This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- The best show you should watch RIGHT NOW.
- I watched a lot of Sundance things and here’s what was good.
- The Golden Globes is embarrassing and we say ENOUGH!
- Our fairy godmother is bringing some important streaming news.
- I laughed at that Chrissy Teigen tweet.
For many entertainment journalists and critics, myself included, the last “Before Times” major event many of us attended was the Sundance Film Festival last January. A year later, the return to the fest was quite different.
In lieu of zipping around Park City to make it to buzzy premieres in the nick of time, I was screening the films from my living room and on my own schedule. In place of the thrill of spontaneous movie-star sightings on the snowy sidewalks of Main Street, I made conversation with the stuffed penguin on my bookshelf, just to hear my own voice and feel alive.
Last year, the Sundance slate of films included current award-season mainstays like Minari, Promising Young Woman, The Father, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Palm Springs, Miss Juneteenth, The Nest, and documentaries Time, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Crip Camp, and Boys State. But the biggest question this year was whether the festival would feel muted by comparison.
In other words, without the energy and hoopla of Park City—and in the midst of a pandemic and movie theater shutdown—would anyone care about this year’s films? My short answer: They should!
The biggest story out of the festival is CODA, the touching and certain-to-be crowd-pleasing coming-of-age story that demolished the Sundance sale record, going to Apple Studios for $25 million. While “a symbolic gesture to save the movies, baby!” might as well be written in the memo section of Apple’s check, CODA is a gorgeous film.
CODA is about a teenager with deaf parents who is the only hearing person in her family. She causes a rift when she decides to pursue her interest in singing, an interest her family cannot participate in. The film hits all the familiar beats of a “teen desperate to be understood” narrative, but in destabilizing times, the conventionality is crucial to its appeal.
I would never be so basic as to use the dated circa-2017 phrase “all the feels,” except that this is the one movie in which such a cringey phrase may actually apply.
If I were going to give Sundance acting prizes, I’d be hard pressed to choose between Martha Plimpton and Ann Dowd, who together are A C T I N G in the play-like drama Mass, as mothers who both lost sons in a school shooting. One’s son was the victim; the other’s was the shooter. But a Best Actor prize undeniably belongs to Clifton Collins Jr., a veteran character actor given a rich leading-man showcase in Jockey—and, in fact, the Sundance jury did award him that exact Special Prize.
There are fun ones on the documentary side that I think have mainstream crossover appeal. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is absolutely irresistible, as you would expect from a film on the life of the vivacious EGOT-winning legend. Playing With Sharks is a fascinating portrait of Valerie Taylor, who might be best described as the Jane Goodall of sharks. And Questlove’s Summer of Soul about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival—Black New York’s answer to Woodstock, the footage of which hadn’t been seen for 50 years—will be the best, most rousing live concert you’ll attend from the couch this pandemic year.
Flee takes a visionary and stirring approach to telling a refugee story. Passing, the directorial debut of actress Rebecca Hall, chronicles two mixed-race childhood friends (Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga) who reunite, one of whom has spent the last decades “passing” as a white woman. And Together Together, the most Sundancey thing I watched at virtual Sundance, would have heralded Park City’s new It Star in Patti Harrison.
Who knows when you will get to actually watch any of these. But at least I can say you’ll enjoy them when you do?
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that votes on the Golden Globes, is a wackadoodle consortium of journalists who have been around long enough to share fond memories of when the first “talkies” began playing. They wield little influence outside of the one time a year we gripe about their pick-a-name-out-of-a-hat awards choices, which should have us all ignoring this year’s typically chaotic list of nominees.
This is a group that demands that Hollywood’s most powerful must flatter and kowtow to them. They’re the kind of people who would see an A-list movie star sobbing with grief at a funeral and have no qualms rushing up to them and asking them for a selfie and to record their outgoing voicemail message. So when they do things like nominate Emily in Paris and Jared Leto’s The Little Things performance, or snub I May Destroy You and Da 5 Bloods, we should laugh at their obvious lack of taste and dismiss them full stop.
But here’s the thing! The show is a big deal. Who they nominate generates buzz that can boost a show or movie’s popularity. A great speech or key win can juice an underdog’s Oscar chances. And it can even anoint the next exciting crop of Hollywood stars, like when Gina Rodriguez and Rachel Bloom both won Globes for CW series that the Emmys ignored.
That’s why we complain. There’s a reason to care, so they should also be good. Enough giggling about those lunatic Golden Globes. Hold them accountable to their influence!
This is to say that it is crucial I infiltrate the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Do you think my new headshot will fool them?
For far too long, the 1997 version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston has not been available to stream. In this case, it has not been available to stream since the dawn of streaming itself, as I cannot imagine a more magical and revolutionary film that would merit 24/7 access for all who want to watch. (Presumably that is the entire human population.)
Even when Disney+ launched with its library of 476 million movies, this version of Cinderella was not among them. While I still do not understand how that was not a FCC violation of some kind, it did make it seem like it was going to be impossible...impossible...imPOSSible...IMpossssss-i-BLE to ever have streaming access to this movie.
But, as it turns out, impossible things truly are happening ev’ry day! Cinderella will be available on Disney+ from Feb. 12.
Chrissy Teigen got a lot of flak for this tweet thread: “privileged,” “out of touch,” and all that predictable yawn-inducing stuff that people need to get over already; it’s a celebrity tweeting, just calm down. But as someone who is physically incapable of sending food back to the kitchen or correcting a wrong order even if I’m allergic to what is being served to me and might die from politely eating it, I actually thought it was very funny.
Framing Britney Spears: I’ve been radicalized. #FreeBritney, bitch. (Friday on FX and Hulu.)
The Equalizer: Queen Latifah as an action star gets an automatic yes from us. (Sunday on CBS.)
The Super Bowl: What if we just didn’t do this this year? (Sunday on CBS.)
Malcolm and Marie: It turns out Zendaya is not perfect. We’ll get through this difficult time together. (Friday on Netflix.)