Man, I love Filmspotting.
Every week, Adam Kempenaar (30-something, married with children, pretty fly for a white guy) and Matty ‘Ballgame’ Robinson (20-something, distinctly not married, fully-trained thesp) broadcast a show that was one of the first podcasts I trialled when I first obtained an iPod in 2007: it’s my most eagerly anticipated download each week. So, as my homage to these guys, this is my
Sam Van-Perbole Memorial List: The Top 5 Reasons I Love Filmspotting.
5. They are film lovers not professional film critics. For a start, they rely largely on their listeners for donations. But because they do this for the love of film, cinephiles from around the world, from ‘Cino to Melbourne and from Finland to China, offer up our hard-earned Euros, Dollars, Pounds, Kroner, whatever, to keep the show going. Because Filmspotting is interesting. In proper conversations rather than a scripted monologue, Adam and Matty dissect Bergman or neo-realist auteurs, or (like this week) a 35 minute discussion about Inglourious Basterds. Now I’ve seen the trailers for Mr Tarantino’s latest, and to be honest it looks awful. But their appreciation, description of scene construction and the dialogue was tremendous. I may even check it out.
3. Top 5s. As the name suggests, lists are important. One of the main ways Matty & Adam interact with their audience, and indeed the Filmspotting Nation interacts, is the Top 5 List. In the past few months these have included Best Movie Dads, Movies About Poverty, Bad Job Movies, Cinematic Obsessions… Their lists always throw up something I’ve never heard of, and often omit something obvious. But that’s the fun of it.
2. It’s not about them. It really isn’t. Filmspotting really is a conversation between film-lovers about films. And that includes us, the beloved listeners. Large parts of the show are dedicated to our feedback. I’ve had a couple of emails read out, and it seems certain to me that Adam & Matty really do read and think about every email. I recently had a bit of trouble ordering a Filmspotting t-shirt (yes, honestly). It had taken weeks to arrive from the US, and the suppliers weren’t able to track the order. I wrote to Adam & Matty, explaining the problems, mostly concerned that their sizeable overseas contingent of listeners might also have similar problems. Within minutes of sending the email, both Adam & Matty replied independently from their personal email accounts, promising to try and help sort it out. That personal touch matters.
1. Filmspotting is a course in self-improvement. Both for the presenters and the listeners. It’s not just a review of all the latest studio schlock, but an appreciation and exploration of film in all its forms. The themed Marathons are a wonderful device for them and us to share the discovery of unfamiliar genres or directors, watching several. My recent favourites have included Heist Movies, Angry Young Men Films, Silent Films, and Pedro Almodovar films. Filmspotting has genuinely introduced me to a whole raft of films I would never otherwise have seen, which have filled me with joy, rage, excitement, horror, and sorrow.
So in true Kempenaar fashion, a top 5 within my top 5. Films I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t have Filmspotting. I recommend all of these unreservedly.
5. Sunshine – A Song of Two Humans. From the Silent Films Marathon. Beautiful. Made in 1927, it’s truly fantastic. I couldn’t find a trailer online, but you can watch the whole thing on Youtube.
4. Once. A gorgeous, poignant love story, sort of.
3. (a tie) Rififi / Le Cercle Rouge. From the Heist Movies Marathon. Fantastic French Films, Alain Delon defines cool, Tony Le Stephanois the ultimate crook, in a very good way. These films left me stunned, mainly for their massive influence on countless later films.
2. Away From Her. Acting masterclasses from Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.
1. Grave of The Fireflies. Surely one of the great anti-war films. It’s magical, and yet gave me the most immediately moving and visceral reaction to any film I’ve ever seen. I bawled my eyes out for the last 20 minutes or so. It’s simply fantastic.
Honourable Mentions: Juno, Billy Liar, The Seventh Seal, Talk To Her, The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Not a bad list. But in truth I could have made a Top 20. Indeed, there are loads of other reasons Filmspotting is terrific. But if you don’t already know, you’ll have to listen in order to find out.