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.
- Surviving Annie Live!
- Your new favorite show.
- Crying a lot about Sondheim.
- Kenny G, perhaps a hero?!
- Channing Tatum’s butt is cinema.
The lazy praise about an actor who is good in everything they do is to say, “I would watch them read the phone book.” It’s dumb. And also not true. You wouldn’t watch someone read the phone book. It’s a phone book! It would be boring as hell, no matter who it was. Also, do phone books even exist anymore? Anyway, let’s find one. Because, despite everything I just said, I would watch Olivia Colman read the phone book. (Someone find a phone book!)
I would watch Olivia Colman say “I pooed in a cupboard!” with verve, as she does 100 seconds into this Vogue video interview. I would watch her shove her face with delicacies and devastatingly entertain a harem of rabbits, as she does in The Favourite. I would watch her blow a raspberry during an Oscars acceptance speech in front of cinema’s most elite and illustrious, a reward for her performance in that film, and I would surely watch her simply say “Lady Gaga!” at the end and blow a kiss. (I rewatched this speech to write this, and obviously cried.) I would watch her tromp through the English hills on a hunting trip in The Crown, and then scream, “Michaela Coel, fuck yeah!” while accepting an award for that performance. (Watched and cried to that one, too.)
This is all to say that Olivia Colman is always good. Always captivating. Always doing something that surprises you entirely, but is also entirely perfect. Which is exactly what she does in Landscapers.
Landscapers is a four-part miniseries (remember when anything wrapped in under four hours!?) that premieres Sunday night on HBO. I don’t have to tell you that she is astonishing in it. Maybe I don’t even have to tell you how she is astonishing in it is surprising. And yet, here we are, once again gobsmacked by her performance in something, and how she took it in a direction we could never have imagined or expected, and then, again, blew us away.
In Landscapers, she plays a British housewife who claims that she heard her mother shoot and kill her father, and then killed her mother while being provoked. Her husband then helped her bury the bodies and, more than a decade later, they were found out. (Based on a true story!) Reading that description, you obviously can’t know what to expect from a performance like this. But I never imagined the one that Colman gives.
She has an uncanny way of flitting between heartbreaking and hilarious with a dexterity that should be studied, especially because the polar points of that range never for a second read as anything but human and grounded. The simple act of being a human being is very funny, just as it is absolutely horrifying and profound. She taps into the extremes of that existence so naturally that it reminds you how regular it is to skate between them.
Landscapers is a true crime series, I guess, but it is also a Hollywood homage—something that really only makes sense when you watch it. (I tried to describe it in words for about an hour before I realized that it’s just not possible. Fire me.) But above all it is a showcase for the prodigious talents of Colman.
It’s not that this is shocking information. As laid out earlier, she has an Oscar and an Emmy. Of course she’s good. But it’s just the way that I had no idea to expect a performance like this from her, even after being so pleasantly surprised all those other times, that strikes me. No actor working today is this electric.
Stephen Sondheim died over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m not sure I was able to process it then because I was surrounded by the chaos of living… which, come to think of it, might be something that he was always trying to parse. I haven’t stopped thinking about what his work meant since, or I guess I’ve been doing that forever. I think I’ve been working through what it’s meant to me and how it’s changed me my whole life, but it took a death for me to try to find a way to articulate it. The articulation is hard.
He changed theater and culture as we know it—and as we feel it. The ways in which he taught us—taught me—to process what it means to be a human being, to begrudge but work through your flaws, to yearn for more but find a way to settle and appreciate where you are. To acknowledge that there really are happy endings in life, but they’re often just the end of act one. What happens next—the pain and confusion of that all as it unravels—is hard to weather. So absolutely hard. But it makes you appreciate those happy endings you had more, and that’s beautiful, if bittersweet.
He taught us—taught me—what it means to be an artist and a creator, to be a human in constant struggle to achieve greatness and want to leave a legacy, and to know that it’s OK if you don’t but still never want to stop trying, frustrating as it might be. Whether it’s love, connection, or art, to want something that will last forever.
That’s remarkably exactly what he did. I can’t even type that word without feeling its enormity. Forever. And so I’ll deflect with this, the perfect tweet, sent to me by my twin brother which, of course, made me laugh, but also realize I am being seen for exactly the person I think I am. That’s beautiful, too.
Back in September, I interviewed Kenny G, not really knowing what to expect or what kind of angle I was going to have. He may rank among my favorite people I’ve ever talked to.
We all talk about self-awareness and, especially in modern culture with social media and TikTok and whatever the other things are that I’m too old to know about, we commoditize it. Stars are expected to know what people think about them and to make fun of themselves. I wonder if Kenny G pioneered that?
Listening to Kenny G premiered this week on HBO and provides fascinating insight into a person who achieved unparalleled success, became a meme before memes existed, stared down unfairly aggressive backlash and critique, and smiled in the face of it, all because he was certain of one thing—that he was really damn talented.
We talked a lot about what that means in our interview, but it’s absolutely worth seeking out the documentary to find out more. Especially if you’re a person who rolled your eyes at him, this is a film for you.
The first Magic Mike should have been nominated for Oscars and the second might just be the best sequel that cinema has ever seen. I am not saying these things for controversial attention. They are simple truths. And the fact that we are now getting a trilogy? Blessings we don’t deserve.
PEN15: The new episodes are the series’ last, so please go watch the greatest show about millennials there has ever been. (Now on Hulu)
Landscapers: A four-hour character study that couldn’t be more fascinating. (Sunday on HBO)
Single All the Way: There are gays having Christmas on Netflix! This is the gay agenda! (Now on Netflix)
Welcome to Earth: Stop enabling Will Smith. Let him win his Oscar in peace. (Wed. on Disney+)
Silent Night: Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode are in a Christmas movie and it’s not spectacular, proving that nothing makes sense anymore in this world. (Fri. in theaters and on AMC+)