Prep for Awards Shows, a Collector’s Show, and Oscar Micheaux
A peek behind the curtain: I’m wrapping up the piece the night before I head out on a cross-country flight. I’m checked in (C boarding group, here I come!), my suitcase is (mostly) packed, and you can bet I’ve got podcasts downloaded to listen to in transit.
Jim Tudor and Madeline Brophy join me this month in recommending shows we think you’ll love, and we’re hoping these will become your best companions as you wrap up your holiday traveling and begin the winter doldrums (or as we movie fans prefer to call it, Awards Season). At the risk of sounding like an audio file with a glitch in it, here are our Big Three categories of shows:
- Behind the Scenes: Film history and interviews
- Arts & Criticism: The craft of filmmaking and storytelling
- Just for Fun: Anything else a cinephile will love
Behind the Scenes: The Big Picture
From Contributor Madeline Brophy
Similar to my previous recommendation (The Watch), The Big Picture podcast by The Ringer is my go-to listen for the latest new movie reviews and insider tips from film directors. If you’re looking for a deeper grasp into the film industry, check this podcast out! (I have included a few of my favorite episodes below.)
Along with other Ringer colleagues and film critics, podcast host and Ringer Editor-In-Chief Sean Fennessey tackles film industry topics from the newest film releases to the issues around the busiest of awards seasons. The biggest directors sit down to discuss behind the scenes details from their films. For example, I really loved 2018 films First Reformed and Hereditary so those were two podcast episodes I immediately gravitated toward. I really enjoyed hearing from the directors to get a behind the scenes listen, not just on how the films were made but also why the story was told the way it was and what motivated the director to make certain choices—it’s something I know movie buffs find fascinating! I should add, if you enjoy awards seasons like The Academy Awards or The Golden Globes (coming up rather quickly now aren’t we, 2019…) this podcast debates the best movies of the year with other filmmakers and critics alike so if anything the listen will help you figure out what to see and skip in theatres this new year.
Episodes to Start With:
- Critical Movie Analysis
- Interview with Directors
- Film Reactions and Awards
Arts & Criticism: Micheaux Mission
Starting any podcast can feel daunting from the get-go, but Len Webb and Vincent Williams get credit for aspiring to something greater than the “two friends talking about movies” angle that seems to be the extent of thought many hosts put into their shows. In their own words, Len and Vince have dedicated themselves to “watching and reviewing every Black feature film ever made and released to theater.” Just shy of 3 years and 150 episodes into the project, they show no signs of slowing down.
While they have covered major recent titles you’d expect like Get Out and Black Panther, their show’s title is a tip-off that they’re digging beyond this week’s think pieces. Named after early African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, they really mean to discuss the stories and legacies of “every Black feature film,” from those blockbusters all the way back to the early days of cinema. (It’s also why I had trouble narrowing down which episodes I recommend starting with!) Come for the criticism, and stay for the conversation between a pair of friends equally matched in insight, knowledge, and humor. Whether they’re discussing Tyler Perry’s complicated role in pop culture or disagreeing on the merits of a film (Driving Miss Daisy, anyone?), you won’t be disappointed.
- The Black Film Canon with Aisha Harris of Slate.com (February 2017)
- 60 – Get Out (March 2017)
- 81 – Driving Miss Daisy (September 2017)
- Special – Definition of a Black Film The Remix (February 2018)
- 101 – Black Panther (February 2018)
- 105 – Love & Basketball with Tech-Life Steph (March 2018)
- 113 – Diary of a Mad Black Woman (May 2018)
Find their reviews of every Black film ever made on their website.
Full disclosure: I’ve collaborated with Micheaux Mission on my own podcast, but I’d be recommending them in any case!
Just for Fun: Criterion Now
From Co-Founder and Site Manager Jim Tudor
For those of us who stubbornly cling to our physical media not unlike the way some people cling to guns or religion, the rise of boutique Blu-ray and DVD labels has been a godsend. Every month brings a bevy of lovingly created titles; always some strange new discoveries and canonical classics revisited. Stateside, no one does physical media better than the Criterion Collection. In podcasting, no one covers the Criterion Collection better than the Criterion Cast master feed. Currently, its main program is the weekly show Criterion Now, hosted by disc collecting super-geek, Aaron West.
While there are any number of podcasts devoted to analyzing films released by Criterion, Criterion Now, in its own humble way (read: not professional, though well-recorded and edited), has fun diving into the collecting side of the hobby. Each week, listeners can count on West, and a revolving stable of informed co-hosts, cycling through topics of all things Criterion. Rumors, controversies, cover art analysis, “quick takes” on particular movies and directors, and the monthly assessments of the company’s mid-month new title announcements are all regular topics of discussion. For the devoted collector, or even the fair weather collector, the ensuing chats are satisfyingly engaging in their speculations and surmising.
In 2018, barely a week went by without wishful debate over the likelihood of an Ingmar Bergman movie mega-set emerging on behalf of the director’s centennial. By year’s end, as many a cinephile knows, the set not only became a reality, but a massive, sold out hit for the company. Now, with its obsessive coverage and chatter about it, must’ve fueled that particular fire to some degree. Every now and then, Criterion Now temporarily sheds its Criterion connection completely, becoming “Arrow Now,” covering the beloved cult and classic titles released by the up and coming other fan favorite label, Arrow Video.
Although purely a fan endeavor (no Criterion Cast podcasts are officially sanctioned by the titular company), West, in the few years he’s done the show, has lured the occasional Big Name Guest. Among them are Criterion fan and Florida Project director, Sean Baker; author and former Filmstruck host, Alicia Malone; and the wife of the late filmmaker Ken Russell, actress Lisi Tribble. But mostly, it’s simply disc devotees like you and me (well, like me, anyhow) getting together via Skype to share in their mutual love and excitement of the best that home video has to offer. Criterion Now really is just for fun.
Episodes to Start With:
- Episode 23 – Talking Criterions with Sean Baker (July 2017)
- Episode 31 – Alicia Malone, Women in Film (August 2017)
- Episode 76 – FilmStruck, Fandor, and the State of Home Media (December 2018)
Find the full collection on Criterion Cast’s website.
What are you listening to this winter?
Taylor Blake is a contributor for ZekeFilm, including to episodes of ZekeTalk. She co-hosts the podcast SO IT’S A SHOW?, which focuses on Gilmore Girls pop culture references, including one about Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy with Micheaux Mission.