Monday, November 9, 2015

Podblast! You Must Remember This

It's been a while since I've talked about any of the multitude of podcasts I have sitting on my mp3 player to help me whittle away the hours at my day job.  I try to be discerning and make sure the things I listen to are both interesting and intelligent (a rule I put in place after my abysmal experience with The Walking Eye).

Enter Karina Longworth's You Must Remember This, a podcast that embraces my love of classic Hollywood as well as putting together connections I never knew existed between the major stars who shaped an industry.

Karina Longworth (the writer, director, producer, voice-over actor, and probably chief craft services manager of the podcast) has a distinctive voice among all the podcasts hosts I listen to.  She never gets as excited as Chris Hardwick or Rob Paulsen, but she's also not interviewing anybody.  She doesn't have the storytelling abilities of Welcome To Night Vale or The Vinyl Cafe, but those are going for more humor than history.  The closest I could compare her to is Neil Degrasse Tyson, but they're really nothing like each other.  Where Dr. Tyson gets overexcited while getting to share information or get his guests to share their expertise, Karina Longworth's steady pace almost never wavers.  She's telling a story, but she's letting the subject matter draw the people in.

This isn't to say she's a bad storyteller.  In fact, quite the opposite.  If I had to pick a place to listen to many of her episodes, I would pick a comfy chair in the evening, perhaps with a fire in a fireplace and a nice alcoholic beverage in hand as I listen to her calmly (but with authority) explain the misadventures of Errol Flynn, the personal dramas of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, or a look into just how Charlie Chaplin worked to oppose Hitler in the second World War.

Karina's voice isn't trying to push the story on anybody, and there are times where you feel she's caught up in the story herself.  When a star she's been telling us about slips and tarnishes their image, you can hear disappointment in how she explains it.  Romances are sometimes told with a touch of wistfulness, as if each one took place upon a rocky cliff with the ocean crashing against it, wind blowing through the hair of the people she's describing as they look adoringly into each others' eyes.  When the romances (often) don't work out, you also get a slight hint at times of Karina simply going "oh, well," especially when she believes the star she's describing could (or would) do better.

First and foremost, though, she's an instructor, and this podcast is her classroom.  You chose to attend, so while technically she doesn't need to hook you each time.  Although, as Jim Shooter once said of comic books, "every issue is someone's first" and should be just as welcoming as any other issue.  This is also true of podcasts, though why people wouldn't go back and start at the beginning, I have no idea.

But then, I'm a bit different from many people.

...also, that quote might have been from Stan Lee.  I can't remember now.  I think it was Jim Shooter.

Where was I?

Oh, right.  Karina's podcast digs deep, finding connections between actors, actresses, and directors that I never knew existed, and none of her podcast episodes does this better than her series on Charles Manson and Hollywood.  I had absolutely no idea how many famous stars were connected to him beyond his victims.  I peripherally knew there was a link to the Beatles, but having never really studied up on Charles Manson before, I didn't know what it was or how obsessed Manson was with their music.  His ties to Candace Bergen, the Beach Boys, and so many other people through music and film were eye-opening, as were the details of his crimes themselves, which I also never knew the full details of.

Part of why I'm bringing up this topic now is that today is Hedy Lamarr's 101st birthday, and one of my favorite episodes of You Must Remember This just happens to detail the life of one of the most fascinating women who ever worked in Hollywood.

If I had one complaint about the podcast (and, lets be honest, no podcast is perfect), it would be the promotional ads.  I don't object to the ads themselves, but I think that if one thing was going to turn people away from this podcast, it would be the idea that there was some kind of "elitism" present.  Karina's stories about Hollywood are accessible to anybody who's ever watched a movie before, but there was a stretch of time where it felt her ads for MUBI (a site that lets you watch independent, cult, and classic movies) relished a bit too much how her taste for movies might be "superior" to the masses.  I found myself memorizing the length of the ads so the moment one started I could zip ahead and put myself directly on the moment it ended so I wouldn't have to listen to it.

But that's a minor quibble, and nothing from the rest of the podcast gives much of a sense of superiority or snobbery.  It simply presents someone who has clearly spent a large amount of their life studying something they love and then sharing it with people who wouldn't necessarily know that such stories existed, much less how to find them.  It's a delight to listen to, and hey, why not click that link above and listen to the Hedy Lamarr episode?  You'll probably learn something and like it.

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