‘Kefin’ Mahon is a true podcast expert. Between wrestling podcasts How2Wrestling and the Attitude Era Podcast and the film-focused Cinema Swirl, UK-based Kefin Mahon and various tiffin loving Brit co-hosts go through the weird and wild world of wrestling and the joy of some beloved films respectively. Cinema Swirl sees big-bearded Kefin host alongside Sam Chaplin, who has somehow managed to go through life having never seen most of the massively popular films that have shaped popular culture, from Back to the Future to Lord of the Rings. With Cinema Swirl having recently returned from a hiatus, Film In Dublin spoke to Kefin about how his co-host is finding his journey through the pop-culture canon, who introduced Kefin himself to these films in the first place and more.
Film In Dublin: So first off, who was the main person in your family who would introduce you to new movies as you were growing up?
Kefin Mahon: Well I’m the younger of two brothers, so I would get a lot of my movies from my brother, who actually got them from his friends. My Dad was the biggest source of new movies. Why by no means a film buff or even a collector or anything of the sort, he loved movies. He loved going to the movies and he loved watching movies. He loved recording movies onto VHS above all other movie things though. He would religiously tape whatever ‘big movie’ RTÉ had on the telly, and sort them in a system only he would understand. I saw The Big Lebowski, The Thing and Total Recall for the the first time all on taped VHS.
I was taken to the cinema religiously as a kid, which as an adult now seems like the best idea ever if you’ve got kids! You’ll kill a few hours and bond over Batman!
FID: And some of those films, like The Thing, they can be intense for a child. Did you ever watch something back then that made you think “I shouldn’t really be watching this”?
KM: Yup! Oh man it’s ridiculous looking back, my earliest “movie at home” memory is Predator. My brother who was 3 years older bolted from the room when the Predator moved across the screen in his weird blurry camouflage. I on the other hand was the most totally fucking chill 3 year old ever. And my earliest childhood cinema memory is being taken to see Batman Returns. Which is probably not the best thing to take a 3 year old to. You should be at least 5 before you see your first Christopher Walken appearance. Although no more so than watching wrestling, 90% of it went over my head so no harm done I guess!
FID: Kids are generally pretty open when it comes to taking in new movies. Do you remember the first time you were shown something and were actually disappointed?
KM: I remember being really let down by Antz and Batman & Robin, because I was obviously a child with unrealistic expectations. I remember at the 40 min mark of Batman & Robin where Freeze goes to jail, my Dad literally took up his coat and said “Is that it then?” in a slightly too optimistic voice. Antz was just the poor man’s A Bug’s Life and I am proud to say to this day, it’s the only Woody Allen I’ve seen. And to be entirely predictable, I also like every other 11 year old was let down by Star Wars Episode One. I still got a cuddly Watto for Christmas though.
FID: With Antz being the poor man’s Bug’s Life, I wonder what that makes Bee Movie?
KM: Essential viewing for every man woman and child.
FID: Moving on to when you started showing people movies yourself when you were older. What was the first film you showed somebody else with big expectations of them loving it as much as you did?
KM: I distinctly remember showing my cousin Dogma and being delighted that he too thought it was “the best thing ever”. But pleasing fellow teenage boys with Kevin Smith is like shooting fish in a barrel! I was often wary of showing people movies, I was frequently terrified showing friends movies that I wasn’t 100% sure on. I got burned bad suggesting a group of us watch Donnie Darko once and it went down like a lead balloon laced with another layer of lead.
But I would frequently push what I classed as ‘pure gold’, which usually consisted of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his many forms and guises. I am very proud of the number of times I’ve successfully negotiated an afternoon watching Pumping Iron with a 100% success rate of satisfaction!
FID: Have you ever gotten the dreaded “can we put on something else?” I imagine the room can get quite frosty if a group of people are watching something like Donnie Darko and not enjoying it?
KM: Yes, quite recently actually! I thought watching A Million Ways to Die in the West would provide hilarious fodder to tear apart. It did not, it merely gave us 15 minutes of silence and then “can we put something else on”. It sits in my recently played in Netflix, haunting me.
FID: What, Arnie aside, is the recipe for ‘pure gold’?
KM: A plot that can be easily remembered/explained, enough big moments to hold people’s attention and either big laughs or big explosions. If you find a movie with those things, it generally means there’ll be enough to guarantee people will enjoy it!
FID: You’ve had a pretty good ratio with Sam Chaplin on Cinema Swirl. Has the experience of watching films with Sam changed in the time that you’ve been doing that podcast? Have you noticed his engagement with the films change at all?
KM: Remarkably, it’s not changed that much. He has been equal parts burned and delighted by the movies he “HAS TO SEE” so he seems equally skeptical and excited for each one we do.
FID: For people like Sam, there can be a pressure to watching films that other people love or that are considered big classics. What’s the best way to make someone feel at ease as you’re introducing them to something new?
KM: Try and find something they can relate to and show them how it’s influenced by what they’re showing. Simpsons references usually help, especially with things like The Shining! As hard as it is, you’ve got to dissociate the hype from the movie. Oftentimes the fandom can be the most intimidating thing about a movie.
FID: Have you ever revised your opinion of a film after someone else’s reaction to it?
KM: Sam being somewhat underwhelmed by Back to the Future really threw me. It made me think I didn’t like the movie as much as I did. Then I rematched all three with my girlfriend as she played though the TellTale game and I realised I did in fact love Back to the Future! His reaction to Lord of the Rings (not a fan) really ignited an unexpected fandom in me, as I’d assumed my Tolkien love was all shrivelled away.
FID: And have you ever found yourself on the other side, where someone really wanted you to like something and it did nothing for you? Did you grin and bare it or come clean?
KM: I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for going to see You Me & Dupree. The very fact the person wanted to see it again should’ve set off alarm bells!
FID: What did you tell them at the end of that?
KM: “At least I got to eat a lot of popcorn”.