Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: “Left Field Cinema”

Posted by Maximum Fun on 28th June 2009

Here’s the thing about movie podcasts: there’s a glut of ’em. No matter your taste, personality, available listening time or filmgoing experience, there’s a movie podcast out there that’s just right for you. That said, your Podthinker wishes you the best of luck as regards (a) finding it amidst the teeming thousands of other fish swimming the sea and (b) enduring the interminable goof-off-y nonsense that comprises the vast majority of movie podcasts out there through which you’ll have to dig to find the perfect match.

Given the situation, your Podthinker is pleased to report that he as unearthed an absolute gem of a movie podcast, one that will constitute the perfect match for many of you: Left Field Cinema [iTunes link]. A few-frills production, the format comes down to host Mike Dawson discussing one piece of cinematic art per episode. (For those who enjoy nitpicking, yes, some shows are two-film comparisons, some are collections of listener-penned reviews, and some are end-of-the-year roundups.) Were Dawson your stereotypical posing, discursive, culturally neurotic video store register jockey, this would be one to avoid. But damn, this guy is sharp! Any given episode is a display of Dawson’s impressive succinctness, analytical ability and body of cinema-related knowledge.

Podcasting out of the UK, Dawson seems to be somehow affiliated with the Movies You Should See crew. (Some of them even appear to read quoted material. I never thought I’d hear any of them solemnly intoning the words of Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman, but here it is.) While that’s a fine, upstanding movie podcast, it sits right alongside the rest of the crowd in its willingness to discuss any old film. Dawson makes a choice that, in an instant, sets his program way apart from the rest: he talks primarily — perhaps exclusively — about films worth talking about, such as the redoubtable Terence Malick’s Badlands [MP3]; Andrei Tarkovsky’s exemplar of good sci-fi, Solaris [MP3], Béla Tarr’s immortal Sátántangó [MP3] and Andrew Dominik’s wrongfully overlooked The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Ford [MP3]. (The title makes the show seem a bit more obscurantist than it really is.)

As a director in his own right, Dawson brings with him rare — and, in criticism, sometimes invaluable — knowledge of the actual filmmaking process. He also keeps abreast in film developments, as it were, that might escape the radar of the more casual viewer; some of the very best episodes are the themed ones where he sheds light on a “contemporary obscurity,” a piece of “misunderstood modern cinema” or one of the “Asian avant-garde.” His championing of Michael Cimino’s very-oft-maligned Heaven’s Gate [MP3] has driven your Podthinker to finally watch the thing. If you only subscribe to fiften of the hundred new film podcasts out this year, then by all means, make Left Field Cinema one of them.

Vital stats:
Format: solo film discussion
Running since: November 2007
Duration: 3m-50m
Frequency: weekly
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Questions, comments, ideas, suggestions or threats for Podthinker Colin Marshall? colinjmarshall at gmail.]