The Rewatchables and film history podcasts

This month's podcast column looks at The Rewatchables, and the wide world of film podcasts

Feature by Brian Cloughley | 07 Nov 2018

Have you ever been in someone’s flat, and looked at their bookshelves and realised that they’ve basically got the same books as you? The penny might drop a moment later: “Fucking everybody’s got basically the same books as me.” And don’t even start on DVDs – “Oooh, you like Game of Thrones too!” In a sense, it’s nice that so many of us have these shared cultural experiences. In a sense. Sure, it’s symptomatic of male-dominated, US-centric heteronormative cultural hegemony, but, you know, it’s nice.

It’s this shared bedrock of recent cinema history that The Rewatchables mines. Every episode analyses one of those films that somehow draw you in and continue to be appealing no matter how often you’ve seen them. ‘Analyses’ is probably the wrong word though; ‘chats about’ is closer to the mark. Categories like ‘most rewatchable scene’ and ‘best line’ give the conversations a bit of structure, but the podcast is mostly just a mixture of reminiscences and grim Mark Ruffalo impersonations, brought to you by charismatic, smart-arse East Coast liberal Bill Simmons.

You might not have heard of him, but Simmons is kind of a big deal. One of the big beasts of American podcasting, he’s been at this for over a decade, which is a lifetime in podcasting terms (or if you’re a small child). In cumulative terms, he’s one of the most listened-to voices of the era but, like David Letterman, Froot Loops and rabies, he’s never made much of an impact in the UK.

The reason for his obscurity is that his stock-in-trade is US sports, which remain pretty niche over here. Over the years, though, he’s haltingly built up a pop culture wing to his media empire, characterised by a thoughtful blokeishness and largely snark-free positivity. This general vibe of positivity is one of the best things about The Rewatchables. It shouldn’t really be surprising since they’re talking about films they love, but they spend a lot more energy enthusing about the good bits of these films than mocking the bad bits. And despite this it’s really funny.

Remember the stuff in the first paragraph about male-dominated US-centric heteronormative cultural hegemony? There’s plenty of that going on too. There’s a moment of top quality self-parody in the (otherwise great) The Social Network episode where the guests discuss whether it might be the best film of the 2010s. They run through a list of a dozen or so other contenders, all of which are American, each with a male director and leading man (Black Swan excepted). It mightn’t be worth commenting on if they didn’t use the word ‘best’ so often, implying that there’s some kind of objectivity here. In mitigation, there are a few episodes dedicated to rom coms (with actual female guests!) It’s pretty token, but at least it’s evidence of a bit of self-awareness.

For better or worse, then, it’s a bit of a boys' club. But what are you going to do? Boys like watching Taken over and over again, and The Rewatchables certainly provides a smart, good-natured place to talk about it.

Five more podcasts about films from the past

Films to be Buried with – The concept is wafer-thin even by podcast standards (what films would you take with you... to the afterlife?), but Brett Goldstein’s film chats with British comedians are dependably jolly.

The Faculty of Horror – An academic podcast (as in, with actual academics) that requires a bit of patience but really deserves it if you have any interest in horror films and/or sociology.

Podcast like it’s 1999 – Two earnest scriptwriters discuss and frequently disagree about films from 1999 with a weekly guest. Mysteriously they’ve made 48 episodes without covering The Matrix. Apparently there was a shitload of films made in 1999.

Switchblade Sisters – Geeking out over genre films seems like quite a male pursuit, don’t you think? April Wolfe and a female film-making guest try to set the record straight with middling results.

How Did This Get Made? – Raucous, live and often pretty mean, three American comedians put the boot into some of the worst films ever made. Crappy films are an easy target, but this is undeniably funny.