Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Podcast Post

I have been listening to a lot of movie-related podcasts lately, so I thought they deserved their own post. Just about every movie site seems to have at least one up-and-coming podcast. After sampling several over the past few months, there are three that I find myself tuning in to every week, and I'd like to spotlight here.

Filmspotting - One of the oldest film podcasts, having begun in 2005 as Cinecast. The current hosts are Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson, who are easily the most polished, most articulate film podcasters I've come across. Their wit is dry, their banter is intelligent, and their opinions are well-informed and reflect a great love of cinema past and present. On each show, they review one or two new releases, play Massacre Theater (acting out a scene and inviting listeners identify the film), offer profuse gratitude to donors and supporters, occasionally there is an interview, and then they review a classic title, and finish up with a Top 5 list.

The Filmspotting podcast is well-loved for focusing on the good stuff. The hosts approach films as art, and prefer to discuss the smaller, more prestigious releases, though they will share opinions on "Harry Potter" and the latest PIXAR movies as well. I find the show's archives to be a great resource, and I can not count the number of obscure classics and lesser-known filmmakers that I have learned about through them. As a pretentious movie nut, I find Filmspotting essential.

Also, this is one of the only film podcasts that has been picked up as a radio program. In Chicago, the reviewers' hometown, Filmspotting airs weekly on the local NPR affiliate, WBEZ. Filmspotting has also expanded into a series of film courses at the University of Chicago, taught by Robinson and Kempenaar.

A Couple of Cold Ones - The guys over at are the polar opposites of the Filmspotting hosts, and I mean that in the best way. Their content is accessible, approachable, a lot of fun to listen to, and usually very R-rated. Spill is not for the easily offended, or those who do not appreciate the joys of a good "we were so drunk" story. There are several different podcasts hosted by the site, plus the animated movie reviews that Spill is best known for. My favorite is A Couple of Cold Ones, often abbreviated as ACOCO, which comes around every Monday.

Site creator Korey Coleman and Leon (not his real name) are the current hosts, who usually start off by spending about half an hour having a conversation that has nothing to do with anything movie-related. Then they count down the previous weekend's top five highest grossing films at the box office, and evaluate their performance. In the course of the discussion, they talk about the industry, they talk about trends that they like and dislike, and they talk about the filmmaking process and marketing and other ancillary business that often gets left out of the film reviews. Then they answer some questions from tweets and E-mails, and sign off.

I love hearing passionate fans talk about film, and though Korey and his pals sometimes go off on unrelated tangents you're not sure they'll ever come back from, they're always entertaining to listen to. And though what they choose to focus on is very different from the Filmspotting cineastes, I find them no less enthusiastic or insightful. Even when I wonder if they've had a few too many cold ones....

The Slash Filmcast - I only recently started listening to this one, and it's taken a while for it to grown on me. First off, I suspect hosts Dave Chen, Devindra Hardawar, and Adam Quigley are much better print reviewers than they are in audio. They haven't been at this as long as some of the other podcasters out there, and it shows.

However, they consistently have good, comprehensive discussions about the films they review. I think a lot of this is due to the reviews being structured so that all of them start with spoiler-free analysis, followed by a clearly demarcated spoiler section. I've heard others try to split these discussions up, and it just never works as well. I find myself frequently waiting until after I've gotten back from the theater to listen to the Filmcast, in order to hear these guys really take apart and evaluate all the different pieces of a film, including the endings, which are often a rich source of debate.

The Slash Filmcast also frequently features great guests, including several appearances by beloved character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who spun off his own podcast from the show. I also like that the hosts will sometimes break from form and do installments on television series, like "Breaking Bad" and "Game of Thrones," or highlight an interview with a particular director instead of a review. This podcast still seems to be evolving, and I'm interested to see where it goes.

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