See also: Favorite Pop Culture Podcasts
This weekly NPR podcast quickly made its way into my rotation as I listened my way back through the four-year archive over a period of about four months earlier this year. Covering TV, movies, literature, comics, theatre and everything in between, panelists Linda Holmes, Glenn Weldon and Stephen Thompson often start with a reasonably clear main topic, only to see it expand as it is informed by the particular expertise of the contributors. Scheduling reasons and the loose format makes the show less beholden to the traditional release schedule based podcasting of some of its also-excellent competitors, but what really sells the show is the easy rapport of its panelists. Holmes’s quizzes are a must, as is the ritual half-mockery of the book-averse Thompson, and you won’t find a funnier talker outside the comedy podcasting universe than Weldon. A bonus for completists: I’d recommend you dive into the archives to get yourself aquainted with PCHH contributor emeritus, Trey Graham. I love the show, but I still miss Trey.
A biweekly spin-off podcast under the Filmspotting banner, SVU has Matt Singer of The Dissolve (see below) and Alison Willmore of Buzzfeed reuniting from the days of the IFC podcast to give you recommendations from the wonderful world of online movies. As is so often the case, the key to what makes the show work lies as much in the presence and personalities of its hosts as in the recommendations themselves. Singer, for instance, is a dead-serious (well, most) Arnold Schwarzenegger fan and eighties action movie aficionado. The streaming suggestions are structured around a theme related to the main review, a movie chosen by the listeners. Singer and Willmore are generous and open-minded critics with the all-important ability to make me interested in hearing discussions of movies I haven’t seen, and might not even be able to see. That’s high praise.
Fighting In The War Room
The podcast conveniently known as FITWR stars critics Katey Rich, Dave Gonzalez, David Ehrlich and Matt Patches, formerly of the Cinemablend podcast Operation Kino. Again, the foremost strength of this show is the distinctive personalities of its hosts, and the broad interests they bring to the table. In a thumbnail sense, Patches is the one who’s looking to find something the valuable in everything, David is the hyper-critical cinematic purist of righteous fury, Dave is the resident superhero movie expert, and, in the most positive sense possible, Katey is the one whose opinion is least likely to fall into either a decidedly “pro” or “con” camp. This multitude of opinions, all sincerely felt, never the product of lazy contrarianism, is consistently thought-provoking. Although its main concern is movies, FITWR, not unlike PCHH, takes a broad view on the pop culture landscape, with recent segments spanning from summer music recommendations to video games and music videos.
The Dissolve was launched in July, 2013, when a group of prominent writers left The A.V. Club in order to launch a new film site for Pitchfork. Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias, Tasha Robinson and Nathan Rabin were joined by Matt Singer of Criticwire and the abovementioned Filmspotting: SVU. Before long, they had a creatively titled biweekly podcast going, whose format falls somewhere between what we know from FITWR and Pop Culture Happy Hour. A rotating cast of contributors discuss two broad topics that are somewhat related to the movies of the week, and each episode also features a game, and the rapid-fire endorsement section, “30 Seconds to Sell”. Like PCHH, the topics are mostly starting points, and the most interesting discussions often grow out of a tangential point that’s come up during the course of the conversation. Future readers will find their own favorite episodes with this knowledgeable and lively crew, but for now I’ll particularly recommend a recent episode about the pros and cons of “issue documentaries”. And while you’re at it, check out a similar recent discussion on Fighting In The War Room.
This podcast made a cameo in an earlier post inaugurating a series about film criticism that predictably has yet to materialize. Hosted by film critic Peter Labuza, The Cinephiliacs contains in-depth conversations about their craft with prominent critics, scholars, archivists and festival programmers. Each episode is introduced by a mini-segment in which Labuza discusses something related to film or film history, often about the continued relevance of a particular genre or director, the state of criticism or the digital versus film divide. The main section is the interview, where we are guided through the guest’s life-long relationship with cinema in all its forms. Just about every show has some gems and perspectives you might not have thought about, but as for the ones I return to over and over again, I’d recommend Kenji Fujishima on the importance of a varied pop culture diet, Katey Rich on judging movies on their own terms, and Robert Greene on performance in documentaries. The final segment, “Double Exposure” has Labuza and his guest digging deeper into a particular movie chosen by the guest. I enjoy how unashamedly The Cinephiliacs embraces the concept of cinephilia, and through that how it’s able to make me interested in things I usually don’t hear much about, from film preservation to festival programming, the movies of Edgar G. Ulmer to the wartime experiences of John Ford or Frank Capra.