Here we go again, it’s time for more of my ramblings on the world of audio based film criticism, or discussion if you will. This week I’m tackling a biggie, at least in terms of episode length that is!
*Read on past my initial verdict for an addendum*
(To keep it short, for reasons beyond my control The Reelists is shutting down, and that means my Podcast Review feature is making its way to Bill’s Movie Emporium. I’m starting over from the beginning, so the first three or four I post here will be reposts from The Reelists. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when we get to new podcast reviews.)
A weekly podcast, The Criterion Cast focuses on the releases of The Criterion Collection, a much ballyhooed and lauded video distribution company. In their main episodes The Criterion Cast targets a bull’s eye on reviewing a DVD/Blu-Ray from The Criterion Collection. Their Disc 2 episodes center more on news and a general round up of what the hosts have been watching. Speaking of hosts, The Criterion Cast has three regular hosts: James McCormick, Travis George, and Ryan Gallagher. The podcast also features guests on a frequent basis and a few regular contributors, such as Moises Chiullan.
Episodes Listened To
#79: Straw Dogs
#80: House Of Games And Homicide
I love the idea behind The Criterion Cast. Let’s face facts, if you read this blog you are a film nerd. Film nerds, and I am one too so don’t get your panties in a bunch over the nomenclature I have chosen, love The Criterion Collection. I don’t even have that many titles from The Criterion Collection, but I pay attention to what they release and have yet to be disappointed with them as a company. A podcast that takes on the impressive library of The Criterion Collection should instantly appeal to every film nerd out there on the most base level.
The appeal of the idea is only base though, the discussion about The Criterion Collection needs to reach a certain level to make the idea sustainable. This is where I struggle the most with The Criterion Cast, it comes so close to reaching discussion levels that I believe The Criterion Collection deserves but at the same time it annoys me. I know, I know, saying something annoys me isn’t exactly the most in-depth form of criticism, but hear me out.
The purpose behind undertaking this column is to whittle down the amount of film related podcasts I listen to. With that being the case in order for a podcast to make the cut it really shouldn’t annoy me on a somewhat consistent basis. I like the films that The Criterion Cast talks about. I think that they give just the right amount of time to film discussion and to discussion of the extras that The Criterion Collection has become world renowned for. The content of The Criterion Cast doesn’t annoy me, neither do the usually great production values.
Where the show stumbles is in its hosts, and one regular contributor. James McCormick has the bad habit of disappearing during a discussion, he has great input to bring to any topic, but too often he slinks away when the discussions get interesting. Travis George has almost nothing to offer, I know it sounds harsh, but he very rarely says anything of value when discussing a movie. What is infuriating about Mr. George is that he has moments where he shows off his knowledge, but those moments are few and far in between. Ryan Gallagher is perfectly fine, he manages the podcast rather well and adds value to any discussion. The guests are just like with any other show, sometimes stellar other times boring, and often somewhere in between. My biggest gripe with the show is now regular contributions of Moises Chiullan. He knows his stuff, I would never argue otherwise. My issue with Mr. Chiullan comes with the way he takes over every discussion on the show, so much so that there were stretches in the Straw Dogs episode where I forgot there were any other people on the show but him. He also has the tendency to be a snob and easily dismiss any opinion that is different than his own, often in backhanded ways that are infuriating.
Obviously the problems I have listed with The Criterion Cast are a lot to get past. The reason I am struggling with whether or not to keep The Criterion Cast in my iTunes feed is that the good and the bad are just about equal. The Criterion Cast could go either way, I like listening to it, yet at the same time I am annoyed by it. I’d love to give The Criterion Cast a ringing endorsement, and the fact that I think I might be able to in the near future is what causes me to keep it in my iTunes feed. Argh, coming up with a verdict for The Criterion Cast is giving me a headache. You know what, I say subscribe to The Criterion Cast, that’s where I’m leaning. The talent is there, the idea is a great one, the professionalism in production is easy to hear, and while it may be annoying at times I am banking on the annoying areas seeing improvement over time. The Criterion Cast gets a very low subscribe from me, because as annoying as it can be at times, I still enjoy listening to the majority of the podcast.
The Bottom Line
Some time has passed since I first delivered my thoughts on The Criterion Cast. I can now easily tell everyone to subscribe, I have really been digging their discussions lately. My earlier dismissal of Travis George was unwarranted, since that time he has brought discussion to the table that I have been interested in hearing. I’m still not a fan of Moises Chiullan, but he hasn’t been on the show as much lately. Either way, even taking into account my dislike for his appearances The Criterion Cast has hit a stride where they are delivering in-depth film talk that I greatly appreciate.
In an addendum to that addendum, The Criterion Cast has changed its format considerably since I first wrote this review. It’s branched out into a network of podcasts, with the news section, the new releases section, and the what we’ve been watching section getting podcasts of their own. This simply means that The Criterion Cast itself has more time to talk about the selected film for a given episode and that the network has more content on a regular basis. Either way The Criterion Cast is still a podcast worth listening to.
The New Bottom Line