In A Pod of One’s Own, Caitlin Thompson is your go-to guide and curator of the best shows from the world of podcasts.
The thing I love most about podcasts is their ability to attract and create community. Unlike radio, which is broadcast out into the ether from unified centres of programming, on-demand audio tends to rise up out of tribes, made by independent creators or niche media already galvanized around a topic, a theme or a host’s obsessions. There are few subjects that inspire more fervent dialogue and debate than film, and some of the best podcasts being made tackle movies with the equal parts reverence and irreverence they deserve.
The number of film podcasts – including shows that dabble more broadly in pop culture – is almost too great to count, so I’m highlighting a smattering that feature unique formats, interesting ways into the subject and, as always, a diversity of voices. If fanboy culture has taught us anything in a post-Star Wars-reboot world, it’s that angry and entitled white male voices can drown out the subtler conversations happening around the pop-culture universe. Not here.
Lucky for us, the incredibly engaging shows below differ from the larger body of review/recap podcasts by offering different frames, tones and perspectives. (One episode-specific honourable mention: The Bees are Back in Town, that time the Night Call podcast dug deep for a conversation about on-screen anthropomorphism.)
You can search for all of these shows by name on your favourite podcast app.
Let’s dive into Karina Longworth’s acclaimed show, which itself delves into the secret or forgotten history surrounding marquee names such as Marilyn Monroe and Howard Hughes. Through meticulously reported storytelling, she takes listeners on multiepisode arcs that will leave you understanding an age-old story in a completely new way. Longworth most notably blurs the line between history and movie canon during a special season about the Manson murders that traumatized Hollywood.
The immensely talented Franklin Leonard created and hosts this monthly movie podcast from Earwolf, and the amount of sheer work that goes into compiling each episode is mind blowing. The show centres around an unmade script of Leonard’s choosing, a live table read of the film by an assembled cast, and then interviews with screenwriters and creators from the film community. There’s no other show remotely like it, and my favorite episode is a read of Loose Women, about a gang of sharpshooters.
“Comedy roundtable” is my least favorite format of shows, but hosts Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas' send-ups of the worst atrocities committed to film and elevations of cult favorites unfairly shelved is undeniable. Along with a coterie of guests, they reliably dissect the most astounding film choices in history, asking, of course, how they got made. My favorite episode tackles a film close to my heart: Jean-Claude Van Damme oft-maligned 1988 masterpiece Bloodsport.
The old Onion A.V. pop-culture gang – whom early denizens of the pop culture internet will remember as the smartest critics around – pairs an old film with a new one as a way to illuminate both. Tasha Robinson, Scott Tobias, Genevieve Koski and Keith Phipps have the kind of chemistry and trust to make the conceit shine. A great place to start is an episode that compares and contrasts the 1979 mystery Stalker with the recent postapocalyptic mindbender Annihilation.
Host April Wolfe sits down with female filmmakers to go deep on cult movies, with a heavy emphasis on sci-fi, horror and a lot of genres that don’t necessarily get their due within more mainstream film discussions. A reclamation of fanboy culture as incisive feminist celebration, I’ll borrow a line from one of my favorite episodes (featuring the 1992 fantasy/horror classic Death Becomes Her) to describe this show: “tits to the glass,” as they say when you have neither balls nor walls.
Caitlin Thompson is a journalist who loves audio and print – she hosts tennis podcasts The Racquet Magazine Podcast and The Main Draw, and is the co-founder of the literary quarterly tennis magazine Racquet. Follow her on Twitter @caitlin_thomps.