Thursday, July 14, 2016

Salvaged Entertainment Value

A couple of weeks back, I blogged about Filmspotting, a weekly podcast that celebrates excellence in movies. Today, I'm blogging about a podcast devoted to the other side of the spectrum: How Did This Get Made?

Now in its sixth year, this podcast focuses on bad movies. The title question is generally rhetorical, and accompanied by questions such as "what was the actor/writer/director/studio-executive-that-tinkered-with-this thinking?" Each episode plumbs the baffling creative decisions of a different cinematic disaster, with varying episode lengths depending on just how much of a mess the film in question is.

The main appeal rests in the hosts: Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas. Chances are you don't know any of them by name, though you've seen one or more of them if you've ever watched NTSF:SD:SUV::, Fresh Off the Boat, Grace and Frankie, or The League (among others). Because they're all comedians, they're great at mocking failures. I find myself laughing constantly throughout each episode. But because they're all working actors, it's not purely about poking fun. They can be quite insightful about a movie's core flaws. And I get the distinct sense that they speak from having been there -- they've appeared in bad projects that they wished would somehow be good.

In nearly every dive into a movie, the core hosts are joined by a guest. They've had Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Chris Hardwick, Michael Ian Black, Kristen Schaal, Damon Lindelof, Danny Trejo, Tatiana Maslany, Dan Harmon, Andy Richter, Amy Schumer, and many, many more. Several episodes are recorded live at the Largo, a Los Angeles club known for great comedy. The Largo performances, in front of an audience, seem to bring out even more from the hosts and guests.

With over a hundred films in the archives, the podcast has covered disasters of every kind. There are famous train wrecks like 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau, Battlefield Earth, and Gigli. There are notoriously weak installments of film franchises: Superman III, Spider-man 3, Batman & Robin, and Jaws 4: The Revenge. There are a LOT of Nicolas Cage movies: Season of the Witch, The Wicker Man, Con Air, and Face/Off. There are even movies they poke at even while proclaiming they love them all the same: the three most recent Fast and Furious movies. And so much more.

How Did This Get Made? is a weekly podcast, but the format is sort of bi-weekly. Every other week serves up a "mini-episode" consisting of the best comments from the show's fans about the previous week's movie. It also alerts you to next week's movie, if you're inclined to watch it yourself in preparation. I haven't yet gone that far... but after first skipping around the show's archives for episodes on movies I have seen, I've been branching out into movies I haven't. Whether I've seen the film or not, I'm still entertained.

My only real complaint about the podcast is that its commercials are particularly intrusive, even by podcast standards. Paul Scheer always reads long form "testimonial" style ads that run on for three minutes or more at a stretch, and they pop up multiple times during an episode. Though once you get used to these interruptions, they're easily skipped -- it just takes several more "15 seconds forward" skips than the typical podcast.

The movies may be terrible, but the podcast has been terrific. I give How Did This Get Made? an A-. If you're a regular reader of my blog, I have to imagine it would be right up your alley.

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