I’m not going to attempt a comprehensive list of the many, many film podcasts available now. Instead I’ll touch on the ones that I’ve listened to enough to feel like I’ve gotten a fair sense of them. A few of these I was turned on to by fine members of the community and I’m looking forward to adding more to my list in the discussion.
Soundtracking – I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with our own Grant “wallflower” Nebel’s Soundtracking, an occasional podcast posted right here on the Solute that analyzes movie scores and music selections alongside the films they accompany. Just like in his writing, Nebel’s breakdown of the musical, historical, and technical elements is detailed but is always clear and insightful no matter your level of familiarity with musical and/or cinematic language.
Highlights: The first episode on Heat combines a passion for music with a passion for Michael Mann. Episode 18 (Interstellar) demonstrates Nebel’s ability to elevate a listen through critique, praise and connections.
The Next Picture Show – My favorite film podcast was the (sadly defunct) podcast for The Dissolve. It’s still available and likely ages very well – one of my favorite aspects was the way the show tied episodes to recent releases without making them the express focal point of the conversation, instead using them as a jumping off point to a larger discussion. Following the dissolution of TD, Tasha Robinson, Genevieve Koski, Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias and (on occasion) Noel Murray continued the tradition of tying the past to the present by doing two-part bi-weekly discussions. The Tuesday episodes discuss a classic film that has connections to a new release discussed on the Thursday episode. In addition to the pleasure of hearing the ol’ Dissolve crew (though it would be nice to hear a Nathan Rabin cameo) do their thing, the podcast provides the extra bit of incentive to catch up on past and new releases that might otherwise slide past. As with all theirwork, the podcast taps into a strong online discussion community and incorporates listener feedback.
Highlights: Episodes 53 & 54 paired two films – Contact and The Arrival that thrilled me at different points in my life. 80 & 81 (Paths of Glory / Wonder Woman) and 96 & 97 (The Exterminating Angel / mother!) are particularly inspired pairings.
The Film Comment Podcast – The common element of my favorite film podcasts is their ability to supplement the conversations I enjoy online or in real life. In the way The Next Picture Show is a friend group I have more of a common past with, the official podcast for Film Comment pushes the boundaries of my familiarity. Having a stronger preference for formalist approaches to movies (and a low tolerance for populism) means the Lincoln Center crew operates from a different baseline for discussions. Violet Lucca has grown considerably as a host and producer, prompting guests with topics both timely and general and keeping the episodes lively and profane.
Highlights: I’ve discussed a fondness in the past for their Movie Gifts episodes (4/27/17 & 8/29/17). An attempt to learn something from the bonkers film career of Steve Bannon – “the Rainer Werner Fassbinder of shoddily made straight-to-video white supremacist documentary” – (2/28/17) is a must-listen.
The Senses of Cinema Podcast – Suppose you wanted a worldlier podcast like Film Comment’s, but wanted to switch out the snarky New Yorkers with friendly Australians? Luckily, just such a thing is now available. Senses focuses on global responses to cinema with relentless positivity (even from guests professing to hate a particular film) that catches that excitement of exploring the movies.
Highlights: At only four episodes old and dropping only once per month, it’s easy to catch up on this one. The most recent discussion of a World Poll on the best films of 2017 (1/26/18) talks over recurring favorites like Get Out while adding some more obscure titles to your list. The prior episode (12/14/18) might be a bit more representative with talks about Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and an Australian documentary on disability activism, Defiant Lives.
Blank Check with Griffin & David – A podcast pretty much entirely predicated on your desire to hang out with self-proclaimed #thetwofriends, critic David Sims and actor Griffin Newman. Episodes are grouped into mini-series based on directors who at some point in their career have been given carte blanche to make studio films. Each episode of a mini-series delves into a film in the director’s filmography, both before and after the director earns their “blank check” status. The conceit means there’s a good ratio of decent or great films to clunkers and there’s always as much insight as there is silliness. Between indulging side tangents and embellishing inside jokes, it’s very common for episodes to run longer than the movie being discussed, as Sims and Newman fall into a natural Abbott and Costello routine. This allows Newman the chance to take a discussion into new territory by derailing it, and if straight-man Sims doesn’t quite always regain control, his semi-faux frustration at least adds to the bit. Entry into the series a bit steep, but once you learn the secret handshakes you may find yourself greeting new episodes with a happy Hello Fennel.
Highlights: Picking a one-off is a good way to start, like a notorious takedown of <i>The Book of Henry</i> (6/18/17), an episode also serving as a good intro to the third member of the group, the oft-exasperated producer Ben Hosley. My personal favorite is <i>Lost in Space</i> (12/13/17) but I’d recommend going with a film you’re already familiar with. From there, pick a director and try a full mini-series.
I’ve also enjoyed /Film, How Did This Get Made?, and You Must Remember This but haven’t heard enough episodes to talk about them intelligently.
Okay, I’ve talked enough to fill a podcast of my own. What do you look for in a film podcast? When do you listen? What favorites are in your rotation?