Photo: Frank Johnston/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Podmass_In [Podmass](https://www.avclub.com/c/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](mailto:podmass@avclub.com)._  

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.


Everything Trying To Kill You.
Black Swan: The Gravitron

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Twice a month, Mary Kay McBrayer and Maegan Stone Brooks analyze horror movies “because no one wants to be scared alone. But no one wants to stop watching scary movies, either.” A literature professor and a behavioral therapist, respectively, McBrayer and Brooks apply serious lenses to the films they watch to determine how stuff scares you and why, while also supplying humorous insights. It’s a balance that lends itself well to the psychological horror of Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film Black Swan as the hosts delve deep into character motivation and the threatening relationships that are often fostered in the dance world and which are on full display between the film’s ballerinas Nina (Natalie Portman) and Lily (Mila Kunis). All this before a sillier look at the dancers’ and hosts’ skills, which leads to this episode’s namesake quote “I’m the fucking Gravitron.” Give the podcast a listen to discover exactly what that’s about. [Becca James]


Ghibliotheque
My Neighbor Totoro (With Beth Webb)

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My Neighbor Totoro is a common entry point into the Studio Ghibli canon, so it makes sense that Film4’s Michael Leader and Jake Cunningham are tackling it early on in their new podcast. Though it was one of the studio’s first films—and was paired in a jarring double bill with the heart-wrenching Grave Of The Fireflies—Totoro was a huge success and managed to contain all the elements that audiences would come to expect from Ghibli’s most recognized director, Hayao Miyazaki. The themes of childhood innocence, the confrontation of the surreal, and the quintessentially Japanese setting are all present in Miyazaki’s work right out of the gate. Basically, if you like this movie, you’re going to like what else Ghibli has got going on. And since this podcast is being produced in conjunction with Film4’s retrospective of Ghibli films this summer, Ghibliotheque is offering a first-time viewer perspective for people coming to these classics a little late. Jake Cunningham’s fresh-eyes take on these films is a reminder that they are, in many ways, timeless. After all, there’s never a bad time for a Catbus. [Dan Neilan]


Halloweeners: A Horror Movie Podcast
Nosferatu

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Because the horror genre is so prolific and its canon grows steadily every year, it can be easy to forget some of the iconic films from the early days of filmmaking that set the stage for newer entries. In this episode of Halloweeners: A Horror Movie Podcast, hosts Cody and Kira take a look at just one such film: Nosferatu (1922). With both hosts having seen different versions of the German silent film, there were minor discrepancies in subtitles and intertitles, allowing for the two to compare and contrast their viewing experiences. Both Cody and Kira offer a lot of fun commentary, while still drawing attention to Nosferatu’s less-than-subtle xenophobia and allusions to anti-Semitism. With a colloquial back-and-forth and plentiful allusions to the music of ABBA, Halloweeners offers an entertaining exploration of this highly influential horror movie, and may well lead listeners to join in as the charming hosts bounce through horror movie history, sharing their thoughts on everything from recent releases like Get Out and Hereditary to 1954’s The Creature From The Black Lagoon. [Jose Nateras]


Podcast: The Ride
Twister…Ride It Out With Matt Rogers

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If you’re going to do a podcast about theme parks, you damn well better get some guests who are passionate about theme parks. That’s exactly what guest Matt Rogers (Las Culturistas) brings to Podcast: The Ride in this episode: passion. Specifically a passion for the bygone genre of theme-park rides commonly known as “special effects shows.” These rides (or perhaps we should call them “experiences” since you don’t actually ride anything) prioritized behind-the-scenes looks at movie-making over heart-pounding thrills. But Twister…Ride It Out at Universal Studios might have managed to deliver on both. It’s since been replaced by Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show ride, but you can basically relive every moment of Twister…Ride It Out through Rogers’ and the hosts’ descriptions. From the welcome video featuring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt to the artificial, indoor twister and accompanying explosions during the finale, this baby had it all. The whole conversation really harkens back to a simpler time when audiences were more than eager to “ride the movies” and theme-park designers didn’t think a realistic simulation of a natural disaster might be in bad taste. [Dan Neilan]


Raised By TV
Saved By The Bell (W/ April Richardson And Derek Barry)

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Comedians Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus broadcast on-site from Bayside High’s KKTY-FM—or more specifically, an elaborately recreated pop-up version in Los Angeles’ popular Saved By The Max restaurant concept, which pays homage to all things Saved By The Bell. Go Bayside podcast host April Richardson joins the duo to discuss the sitcom’s indelible influence on their young adult styles and their childhood understanding of high school, as well as the comforting effect it had on them as kids—even when they recognized it as the cheesy mess written by old men that it was. Just like their recent explorations of topics like professional wrestling and Oprah Winfrey, Gabrus and Lapkus mingle funny, off-the-cuff observations about the show’s idiosyncrasies they now understand as adults (how often did school principals visit teen students in their rooms in the ’90s?) with observant criticism, like how TV for young audiences regularly aged up girls while aging down boys. In a follow-up chat with Saved By The Max co-creator Derek Barry, the hosts discuss the restaurant’s long, unusual journey from party pop-up to ongoing business, and how he and his team worked to push his exercise in fandom beyond simply an Instagram-able moment. [Dan Jakes]


Slow Burn
There There

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Slate’s breakout political history podcast is back for a second season, this time tackling the Clinton impeachment saga blow by blow. The sexual relationship between Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky came to light a generation after Watergate assumed an air of mythology, forcing Americans to again confront the prospect of ousting a sitting president. But while Bill’s shameless libido encapsulates his impeachment, fellatio is but a single charge upon which his adversaries tried to nail him, as this episode demonstrates. The Clinton administration was dogged by appearances of wrongdoing from the onset; an early controversy erupting over the dismissal of White House Travel Office staff, dubbed Travelgate, proved consequential and established a depressing motif. Someone in the administration, in this case Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, looked to have acted unethically. Strident critics seized upon the perception to allege a pattern of corruption. The wounded Clintons would respond with intense secrecy, which only fed the narrative they had something to hide, especially after Foster’s death by suicide. Slow Burn further reveals that the person who served Foster his last lunch is none other than seminal Starr Report figure Linda Tripp. [Zach Brooke]


Terrible, Thanks For Asking
So Many Things At Once

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Rachel Moscovich was ready to go to college when she was diagnosed with cancer. Then years later after getting her dream job, she relapsed. Then a decade later, she was diagnosed with two kinds of cancer at once. It’s a lot for one person to handle. She ended up finding the best support in an unlikely place: Tinder. Neither Moscovich nor host Nora McInerny gloss over the gravity of these situations, but in the spirit of this podcast they’re still able to take moments to be lighthearted and playful. Moscovich’s story is inspiring without sounding like a motivational poster. She doesn’t skip over the bad moments and doesn’t romanticize the good moments, but instead relies on her raw emotion to be completely vulnerable and honest about everything she went through. While it seems tragic and rare on the surface, by the end of the episode the realizations she comes to are universal: We’re all just people who want to live without being defined by outside sources. [Brianna Wellen]


The Empire Film Podcast
Mission: Impossible—Fallout Spoiler Special Part 3 Ft. Christopher McQuarrie

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One downside of the rise of streaming is the loss of DVD commentaries, but The Empire Film Podcast is here to help. The British pod crew released six hours of interview content with Mission: Impossible—Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie. And the spoiler-filled discussions reveal that making a Mission: Impossible movie is just as difficult as any one of Ethan Hunt’s missions. Parts one and three of the Spoiler Special series feature the lengthy conservations with McQuarrie, while part two is a shorter chat with the Empire magazine staff about the movie itself. It’s enough to satiate even the most die-hard Mission fan. Open, honest, and hugely detail-orientated, McQuarrie happily discusses every aspect of the filmmaking process, from on-set disasters to the value he places on the test-screening process. Fallout was largely written on the fly, and it’s fascinating (and nerve-racking) to hear McQuarrie discuss the improvisational way he constructed the film’s plot around its action set-pieces. Hearing him describe the chaotic process, it’s almost hard to believe the film came together at all, much less that it was one of the best movies of the summer. It helps that (according to McQuarrie) Tom Cruise can maybe control the weather. [Caroline Siede]


The Pretzel Podcast
Bretzels De France

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A podcast about pretzels instantly raises the question of sustainability, but fret not, this niche NPR offering has been going strong since December 2017, releasing on average one episode per month. Hosted by Michelle Maternowski and Mitch Teich of Milwaukee radio station WUWM, The Pretzel Podcast delivers everything “from pretzels in the news, to pretzels throughout history, to pretzels in pop culture.” The latest episode comes after Teich’s return from a weeklong trip to France, which means new varieties of pretzels for the duo to consume and critique. It also spurs an interest in international pretzel news, leading Maternowski and Teich to question “how support for a pretzel-maker is affecting the prospect for peace in the Middle East.” The full story nudges Teich to elevate the salty snack, as the podcast often does in various ways, to something of a primetime cultural player and remind listeners how important food can be to politics. [Becca James]