Thursday, August 25, 2016

Next Level Criticism

I've written previously about Filmspotting, an engaging podcast that examines films past and present. Filmspotting has been around long enough to generate its own spinoffs, and I've branched out into one of them, The Next Picture Show.

As stated at the start of each episode, the premise of The Next Picture Show is that no film exists in a vacuum. Comparisons to earlier movies are not only inevitable, but something to be encouraged. Releasing episodes in pairs, the podcast looks at a "classic" movie, then relates it to a current release.

The Next Picture Show differs from more conventional movie criticism in several ways. First, this is not about recommending or rating movies. This podcast is interested in the comparison between old and new, and sometimes one of those movies doesn't compare favorably. Second, it's a deep dive. Each hour-long episode is focused on just a single movie (or, in the case of the second episode of a pair, a new movie and its connections with the previously discussed movie). Third, it's a probing conversation. The podcast features not one or two critics but four, and their format is to each bring a broad discussion topic to the table for everyone to explore together.

Every episode I've listened to has been really provocative, getting me thinking in detail about a movie. Some of the pairings have been obvious, like the episodes examining the original Star Wars and The Force Awakens. Other pairings have had a sort of "film historian" quality, as when the first Toy Story was compared to the then-newest Pixar effort, The Good Dinosaur. Perhaps most intriguing of all are the episodes that delve into thematic connections between movies, as when Psycho was considered with 10 Cloverfield Lane.

The catch is, I can't listen to every episode. I doubt anyone could. This level of analysis can't take place if one is worried about "spoilers." And comparison between two movies is largely meaningless if you've only seen one of them. So really, you can only listen to the episodes that pair two movies you've seen. Which, even for a movie enthusiast like me, turns out to be not all that many episodes. (Though the existence of the podcast is making me think about chasing down particular movies for the sake of the comparison.)

The Next Picture Show podcast is an absolute A when you've seen both movies and can actually listen to it. But given how much of the podcast's back catalog is going to be "inaccessible" to the average listener, I think I'd have to call it a B+ overall. But it's well worth checking out if you're a film buff.

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