Each week, Dom plumbs the depths of podcast nation to bring you the best in cinema-related chats and programs. If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then writing about movie podcasts is like listening to someone describe someone dancing about architecture.
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It’s hard to do much of anything right now besides dwell upon the bitter, painful intransigence of Thanatos’s will, and so, despite what that means for the quality of podcasts highlighted below, I’m finding much of the tasks before me—the intro, the write-ups, the act of blurbing, the use of the word “blurbing”, the listing of things I don’t particularly have the heart to complete—more depressingly futile than ever. Prince died yesterday, and whether it’s for a clear reason or for something so much more trivial, his no longer being here only engenders pointlessness—in work, in play, in celebration, in writing about him, in eulogizing him, in greedily co-opting his life to elucidate some smidgen of your own.
As everyone you know or don’t-know-but-read suddenly becomes a scholar in gender and race studies in order to be the umpteenth person to claim that Prince “made it OK to be weird” or “redefined masculinity”—which he undoubtedly did because of course he did—the idea of “purpose” looms large. Why do we do the things we do? But, no, really: Are you mourning Prince because you feel like you should, or do you mourn him because you feel indelibly connected to his music? If you podcast, why do you podcast? If you listen to podcasts, why do you listen to podcasts? Did you actually listen to Prince’s most recent album? Do you actually listen to podcasts? If you didn’t have to answer to social media, how considerately would you lament never being able to see Prince in concert?
The answers to these questions should be very personal, I think. But they usually aren’t, or at least they aren’t developed privately, and for many people they can’t be, because regardless of how well you know Prince as an artist or even as a person, his influence—itself, and not necessarily the content of it—is enough that simply an awareness of it makes for a deep existential quandary about whether or not what you spend much of your time doing will make any difference. This is the power of the Purple One, whether you were aware of it when he was alive or not.
The truth is usually that nothing you do makes any difference. It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. But I do think that most podcast hosts—myself included to a much lesser degree—are not satisfied (i.e., content) people. Podcast hosts have to believe that the basest of content—a person talking—has an intrinsic value worth the sometimes two hours of anyone’s time. It’s a matter of authority: The only way anyone should give a shit about your opinion of The Jungle Book is if you have something to say about it that 20 other podcasts haven’t. But you don’t.
We are, most of us, Wolf Blitzer. We thought “Purple Haze” was relevant. In order to move forward, to feign relevance, to assert purpose, we pretend that we have something purposeful to add. We write about Prince because (unless it’s your job to do so) we feel as if it is our purpose to codify Prince’s purpose, thereby legitimizing our purpose, and helping us make it to tomorrow without another stultifying episode of abstruse despair.
Unless you’re Norm Wilner—then you have a podcast because you were obviously meant to.
Anyway, here are the three best movie-related podcast episode of the week. I guess.
“Griffin v David: The Dawn of Benducer – The Lost Episode”
Though this week Blank Check began its series on the Wachowskis with an episode about how much they love the siblings’ first film, Bound, #thetwofriends (did I do that right?) teased a “lost episode” recorded directly after their last Shymacast entry, one they eventually had to discard due to recording issues and also because they were pretty sure the episode sucked. Instead, if you’ve been listening much to these guys at all lately—and, full disclosure, this is quickly becoming one of my favorites each week—you’ll probably find in this truncated episode of outtakes a solid highlight reel of what makes them so much fun to listen to. In their discussion about Batman v Superman, couched within the framework of Zack Snyder’s own blank check stature, find Griffin Newman attempting to explicate every piece of minutiae in Snyder’s career, then find David Sims unable to deal with that, then find producer Ben generally not giving a shit about much besides the fact that they need to get out of the studio in a hard half hour—all amidst the very real possibility that, beyond flustered, they could’ve just stopped recording altogether at any point, a tension that teeters over the proceedings like a mason jar full of pee. Regardless of their mess, and of the countless opinions on BvS still somehow being shat into the ether by any person with a platform from which to do so, Griffin & David come upon some enlightening ideas about the movie, all the while proving that either they’ve got the chops to make even total garbage listenable, or that I have forgiving taste. I mean, all you really have to do is describe Doomsday as a literal shit monster and you have my full attention. Maybe that’s a backhanded compliment, but I’m pretty easy.
“Gary Whitta of The Book of Eli”
After mentioning last week how much they wanted to get the writer of The Book of Eli on the podcast, W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery do just that this week, even more impressive because Gary Whitta is in the midst of finishing up the script for Rogue One. Unfortunately, he can’t talk about the new Star Wars joint at all, but he does seem genuinely pleased to be invited, boiling over with the kind of humility that can’t be faked, still, all these years and successes later. Very open about how lucky he knows he was for, in the early stages of his career, selling a spec script that would go on (mostly untouched at that) to being not only a Denzel Washington vehicle, but one which in many ways fundamentally shifted the actor’s career trajectory, Whitta is flagrant with his stories and anecdotes, each better than the last (capped by a story about how shamelessly Denzel pulled the Oscar card). Of course, as is usually the case with any conversation between strangers, Whitta doesn’t really go unbridled with his Denzealotry until the end of the episode, explaining why he thinks Unstoppable was unrated and why Man on Fire is so affecting, but following last week’s conversation with Michael Rappaport, DWITGAOATP (did I do that right?) is turning into a formidable interview podcast. Able more nimbly each week to use the great Equalizer, Denzel Washington, as a way to bring out the best in a disparate selection of guests, Bell and Avery are onto something great.
“It’s Orson Welles Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before”
This week, as we mine an icon’s life for every sliver of meaning, it’s tempting to pick at teensy scabs of detail so fervently, so closely, that it can be easy to lose sight of the person’s corpus as a whole. Which is why, before you buckle down and write a thinkpiece about Prince’s penchant for pancakes or what Camille’s resurgence in 3121 meant for the burgeoning mid-2000s transgender community, you could do worse than listen to Will Sloan and Justin Decloux offer their own glimpse at the iconography of Orson Welles. Rather than speaking of Citizen Kane in the hushed tones of its sacred cow status, Sloan and Decloux allow plenty of room for personal stories, revealing how important the film is to their own tastes and sensibilities before attempting to tackle its now ubiquitous canonization. Digressing at every step—into Welles’ weirdly prudish sexuality, his close relationship with a porn director, his odor, his embarrassment at his own acting chops—the hosts record less a paean and more of a kinda funny ode to a flawed, brilliant, tragic, smelly human being.
More of this please.
Dom Sinacola is Assistant Movies Editor at Paste and a Portland-based writer. Like everyone on this planet, he co-hosts his own podcast, Pretty Little Grown Men, which is sometimes about movies but mostly about Pretty Little Liars. You can find it on Twitter.