April 24, 2013

Podcast Spotlight: Filmspotting SVU


When Filmspotting announced that they would start a second podcast in early 2012, it was an intriguing prospect. Would it include Chicago mainstays like Michael Phillips or veer off in a different direction? Would the focus stick with new releases or shift to the classics of the past? When I learned that Filmspotting SVU would focus on streaming content, I was less excited. I dropped Netflix a few years ago and sparingly use the Amazon Instant Video service. My attention remains on physical media, so I wondered if this podcast would work for me. After listening to a few episodes, my concerns quickly disappeared. While the attention rests on streaming movies, that’s really just the framework for great discussions. It separates this show from the original yet maintains the spirit of discovery that makes is so enjoyable. That excitement about films is what draws me to this podcast every week.

Matt Singer and Alison Willmore host this podcast and have great chemistry from their time on the long-running IFC News Podcast. They clearly know each other well and have fun talking about movies, and you can’t fake that kind of camaraderie. He is doing amazing work at Criticwire covering the world of film criticism, and she does an excellent job for Indiewire and other online publications. They’re both experts but talk like friends you’d meet for a drink. Their enthusiasm is infectious and remains even when they’re covering silly movies like Streets of Fire or the Justin Bieber film Never Say Never. The portrait of the teen heartthrob was actually their main feature in the very first episode. There’s a different theme each week, and their coverage rarely hits the most obvious choices. The recent time-travel episode focused on Primer, but it also discussed Somewhere in Time, Happy Accidents, and Timecop in the “Queue Shots” section. The coverage frequently surprises with love for a hidden gem or concerns about a sacred cow. The “Listeners Choice” review often cover picks that I know little about, yet the reviews are still entertaining.


While each episode of Filmspotting SVU follows a certain format, it doesn’t feel constrained by the structure. Singer and Willmore will rave excitedly about a movie for a long time and then realize they’ve gone off course. The regular segments keep them on track and provide a framework for fun discussions. They’re critical but aren’t afraid to express love for a silly genre. Singer’s clearly a big fan of over-the-top action movies from the ’80s and ‘90s, but he can also delve into the themes from a heavy indie film. Willmore has so much to say and is one of the smartest voices in the movie podcast world. There are a lot of subtle touches that add to the enjoyment. When they play trailers from the ‘80s in particular, they sound like they’re from another universe. Singer and Willmore are about my age, so they have affection for a lot of the same movies from childhood. It’s a podcast that works perfectly for me and has pushed me to seek out a lot of great movies. I’m also digging into specific genres and themes with my marathons, so Filmspotting SVU is definitely right up my alley.

6 comments:

  1. One of my faves. Singer & Willmore are two of the more important voices in the online world of film criticism and you capture their appeal perfectly.

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    1. Pat, I totally agree. I feel that I should keep a pen and paper and write down all the great suggestions on movies I barely knew about during the shows. They plow through a crazy amount of material and speak intelligently about all of it without being too high-minded.

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  2. Thanks for the thoughtful review, Dan. We're very lucky to have Matt and Alison on Team Filmspotting.

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    1. No problem, Sam! Good to hear from you. I'm loving both shows and think they're better than ever.

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