Studio: Kempenaar & Larsen, WBEZ
Category: TV & Film
What It Is
Hosts Adam Kempenaar & Josh Larsen, along with the odd guest host, discuss films new & old.
This show releases a solid hour-and-a-half (approximately) once a week. There are mini-episodes scattered here and there. The iTunes page has the most recent 200 episodes. For the rest of the archive, hit up the show’s official site.
What About It
Well, if you know me much at all, you know I’m a movie guy and this is my favorite serious film podcast, though I should say there are a fair amount of laughs to be had. Kempenaar & Larsen have phenomenal chemistry and frequent guest Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune is always his own particular kind of added joy. Each show typically opens with discussion of a new film in theaters; this discussion is always well-informed, compelling and smart. I like to wait to hear an episode until I’ve seen the film in question so that I can really appreciate the discussion, which is typically spoiler-free. These guys are always great fun to listen to, particularly when they disagree. Sometimes, they blow me away by getting it absolutely right; they’re about the only critics out there who rightly saw The Immigrant as decidedly sub-par. But this opening discussion section of the show is a lot of fun because this is one of the only shows I talk back to. This is a show that really fires my love of cinema and my love of discussing cinema. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said aloud, “Oh, Come on, Adam!” The show often has a feature called Massacre Theatre where Kempenaar and Larsen butcher some scene from a movie; these are nothing short of hilarious on most occasions, particularly when accents are called for: you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Josh Larsen as Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, let me tell you. Let. Me. Tell. You. And then there’s the weekly top five. They’ll pick a top five that ties in some way to the current movie being discussed, ie. Top Five Movie Boats in their episode about Aronofsky’s Noah or something like that. Then they’ll take turns counting down their top five; movies from throughout the history of cinema are good for mentions here, so you’ll get everything from classics to obscurities throughout the ages. That’s your typical episode.
Then there are the extras. Every so often, they’ll start a Filmspotting marathon. They’ll pick a director or genre or star and have a marathon. So, an MGM Musicals marathon or Indian film director Satyajit Ray or, one of the most fascinating to me, Contemporary Iranian Cinema in which they watched and discussed several films from modern Iranian film directors. These come out in smaller episodes released here and there. Then there are the sacred cow reviews where they go back and rewatch and talk about an excepted classic. Sometimes, they’re revisiting films they’ve seen before, like Blazing Saddles or The Shining or Unforgiven. Other times, they’re doing a Blindspotting review, ie. Catching up with a movie they’ve somehow missed, as in an episode from earlier this year where they watched Doctor Zhivago, a movie neither Adam nor Josh had seen before. Sometimes, it’s a yearly thing. They’ll watch, for instance, Edward Scissorhands and then their top five segment will be “Top Five Films of 1990.” Those are also always fun.
I love the show for its breadth; a lot of people use it as a recommendation engine – they discuss a lot of smaller obscure films. I typically don’t have to do this; my local independent theater often keeps me abreast of these things before the show does. But they also discuss the blockbusters and are as likely to be very positive about blockbusters as they are about the artsier fare. They dedicated an entire episode to the Fast & Furious franchise when Furious 7 came out, discussing Furious 7 as the new film and giving their top five to “Top Five Fast & Furious Moments,” pulling from all the films. It’s this kind of thing that keeps the show fresh and prevents it from ever becoming too rote or comfortable. Anyway, I’m a big fan of Doug Loves Movies and Alcohollywood, a couple of comedy film podcasts, but if you’re going to listen to any serious film podcast, it has to be this one. It’s an essential.
Avoid Like the Plague If
Meet the Spartans was totally snubbed at the Oscars.
Best Entry Point
It’s hard to say really. I mean, the episodes are so consistently good that it’s hard to go back through the archive and pick one. The top ten of 2015 episodes are right at the top of the feed. That’s a two parter, with Kempenaar, Larsen, Michael Phillips & Scott Tobias, formerly of The Dissolve, all counting down their top ten films of 2015. Those are always good. Here is 2015: part one & part two. They did a really great live episode for their 500th show where they were joined by Michael Phillips and Dana Stevens of Slate to count down the top ten films of the “Filmspotting Era,” ie. The years when Filmspotting had been broadcasting. But these are special episodes; it’s too hard to try to think about which regular episodes I want to recommend. Here’s the deal: go through the archive, find movies you’ve seen, download and listen. That’s a good way to get through the glut of past episodes. But, in the meantime, just subscribe. You really must.