Posted on Saturday, November 14, 2015
It's not hard to find podcasts with the word "movies" in their titles, but good programs that are about movies are as rare as five-star films themselves. I don't have much patience with podcasters who chat about where they went on vacation or who consider themselves comics who think profanity is inherently clever. So after years of trying out different podcasts, here are the ones I've stuck with.
BTW, I follow podcasts with Stitcher, which streams them to my mobile phone during my 40-minute morning and nightly commutes. No downloading, no connecting to a computer. Subscribe to the free service, and new episodes just show up.
I look forward most to podcaster Karina Longworth's well researched and engagingly narrated stories about "the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood's first century." For You Must Remember This, Longworth produces themed series of stories. Her fifteen-part series "MGM Stories," for example, covered the history of the studio through the careers of kingpin Louis B. Mayer, stars like Greta Garbo and Spencer Tracy, and producers like Irving Thalberg and David O. Selznick. If you don't find this one irresistible, you really can't call yourself a movie addict.
The best (and occasionally frustrating) quality of Filmspotting is the ability of host/founder Adam Kempenaar and co-host Josh Larsen to discuss films in depth with insight that never dips into the pedantic or self-conscious. And even when they're going at it tooth and claw, they still give off a companionable vibe. Now and then I have to scrub forward in the podcast when they say they think they can discuss the end of a film I haven't seen without giving too much away — because they really can't. (Just be forewarned.)
In Massacre Theater, they reprise memorable dialog and listeners get a chance to guess the flick it came from to enter a drawing for a tchotchke. Their Top 5 segments — Top 5 Cold War Movies, Top 5 Desert Island Directors, Top 5 Haunted Past Movies, or Top 5 Small Moments in Big Movies — are a treasure-trove of movies to check out.
Incredibly, it's into its eleventh year and well over 500 weekly episodes. Definitely worth the time to track down.
Filmweek, a replay of a weekly program on Southern California public radio station KPCC, is perfect for quick takes on movies just hitting the theaters. Host Larry Mantle moderates a panel of three or more guest reviewers who can be counted upon to praise or eviscerate a film without spoilers. Critics who can be counted on for particularly engaging insights are Tim Cogshell and Christy Lemire.
It's remarkable how many times Elvis Mitchell's questions make an interviewee pause and think. Unlike the clueless entertainment "reporters" who clog the Internet with repetitive drivel, Mitchell has a genuine knack for exposing aspects of a director, actor or writer's technique and getting them to talk candidly and thoughtfully. The filmmaker may show up during a promotional tour for a new movie, but Mitchell interviews them on what matters in their career. You can tell the interviewees appreciate talking to someone who really knows the business and will take the conversation into topics worth discussing.
The Treatment is a replay of a KCRW radio show. It covers the arts in general, so you won't always find movies on the agenda.
The Film Programme is a BBC production that features short reviews, interviews, and previews of upcoming work. The English just know how to do something like this intelligently. Give it a try.