This week came in like a lamb as the Emmys season ended (although for many viewers, the show never began) and went out like a lion as critics lost their minds at the press screenings of Martin Scorsese’s New York Film Festival opener-turned-legit-Oscar-candidiate “The Irishman.” (Unsurprisingly, it topped our list of NYFF must-sees. Both Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson loved it.) As weekly bookends go, it’s a pretty accurate portrait of what the entertainment world looks like right now, and it’s one with no shortage of contradictions.
The annual Fall TV preview is always a massive undertaking, and this time Ann Donahue’s team had the task of narrowing down the list of hot new shows from the gale-force tsunami of TV content headed our way. At this point, Hollywood can recite the incoming streamers with nursery-rhyme familiarity — Apple+, Disney+, Peacock and more! — but no one knows entirely what to expect once they make themselves at home. Where will loyalties lie? What’s the human capacity for remembering which show is where, and the patience for toggling between platforms? Can Netflix possibly retain its dominance? (Its slipping stock price really, really hopes so.) How much TV can any household really watch, and what fresh hell will the 2020 Emmy ballot bring?
And then there was Zack Sharf’s gallery devoted to the epic movies that didn’t happen. (I’d forgotten that David Fincher nearly made “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” but couldn’t convince the studio that Brad Pitt was better for the job than Chris Hemsworth.) Of course, epic movies do still happen — but as with Netflix’s “The Irishman,” increasingly that looks like the domain of streamers rather than theaters. Not only is it impossible to imagine many of these properties ever finding studio traction today, the list of abandoned projects is also poised to grow much, much longer in the months to come as development slates are cleared to favor only the most sure-fire IP.
As of this week, we’ve seen exactly one original, non-horror studio film, based on entirely fictional characters and circumstances, break into the year’s top 25 domestic releases: the Universal comedy “Good Boys,” which currently stands at $78 million. Second place goes to the Warner Bros. romantic comedy “Isn’t It Romantic,” which it released in February to $48.8 million. That’s not to diminish the $178 million for Jordan Peele’s “Us,” or $138 million for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but the delineation shows how far we’ve come (or dropped, as the case may be). Nor is this trend limited to studio films; as an American Film Market survey noted, an indie film based on an adaptation is three times as likely to secure a large theatrical release (and AFM defines “large” as making over $100,000 at the box office).
What else did this week bring? Well, there was the story of the racist CVS ranter who turned out to be a costume designer, and how a fellow union member is working to see that she’s expelled from Local 705. With the release of “Judy,” Oscar season has begun. (And check out Anne’s interview with serious contender Renee Zellweger.) Chris O’Falt has a great deep dive on iPhone cinematography, and another on the life rights behind “Hustlers.” Speaking of adaptations, check out Ben Travers’ piece about sitcom revivals: How long can the same pieces that worked before continue to draw viewers?
You might like to read about how a gay bar was invented for “Downton Abbey.” Or listen to Anne and Eric Kohn’s podcast “Screen Talk,” where they parse what we really can expect from “Joker” next week.
We’ve also got a lot of reviews for this week’s new and returning TV shows: Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” from Netflix, Robert and Michelle King’s “Evil” on CBS, and Fox’s “Prodigal Son,” starring Michael Sheen as a serial killer. Returning is NBC’s “The Good Place” in its final season, and the musical finale of Jill Soloway’s Amazon series, “Transparent.”
And don’t forget our reviews of films opening this weekend: Universal’s animated “Abominable,” Oscar bait “Judy” from Roadside Attractions, Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix movie “The Laundromat,” Doug “most hated man in Britain” Morris’ “The Day Shall Come” via IFC, A24’s “The Death of Dick Long,” Takashi Miike’s “First Love” via Well Go USA, and Fatih Akin’s “The Golden Glove” from Strand. (Our preview, here.)
Finally, best wishes for Kevin Feige: Between Star Wars, Spider-Man, and the MCU, he’s carrying the weight of at least two galaxies on his shoulders.
Have a great weekend, and see you next week.
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