Author: Azlyrics

All Hail Erica Sullivan, Olympic Silver Medalist, Swiftie, and Queer Icon

It’s meant for everyone. Taylor Swift. So I’m going to Austin to continue my film career, my educational career, and my swim career. I think it’s time that we claim that narrative again. The yearning gets you every time. I love the gay yearning. Mia had responded, later that day Erana responded, the whole cast and crew — Shannon [Berry] has since responded — it’s been insane. You know how she sang the song “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” because like, people stab you in the back? So many people have asked me if I’m single. It’s for the queer people. Because I’ve never talked to an Olympian, and I’m gooped, can you tell me: Literally what do you do after you win a medal? And she’s decided to spend her newfound silver-medal clout on DMing her faves, like Mia Healey and Erana James of The Wilds, and shooting her shot. Like as soon as you get out of the water, there’s a drug tester waiting and like, they will follow you until you have to pee. That’s hurtful. [The Half of It] was such a wholesome movie and it got me through quarantine. But yeah, it’s basically like summer camp. She’s been feeding us. I’m a reputation stan. Fifth Harmony. Yes, she was the first ever woman to win a silver medal in the Olympic event — the 20-year-old’s first medal — but Sullivan made history in other ways too. It’s for everyone of different ethnicities. You’ve said on Twitter you’re writing a movie. It’s like a bunch of apartment complexes and Team USA has their own building. My [Olympic Village] apartment complex is a bunch of my friends who I’ve been on Team USA trips with since I was 17. Related

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Tags: Crazy. Tobin, wake UP. You have silver medal clout. But my personal favorite is “Story of Us.”

Justice for “Story of Us”! Like, excuse me! Clexa/The 100. Olympic Village TikTok is popping off. I will not stab you in the back. That ship really sailed — it ended horribly! Like, I just shitpost on Twitter, and now they’re all paying attention to me?! I think people hate on the album for no good reason. Like, you get out of the water and they follow you to the podium. We have a total of six medals in this room right now. I called Erica and talked to her about her medal, begged for Olympic Village tea, and shrieked with her about hot girls. So the minute I got the blue check mark, I hit them up. I do the whole medal stand, the media, the press conference, all that stuff. How did that go? Let’s get into it. I don’t think it’s real. But my person, Brigette Lundy-Paine, they are an icon. I’m like, I am still the same gay girl I was before all this. She is friends with everyone I want to be friends with, like Cara Delevingne or Camila Cabello. Okay, I’m going to rapid-fire ask you about fandoms. Love my queen Taylor Swift. Finally, how does it feel to represent America in this way, as an out and proud queer woman? I deferred college for three years to train for these games. We’ve been talking about her music and her merch drops. I do a lot of indie. I cried when Camila [Cabello] left Fifth Harmony. I DMed them when I first got verified. The only difference is that we’re bringing home a bunch of medals. I feel fed from her. When I was packing for Olympic trials, I was watching The Wilds. What’s it like there? So many people have been reaching out and being like, “You’re an inspiration!” And it’s very humbling because at the end of the day, I’m just the gay weirdo on stan Twitter. So the soccer team was not in the Village. I love 1989. Photo: Patrick B Kraemer/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

On Tuesday, Olympic newcomer Erica Sullivan made history in the Olympics’ first ever women’s swimming 1,500m freestyle race, bringing home the silver medal for America. Oh man, that was a phase. I’m gonna go another quad, I’m gonna try and go for 2024, that’s the plan. Oh my God, I love Fivel Stewart. Victoria Pedretti at the 2019 MTV Movie Awards. Who’s your ultimate ship? Honestly, I was so sleep-deprived after [doing] media, it was like 2 a.m. Favorite Taylor song? Nice. Me and Hailee Steinfeld. We pretty much just hang out in our apartment and just do a bunch of stupid shit that 20- and 19-year-olds would do. But now that she’s become a beacon of inspiration as a loudly gay Olympian, she’s sprouted her own fandom; people have already fan-cammed her win (set to “Wonderland” by Taylor Swift). We’ll just leave it at that. The Las Vegas native is seemingly a part of every queer-girl fandom, spanning the Swifties to the Harmonizers, the Cazzie shippers to Shoni shippers (if you know, you know). But hopefully after that I can focus on my film career. But it’s always an honor to put those stars and stripes on my head because I think in the last year, the American flag has kind of brought a negative connotation, and I feel like people who wave it proud are, you know, people who don’t really represent America well. 1989. Who are you going to shoot your shot with next? Then I went to bed, woke up, and it had exploded. Ellie Chu and Aster Flores. Girl, I am nothing but a mere weasel compared to you. So you DMed Mia Healey and Erana James. Also Olivia Rodrigo … queen. I want to change the narrative to be like, no, the American flag is a good thing and it doesn’t just represent the people who don’t approve of us and approve of our lifestyles, but more so, it’s the fact that we are all universally unique, and it’s for the gays. What’s next for you? Swimming is on the fourth floor. Let’s start with the most chaotic one: Harmonizers. Favorite woman in a suit? I’ve had a crush on the same girl for three years now. I love folklore, more than evermore. I had a swim meet that day and I spent the whole morning sobbing my eyes out. But I can’t DM them ’cause they don’t have Instagram. So a lot of the Japanese House. I hug my coach. Since her win, queer female fans have been flocking to Erica’s Twitter page, where many — myself included — have discovered that Erica is truly one of us. But I have their Funko Pops in my room, which is embarrassing and so nerdy. Spill the tea on the USWNT. The girl I like, her favorite song was “All Too Well,” so I became very attached to that one by association. And my apartment-mate, Emma Weyant, is also a Swiftie. I joined the fandom straight and I left gay. I will be the bestest friend ever! It’s for the woman. Representation matters: Erica is representing America as an Asian American, an out and proud queer woman, and, yes … a Swiftie. Very disappointing. Love me some Clairo. Perfect, thank you for humoring me through all of that. Favorite album? I decided to do a follow-up message to be like, “Hi queen, I won a silver medal today, so like, can you notice me?” Just YOLO it, whatever. Cazzie shippers/Atypical. And folklore. Also, Alexxis Lemire and Leah Lewis are SO fine. Gay yearning music is my jam. Respect the Harry Styles. But if I found out the women’s national soccer team was here, I’d be trick-or-treating down these halls just waiting for Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, or any of those queens to open their doors. And then you go to drug testing. What other pop stars or music fandoms are you into? She’s been releasing bops all year. If Brigette Lundy-Paine would like to reach out to me, that would be awesome too.

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Categories: Entertainment News

I Don’t See an End to This

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Four and a half years ago, I wrote about homophobia in hip-hop culture. We’ve seen young men fight tooth and nail to defend their ability to transgress and offend at will, clinging desperately to the 20th-century social mores that centered their needs and wants. If you coddle hip-hop’s cisgendered, heteronormative core, you can cook. Seuss and Paw Patrol. My apologies for being me the same way you want the freedom to be you.” (More recently, Baby responded to criticism from Questlove by saying he has no clue who that is, a bold take since you can go to his YouTube page and watch a clip of him performing a medley of cuts from his Kirk album on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, backed, of course, by the Roots with Quest on drums.)

The message in the many twists this dialogue has taken is that a lot of people who claim credit for being open-minded also maintain that they deserve the right to object to some of the avenues of expression favored by the queer people they purport to have no problem with. We all die hating each other, or we start acting like other people exist and are deserving of the same respect and consideration that we demand for ourselves. weighed in on Instagram, complimenting Lil Nas’s courage but also positing the “Industry Baby” video and the Rolling Loud remarks as acceptable opposites, respectable differences of opinion: “If you have a Lil Nas X video, and him living his truth, you gone damn sure have people like DaBaby who are going to speak they truth.”

The Atlanta star facing multiple accusations of sexual assault also claimed that the LGBTQ community is “bullying” DaBaby and complained about “high standards of morality,” framing rap shows as safe spaces where a terrible remark shouldn’t be villainized, a sentiment echoed in a tweet by Toronto’s Tory Lanez (whose appearance at the Rolling Loud set in question was met by stern criticism — since last year Megan Thee Stallion accused him of shooting her — and is surely the reason DaBaby is under intense fire, since gross, public homophobia is more often met with a yawn): “When did rap get so politically correct that u can’t speak your mind and have an opinion?” Veteran Louisiana rapper Boosie Badazz took things a step further, using a gay slur in an Instagram Live stream, where he also threatened to “drag his ass offstage and beat his ass” if he saw Lil Nas recreate the (mock) nude dance sequence in “Industry Baby” at an awards show. The illusion of respect for our differences erodes. It’s acceptance with a caveat: You can be gay, bi, trans, pan, nonbinary, what have you, so long as you don’t make too much noise about it. I am by turns more hopeful about queer representation in hip-hop and less sure I will live to see a time when the community doesn’t excuse and ignore hateful, homophobic, transphobic rhetoric. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and who has said she was “surprised and horrified” by the Rolling Loud incident, DaBaby released a video for a song called “Giving What It’s Supposed to Give,” borrowing Black queer slang for the title and closing with a message in rainbow colors: “Don’t fight hate with hate. We’ve seen antiracism pawned off as “woke supremacy.” We’ve seen elderly men weaponize political power to legislate how women are allowed to care for and live in their bodies. If we wanted, we could restructure the power dynamics that bind us. Here’s the thing: This ends one of two ways. It’s the story of comics bristling at the blowback for dodgy jokes made in their standup sets. The last four years have shown us that people don’t always band together when straits get dire. Young M.A is appreciated because straight male hip-hop fans see themselves in her verses about romancing women; there’s enough ambiguity and fluidity in Tyler, the Creator’s music to give a listener plausible deniability about whether the song they’re listening to is about falling in love with a man or not. It’s a bone for hip-hop heads attracted to the sweaty musculature of rap videos that bear a closer resemblance to Pumping Iron than “God’s Plan.” Lil Nas cannot be unaware of how much the idea of gay sex in prison terrifies some people. The illusion of respect for our differences erodes. T.I. (If you’re overusing the “What about the kids?” card, know that your company in that line of reasoning is the Q squad.)

It’s the story of everything. There’s no going back to sucking it up. It’s been a painful handful of days, full of terrible conversations, lies, prejudices, and false equivalences. What I’ve seen in the intervening years has made me by turns more hopeful about queer representation in hip-hop and less sure I will live to see a time when the community doesn’t excuse and ignore hateful, homophobic, transphobic rhetoric. The video balances queer fantasy and gay panic. What’s your play? Sometimes, we simply fuck off and do for self. The connectivity the internet allows made it so people who grew up siloed in their like-minded communities now have to hear from the people on the margins, and the people on the margins got smart and organized and are starting to creep into positions of power and greater visibility, and the blowback for this has been unsubtle and retrograde and base and disgusting. More and more of us are taking up the language of the privileged but aggrieved, of people who see the slightest request for consideration as an attack on their personal freedoms. There’s almost too much mess to keep up with. But as it dawns on some of us that adding more seats to the proverbial table requires sacrificing a bit of your own elbow room, relations have gotten ugly. It is enough to be the biggest selling point for keeping kids out of trouble in any Scared Straight episode. Not everyone handled these developments very well, but it felt like progress was being made, however painstaking and slight, toward greater respect for LGBTQ hip-hop fans and artists. Especially for children.”

A lot of people want things to stay the way they used to be and seem unable to grasp that the way things were required marginalized people to suck it up and live as second class citizens in a country clearly built for someone else. If you show too much queer attraction and self-expression, people get uncomfortable. It’s been illuminating watching masks come off and hearing what people think these two stories say about the state of hip-hop. After posting a flimsy, passive-aggressive pair of apology messages that also hit at Dua Lipa, whose “Levitating” remix with DaBaby remains perched at No. Acceptance is conditional upon giving the masses something to relate to. A lot of people want things to stay the way they used to be and seem unable to grasp that the way things were required marginalized people to suck it up and live as second-class citizens in a country clearly built for someone else. It’s the story of “Karens” who freaked out in public all last year and are continuing the tradition now. I can’t read Lil Nas’s mind, but I’ve been reminded enough times by random dudes on the internet that I am “a grown-ass man” whenever I post something “sus” to know that there is a quadrant of straight men who take it personally when you don’t behave in a manner consistent with how they were socialized, how they feel men are meant to carry themselves. Either Lil Nas X is coolly getting fake allies to reveal the hypocrisy of their stances on the LGBTQ community one provocative dance routine at a time, and the Montero album videos are sly, reflexive conversation pieces tailored specifically to the dialogue that happens afterward, or the kid is just carrying on trying to be himself, and hip-hop is still a place so culturally conservative and heteronormative that the sight of someone ignoring the intricate network of etiquette that straight men in the community hold themselves to makes people angry. Boyce Watkins complained about “Industry Baby” on Sunday: “He’s marketing the sexual irresponsibility that’s causing young men to die from AIDS. iLoveMakonnen had just come out, and Young M.A was flourishing in New York. If you show too much queer attraction and self-expression, people get uncomfortable. It’s not always like movies, where an existential threat to humanity forces us to settle our differences and soldier forward together, and some maudlin pop song soundtracks our unified efforts to save the future. It’s the story of reactionary anti-maskers. There’s nothing healthy or helpful about that video. The clock’s ticking. Cultural commentator and author Dr. Being gay is one thing, but being a superspreader is another. (It’s no surprise that scene had a visceral effect on Boosie, who once posted a video about accidentally walking in on two men engaging in intercourse during his stint in Louisiana State Penitentiary, a story that was jarringly graphic in its specificity.) Straight guest rapper Jack Harlow is symbolically electrocuted after a lap dance from a woman, which Lil Nas says is the video’s only real bit of quasi-nudity. We’re living in a preposterous time. In the week since Lil Nas X released the provocative, pointedly homoerotic “Industry Baby” music video and North Carolina rapper DaBaby regaled a Miami Rolling Loud audience with a vile quip about gay sex and AIDS between songs, conversations about homosexuality and homophobia in hip-hop that have been percolating all year have come to a head. Two common side effects of being raised to think that the world caters to your interests are a narcissistic inability to conceive of people existing comfortably and happily outside your preferred framework and a desire to police the boundaries of what is acceptable. “Facts,” retired NBA shooting guard Nick Young added in the comments. It’s the story of political pundits grousing about Dr. It’s the story of guys who believe in a clandestine “gay agenda” to emasculate men and enact population control. Related

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Tags: It’s the story of hip-hop finally finding its first out gay superstar and having such a hard time dealing with it that people must now pretend to care about offensive bars and risqué videos and rap that’s appropriate for children’s eyes. If you coddle hip-hop’s cisgendered, heteronormative core, you can cook. “Industry Baby” feels like a deliberate attempt to bear out this reality.

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Categories: Entertainment News

Matt Damon Makes For an Excellent Unlovable American in Stillwater

McCarthy started off as an actor, and he has a way of writing for great performances that seems counterintuitive at first because his movies are so averse to grandstanding or big monologues. Each of his early indies — The Station Agent, The Visitor, and Win Win — use a premise of almost-perverse hokiness as the basis for a subdued character study of enormous generosity. The new movie from Spotlight director Tom McCarthy is a character study in the guise of a crime thriller. Virginie is part of the local theater scene and has a touch of kamikaze do-gooderism that leads her to open her home to a relative stranger. It’s a crime she insists she’s innocent of, and, five years into her sentence, she’s come across a tenuous new lead she asks her father to pass along to her lawyer, though he ends up taking up the investigation himself. At the start of Stillwater, Bill rides home from a post-storm cleanup job back in Oklahoma, and as two of his colleagues talk in subtitled Spanish, the audience is invited into a conversation Bill doesn’t understand. Bill’s relationship with Allison has been shaped by those mistakes, and we come to understand that she counts on him as her point of contact with the outside world without really trusting him. Night Shyamalan’s Old Is Beautifully Made and Terribly Written

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Tags: But he approaches his characters like they’re iceberg tips, the bulk of their lives a submerged but solid presence that can be sensed, even if it’s mostly unseen. One man marvels at the fact that the destroyed houses are likely to be rebuilt just as they were. “I don’t think Americans like change,” the other observes, to which the first replies, “I don’t think a tornado cares what Americans think.” It’s a discussion that feels like it could apply to the movie they’re a part of, one that lays waste to expectations but ultimately can’t help but go back to the way things always are. Bill spends a good part of Stillwater looking for redemption, but the film is more interested in the idea of learning to live with your mistakes. He embodies a certain instinctive obstinance, a habit of holding on to what he knows and only what he knows, no matter how much the world might change around him. McCarthy is best known for 2015’s Spotlight, which won Best Picture, but most of his work as a director has been devoted to the idea of battling back first impressions to get at the complexity of individuals. It’s a development that feels as inevitable as a visa expiring, with everyone having to take up the narrative that’s the ostensible reason the film exists, even if it feels artificial compared to what’s come before. Bill, still scarred from the way Allison’s crime inflamed press attention because her lover was Arab and female, has no idea what to make of the way that a professor at her school casts her as a privileged American dating a poor girl from the inner city. His blunt-force approach carries him forward until it doesn’t, and when Bill’s amateur detective work stalls out, the film takes a startling turn toward the domestic by way of Virginie (Call My Agent!’s Camille Cottin), a Parisian transplant who starts giving Bill translation help, and her ebullient daughter, Maya (the wonderful Lilou Siauvaud). He’s in Marseilles to see his daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), who’s in prison for killing her girlfriend, Lina, while there as an exchange student. Stillwater is a sprawling realization of that same approach, teasing a tawdry international crime thriller and then offering, instead, a portrait of a man trying to make up for past regrets with one big swing and constantly frustrated by his inability to meet the standards he’s set for himself. It’s her friend who asks if Bill voted for Trump and who’s briefly stymied by his response that he didn’t vote at all because his criminal record forbids it. He still thinks of a relationship as something that can be fixed rather than something that’s nurtured and maintained, and his eagerness to clear his daughter’s name (while lying to her about her attorney’s inaction) speaks to preference for the cleanness of action. Stillwater can’t get away from its own origins either in the end, and after a delicate and lovely middle section in which the film liberates itself from any obligations to address the murder as something other than an intractable fact, it surrenders to obligations toward plot again. More Movie Reviews

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M. While the people Bill meets in France tend to react as though they’re anticipating an ugly American, the truth is that Bill isn’t the kind of guy who’d go there at all, given a choice. If it’s never clear how much of a willing enlistee Bill is in his country’s ongoing culture war, the film is also aware of the fact that those schisms don’t export neatly. Her Gallic bohemianism neither overlaps with nor lines up in opposition to Bill’s blue-collar stolidity. Details about Allison’s childhood and Bill’s drug- and drink-fueled absenteeism emerge slowly from both of them, and it’s clear that while Bill’s been showing up for her regularly, Allison wouldn’t be surprised if he stopped at any moment. Photo: Jessica Forde/Focus Features

Bill Baker, the Oklahoma oil-rig roughneck abroad played by an excellent Matt Damon in Stillwater, is not a Trump voter, but you can understand why one of the women he meets in Marseilles asks him about it outright. It’s not just that he looks like a guy who might have voted for Trump, from his frustrated outburst about “fake news” and insistence of saying grace over every meal down to the particular style of wraparound sunglasses he favors. But Allison didn’t grow up with money, Bill protests, and the man avers that she was nevertheless the one with power in the relationship and that “there is a lot of resentment toward the educational elite.”

Allison wanted to get far away from her father and from everything she knew, but one of the themes of the movie is that she’s more like Bill than she wants to admit. For a while, his determination is effective, and Damon is particularly deft at showing how Bill’s doggedness works without giving the character’s efforts any fish-out-of-water cutesiness. Stillwater is the new movie from director Tom McCarthy, and it feels like one he’s spent his career preparing for — an enthralling, exasperating, and, above all else, ambitious affair that doesn’t soften or demand sympathy for its difficult main character but does insist on according him his full humanity.

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Categories: Entertainment News

Isaiah Rashad Was Always TDE’s Secret Weapon — Now, He’s Ready to Own It

Rashad’s enlightenment came in the form of self-discovery, and he feels like he owes his fans some closure, telling GQ, “ I owe finishing what I said I was going to be.” In 2018, Rashad moved back to L.A. I think just about everything is. But I don’t know, even when I examine music from before, I think I’m better at using words; I’m better at simplifying what I have to say versus overcomplicating some shit. In your Fader cover story, you described having the “quickest fall from grace.” What are you actively doing now to prevent that from happening again, in so much as you can control?Staying on my shit … actually no, that’s not even a good answer. Keeping my shit together. This has been one of [my] craziest journeys of self-realization, or at least a journey to self-realization, in a while. Long, unannounced hiatuses seem commonplace with TDE artists; Lamar also went ghost after the release of his 2012 major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. He’s reading more (mostly comics and, right now, Stephen King’s The Dead Zone and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer). Most of it is freestyle, I can’t even think of which ones weren’t. We seem closer this past year, too. Off top of the head, don’t question them. How has TDE and your role at the label changed, if it has at all, in that same time frame?My opinion is more a factor these days, but nothing too crazy. You’ve said that you make sure you give them vulnerable pieces of yourself since they’re the ones that fund your career with streaming, tours, etc. And on this album, Rashad is celebrating his personal and career rebirth. He’s growing closer and more fundamental to his TDE peers. What hasn’t changed? [Laughs.] I’m so in the present. Then, he went silent. After that first taste of stardom, shit hit the fan. [Laughs.] I had to give it a shot. So the expectation is, like, Just make sure it’s good. heads. “It’s saying your world’s on fire, but you have the option to recover and bounce back — simple as that,” he’s able to reflect now, sitting in his new BMW X6. And you can’t try to fix something that’s on fire, but you can definitely start over. What are some of the major changes you’ve seen in the industry since five years ago? Do you prefer doing it that way?Hell no, I just had to try it. So the things that matter to me are a little bit, like, Earth-based and [feeling secure]. Between then and 2015’s classic To Pimp a Butterfly, the Compton rapper embarked on a journey to South Africa, an experience that allowed him to “see all the things he wasn’t taught.” At the time, Lamar said that on his followup he felt he had to be responsible for enlightening his fans on the struggles faced in the homeland while equally expressing and making space for his own vices. “HB2U,” “From the Garden” is technically a freestyle. Of course, the management’s grown and we have new artists and people around. Just do it and build upon them type shit. This past spring, the artist with so much promise interrupted resurfaced with a tell-all Fader cover story about where he’d been all this time. [Laughs.] I be in a pretty chill mode usually, I’m just excited about this album coming out. We got too much time out here to self-destruct. Everybody my fam. They’ll watch or listen to whatever as long as it’s good. It’s fun, though. Sometimes I look back. The then-22-year-old Chattanooga native had left Middle Tennessee State University to pursue a rap career and, by 2013, signed to the California-based label TDE; the following year, he released his debut mixtape Cilvia Demo. And after confiding in his boss, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, Rashad spent the majority of his 2019 summer in a California rehab. The 30-year-old is in a better place. He also unveiled the first single, “Lay Wit Ya,” off his new album The House Is Burning, out today. If you want to go micro: Your crib’s fucked up. A loose metaphor for his life the past five years, Rashad’s new project — this one recorded fully sober — finds him at his most refined and self-realized. How much of the album was you freestyling versus being calculated through pen and paper?Sixty percent of it is just loose ideas. This album, Rashad is living fully in the present and no longer overcomplicating his raps; thanks to a mantra he adapted from working in the Cave with producer Kenny Beats, “don’t overthink shit” has become the Chattanooga rapper’s personal motto. Well, from what I heard, the freestyling seems to work.Thank you. With Lamar, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q (known together as Black Hippy) already leading TDE, Rashad — along with SZA — brought a new perspective and embraced his identity as the lone Southerner among a crew of L.A. city. What’s the personal meaning behind the album’s title and what should others take from it?The House Is Burning is basically saying your world’s on fire, but you have the option to recover [and] bounce back, simple as that. And I think we did that. People like long songs if it’s a good tone. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. You also mentioned in that cover that you spent a lot of money on your friends during that time. People like anything that’s good; you can watch a three-hour movie if it’s good. I read that Kenny Beats has aided a lot with your studio and recording process, especially with not overthinking your raps. That’s been really the only difference. We done went through rough patches and shit, but I ain’t cut off nobody. How are you feeling?Right now I’m feeling really good, energized. What do you hear in yourself now that you didn’t hear back then, and vice versa?I think doing it sober was more of a challenge of being creative without anything, like, loosening [me] up, besides smoking some weed or whatever. He was, and still is, TDE’s secret weapon. There’s no shame in starting over. I’m just hype to be here. You just adjust to it. Do something that’s going to do something better for your life. Have you had to cut off anybody?Fifty-fifty. Photo: Spencer Sease

For a certain time, it seemed like Isaiah Rashad might follow in Kendrick Lamar’s immediate footsteps as the newest rap star of the formidable Top Dog Entertainment roster. He’s “staying on his shit” by way of spending more time with his family and friends. “If you don’t ever get yourself straight, who the fuck is you gon’ help, main?,” he ponders on the album’s outro and longest track, “HB2U.” The House Is Burning possesses his usual pensive, boom-bap odes like “Don’t Shoot” and “HB2U,” with a sprinkle of nonchalant bangers like “From the Garden” (with Lil Uzi Vert) and “Lay Wit Ya.” He got crafty with his features, too, working with artists he’s personally a fan of from Smino (“Claymore”) to 6lack (“Score”). At the end of the day, do you make music for your fans or for yourself?I’ll always make it for myself, but I consider them when I’m putting it out. Make sure the outcome is high quality. [You can] still fix that, but you can’t dwell on it. In 2016, he released his critically acclaimed debut album, The Sun’s Tirade. Rashad succumbed to crippling alcoholism — a disease he revealed runs in his family — and financial hardships in the form of frivolously spending on himself and his friends to the point where he was forced to move back to his mom’s house in Chattanooga. Obviously we’re in the pandemic and all that, but with the streaming era in full effect now and the way fans value music changing, what are some of those differences you’ve noticed?It seems like people’s attention spans have been kind of short since the introduction of the phone. But the changes are just … I’m older. Rashad learned the hard way that being signed to a major label, especially as a newcomer, means nothing when you can’t hold up your end of the bargain. I’m glad to be outside and doing shit and continue doing shit ’cause there ain’t nothing else to do except to do something fun, you know what I’m saying? How much of that was you being nice versus people taking advantage of your generosity? and nearly hit rock bottom. I consider the length of a project, but not the length of a song. And just staying busy or at least staying busy with somebody, you know? If I was doing it strictly for myself, the material would be different. I’ve been just staying connected to my friends and my management more than I was before. “Score” is a freestyle, “Claymore” is a freestyle, “Hey Mista” is a freestyle, the intro is a freestyle, the “9-3 Freestyle” is a freestyle, “True Story” is a freestyle. I ain’t really cut off nobody, just readjusted relationships. Related

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Tags: How has your relationship with your older music, the stuff you recorded not sober, changed? It’s a quicker process, but I wouldn’t say I like it more. As it gets closer, I’m starting to feel more like a kid on Christmas. From pollution or whatever the fuck, if you want to go on a macro scale. How have you dealt with fan expectations surrounding this album, considering it’s been so long?I’m blessed that these guys — and girls — seem to just want to have some music. My family [matters] even more than it used to. A sold-out national tour and festival appearances leveraged his success — and lined his pockets — sooner than he could keep up. I’m not really good at examining my own changes, I’m gonna keep it a bean with you.

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Nicki Minaj Wants to Host the RHOP Reunion

Who tf is ready #RHOP pic.twitter.com/gGtoABW9xY— BEAM ME UP SCOTTY MIXTAPE OUT NOW‼️🎀🦄♥️ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 30, 2021

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Tags: Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Nicki Minaj wants to host the RHOP reunion, and apparently, she plans to “get into some thangz” if the hosting gig comes to fruition. Minaj responded by saying she wants to do it, then took to Instagram to tell the Barbz to binge-watch all the episodes, and that her questions will be well-thought-out. The “Itty Bitty Piggy” rapper tweeted a screenshot of a text conversation between her and “Joe Publicist” (presumably Republic Records’ Joseph Carozza), where he reveals that Andy Cohen would give up his spot if the Queen Barb was onboard to host. She also told everyone to stop prodding her about the album and just let her have her moment.

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Physical Recap: The Facts of Life

(I was really impressed with the sound editing in that scene; did anyone else believe for a moment that their own device was the problem there?) Meanwhile, Breem’s not-Trudy-Campbell-from-Mad-Men wife is determined to make him and us as uncomfortable as possible by hitting up a minister for marriage advice. I’m a little bit scared of you,” Sheila confesses. Sheila and Greta encounter one another outside preschool (which is, like, so episode 2), but the bewigged Greta (because, remember, she shaved her head) clearly wants none of it. In either case, Physical has provided so many of these little moments that reflect life as it really feels to live it, not just what it looks like to dramatize it in a fictitious narrative. He’s not included in that “we.”

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Keep up with all the drama of your favorite shows! (After not apologizing to Greta for so long about the camera she pilfered, this is progress!) “Aerobics saved me,” she tells her motley crew. No shots of Jerry delighting in the Schadenfreude, no sounds of Sheila’s inner monologue working overtime to berate herself? I don’t think Sheila cares; Sheila just said to herself on the car ride back from the surfer dude’s place, “I can’t hide anymore. Actually, I don’t know whether to blame Sheila or “the show” for this, but either way, I’ve registered my complaint.) And after hearing Breem mansplain her future to her — which was doubly frustrating, I’m guessing, because the future he believes her tape could provide sounds exactly like what she really wants — she finally goads herself into uttering, “The truth, for once in your fucking life.” She tells Greta things are not okay. (There have been too many campaign events. (Luckily, he forks over the tapes and the cash he’s made so far without a fight.)

Petulant about Sheila bailing on yet another campaign event, Danny finally cheats on her with Simone (BECAUSE OF COURSE), and Simone, showing her new-feminism bona fides, pushes his head down between her legs rather than opting for the traditional, patriarchal, just-regular-sex route (see: Breem and Mrs. Breem attempting the impossible by doing it missionary on a waterbed). I’m so glad we’re finally here. Unfortunately, Danny clearly hasn’t forgotten about it. (Seriously, why were there waterbeds?)

Next comes one of my favorite scenes in the entire series so far. My only hope at this point? Sheila practically slams her front door in Bunny and Tyler’s faces when they show up to inform her that somebody’s been bootlegging their aerobics tape. Sheila attempts an apology by telling Greta, “I know that you’re angry at me,” to which Greta astutely replies, “You’re not always on my mind.” That’s a pretty stand-up-for-yourself statement coming from Greta, who then shocks Sheila by telling her, “All you had to do was ask and I would have let you borrow the camera.” Sheila is somewhat taken aback by this deceivingly simple statement, and as someone who has been a lifelong, pathological ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission kind of person, I totally get this. I don’t want to.”

And so, in the episode’s final scene, Danny once again runs into Sheila in their garage — except this time, her hidden aerobics secret is on full display. She asks Greta, “Will you drive me somewhere?” and they go to the beach, where Sheila apologizes to Tyler and Bunny for fucking everything up. Tyler, it turns out, is losing his hearing, a revelation he comes to after his dear surfboard TyTy is decapitated on the street because he couldn’t hear oncoming traffic. That’s okay. So much for Danny’s growth from last week. It feels like the first genuine emotion she’s expressed all season. You know what? But then Sheila sees Greta again at yet another one of Danny’s endless campaign events. I think maybe it’s a part of feeling like you can’t ask for what you want because that would be taking up too much space, or maybe it’s about feeling convinced that you have to always project an air of self-sufficiency. Danny really needs to check himself and calm the hell down. He and Jerry swarm over to Sheila the second they see her making moves to leave his dumb clean-up event and Danny’s all “You’re gonna leave before my big speech?” and Sheila is like, Our child is hungry, hello, so Danny decides to act like half a grown-up and not throw a temper tantrum in the sand (so he’s at least more mature than Maya, who literally threw sand). Not only is she unable to send herself straight home, pulling into the fast-food drive-through instead of making something “simple and satisfying” for herself and Maya, but she does so while her “Fill her up” incantation repeats in her head. Email

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Terms of Service apply. Greta then shows Sheila the buzzcut she’s got hidden underneath her wig, and Sheila is shocked all over again. “What is all this?” he asks about the tapes. Why couldn’t this show find any other reason for Sheila to leave her house besides going to another one of Danny’s campaign events? Except for the fact that “here” is at that hilarious surfer dude’s house! I’m cool with it, seriously. So, when Simone asked Sheila about her “money problems” at Danny’s beachside campaign event, I mean, I was surprised to see that we skipped over all of that — especially when the very last shot of the previous episode showed Sheila and her mountain of lies just moments away from crumbling — but then Sheila ripped off the top of a banana and threw it into the sand before giving it to Maya as a snack and I’d almost forgotten all about it, too. Sheila seems like she may be regressing, too. (I’m guessing she regretted that choice and a few others when she was asked to describe their marital relations and she told the pastor they were “adequate.”) The minister then challenges her to do more to help her husband, implying that the “robust physical life” she’s been enjoying through her aerobic workouts “can have a strain on the marital bond.” So, because she is worried about water being “a challenge” for her husband, she gets a waterbed. But just like the whole money thing, I mean, who cares at this point if Danny cheats on Sheila? It’s so cool. “This is how we win,” she tells him. Hilarious! Tags: “You look amazing. I never really cared about the money, to be honest. Physical
Let’s Face the Facts

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Episode 9

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So after weeks of tension and cliffhangers and whatnot built around Sheila’s money-pilfering problems, in the end, we don’t see her comeuppance on that at all? (To be clear, I’m all for Sheila grabbing a burger to go, even if she only did it to spite Danny; I just wish she could make that choice as an easy solution to the lunch problem without reverting to unhealthy thought patterns.)

Tyler and No-Longer-Evil John Breem are going through some stuff, too. We don’t see how she tried to weasel her way out of that one, we don’t get to see Danny’s confused mug twist and curdle in confusion as he tries to process what his wife’s been doing behind his back? And … gross! That seed of self-actualization falters a bit on its way to fully germinating throughout this episode. How dare you betray us by bootlegging Sheila and Bunny’s tape, dude! Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. “Let’s take back what’s ours.” There’s some badass, slo-mo camera action like they’re the Reservoir Dogs, and Greta gets the gumption to pull her wig off, and Bunny’s slo-mo reaction is priceless. Those moments provide little working-through points for me in a way no other show I can think of has, so I’m just super grateful. Sheila says she can’t be involved anymore, and then there’s a swooping-camera reaction shot of Danny’s face like he’s in Goodfellas. Danny instructs Sheila to “Go straight home,” and Jerry throws in a “No secret trips to the bank” to add insult to injury.

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Every Matt Damon Movie, Ranked

21. Syriana is a movie of ambition and ideas — Gaghan won an Oscar for his screenplay for Traffic — which means that sometimes Woodman is little more than a symbol of Cocky American Attitude, delivering bullet-point speeches that represent specific perspectives on the Middle East’s tenuous hold on our energy future. By 2016’s Jason Bourne, it was clear the old thrill wasn’t there anymore. 24. This movie gets a little more embarrassing every year. Stillwater (2021)

The first images of Damon as the Oklahoma oil rigger desperate to free his imprisoned daughter in France were widely meme’d: There was something so artificial, so Hollywood that such a world-famous Bostonian pretty boy, Good Will Hunting himself, would so blatantly play, essentially, the Stereotypical Trump Voter. But Damon delivers them with gusto, while making room to play a grieving father who hopes that money can help him forget what he’s lost. 4. For a short period, the Bourne films were the best movie series going. Clearly, that’s just the way he has always wanted it. It wasn’t until 2002’s The Bourne Identity that Damon found his franchise — and proof that he could be an action hero. Mann, one of several humans who has traveled across the cosmos trying to find habitable planets. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site. The Informant! Watching this movie now, it’s shocking how young and thin he looks — he’s just a kid — but already enormously appealing. 37. 20. Nonetheless, it’s deeply fun to watch him play LaBoeuf, a buffoon who’s awfully proud of himself. Ilario is broken up about Walden’s death, but Damon doesn’t oversell the waterworks. Amid some disjointed ultraviolence and Jodie Foster’s truly insane accent, Damon looks a little bewildered by all the madness surrounding him. The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

This Philip K. Stuck on You (2003)

Damon hasn’t done a lot of straight comedy, though he can be extremely funny when called upon to do it. Damon plays one of her teachers, who begins to develop a relationship with her that may cross the line. 7. Ripley (1999)

The longer that Matt Damon’s career stretches, the more it resembles that of other eternal nice-guy movie stars; like Jimmy Stewart, when he gets gritty, he can be fascinating. The actor’s unassuming demeanor was crucial to playing Jason Bourne, a guy who wakes up in the middle of the ocean with no idea of who he is or how he got there. There’s a coldness to his photogenic demeanor that’s awfully appealing. 26. This is Gilliam in Kafka in Space territory, and while this story of a lower-level employee (Christoph Waltz) of a massive corporation trying to figure out a math problem that might reveal if life has meaning is … muddled, Damon has a blast as “Management,” a small role that lets him show up and be incredibly strange. But before then, this is a fun turn to the dark side for an actor who tends to prefer the light. (Just the way he slyly informs Hailee Steinfeld’s Mattie that he’s a Texas Ranger, as if he’s pausing for the round of applause he assumes is forthcoming, is terrific.) Coen brothers movies are often populated with dolts, and Damon happily joins the ranks of the filmmakers’ puffed-up fools. In 2019, plenty of culture critics have been memorializing the greatness of Movie Year 1999, but there hasn’t been much mention of Anthony Minghella’s fabulous Patricia Highsmith adaptation, about a young conman, Tom Ripley, who falls in with playboy Dickie (Jude Law) and his beautiful bride-to-be, Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow). Damon finds a gear he’s never really tried since, and Ripley’s unsettling longing makes him both tragic and frightening. This is Damon at his slimiest: Steve turns on the charm, utterly unconcerned by the fact that he knows that fracking destroys these communities. “All the situations he finds himself in are of his own creation and yet he has a really good heart.” On its face, The Informant! Downsizing is wildly ambitious — you name a social ill of the late 2010s, Payne tries to tackle it — but having Damon remain at its center, even when more interesting characters float in the periphery around him, is a mistake. It is to Damon’s credit that he is truly loathsome in the part, capturing a specific sort of Northeastern prep-boy shit-headed-ness that he would end up fighting against as he got older. Movies about Troubled Youths are commonplace, but Damon and Good Will Hunting located the humanity within the trope. 29. As a result, he’s put together a very old-school career, limiting embarrassment, but stretching when the right part arises. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Playing the private that Tom Hanks’s company has risked their lives to save, Damon has a small but crucial role in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film: He’s the character that the whole movie’s emotional weight will eventually rest on. This is a better movie than it was received as at the time; people might be surprised by just how good it is. Because of The Informant!’s jaunty surface, it takes a while for us to realize how deeply sad this film is. “We wanted Ripley’s humanity to come across,” Damon once said. 18. Thus, the lows on this list of Damon’s big-screen performances are not as low as you might find on, say, Affleck’s list. (It’s a shame we can’t put his Carol from 30 Rock on this list. The Departed (2006)

Damon hasn’t played a lot of bad guys — he’s too wholesome to be typecast in the role — which is why it was so fun to see him be the heel in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning crime thriller. The Great Wall (2016)

Damon’s “Chinese ponytail movie” is neither goofy enough to be delightful nor stirring enough to be epic. Once those around him find out, of course, they want to use him to speak to their deceased loved ones, and Damon has the right amount of hushed anguish for the role. Ripley has some shading — than he would here as the anti-Semitic prep-schooler tormenting Brendan Fraser’s Jewish football player. 6. The Talented Mr. Damon’s an inherently sympathetic figure, and so the reveal that Bourne is actually a ruthlessly efficient assassin turned out to be a shock. Everyone treats his Linus as a kid, and he plays along, the super genius savant who is as savvy as everyone else but still feels like he’s in training. It’s Damon who makes that work. (Never mind that he has to process the fact that she was cheating on him.) As a grief-stricken father still trying to be the rock for his surviving daughter, Damon is quite touching, unsure why he managed to live but devastated by the dystopian world that’s been left in the virus’ wake. Courage Under Fire (1996)

This Edward Zwick drama was one of Damon’s first semi-big films, although it’s still a relatively small part. 17. This is more boring than Damon usually is, but he does the job he’s asked to do. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

There are many things to dislike about this noxious Robert Redford nostalgia film — how it wastes Charlize Theron, how it was the last film for Jack Lemmon, the grossness of the Magical Negro trope, and how Will Smith does his best to fight through it — but Damon isn’t necessarily one of them. The Bourne movies (2002, 2004, 2007, 2016)

In the Affleck-Damon friendship, Matt always seemed like the kid brother, even though Damon is a couple years older. “I don’t think I’ve done anything to create any mystique around myself.” That everyman quality may be a mask — a mask that sometimes drops, such as in his infamous discussion with Effie Brown on Project Greenlight — but it has been an incredibly effective one. All the Pretty Horses (2000)

Billy Bob Thornton had wanted to bring Cormac McCarthy’s bestseller to the screen for years, and when he finally got the chance, he delivered a three-hour version to Harvey Weinstein. Damon is light and funny but still fits into the overall vibe, just pleased to be fitting in. Twenty years later, the performance is still a shock. 19. “I’m a married man with kids and there’s no scandal about me,” he said in 2015. 35. There’s a lesser career direction where Damon becomes a Christopher McDonald type, a William Peterson, the ultimate asshole Wasp white guy. Promised Land (2012)

A topical film with interesting themes but disappointing execution, Promised Land starred co-writer Damon as Steve, a folksy salesman for a natural gas company trying to persuade the residents of a small-town community to let his bosses drill on their land. A sorta-kinda love story develops between the two, but it’s so awkwardly executed that it never feels very convincing. He plays Francois Pienaar, a world-class rugby player leading the South African team in the wake of apartheid’s end. This post–Good Will Hunting role was the kind of thing Damon could do as a lark at this stage of his career — he wasn’t so concerned yet about being Matt Damon, Movie Star™ — so while it’s insubstantial, it also has its charms. Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. 38. He has put together a nearly three-decade career at this point. And some of his most fun roles are cameos so small they don’t even qualify for this list: He remains one of the highlights of both Steven Soderbergh’s Che and Unsane. 3. Just watch No End in Sight instead. He has, all told, rarely stepped too far afield. Frankly, Damon just seems outclassed by his co-star — he doesn’t bring the wit or sophistication that she exudes as easy as breathing. The Monuments Men (2014)

George Clooney’s underwhelming World War II ensemble drama, about a ragtag group of soldiers assigned to rescue great works of art before the Nazis get their hands on them, cast Damon as a curator who teams up with a fellow curator (Cate Blanchett). Syriana (2005)

Stephen Gaghan’s oil-business ensemble drama casts Damon as Bryan Woodman, an energy analyst who is working with Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig) after the tragic death of Woodman’s son. But if you let it, The Martian can make you want to believe. 34. He’s appropriately earnest and even a little self-mocking at times; he might be the only person involved with this movie dimly aware how poorly it might age in the new century. Good Will Hunting embraces cliché, but Damon believes in his character’s basic decency: Will is a guy who’s made mistakes but is, deep down, a good person. Margaret (2011)

Kenneth Lonergan’s embattled post-9/11 drama starred Anna Paquin as Lisa, a Manhattan teen seemingly at war with the world. Good Will Hunting (1997)

It’s possible to find this Oscar-winning drama cloying and contrived and yet still be moved by Damon’s performance in it. The film tracks the history of the agency and, quietly, becomes a meditation on what it means to keep secrets your entire life, and the toll it takes on you and your family. For someone who has lived his entire life in the public eye — he was playing the bad guy in School Ties while he was still at Harvard — Damon, unlike his famous buddy Ben Affleck, has done an excellent job at hiding in plain sight. He knows what roles work and which ones don’t. (It’s sort of amazing that Coppola, Robert Altman, and Sydney Pollack all made Grisham films.) Damon is callow and young and earnest, which is exactly what the film calls for, but he’s smart enough to stay out of the way and let the vast cadre of character actors do the heavy lifting, from Danny DeVito to Jon Voight to Mickey Rourke to Dean Stockwell to even Roy Scheider. commodification, and his performance sneaks up on you. As an actor, Damon is often clean-cut, but here he flirts with a darker, even kinkier side to his easygoing persona. Tags: (You can also spot him very briefly in Mystic Pizza.) It’s fascinating that he would never play a more openly villainous character — even the talented Mr. 16. Damon is too generic in this trimmed-down version, but you can see hints of the performance that was lost. Stripped of the usual narrative trappings — plot, character, motivation — there’s something deeply sad about Damon’s persona, revealing a desperation beneath the boyish charm we rarely get to see. Reread that last sentence and ask yourself: “Why isn’t The Great Wall the greatest movie ever made?” Part of the problem is Damon, who seems a bit lost amidst the CG and corny storytelling. His storyline, however, is closer to the film’s emotional center: Mitch’s wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) succumbs to the disease, and he must mourn her and his son’s death. 9. Damon’s performance has a little more heart than that — he does everything he can to put the shiniest, most human face on a guy who, in his own words, is a “real fuckup” — but that’s actually part of the problem: Damon, like the movie, is too eager to be liked. Damon had to be persuaded to make the movie by Crowe, but he would have been better off resisting: We Bought a Zoo is so desperate to make an emotional impact that it’s difficult not to run screaming out of the theater. In the case of Damon and Invictus, yes. He, of course, is Will Hunting, a Bawwwston screwup who’s secretly a math genius — but first, he must make peace with his past. Gerry is a fascinating outlier in his oeuvre and definitely worth seeking out. Dogma (1999)

Damon shines in Kevin Smith’s uneven comedy as Loki, an angel who’s been banished to Earth alongside his bud, Bartleby (Ben Affleck, of course). (Tellingly, when a character explicitly asks Damon’s Bill Baker if he voted for Trump — which is honestly the subtext of the whole film — both Bill and the movie dodge the question.) Damon gets the accent mostly right, and he wears the Cabela’s hat and the goatee convincingly, but you never truly buy him as anything other than a movie star. There are no truly bad Damon performances: He’s too controlled for that. Granted, Damon was promoting True Grit when he made that claim, so take his comment with a grain of salt. He believes what’s happening and he believes the world he’s indulging in.” That’s all well and good, but the fact remains that The Talented Mr. The movie is mostly known now for Barack Obama’s joke about it. “In the book he’s this awful, calculating person, but Anthony and I tried to have him not ever manipulate anybody and come from a position of pure honesty all the time. We’re not sure about the movie, but Damon sure seems to be enjoying himself. (2009)

“He is both the protagonist and the antagonist of this movie,” Damon once said of Mark Whitacre, the whistle-blower he played in Steven Soderbergh’s biting dark comedy. The Martian already feels outdated, with its celebrations of American ingenuity and cooperation — not to mention its foundational faith in science — to the point that four years later it almost feels like a period piece. Teaming up with Hero and House of Flying Daggers maestro Zhang Yimou, he plays a European mercenary who must join forces with Chinese soldiers to defeat aliens. Instead, it’s a film about the ultimate unreliable narrator — a man with bipolar disorder who can’t get out of his own way. Downsizing (2017)

As Damon has gotten older, the ground has shifted beneath him a little: The earnest young privileged white kid isn’t the default protagonist anymore in Hollywood, which both takes the wind out of some of his characters but also can add resonance and nuance, if handled correctly. The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum were superior sequels, with Damon capitalizing on the character’s no-nonsense smarts and physical prowess. Elysium (2013)

Neill Blomkamp’s much-anticipated follow-up to District 9 stars Damon as an ex-con who is accidentally dosed with radiation by a futuristic corporation and has only a few days to live. He’s too good at being ordinary to pull off this fantastical conceit. The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Terry Gilliam didn’t want Damon for the part of Will Grimm in his fantasy film; he wanted Johnny Depp, but the Weinsteins didn’t think Depp was famous enough. Macy on. Matt Damon, at his best, can lose himself in an Everyman role, but here, there isn’t one second you aren’t acutely, painfully aware that that’s Matt Damon up there. But the highs still show off his range, and his intelligence. Damon is certainly game, though, and we can confidently say this is the only movie that will ever exist that features cameos from Meryl Streep, Ben Carson, and Tom Brady. 1 on this list for regular listeners of Bill Simmons’s podcast. We don’t expect it out of Damon, who subverts his nice-guy persona with relish. 8. He plays his character so seriously that it only makes everything around him seem sillier. Damon milks his All-American earnestness in Saving Private Ryan, which is important when you’re portraying a character who has to represent the Greatest Generation in only a handful of scenes. Interstellar (2014)

An unwitting dry run for his role in The Martian, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi drama finds Damon playing Dr. “I’m a doorman … to the sky.”) Too bad that this Farrelly brothers comedy about conjoined twins (Damon and Greg Kinnear) is not one of their more raucous offerings: Stuck on You is mostly sweet and goodhearted rather than uproarious. By the end, you realize you weren’t watching a sports movie: You were watching an old-school male weepie. Hereafter (2010)

Clint Eastwood’s poorly received drama about mortality and tragedy benefits from Damon’s presence as George, a seemingly ordinary guy who can communicate with the dead. (This was right before Pirates of the Caribbean.) Depp would have been a better fit, though: Damon is a little too sturdy for Gilliam, at least as a leading man. It’s Damon who has to balance Ford v Ferrari’s themes of art vs. 2. 11. The Martian (2015)

In many ways, The Martian’s Mark Watney is the embodiment of what makes Matt Damon a movie star. A good guess: This is the last Matt Damon role where he ever plays anyone with a name even remotely close to “Rannulph Junuh.”

30. 23. Smith-Cameron. commerce, of perfection vs. 31. Damon’s inherent boyishness was perhaps never better used than here; no matter how abrasive Will gets, Damon lets you understand the inner pain that’s driving such behavior. His co-star, Heath Ledger, fares a little better, but only a little: This is not one of Gilliam’s stronger outings. 14. In this live-wire film, Damon seems juiced not just by the dangerous milieu but by his exceptional co-stars. Damon plays a morally compromised suburban dad in the 1950s who keeps getting himself in over his head in an insurance-fraud plot. That Damon showed that he had this arrow in his quiver is actually one of the most impressive things he’s done in his career. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox/Warner Bros./DreamWorks

This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated to include Stillwater, Damon’s latest. Damon has shown a certain pragmatic efficiency in his choices of roles, valuing respected directors rather than taking huge risks on passion projects himself. The actor is friends with Lonergan and even helped him pull out of a depression by commissioning him to write what became Manchester by the Sea, but in Margaret, Damon is just part of the ensemble. It’s the sort of movie-star performance you’d expect from a Tom Hanks. We’re glad he didn’t go that way, but this is proof he could have done it. 13. 10. 36. Rounders (1998)

As we said when we talked about this movie in the Edward Norton rankings, it’s “basically Citizen Kane for gambling addicts and … perfectly fine for everybody else.” Damon’s character is less interesting than Norton’s, but Damon still has a knack of playing somewhat morally compromised heroes whom the audience nevertheless identifies with and cheers for. 15. Greengrass’s attempts to wrap a political statement up in Bourne clothing is awkward and jarring, and the movie is more preachy and hectoring than particularly enlightening. 32. Blomkamp’s commentary on the class struggle is comically obvious and rather dopey, and the story keeps jumping all over the place. Desperate, he tries to smuggle himself into “Elysium,” the perfect world reserved for wealthy people while the rest of us struggle down in the salt mines. 5. (Matthew McConaughey’s crew rescues him, only to discover that Mann has been hiding information from them.) Interstellar was during the height of Damon’s stardom — when the surprise of him turning up in this movie as a supporting character was indeed a surprise — and the actor gets a rare chance to be underhanded and cowardly. Dick adaptation features Damon as an ambitious young congressman who discovers that the entire world is being controlled by … well, by men in fedoras. Alongside Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg, he thrives. Damon’s right: There’s little mystique about him. Just the other day, Matt Damon … said he was disappointed in my performance. True Grit (2010)

In 2010, Damon said in an interview that there were only two movies he’d done where he wouldn’t change a thing: The Informant! He’s smart, savvy, a little shifty, but also handsome, earnest, and determined: He’s a guy you can’t help but root for. There were many, many movies like this around this time. Damon tries his best to ground the movie in real grief, but Crowe leaves him hanging in the wind. Damon taps into a smiling nervousness he’s never revealed before, and the character’s digression-laden voiceover narration is a labyrinth which neither Whitacre nor the audience can ever escape. The Rainmaker (1997)

This adaptation of the John Grisham novel turned out to be the last Hollywood film Francis Ford Coppola ever made, and Damon got a number of looks just for being the lead in a Coppola film. But Suburbicon is so wandering and consistently misfiring that Damon never really gets to play anyone but a thesis. And Damon handles it just right, giving us an ordinary soldier who didn’t ask for this special treatment and would rather fight alongside his countrymen than be shipped home. The Ocean’s movies (2001, 2004, 2007)

Damon was already a star by the time he was in Ocean’s 11, but it is to his credit — and to his clear reverence for his older co-stars — that he happily cedes the best scenes and biggest moments to George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Dogma requires zero heavy lifting on Damon’s part, and the actor enjoys being a very Kevin Smith-y wiseass: Naturally, he’s a talker with plenty of attitude. Green Zone (2010)

Off the overwhelming success of the Bourne movies, Damon and director Paul Greengrass made this political thriller about an army officer (Damon) in Iraq charged with finding weapons of mass destruction. could be a new twist on The Insider, showing how Whitacre helped expose dubious practices inside his company, Archer Daniels Midland. Damon’s character, Mitch, experiences both in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, a chilly look at a devastating epidemic told through multiple viewpoints. Suburbicon (2017)

George Clooney, who is always a little shakier behind the camera than everyone generally wants to admit, grabbed an old Coen brothers script and tried to attach a civil-rights subplot to it and … well, the script probably should have just stayed in the drawer, honestly. Ripley is the study of a psychopath — an examination of someone who so desperately wants to be somebody else. Post–Good Will Hunting, Affleck had the starrier career. Courage Under Fire follows Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington), who’s determining whether Walden should be the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor, and his investigation will find him hearing differing accounts of the same events. It’s a little confusing, and while the film has some big ideas, it feels compromised and rushed: It’s an indie movie trapped inside a Hollywood thriller and is unable to get out. That ground shifts far too violently in this Alexander Payne misfire, in which Damon, facing financial strife, shrinks himself to reduce his expenses and environmental footprint but must readjust after his wife (a disappointing Kristen Wiig) changes her mind at the last minute. He plays Ilario, a military medic who served with Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), a helicopter pilot who died in the line of duty. 33. Contagion (2011)

Living through a deadly virus outbreak is frightening — but what about being, inexplicably, one of the few who seems to be immune? Plus, his dad was played by the late Bob Einstein, and we want a universe where Matt Damon and Albert Brooks are related. The actor is appropriately pathetic and bloated, and it’s occasionally fun to see him get his William H. He’s Colin, a cop working for the Boston mob, and what’s especially terrific about the performance is that it’s the Beantown flipside of his portrayal in Good Will Hunting: Will was a tough kid with a sweet center, while his Departed character is outwardly decent but rotten underneath. He’s the ultimate professional. 25. The film ends up dragging him down in its callowness. The Good Shepherd (2006)

Directed by Robert De Niro, The Good Shepherd stars Damon as a fictional FBI agent who ends up being a critical founder of what would become the Central Intelligence Agency. and this Coen brothers adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, which had been turned into a John Wayne picture in the late 1960s. 22. 27. (Morgan Freeman portrayed Nelson Mandela, who believed that the rugby team’s victory in the 1995 World Cup was crucial to restoring the nation’s morale.) Damon tries his best, but you can tell he’s trying very hard to be South African the entire time. Gerry (2002)

The first of Gus Van Sant’s “death trilogy,” Gerry stars Damon and Casey Affleck as two ordinary guys wandering around the desert, eventually getting lost. Damon is as buttoned-up and emotionless as he gets, but you can see the weight of his job start to bear on him, and it culminates in a moment that’s legitimately moving. It turns out — and you may have heard this — there weren’t any, and it dawns on him that the Government Hasn’t Been Truthful With the American People. (He has never directed a film and only co-written two scripts — Promised Land and Gerry, both collaborations with Gus Van Sant — since Good Will Hunting.) He has been smart and prudent, trusting other people’s visions, picking solid, sturdy projects that he has faith will work, rather than throwing caution to the wind. Damon hasn’t shown much interest in experimental cinema, but this is as close as he’s ever gotten, acquitting himself quite nicely in this heavily improvised study of masculinity and existential dread. As big of an A-lister as he is, Damon often does his best work as part of an ensemble. (He has to sell such mawkish lines as, “It’s not a gift, Billy, it’s a curse.”) Hereafter is ultimately too touchy-feely for its own good — too awed by its modest musings on the mystery of being alive — and the film suggests Damon isn’t so great at playing characters with a mystical bent. School Ties (1992)

This was Damon’s first major role — he was just 21 years old when School Ties was filmed. Moviegoers love to root for Matt Damon. You never quite buy it. We’ll cede to the description of our Vulture colleague Matt Zoller Seitz: His “natty suits, owlish eyeglasses, gray hair, and dulcet voice make him seem like Peter Bogdanovich’s all-powerful kid brother.” That’s pretty much right! Clint Eastwood’s drama is a different type of sports film, merging politics with on-the-field action. Well, Matt, I just saw The Adjustment Bureau, so right back at you, buddy.”

28. We Bought a Zoo (2011)

One of Cameron Crowe’s late-career disappointments — we remind you, as always, that this parody Twitter feed had more suspense and emotional resonance than the movie itself — strands Damon as a widower who learns how to love again through his daughter and Scarlett Johansson and, oh yes, that zoo. Ford v Ferrari (2019)

Damon has the less flashy role in James Mangold’s stirring sports movie — you’ll leave the theater saying everything in Christian Bale’s cheery Welsh-as-a-Brit singsong accent — but he also has the trickier one as Carroll, a former champion race-car driver now sidelined but trying to lead his Ford team to winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The Zero Theorem (2014)

Another Terry Gilliam joint, but Damon benefits from a smaller, weirder role than he got in The Brothers Grimm. 1. Damon makes Whitacre’s inner torment heartbreaking, while also understanding how the character’s self-inflated image of himself can be bitterly hilarious. 12. We have no doubt that this movie is No. After Damon had given an interview saying he was “disappointed” with aspects of Obama’s first term, Obama, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, joked, “I’ve even let down my key core constituency: movie stars. Invictus (2009)

Can a bad accent torpedo a performance? He needs to be a little wobblier, a little loonier. He’s solid as a man becoming seduced by his pupil, although he’s nowhere close to the film’s highlight performances, which include Paquin and Succession’s J. Weinstein grabbed the film away from him and chopped nearly a full hour out, turning an ambitious retelling of a pivot point in the American West into a dull, hazy love story of no particular importance. In Dogma, they plot to get back into heaven on a technicality — if they succeed, though, all of existence is doomed. Eventually, though, Promised Land loses its nerve and the character blands out. Damon has said this is one of the most disappointing experiences he’s ever had making movies — saying it “broke Thornton’s heart” — and while there’s not likely going to be a “release the Thornton cut!” movement anytime soon, the outlines of what this could have been are visible. Damon provides the character with his humanity, sure, but also what’s so sinister about the man.

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Put Some Respect on Jennifer Hudson As Aretha Franklin in This Respect Clip

She hits every note and makes it look effortless, just like the Queen of Soul herself did — and all in a beautiful gown, it should be noted. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to Jennifer Hudson. Related

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Tags: The clip is the latest taste of the biopic, which Franklin sanctioned before her 2018 death, after the equally glamorous trailer, a new song written by Hudson and Franklin co-writer Carole King, and Hudson’s full cover of “Natural Woman.” The film, the directorial debut by Liesl Tommy, hits theaters on August 13. In a new clip from Respect, the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic (not that one), Hudson performs the titular song as a young Franklin, backed by a full band and in front of a rapturous crowd. In the meantime, put some respect on Hudson and watch the clip.

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‘Love, Victor’ Renewed for a Third Season

The Love, Simon series spinoff follows Victor as he grapples with his sexuality, religion, and fitting in as a new student at an Atlanta high school. Love, Victor also stars Rachel Hilson, Anthony Turpel, Bebe Wood, Mason Gooding, and George Sear and is executive produced by the film’s original writers, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. Photo: Michael Desmond/ HULU

Looks like Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) will continue experiencing love’s trials and tribulations, as Hulu renewed Love, Victor for a third season. Related

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Tags: Season two wrapped up last month on a pretty big cliffhanger, with Victor running to his love’s house and ringing the doorbell, so fans will be relieved to learn that they will eventually find out who’s behind that door.

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Possible Future Presidential Candidate Attempts to Save American Box Office

Some industry observers say that internet interface could be the film’s secret weapon. In an era when franchise power and superhero IP — with their forever loops of reboots, interconnected universes, and prequelization — have eclipsed individual performers as Hollywood’s most lucrative box-office draw, Johnson is one of the last of a dying breed: a star who can “open” a movie on the basis of name recognition alone. “He’s extraordinarily activated. “In terms of correlation between a movie’s success and social media, it’s hit or miss,” the person says. Loosely plotted around one of Disneyland’s hoariest theme-park rides (which, even after recent updates, still teems with faux savagery and denatured exoticism), however, the film is being positioned to follow in the global blockbuster-juggernaut footsteps of Pirates of the Caribbean. And then we’ve seen movies where the ensemble cast was off the charts with their social-media activity. “I don’t think our Founding Fathers EVER envisioned a six-four, bald, tattooed, half-Black, half-Samoan, tequila-drinking, pickup-driving, fanny pack wearing guy joining their club,” Johnson said in an Instagram post that has been liked over 5.7 million times. And in addition to Johnson’s renown as an MTV Generation Award winner and holder of the Guinness World Records title for most selfies taken in a three-minute period, a recent poll indicated at least 46 percent of Americans would support the star running for president. “If they don’t, it sends the message that the numbers weren’t that good,” says Bock. Kong, A Quiet Place Part 2, F9, and Black Widow, each of which toppled successive pandemic box-office records over the past four months. You’re talking about a guy who could be president down the line.”

An old-fashioned two-hander, Jungle Cruise showcases Johnson as a debt-ridden, dad-joke-spouting riverboat captain enjoined by Emily Blunt’s intrepid British scientist character for a journey into the deepest wilds of some unnamed Latin American jungle in pursuit of the mythical Tree of Life. Never mind that just about every other Disneyland theme-park attraction turned movie — 2003’s Haunted Mansion, The Country Bears, and Tomorrowland (2015) among them — flopped upon release. Related

M. So I think it’s more of a stress test of, Does that social-media complement translate into a bigger box office?”

But according to another influential analyst who spoke to Vulture on condition of anonymity, Johnson’s vast Instagram outreach will matter for little if Jungle Cruise fails to connect with viewers on a visceral level. I don’t think social media alone will put [Jungle Cruise] over the top. At a moment when the Delta variant is causing a spike in infection rates across the country and around 15 percent of North American cinemas remain shuttered, Jungle Cruise is widely expected to claim the No. “People are making movies based on board games, Tetris, Magic 8 Ball,” Bock says. The upshot of that success: Disney made the rare disclosure that the superhero prequel had grossed $60 million via PVOD. “Anything that has IP value right now is going to be considered for a Hollywood film. “More than just star power, Jungle Cruise’s success could come down to his social-media presence,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. Photo: Disney

In terms of both bankability and musculature, Dwayne Johnson has become inextricably linked in the public imagination with a certain gigantism. “If Dwayne Johnson is in it, his name deserves to be in front of the title because the title isn’t as important as the man himself being in the film. Like Jungle Cruise, Marvel Studios’ Black Widow arrived in multiplexes — where it took in a strong $158.8 million worldwide, despite the concerns of certain lawsuits — and on Disney+ for streaming rental on the same day. Johnson’s last ten movies have combined to gross over $7.3 billion, with nine of those titles claiming the box office’s top spot over their respective opening weekends (the outlier: 2017’s Baywatch reboot), with his Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle squashing Spider-Man as Sony’s top-grossing film ever. Now the studio is under pressure to publicly announce streaming revenues for Jungle Cruise, whether the film is a hit or a miss. Jungle Cruise has been around for a long time at Disneyland and it’s not really based on anything. It’s an old-fashioned-looking movie. The Rock and Emily Blunt doing cute repartee and they’re falling through roofs.”

More immediately, though, Jungle Cruise’s opening-weekend ticket sales will be measured against such recent hits as Godzilla vs. Night Shyamalan’s Old Gives Us the Pandemic Era’s First Big Box-Office Upset

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Tags: But whether its grosses surpass Disney’s conservative projection of $25 million domestically (and $40 million overseas) or challenge the pandemic-era box-office record currently held by Black Widow will almost singularly come down to Johnson’s ability to put butts in seats. The actor-producer currently has more than 300 million followers across YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter (with 257 million on Instagram alone), and in May won a Webby Award for using his platforms to “connect with people, amplify important issues, and provide inspiration, motivation, and exclusive content.” As part of a reported $1 million “social-media fee” that is baked into his deals nowadays, Johnson has been relentlessly promoting Jungle Cruise across his socials for weeks. “He’s not only one of the last action heroes, he’s one of the last stars with his name above the title of a film,” says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. But that bulletproof box-office reputation will be put to the test this weekend with Johnson’s latest star vehicle, Jungle Cruise. “People think there are slam dunks. So this is a chance for Disney to continue on the path they started with Pirates of the Caribbean — which is to sell merch, right?”

Ascending to Hollywood’s A-list in 2011 after a decade of middling success with his debut appearance as hard-charging special agent Luke Hobbs in Fast Five, Johnson has groomed his superstardom through tireless social-media outreach. But if the movie didn’t resonate, it didn’t do that well. The 270-pound former WWE superstar has reigned as Hollywood’s highest-paid actor for two years and counting — commanding $23.5 million for an above-the-marquee turn in the upcoming Netflix thriller Red Notice, and earning a whopping $87.5 million between June 2019 and June 2020. Set to arrive in more than 4,200 theaters Friday (while bowing simultaneously on Disney+ for a supplemental $30 rental on top of subscription fees), the $200 million family-friendly action-fantasy will demonstrate whether The Rock’s star power can withstand the general diminishment of theatrical moviegoing associated with COVID-19. Whether Jungle Cruise can beat the pandemic-era record currently held by Black Widow will come down to The Rock’s ability to put butts in seats. 1 spot over the July 30–August 1 release corridor.

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This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: The Plot to Kidnap Frank Sinatra Jr.

— son of the legendary crooner — in 1963. –Kristy Puchko

Criminal Broads, “The Massie Affair”

This twisty tale of obnoxious, pedigreed white people running amok in Hawaii (no, not that one) is a must-listen, not just because Tori Telfer is so good at bringing everyone to life but also because it’s a slice of American history and colonialism that people don’t learn enough about. Photo-Illustration: Vulture

The true-crime-podcast universe is ever expanding. —Chanel Dubofsky

Convicted: Across Borders, “Hostage in Havana”

What would it be like to be convicted of a crime in a foreign nation? From these first two episodes, it’s easy to see how Keenan convinced two of his high-school friends to be his accomplices — and do it his way. Each week, our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists will pick their favorites. Was he intent on moving to another state? Telfer paints a vivid picture of the increasingly volatile environment between white interlopers and self-made oligarchs and native Hawaiians, which led to the murder of Joseph Kahahawai at the hands of Grace, Tommie, and two other men, who were later defended by none other than a very broke Clarence Darrow. As host, nationally recognized prosecutor Marcia Clark weaves together narratives with interviews from experts, officials, the imprisoned, and the family and friends who fought for them. Diagnosed with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, an inherited form of vision loss, Greenwood traversed Atoka exclusively on foot, yet many of those questioned about his disappearance can’t remember (or were reluctant to say) the last time they saw him, adding to the pile of inconsistencies, rumors, questions, and nonanswers about where he could be and what happened to him. —Jenni Miller

1.5x Speed: A Weekly Newsletter of Podcast Recommendations and Reviews
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Terms of Service apply. The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra, “Chapter 1: God on the Radio” and “Chapter 2: A Plan of Operation”

I’m no kidnapping expert (and if I were, I surely wouldn’t reveal that here!), but I’ve never heard of a case that involved an actual pen-to-paper “business plan,” complete with profit projections and investment opportunities, stuffed into a three-ring binder and used as recruitment materials. That question thumps at the heart of the new drama Stillwater, in which Matt Damon plays an American dad, desperate to exonerate his incarcerated daughter. In January 2002, 36-year-old Victor Greenwood vanished from the town of Atoka, Oklahoma (population 2,973). This episode is on the slightly longer side for Criminal Broads, but that’s not a complaint by any means. That man’s name is Barry Keenan, and in this new podcast from Wondery, he gives a firsthand account of his crime to host John Stamos. We’re here to make it a bit smaller and a bit more manageable. Though the film is fictional, Focus Features and L.A. (Stamos briefly explains his personal connection to Keenan at the top of the cast.) Keenan’s story is a sprawling one that starts with his Catholic upbringing in Southern California, where he suffered early bouts of depression. Did he have suicidal ideation? I appreciated the historical context Telfer gives to this story, which is crucial to our ongoing understanding of American colonial history and its effects that are still being felt today in Hawaii, as is Joseph Kahahawai’s legacy. It’s just one of the many idiosyncrasies of the man behind the plan to snatch Frank Sinatra Jr. In short, Thalia Massie was a loathsome person whose equally awful husband, Tommie, was stationed at Pearl Harbor, and they were sad, miserable people together and apart. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. Times Studios have teamed up for a tie-in miniseries that unfolds five true-crime stories of Americans who have been locked up abroad. How does one sift through all the misinformation to get to something resembling a fact? While the police still don’t have a person of interest in the case, there is some promising news, but you’ll have to listen to find out. Few true-crime podcast eps are this feel-good. —Amy Wilkinson

The Fall Line, “The Disappearance of Victor Greenwood, Part 2: The Crossroads”

How do you disappear in a small town? In this second episode of a two-parter, writer, researcher, and host Laurah Norton examines the circumstances surrounding Victor’s disappearance. In this first episode, former government contractor Alan Gross recounts how his visit to Cuba in 2009 was supposed to be a simple business trip. Telfer’s terrific descriptions of Thalia, Tommie, and Thalia’s mom, Grace Fortescue (more on her to come), make them sound like an unholy combination of Grey Gardens and some inverted Wes Anderson hellworld — all moneyed people with New England lockjaw and hair-raising “quirks.”

One night in 1931, she claimed to have been attacked on her way home from a party, and once the police got involved, five young men were set up to take the fall — two native Hawaiian men, two men of Japanese descent, and one man of Chinese and native Hawaiian descent. There are a lot of great shows, and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the noteworthy and the exceptional. Oh, you like podcasts? (The podcast takes care not to exploit or make light of Keenan’s issues.) While the veracity of everything coming out of Keenan’s mouth remains to be seen, he sure is one hell of a storyteller. With a warm chuckle and an incorrigible sense of humor, he and his wife, Judith Gross, share not only their struggles in fighting for justice across borders, but also what they learned about the power of love, perseverance, and laughter. However, once he was detained on suspicion of spying, his stay was extended indefinitely. Did he have an altercation that led to his death? The point is made several times that if adequate mental health services had been available in the ’40s and ’50s, perhaps Keenan wouldn’t have resorted to the kidnapping at all. Sign up for Vulture’s new recommendation newsletter 1.5x Speed here.

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Billie Eilish Gets Flooded With Emotion in Her ‘Happier Than Ever’ Video

Billie Eilish wouldn’t just be happy releasing her sophomore album Happier Than Ever today, so the pop savant is throwing in another music video as well. The video follows Eilish’s previous visuals for “NDA,” “Lost Cause,” “Your Power,” “Therefore I Am,” and “my future” — all off the 16-track album that she once again produced with her brother, Finneas. Consider it a flood of emotion to match that glorious guitar breakdown. Related

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Tags: Eilish’s self-directed video works similarly — opening with her bored on her corded phone in her retro-style living room before the whole house is flooded and she escapes to dance in the rain. This one is for the title track, which builds from a gently strummed ballad to a monstrous rock scorcher.

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How Jack Antonoff Found That Magical Moment of Musical Clarity

And so, I got this song, and it’s quickly litigating all the figures in my life with this gospel-like chorus, casting judgment and hope, and then wraps all the way around into the bridge where I realized: This is kinda the journey. Blah, blah blah.” And that’s actually the harder phase because then you know what it is, and you know what’s missing, and you know how to finish it. There’s so much joy in that concept, but there’s also so much anxiety. So we’re all in the studio. And it’s not about nostalgia. In my work, if I know something, it’s pretty hard to write about it. It’s this blend of deep melancholy ’cause you’re not invited, because you’re out of the vibe — and then deep hope because you want to get there. So you have all these things. So a lot of the sound of this album, specifically “How Dare You Want More,” is the guys in the room playing with it with the knowledge that we don’t know when or how it will ever be the same. You can’t leave it, all the pieces you choose to take are going to define your future. I want to hear the band. All these things are designed to be little worlds in themselves and read into. I know certain things about myself, and they’re deep and important, but I don’t feel the need to explore them. Charlie: You frequently cite Bruce Springsteen’s songwriting advice of “blues in the verse, gospel in the chorus.” You got to collaborate with Bruce for this album on the song “Chinatown.” How did that come together?It was very organic. ’Cause I was like, there’s so much joy. So there was never a sense that that could go away ever. It wasn’t like, Fuck everyone. It’s the opposite to New York city music, which is way less hopeful, but sort of just like two fingers up, welcome to the center of the world. And I didn’t know where it was going to go. I saw this doorway, me with all this baggage, and I got obsessed with this idea of like, you can’t take it all. Everyone was messing around on it. There’s Daniel, my best friend. “All these things are designed to be little worlds in themselves and read into. There’s my father. Was there something that you were trying to reach for the sound of this album?Yeah, this is the big pandemic story for me. Where is your home in this song?It’s a complicated place. When I feel like something is ready or done is when I just kind of hear myself in it. When we wrote a book about 21st-century pop, we devoted a chapter to the song “We Are Young,” by his band fun. The things that pull me to write are when I feel something that scares me or fills me with joy or mystery. Every Easter egg is probably real. But then you shed it pretty quickly. You could intellectualize and talk about why, how, what you’re using. So it created this sense of: I wanted the band in the room. The second verse is about my mother and my sister and the political climate and just did a quick overview of how everyone is in their own little mess. I didn’t think a ton about it until a few days later, when I was listening back. One of the opening lines of the album is, “I’m here, but I’m not.” Jersey’s a special place because people from there don’t have a small-town mentality. This was the beginning of the phase when I was making Norman Fucking Rockwell with Lana, where both of us were like, Man, these sloppy live-room drums and this 12 string sound so cool. Charlie: The album has a live quality. And there’s Jimmy, who’s Lana (Del Ray). The reason why I bring this up is because both of these processes leave little room for meditating on what’s happening. At the end of the day, it just doesn’t really matter because the sum is meant to be so much more than the parts. And then I would sit down and make music. The same thing goes for myself. But in my corner of the world, one thing that was wild was, Oh, that can be taken off the table. Nate: It’s a fascinating insight into the gap between the creative process and then id and ego. It’s about recognizing where you’re reporting from. And yet you sing about breaking free of New Jersey. And I had the demo of “Chinatown,” and they’ve got a studio, right there. Nate Sloan: The music video is set in a New Jersey diner. And look, production is a whole universe, and it’s fascinating and beautiful, but at the end of the day, it’s inferior to this feeling that it’s meant to design, right? There’s so much lightning in a bottle when you’re just trying to find ideas, there’s nothing to even talk about. It was so easy for me to gravitate toward darkness and sadness, but I loved this doorway kind of knocking at the door, the next phase of your life. My work can come off like a diary entry. If you think about New Jersey music, it’s reporting from an inch outside the center of the world. But if you’re focused on that, that’s the deepest version of this work. The root of all this is that I’ve just been drifting more and more toward where I’m from for a long time. And how does that feel as a kid? Those are the things you write about because you want to figure it out. That’s when you’re like, Oh my God, we’re in this. And then, at some point, you see the framework of the album, and as soon as you see that, it’s phase two, and it’s immediate, and it hits you. It’s a natural thing. Charlie Harding: It feels like you’re working something out in the album’s sixth track, “Stop Making This Hurt.” Can you bring us into your mindset on that song?The idea of working something out is kind of a hallmark for me. Every Easter egg is probably real.” — Jack Antonoff

Since starting Switched on Pop back in 2014, we’ve had countless hours of conversation with artists such as Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Lana Del Ray that have been soundtracked by the production work of Jack Antonoff. That’s why there are so few songs about how events have turned out. Charlie: Could you describe that moment making this record?Yeah I had “Chinatown,” “45,” “How Dare You Want More,” and a song called “Secret Life.” And then it was sort of when I started to get this song called “What Do I Do With All This Faith,” which is the last song, where I was like, “Fuck, I get it.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Can you tell us about that relationship? This time, I started looking around and seeing so many people in my life struggling to hold joy, and this terror to want a better life. All of that happens after. More From This Series

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Tags: He had sung on the chorus, and I was like, Jesus, this really works. I want it to sound like the drummer is about to fly off the cliff. That’s interesting. And then one day, you sort of wake up and realize you’re further along than you realized. There’s a difference between reaction and conversation. This is how this sound is connected to this emotion. I said to my band, “Hey, play like your head’s on fire — play like it’s your last day on earth.” Those words hit very differently when we actually didn’t know when or if we were gonna get to play again. I’m pretty aware of everything that’s going on because I think it’s important to be. It’s an inch from the biggest, best city in the world mentality. I’ve got all the facts. The place you’re from is so deeply baked into how you write and how you see the world. And if you find your audience, you can be with them, and you can grow, and the audience can grow. And if it isn’t, then it still is because I see writing and producing as two phases. But then, I just started to carve it up. They’re very different expressions, and they should be. “Oh my God, this is it, these are the through lines. He and his wife Patti are very important people in my life. There’s no world in which I would have been able to say, “I want to do a song with Bruce,” and then sit down and figure out that song. It’s still all about me, but I use that as a device. This is the sound. The creative process, and turning it into something that can be analyzed and discussed rather than just having it be. If you think about the way the Strokes sound like they’re reporting from the center of the world. I started to realize these parallels of how I feel about where I’m from, how I grew up, and how I feel emotionally right outside there, but not there. And that’s right where I wanted to be. I’m not shut off in some crazy traditional place. A perfect example of that is if you think about New York city music. And then I get to be the narrator who says, “Stop making this hurt and say good-bye like you mean it.” So you’re like, “Fuck it, we have to exist and find joy.”

Charlie: Your music puts me into a specific place and time each time I listen to it. He focuses on projects. There’s a lot of Springsteen in the sense that when I was young, when I heard Bruce’s music, that was the first time I said, “Oh, I not only know the little landmarks he’s talking about, but I know this feeling.” And it gave me a sense of pride for this place. He records organic instruments. Charlie: One could say, “Jack is a real traditionalist. I had that idea — “Stop making this hurt, say good-bye like you mean it” — in my head forever. It was also this idea of leaving New York, going into Jersey, going home, taking someone you love home, going home to find the future. There’s love for Jersey but the need to break free. I was over there one day, and we were playing each other music. There’s this get me out of here, I won’t die here melancholy mixed with huge hope. That is a culture. He is, going back those seven years to our launch, one of the artists we’ve most wanted to interview — and so, on the occasion of a new album by his band Bleachers called Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night, we finally sat down with him to hear about how he approaches his own work. A few years ago, I started hearing all these electronic things everywhere, which I loved. I saw it as something visual. You start in these places because it can be too terrifying to just say, “It’s gonna be amazing, so I’m gonna do it.” You have to have some language. You’re just throwing stuff against the wall and you’re like, Huh, that’s weird. That’s the line that we’re constantly walking on this show, where we’re like, “Are we reading too far into this?”No, it’s designed that way. Is there a particular space this song is placing you?References are good because they can give you some armor to get off the ground. It’s not about going back. Obviously the pandemic was incredibly emotional and tough on everyone for a lot of reasons. All that really matters, all that you can have your hands on, is you can go out, and you can play your ass off, and you can find your audience. I want the horns to be going back and forth on the bar to feel like they’re just like some drunk guys who play better than anyone. And then, you’re just waiting until you hear yourself in it. You wait until you hear that thing that scares you a little bit. He records albums. There’s the trying-to-find-it, almost free association of production and writing. Usually, when I’m working with people, you’re so tapped into each other it just hits you at the same time. I remember moments of thinking of Dexys Midnight Runners or Talking Heads’ phrasing or Tom Tom Club or the way Television recorded drums. He makes references that are not necessarily nodding to things that are happening right now.” But you seem to have a perspective that this is clearly the best way to produce music, both for the art and for its commercial nature.I think you’re right. I’ve always been in this interplay, playing live and making records, and I’ve always liked bringing in live stuff, but I’ve never felt like, Oh, the record needs to sound like the show.

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Categories: Entertainment News

Centaurworld Is a Cartoon Hybrid of Infinite Possibilities

I love so many Broadway shows, and I feel like there’s so much that wouldn’t work if not for going into it with a lot of sincerity. My mom came to the record. It’s the most visually interesting thing to watch. They were also collaborative, and it was a really interesting process. I was always intimidated by horses, a little scared of horses. How much world-building did you do for Centaurworld?The bible was pretty extensive. They’ve done the Mickey Mouse shorts and Hilda. Who ends up here, and finds her way with all these centaurs. We worked with Mercury Filmworks to do a lot of the Centaurworld stuff. Were you specifically seeking out animators for those two different worlds?Everything about the actual way we made the show was different from anything that any of us had ever worked on before. Yeah, I do have stories about where all of them come from, and we get little hints of it too. We loved working with her because she brought so many surprises to the role. What’s the game, to you, of a world where everything’s a centaur?I always loved biology. Is that a goofy voice you already did and kind of had in your back pocket?Yeah, I used to do that voice for a cat that I had for a while. They’re more comfortable doing action. Horse comes from this really “serious,” sharp, action-heavy world, and she’s designed in that style. Talk to me about the Cats parody episode.We knew from the very beginning, if we were gonna be doing a musical show with centaurs, we would have to have Cats in there. For me to see an Asian singer and actress, and she was all those Disney princesses as well — she was always this huge inspiration and hero for me. What were your musical-theater inspirations for the songs in this?I love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Flight of the Conchords, where there’s a lot of comedy and the music is a big part of the storytelling. There’s this goofy, Ren & Stimpy-ish absurdity, but there is also this sweeping, epic-saga vibe that runs throughout the series, carried through by Horse, and her duets with Rider (Mueller) or her early duet with Wamawink (Hilty). That was a note that would come up at the beginning from people, like, Why not just have the main character be human? The pitching process definitely was challenging. But what I did love about developing the world was what you just said: that there’s infinite possibilities, because everything from the leaves themselves could be centaurs. We cast her, and I knew at a certain point in the process, I was going to have to write a song for her to sing. It was really open. I can’t wait to see the fan art that comes out of this show. How did you land on this? We knew there would be fun stuff to mine from those. And we started expanding to the trees, and even some of the mountains and things in the background are also centaurs. And I think with the centaurs specifically, it created a lot of possibilities for a specific kind of silliness that really appealed to me. How do you pitch something like this? I worked with a couple of storyboard artists, we storyboarded the first episode, and I wrote the first four songs for that episode. So I think there’s something in there for bronies. That was definitely a dream character to cast. I encourage anyone to give our show a shot. Every frame of Centaurworld buzzes with visual and comic energy, thanks to classic squash-and-stretch movement, tons of lively gags, and character design that lands somewhere between cute and perverse (think Adventure Time with more butts, and a buff bird-man whose legs are little exposed bones). I was definitely freaking out, like, Oh God, I have to write a song for Lea Salonga. If you took a microscope, I’m sure there would be bacteria-taurs, or single-celled organisms that are also still centaurs. You would describe all these disparate parts, there’d be a lot of head tilts. I was lucky to come in and get the time to develop something because when I came here, the studio was in its infancy. And she was lovely and just so professional and wonderful to work with, and we were so lucky that we got her. I love that the Muppets are really silly, but growing up I watched movies like The Neverending Story and Dark Crystal that had spooky stuff in there as well. In the writing, and down to the actors’ performances, everyone that we cast brought a lot of sincerity to those roles that I don’t think would have worked if there was too much winking or too much self-awareness. In terms of their humor and specific things like that, it changed as we began casting. I think it was one of the favorites that all of us worked on. On both sides of that tonal spectrum, Centaurworld always plays very emotionally true. And because Muppets were such a big influence [on the show], I really wanted a very broad, Muppet-y character. With Derpleton [Josh Radnor], there’s a very long, ongoing fart joke that alludes to some paternal strife. Do you think bronies are going to embrace the show?I don’t know! Were you a horse girl growing up? When I was younger, I remember watching the tenth-anniversary Les Miserables concert on PBS and seeing her in the role of Éponine and just being like, Oh my God. Actually, our story editor is Meghan McCarthy, who worked on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I knew that the only way for me to make it work or to show what it was was to make something. I wanted to be a marine biologist too, when I was a kid. The new animated series, out today on Netflix, is ebulliently and almost radically its own flavor of thing, a chosen-family story about a merry herd of misfits and one extremely out-of-her-depth horse named Horse (Kimiko Glenn) who use their magic (powers include the ability to fire tiny sentient versions of themselves out of their own bodies) to fight an encroaching darkness. It was marine biology, cartoons, and musical theater. Yes, his farts are voiced by Tony Hale. And yeah, we’re hoping to see more of her. It’s also an epic, often funny, often moving family musical, with a voice cast of theater types including Megan Hilty, Jessie Mueller, Chris Diamantopoulos, Parvesh Cheena, and Josh Radnor. It was really fun to work with these two studios. Tags: I like tinkering and making things. It reminded me of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Having these kinds of magical hybrid creatures just allowed for infinite possibilities. In addition to the balance of those two different styles on a technical level, the show is also a tonal high-wire act of the most disparate emotional zones. This show has big horse-girl energy. A lot of the characters have really sad stories, despite being these silly, bright, fun characters that they are now. That was one of our biggest challenges, even initially, when we were trying to describe the show. I always knew going into this, that the one way you can weave everything together is to really track the emotions. And when we would have visitors, I would do the voice of this cat that was overstepping boundaries. For me, it’s always about making those character relationships drive the story, and that can connect all these parts. We sent them each other’s work, to inform them of what the other was doing. I made little piano demos and had them on my iPhone. When making something like this, you want to really build a world that justifies it being animated. And the farts are voiced by Tony Hale. And she was amazing. I knew that I wanted them to feel really silly and absurd, but I also wanted them to feel real and I wanted them to have real flaws. We love Cats the musical and we love cats the animals. For a character like that, it’s easy for them to fall into that “straight man” sensibility, and it was really great that she brought in so much humor, and that changed that character a lot. Photo: Netflix Futures/YouTube

Centaurworld is a breath of fresh air … fresh air that oddly smells like cotton candy, and pancakes, and the blazing remains of burning villages. The way the show is structured, with the herd traveling along the rainbow road, means there can be infinite episodic villages and side quests. I wanted to have this really broad, silly character with a Muppet-y voice. We drew from video games like The Legend of Zelda and Game of Thrones, a little bit. How do you blend these tones? What characters or elements of the show changed the most drastically from that stage?For a lot of the characters, we found their voices as we went along. The musical-theater aspect helps, having the characters sing emotions that wouldn’t otherwise be spoken aloud, and of course, the meta aspect of Horse being very aware that she is trapped in a musical. Like a centaur itself, Centaurworld is a hybrid of moods, styles, and genres. The Muppets were a huge influence, too. That was how I pitched it to everyone, and I must have pitched it over 100 times, to the people at the studio, but also when we were trying to bring in writers or artists. All the Henson stuff. And it also gave us a really great opportunity to give Kimiko that big musical moment. But I love animals, and for this show, I think if there was ever any question mark, it was about, Should the main character be human? Just a regular horse. It’s really specific. And like you said, there’s no house style. It kept the whole process a lot of fun for us as a team. I’ve never had so much fun making something, and I really hope that that joy translates to other people, and that it inspires them creatively as well. Because I love musical theater, I really wanted some of that performance aspect in there when I was pitching it. When she enters the squishy, cartoon-y Centaurworld, it’s so fun to see how the two different animation styles clash and interact with each other. I want to talk about your vocal performance as well. I have so many ideas for how to build out the world more, and I think there’s a lot of fun to be had. The show Fringe was a big influence because it has multiverses. We went in knowing that these characters had trauma with them, so there were always some certain tentpoles in there that we wanted to stay the same. I really hope so. There was a lot of world-building, a lot of lore. And then we worked with Red Dog Culture House, which is a studio in Korea. You play Glendale. I love musical theater. The volume of music we knew would have to change the way we did writing. Do you expect people to start making Centaur-sonas, the way Steven Universe fans have gemsonas? They do more cartoony stuff generally. It’s a musical. The funny thing is I was a fish girl, not a horse girl. But I always felt like no, it has to be a horse. The movie version came out while we were well into the process. None of us had ever worked like that before, with two different studios that work with such different styles. Will we get to see other characters’ backstories going forward? It was the voice I would do to personify her because she was very friendly and always up in people’s space. For an interview, a lot of times, they’ll just send a script over or press play on a clip from an animatic. Are we going to see more of that character, and was that a dream person to cast? Bringing in Kimiko Glenn was really informative, and that really helped us find some of the humor for the character of Horse. I think there’s something for everyone. [Elements of the actors’] voices or the way they were delivering lines really informed some specific things about the characters. I loved drawing animals too. That’s always where I’ve been most comfortable, because I’m not a great public speaker. But in terms of actually pitching the show, I knew there were so many things going on with it. It was always finding that balance between, like, how much do we explore of this, and how much is just about these main characters? So I was pitching the storyboard on my computer, and then if I would get to a song, I’d press play on my iPhone, and it would be piano, and I would sing and do all the voices for all the characters. To get the story behind the show’s unique alchemy, we spoke to creator Megan Nicole Dong (also the voice of compulsive kleptomaniac deertaur Glendale) about how she pitched the series, the show’s musical-theater spirit, and the limitless potential of an all-centaur world. Lea Salonga is this show’s Chekhov’s gun: We see that she’s in the credits, but you don’t actually deploy her until the end, when she gets to sing. And we were looking at Eurovision. But I felt like pitching it was kind of the best way to show what the show was and to kind of get the spirit of it. Netflix animation has less of a “house sensibility” than some of the other animation networks or studios, but this show comes across as extremely creator-driven, idiosyncratic, and artistically distinct. And then for the two different visual styles, we knew from the beginning that we would probably have to work with two different studios to handle each one, but then as things get more merged, that they might have to handle some things that are in those different styles. This first half of the season gives a glimpse of Wamawink’s backstory. So while I was making the [show] bible, I also worked on the first episode.

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Categories: Entertainment News

Welcome 2 Prince’s America

It doesn’t have to be logical. Elisa Fiorillo, backing vocalist: The songs were coming, and I didn’t understand any of it at the time. Really? In 2010, you’d just had the financial collapse. But Prince, who died in 2016 at the age of 57, never stopped recording: In 2009, he released a triple album packaging his own full-lengths Lotusflow3r and MPLSound with Elixer, the debut release from his then-protégé and sometime romantic partner Bria Valente. Sometimes he might say, “Yeah, this is for the new album.” And sometimes he would change his mind. It comes into the record. Hayes: That’s the mark of a truly great producer. We just had to be on. You had to flow, and you would have to be ready to go wherever he was about to go. I think this music is a call from him — “free yourself.” There could be freedom for all of us. What are you going to do for your people?”

We recorded the whole Welcome 2 America album in March and April of 2010. There is no breathing. We’d be watching him from the sound room, watching us randomly talking about whatever and having him laugh at some of the things we would say. You had people turning inward, people living on Instagram. He didn’t have to be logical for you and me. A lot of us will try to mimic a lot of the stuff that Prince taught us, and sometimes we’ll come up short because Prince was able to just know how far to push an artist. They embarked on the globe-trotting Welcome 2 tour in winter of 2010, regaling fans at select gigs with the scathing political outrage of the album’s intended title track but otherwise neglecting to mention the studio work that had been the catalyst for the tour. He just gave this look. You’re taking it all in, and he’s dropping the truth on you. I met her at a gig in Atlanta. It was different music, but we were singing the lyrics. He had all this stuff in him he wanted to get out, and we were there to help him do it. We didn’t ask, “What is this for?” That’s not how it flowed. The album was done. I want to work with you. That’s just not the way it worked in Prince’s world. — Tal Wilkenfeld, bassist

Tal Wilkenfeld, bassist: In 2009, Prince had called me and said, “I want to make a trio with you, me, and a drummer. There could be light for all of us. I love your voice. He was writing ‘1999’ in 1982. In 2010, the Purple One convened his band the New Power Generation — a revolving-door collective of longtime Prince players and new prospects met through friends which could house anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen members at a time — to record an album titled Welcome 2 America. There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason. There’s also all the racial injustice he’s focusing on, and what’s happening politically. It was very organic. If he felt like playing with a band and doing live stuff, that’s what he would do. Everybody was connected. I just would like to thank my fellow vocalists for being able to hold that note at the end of “Yes” for 32 beats. I didn’t understand that until I got onstage with him. “To me, you couldn’t find a better time to drop the album than right now,” says musical director Morris Hayes. Is this something new? We had to all be there together as one, as a unit. After he got the tracks with the vocals and the trio, Morris overdubbed keyboards and did production on a few of the songs. You know Prince be giving looks. That changes today. He used to tell me sometimes, “Morris, it is very difficult for people to produce themselves. He got on Dr. They were passionate about studying. I want you to find me the drummer.” Bass players and drummers — you guys gotta like each other. We’d never been in the studio with him before. Shelby J.: When the album was finished, we all got in Prince’s car, riding through the park listening …

Fiorillo: We listened to the whole record. Morris Hayes, keyboardist and musical director: When Obama was elected, Prince was talking about wanting to meet him, and it wasn’t because he just wanted to be like, “Yeah, we got a Black president.” It was “I want to talk to this dude and take him to task about what needs to happen for people of color, people that’s disenfranchised.” He was trying to get at this dude and say, “Look, man, I’m glad you’re a soul brother. ‘What does this mean?’

Hayes: The song I really love is “Born 2 Die.” Prince told me he was watching Dr. I knew him as a legend and an icon, but I didn’t know what I was walking into when I met the band. Welcome 2 America was like a little time capsule he put aside. We’d spend hours talking about why I shouldn’t sign this record deal. Then the vocalists overdubbed their vocals to the basic tracks we made as a trio. He never sat down and said, “We’re about to go on tour, but we’re not going to sing the songs we just recorded.” He called us in to sing, and we would just sing. Prince was also talking about understanding that not everything we were taught is the truth. I’m not even up to par. It was the beginning of all this misinformation. There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason. But what I kept getting from Prince ever since the first day I met him is that he was searching for this spiritual understanding of who he was, why he was here, what he was here to do. You really have to take yourself outside of yourself.” Because what you do is you set these limits for how hard you can hit it or how high you go. People were pulling up in limos dressed in Grammy attire. He was so excited to be playing us fully mixed tracks. Welcome 2 America was like a little time capsule he put aside. He knew how to take any song and very quickly arrange it, even a song everybody knows. one time, and he wanted to go to bookstores to buy all of this different African literature and Pan-African stuff, stuff I didn’t know about. These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity. It doesn’t have to be logical. Some people need to know the answer to everything. Wilkenfeld: He was focused on the music industry and how it was structured based on his bad experiences. He liked looking at what was going on, but he always used other people’s devices. There’s another place where he wants to be, a thousand light-years from here, where we can all be at peace. But he’s also speaking movingly to a shifting political climate, as he would do a few years later with Hit n Run Phase Two’s protest song “Baltimore.” The title track advises the listener to take the blinders off and see America for the imperfect union it is; on “1000 Light Years Away” and “One Day We Will All B Free,” he’s imagining a better future for the patient and the faithful. Photo: Jordan Strauss/WireImage

The aughts were an intriguing time for Prince; with 2004’s Musicology and 2006’s 3121, he appeared to rediscover a love of the crisp, commercial funk he had started to move away from in the late ‘90s. We were in L.A. Prince would get on the internet and go down a wormhole and be binge-watching a bunch of stuff. ‘What, y’all can’t do it?’

Shelby J.: The song “Yes” is fun, but if you listen to the lyrics, he’s still dropping stuff there: “Trans4mation for every heart / Everybody’s got 2 play the part.” For a lot of those vocals, the three of us — Liv Warfield, Elisa Fiorillo, and myself — are huddled around one microphone singing the way they do in old Motown footage. He put his own thing on it and made it come alive. But the musicians who helped make them are unfazed by this trajectory. Warfield: When he asked us to hold that note, he said, “What, y’all can’t do it?” and then did it himself. Music flowed through him. I find it fascinating that the record’s coming out now because it’s touching on some issues that are just as present now as they were then, and maybe in some ways even more so now. You didn’t know what was real or what wasn’t. There’s an iPad reference in a lyric in “Welcome 2 America”; I looked it up, and the iPad had probably only been out for a month when he wrote that. I know that he was trying to make the community and everybody come together, but I do think he always felt like on the other side, there’s this beautiful thing to look forward to. That same year, Prince played a legendary Super Bowl halftime show at Miami’s Dolphin Stadium, powering through a short, achingly beautiful set in the rain. He’d give us DVDs to watch — not to say “You have to watch this,” but more like “I’m trying to open your mind so you can understand the world and where you’re from.” This album is acknowledging that the world’s not perfect and we can’t fix it if we don’t call it out. They even had a listening party. Cornel West videos on YouTube. He said, “Prince is great, but he’s no Curtis Mayfield.” Prince was like, “Okay, we’ll see,” and wrote “Born 2 Die.”

Wilkenfeld: I’m pretty sure Larry Graham [of Sly and the Family Stone] was mentoring Prince and teaching him. Thoughts and energies flowed through him. He kept calling, and I kept showing up. I think he just put the album away, thinking maybe it wasn’t the right time. I went to Paisley Park, and he was as warm and as inviting as could be. But he knew how to push that out and bring the next level out of everybody he worked with. One of the only new songs we played on the tour was “Welcome 2 America,” and we didn’t even play that over the music to “Welcome 2 America” —  it was over another jam. — Shelby B., backing vocalist

Shelby J.: Prince always knew when it was the right time to do the right thing, and I know that sounds simple, but if you want to understand Prince, understand he’s the kind of person that is going to do what he wants to do. We’d only jammed once as a group. You had people losing homes. Please don’t do that.” Video was sent anyhow, and Prince saw me singing “Gimme Shelter.” Two and a half months later, I’m getting a fresh weave in Arkansas, where I had a gig. I didn’t know who they were, but they came and we listened to the music and that was it. He was writing “1999” in 1982. West, who was talking about freedom fighters and Curtis Mayfield. He went too fast. Our blend had to be right. He also began experimenting with distribution: in 2007, copies of his album Planet Earth were bundled with newspapers in the UK. — Morris Hayes, keyboardist and musical director

Hayes: Jesse Johnson [from the Time] told me a long time ago, “Man, really, when Prince do a record, he do three.” I found that to be true. I know he had a computer. And you had to be able to roll with that. The music was never released. What does this mean? It was always a mistake for me to hear live versions before I heard the record because everything goes up a notch. We hit you with the hard stuff, but then we give you one that lets you know we’re having fun. When we hung out with Larry, we didn’t talk about music. Everybody right now is talking about critical race theory. He’d say, “You need to put out your records yourself.” He was very passionate about having control of your own music and image and this and that. There’s biblical references and also stuff about the music industry. He said, “Liv? It was life-altering, life-changing. *This article appears in the July 19, 2021, issue of New York Magazine. Welcome 2 America is a delight, easily the best of the artist’s final string of albums. That’s what gives me peace: knowing he got there. They need explanations all the time. The album has been released in full for the first time, as part of the posthumous series managed by Prince’s estate that has thus far yielded 2018’s exquisite demo collection Piano and a Microphone 1983 and 2019’s Originals, a batch of excellent recordings of songs Prince famously gifted to other musicians. Prince MD-ed his own set. ‘What are you going to do for your people?’

Shelby J., backing vocalist: Prince always reflected either what was happening right there or how he thought that was going to affect the future. That’s it. He put his show together. “It’s hitting on every cylinder as to what’s happening today.” This is their story and, by proxy, the story of Prince’s America. The grooves are airtight and joyous. Everybody’s always trying to pin a logic on Prince. There have been so many times where I look back like, How the hell did I do it? Hayes: Prince always, always could put together a crazy show. He did it and said, “Now you girls go do it.” Then he walked out of the room. You have to have that pushed out of you. We’d never been in the studio with him before. When it comes out, that’s when I know it’s coming out. Liv Warfield, backing vocalist: I came to be a part of NPG when Marva King was leaving. We recorded the whole Welcome 2 America album in March and April of 2010. Listening to the album, you may wonder how these songs would have shifted perceptions of a misunderstood stretch of Prince’s career. I just remember everybody’s head nodding. By the end of the decade, though, renewed acclaim from critics dried up; it wasn’t until 2014’s Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age that mainstream audiences came back around, ultimately for the last time. Most people don’t go the extra mile. Prince was prophetic. If left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have. It was like when you’re trying to prove yourself to your parents, trying to make them proud. It was everything that I wanted, everything that I didn’t know that I needed. He was definitely into the music. He didn’t really use his own phone to call people. I wore [the title of musical director] very loosely. We were just getting out what he wanted to get out. Just because you get called for a session doesn’t mean it’s coming out, so I always just go with the flow and play my part. Shelby J.: When he asked in 2006 if I wanted to be a part of the New Power Generation, I said, “Absolutely.” He’s like, “All right, we’re starting rehearsals for the Super Bowl in a week.” I went from meeting him to playing my first big gig with him to, a month later, being on the biggest stage in the world at the Super Bowl with him, just like that. He didn’t have to be logical for you and me. They were both Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m told that Prince is calling from a private number. Related

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Prince’s ‘Baltimore’ Is a More Complex Kind of Protest Song

Tags: We talked about being woke and having that third eye. Hayes: I hate to tell on him, but Prince was a terrible driver. Prince was prophetic. ‘I never had an inkling the album was coming out’

Wilkenfeld: Prince also had two listening parties around May 2010 after we tracked. He was very ahead of his time. Thank you for supporting our journalism. Fiorillo: As we got to know each other in the studio, at the end of some of the songs he’d have us just talking and acting like we were at a party. Warfield: You’re dancing to this music feeling good, but you’re like, Wait, he’s really schooling me right now. We’d only jammed once as a group. I never had an inkling the album was coming out. Then I don’t know what happened. Hayes: Some days, he’d be on me like, “Man, Morris, come on, man.” Other days, we’re joking: “Hot Summer” is just one of them grooves. We were doing a three-hour show. Warfield: Frequency was everything. I called four people up and didn’t tell them what it was for. That place was banging. Everybody’s always trying to pin a logic on Prince. We drove around the arboretum. It’s going somewhere else. He’ll do three and maybe four sometimes because he writes so much material, then he figures out what he wants to use and where he wants to go. There’s a world that he wants to see beside what we’re doing here. The darn car was going right and left. Shelby J.: It wasn’t like how some people have things all planned out and written out, saying, “It’s going to be coming out on this date.” Sometimes he could be like that but not with Welcome 2 America. The fans were like, Okay, what is this? Do you want to go somewhere warm?” I’m thinking, What? I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but I want it to happen. I just maintained some writing orders whenever he’d step away. Like, “Come jam.” Prince picked his favorite, Chris Coleman. The finished work lingered in Prince’s vast, prodigious, unknowable vaults for the next decade. She said, “Prince is looking for another background vocalist.” I was like, “First off, don’t send a video.

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Imelda Staunton Will Have Order As The Crown’s New Queen

Photo: The Crown Netflix/Twitter

Imelda Staunton will have order! pic.twitter.com/ZeMSA1hDnv— The Crown (@TheCrownNetflix) July 30, 2021

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The Crown Will Get 6 Seasons After All, Extending Imelda Staunton’s Reign

Tags: In the below “early glimpse,” she gives the chilling look of a woman disappointed by all her children. She assumes the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Olivia Colman, and Claire Foy before her, for seasons five and six of the Netflix series. The Crown season five has a new headmistress queen, played by the Olivier-winning actress known for making Harry Potter’s fifth year hell. The sixth and final season was confirmed in July 2020, just before season four introduced Princess Diana in November. And the Emmy goes to …

An early glimpse of our new Queen Elizabeth II, Imelda Staunton. Staunton first joined the line of succession back in 2019, giving her a little more time to age gracefully into the role. The next two seasons will also star Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret, succeeding Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Kirby.

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Disney’s Jungle Cruise Is Murder

In his previous works, Collet-Serra proved quite adept playing with screen geography, and he brings charm and energy to these early scenes of Lily maneuvering around this place while Joachim pursues her, each of them using the various objects around them. Friends and family turned their backs, all because of who I love.” Maybe this could have been a touching character note, but it doesn’t actually do much to develop MacGregor; his confession seems to exist primarily to show what a decent guy Frank is in accepting him. Maybe that sort of thing makes for admirable messaging (does it?), but it certainly doesn’t quicken the pulse. The exception to all this winds up proving the rule: When the aforementioned Lope de Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his men, who all supposedly vanished upriver in the 16th century, come back as a ragtag supernatural phantom army to fight our heroes, they’re clearly meant to provide the menace that the film has been so lacking. Sue me. Even so, derivativeness and predictability aren’t always fatal flaws. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra — a filmmaker previously known for gonzo thrillers like Orphan and The Shallows and some of the more compelling entries in the Liam Neeson dadsploitation subgenre — the picture might have amounted to something had it been able to deliver on the one essential element any kind of adventure (even one made primarily for kids) needs: a real sense of danger. Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise. The jungle might not kill you, but Jungle Cruise could kill your soul. But it’s 1916, two years into the Great War, and there’s a sinister German aristocrat — the aforementioned Joachim, who may or may not be Kaiser Wilhelm’s son — also after this artefact. Jungle Cruise could have been saved had it at least provided some decent comedy and romance. I’m not sure any of this is progress. The film still plays it kind of coy: Talking to Frank one night about how he couldn’t get married, MacGregor says that he “had to tell the lady in question that I couldn’t accept the offer — or indeed any offer, given that my interests happily lay elsewhere.” He then adds, “Uncle threatened to disinherit me. There’s a Rube Goldbergian verve to these early sequences, and by the time Lily and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) have employed Frank to take them into the heart of the Amazon, you might be fooled into thinking that Jungle Cruise is poised to recapture the swashbuckling magic of classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mask of Zorro, the 1999 iteration of The Mummy, or the original Pirates of the Caribbean, with a little African Queen thrown in. And the clarity of its aspirations just makes the film’s downfall that much more pathetic, like a baseball player pointing to the home run he’s about to hit and then completely whiffing and landing on his ass. On the latter front, Johnson and Blunt don’t have much chemistry. But it is so not that movie. MacGregor, meanwhile, remains the butt of many of the movie’s (mostly unfunny) jokes — a hopelessly vain dandy who pees himself at the first sign of danger. We first meet the spirited Dr. In the end, they don’t argue all that much. Night Shyamalan’s Old Is Beautifully Made and Terribly Written

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Tags: It certainly liberally borrows from just about all of them. Were they afraid to make Joachim a Nazi?) It feels at times like the filmmakers are reluctant to suggest that the Amazon might actually be a dangerous place. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as she sneaks around in the back rooms of the Royal Geographic Society, looking for an ancient arrowhead that holds the key to finding a magic, all-healing Amazonian blossom called the Tears of the Moon. The opening scenes show some promise. It’s a safety-first kind of movie, seemingly too afraid to ever make us fear for our heroes. It didn’t need to be this way, surely. I chuckled. The film has a good idea in positioning them as opposing temperaments — the more bickering, the more chance of a spark, cinematically speaking — but even that winds up being half-baked. And here, Jungle Cruise sadly falls back on its corporate theme-park origins. Photo: Walt Disney Studios

“The jungle,” Werner Herzog used to say, “is murder.” Although Disney’s Jungle Cruise is ostensibly based on the popular theme-park ride, one could say that it has taken Herzog’s immortal maxim as a kind of surface inspiration. And to be fair, a flashback to how they got their curse is one of the film’s highlights; if nothing else, it gives Collet-Serra an opportunity to briefly show off his horror chops. Meanwhile, Whitehall is given the thankless task of portraying what is supposedly Disney’s most “out” gay character yet. Over and over, we can see the far superior movie Jungle Cruise wants to be: a freewheeling, romantic, swashbuckling epic about a couple of beautiful, brave souls who bicker their way into each other’s hearts, all the while facing off against the many dangers of the jungle and a variety of villains both human and supernatural. But such films were also not afraid to scare us, to make us care about their characters by putting them in real danger. Similarly, when we meet Frank “Skipper” Wolff (Johnson), the captain of a decaying, rickety Amazon riverboat, we see him conning tourists into seeing fake sights such as a phony giant hippo, a rickety waterfall, and a group of supposedly savage natives whom he’s secretly paid off to scare the foreigners. More Movie Reviews

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M. A jaguar that attacks early on quickly turns out to be Frank’s pet, Proxima (another aide in his many scams). (Even the supposedly psychopathic Prince Joachim comes off as weirdly cuddly at times, with Plemons playing him as a subdued bore. Herzog is an odd reference point, surely, but that’s also in keeping with the central tension in Jungle Cruise, between the darker, more intense and exciting movie it clearly wants to be and the mealymouthed CGI panderfest that it is. But once these villains enter the story, their presence, even in its finer details and twists, so recalls the far-superior Pirates of the Caribbean that we might wonder if we’re just watching something created on the same software as that earlier picture, only with a different set of features selected from the drop-down menus. “Know this about the jungle,” Dwayne Johnson’s riverboat captain Frank says early in the film, “everything you see wants to kill you — and can.” There are other Herzog callbacks in the film: The villains include the Spanish conquistador Lope de Aguirre (the subject of one of Herzog’s best-known films, Aguirre, the Wrath of God) as well as an obsessive German aristocrat named Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who seems to sport Herzog’s accent; there’s even an extended gag at one point about the Herzogian way Joachim pronounces “jungle”: “chonk-leh.” Whatever. It would probably constitute a spoiler to give more details about other elements that are initially presented as sources of fear but turn out ultimately to be harmless. Why exactly is this movie set during WWI anyway?

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Broadway Will Require Vaccinations and Masks As Performances Return This Fall

Exceptions are made for children under 12, who are not yet vaccine-eligible, and for those “with a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination.” In that case, they must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the start of a performance, or a negative antigen test taken within six hours. Under the policy, audience members will need to be at least 14 days out from the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or the first dose of a one-dose one. Tags: “A uniform policy across all New York City Broadway theaters makes it simple for our audiences and should give even more confidence to our guests about how seriously Broadway is taking audience safety,” Charlotte St. Some productions, like Pass Over, had already announced vaccination and masking requirements, but the uniform application is intended to simplify matters, and is also a sign of concerns about the spread of the Delta variant. The Broadway League, the group of producers and theater owners that oversees the industry, announced today that all 41 theaters in New York will “require vaccinations for audience members, as well as performers, backstage crew, and theatre staff, for all performances through October 2021.” Audiences will also be required to wear masks inside theaters, “except while eating or drinking in designated locations.”

Broadway productions previously announced plans to resume earlier this summer, with the triplet of headlining juggernauts Wicked, The Lion King, and Hamilton all starting up on September 14. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a statement. Photo: Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Broadway theaters plan to return to performances this fall, now with strict COVID-19 requirements for audiences and performers. Some other productions have moved into houses even earlier — Springsteen on Broadway jumped into things in late June; the first play back Pass Over will have its first performance August 4 — while others are holding off until later in the season when things may presumably be more stable (Hugh Jackman’s Music Man will start December 20).

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HBO Max, HBO, and Cinemax Are Now Available for DISH Customers

Now, DISH TV subscribers can get in on the action with a new WarnerMedia agreement that brings HBO Max, HBO, and Cinemax to users nationwide. Interested DISH TV subscribers will have access to a ten-day free trial of HBO and Cinemax, running August 6 through August 15, giving you just enough time to speed through Emmy-nominated series like The Flight Attendant, Legendary, and Friends: The Reunion. Don't have HBO Max yet? It’s quickly becoming clear that HBO Max is one of the most exciting new streaming services available, based solely on the top-notch shows and movies it offers (hello, Hacks, and hello, new theatrical Warner Bros. Photo: Chia Bella James/Warner Bros. Sign up here

The agreement is accompanied by a discounted HBO Max membership that’ll set you back only $12 per month for up to a full year of the ad-free plan if you subscribe before October 27 (down from the $14.99 per month the service normally charges). Doing the math, that’s $35.88 in savings for an annual subscription, money you can easily spend on popcorn, Buncha Crunch, and fountain sodas to comfortably and safely simulate the theatrical experience from home as you tune into upcoming HBO Max releases like The Suicide Squad and Dune. Streamliner

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A scene from Dune, which hits HBO Max later this year. A separate Cinemax subscription will cost DISH TV users $10 per month. Related

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Scarlett Johansson Is Suing Disney for Releasing Black Widow Online

Per a source with the Wall Street Journal, the decision to put the film online cost Johansson more than $50 million. Emails included in the suit show her representatives tried to solidify a theatrical release as early as March 2019. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the suit reads. “We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses,” Marvel chief counsel Dave Galluzzi said at the time. The suit claims Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release and that her salary was based on the box-office performance of the film. “No, I ain’t got cash / I ain’t got cash”
Photo: Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios

Live, laugh, love, lawsuit. The Black Widow star alleges that her contract was breached when the Marvel film was released on Disney+ at the same time as its theatrical debut on July 9. Scarlett Johansson invoked a Karen’s fourth-favorite L-word on July 29, filing a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Black Widow is Johansson’s first leading film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and she’s said it’s her final appearance. During its July 9 opening weekend, Black Widow made $80 million domestically, $78 million internationally, and $60 million from $30 single purchases on Disney+. Related

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Tags: It only helps the streaming service as it competes against a seemingly never-ending list of Plus-es. Black Widow is one of several Disney films that were released simultaneously on Disney+ and in theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw theaters close or reduce their capacity.

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Is This NBC’s Nightmare Olympics Scenario?

NBCU has certainly made good on promises to link the two, but I wonder if a lot of new subscribers have been disappointed to discover Peacock doesn’t actually deliver a one-stop solution to Olympics viewing and isn’t even the place to find the most live coverage. (Don’t try rewinding a program on Peacock if you’re using Roku or Google TV; it’s a nightmare.) Still, for casual Olympics fans, Peacock does offer access to a ton of clips and highlights, as well as replays of dozens of events, and the overall presentation on the app (particularly the mobile version of Peacock) is decent. We simply live in a completely different TV universe than the one that existed during the last Summer Olympics. Prime-time TV viewing levels on some nights are barely half what they were during Rio 2016, causing some advertisers to begin talking about compensation for lower-than-expected ratings. Execs can talk up “surging digital views” or “boosting signups for Peacock” all they want, and such talking points aren’t without some merit. Related

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Tags: To be fair, Peacock never marketed itself as the home of all streaming coverage, and NBCU is hardly the first conglomerate to move programming once exclusive to cable over to streaming (think FX on Hulu). But some consumers have been rightly confused about when, where, and how to access live coverage of their favorite sports. The fact that NBC now pretty much lets anyone with a cable login watch every event live, in real time, is a massive improvement over the status quo of a decade or two ago. As Crupi puts it, “Compared to everything else on TV that isn’t spelled N-F-L, those are still some giant-ass numbers.”

The Peacock Factor

If NBCU deserves to be cut some slack on the ratings front, other aspects of its early performance are fair game for criticism. men’s basketball and women’s soccer teams. NBC still does this with its main coverage, of course, but audiences now have more choice than ever before. Having poked around both platforms the past few days, the NBC Sports app offers a speedier and far more user-friendly experience than Peacock, whose overall user interface remains less than ideal. It’s too soon to say precisely where 2021’s ratings will end up, but the first few days of data suggest a decline north of 40 percent isn’t out of the question. While that last part isn’t all that unusual — networks regularly overpromise audience delivery — Crupi wouldn’t be surprised if NBC had to start offering so-called “makegoods” to its clients. ➽ But Is It Really a Surprise? Acknowledging that these numbers are awful doesn’t mean you also need to buy into the notion that they represent some shocking disaster or repudiation of NBCU’s coverage. Maybe not: Cable operators, like local TV station affiliates, are so provincial it’s possible they simply wouldn’t even consider such an option. During the first 15 years of the 21st century, NBC’s summer Olympics numbers defied gravity, adding audience even as almost everything else on linear TV declined. Email

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Terms of Service apply. Almost everything on traditional TV is pulling in numbers sharply lower than five years ago, with many programs and networks off by 30, 40, even 50 percent. Simply putting everything on Peacock might have risked breaching past deals. What’s more, as bad as these early numbers have been compared to Rio and London, NBC’s prime-time TV coverage is still walloping everything else on linear right now. “I imagine that the likes of Toyota and Geico are going to be offered some freebies in Sunday Night Football,” he says. Of course, it may be a good thing Peacock didn’t replace the NBC Sports app, since quite frankly, I’m not sure it could have handled hosting the full Olympics experience just yet. The technical term for this kind of Nielsen performance is “yikes.”

No amount of spin can hide the fact that a big chunk of the audience has simply abandoned watching NBC’s carefully packaged prime-time presentation of the Olympics, and that this scenario is not what NBCU parent company Comcast had in mind when it committed nearly $8 billion back in 2014 to extend its hold on U.S. rights to the Games for another 11 years, until 2032. And the pandemic has only accelerated the shift from linear to streaming, as locked-down or crowd-wary audiences have gotten more used to summoning programs on demand versus watching as scheduled. Less than a week into the Tokyo Games, early gripes have ranged from the usual annoyance over chatty commentators and those ever-abundant advertising breaks to more 2021-specific criticisms concerning the confusing ways in which NBCUniversal has divvied up events across its various platforms or the less-than-ideal user experience offered by newbie Olympics streamer Peacock. Folks who thought subscribing to Peacock would give then an all-access pass to Tokyo have been bummed to discover that, no, you still need to have some sort of subscription TV package (either cable or a service such as YouTube TV) in order to access all the events streamed on the NBC Sports app and its Olympics website. Fact is, anyone who pays attention to the linear TV ecosystem cannot at all be surprised at the ratings for Tokyo. What’s more, NBCU execs have said for more than a year that these Games would serve as a massive marketing platform for Peacock and that coverage on the service would help drive new sign-ups to the service. It would have made all the sense in the world from a long-term perspective for NBCU to consolidate its digital coverage on Peacock. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. In 1996, legendary Florida TV critic Hal Boedeker captured the cultural consensus that NBC had botched elements of its coverage of the Atlanta Games, seething over “the network’s sexist and condescending style,” particularly its decision to tape-delay the women’s gymnastics finals until midnight. Whether or not Shell’s forecast proves accurate, Anthony Crupi, a veteran reporter on the advertising beat who now serves as sports media reporter for Sportico, tells me NBC’s prime-time Olympic ratings “are actually down a lot more” than folks on Madison Avenue expected, coming in well below the numbers the network guaranteed to advertisers. How Bad Are the Ratings Really? NOW PLAYING: BUFFERING
Sign up for Vulture’s insider newsletter on the streaming industry from editor Joe Adalian. So yes, the ratings declines for Tokyo are terrible. Head to vulture.com/buffering and subscribe today! And more importantly, it’s likely exposing millions of consumers to the platform, one of the major goals of NBCU’s Peacock Olympics strategy. Cable companies years ago negotiated higher carriage fees for NBCU’s networks knowing those cable channels would be packed with Olympics coverage and that cable subscriptions would be needed to access most streaming coverage, too. Digital viewership for Tokyo is setting records, and those eyeballs are more monetizable than ever. And it’s certainly a lot better than it was back in the 20th century, when NBC — and previous Olympics hosts CBS and ABC — treated the Olympics as a prime-time soap opera, serving up only the story lines it felt would appeal to a broad audience (thank you, Roone Arledge). Unfortunately, the company’s very lucrative deals with cable operators may have made such a scenario impossible or at least financially unviable. Throw in the premature exits of several star competitors (most notably Simone Biles) and it’s hard to argue the Olympics have gotten off to a storybook start for NBCU. But the simple fact is that TV viewership is still what drives ad sales, and turning a profit on the Games is undeniably a more difficult challenge when ratings take a dive. But while it’s pretty easy to craft a negative narrative around week one of the Games, the truth about Tokyo is actually a bit more complicated. Its coverage is pulling in anywhere from two to four times more than the other major broadcasters combined. Comcast CEO Jeff Shell nonetheless Thursday insisted the company is “going to be profitable on the Olympics,” despite admitting some “bad luck” with how the competition itself has unfolded. Similarly, cable customers who in recent years have been able to watch most big events live (either through authenticated streaming or NBCU’s cable networks) may be annoyed that Peacock got exclusive dibs on some big live events, including women’s gymnastics. Fast-forward five years to the same night in 2021, and the Nielsen wreckage is impossible to ignore: Big Bang replacement (and spinoff) Young Sheldon managed a mere 0.6 demo rating, while 16-year-old Grey’s was down to a 0.9. Plus, while the whole Peacock/Olympics app thing is a tad annoying, NBC has scored far more serious Olympics blunders in the past. A fair assessment of the numbers also has to take into account the slew of external factors completely out of NBCU’s control that have made it difficult to come out of the gate with any ratings momentum, including the lack of spectators because of COVID; the 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and New York; and the early disappointing performances of the U.S. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images

For decades, Nielsen’s verdict on the Games was the easiest way for advertisers and journalists to judge whether or not NBC’s coverage was resonating with viewers. And then there were the 2012 London Games, which birthed Twitter hashtags such as #NBCFail and #NBCSucks and had critic James Poniewozik comparing the network’s coverage to the business model of an airline, saying, “Its interest is in giving you the least satisfactory service you will still come back for.” Whatever the gripes about Tokyo, they seem modest compared to previous outrages — at least so far. Consider what’s happened to Thursday night network TV, for decades home to some of the medium’s most popular shows. If things don’t turn around, ratings-wise, in the second half of the Games, I don’t think it would be melodramatic to describe these declines as NBCU’s nightmare scenario. (Whether those viewers are getting a good first impression is an open question.)

Maybe There Is No Winning

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Cao Can/Xinhua via Getty Images

Some of the complaining about figuring out “how” to watch the Olympics on the NBC platforms is a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.” After all, for years the rap on NBC’s coverage was that the network offered almost nothing but prepackaged, and often pretaped, extended highlights shows. But when the Oscars barely crack 10 million viewers and ratings for nearly every sport other than football continue to decline, well … it’s hard to be shocked anymore by Nielsen’s verdict. Streamliner

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Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Peacock

This story first ran in Buffering, Vulture’s newsletter about the streaming industry. Still, couldn’t NBC have figured out a way to tie cable subscriptions to Peacock memberships during the Olympics, allowing anyone with a cable login to sign in to Peacock the way they log in to the NBC Sports app? It certainly isn’t the disaster some of the loudest voices on Twitter suggest it is. On one night back in May 2016, new episodes of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy notched a 3.4 and 2.1 rating, respectively, in Nielsen’s all-important adults under 50 rating. That changed in Rio back in 2016, but even with a nearly 20 percent drop, those Games still pulled in an average prime-time audience of just over 25 million viewers. As noted earlier, there was a ton of early negative social-media chatter about the company’s Choose Your Our Olympics digital strategy. The network’s press releases bragging about huge tune-in practically wrote themselves, with total viewer numbers often cracking 30 million-plus for summer Olympiads as recently as London 2012. And yet as bad as the cultural kvetching has been for NBC, the Nielsen numbers have arguably been even worse. Audiences would have to wait until prime time to see events which finished up hours earlier; sports fans who wanted deep coverage of less high-profile events were often out of luck. After a one-year pandemic delay, Americans are coming together this summer to participate in one of our nation’s favorite semiannual traditions: bashing NBC for its Olympics coverage. Back in 1992, for example, comics and critics were ruthless in their mockery of the network’s ahead-of-its-time (but still wholly awful) Triplecast scheme, which unsuccessfully tried to convince consumers to shell out up to $170 for a more complete cable viewing experience. Or perhaps NBCU actually didn’t want to make things that easy, hoping that the lure of some exclusive Olympics coverage would be a better way to get previously reluctant cable customers (and cord-cutters) to finally sign up for Peacock.

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We’re Still Getting Woodstock ’99 Wrong

Woodstock 99 makes the events of that weekend seem like a confluence of horrors that could only have sprung from the climate of 1999, when in reality, we see a little of its hell every year. It’s nasty, from little details like the lascivious way Dave Matthews says “titties” to bigger ones like the moment Rosie Perez is heckled about showing her breasts when she arrives to introduce DMX’s set. Woodstock ’69 co-creator Michael Lang and his Woodstock ’94 partner, John Scher, are criticized for the peculiar venue choice of Griffiss Air Force Base, whose fortifications cut costs but subjected attendees to increasingly uncomfortable conditions, and the lineup, which forced awkward scheduling choices like back-to-back Alanis Morissette and Limp Bizkit sets on the same stage. Ending Woodstock 99 with a happily ever after, celebrating the temperate climates and free water to be found on-site at Coachella, makes it sound like we’ve learned our lesson, but in a summer where music festivals are moving forward without a plan to mitigate the dangers of an ongoing pandemic, the sigh of relief at the end of Woodstock 99 feels frustratingly perpendicular to reality. Omissions and obfuscations abound. Ozzfest ’99 — where Ozzy Osbourne brought Slipknot, System, Deftones, Fear Factory, Hed PE, Static-X, and others to play amphitheaters across North America — is remembered as a game changer, one of the best lineups in the tour’s long history. Photo: Catherine Lash/HBO

I’ve been watching The Sopranos almost every night this summer. Moby, who played the rave tent Saturday night, thinks the bands took the wrong lessons from their influences: “They’ve ignored the subtlety of hip-hop, and they’ve embraced the misogyny and homophobia.” New York Times writer Wesley Morris likens the sound to a “swamp.” “It seemed like the kinda thing that would break down barriers,” former MTV VJ Dave Holmes says, “but it didn’t.” John Scher blames Saturday night’s Limp Bizkit set, where Fred Durst openly invited the audience to express its rage, for the mood of the weekend turning sour. That’s what it was made for. Pawning it off as an objection to Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys is looking at it through TRL blinders. It was a place of refuge for some and an excuse to misbehave for others, and this doc does not concern itself with the difference. In that maelstrom of cunning mobsters, careless crooks, and effete, affluent New Jersey socialites, my anchor is A.J. The thing is, only four nu metal bands played Woodstock ’99. The debut Korn album was certified platinum before we heard “Quit Playing Games With My Heart,” and a year before “Baby One More Time” dropped. In its account of how Woodstock ’99, a sequel to the three-day 1969 gig that stands as a testament to the unifying power of the hippie generation, went up quite literally in flames, Peace, Love, and Rage is pointed in attributing blame for the carnival of horrors the weekend would entail, but light on why the dehydrated revelers wanted to go in the first place. Waves of death at EDM festivals in the 2010s go unmentioned. Riot grrrl was powered by women being marginalized in punk scenes during the ’90s. Instead, Woodstock 99 feels drunk on chaos. Elsewhere, you see Wyclef Jean pelted with debris from the crowd as he tries to re-create Jimi Hendrix’s 1969 “Star Spangled Banner” solo, and it is implied that this is happening because the crowd is too young to catch the reference, when in reality, he asked them to throw bottles. We see Kid Rock and Fred Durst, the least eloquent mouthpieces you could even find at that time, revolting against nothing, and implications that this music fomented violence even as the doc says it was unwise to blame 1999’s Columbine shooting on the music the killers liked. Soprano, the surly son of the show’s titular boss. Shitty, fratty, angry rich kids paraded around that Air Force base thinking it was a place where they could do whatever they wanted, without consequence, perhaps adopting a dark, mutant strain of the free-love ideology of the ’60s, or perhaps just acting on the unrepentant chauvinism infecting pop culture at the time. You don’t need to show a montage of the grimacing faces of women being grabbed in mosh pits to explain that it was catastrophically unsafe for them everywhere on those festival grounds. We hear nothing about the problems more recent country-music festivals have had with drunken mischief and arrests, an issue that has come roaring back this summer along with venues reopening. It’s tempting with a story like this, with art that’s considered to be low and serving a demographic unafraid to indulge its worse impulses, to stand at a safe altitude looking down our noses at the debauchery, as if we’re above it now. Kurt and Eddie Vedder and others spoke up because people were being murdered outside abortion clinics. It’s particularly frustrating when one of the ’99 alums interviewed is Jonathan Davis, lead singer of Korn, who made a mint unpacking childhood trauma on record and who could’ve provided valuable insights into the decade of movements that teed up the musical paradigm shift of 1999, if only someone asked him to. The consensus is that the festival lineup was haphazard and ill-advised, a mix of the wrong kinds of crowds aggravated by nu metal, a dead-end bastardization of rap and rock. The band tees give the show a poignant sense of time and place, but they also hint at what’s going on behind A.J.’s wan, sullen eyes. It’s the reason angst-soaked rock and metal music resonated strongly with millennials coming of age at the turn of the century. Related

Relive the Fall of Butt Rock with HBO’s Woodstock 99 Doc

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Tags: Watching HBO’s Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage — the first installment in a six-part series called Music Box, which The Ringer’s Bill Simmons touts as a sister to his sports series 30 for 30 — I looked for an A.J., someone who could explain the draw of the aggressive music that soundtracked the ill-fated 1999 music festival, long understood to be the nadir of ’90s rock (just as it is said that Altamont killed the ’60s). It was a place of refuge for some and an excuse to misbehave for others, and this doc does not concern itself with the difference. They — we — briefly felt seen. When the origins of nu metal are vaguely unpacked, no word is uttered about Rage Against the Machine — who were the gold-star example of a rap-metal band animated by a stated political purpose and whose Saturday night performance is only briefly shown in a conversation that didn’t really pertain to them — or Slipknot, or the Deftones, or System of a Down, the bands that represented the best of the era, that carefully blended incongruous sounds and even hipped the listener to important political causes. Woodstock 99 attempts to trace the tributaries drizzling fuel on the festival’s inferno, but it’s more notable for being the rare music documentary that doesn’t really seem to care for much of the music it’s covering. Now, the archival footage is damning. There’s no word on the family-values politics that would turn the 2000s into a culture war pitting offended, letter-writing conservatives against edgy anti-PC bros. In 2000, Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium Tour, which Korn and Kid Rock opened, did not burn, and neither did the 1999 Family Values Tour, where Korn and Limp Bizkit were joined by Staind, another band that reckoned loudly with emotional pain (before singer Aaron Lewis became a chud). In limiting its purview to Lang’s festivals, Woodstock 99 jettisons valuable context. The kid acts up in school and lounges in metal merch at home. Soprano is also a fan of Pantera, whose singer Phil Anselmo tussled publicly with his demons, and Marilyn Manson, whose entire project in the early ’90s was teasing out the hypocrisy and dysfunction our veneer of public decency conceals (and whose own dysfunction has come into harrowing focus in recent years). If we’re not here to try to learn from the experience or to approach the music that soundtracked it with a fresher critical lens than the condescension, disdain, and bewilderment seen in the film; if this footage already lives on YouTube, where you can watch without suggestive editing; and if the entire story was reported inside and out literal decades ago, what are we here for? Two decades after landmark albums like System’s Toxicity, Slipknot’s Iowa, and Deftones’ White Pony, an endeavor like this could have taken the opportunity to give the era the fair reassessment it never got when it topped charts. There’s no mention of heated discourse through the ’90s about medicating unruly teens, no window into the reasons the generation of youth that populated Woodstock ’99’s audience would be drawn to darkness. The closest we get is the minute they let the intro to Korn’s “Blind” rip. But the message of the documentary isn’t “How do we make sure this never happens again?” It’s “Look at these naked morons.” At the end, you don’t feel much closer to the reasons why music about hurt feelings and breaking things swept the youth of the turn of the millennium. Woodstock 99 attempts to trace the tributaries drizzling fuel on the festival’s inferno, but it’s more notable for being the rare music documentary that doesn’t really seem to care for much of the music it’s covering. The Offspring guys didn’t remember why it also happened to them during their Friday set; before any song played, front man Dexter Holland told the audience they were dirty. The rage of late-’90s guitar music, we are told, was equal parts defeatism, an appeasement of our baser instincts sparked by the loss of enlightened figureheads like Kurt Cobain, and a rejection of the teen-pop machine. Calling the early ’90s a great time for feminism in rock is an oversimplification. That doesn’t make Woodstock 99 any less heavy-handed. He loves Slipknot, whose singer-songwriter Corey Taylor works through the fallout of abuse and addiction in his younger years. It’s a villainous line that the doc rebuts sharply by recounting the story of a group that set up a website so women who never went to the police could speak about their experience anonymously. There was a hunger for this music independent of anything else in culture. He’s finding acceptance and expression in the art of troubled kindred spirits. But it offers this couched between shot after shot of attendees’ bare breasts, and eventually, John Scher says the women who were groped and violated at his gig must hold some of the blame for dressing provocatively, and lowballs the number of reported assaults. The aggression of this music is explained as a manifestation of something dark in the heart of the ’90s, but no one can describe this in detail. There was a hunger for this music independent of anything else in culture. The doc makes ample time to explain the latter phenomenon, listing examples of the pervasiveness of rape culture and the objectification of women in the ’90s media aimed at young men. Woodstock 99 peppers a play-by-play of its fateful weekend with stories from attendees and commentary from culture writers and a handful of artists who played at the festival. The Sopranos uses wardrobe to say what A.J. (Twice as many jam bands were present!) And concurrent tours with lineups more firmly rooted in the angrier stuff didn’t suffer similar fates. Their approach is all wrong, too lax one week and too harsh the next. You learn how one asphalt-covered literal Superfund site, a lax and barely trained security detail, a lack of access to drinkable water, a candlelight vigil gone awry, a rash of jarring July heat, and a few hundred thousand angry Gen-Xers and millennials can add up to destruction, fire, abuse, and death. It doesn’t come up that Beastie Boys’ Ad Rock criticized the Woodstock ’99 promoters onstage at the VMAs the next month. won’t: He feels alienated, misunderstood. We are told that weird and angry rock music showed up one day yucking everyone’s yum. When Coachella is touted as the ethical alternative to the corporate shortsightedness forcing the riot that turned Woodstock ’99 into a historical tragedy, it is never mentioned that the Indio production has had its own well-documented struggles with sexual assault in its crowds. A.J.’s parents don’t get him; none of the shit he’s into existed when they grew up. Woodstock 99 makes the events of that weekend in Rome, New York, seem like a confluence of horrors that could only have sprung from the climate of 1999, when in reality, we see a little of its hell every year.

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Hear Jessica Walter Complain About Butterflies in the Archer Season-12 Trailer

This season, Sterling Archer and the agency are fighting a new enemy, capitalism, when a rival agency arrives on the scene and proves to be serious spying competition. So Sterling, Malory, and the rest of the crew face new stakes to not only complete their missions, but keep their agency alive. The new season premieres on FXX on August 25. butterflies. Related

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Tags: Archer is usually out to make us laugh, but we won’t blame you if you tear up this time. Still, that’s not Malory’s main worry in the trailer — she’s stuck complaining to Cyril about some “overly decorative pests,” a.k.a. The trailer for the 12th season of the FXX spy comedy is here, featuring one of the last roles by Jessica Walter, the late actor who voiced Malory Archer from the show’s beginning in 2009.

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Hulu Says ‘Sports Fans, We See You’ With a New Add-on

It also means that if football isn’t your jam (hi), you’ll still find plenty to love about the add-on’s offerings that include access to coverage of motorsports, horse racing, competitive fishing, and more. The NFL Network joins the plan’s more than 75 existing channels and promises sports, sports, and (you guessed it) more sports to those looking to get their football fix once the season kicks off in early September. And if that weren’t enough adrenaline for you, Hulu has also just introduced a new sports add-on package for Hulu + Live TV subscribers, which includes NFL RedZone, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG, and TVG2. Related

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Hulu’s introduction of its new sports add-on and the NFL Network to its Live TV plan marks just another rung in the ladder of the service’s push to own the streaming market on all things sports, including a $5.99 per month ESPN+ option — but sadly, no dedicated channel devoted to a sport we’re big fans of, competitive voguing. Streamliner

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Illustration: Martin Gee

Those of you who live comfortably at the cross section of “football fan” and “Hulu + Live TV subscriber,” now is your time to rejoice — the streaming service has announced that, starting today, the NFL Network is available to those who pay for Hulu’s $64.99 monthly plan (after a seven-day free trial for new users). Don't have Hulu yet? That means those of you unwilling to wait for the regular season to start in the fall can log into Hulu next month to watch replays of 2020’s NFL RedZone programming, beginning August 23. The sports add-on will cost you an extra $9.99 per month on top of your regular Hulu subscription fees.

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The Final Season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine Is Here and, No, It’s Not a Post Office

Work-life balance is just another elusive son of a gun to hunt down. “I know that we’ll figure it out, but it’s definitely a challenge, so we’ll see how it goes.” Guess they didn’t like the post-office idea as much as Twitter did. One last ride-along. Brooklyn Nine-Nine begins its journey to the series finale with a brand-new, action-packed trailer likening it to Fast and the Furious. There’s no such thing as a good cop, and soon there will be no such thing as a good cop show. Last summer, the actors and writers revealed the show was “rethinking” how to write a police comedy in light of the Black Lives Matter marches seeking justice for the murder of George Floyd, and had to scrap several episodes. “What?” And, yeah, that guy’s a dad now. Family first. “We’re all in touch and kind of discussing how you make a comedy show about police right now, and if we can find a way of doing that that we all feel morally okay about,” Samberg told People at the time. “This workplace is my family, was that not clear? NBC announced the police comedy was ending after its eighth season in February. Holt is my dad, you’re my mean older sister, Amy’s my mom,” Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta overshares to Stephanie Beatriz’s Rosa Diaz. Related

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Pop Smoke and Dua Lipa’s ‘Demeanor’ Video Gives Bridgerton Realness

Call that “je ne sais quoi” energy. 1. The video arrives days after Faith debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, making Pop Smoke one of just a few rappers to chart multiple posthumous albums at No. It’s complete with powdered wigs, frilly ruffs, and even a Pop Smoke appearance via a medieval tableau, but it’s Lipa who steals the show when she crashes the party in a shimmering dress. 1 Album With Faith

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Tags: Despite the smooth, club-ready feel of the song, the video takes us back in time to a debauched full-costume party that gives major Bridgerton vibes. Related

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Pop Smoke Earns Second Posthumous No. Well, here’s one rapper Dua Lipa is still excited to be working with. The pop performer stars in the video for her Pop Smoke collaboration “Demeanor,” off the late Brooklyn drill star’s second posthumous album Faith.

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House of Gucci Posters Have Arrived

Photo: Vulture; Photos by MGM

Mamma mia! MGM Pictures has released posters for the highly anticipated film House of Gucci featuring the stars of the biopic: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto, and Al Pacino. The movie explores the family empire behind the fashion house, “spanning three decades of love, betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately murder.” Fans have been raving about Gaga and Driver’s looks for the film ever since the former posted a picture of the two on set back in March. pic.twitter.com/X3uqh2Iy1y— House of Gucci Movie (@HouseOfGucciMov) July 29, 2021

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Tags: Directed by Ridley Scott, House of Gucci is also based off the book ​The House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden and is slated to hit theaters November 24. stasera.

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Netflix to Satisfy Your Cravings for Sweet Tooth Season Two

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Tags: “We couldn’t be more excited to continue our collaboration with Netflix and keep following Gus and his friends on their extraordinary journey.” And we couldn’t be more excited to see how all those cliffhangers get resolved. and his production company Team Downey. “It’s been equally thrilling and heartwarming to experience how people around the world have been falling in love with our deer-boy,” Mickle said in a statement. The adaptation of the DC Comics series has been renewed for a second season at the streamer, per a press release. Alongside writer-director-showrunner Jim Mickle, the series is backed by executive producer Robert Downey Jr. Photo: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX/KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

Netflix is coming back for seconds of Sweet Tooth. The series, which premiered June 4, takes place in a world filled with human-animal hybrids after a pandemic (…), where many of the remaining humans want to kill the hybrids; it follows Gus, a deer-boy hybrid played by Christian Convery, on a quest for survival as he tries to find his mother.

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Hawkeye Aims for November Release on Disney+

Tags: It’s Marvel. #Hawkeye never misses 🏹 so don’t miss @JeremyRenner and @HaileeSteinfeld in this @EW exclusive first-look of Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye. Marvel, through an exclusive first look with EW, announced that their latest Disney+ series Hawkeye will debut later this year on November 24, just in time for the holidays. pic.twitter.com/8DnB18oSIk— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) July 29, 2021

Comic fans will recognize Bishop as part of the Young Avengers and from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s fantastic solo run of Hawkeye comics. What else would you expect? The announcement even came with our first official look at Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, complete with a bow and arrow in tow. Hawkeye, it’s time to let the women take over. In an interview with EW, Renner describes the 22-year-old Bishop as “a big Hawkeye fan” and “wonderfully annoying and equally charming.” We just love her already. Now give us the Florence Pugh–Hailee Steinfeld team-up we deserve. Good for her! The Original Series starts streaming Wednesday, November 24 on @DisneyPlus. Other than that, details are fairly scant. Photo: Marvel

It may be called Hawkeye, but it’s almost time for Jeremy Renner to move over, buddy! Thank you! But if Black Widow’s post-credit scene was any indication, we’ll also most likely be seeing Florence Pugh reprise her role as Yelena in Hawkeye as she hunts Renner’s Clint Barton down.

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Jodie Whittaker Regenerates Away From Doctor Who

Where? BBC America confirmed Whittaker’s impending regeneration on July 29; she will be appearing in a six-episode season airing this fall as well as a trio of new film-length specials next year. “Some people are capable of change, but it isn’t worth engaging with, necessarily.” In a new statement, Whittaker praised the “brilliant adventures, worlds, and wonders” she got to experience over the years, in addition to the “incredible stories” penned for her by the writers. When? Why? I wonder if their mothers would be proud of that comment,” she said. Photo: James Pardon/BBC Studios

Thirteen, exterminated. Call your bookies now. What? Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker, the franchise’s first female lead, will be departing the show in 2022 along with showrunner Chris Chibnall. Related

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Tags: “I suppose I’d say, I think you have some internal issues that need addressing. Speaking with Vulture at the time, she expressed contempt for Doctor Who fans who weren’t accepting of a woman in the titular role. The race is on for 14. As the 13th Doctor, or the 5th Doctor in the show’s “modern” era, Whittaker made her debut with her various TARDIS companions in October 2018.

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