Toronto is one of the great movie cities and is filled with film lovers. Many are doing blogs and podcasts, and that’s a testament to the community's strength. A perfect example is the host of one of my favorite podcasts, The Matineecast. Ryan McNeil is one of the friendliest guys you’ll meet, and that feeling matches his show's tone. He also writes a daily blog at The Matinee, and his writing is just as interesting as the audio work. The guests frequently include smart voices from Toronto but extend to cinephiles around the world. There’s usually a review of a new release, but that’s just one part of the presentation. Within about an hour, he’ll cover a broad spectrum of topics that goes far beyond assessing a specific movie. There are few podcasts that pack so much into a fairly limited time.
One of the strongest aspects of The Matineecast is the fact that there’s only one guest. Many shows are crammed with four or five people, which makes it impossible to hear much from everyone. By keeping the group small, Ryan has time to really interact with the guest. The “Know Your Enemy” segment at the start has that person answering five questions about their movie background, and the answers are rarely predictable. Instead of just blazing into a review, we learn a bit about how the guest views movies. There’s also a lengthy “Come Talk to Me” portion where we hear feedback from listeners on the topic of the week. Those comments can lead to interesting conversations that go beyond the main subject. It’s this communal atmosphere that makes this podcast more than just another smart place for film discussions. There’s little high-brow nonsense, but it also avoids slipping into generic chatter that can dominate many amateur shows.
The main reviews are short by podcast standards, but that allows them to get at the heart of what a movie’s trying to say. The recent discussion of Side Effects with Titania Plant is a great example. That film delves into so many issues that trying to cover it could lead to a rambling mess. Instead, they tried to uncover the essence of the movie without tiring the audience. Along with discussing new releases, Ryan also does special episodes about topics like the Oscars, the year in review, and even an older film. The last example with Andrew Robinson was one of their best episodes. Instead of stretching to discuss a new movie from a weak field, they go back to an older film and then plow through some action spoofs. The conversation about Hot Fuzz got sillier than the show’s normal tone, yet it still worked because it fit the topic. That type of fun only works at that level with a single guest.
The other regular feature is “The Other Side”, which covers an older movie that connects to the new one. For example, the choices for the Zero Dark Thirty episode were Black Hawk Down and Strange Days. These segments can be great for recommendations, especially for listeners who are building their knowledge. All the sections are arranged smoothly with music cues that keep the show from becoming too dry. There are obvious ones like Green Day before “Know Your Enemy”, but Ryan also pulls out some great new songs at times to change it up. Although it’s an amateur podcast, it rarely feels like one. The high production values and music separate The Matineecast from its competition. It’s one of my favorite podcasts, and I look forward to hearing more from Ryan and his intelligent guests each time.