Pod People

I have a reputation to maintain. Not one of those personal reputations for being a man of integrity and noble character. Heaven forfend. No, I mean that I have a reputation for winning the annual Oscar Pool. That and trivia contests are the only competitions I have any sort of aptitude for. Those Oscar predictions aren't the result of any inside knowledge on my part, nor are they exhaustively crafted by dissecting all the nominees' chances. It's just that I listen to a lot of entertainment-themed podcasts, and when you do that over the course of a year, favorites tend to emerge. Since a large number of film critics and reviewers were talking about Argo on their shows, it seemed prudent to change my choice from Lincoln to that, and lo and behold, it paid off. Lots of podcasts go in and out of the rotation, but the ones that have managed to stick it out deserve a mention.


The Dissolve: The A.V. Club was, until very recently, my go-to review site for all things movie- and TV-related. Site and staff changes have killed a big chunk of my interest, so when several respected staff members that had jumped ship formed "The Dissolve", a site for intensely-focused film discussion, I was immediately on-board. The Dissolve staff really know their stuff when it comes to movies, but have a ways to go on producing a podcast. The sound quality is regularly terrible, and the staff often discuss topics in a flat monotone. Sometimes it sounds like I'm listening in on a conference call, rather than an episode ostensibly produced for an audience's entertainment. So what keeps me listening? Well, the topics are reliably fascinating, such as a recent discussion of how much a film's "extratextuals" (behind-the-scenes fights, media interviews with the stars, opinions of real people that characters are based on, etc.) should affect your opinion of the film itself. The staff really knows their stuff, and I'm always interested in what they have to say. I have no qualms with the content; I just wish they'd get a decent producer.

The /Filmcast: I've peppered mentions of this podcast throughout my blog, and have been a regular listener for a long time. Its strong points are similar to the Dissolve podcast's: Hosts David Chen and Devindra Hardawar are intelligent, knowledgeable, and obviously care a lot about the movie-going experience. Their segments are well-produced, too. There's a natural progression from the film and television they've been watching lately, to news stories about the film world, to the main review of the week's big release. Spoilers are efficiently segregated into a a separate section so that I never need worry that a movie I haven't yet seen will be ruined. They're able to have impassioned, but polite debates when they disagree, which is a lot more interesting than hearing everyone parrot the same opinions. In fact, my only real complaint has developed because I'm such a loyal listener. If you hear enough of someone talk, their conversational habits start to stick out, and if one of those patterns is annoying, too bad. Nothing can be done. This is my roundabout way of saying that every time Devindra sneers "Come on..." in a derisive tone (as shorthand for something like "Come on, you couldn't possibly think that,") it drives me batshit. And it happens about three times a week.


Extra Hot Great: I have a long history with this podcast's producers. They've built some of my favorite websites over the years, from Hissyfit to Fametracker to Television Without Pity. All of those websites are dearly departed (or in TWoP's case, was bought out and became terrible), but the creators are back with another website and a rebirth of their podcast, "Extra Hot Great". Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get into the website at all, but the podcast is as entertaining as ever. It used to cover movies as well as TV, but its new focus is purely television. Of all the podcasts on this list, it has by far the highest production value. The segments are extremely clever, whether they're little asides like "Is This Worse Than Jazz?" or more integral to the podcast as a whole, such as "The Canon" (in which an argument is made for why a particular episode of television is worthy of being considered representative of the best a show - or television in general - has to offer). They also include a weekly game segment that's always fun to play along with. Sometimes the hosts are a little too impressed with themselves, but as long as they're able to keep from jumping up their own asses, this podcast is a pretty indispensable listen.


The Gameological Society: I have yet to find a good match for video game podcasts. I gave "The Indoor Kids" a whirl, but there wasn't enough of a focus on games. It was mostly just a series of tangents and interruptions and banter, with not enough real content. I try to listen to every episode that "Gameological" puts out, but I don't know that I can recommend it just yet. It's a very thoughtful podcast, and I admire the hell out of host John Teti. "Gameological" certainly covers game topics and news, but like "The Dissolve", the production is pretty terrible. Bad sound quality, irregular scheduling, and choppy segments turn what would be a very entertaining show into kind of a mess. With a decent producer, I can see it becoming a great show, but for now, there's a lot of chaff to sort through before you find the wheat.

I'm always looking to try out new podcasts, so if you stumble across this entry and have a recommendation in any of these categories, by all means, let me know. In the meantime, I'll give you a freebie for your upcoming Oscar Pool. Watch out for Gravity. It's going to clean up.


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