Cool Stuff – Podcasts

As mentioned in my previous blog post earlier this week, I’m now following a schedule for regular posting on this blog. And this week is the first on the schedule. Let’s see how this goes…

I have a lot of podcasts that I’ve listened to and enjoyed over the last few years. Some I’ve stuck with longer than others, but here is a (very partial) list of ones I’ve found really interesting:

However, I want to call out two specific podcasts that I think are great, and that may not be as well known as some of those listed above.

Edict Zero – FIS

I like listening to audio books, but I’ve found that I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction. Of the fiction audio books I’ve listened to in the past, I’ve found that they were often too slow and couldn’t keep my attention from wandering. I read very fast, and I’ve never really enjoyed listening to people reading to me.

I say this because I wasn’t sure exactly why I started looking up fiction podcasts. I had reached a point where all my usual podcasts were becoming boring, and I was looking for something different. So I guess I figured I would give audio fiction another try.

And I’m really glad I did.

I started off with Welcome to Night Vale, a “twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale.” The idea is that Night Vale is a strange place, full of unusual occurrences, supernatural events, and so on.

Unfortunately, it really didn’t grab me. I listened to a few episodes and just couldn’t connect with it. It’s amusing at times, but not what I would call a compelling podcast. Since Welcome to Night Vale is pretty popular, I wondered if it was worth my time to look into any others.

And then I discovered Edict Zero – FIS.

Edict Zero – FIS is not like an audio book. It’s actually more of a radio play. And it managed to hook me from the very first episode.

The sci-fi story takes place on the planet Edict Zero, also known as New Earth, a colony planet founded at some point in the past. It all starts on New Year’s Day 2415 when a bomb goes off in a nightclub, killing dozens and injuring many, many more. The FIS (Federal Investigative Services) begins an investigation into the incident, and that is the focus of the podcast.

I have to say that the mystery is interesting enough, but the voices, sound effects, and general quality of the drama are what make it compelling. I’m still in the first season – they’re up to season four as I write this – and I can’t wait to get time to listen on my daily commute or after my son has gone to bed at night. I have a feeling I’m going to churn through all the available episodes pretty quickly.

This type of audio drama is not for everyone, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t for me, either. But I’m really glad I gave it a try. It’s inspired me to search out more of its type – once I’ve listed to all four seasons of this one.

The Top 100 Project

I’m by no means a movie buff. I like movies as much as the next person, but I doubt I could name any of the last ten Academy Award Best Movie winners, never mind getting into the trivia around any particular film.

I say that because I wasn’t expecting to get much out of listening to The Top 100 Project podcast. To be honest, and give full disclosure here, I gave it a listen originally because I’m related-by-marriage to the two hosts, Bev and Ryan. So I figured I would show support by listening to their movie podcast and learn a little bit about some films.

I didn’t think I’d end up listening to the entire run of the top 100 films, and then keep listening afterward.

The podcast is based around the American Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest American movies of all time. The first list was released in 1998, and then an updated list was released in 2007. Between the two lists, 123 movies were honored.

Bev and Ryan decided they were going to watch every movie on those two lists, in chronological order. From Birth of a Nation through to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, they reviewed all 123 movies. And they somehow made it all interesting.

Each of the hosts has their own preferred focus. Ryan is very interested in stats and the more technical details, and Bev’s experience as an editor pushes her critique more toward story, flow and pacing, and acting. Together, they provide not just a movie review, but a comprehensive critique of these films, placing them in the social and technological contexts in which they were originally made.

Needless to say, I certainly haven’t seen every movie on this list, but that hasn’t stopped me from listening to the podcasts about movies I will probably never bother to watch (e.g. The Jazz Singer or the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights). And yet, the hosts still manage to capture my interest and I find I look forward to each week’s film.

The Top 100 Podcast is now increasingly inaccurately named, as they’ve completed their original project and have moved onto critiquing other important or interesting films that didn’t make the AFI’s lists.

You don’t need to be a film buff to listen to these. Grab an episode – The Shining, Casablanca and Chinatown are three excellent stand-outs – and give it a listen. You’ll learn things about the film that probably didn’t know and come away with a better appreciation of the movie at the end.

What about you? Do you have any favourite podcasts you’d like to share with me and others? Mention them in the comments.

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