Filmspotting turns 500 this week. The podcast that was founded in March of 2005 by Adam Kempenaar and Sam Van Hallgren has been a weekly, at least 98% of the time, source for film discussion. Nowadays, with hundreds, if not thousands, of voices out there doing movie reviews, it’s all the more impressive how consistently entertaining and smart the show remains.
There are two keys to this; its format and tenor.
The format is simple, Kempenaar and his co-host, which has changed twice since Filmspotting began, spend twenty or so minutes on one picture to open the show. It’s usually one of the major releases of the week, though on a week where said release is, say, a Brett Ratner movie, a smaller independent or foreign film is the focus. They then discuss the weekly poll question, do a gameshow segment called “Massacre Theatre” where they act out a famous scene and which a prize is given away to a listener and finally a top five. The top five ranges from supporting actor performances for the year to coming-of-age movies to Wes Anderson scenes. It’s a fun way to discuss older and lesser scene pictures, a fact aided by the show’s insistence on having certain obvious choices or ones used too often getting barred from the countdown.
What really makes Filmspotting special is its tenor though. In a sea of film podcasts that get stuck on hyperbole and a kind of “Bro” atmosphere, Filmspotting is civil without being stone-faced. Kempenaar and his co-host, currently the entertaining Josh Larsen, go in depth on a movie’s themes, acting and direction, letting jokes fly where they fit, but never trying to make a soundbite or talk over their knowledge point. The hosts have never claimed to have seen everything, a point they attempt to redeem via regular marathons on noted filmmakers or genres. By having this humility, whenever someone claims a major revelation or passion, it’s special, not the latest in a long string of “This is the great ______ ever.” Additionally, since this is a film podcast that focuses on films that have actually been released, one is spared the endless discussions on what will be nominated for an Oscar or what the casting of this-or-that franchise means in the scheme of life.
Filmspotting is about the deep, passionate discussion of film. I don’t recall who first said it, but it’s a force for good in the universe. Here’s to 500 more episodes.