FROM JASON’S iPOD — I sighed and rolled my eyes a little when British podcaster Michael Dawson’s new show popped into my Simply Syndicated feed yesterday. I shouldn’t have, because he proved all my preconceptions wrong.
For the uninitiated, Dawson is the most cerebral of the English podcasting group that produces Movies You Should See, the weekly film review show launched in August 2005.
Trust me when I say I’m the last person to field an anti-intellectual bias. It’s just that when others are raving about Robocop, Dawson can typically be found lusting after Three Colors Blue or similarly dense art films.
His grumpy dissension over popular movies even earned him the loving nickname “Crawson” (as in, “What’s stuck in his craw?”).
So when his new solo podcast, Left Field Cinema, debuted this week, I expected Dawson to assault me with something truly abstract and non-mainstream: Some Sergei Bondarchuk or Alexandre Astruc piece so impossibly convoluted and twisted by its own obsession with symbolism that no human (except Dawson) could understand it.
I was instead surprised to see Alien 3 in the show header.
In the 9:40 episode, Dawson reads an analytical essay about the 1992 David Fincher follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 unstoppable-monster-in-space thriller. It is the first scripted show from Simply Syndicated, which previously has relied on an informal zoo format and spontaneous comedy.
Now, I’ve listened to my fair share of audio books, but most of the time I wouldn’t be so keen to hear an Internet personality read at me. Dawson’s brevity and precision, however, quickly erased my worries. His pod-essay clearly grows from others written while studying cinema in college (many of which can be found on his blog), and is incredibly well-constructed and engaging.
In addition to some well-worked parallel structure, Dawson knows how to turn a phrase that made me sit back and clap at his bravado:“Ripley is beaten from the start; she is going to die,” he says. “The central point of this film: You’re all going to die, and the only question is how you’re going to check out. Do you want it on your feet, or on your fucking knees, begging?”
Like other Simply Syndicated shows, Left Field Cinema bears an explicit tag in the iTunes directory. My feeling, though, has always been that if you aren’t mature enough for a few swear words, you also aren’t ready for most films or life experiences.
Overall, I think Left Field Cinema will be good for Simply Syndicated, which has struggled in the past under its own burden. Its flagship show, Movies You Should See, was the first podcast I ever found that had any kind of long-staying worth. It’s been an invaluable source of entertainment for me over the past two years and has been reliable for its tenure, surpassing the 100-episode mark.
Meanwhile, the network has released three other shows that sadly have been horridly inconsistent — especially the superior Albums You Should Hear, which has been rarely released since its launch this summer.
But two other podcasts featuring Dawson have appeared like clockwork: Make It So (the Star Trek podcast) and The Definitive Word (tackling social and cultural issues). His dedication to timely uploading convinces me that Left Field Cinema won’t just be a hit-and-miss affair.
I’m not sure what rating system to use, but I’m going to go ahead and give Dawson top marks for his new entry. Maybe I’ll give him six golden koalas out of five, or two thumbs and a big toe up. Any way it’s counted, I found the first episode of Left Field Cinema brilliant and I am already looking forward to next Wednesday’s release.