What I Watched This Week: 25 Aug 2019

The Righteous Gemstones – “Is This the Man Who Made the World Tremble” (A-)
A nastier, funnier episode than the premiere. But then it pulls off one of the most jaw-dropping twists I’ve seen on TV in some time. Was not expecting anything like that, especially from this show.

The Righteous Gemstones – Pilot episode (B+)
Not quite as gut-busting as I was hoping, but still an extremely strong pilot. It knows what kind of show it wants to be. That’s just not the show I was expecting.

Schitt’s Creek – Season 1 (A- average)
A delightful, sweet fishes-out-of-water comedy that grows on you, just like the titular town.

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Streaming Picks: September 2019

Top Picks
Kicking and Screaming – Hulu and Prime 9/4
Ravenous – Hulu 9/1
Mouse Hunt – Prime 9/30
Superbad – Netflix 9/1

The world is literally on fire, so I’m recommending comedies to take your mind off that for a bit. First up is Superbad, which has had some imitators in the past 12 years, but no equals. Its dead-on portrayal of high school seniors in the mid-00s still feels authentic, while never being less than hilarious.

Then we’ve got two ’90s entries that I only recently discovered. Kicking and Screaming is a hilarious and sometimes self-lacerating portrait of a group of college students and the aimless year after they graduate. Who knew talking about pop culture minutiae instead of getting your shit together would feel so relevant? Ravenous had a troubled production and flopped hard in the legendary 1999, but its cult has grown over the years, thanks to the pitch-black comedy of a Union officer (Guy Pearce) stationed in remote California, who discovers a cannibal in his camp.

And then there’s the wild and wildly inappropriate Mouse Hunt, Gore Verbinski’s somehow PG-rated tale of two broke brothers and their attempts to restore the house they inherited. It’s pretty much a Tom and Jerry cartoon come to life, but with lots of jokes that are absolutely not for kids.

Recent Selections
After the Screaming Stops – Hulu 9/1
Bolden – Hulu and Prime 9/1
A Dog and Pony Show – Hulu 9/1
Monsters at Large – Hulu 9/1
Rebel in the Rye – Netflix 9/1
Red Dog: True Blue – Hulu 9/1
Turtle Tale – Hulu 9/1
Matriarch – Hulu 9/2
We Die Young – Hulu 9/3
The World We Make – Netflix 9/4
Article 15 – Netflix 9/6
Hotel Mumbai – Hulu 9/9
Norm of the North: King Sized Adventure – Netflix 9/9
Curious George: A Royal Monkey – Hulu 9/10
Head Count – Netflix 9/13
We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Netflix 9/14
Aniara – Hulu 9/19
Crypto – Hulu 9/19
Daddy Issues – Netflix 9/20
Furie – Netflix 9/25
Teen Spirit – Hulu 9/30

Untouchable – Hulu 9/2
Late Night – Prime 9/6
Tall Girl – Netflix 9/13
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates – Netflix 9/20
In the Shadow of the Moon – Netflix 9/27

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What I Watched This Week: 11 Aug 2019

Legion – “Chapter 27” (A-) / series finale
About as satisfying a wrap-up as a show this messy and ambitious could have. Whereas last year’s musical showdown (set to the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”) was a letdown, this year’s (set to Pink Floyd’s “Mother”) felt a lot more resonant and fulfilling. The ending doesn’t let David off the hook, but it does make right a lot of his mistakes. While this show was inconsistent, it was one of the most daring things on American TV.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Mayday” (A) / season finale
Last season’s rescue mission felt frustrating because June went back after all that effort to get her back. But this season justified it and then some, as she focused the energy she had to save her daughter (who’s now God knows where) on rescuing as many other stolen children as she could. The reunion of Kiki and her dad was one of the most emotionally overwhelming things I’ve seen on TV this year. And the show’s girl power moment felt earned, unlike the one in Avengers: Endgame.

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Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – 13 Aug 2019

With the announcement of a new Academy president (a casting director, no less), there’s buzz building that the Oscar will finally honor ensemble casts, or at least the casting director that helped pick them out. We’ll see if that actually becomes a category, but for now, we’ll stick with the usual.

The Farewell
Ford v. Ferrari
The Goldfinch
The Irishman
Just Mercy
The Laundromat
Little Women
Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Queen & Slim

The skinny: Starting with 10 this year, because there is absolutely no frontrunner at the moment, and only The Farewell and Once upon a Time in Hollywood have even been released so far. Most of these are premiering at Telluride, Toronto and/or Venice, so it would be very easy for one or more to get sunk by bad early buzz. Dry Run and The Last Thing He Wanted (both starring Anne Hathaway) don’t even have a firm release date, while Fair and Balanced certainly seems likely since Vice was a big player last year, but there’s been nary a peep about Showtime’s The Loudest Voice miniseries, which covers the same topic.

Sam Mendes, 1917
Lulu Wang, The Farewell
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim

The skinny: Is this finally the year the Academy nominates more than one woman here? It would certainly seem possible finally, especially since Greta Gerwig – already a nominee for Lady Bird – has a surefire contender in Little Women.

Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Robert De Niro, The Irishman
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Tom Hanks, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Daniel Kaluuya, Queen & Slim

The skinny: Tom Hanks hasn’t been nominated since Cast Away, despite consistently turning in great work. Playing Mr. Rogers seems like a lock, but recent history would suggest otherwise. And Antonio Banderas should finally get to call himself a nominee, especially if Pain and Glory hits as big as Roma.

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Brie Larson, Just Mercy
Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim
Renée Zellweger, Judy

The skinny: Unless it turns out to be a fiasco like The Birth of a Nation, Cynthia Erivo can go ahead and start writing her acceptance speech.

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What I Watched This Week: 4 Aug 2019

Legion – “Chapter 26” (A-)
Takes the “Baby Hitler” problem to its logical conclusion, as Sid has to argue with Kerry that killing infant David would be just as reprehensible as what David does as an adult. Meanwhile, in the past, David’s overconfidence once again portends horrific consequences. But I could have spent an entire season in this world. Give me a horror movie set in post-war Morocco with a charismatic villain with psychic powers.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Sacrifice” (B+)
June goes full Walter White, letting Eleanor die after an overdose. Is this the solution to her problem? If Breaking Bad taught us anything, it will actually create more problems. But I’m intrigued to see what happens to Fred and Serena next season, when they’ll presumably be prosecuted.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Liars” (A-)
One of the season’s best episodes, as June realizes she’s essentially on her own in her mission. Fred and Serena have a tender moment, as they imagine a world where they’re better off, without the dystopia they helped build. But it’s fleeting, because the episode ends with one of its biggest twists to date: She’s set him up to be arrested once they reach Canada.

Legion – “Chapter 25” (B+)
The biggest flex of the season, with the entire episode focused on an alternate reality where Sid doesn’t grow up too fast and live with an abuser. She’s kept safe by Melanie and Oliver from the Big Bad Wolf (special guest star Jason Mantzoukas) in a planter in New York City. Only this show would try something so audacious when we’re this close to the finale.

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Streaming Picks: August 2019

Top Picks
The Fifth Element – Prime 8/31
Idiocracy – Hulu 8/1
Jupiter Ascending – Netflix 8/1
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary – Hulu 8/16
It’s an all sci-fi month here, each offering something different. The Fifth Element is a colorful over-the-top adventure, featuring a dialed-to-11 performance by Gary Oldman. Idiocracy is the cult classic (that I actually saw in theaters!) that’s turned out to be frighteningly prescient. And Jupiter Ascending is possibly the last feature films the Wachowskis will ever get to make: a big, expensive space opera that’s often hilarious and obsessed with our place in the universe.

But the real gem is The Amazing Johnthan Documentary, which I saw at Sundance. It’s a wild ride about a comedian who’s never 100% honest, no matter whom he’s talking to.

Recent Selections
Non-Fiction – Hulu 8/2
The Kleptocrats – Hulu 8/5
Plus One – Hulu 8/6
The Swan Princess: Kingdom of Music – Hulu 8/6
The Beach Bum – Hulu 8/9
Andy Irons: Kissed by Gods – Prime and Hulu 8/9
Dogman – Hulu 8/15
Own the Sky – Hulu 8/15
Rattlesnakes – Hulu 8/15
Zoo-Head – Hulu 8/15
The Bookshop – Hulu 8/18
A Simple Favor – Prime and Hulu 8/22
Hail, Satan – Hulu 8/22
Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Prime and Hulu 8/23
Operation Finale – Hulu 8/23
Mapplethrope – Hulu 8/24
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Hulu 8/28
Body at Brighton Rock – Hulu 8/29

Otherhood – Netflix 8/2
Photograph – Hulu 8/16
In the Shadow of the Moon – Netflix 8/9
The Little Switzerland – Netflix 8/16
Sextuplets – Netflix 8/16
American Factory – Netflix 8/21
Jawline – Hulu 8/23
Falling Inn Love – Netflix 8/29
Kardec – Netflix 8/29
La Grande Classe – Netflix 8/30

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What I Watched This Week: 21 Jul 2019

Big Little Lies – “I Want to Know” (A-) / season finale
About as satisfying is possible, though of course the final shot is a tantalizing tease for an as-yet-unannounced Season 3. This season definitely had some issues, chief among them being why even do this? But it ultimately proved itself by being of consistently excellent. The first season’s theme was: You don’t really know your neighbors, even if you’re a nosy little shit. This season’s theme was: Your parents will fuck you up.

Legion – “Chapter 24” (A-)
An action-packed installment that still allows David to say goodbye to everyone along the way. Of course, his plan remains flawed, even in its revised form. That last shot is ominous, because even if he succeeds, something else will go wrong.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Witness” (A-)
“You made this world,” June tells Commander Lawrence. “How long did you think it would be before it came for you?” The horrors he subjected on Gilead force him to commit even more crimes (legal in the eyes of the state) to save his wife and the rest of his household. It’s a harrowing moment, and one that sets off the rest of the season. (Finally.)

“Chapter 20” (A-)
“Chapter 21” (B+)
“Chapter 22” (A)
“Chapter 23” (A-)
Season 2 got out in front of its skis a little, and crashed in trying to stick the landing. Season 3 so far has corrected significantly, nearing the highs of Season 1. This is all about consequences and the inability to change the past. The high point so far was the third episode, which focused on the tragic love story of David’s parents (yes, his father is Charles Xavier).

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What I Watched This Week: 15 Jul 2019

Big Little Lies – “The Bad Mother” (B+)
I’m firmly on Team Celeste after that part of the trial. Denis O’Hare gives an all-time evil lawyer performance as Mary Louise’s counsel. But all the ladies are on the verge of falling apart: Renata learns Gordon did the most cliche thing of all (slept with the nanny), Bonnie is ready to confess, Jane might also lose Ziggy to Mary Louise and Madeline might have seen her marriage slip away.

Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein (B-)
Generates more of a shrug and a “Huh?” than a lot of genuine laughs, but I’m glad someone is funding funny people’s weird ideas. Worth it for Harbour’s late-period Orson Welles impersonation.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Heroic” (B)
A bottle episode that sends June to the brink before pulling her back. A lot of it doesn’t work, but the scene between the doctor (guest star Gil Bellows) and June, where they talk about her suicidal (not homicidal, as she insists) thoughts and actions, snapped it into place.

Deadwood – Season 3 (A- average)
Another tremendous season, with Gerald McRaney as the big bad. Al mostly does the right thing all season, but while it’s a bit unsatisfying since we never got a fourth season, it stands as one of the bleakest endings for any American show. After fighting against the forces of evil, making alliances with other factions, they lose. Big time.

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What I Watched This Week: 7 Jul 2019

Big Little Lies – “Kill Me” (A)
“You’re drowning,” Bonnie’s mom tells her as she emerges from her coma. She’s not the only one. As Celeste and Jane try to find some normalcy with their recently suspended boys, it’s clear none of them are actually keeping their heads above water. And I don’t even know what sort of kinky shit Ed is about to get up to with the wife of the man Madeline cheated on him with.

Aziz Ansari: Right Now (B+)
I’m still wrestling with the non-apology apology at the beginning, but the bulk of the special is often quite hilarious, with Ansari’s trademark delivery skewering the Wokeness Olympics, as well as his own past material.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Unfit” (A)
I’m kind of alone on this island of thinking this seasons has been good, but this is the first truly great episode of the season, as we explore the past of Aunt Lydia, whose mind has been so warped by the philosophy of Gilead, she couldn’t even enjoy life. There was another path, where she could have been a great teacher, mentor and lover, but she chose darkness.

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2019 Emmy Picks: Limited Series and TV Movies

I have some time this summer, so I’m resurrecting this series where I try to predict who will be the nominees at this year’s Emmy Awards. With a lot of last year’s nominees ineligible, in theory it will be easy to predict who the Academy will make room for. But it probably won’t, especially in loaded categories like Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie. Check out my picks for the Limited Series and TV Movie categories below.

Chernobyl (HBO)
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Fosse/Verdon (FX)
Sharp Objects (HBO)
True Detective (HBO)
When They See Us (Netflix)

Potential Spoilers:
The Act (Hulu)
Catch-22 (Hulu)
Good Omens (Amazon)
I Am the Night (TNT)
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC)
Maniac (Netflix)
A Very English Scandal (Amazon)

In my dreams: N/A

The skinny: Despite a lot of acclaimed shows, this is down to two that premiered in late May: HBO’s Chernobyl and Netflix’s When They See Us. Both are big downers with extreme attention to detail about real-life tragedies. Chernobyl has the lead, simply because more people have actually seen it, but this will be close.

Fionn Whitehead in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (Netflix)
Brexit (HBO)
Deadwood (HBO)
King Lear (Amazon)
Native Son (HBO)

Potential Spoilers:
Icebox (HBO)
O.G. (HBO)

In my dreams: N/A

The skinny: Black Mirror has won the last two years, so I’m not expecting that to change now, especially with the technical accomplishment of Bandersnatch.

Mahershala Ali in True Detective
Mahershala Ali, True Detective
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Benicio Del Toro, Escape at Dannemora
Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal
Anthony Hopkins, King Lear
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon

Potential Spoilers:
Benedict Cumberbatch, Brexit
Peter Dinklage, My Dinner with Hervé
Jamie Foxx, Live in Front of a Studio Audience
Woody Harrelson, Live in Front of a Studio Audience
Jonah Hill, Maniac
Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us
John Malkovich, Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders
Ian McShane, Deadwood
Ashton Sanders, Native Son
Michael Shannon, The Little Drummer Girl
Alexander Skarsgard, The Little Drummer Girl
Jeffrey Wright, O.G.

In my dreams: Timothy Olyphant, Deadwood

The skinny: An extremely stacked category, but this is Ali’s to lose. He’s tremendous in the role, and just won an Oscar for being the only good part of Green Book.

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects
Amy Adams, Sharp Objects
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora
Joey King, The Act
Florence Pugh, The Little Drummer Girl
Emma Stone, Maniac
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Potential Spoilers:
Connie Britton, Dirty John
Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us
Niecy Nash, When They See Us

In my dreams: Paula Malcomson or Molly Parker, Deadwood

The skinny: While Adams has had this locked down since last summer, a late surge from Patricia Arquette and Michelle Williams could mean she loses yet another award. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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