What I Watched This Week: 10 Nov 2019

NEW SHOWS
Watchmen – “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” (B+)
As the season shifts into full procedural mode, it goes from astonishing to merely exceptional. Still, the show has plenty of awe-inspiring WTF moments, including whatever Lady Trieu is building, “Lube Man,” and Will standing up and walking around.

Silicon Valley – “Hooli Smokes!” (A)
The series’ best episode in quite some time. The team pulls off a thrilling heist that saves Pied Piper (for now) and screws over Gavin, who, among his most recent awful deeds, cheated in a triathlon for charity.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “Paddy’s Has a Jumper” (B)
A funny but pointless bottle episode in which the only things that stick out are some extremely dark non sequiturs from Dee and Mac.

The Good Place – “The Funeral to End All Funerals” (A)
A thrilling conclusion to the season storyline, complete with a court case and several endearingly cheesy funerals. But this wouldn’t be The Good Place without another obstacle: the Judge is going to wipe out all of humanity and start over. I imagine next week is the last episode until 2020, so I’m sure I’ll be both happy and frustrated, like I am any time this show takes a break.

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Oscar Picks: 13 Nov 2019

The accelerated schedule for the next Academy Awards seems to have caught some studios off-guard. A late start can have more dire consequences than usual, and some awards hopefuls will miss a lot of precursors as they’re tinkering with the final product right up until the last possible minute. And some smaller studios have multiple award-worthy projects, but don’t have the resources to mount full campaigns for both. And then there are the films that are actually slotting their performers in the appropriate slots, but end up hurting the film’s chances overall.

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story
BEST PICTURE
1917
The Farewell
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Marriage Story
Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite
The Two Popes

Falling off: Ford v Ferrari, Just Mercy, Queen & Slim
Rising star: Bombshell
The skinny: Ford v Ferrari has plenty of good reviews and should be a decent hit at the box office, but I think voters may view it as a little too slight compared to the heavy themes of this slate. Also, now that Damon and Bale are properly being submitted as co-leads, neither is getting nominated. Thus, it seems highly unlikely this would be nominated for Best Picture and nothing else, so it’s looking more like this will only pick up a few technical nods. Just Mercy and Queen & Slim couldn’t be more timely, and both are made by people of color. But late openings and a lack of across-the-board raves have all but killed their buzz. The studios will have to work overtime now just to get an acting nod here or there. Bombshell is also a late arrival, but as more people see it, expect it to fit in where Vice did last year.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino and wife Daniella at the Cannes premiere of Once upon a Time in Hollywood
BEST DIRECTOR
Sam Mendes, 1917
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

Falling off: Melina Matsoukas
Rising star: Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory
The skinny: I feel pretty confident in this slate, though I think Baumbach is on the shakiest ground. It’s not that he’s undeserving, but his film is merely a drama featuring the best acting of the year, and he’s not considered a master of the form like three of these four (with the fourth a previous winner making one of the most technically complex films of the year). If Pain and Glory picks up more traction, expect to hear more about Pedro getting his first nod here since 2002’s Talk to Her.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
BEST ACTOR
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Falling off: Daniel Kaluuya
Rising star: Taron Egerton, Rocketman
The skinny: It’s a crowded year, but I think this is probably our slate. Now, Paramount and Elton John have been hosting a number of well-attended screenings and events for Rocketman, and as more voters see it there, on screeners or just on VOD, the same people who were impressed enough by Rami Malek to give him the award last year will likely be even more impressed with Taron Egerton’s performance.

Renée Zellweger in Judy
BEST ACTRESS
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Falling off: Jodie Turner-Smith
Rising star: Alfre Woodard, Clemency
The skinny: Best Actress doesn’t have as much competition this year, so I feel pretty confident in these five. Alfre Woodard got raves for her turn in Clemency, but it’s also arriving after Christmas and Neon will be focused on Parasite. It’s her and Awkwafina currently on the outside looking in.

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What I Watched This Week: 3 Nov 2019

NEW SHOWS
Watchmen – “She Was Killed by Space Junk” (A)
Jean fucking Smart. That’s it. That’s the entire review.

Silicon Valley – “Blood Money” (A-)
Gilfoyle finally meets his match in the form of the HR rep who cracks open his entire worldview and defeats his procrastination by merely forcing him to manage people, the thing he hates the most. Meanwhile, Richard faces a true moral dilemma as he finally gets an investor, but one who’s truly evil. This should give some true stakes for its final episodes.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Solves Global Warming” (A-)
A brief but hilarious exploration of the climate crisis, with Paddy’s serving as a microcosm of the entire world, with greedy people taking more and more as resources dwindle and the population grows, relegating minorities to a trash heap as the waters rise. And then you’ve got Dee thinking she’s helping by taking Uber and wearing recycled shoes. It’s almost perfect.

The Good Place – “Help Is Other People” (A)
“Baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time.” Their test is over, but it remains to be seen if the humans (particularly the awful Brent) have learned anything. The show expertly ends on cliffhangers without feeling like they’re just stringing us along.

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What I Watched This Week: 27 Oct 2019

NEW SHOWS
Watchmen – “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” (A-)
The show answers a lot of the questions raised in the first episode, but then raises a whole lot more. “What the fuck,” indeed, Angela.

Silicon Valley – “Artificial Lack of Intelligence” (B) / season premiere
While the Guilfoyle-Dinesh stuff still makes me laugh, something about the rhythm of this final season premiere felt off. Yet the show is more relevant than ever, as tech companies are constantly revealed to be privacy-destroying disseminators of garbage.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Janitor Always Mops Twice” (A)
One of the show’s best concept episodes, a pitch-perfect parody of film noir, with the show’s gross humor underscoring the entire thing. Any time Charlie is the main focus, it’s going to be an excellent episode.

The Good Place – “A Chip Driver Mystery” (A-)
The show gives Brent a chance to actually improve and he doesn’t exactly rise to the occasion. But in relaying the story to Bad Janet, and giving her her freedom, Michael may be bringing her over to the good side.

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Streaming Picks: November 2019, Part 2

With two new streaming services launching this month, I figured I’d break this preview out into two parts. The first covered the usual services (Netflix, Hulu, Prime) and this post will cover Disney+ and AppleTV+. December will be back to normal, but I’ll revisit in January which services to cover.

FILMS
Top Pick
Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 – Disney+ 11/12
Even under the mountain of content Disney will release on Disney+, there’s really nothing better than these two collections of shorts. While Millennials will head for the Disney Channel Original Movies and kids will go for the recent Pixar musicals, this is what I’m itching to rewatch.

Recent Selections
Captain Marvel – Disney+ 11/12
Dumbo – Disney+ 11/12

Originals
Dolphin Reef – Disney+ 11/12
The Elephant Queen – AppleTV+ 11/1
Hala – Apple TV+ 11/22
Lady and the Tramp – Disney+ 11/12
Noelle – Disney+ 11/12

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Streaming Picks: November 2019, Part 1

With two new streaming services launching this month, I figured I’d break this preview out into two parts. The first will cover the usual services (Netflix, Hulu, Prime) and the second will cover Disney+ and AppleTV+. December will be back to normal, but I’ll revisit in January which services to cover.

FILMS
Top Picks
A Simple Plan – Hulu 11/1
The Souvenir – Prime 11/14
Booksmart – Hulu 11/18
The Irishman – Netflix 11/27
The Report – Prime 11/29
First, I have to spotlight A Simple Plan, one of the greatest crime films ever. Bill Paxton and Brent Briscoe have sadly passed on, but their career-best work lives on. As I’ve written before, Billy Bob Thornton should have won the Oscar for playing Paxton’s pathetic brother, a portrait of loneliness and neediness that feels even more special today.

Then we’ve got two of the year’s best films: the riotously funny Booksmart and the absolutely devastating The Souvenir. I would recommend the latter first, and then rinsing the bitter taste out with the former.

Finally, Netflix and Prime have dueling Oscar hopefuls. The Irishman is Martin Scorsese’s $200 million crime epic, featuring De Niro, Pacino and Pesci together at last. The Report is Scott Z. Burns’ directorial debut, a docudrama about the publication of the report on the CIA’s use of torture in the years after 9/11. Neither will be a feel-good movie, but one is much more likely to be post-Thanksgiving fare.

Recent Selections
Overlord – Hulu and Prime 11/1
Framing John Delorean – Hulu 11/5
Undercover Brother 2 – Netflix 11/5
The Biggest Little Farm – Hulu 11/6
Burning Cane – Netflix 11/6
Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story – Hulu 11/6
Shadow – Netflix 11/6
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open – Netflix 11/7
Anna and the Apocalypse – Hulu and Prime 11/13
Romans – Prime 11/13
UglyDolls – Hulu 11/13
Instant Family – Hulu and Prime 11/14
Creed II – Hulu and Prime 11/15
Bottom of the 9th – Prime 11/15
The Tomorrow Man – Hulu 11/18
The Quiet One – Hulu 11/19
Dream Killer – Netflix 11/20
The Fanatic – Prime 11/20
Vita & Virginia – Hulu 11/22
Astronaut – Hulu 11/26
Meeting Gorbachev – Hulu 11/27
Mike Wallace Is Here – Hulu 11/28
Low Tide – Prime 11/30

Originals
American Son – Netflix 11/1
Drive – Netflix 11/1
Fire in Paradise – Netflix 11/1
Holiday in the Wild – Netflix 11/1
The King – Netflix 11/1
The Man Without Gravity – Netflix 11/1
The Devil Next Door – Netflix 11/4
Tune in for Love – Netflix 11/5
Let It Snow – Netflix 11/8
Paradise Beach – Netflix 11/8
Maradona in Mexico – Netflix 11/13
Earthquake Bird – Netflix 11/15
House Arrest – Netflix 11/15
Klaus – Netflix 11/15
Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word Is Power – Hulu 11/19
No hay tiempo para la verguenza – Netflix 11/19
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator – Netflix 11/20
Lorena, la de pies ligeros – Netflix 11/20
The Knight Before Christmas – Netflix 11/21
Mon frere – Netflix 11/22
Broken – Netflix 11/27
Holiday Rush – Netflix 11/28
Atlantics – Netflix 11/29
I Lost My Body – Netflix 11/29
The Christmas Prince: A Royal Baby – Netflix TBD

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What I Watched This Week: 20 Oct 2019

NEW SHOWS
The Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror XXX” (B)
I actually enjoyed each of the segments, even as I acknowledge this will never be as good as the old days. Put another way: I only rolled my eyes once or twice.

Watchmen – “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice” (A) / series premiere
One of the best pilots I’ve seen in a long time. It establishes an entirely new world, while still leaving you with tantalizing questions. Regina King is excellent as usual, but the rest of the cast is terrific in each of their roles. I have no idea where this will go next, and that’s truly exciting.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Texts” (A-)
The best episode of the season so far. Filled with great verbal and visual gags, it’s also the funniest. It also, kinda sorta, has a message to share. Nothing as profound as last season’s finale, of course, but there’s something there.

The Good Place – “Employee of the Bearimy” (A-)
Michael faces down his deepest fears in his biggest gambit yet, freeing Good Janet in the process and getting to gooify Vicki. As things go awry in the “Good Place,” the friendship between Eleanor and Tahani deepens. Fooooolllllleeeesssssss!

CURRENT SHOWS & SPECIALS
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (B+)
While a lot of the episode is, well, episodic, it’s ultimately extremely satisfying to see Jesse finally get a happy ending. Also, Scott MacArthur is 2019’s best dirtbag thief, between this and The Righteous Gemstones.

BINGEING
Better Call Saul – Season 3 (A- average)
The show finally, completely clicks for me, in some ways exceeding Breaking Bad. The strained relationship between Jimmy and Chuck is the real reason for this show to exist, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. And, of course, there’s the greatness of Rhea Seehorn, who’s even better than usual as Kim Wexler.

Schitt’s Creek – Season 5 (A- average)
I’m finally all caught up with the warmest, most delightful show on TV. I think Season 4 is probably still the show’s greatest batch of episodes, but this has the only moment that’s actually made me tear up: Patrick’s proposal to David, which comes at the end of a frustrating day, which makes it feel even more real.

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What I Watched This Week: 13 Oct 2019

NEW SHOWS
The Righteous Gemstones – “Better Is the End of a Thing than Its Beginning” (A) / season finale
A genuinely moving finale that also provided the biggest laughs of the season. The story Edi Patterson tells about Judy’s one past relationship enters the pantheon of great TV monologues, right up there with Jason Alexander’s story of George rescuing a whale on Seinfeld. This was a self-contained season, but it ended so strong that I’m excited to see where they take it next year.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Chokes” (B+)
There’s a fucked-up O. Henry vibe to this episode, as the put-upon waiter they frequently encounter saves the life of both Frank and Dee and the former repays him in a way that completely derails the semi-peaceful life he had. But there’s also a Phantom Thread parody going on in the background between Mac and Dennis that’s pretty amazing as well.

The Good Place – “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy” (A-)
The first great episode of the season, as Glenn arrives from the Bad Place to sow discord among the group by trying to convince the gang that Michael is actually Vicky in a Michael suit. We may never know the real answer, but the Michael that’s present proves himself worthy, and Jason and Michael are now headed off on an adventure to the real Bad Place to try to level the playing field that Shawn has tried to screw with yet again.

BINGEING
Schitt’s Creek – Season 4 (A- average)
The show’s best season yet, as David and Alexis finally find true love. To quote the great Tina Turner, it’s simply the best.

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What I Watched This Week: 6 Oct 2019

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Phoebe Waller-Bridge/Taylor Swift” (B+)
A mostly successful episode thanks to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s deft maneuvering in playing all different types of characters. “Mid-Day News” was probably the best non-political/non-game show sketch they’ve done in a very long time.

The Righteous Gemstones – “But the Righteous Will See Their Fall” (A-)
My favorite episode since the big reveal at the end of Episode 2. Gideon chooses not to implicate his dad in the robbery, leaving Jesse to confess on his own, which sets off a whole string of chaos. Judy goes apeshit after B.J. refuses to reconcile, and Kelvin sinks into a drunken state of depression. It’s a bad time for everyone, but makes for a great episode.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “Dee Day” (B)
One of the grosser episodes the show has done, leaning hard into offensive stereotypes (on purpose). But it’s all worth it for the last five minutes, when Dee reveals herself as a mastermind.

South Park – “Shots!” (A-)
One of the show’s best episode in a while, this one takes on anti-vaxxers in its typical absurdist way. That ending is absolutely perfect.

The Good Place – “Chillaxing” (B+)
The Soul Squad has to adjust on the fly, as their tactics fail to work on the new foursome. Tahani has to have genuine connection with her earthly archnemesis, and Eleanor has to put Chidi in an uncomfortable position despite her affection for him. But those decisions put half the new group on the path to becoming a better person.

CURRENT SHOWS
South Park – “Band in China” (B+)
The best part of South Park has been its ability to instantly react to the news of the day. But in a rare turn of events, an episode ends up anticipating the news of the day. Airing just before Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors ended up costing the NBA millions of dollars, this feels like an extremely savvy take

BINGEING
Schitt’s Creek – Season 3 (A- average)
The show grew even more delightful and heartfelt in its final stretch, as Alexis finally graduates high school and David finally opens his store, and kisses Patrick.

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Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – 13 Oct 2019

BEST PICTURE
1917
The Farewell
Ford v. Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Just Mercy
Marriage Story
Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Queen and Slim

Falling off: The Goldfinch, The Laundromat, Little Women
Rising star: The Two Popes
The skinny: The Goldfinch famously flopped. The Laundromat got mixed reviews and some mild controversy for a scene in which Meryl Streep dons brownface. And then there’s Little Women. It’s only problem seems to be premiering too late in the game. It won’t premiere at any festivals, and its Christmas Day opening might be a death sentence as far as awards are concerned, unless they get some early critics screenings going. It’s a problem that may also befall Queen and Slim, which will premiere at AFI Fest in November, only a couple weeks before its wide release. I’m leaving it as a major contender for now, but a month could really change things.

BEST DIRECTOR
Sam Mendes, 1917
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Melina Matsoukas, Queen and Slim

Falling off: Lulu Wang
Rising star: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
The skinny: This seems like a mostly concrete lineup. If Queen and Slim doesn’t hit like I’ve been predicting, Bong Joon-ho could certainly take Matsoukas’s spot, even if Parasite doesn’t have any other major nominations. It’s certainly past time for Bong to get serious stateside recognition.

BEST ACTOR
Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Falling off: Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks (moved to supporting)
Rising star: Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
The skinny: Another line-up I’m feeling strong in, despite a long list of guys just below this initial five. And while Uncut Gems has gotten mostly raves, it still feels super weird to talk about Academy Award nominee Adam Sandler. While this certainly has a higher profile than Good Time, that got a whopping zero nods. The Safdies are an acquired taste, and I don’t think it’s one voters will acquire any time soon. A24 will have to campaign hard for this to happen.

BEST ACTRESS
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Falling off: Brie Larson (moved to supporting)
Rising star: Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
The skinny: Feeling like an oddly thin year for lead actress performances, so I’m not expecting much movement here. Saoirse could still get in if the film gets more momentum. She’s clearly well-liked, as she’s already gotten three nods before the age of 25.

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