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.
- I feel very attacked by Space Jam.
- Zaila Avant-garde! We stan!
- The batshit fake Céline Dion movie has been seen!
- I feel very attacked by Emily in Paris.
- Good for Britney Spears!
In the current news cycle that spins with the menacing speed of a malfunctioning carousel in a Final Destination film, it gravely concerns me that we have let one of the greatest stories of the year to slip under the radar.
Have we truly paid enough attention to Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old wunderkind for whom winning one of the country’s most prestigious academic competitions may be one of the least interesting things about her? Again, a spelling-bee winner whose last name is Avant-garde?
Before she correctly spelled “murraya,” the confetti fell, and she became the first Black American to win the competition in its 93 years, she already held three Guinness World Records...for her juggling and bouncing tricks with basketballs. According to the New York Times, those records are for “the most basketballs dribbled simultaneously (six basketballs for 30 seconds); the most basketball bounces (307 bounces in 30 seconds); and the most bounce juggles in one minute (255 using four basketballs).”
Three years ago, before her spelling-bee fame, her basketball tricks were showcased in a commercial alongside Stephen Curry. Watch her show them off in this Live With Kelly and Ryan clip, his shocked expression I think the most authentic he’s ever been in his television career. Oh, and during the appearance she is wearing a WHITNEY HOUSTON T-SHIRT. My heart!!!
She plans to play basketball at Harvard and is apparently torn between a career at NASA or as an NBA coach, a totally routine conundrum so many of us face when thinking about the future. She can divide five-digit numbers by two-digit numbers in her head. Meanwhile, it was with beaming pride that earlier today I remembered how to put an accent on an “e” to type the name Céline Dion without having to look it up for the 27th time this year.
What was until this moment just a tease of greatness to come, a fleeting balm to soothe our scarred souls, merely the promise of total spiritual and emotional transformation—a whisper in the morning of lovers sleeping tight, if you will—is now a glorious, harrowing reality. Aline, the biopic of Céline Dion that uses her life story and some of her songs but not her name, has premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
I have not seen the film, though, in some ways, I have been witnessing the film all my life. It’s as if it has always existed and, now that it actually does, perhaps never should. That’s the power of Céline, of Aline, of love. Since its Croisette debut, I have made it my life’s mission to consume every word written about it. And, wow, did these people seize the opportunity to make this batshit film and, channeling the spirit of Céline, bellow, “Shall we go for it?”
Did you already think it’s strange that this is a film with every biographical detail about Dion but her name? That’s the tip of the iceberg. (Iceberg. Titanic. Get it?)
The film was written and directed by its star, 57-year-old French comedian Valérie Lemercier. Those two identifying details are important because, as Caspar Salmon wrote in his Daily Beast review of the film, Aline plays “like a Will Ferrell movie without the jokes”—everything about it is to the edge of absurdity, but blown back from the cliff by the gale-force seriousness with which everything is played. It’s a tone no one really knows what to make of.
Lemercier’s age is important because, while Dion is 53 now, Lemercier plays her from age 4. Writes Vulture’s Rachel Handler, “The eye and the brain understand instantly that something is fundamentally wrong. No longer are we looking at the face and body of a child. We are looking at the face and body of a 57-year-old woman, shrunk down to the size of a child.”
What else can I tell you? Apparently Aline does not shy away from the fact that the singer’s lifelong romance with late husband René Angélil began when she was 12 and he was in his late thirties, and it is played as nothing short of a fairy-tale, star-crossed romance?
There is a sequence in which she is lost in her expansive villa trying to find her way back from the pool. Apparently, it also fetishizes her eating habits. From Vulture: “We see her dip a croissant in Champagne at breakfast. We see her go to absolute town on a cheeseburger and fries. She waxes poetic about her love for chocolate to a doctor who tells her she can’t have it anymore.”
In other words, Oscar for Aline when?
What is it about Emily in Paris? Listen, I have nothing against Paris. Never been! Would like to go one day! I hear the French are rude but that they eat a lot of bread and wine and that’s kind of my whole vibe.
I’m not particularly anti-Emilys either, though that was the name of the barista who spilled a latte on me once at Starbucks and I used to intern with one who would just kind of purse her lips into a snide half-smile and nod whenever I said hi to her. (The rumor was she took a cab to the office every day.)
I’m not even against guilty-pleasure TV shows, the harmless froth you watch because the people are pretty, the plots are soapy, and the entire endeavor is entirely mindless. So why have I been forced to devote so much of my mind to this damn show this year?
First came its Golden Globe nominations, allegedly won after Netflix offered free trips to the City of Lights to voters, setting into motion the entire award show’s demise. Emmy voters somehow saw that fallout and outrage and decided, “Hmm, should we try chaos, too?” Well, say bonjour to Best Comedy Series Emmy nominee, Emily in Paris.
I cannot imagine who watches that show and thinks, “That should win a major award!” The same way I cannot imagine who has the option of voting for Beyoncé’s Black Is King in any category, let alone ones to do with hairstyling and costumes, and passes it over for...Dancing With the Stars???
Anyway, in a year when awards voting has been absolutely bonkers, I am proud to be part of the Television Critics Association. The nominees for our annual awards came out this week—see them here—and they are, refreshingly, flawless. (Obviously. I was a voter.)
Britney Spears posted the #FreeBritney hashtag on her Instagram for the first time and, more, it was in the context of celebration: she scored a major victory in her conservatorship battle. No, you’re crying.
What to watch this week:
Schmigadoon!: Never has a show been more tailor-made for me. But maybe for you, too! (Fri. on Apple TV+)
Making the Cut: About me: I find the pairing of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn to be irresistible television. (Fri. on Amazon)
McCartney 3, 2, 1: Explore 50 years of music history with Paul McCartney. A delight! (Fri. on Hulu)
What to skip this week:
Sexy Beasts: A dating show in which contestants are made up to look like animals to disguise their true looks. I hate this whole idea so much. (Wed. on Netflix)
Space Jam: A New Legacy: A travesty. (Fri. in theaters and on HBO Max)