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.
- Can’t deal with these pandemic TV shows.
- Aaron Sorkin’s new movie is great.
- Gal Gadot revisits that “Imagine” video.
- The only good TV news of the week.
- That! Costume!
If you enjoy wailing into a pillow for two hours, absolutely watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 this weekend on Netflix. That’s not a pan of the movie. In fact, it’s probably the best endorsement a film like this could warrant.
A timely movie at a moment when the amount of decades-old tales of broken judicial systems, government censorship, abuse of American citizens, and institutionally sanctioned racism that are ruled “timely” are at a boiling point, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is perfectly salted to scald you as it boils over.
It’s the second film that Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed, following Molly’s Game, which was delicious when it was superb and utterly rotten when it was laughable. This week is a veritable staging of “This Is Your Career, Aaron Sorkin,” a lightning rod whose affinity for speechifying grandeur, blunt moralizing, and lacerating insight form an equation that can explode its target when the math works out, but risks missing by miles if just one calculation is off.
The West Wing cast reunited for a staging of a standout episode, “Hartsfield’s Landing,” to benefit the organization When We All Vote. The nostalgic sojourn exemplified everything about the show’s political outlook that worked so well then, and which seems so wrong for the current moment. It’s fascinating, then, to witness how perfectly he calibrates the telling of this 1968 trial to resonate deeply.
There were actually eight counter-culture protestors from various activist groups who were arrested as public examples at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, after protests escalated into violent clashes with police. Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, played by Watchmen Emmy-winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, saw his case eventually severed from the pack after a litany of egregious miscarriages of justice, each harder to watch than the one before.
Among the titular seven were the shrewd and mischievous Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), righteous flower-child Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), and smug-in-tweed idealist Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne). As their lawyer (Mark Rylance) runs up against the blatant racism and bias of their judge (Frank Langella) and exposes the ways in which a fair trial was being sidelined so that the men’s fates could be used as political props, you yearn to escape to our modern reality where everything is so much better. Oh, wait…
Who knows what awards season will look like this year, but The Trial of Chicago 7 will likely be a central part of it. You could make the case for any named actor in this story to be campaigned for acting nominations, though, for us, it’s Abdul-Mateen II who does the most remarkable work. And you can now watch it all on Netflix! Just have a pillow ready.
We don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have a bailout plan. We don’t have a testing and tracing infrastructure, any economic safety net, or healthcare contingency. But we do finally have at least one thing we’ve all demanded since the start of this pandemic. Gal Gadot has explained herself.
Well, that’s actually a loose characterization of the comments she gave defending what in the world she was thinking when, in response to a deadly disease affecting millions and rendering even more jobless and without recourse, she thought the best way to help was to rally a bunch of famous people to sing John Lennongend’s “Imagine” and then release it out into the world.
“Sometimes, you try and do a good deed and it’s just not the right good deed,” she said in a Vanity Fair article this week. “I had nothing but good intentions and it came from the best place. I just wanted to send light and love to the world, and it didn’t transcend.”
I have some questions. What was the good deed, exactly? What was the deed at all? Who was being helped, in any direct manner, from that video?
And, yes, good intentions go without saying. No one thought there was anything particularly malicious about the video. But it couldn’t have been a more egregious misfire. Are we now allowed to shrug away failures by saying “it didn’t transcend?” “Sorry, this article sucked. It didn’t transcend.” “I meant to unload the dishwasher, but it didn’t transcend.” “I started to apologize for my dumbass little video, but it didn’t transcend.”
It was announced this week that Norman Lear (legend, icon, saint) is producing a TV series version of Fried Green Tomatoes (legendary, iconic, saintly) set to star Reba McEntire (you get the idea).
The thing about this idea is that it is perfect. The constant mining of existing intellectual property for new television is exhausting, sure. But if you’re going to do it, you should have Norman Lear remake Fried Green Tomatoes with Reba McEntire. The thing about Reba is she’s a phenomenal actress: Annie Get Your Gun, the sorely underrated Reba, the “Does He Love You” music video, those Colonel Sanders KFC commercials...
God’s been down here designing costumes for the new Batman movie and we ain’t had no idea.
The Trial of the Chicago 7: Nothing better than a great courtroom drama. (Friday on Netflix)
David Byrne’s American Utopia: Says Variety, “There’s nothing ironic about the title of American Utopia.” OK! (Saturday on HBO)
What the Constitution Means to Me: One of the best things I’ve seen on Broadway, and now on TV, too. (Friday on Amazon)
Supermarket Sweep: Watch Leslie Jones yell about groceries, it’s what we deserve! (Sunday on ABC)
Clouds: The youth cancer musical is just not the mood I’m into right now. (Friday on Disney+)
Rebecca: Maybe stop remaking Hitchcock movies? (Wednesday on Netflix)