Dec 18, 2013

Listmania: The Best Podcasts of 2013: #40-59

To know how these lists were compiled, please read the Preamble here.

One of the greatest forms of media currently growing is the podcast format. In recent years especially, it has gone on to encapsulate a lot of our culture. Featuring a mix of commentary, comedy, and information, these shows are indelible sources of enjoyment and makes celebrities out of the common man or personalize the celebrities that exist. The following is a week-long countdown of the Top 100 shows that I feel show the variety of skills that are present in these shows and hopefully will provide you the readers with new forms of entertainment. Enjoy and put your headphones on! They're all free.

40. Wrong Opinions About Movies (Majestic Giraffe)

One of the sadder things that happened when compiling last year's list was the immediate discovery afterwards of this terrific show. While the title may be misleading, this is probably one of the funnest, most optimistic weekly shows to discuss movies. With occasional week-long specials analyzing various franchises such as Star Trek or horror films, the show manages to remain upbeat and unique by mixing current releases with related topics in a crisp package. Whether or not you think that their opinion is right or... wrong, there is one thing for sure. Few shows are this enjoyable and accessible to those who like movies but aren't involved enough to be cinephiles.

41. Top Shelf: A.F.I. Top 100 (Ghost-Hat)

The evolution of film fans is an intriguing thing to hear, and few have managed to do it in nearly as fun of a way as Top Shelf. Their novel idea of going one by one down American Film Institute's (A.F.I.) Top 100 Best Movies has resulted in plenty of lively discussion by its two hosts on the legitimacy to be on the list based on trivia, technical advances, and performers who look like other performers. It is an entertaining journey through a list that itself doesn't always make sense with people that very well could be your friends. They aren't movie snobs and share the same questions you have on the African Queen's legitimacy. Feel free to tell them what you think.

Left to right: Jen Kirkman and Jake Fogelnest
42. The Fogelnest Files (Earwolf)

One of the best new shows of 2012 continues into 2013 by branching out beyond the video clip format that made it easily accessible. While it has resulted in more mixed results, it has also brought some fascinating guests. With the video clips almost becoming secondary to the actual interview, the Fogelnest Files has evolved into one of the most unique interview shows out there in that the weird people that host Jake Fogelnest adored growing up are now being presented to a wider audience. He cares about promoting the little man and just having a good time. You'll learn a thing or two while participating in one of the most intriguing examples of theater of the mind currently out there.

43. The 60-Second Science Series (Scientific American)

It would be unfair to judge each of Scientific American's podcasts individually, as they all serve the same purpose: scientific information in a minute flat. For those in a rush or just want the facts quickly, these shows are ideal for those interested in the science of technology, health, or even weather. For their lack of length, they make up for it with some of the most concise reporting in the podcast medium.

Maybe it wins on concept alone, but Trash, Art & The Movies may be one of the best conceptual podcasts to deal with movies. The premise is simple: pit two films with relative subjects against each other. One is high quality (Art) and the other is less respected (Trash). Through the course of the episode, the hosts dissect what makes each one valid and how their opinion will affect who wins. It isn't always obvious and always spawns great conversation about the nature of films, notably on the issue of entertainment versus value. 

45. On the Media (NPR)

With the growing news landscape, it hard to find a source that will be honest with you. On the Media isn't so much there to present biased sides, but an overall view of the issue. It will inform on varying topics regarding the current state of global politics as well as how it is perceived in the media. With hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, the show continues to be a welcoming source of information and an easy way to stay informed on weekly events.

Chris Harwdick
46. The Nerdist (Nerdist Industries)

It is hard to justifiably criticize Chris Hardwick at this point, as the Nerdist has become bigger than him. It has given him plenty of credibility as an AMC channel talk show host as well as the leader of his own Comedy Central series. He is unstoppable and a great reflection of how to monetize the podcasting market. However, his initial Nerdist podcast is still sometimes a problematic form of rambling with guests about nonsensical stuff based on how big of a nerd they are. However, with the right guests, the exploration of deeper topics regarding careers are engaged in fascinatingly optimistic ways. The show will probably continue to grow and maybe Hardwick will be more overexposed, but as a whole, it should be more seen as a point of pride than shame.

Chugging along for several years now, the Golden Briefcase remains one of the most viable and great segmented shows in the movie world. Usually with guests, they don't explore current releases, but topics related to them. This is along with segments such as "Grilling the Guest" and looks at new releases and dissection of the latest trailers. There isn't any lack of material to talk about here and with occasional dissection of individual movies released as specials, the show continues to be an alternative way to look at movies.

Another great show that looks at the world of film. As a whole, The Film Stage website is quite a haven for every cinephile out there (check out their Tumblr). Their show is also one of growing essential listening. With exploration often of a singular filmmaker in each episode along with recent release reviews, the show is ripe with content to check out. Even when the hosts don't agree, the dissections are always enjoyable and brings life to their topics.

The institution for story telling podcasts, The Moth remains as strong as ever. With all sorts of different speaker ranging in topics, the show manages to explore the many facets of life in ways that not only push the narrative art form forward, but also engage listeners with life lessons. Usually short, these episodes appeal to the common man and manage to be something of value in a timeless manner.

Craig Mazin may write some awful comedies (Identity Thief and The Hangover Part III being recent examples), but somehow he knows a thing or two about scrip writing. Every week, Mazin and his co-host John August take their screen writing skills and apply it to dissecting recent news regarding their craft as well as thoughts on how to get into the business and simply staying sane when nothing works out. The show is highly entertaining and quite informative to those that find interest in the topic. 

51. It's That Episode (Splitsider)

This series remains quite an intriguing alternative to the normal interview. With Craig Rowin interviewing random guests, they watch an episode of a TV show and dissect it at length. It may often lead to other forms of conversation, but it helps to explore passions and nuanced observations that fuel everyday life. It may not always lead to introducing you to high quality shows, but it will give you a moment to embrace the goofier side of entertainment and with a host that knows a thing or two about the medium, it all works out with entertaining results.

52. Yeah, It's That Bad

Special honor to the defunct Yeah, It's That Bad. The show disbanded this year and left no trace of history on the internet. While this is unfortunate, it is nice to know that those who were familiar with the show could embrace their take on bad movies. Of course, their pedigree was different from almost every other show out there. They went off of Rotten Tomatoes and explored less considered bad films and just those that weren't Fresh on the critics aggregate website. It lead to discussions on films such as Lars Von Trier's Antichrist and their spin-off Yeah It's That Good, which chose to analyze the English Patient and whether it was overrated. Sadly, there doesn't look to be any chance of the show coming back. But for its final run, it did produce a lot of great entertainment. If only it was still accessible.

Julie Klausner

Julie Klausner continues to remain one of the best monologue comedians in the podcast realm. While she sticks close to familiar topics, she is passionate enough to make them work. Her interview skills continued to grow and conversations with the likes of Julianne Moore show that she is as much engaged as she is fascinated by her topics. The show is always a blast to listen to and with her branching out into special episodes, such as one that explored the Exorcist, she is only getting more creative with the medium. With an unexpected list of guests, she remains one of the most viable of hosts and hopefully will continue to be in the year to come.

54. Freakonomics (WNYC)

Want to know how economics work but need something more lively and upbeat? This mix of human interest pieces with economic empathy explores how our society works with money. It even goes into the various other aspects that influence how we perceive the world. While the length varies greatly often week to week, the show never loses esteem and with high production quality, it remains one of the more engaging looks at a very droll issue currently out there.

Left to right: Allison Willmore and Matt Singer

One of the greatest losses to the podcasting world a few years back was the disbanding of IFC News, which featured hosts Allison Willmore and Matt Singer. Their chemistry remains one of the most engaging and fun examples of people obsessed with films. Luckily, their reunion has been sweet with the Filmspotting spin-off: S.V.U., which stands for Streaming Video Unit. Their new quest is to share news about recent releases in the video on demand market and discuss films in this market. With their banter being as sharp as ever, the show is essential to those who want something to watch at home but don't know where to go for advice. They're non threatening and always manage to pack some fun into each episode.

56. The JV Club (Nerdist Industries)

Janet Varney's exploration of women in high school continues to remain one of the most endearing shows out there. Even if it is a niche topic, it does allow the guests to open up about their embarrassing stories and create a heartwarming sense of nostalgia. At very least, we understand the women better and how unifying their traumatic experiences are to the general sense of growing up. It usually comes with some impressive moments and the ability to laugh at the past is always rampant. It is a collection of great interviews that are unlike any other show and make you long for those days of just having fun and acne.

Thanks largely to the Flophouse for introducing this show to a wider audience, this show is yet another bad movies podcast. However, it also explores all of the pop culture landscape in regards to badness. It helps to create a mixed bag effect that allows each episode to feel different and explores something in entertaining fashion. Hopefully in 2014, I will be able to explore these episodes more and maybe they'll be higher up on the list. As for now, it remains one of the more promising discoveries that I have made this year.

Esther Povitsky
58. Weird Adults (Feral Audio)

One of the strangest fascinations I have is with Esther Povitsky, who definitely earns the title of "weird." She has one of the loosest formed podcasts that cover almost anything that comes to her mind. Even if it does seem very laxed, it is mostly an excuse to listen to a group of people try to have an interview and instead just talk about the things that fascinate them. With an eclectic and strange group of guests, the show still manages to compel. It may not always work, but the structure is infectiously confusing that it doesn't matter. The stories will replace any worries you have.

59. In Contention

This Academy Awards podcast is very much like the Film Experience, but more from a professional standpoint. It talks about the inside track, with the hosts often attending parties and talking statistics. It sets out to give you the information and never spares on the details. These people are experts at their job and while they cut back to episodes every other week, it has only strengthened their output and makes their arguments more concrete in helping to guide the listener through the busy awards season.

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