heat, you, slick.

In my book I never talked to Mann himself. You got him talking about the end scene where Hanna puts McCauley down at LAX. Was this something you dreamed of?

It was a recurring dream. With every minute we got closer to the conclusion of the show, everyone would ask – what about Mann? Until four months ago, I’d have to wake myself up before I’d die in my sleep.

Then, Bilge Ebiri brings it to him. He tells him what it’s about. And there’s just enough time. To do what we wanted to do. He was just the kinda star I imagined. He talked this sharp and talked that sharp; look how sharp he was to conceive of that, I thought.

Now Mann’s gone back to that world. Written a prequel as a novel. What about you? Now that One Heat Minute is done, do you want a regular-type life?

Mann and author Reed Coleman are building a prequel/sequel – Godfather Part II for Heat. For me, barbecues, ball games? No. New Zealand – but Australia for a time. I have a woman, two little ones and I’ve been reading lots of books about metals for two years.

Now that Mann and I have been face to face, there’s no other film in his titanic resume that has me boxed in. But if this Heat novel you say gets made into a film, I’ll make time.

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