Our choices for the Top 5 Movie-Related Podcasts

Posted Monday, July 7, 2008 at 2:23 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

I've been listening to podcasts for about three years now -- well, since iTunes 4.9 was released in Summer 2005. As a fan of the movies, much of that time has been spent listening to movie-related shows. In this time I've probably listened to as many or more hours of movie podcasts as I have actually watching movies.

I've heard all kind of movie podcasts -- from the annoying and barely listenable to the incredibly addicting. Yes, believe me, there are a lot of bad podcasts out there. To paraphrase Strong Bad, bad podcasts can be summed up in five words: "Dead air. Ummm... Dead air."

Below are what I deem to be the best five in this category. The list was judged based on the five criteria I believe compose a quality podcast: good production quality, regular installments of new episodes, interesting topics, intelligent discussion, and a high entertainment value.

Also, after considerable internal debate, I've decided to simply list the five in alphabetical order. You might call it a cop out. I believe the differences between these podcasts are so minor and variable that ranking them doesn't seem fair.

More disclaimers: No single subject podcasts were eligible here. There are lots of good Lost, Serenity/Firefly, Harry Potter, and Star Wars podcasts out there. None are listed here. Finally, these are all just audio podcasts. That's simply because I couldn't watch a video podcast while commuting to work and my first iPod was an audio-only one.

Here are the best five movie-related podcasts. I've included publishing schedules, web sites, and iTunes links for your listening convenience.

The Business

A production of NPR station KCRW in Santa Monica, The Business delves into the industry that is entertainment. Host Claude Brodesser-Akner is always amusing as he conducts interviews and features about Hollywood's inter-workings.

I realize the premise may sound as dull as a butter knife but it's actually quite fascinating. If you've ever pondered the amount of money a film grossed at the box office, you'll find this podcast of interest.

Each episode starts with trip in the Hollywood News Caravan, a recap of the past week's events and notables. Then, they get into some interesting discussion with Hollywood power players. Each episode ends with some lighter features. They recently discussed an accursed subject for moviegoers -- the price of popcorn at theaters.

The show is very much "inside baseball" and not exactly for everyone. If you ever wondered how things get done in Hollywood, then this is the podcast to get you more acquainted with that world, as bizarro as it is.

The Business: Weekly episodes with a consistent running time of 30 minutes. Website; iTunes

Filmspotting

Hailing from Chicago, this podcast is the pinnacle of intelligent film discussion. Their template is one every podcast should follow: a regular schedule, high production values, regular features and brief musical interludes sprinkled throughout. Above all of these, the 'cast has the most critical element: smart and articulate hosts who share their love for the subject while having a lot of fun in the process.

Each week they discuss a current theatrical release. They often point out elements of a film I hadn't considered. They also delve into marathons where they examine films they've overlooked within a genre. In the past they've done series on '70s Sci-Fi, Pedro Almodovar, Film Noir, Silent Film, Horror, Herzog/Kinski, and Screwball Comedies.

Another regular feature of Filmspotting is the "Massacre Theatre" segment where they re-enact a classic scene in movie history. Listens can guess the film for a chance to win a prize. Believe me, it's a lot tougher than it sounds.

Using in connection to the new film discussed at the top of the show, the guys count down their "Top Five" flicks surrounding a creative theme. For instance, for WALL-E, the guys chronicled their Top 5 Movies About Loneliness. They always seem to have some inspired choices.

This one was penciled in as my number one for quite a while. But then original co-host Sam Van Hallgren left. Original driving force and host Adam Kempanaar remains but his pretentiousness sometimes can't be held in check by new partner Matty Robinson. Not that I dislike Matty, I just miss the dynamic Adam and Sam shared. It's still very much worth a listen.

Filmspotting: Weekly episodes each around one hour and 10 minutes. Website; iTunes

Mean Dawg Top 5

The next best thing to enjoying a good movie is sitting around with your friends and talking about movies. That's just what this podcast is about. MeanDawg features four buddies from Virginia, just sitting around drinking beer and presenting each of their top five favorite movies in regard to that episode's theme. Whether, it's their Top 5 Revenge Movies or Top 5 Movies That Make You Feel Like a Dork, these guys show they're having a great time just BS-ing about movies.

After listening to a few episodes of this podcasts, you'll start to identify with each of the four guys like they were your own friends. They each have a distinct personality and bring their own anecdotes to their movie selections. It all makes for a lot of laughs.

Occasionally, they'll stray from the top five format to do a tournament. They'll seed movies or actors for a March Madness-style showdown. In their recent Action Hero tourney, they debated which action movie star would come out on top in a real fight. Their results might surprise you.

I will note that this isn't a podcast you'll want to listen to in front of your kids. As guys drinking beer tend to do, they spew profanities here and there. They do try to be as respectful and politically correct as you'd expect. In other words, you can tell their wives and girlfriends keep them accountable for what they say on the podcast.

If you find Filmspotting too serious for your tastes, try this one on for size. These guys definitely know their stuff, but they don't take themselves too seriously. You're bound to laugh along with the Mean Dawg crew.

Mean Dawg Top 5: Irregular schedule of irregularly-sized episodes, each usually around 45 minutes. Website; iTunes

Scene Unseen

The concept of this podcast is a simple one -- one of the guys seems the film while the other doesn't. It may seem like a gimmick but it transcends the premise for a really entertaining podcast.

Los Angelino hosts Chris and Jimmy have jobs in the movie biz but they only vaguely refer to them. The guys are as vanilla as Joe Consumer here as they discuss a big theatrical release each week. Staying true to the theme, one of the guys sees the movie (usually Chris) and one doesn't (Jimmy) before they discuss the film's merits.

So how can a person who doesn't watch a movie discuss it? That participant judges the film based on its trailer and other movie marketing they've encountered. The two sides make for a very interesting yin and yang of discussion.

After a round of "letterboxing" -- each host's judgment of the movie -- they share their DVD picks tying into the main movie subject. Similar to Mean Dawg, there is known to be profanity in the podcast, just because that's how these guys really talk.

Akin to the former Filmspotting match-up of Sam and Adam, Chris and Jimmy share a great dynamic which make this one of the best podcast pairings. It was noticeably lost when Jimmy recently took an extended hiatus from the show... But he is due to return soon.

Since I've mentioned both Filmspotting and Mean Dawg in this review, I'll say Scene Unseen is like a great amalgam of these two fabulous podcasts. It's both intelligent and loads of fun. I highly recommend it.

Scene Unseen: Usually weekly installments at about an hour or slightly over each. Website; iTunes

The Treatment

This is another show/podcast from KCRW. The Treatment with host Elvis Mitchell is a little more accessible than The Business. It's mostly interviews with current filmmakers.

Calling these discussions 'interviews' seems like a disservice to what Mitchell does. The host may share a name with the King of Rock 'n Rock but this Elvis is more like the King of Movie Talk.

Mitchell, and his smooth as velvet voice, doesn't bother with the typical (and stupefying) questions such as "What was it like working with Angelina Jolie?" or "Tell us what your newest movie is about." His interviews are much more insightful, asking filmmakers about the inspirations, the obstacles, and the influences behind today's best movies.

Case in point, check out his interview with Iron Man director Jon Favreau. The two really get to the heart of the hit movie and the complex character of Tony Stark. Also, in his talk with WALL-E's Andrew Stanton, you understand the source of the robot's emotive "face."

Elvis Mitchell is the best interviewer I've ever listened to -- movies or otherwise. You need to check out this program.

The Treatment: Regular, weekly episodes weighing in at a precise 28 minutes and 30 seconds. Website; iTunes

Summary

If have some time to kill on your commute or while exercising, I highly recommend the fabulous world of podcasts. You may not be that into movies but there are some really great shows out there just waiting to be discovered.

MP3 players like iPods make podcasts easier to consume but they aren't required. You can sit at your computer and listen to them just the same.

The best part about podcasts is that they're free and all are delivered to you automatically through iTunes or the podcast aggregator of your choice.

If you have a favorite podcast -- movies or otherwise -- please let me know. Also, I've love to hear your thoughts on these five film ones.

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