Gladiator
Photo: Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images

In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.


Girly Mags
Dirt August 1992

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It’s a tad disingenuous to offer up this week’s Girly Mags as representative of the podcast. Usually a sarcastic look at some of the trendiest teen girl magazines of the ’90s and ’00s, the show instead lends an acerbic eye to a zine aimed at teen boys this week. Dirt magazine, which ran from 1991 to 1994, was created in part by Spike Jonze, and as befitting a late-period grunge publication, it was headquartered in Seattle, with the local paper describing its audience as “too hip for Highlights and too young for GQ.” The August 1992 issue farms out its advice column to Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon, who wastes no time taking shots at Madonna. Then, in what was sure to become the final word on the subject, the first feature focuses on how to tell if a girl likes you. Another article schools readers on the art of winning a fistfight. Its top-of-the-line advice is actually reasonable—avoid getting into fights if possible—but is undercut somewhat by pointing out techniques practiced by that noted pacifist organization, the LAPD. Finally, the hosts take an online quiz to determine if they are, in fact, pussies. [Zach Brooke]


Grief Cast
Meshel Laurie

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Everyone grieves differently. For Grief Cast host Cariad Lloyd, it’s through introspection and comedy. Lloyd has worked for years to process her father’s death when she was 15. That central struggle drives this poignant, gentle show in which she explores death and its impact on the living. Guest Meshel Laurie also has a pronounced fascination with death, which led her to spend the last four years volunteering in palliative care to better understand the process. What she found was the remarkable similarities in the experiences of people who succumb to illness gradually. There is an existential restlessness that gives way to feelings of dysphoria before finally turning into a deep confusion, which can often become surprisingly pleasant, as the dying patient will narrate a pointedly happier scene than what’s actually playing out. Together, Lloyd and Laurie discuss the way death changes some survivors, stunting them at the age when they experienced the loss. There’s also talk of how dying is similar to birth in terms of personal autonomy, as others fight to manage your health. [Zach Brooke]


Maltin On Movies
Jordan Peele

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This week on Maltin On Movies the father/daughter team of Leonard and Jessie Maltin welcomes first-time Oscar nominee Jordan Peele, who reveals the stress of the publicity tour that comes with being nominated for an Academy Award, along with the prestige and excitement. Peele also looks back at his youth when, contrary to what fans might assume, he was not “the class clown” but instead came into his own through song and dance. A highlight of the episode is when the comedian slips into his Key & Peele character Star Magic Jackson Jr., a Hollywood sequel doctor musing on the bonkers script for Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Leonard Maltin appeared in Gremlins 2 as himself (doling out a negative review to the original Gremlins on Entertainment Tonight) and was offed by the little green monsters. Peele also discusses the impact social media had on the success of Key & Peele, delivering highlights of the show to fans via their phones. The show wraps up with the trio discussing Get Out, which Leonard Maltin called one of his favorite films of the year. [Mike Vanderbilt]


Please Make This
Nikolaos (W/Michael Scipioni And Justin Fiocca)

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Nikolaos, or the “gritty reboot of Miracle On 34th Street,” doesn’t sound too far off from a holiday epic that Hollywood might really make, but it’s actually the brainchild of the hosts and guests on this week’s episode of Please Make This. Hosts Spencer D. Blair, Richie Owens, and Hobert Thompson invite Chicago comics and writers to create an original script based on details pulled from conversations at the top of the episode. This time around, the group decided on the prestigious origin story of Saint Nicholas (or “Nikolaos Of Myra”). Ideas are spitballed until characters, theme, plot (somewhat), and specific scenes are figured out. Things can go off the rails, but even the most ridiculous ideas seem reasonable when the plan for the script finally comes together. From there, it’s off to the writers’ room, and the result is presented by a group of actors at a table read—this one features three people named Nick. While there is some disconnect between the scenes, which were written separately by each of the five people, the result is a hilariously dramatic story of love, loss, and power. Who knows? It could soon be screening in a theater near you. [Brianna Wellen]


SH!TPOST
The Pro-Trump Internet On Parade

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Are you curious what horrors are unfolding on the pro-Trump internet, but not quite masochistic enough to subject yourself to following it? If so, meet SH!TPOST, a new podcast from Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt devoted to parsing through the thick, viscous shit that is MAGA media, a corner of the internet that’s becoming impossible to ignore. In this episode, Holt chats first with BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel, who provides some insight into why the activists born out of the Parkland school shooting have been getting so deep under the skin of the far right, including Infowars’ Alex Jones. Later, Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma drops by to discuss the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which has evolved from a forum for conservative leaders to a fawning gathering of far-right, race-baiting firebrands. Come for the analysis of the current conservative movement; stay for Ecarma’s story of Sebastian Gorka attempting to pick a fight with him. In between, Holt has some fun cycling through the ways in which the libs got owned that week, at least according to right-wing spin. They’re not going away, so we might as well try to make sense of them. [Randall Colburn]


Sooo Many White Guys
Phoebe And Zoe Kravitz Are Witchy AF

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Phoebe Robinson is back with a third season of her podcast celebrating everyone except white dudes. Kicking off the new batch of episodes is a thoughtful, fun, and very witchy conversation with Zoë Kravitz. Despite growing up with famous parents, Kravitz has lived through much of the same discrimination that women and people of color face in the industry, including being told she couldn’t audition for The Dark Knight Rises because the filmmakers decided not to go “urban” with the role. She and Robinson discuss the tokenism they’ve experienced not only in the industry but also in real-life friendships, which led Kravtiz to explore and appreciate black culture in her own life. She acknowledges the privilege she’s experienced without diminishing how hard she’s worked to be the person she is today: a strong woman who, like many others of her generation, grew up drinking 40s with her friends and believing she has witchy powers. Part of what makes this podcast so great is Robinson’s ability to connect with just about anyone in a joyful manner, and Kravitz’s down-to-earth personality makes that connection all the more relatable. [Brianna Wellen]


The A24 Podcast
All The Way Home With Barry Jenkins & Greta Gerwig

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A testament to A24’s remarkable run these last few years—beyond its films’ box office success and critical recognition—is just how many distinct names, personalities, and perspectives the production company has introduced into everyday conversations about movies. With that in mind, The A24 Podcast goes hostless in its debut episode, leaving filmmakers Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) to interview one another about directing deeply personal yet non-autobiographical projects set in the places they grew up. One commonality: arriving at a scouting location that was vivid in their mind, only to discover it was a wildly different amalgamation of their unreliable memories. It’ll be interesting to see how the blurred lines between interviewer and subject shape future conversations; in the premiere, it’s a gem-filled delight from top to bottom. Gerwig and Jenkins also share their experiences working with colorist Alex Bickel; interestingly, along with cinematographer James Laxton, Bickel helped Jenkins buck the visual norms associated with social realism storytelling, opting instead for a more stylized look articulated from Moonlight protagonist Chiron’s consciousness. Similarly, Gerwig talks grain, “visual noise,” and the photocopy-of-a-painting effect she and her team aimed for while shooting with a digital ALEXA camera. [Dan Jakes]


The Canon
Gladiator Vs. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (W/Russ Fischer)

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In the final episode of Oscar Month, The Canon host Amy Nicholson is joined by guest host Russ Fischer. Since last week’s episode comparing Driving Miss Daisy and Field Of Dreams, listeners have left a number of comments, mostly voting (per the podcast’s premise) that the Best Picture-nominated Field Of Dreams is worthier of inclusion in the canon than its victorious 1989 counterpart. The hosts observe that opinions of films evolve over time; people change, and it’s important to notice how the experience of revisiting movies changes in kind. Nicholson and Fischer, both film critics, do a great job of considering not only the complexities of each film but also the realities of the world in which these films exist. Nicholson notes that she grew up in times very different from those in which current young people (like the teenage activists of Parkland, Florida) are coming of age. Fischer and Nicholson then pivot to a discussion of Gladiator and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a compelling and informed examination of these two “spectacle films” that respectively stood out from the major studio releases of the era. [Jose Nateras]


The Constant
Shipwreckless

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Human history is littered with stories of progresses forgotten, and it is easy to take for granted the many regulatory victories that have ground down the barbed edges of our perilous past. This week’s episode of The Constant—a show about examining various historical mistakes in order to investigate whether we’ve learned anything from them—is all about the ways that these simple regulations can amount to massive life-saving changes. Host Mark Chrisler unspools a salty yarn, all about how a dramatic increase in English shipwrecks between the 17th and 19th centuries led one man to propose sweeping shipping reforms. Chrisler manages to avoid dry pedantry by turning a tale of maritime malfeasance into an allegory of vital importance. The episode is rich with details, from the founding of Lloyd’s Of London and its role in the creation of insurance underwriting to the treacherous practice of shipowners reusing once-sunken vessels as a way of gambling on their crew’s lives for insurance payouts. Chrisler’s storytelling prowess makes this episode a masterful slow burn, patiently explicating its narrative before building to a resonant emotional climax. This one is hard to shake. [Ben Cannon]