Podthoughts by Ian Brill: Watching the Directors

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In our regular feature Podthoughts, freelance journalist Ian Brill helps you navigate your way through the thousands of podcasts available on the internet.

One thing I enjoy setting up on my Netflix queue is to chronologically investigate a director’s oeuvre. I enjoy seeing how a director grows artistically and what themes are constant over his or her career. Joe and Melissa Johnson have a similar approach in their podcast Watching the Directors. Each show is dedicated to one director’s career. So far the hosts have done shows about Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson. There’s a lot of promise to the show but I don’t think it’s all it can be yet.

The first half of the show features interesting discussion about a director. They combine a history lesson with an artistic examination. For the show on Tarantino the hosts bring up the fact that the man behind Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill basically used his job as a video store clerk as film school. From there they note how Tarantino can take something you’ve seen in films before and reinstall a sense of impact to it. One topic that is brought up a lot is gender. The Scorsese shows asks is, since his films feel so masculine, a female lead allowed to be anything other than “one of the boys” to be a valid character. The hosts of the show actually note how the husband of the team is much more attracted to films with strong emotional elements while the wife is happy to watch Die Hard again.

My enthusiasm for the show deflates every time the hosts start with the lists. Besides the fact that I haven’t heard an episode where the “top ten” format is properly explained I find that the lists impede any penetrating analysis. The items go from too broad like favorite movie to silly like imagining what film you’d like to see the director remake. I enjoyed the lists used in Filmspotting because those were jumping off points into greater discussions. Also, they never outweighed their welcome, which is certainly the case for Watching the Directors.

The show wins me back when it ends on a review. Melissa’s reviews of Hannibal and The Departed were strong opinions put forth in a clear accesible way. If only the rest of the show was like that.