Photo-Illustration: Vulture

It’s that glorious time of the year: the fall movie season! More specifically, it’s that time slot on the calendar, just a little bit after the film festival fray and when the first waves of awards buzz start trickling out, when my brain suddenly shifts towards the fixation of Oscars curiosity, quote of betting on prizes and new movie release schedules at my local independent cinema here in Central America, with its large delay in the distribution of new releases.

To commemorate the occasion, I thought it would be fun to wrap an entire newsletter around the vibrant genre of movie podcasts. (Fun fact: Movie podcasts were the first podcasts I got into when I first became a fan of the medium. A salute to the OG Spotting.) To this end, I contacted New York film critic Bilge Ebiri, who appears to be a patron and exceptionally prolific host of such programs.

Nick Quah: I get a feeling, just from following your Twitter feed over the years, that you listen to quite a few movie podcasts. What’s in your rotation?

Bilge Ebiri: It’s weird, because I don’t consider myself a big movie podcast listener. I mainly listen to sports and basketball podcasts, mainly because I can’t stand reading sports reports, and I often prefer to read about movies rather than hearing about them. I was a guest on many podcasts. I love making them and they are all very interesting people. When I’m invited to a podcast, I listen to as many of them as possible before jumping in to get a feel for what I am like. Quite often, I hang around and dive in when it’s an actor, director, or guest that interests me.

Those I Do listen are the ones I feel guilty for not listening all the time. One of them is Cows in the field. It’s from Justin Khoo and his wife, Laura, both incredibly smart. Justin actually teaches philosophy at MIT. It’s one of the few podcasts I’ll listen to even though it’s a movie I don’t necessarily care about or a movie I’ve never heard of, which is rare. They bring a level of … “high speech” maybe not the right word, but they are able to address deep philosophical themes with these films in a way that many movie podcasts tend not to. They’ll get you involved on ideas in a movie, so you’ll end up doing some work when you talk to them.

Another one I like is Light the fuse. It is mainly about Mission Impossible, but from time to time they go out and make another movie that is somehow related. Recently, they’ve been doing a few episodes around Top Gunand they call that series Turn on the fuselage. It’s probably the best podcast to listen to if you’re interested in the craft of making movies. Most of their guests are people who have worked Mission Impossible adjacent films or films – for example, they had Joseph Kosinski, who was directing Top Gun: Maverickor Eddie Hamilton, who he cured Top Gun. They will talk to editors, sound designers, assistant cameramen. The nice thing about involving these people is that they actually get to the heart of the matter. Especially when it comes to movies from the past, the bullshit goes away. People are not in promotional mode. And since these are often people below the line who aren’t media trained, you can get a lot of great stories.

They also keep the podcast short, which I appreciate. I’m not interested in long podcasts, like, you know, the Blank check Boys. I’ve been on that show a couple of times too. They do a good job with the epic two or three hour podcasts, but my problem is that I will start listening to one for about an hour, and I will love it, but I will never finish it because my path is over or the dishes are over, you know?

There are all these other little podcasts that I really enjoyed doing and listening to. Released in 2010which is centered around the 2010s movies Side B. Opera busterthat I can’t tell if it’s around anymore. [Nick’s note: They are, but have since rebranded as Rohmercast.] They would do deep dives on specific directors. It’s another podcast like Cows in the fieldwhere the hosts were really well prepared, everyone knew their stuff and we talked about intoxicating concepts. Cannes I kick it, who watches films from a particular festival program and uses it as an excuse to talk about different directors. I went there to talk about Claire Denis, who notoriously hasn’t been to many Cannes festivals. The theatrical show of cinema it’s one I was just about to talk about Three thousand years of nostalgia. One of the hosts and I got into a short screaming match, which was fun. It can be fun if you all agree on a movie, but I really enjoy it when there is real give and take. I can’t do much in my daily life. I mean, I’ll see other critics of screenings and things like that, but we don’t talk much. I’m at home with my wife and son, and sometimes my son sees the movies I see, but not that often. I think every time I show him a movie, he feels compelled to say he likes him.

I really like Watch With Jen ™. It’s Jen Johans podcast, which I think she’s based in Arizona, and she’s going to have guests to talk about a specific topic and then more movies on that topic. I attended an episode where we talked about Colin Farrell movies and in a couple of weeks I’ll be back to talk about Ralph Fiennes movies. They’re anchored to the upcoming movies, but it’s an opportunity to talk about these old movies and for me to revisit these old movies, which I really enjoy doing.

Obviously, I love my friend Blake Howard’s podcasts, which he made A minute of heatthat was a great project. [Nick’s note: It was — the premise involves dedicating each episode to talking about a different minute in Michael Mann’s iconic film Heat.] Blake has since become a podcast entrepreneur. He’s done all of these other different projects and I’m amazed at how enthusiastic he can still be for a guy who seems to be doing multiple podcasts a day. After A minute of heathe did All the minutes of the president, which was phenomenal. He also did a zodiac series, which was wonderful and much more scripted. He does Miami Nice with Katie Walsh, and you know, I love Miami vice. He started with them talking Miami vice and how much they loved him and in a way he grew and grew and grew. Now they will have a boyfriend who was Colin Farrell’s assistant in that movie. He’s gotten more granular and more gossip, which is great.

Nick Quah: It strikes me that film podcasts are particularly good at connecting to two modes of engagement that are important in film culture: deep analysis, almost exegetical and ephemeral nostalgic. It is a kind of space for the extreme elaboration of the story, in practice.

Bilge Ebiri: This is the thing. I enjoy writing about older movies and it is fascinating to me how little of the past has managed to be preserved in the online age. We thought the Internet was going to be this thing that would preserve everything; we didn’t have to remember things because the internet would remember everything for us. But the opposite happened and we realized, “Oh right, the Internet that remembers everything means nothing if we don’t remember it ourselves.” So you have all this stuff that basically only exists in the minds of people who… well, they’re old. I like a lot of these podcasts because they’re actually about older movies. It’s a way to talk about it without having to come up with a shot or pin it to an anniversary.

Although there are some that I like that are more news updates, like the [horror-centric] New Meat podcast. I like Disaster girls, by Jordan Crucchiola (who worked at Vulture) and Amanda Smith, where we only talk about catastrophic films. There are so many that have endless opportunities to talk about these films. I love; podcasts built around a specific topic like that. In a way, blogs did. There would be a blog dedicated to this or that type of film. Today I see fewer and fewer of them, and yes, I guess they have migrated to podcasts somehow.

Nick Quah: Do you have a feeling that film criticism, and perhaps criticism more generally, is shifting to these other digital spaces? Or, perhaps, if you were trying to find your way into criticism, could podcasting or writing essays on YouTube be a way to open the door?

Bilge Ebiri: Here’s the thing: I don’t watch anything on YouTube. Not because I think they’re bad or something. It’s just a habit from being in the office where I feel like I’m watching a YouTube video, I’m not doing my job. While a podcast that you listen to while multitasking. I can’t really write when I listen to a podcast, but I can do a million other things.

As for criticism, I don’t know if that’s a way in so much so that it is a way to go beyond that space. I remember one of the first podcasts I ever did was The Cinephiliacs, which was started by Peter Labuza. At the time he worked in a law firm. Young boy. Graduate school, if I remember correctly. We walked in after business hours at the legal department and sat in the conference room – he had permission to do that – and he had set up the microphone and all. So he would grill the host, usually the critics, for about an hour about their career and stuff, and then talk about a movie. It was a really fun podcast to do and Peter was really very smart. He went on, and I think he’s now … an academic, I mean. [Nick’s note: Labuza is now a researcher with the International Cinematographers Guild. Also, Ebiri’s very first film podcast experience was on Filmwax Radio, an interview show hosted by Adam Schartoff, which started way back in 2011.]

A podcast, I think, can be a way forward, but I don’t know if there are many cases where someone who just made a podcast and then switched to another medium, because they require quite different skills. Many writers will have their regular gig or whatever, but then they will also have a podcast, which will put them in front of a different audience. I find that when I do a podcast, you know, I’m going to have a lot of new followers who are younger. I don’t know if this is related, but this was my impression.

Nick Quah: Last question. As we approach the NBA season: favorite basketball podcast?

Bilge Ebiri: Oh, so I have three, and I listen to every episode of these. There is the Glue boys podcast, which is basically two Nets fans. I’m downstairs Atleticoso they love to talk about how they are now a New York branch Times. They don’t do a lot of in-game analysis. Mostly they talk a little bit about a game, but they talk a lot just like the atmosphere around the Nets.

I really like the Brooklyn Buzz podcasts, um, that are two Nets fans again. One of them is actually in Australia, Jack Manuel, which is funny because he was a Nets fan for years before they took all these Aussie players. They are a fun podcast because Jack gets so excited about the Nets. He’s going to get very emotional about the game and start screaming and screaming and things like that, which is great.

And the last one is Stuck on the networks. They actually feel like they’ve been following the Nets for longer than anyone else because they have a real sense of perspective and only have a reflective quality about them. I really appreciate that, because one thing I have discovered with a lot of sports podcasts is that none … I mean, we talked about movies and people who have no memory, but compared to sports podcast people, movie podcast people are like elephants. !



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