Photo: Courtesy of Sundance The Sundance Film Festival is once again upon us. Actors are becoming feature directors (Rupert Everett, Paul Dano, Ethan Hawke, Idris Elba). Comedies are being conflated with dramas. And Ann Dowd and Andrea Riseborough are lacing up their snow boots to walk to a lot of press events. (They will appear in a combined seven movies at the Park City fest.) Some new careers will be jump-started, while other industry veterans will acquire a fresh patina of indie credibility, and every movie will be racing to catch Sorry to Bother You , which has the inside lane on all other competitors in the U.S. Dramatic category. But why is it the front-runner when all we have are a bunch of brief plot synopses and some cast lists? Because, “In a speculative and dystopian not-too-distant future, black telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success — which propels him into a macabre universe.” The movie, which was written and directed by Boots Riley, also stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, and Omari Hardwick. Our apologies to everyone not involved in the making of Sorry to Bother , and we wish you all the best of luck in January. U.S. Dramatic Competition American Animals (Director and screenwriter: Bart Layton) — The unbelievable but mostly true story of four young men who mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious art heists in U.S. history. Cast: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd, Udo Kier. World premiere. Blaze (Director: Ethan Hawke) — A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement; he gave up paradise for the sake of a song. Cast: Benjamin Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Sexton. World premiere. Blindspotting (Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada) — A buddy comedy in a world that won’t let it be one. Cast: … [Read more...] about The 2018 Sundance Lineup Has Been Announced
As he’s done so often on The Late Show, Stephen Colbert went live after President Biden’s big speech. The President had his first joint address to Congress Wednesday night, and Colbert’s live monologue gave him the edge (and the clips) to break it down for us. Whereas Jimmy Fallon had to do an guestimate impression of what he thought the address might be like, Colbert was able to riff on the speech itself. Biden’s speech set forward ambitious goals for the country, including investing in science and increasing government aid to its citizens. Colbert included a supercut of every time Biden said “jobs,” which was incredibly, tediously, wondrously long. Colbert was also able to talk more specifically about the raid on Rudy Giuliani’s. Colbert unveiled a new title card with a fart sound effect, so you know the news is important. … [Read more...] about Watch Stephen Colbert’s Live Post-Biden Speech Monologue
L-R: Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Jonny Quest. Photo: Cartoon Network When most Americans of the last couple generations think back to when they first saw a Japanese animated television show, chances are it was after school, on an idiosyncratic, little programming block known as Toonami. Beginning on Cartoon Network on Monday, March 17, 1997, for two hours the channel was dedicated to action cartoons — Jonny Quest and Thundercats were on the first lineup, but so was giant-robot classic Voltron, and soon after, Robotech. They were later joined by Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, massive successes in their home countries, whose American dubbed versions had previously languished on Saturday mornings, often in heavily edited versions. On Toonami, they found their audience, and dozens of anime series — Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo! and later, One Piece and Naruto — found theirs as well. This was a time when it could be daunting and expensive (and often technically illegal) to access anime, and it was still a relatively niche interest in America. Toonami not only brought dubbed shows to basic cable, it also contextualized them in a world of hip-hop, DJ culture, comic-book sensibility, and starry-eyed sci-fi earnestness. Toonami was a full-fledged meta show, and as much an exercise in world-building as it was in curation, with multiple robotic hosts throughout the years, and subplots and running jokes in between Gorillaz music videos and Cowboy Bebop episodes. Toonami has gotten flack over the years from everyone from anti-dub anime purists to concerned parents, but it’s persisted as a labor of love. Former CN creative director Sean Akins and producer Jason DeMarco, who were originally brought on to figure out what to do with the channel’s stagnating after-school block, grew up on Voltron and the early space-opera import Star Blazers . DeMarco, now a senior vice president and creative director at Adult Swim, is still at the helm, and still … [Read more...] about How Toonami Became an Anime Gateway for Millennials
Photo: Apple The past week was bookended by two major developments pertaining to the rise of podcast subscriptions on the platform level, between Apple’s head-turning announcement last week and Spotify’s big detail push this morning. There’s a lot baked into each piece on its own and in relation to each other — too much for me to go over comprehensively — so I’m only going to go over what I think are the most important beats. During its spring event last Tuesday, Apple announced Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, a new set of features that will give podcast creators the opportunity to create premium or freemium subscription products for their shows over the Apple Podcasts platform, still widely understood to be a major driver of all consumption in the medium even as Spotify cranks up the competition for listen share. Creators can set their own pricing, and they’ll be able to sell subscriptions to individual shows or a group of shows. Those tools are expected to roll out to the general public next month. No beating around the bush here: This is a potentially tectonic development, given Apple’s historical status as a highly influential though fairly hands-off ward of the podcast ecosystem. From a platform standpoint, the story of the last few years was defined by Spotify actively taking a hatchet to Apple’s position as the default center of the podcast universe while Apple mostly stood still. Strategically, Apple Podcasts was thought to be in a tricky in-between space: Podcasting wasn’t big enough to warrant much focus from the trillion-dollar corporation housed in a spaceship, but the notion of Apple potentially losing its dominant position over an increasingly hot media category — one that it had inadvertently cultivated — is certainly troublesome. The way I see it, Apple Podcasts’ push towards facilitating subscriptions is both a smart hedge and perhaps one of the few things the platform could do without directly distorting the balance of the … [Read more...] about Apple and Spotify Are Ready to Take Your Podcast Money
Peaceful protestor Abel Tesfaye. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TW The Grammys governing body voted to eliminate the use of anonymous expert committees on Friday, a process that has longed spurred controversy. The anonymous committees, made up of music professionals, review 61 of the 84 categories, determining the nominees from selections made by the academy’s thousands of voters. Committees will no longer be used for the top four awards or genre categories, but remain for 11 “craft” categories for production, packaging, album notes, and more. The board of trustees also reduced the number of genre categories an academy member may vote on from 15 to 10 and added two new awards: Best Global Music Performance and Best Música Urbana Album. Ahead of this year’s Grammys, the Weeknd announced he was boycotting the awards going forward. “Because of the secret committees,” the Weeknd told The New York Times , “I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.” He joined a loud chorus of largely Black artists in hip-hop and R&B who have been shut out of general categories, locked in genre categories, or, in the case of his record-breaking album After Hours , completely snubbed . The legitimacy of the nominations process was called into question last year when Deborah Dugan , the academy’s former chief and first female president, accused committee members of having conflicts of interests. In one example from the legal complaint about her removal from the job, per the Times , an artist who was up for Song of the Year was allowed to sit on the committee and was further represented by a board member. Last year, the Grammys added a requirement that committee members sign disclosure forms noting connections or direct ties to nominees. These changes will take effect for next year’s 64th annual Grammy Awards on January 31, 2022. We’ll be there, but will the Weeknd? Sources new york times … [Read more...] about The Grammys Ditch Controversial Anonymous Nominating Committees
This year’s $205,000 consolation prize. Photo: Courtesy of Distinctive Assets Last weekend’s Oscars left us all with a few gifts — Daniel Kaluuya’s homage to sex , Youn Yuh-jung being Youn Yuh-jung , and that clip of Glenn Close dancing to “Da Butt ” — but some of stars went home with literal presents via an “Everybody Wins” gift bag from Distinctive Assets, a company that is unaffiliated with the Academy and in its 19th year of giving. While stars often receive gifts at other awards shows, the Oscars bags tend to attract special attention for their sheer opulence. Forbes estimated that this year’s freebies — which include celebrity-trainer workout sessions, a liposuction procedure, a three-night retreat on a Swedish island, and a card for a commemorative gold NFT of Chadwick Boseman’s head — total $205,000 a bag. For a chance at the exposure that a celebrity’s name can bring (and the annual fascination over what expensive things the rich people got this year), brands pay thousands to donate their products and services if they are chosen to be featured in the bag. While the Academy is no longer involved with the annual gift-giving, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, up until 2006, the organization played a key role in the gift-giving on Hollywood’s biggest night. Here’s the full history of the lavish gifting tradition, including a tax dispute with the IRS, a Bette Midler award loss, a lawsuit over trademark infringement, and a man known as the “Sultan of Swag.” In 1989, Taylor Swift was born, George H.W. Bush was sworn in as the 41st president, and, according to Reuters , the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was quietly beginning to give out thank-you gifts to the presenters and performers at its annual Oscars awards show. The practice continued for years, becoming increasingly competitive as brands (who were not charged a fee to donate) realized the power of celebrity exposure. One company told the LA Business Journal … [Read more...] about The 2021 Oscars Gift Bag Was Worth $205,000. How Did We Get Here?