PODCAST REVIEW: UNSPOOLED

Unspooled Podcast Earwolf AFI 100 List iTunes Movies Film

I did a double-take when I first saw this podcast on iTunes. My first thought being “Wait, that’s Paul Scheer, and this is a film related podcast, but that’s neither Jason or June with him.” And, no Amy I don’t think you and Jason Mantzoukas look similar.

While this is another film-centric podcast with Scheer, it’s a far cry from How Did This Get Made? Unspooled is a deep dive into the AFI’s Top 100 Films list. With all the momentum podcasts have gained, I was shocked to see no one else had this idea so far.

Scheer and co-host Amy Nicholson have pledged to watch, dissect, and dig up even more information on all 100 films on the list. It’s a pretty big undertaking, and a commendable one at that.

THE FORMAT

It’s pretty straight forward. The end of the previous episode, Amy throws dice to decide which film will be discussed on next week’s show. This is a great idea, which allows the show to forgo any rigid format, or cadence, and leads to some great juxtaposed films week-to-week.

They start a new show by going through any listener feedback from the previous show, and sharing any tidbits they picked up along the way. While they follow the film’s chronology, they do reference portions either ahead or behind where they currently are to tie together themes or their thoughts on it. Again, there isn’t too much structure here, but enough to make it easy to listen to.

When possible, they welcome in someone who has an attachment to the film. That person’s role depends on what era the film is from, as I can’t imagine there are too many people around from the set of Citizen Kane. It can either be a hardcore fan (Duncan Trussell with The Shawshank Redemption) or someone who worked on the film (Dale Dye, Military Advisor from Platoon).

They don’t over-complicate the episodes with a ton of exposition, setup or sidebars. It’s fairly straight forward and moves along at a nice pace, with both hosts offering their opinions, theories and verdicts with supporting evidence. They also read reviews from dissenting opinions, which is always a entertaining.

THE HOSTS

I won’t spend too much time on Scheer, as he was mentioned in my review of his other podcast. I will say this is quite a different format, and Scheer does know his films inside and out. He offers interesting takes and theories, and digs up some great material.

Amy Nicholson is a film critic for several different outlets, and hosts another Earwolf based podcast, The Canon, where her and a guest debate films left out of all-time great lists. She is definitely the more critical of the two. Although, I enjoy her perspective and theories, even if I don’t always agree with them.

MY VERDICT

You don’t have to be an expert on film to enjoy this one, and I think it even helps. As a novice film buff myself, you can learn a lot from the interviews and deep-dives of research the hosts do. Whether it be interactions between actors and directors, production issues, or film firsts, the episodes are a wealth of knowledge.

My only criticism would be on occasion they tend to apply 21st century morals and ethics to the characters in the film. For example, in their review of King Kong (1933), they were critical of how heroine Ann Darrow was portrayed, especially in regards to interactions with her boyfriend, Jack Driscoll.

I’d be shocked to find a movie from that era where a female role was not always helpless or less knowledgeable than her male counterparts. Watching those films now, it’s almost cartoonish (and sometimes it is). They operated off of stereotypes in that era, right or wrong. I mean, look at how different ethnicities were portrayed, and this was 28 years later!

All that being said, this is still a great podcast for hardcore film fans, and casual movie goers. At one a week, it’s not tough to stay caught up either, and even nice to listen to a couple back-to-back.

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