Movie Music, Film Festivals, and a Pretend Punxsutawney
Podcasts You’ll Love returns!
This month, critics Jim Tudor and Krystal Lyon join me with two of their favorite film podcast recommendations. Whether you’re looking for Behind the Scenes intel, a deep dive into Arts & Criticism, or want to press play on something Just for Fun, we have you covered.
Behind the Scenes: Song Exploder
Did you know composer Ludwig Göransson found inspiration in a trip to Africa before writing the score for Black Panther? How did Jóhann Jóhannsson infuse alien sounds and human voices into the music of Arrival? Where did the pre-production end and the real-life performance begin for Justin Hurwitz’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” in La La Land? The artists answer these questions in their own voices on Song Exploder.
Song Exploder is the podcast where musicians take apart their songs and, piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Creator/host Hrishikesh Hirway (also a creator/host of the beloved West Wing Weekly podcast) interviews the songwriters, producers, and performers behind a single song about every note coming through your headphones. While the interviewees range across all genres of music, more than 10% of the episodes focus on scores and songs created for film and TV. As they talk us through each stage of creation and each track of the recording, we learn their inspirations, recording techniques, and layers of audio storytelling.
Because Hirway’s voice only appears intermittently (if at all) during these interviews, the music plays the starring role in every episode. (Though his voice is maybe the smoothest I’ve ever heard, so it never disappoints when it surfaces.) Subscribe to satisfy your obsession with movie music, and you’ll probably end up loving the other stories behind songs from Lorde, Kimbra, The Roots, R.E.M., and more along the way.
Episodes to Start With:
- Episode 53: The Martian (Oct. 2015)
- Episode 89: Arrival (Nov. 2016)
- Episode 92: La La Land (Dec. 2016)
- Episode 121: Stranger Things (Oct. 2017)
- Episode 131: Black Panther (March 2018)
Hear more at SongExploder.net.
Arts & Criticism: IndieWire Screen Talk
From co-founder, site manager, and critic Jim Tudor
As completely worthwhile as this podcast is, let’s get one thing out of the way. Despite the trusty IndieWire branding, this is a show that struggles to focus on independent films. However, hosted by IndieWire’s Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn and Editor at Large Anne Thompson, Screen Talk is the best and most reliable podcast for cinephiles devoted to keeping up with current events in filmdom.
What the hosts sometimes lack in radio-ready demeanor they more than make up for in boots-on-the-ground coverage of every major film festival and awards show there is. Kohn and Thompson are old pros at traveling the globe for their job, and we listeners are the regular beneficiaries. Thompson’s decades of experience in the thick of the industry (particularly the awards scene) tends to dictate the unintentional meta-narrative of the show: How Does (fill in the blank—Cannes, Toronto Film Festival, the Golden Globes, various guild awards, etc.) Impact the Next Academy Awards? Sometimes it’s to the slight chagrin of Kohn, ever the adventurous cinema idealist. He’ll grouse about always having to talk about the same 10 nominated movies; Thompson will berate him for “living in a film critic bubble.” Their chemistry is good, though—pleasant, with the occasional amusing spat.
Since the show is recorded in different locales and circumstances each week, the audio quality varies. But the show is nothing if not punctual, dropping on or around Friday and running a brisk 30 minutes. In the world of film podcasts that typically meander well over the one-hour mark, Screen Talk’s disciplined, if unpolished, record-and-release method is much appreciated. If you enjoy keeping current with not just the big Hollywood releases, but the industry and independent global cinemas, this is the show for you.
Episode to Start With: Since Screen Talk is focused on the here and now, it’s best to pick up with the most recent episode. At the time of publication, that would be “Episode 196: Infinity War + Cannes” (May 2018).
Get the full archive at IndieWire.com.
Just for Fun: Movie Crush
From contributor Krystal Lyon
I stumbled upon Movie Crush on a solo road trip from South Carolina to Illinois this past December. Twelve hours alone without cruise control, I needed something that would keep me engaged and awake! I was listening to Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin (also a delight), and Movie Crush was one of the recommended podcasts, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It seemed like something I would dig: Chill interviews and great questions about classic films equals middle-aged, movie lady enjoyment.
Chuck Bryant from the podcast Stuff You Should Know helms Movie Crush. Each week he hangs out with a different friend, actor, director, critic, or fellow podcaster to talk about the guest’s favorite movie. But the conversations stray into other film talk and themes, common interests, and life in general. Through these intriguing conversations you learn about the feature film, the interviewee, and about how you view movies and life.
Chuck asks all the questions you never knew you had! This comes from his genuine interest in films, his research and prep before the podcast, and his listening ears. Chuck ends each show with some great questions: What’s the first film you saw in a theater? Have you ever walked out of a movie and why? What’s the first R-rated film you remember seeing? What’s your theater etiquette? And what’s Roger Ebert’s take on your film choice? These conversations make me like movies more, and they make me think through my own opinions on movies and how I process the stories and experiences.
One of my favorite episodes even led me on a journey to Woodstock, Illinois, to take part in an American holiday for the first time. On that long trip from South Carolina to Illinois, I listened to the episode “Griffin McElroy on Groundhog Day.” (McElroy, along with his brothers, hosts a weekly comedy podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me.) Groundhog Day always makes me giggle, but I didn’t know about director Harold Ramis’s thoughts behind the redemption of the main character, nor did I think through the gift Bill Murray’s Phil Connors was given in repeating that infamous day over and over. McElroy’s insight gave me a fresh view of this ‘90s comedy.
From this episode I learned Groundhog Day was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just two hours north from where I was living, and that every year they celebrate just as big as Punxsutawney with free showings of the film, polka bands, and shots of sweet vermouth. So I grabbed a friend, and we celebrated 25 years of Groundhog Day with some of the finest people on the planet and a lot of Sonny and Cher!
Another segment he does weekly is “Mini Crush.” In each episode he answers questions from fans and dives into TV and streaming entertainment with his producer Noel. With no special guests, it’s just two friends that know a crap-ton about film, bringing up points and questions that make my mind buzz. In “Mini Crush #1” they ask, “What movies have inspired you in your personal life and why?” That one made me think, “Do movies actually inspire action in my personal or professional life, or are they just entertainment?” This is the thought-provoking conversation you will get if you start listening to Movie Crush. It’s fascinating and funny, and Movie Crush makes you think about movies and life—art at it’s finest!
Episodes to Start With:
- Tig Notaro on Mask (Nov. 2017)
- Kevin Pollak on The In-Laws (Dec. 2017)
- Griffin McElroy on Groundhog Day (Dec. 2017)
- Paul F. Tompkins on Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (Jan. 2018)
- Mini Crush #1 (Feb. 2018)
- Live From SF Sketchfest: Tony Hale on Punch-Drunk Love (Feb. 2018) – The two talk about P.T. Anderson, the subtle Superman theme in Punch-Drunk Love, and Hale’s own fears. Hale is Buster Bluth in a way…
Get the scoop on Movie Crush on its website.
What’s Your Favorite Film Podcast?
Taylor Blake is a contributor for ZekeFilm, including to episodes of ZekeTalk. She co-hosts her own podcast, SO IT’S A SHOW?, about Gilmore Girls pop culture references.