Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Guide to 35 Movie Podcasts (Created Jan 2012, Updated May 2013)



I was interested only in audio podcasts that are available internationally, broadcasting regularly as of May 2013 (most of these are weekly), have articulate presenters and good sound quality, and an archive of mp3s that are easy to find and download without any messing around with subscribing. Having interviews with famous names certainly helps to make a good podcast, but the main criteria are just how informed and energized the hosts are, and how well-balanced the program is. Whether I agree with their critics’ opinions or not had almost nothing to do with it.

I concentrated on podcasts that are exclusively or mainly movie-focused. There are also many 'general arts review' podcasts like the Slate Culture Gabfest, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and the BBC's Front Row and Saturday Review, all of which are good and usually feature at least one item about movies every week, but they're not included here. And there are programs like the often-excellent Tobolowsky Files, where character actor Stephen Tobolowsky tells tales of life, theatre (and occasionally the movies).

I originally wanted to do ’20 excellent movie podcasts’ but in the end could only come up with 8. That’s just because there are so many of them doing roughly the same thing -long reviews of the cool movie of the moment (the new Tarantino, Cronenberg, Fincher etc)- and two or three a week like this is more than enough. After all, if a podcast’s not telling you something new, what’s the point? And if you are going to go on for an hour or more you really need to have something extra to hold audience interest, for example a clearly defined structure which breaks things up into segments, like Filmspotting, or a critic who crams in a lot of information very fast, as on the Kermode and Mayo program. 

I’ve given links only for the top 8 but if you search for the others online you’ll find them easily enough.

The Top 8, in alphabetical order

  1. A Damn Movie Podcast (US) Included here because it’s doing something different - reviewing old classics in depth. It’s sometimes a bit too long, but it doesn’t matter because the choice of films is so good and the level of conversation/analysis is excellent. (About 1 hr 30 mins)
  2. Double Feature (US) Again, a nice alternative: it reviews 2 old movies, sometimes with a quirky connection e.g. an Abbott and Costello film & a Cheech and Chong movie, or A History of Violence & Out of the Past. Intelligent original opinions and copious swearing. (About 45 mins)
  3. Filmspotting (US) Probably the most well-known movie podcast in the US. Adam Kempenaar is the main host who has been doing the program for years with various other hosts. Recently Josh Larsen has become the new permanent co-host: an excellent choice. The program has a review in depth, top 5s and various other segments and the conversation is always interesting and insightful. (About 1 hr 15 mins)
  4. Filmspotting SVU (Streaming Video Unit): it has good hosts, Alison Willmore and Matt Singer, and the same professional standards as Filmspotting, but looks at a different set of films every week: those available online. 
  5. KCRW's The Business (US) A very professional and informative show. As the name suggests, it’s about the money-making side of movies (and TV). (About 30 mins)
  6. KCRW's The Treatment (US) Another good show from KCRW. Lots of big name guests, interviewed in depth about their own films. Intelligent and interesting. (About 30 mins) NB  the two KCRW podcasts are about TV as much as movies, but if you explore their back catalogs there's lots of good movie stuff.
  7. Kermode and Mayo's Film Review (UK). This is the BBC’s ‘flagship’ film program. Kermode is a walking encyclopedia of film who talks a mile-a-minute in a sometimes high-flown but always impassioned way. Mayo balances him out with more of an everyman viewpoint. The first half hour of the podcast is non-essential stuff you may want to skip, but the quality of Kermode's reviews - especially his talent for vividly summing up every kind of film - is worth waiting for. It reviews all or nearly all films released in the UK that week, including family films and blockbusters that most other podcasts avoid, which can be fun if Kermode goes off on one of his famous rants against something like Transformers. (About 1 hr 30 mins)
  8. Post-Movie: I like the two main hosts and particularly enjoy their rounds-ups of weird and wonderful DVDs from around the world. 

Runners-up

  • Soundonsight (Canada) This apparently is part of a large network of movie- and TV-related podcasts. Has good commentary and a good mix of commentators (i.e. includes a woman, which is unusual amongst these podcasts!) (About 1 hr)
  • The Criterioncast Podcast (US) Interesting program which focuses on Criterion DVDs and Blu-Rays but is not overtly promotional - they’re not actually working for the company as far as I can work out - and reviews other stuff as well. Good because it has different subject matter to most other podcasts. (About 1 hr 15 mins)
  • Triple J Review (Australia) Funny and incisive, but each podcast is just 2 minutes long. Why not make a longer program?
  • David Edelstein on NPR (US) and Kenneth Turan on NPR (US) Similarly these two well-known critics have some podcasts on NPR, but they’re only a few minutes long. (It would be nice if there were more full-length podcasts from professional critics who already write for magazines).
  • Filmcast (US) A good podcast with intelligent discussion, but a bit too unstructured and covers over-familiar ground if you’re already listening to something like filmspotting.
  • The Projection Booth (US) The one program I listened to - on Punishment Park (1971) – was very good. But it seems to covers very obscure films, too obscure even for me. Punishment Park was the only one I’d heard of and that’s not exactly mainstream.
  • The BBC Film Programme (UK) It’s professional, it’s nice and short, and has some good interviews (the last one I listened to had John Landis, Miranda July and Philip Seymour Hoffman all within the space of 30 mins) But its one presenter sounds like she should she be reading political news and the segments on regional events are boring.
  • The Guardian Filmweekly (UK) Sometimes good. I like the co-host Xan Brooks. It would be nice to hear the main host, Jason Solomons, offering up more insights and criticism of films.
  • The Nick D Show-WGN Radio(US)
  • Film Threat (US)
  • Both of these seem pretty good. I’ve only listened to an episode or two of each.
  • American Cinematographer (US) The magazine is excellent; from the three episodes I’ve listened to so far the podcast seems to be of variable quality but occasionally very interesting.

Others

  • The Q and A with Jeff Goldsmith (US) Some may like these live-Q-and-A-on-stage sessions more than I do. I just find that unless the guests are the type who really love being there and can own the stage, then I don’t like this format.
  • Creative Screenwriting (US) Not available internationally apparently.
  • The Documentary Blog (US) It would be nice to have a good doc podcast but this seems to feature very obscure films and the host sounds like he doesn’t even want to be there.
  • Movies You Should See (UK)
  • Cinescope Podcast (Ireland)
  • The IFC show podcast (US)
  • These three sounded good, especially Movies You Should See, and I like the IFC hosts Alison Willmore and Matt Singer, who have filled in on Filmspotting. But when I checked in Jan 2012 they all seemed to have nothing recent. Might be worth checking out their back catalogues anyway.
  • Indie Film Nation (Australia) I could find hardly any names I’d heard of in their list of subjects/interviews. Has lots of video interviews as well, but again the names are rather obscure.
  • Film Courage (US) A similar situation; I couldn’t find one name I’d heard of in a list of dozens of interviews on podcast. Moviemaker magazine apparently named them one of the top 10 podcasts for film-makers; maybe it’s more relevant to industry professionals.
  • Film Junk (US)
  • Film Feuds (US)
  • The Film Vault (US)
  • Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider (US)
  • The Movielicious (UK)
  • The AtomicGeeks (Canada)
  • All of these can be good at times and if you have lots of free time you might want to check them out. But for me they’re not distinctive enough. They generally run around 1 hr or 1hr 30 mins and seem a bit meandering and casual. Some seem like they want to present a comedy show more than a movie review show. Probably I’m not their target audience.
  • Moviemail Online Podcasts (UK) One posh English guy who tries to make every review sound like a poetic rhapsody. Just awful in every way.




10 comments:

  1. I think the 'The BBC Film Programme (UK)' should be on the main list myself.

    Personally I think Francine Stock has a great voice. In my opinion she knows her stuff and asks good questions at interviews. I've listened to a number of the film podcasts on your list and I don't want to say its the best there is but I find this one the most dependable i've come across so far.

    Their film reviews may consist of a sentance long comment (after the director/actor of said film is interviewed) but said comment usually contains some significant outlook which longer reviews often do not have. Its lack of film review banter/theatre may make it feel a tad sterile for some people, but a serious love for film is clearly evident, and it forgoes any bluster/hyperbole/ass kissing that may be present in other film podcasts (*cough* Mark Kermode *cough*)

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  2. Thanks for the comment. Yeah since posting this in January my opinion of a few in my top 10 have changed and I've grown tired of them so I wouldn't necessarily want to defend it 100%. I've only listened to the BBC Film programme a few times since then. I think it's good but for some reason I don't feel compelled to download it much. The other podcasts are nearly all quite 'blokey' by comparison but at least some of them have good heated discussions. Maybe if Francine Stock had a co-presenter to agree/disagree/get into arguments with...

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  3. Hi Kevin;

    Thank you for putting this list together. I list to (subcribe to) most of these shows and very much enjoy them.

    I'd love it if you could listen to and consider our podcast, The Post-Movie podcast. My co-host John Black and I are long time journalists, and members of the newly formed Boston Online Film Critics Association - http://www.bofca.com

    We started recording Post-Movie alomost three years ago, and have learned A LOT about how to produce a show. (SlashFilm's Dave Chen helped me with much good advice and solving some technical problems early on.)

    http://www.postmovie.net
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-post-movie-podcast/id348764360

    We'd be most grateful if you checked out our production. Thanks!

    Best,
    Steve Head

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  4. Hi Steve. Yeah I listened to a couple of episodes of your podcast and I liked it- good banter and a nice mix of old and new films. I'll listen to more when I get time.

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  5. Great post, thanks! I googled this as part of my master plan to learn a lot about films so I can talk to my husband without referencing 50% of my entire experience with movies (with 75% of that being Breakin' and Happiness, which I love, but does not make me the most well-versed film critic). On an unrelated note ;), Do you also have a category for movie podcasts that are both (1) most likely to discuss tickle torture and (2) reference "Sex zombies, raging bull, and Arnold Schwarzenegger"? Because if you do, I would like to nominate my husband & his friend's : KL5-FILM (http://www.kl5filmpod.com/)

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  6. The Commentary Track doesn't even make the "others" list? With long interviews with film historians, authors and filmmakers such as Kevin Brownlow, Carl Davis, Joe Dante, L. Q. Jones, Jim Beaver, Rudy Behlmer, Harrison Engle and many more, seems like it would be on your radar.

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  7. Hi Anonymous...I'll check out The Commentary Track...I'd never heard of it before

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  8. Re: The Commentary Track. I listened to the Joe Dante episode last night and really enjoyed it. To me the podcast looks potentially very good. I'm not 100% sure yet though. On the 'Podcasts' page most of the names are not very famous and you have to laboriously click on each one to see if the subject matter is anything that grabs you. It would be good to have a line or two on this page describing who the people are/what the podcast is about. Another minor issue: when you download the mp3 the file-name is just a number and if you have a few of them together it's impossible to tell which is which. It would be helpful give these files descriptions instead.

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  9. Please feel free to give The Projection Booth another try. We cover some obscure stuff, yes, but a lot of popular fare as well. Blade Runner, Starship Troopers, Battlefield Earth are three mainstream films that come to mind.

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  10. "You Must Remember This"is my favorite movie podcast.Backstories on stars and power brokers of 20th Century Cinema

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