Monday July 8, 2019

At most I would say I was mildly entertained by season 3 of Stranger Things. If you wanted to bail on the show, I can’t say I’d blame you. That said, a lot more below because my presumption is that my opinion is in the minority.

Still working my way through a Friday Night Lights rewatch. One of the better casting decisions of this century was Glen Morshower play the role of Landry Clarke’s (Jesse Plemons) father.

Helluva way to end last night’s episode of Big Little Lies.

Euphoria remains a very tough watch, but one that I will stick with.

Here’s a trailer for Jim Gaffigan’s new Amazon stand up special. It will be available to stream on August 16.

MLB’s Home Run Derby airs tonight on ESPN.

Showtime’s Julian Edelman doc was fantastic.

Zion Williamson’s NBA Summer League debut garnered ESPN a 1.2 rating on Friday night. Not bad for a game that is less meaningful than a pre-season game.

CBS has canceled Ransom.

Love Island premieres on CBS tomorrow. Here’s a bit more on this surefire train wreck.

The Ringer has an annoying TV kids bracket.

I had to read this twice. “Michael Sugar’s Sugar23 and advertising and representation agency DMA United are partnering with Nelson Mandela’s family to launch Mandela Media to develop long and short-form content under the Mandela Media banner. The partnership also will be responsible for production, branding and initiatives pertaining to creative business development. Under the pact, Mandela Media will create content connected to the overall intent and passion of Nelson Mandela, known for standing for freedom, forgiveness and the voice of the underdog. Through the Mandela Media banner, Mandela’s family will seek stories from around the world that fit with the core ethos of who he was and what he continues to represent, focusing on racial inclusion and equality, gender equality, mental health awareness and social justice.”

"Floribama Shore won't have any shortage of drama for its upcoming third season, 'cause one of their stars was arrested this weekend for some truly wild s*** down in the Panhandle. Nilsa Prowant -- who's been a regular on the Jersey Shore MTV spin-off for the past couple seasons -- got taken in by cops early Saturday morning in St. Petersburg after allegedly flashing onlookers in public ... and then kicking in a car window. Quite the night! According to the arrest report, obtained by TMZ, Nilsa was observed by officers -- and a large crowd -- revealing her breasts from a balcony, telling folks down below to sneak a peek. The report says that Nilsa was told she had to beat it after that, but cops say she became belligerent and erratic. They also say that once she got into a car for a ride home, she started to lose it ... allegedly kicking the rear driver side window, until it shattered. That was the last straw, it seems -- witnesses say one cop said, She was arrested and booked for disorderly conduct and exposure of sexual organs -- both misdemeanors. Funny enough, it sounds like the cops were gonna let her slide for the alleged peep show ... but couldn't ignore the busted window. Go figure. Officers note in their report that there was an indication she was under the influence.” NO WAY!

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From Vulture: “Shiv Roy would so not put up with this. ‘Did you know that AT&T doesn’t work in Greenpoint? It’s like you literally cross past McCarren Park and then it cuts out,’ says Sarah Snook, who plays the skeptical, implacable, yet oddly sympathetic media heiress Shiv Fucking Roy (as the character puts it on her wedding day, while wearing her wedding dress, to her side piece, Nate, who dared challenge her on one of her schemes) on the HBO series SuccessionBut I’m meeting Snook far from the show’s usual corporate-power-and-family-money locations. On a day when they aren’t filming, the 31-year-old Australian expat wanted to get lunch near her apartment in tweeist Brooklyn. She’s been living there while filming the show’s second season, with two roommates — a married couple, good friends of hers — her ukulele, and, apparently quite happily, no reliable cell signal. ‘I’ve really committed to the artisanal lifestyle,’ she says.

“At the end of the first season, the character, who worked outside the family business as a political consultant, operated as more of an acerbic observer, a one-woman Statler and Waldorf to the farcical family scrum. But when the show returns in August, the narrative spotlight will be more on Shiv. ‘From the first episode’ of season two, ‘people can see that Shiv is going to be more central,’ confirms the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong. This time around promises to have Shiv bullying her way past her rivals, including her feckless brothers, Kendall (the needy druggie struggling to be the Man, played by Jeremy Strong) and Roman (the broken ADD jester struggling to shirk all responsibility while maintaining his princeling status, played by Kieran Culkin). Not to mention her mysterious stepmother, Marcia, played by Hiam Abbass, and various outside corporate threats. The question of the show’s title is who will inherit the crown tottering on the head of the right-wing warrior-mogul and patriarch Logan Roy, played by Brian Cox, who is losing his marbles.

“But for all the comparisons to Elisabeth Murdoch and Shari Redstone and others that give the character seeming topicality, it’s Snook’s slyly selfish portrayal of her that makes Shiv so compelling. You might have missed Snook in the 2014 Ethan Hawke sci-fi film Predestination, in which she played a time-traveling intersex detective named the Unmarried Mother (the plot’s a bit confusing to summarize, but — spoiler — Snook had to watch Hawke’s movies from the 1990s to understand how to walk as he did as a young man), and it might take a second to recall her as Apple’s relentless PR person in 2015’s Steve Jobs or, the next year, as a storm trooper hunting the genetically inferior in the Black Mirror episode Men Against Fire, and, let’s face it, most of us didn’t make it to London in 2016 to see her perform opposite Ralph Fiennes in The Master Builder. But her Shiv is impossible to forget.

“When we meet in Greenpoint, Snook is dressed in a jean jacket, white-framed mirrored sunglasses, and Docs, without a hint of don’t-you-know-who-I-am (and nobody seemed to). We sit in the backyard of a mutedly fussy café with monkey-and-bird wallpaper, ‘BOWLS!’ on the menu, and a pressed-tin ceiling. She lets me order us a large slice of cake and proceeds to tell me her wry, somewhat giddy life story.

“Snook might portray a derisive avatar of the impatient, overcooked ruling class, but she is not of that world. She grew up in Adelaide, which is where, incidentally, the Murdochs got their start owning newspapers. She’s the daughter of a swimming-pool salesman and an elder-care provider, and her first gig in showbiz — if you can call it that — was playing a fairy at children’s birthday parties.

“‘My maternal grandmother was British,’ Snook says, ‘and she immigrated to New Zealand by accident,’ after being stuck in South Africa just as World War II was starting. She had been an actress in London during the 1930s. So acting was in Snook’s blood? ‘It skipped a generation,’ she says, but what didn’t was a sense of adventure. When her grandmother died, she left money for Snook’s mother to go traveling, and she met Snook’s father in Papua New Guinea. The couple ‘bred these three adventurous women,’ Snook and her sisters, who ended up scattered around the globe (one lives in London, the other in Papua New Guinea).

“After Snook’s parents divorced, her mother ran a boardinghouse adjacent to the school her sisters went to, which Snook refused to attend because it was girls only. Instead, she got a partial scholarship to a school with a solid performing-arts program. One of her teachers encouraged her to apply to the National Institute for the Dramatic Art, Australia’s version of Juilliard. Her application was a speech of Portia’s from The Merchant of Venice (‘The quality of mercy is not strained; / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven’) as well as something Patti Smith did in Cowboy Mouth. Initially, she didn’t get in; a place for her opened up after someone dropped out. (‘I tracked him down and broke his leg,’ she says jokingly, though it’s probably what Shiv would hire someone to do.)

“There is a certain charmed, woke-backpacker aspect to Snook. Her Instagram has lots about how bad plastic is (‘Every piece of plastic ever created still exists on the planet today,’ she’s posted — she’s not wrong about that). Just after the 2016 election, she declared, ‘Forgive me, I’m jet-lagged. This is a nightmare, right? Wake me when the Kardashians are in control of the U.N.’ Early this year, on Australia Day, she posted a tart, wan Aboriginal fable about the irony of celebrating colonization. (‘So … my house got broken into. And then they stayed. Weird, huh? They let me stay, too, but I’m sort of in the corner of the living room, near the back door?’) You could imagine her supporting a real-life Gil Eavis, the leftist politician Shiv is trying to co-opt/get elected.

“Snook seems delighted that things are working out as well as they have so far, and she prefers to process her success by framing it as various things the universe has bestowed on her. Thinking back, she says, ‘It didn’t really seem accessible or feasible to go into the TV-film stuff. You know, in little old Adelaide … to pretend to be other people for a living.’ And yet here she is. Despite having already won two AACTA awards — a kind of Australian equivalent of the Oscars and Emmys — when she was auditioning for Succession, she told GQ that she assumed, ‘Eh, this is out of my league. I’ll just come and do it and get out of here. Free trip to L.A. for a weekend and see my friends. This’ll be great.’

“At another point, she tells me, ‘I peaked way too soon. Did all the things: I’ve been the lead female and the lead male and female in a real character piece. With, like, an amazing lead actor opposite’ — a reference to Predestination. ‘So I really just … ruined myself now,’ she jokes. In any case, ‘one of my best mates went and saw [Predestination] in the cinema, and two women apparently in front of him, at the end, were like, “Oh, that was great. Jodie Foster was amazing as a man.” Was that a compliment to her or to me? Or an insult?’ Snook seems to be having enough fun to get away with a hint of underplayed modesty.

“I get asked this question a lot: Does she love Tom? Or, like, why is she with Tom?

“Season one of Succession ends with Shiv’s marriage to Tom, a smitten social climber played with furious beta-maleness by Matthew Macfadyen. Theirs is one of the most interesting dynamics on TV right now, and Snook plays it with a disciplined mix of arrogant disregard and guarded vulnerability. Shiv seems to adore Tom as an inferior, casually toying with him like a cat. What other character would, on her wedding day, admit to her doting new husband — who has just declared, ‘I know that you’re hard and you’re tough, but I want to be in. I want to be in on you’ — that she’s been having an affair? And that it likely won’t be her last? ‘I’m just not sure I’m a good fit for a monogamous marriage,’ Shiv says. Snook’s performance is discomfiting; Shiv is being honest about her brutally contradictory needs. Snook makes you empathize with Shiv, even as her character lacks much empathy for anyone else.

“‘I get asked this question a lot: Does she love Tom?’ Snook says. (She herself is single, having recently gotten out of an eight-year relationship.) ‘Or, like, why is she with Tom? And I feel like, really down deep, he’s the only one who’ll always be there unconditionally. She could treat him like dirt, and actually she probably has a great wealth of love and respect for him, but it’s far too vulnerable to show that. There’s not a lot of physical affection between Tom and Shiv, which is not something that we’d planned on … It just sort of happened that way, and then it seemed to be the right choice.’

“Macfadyen, for his part, loves the abuse. One of his favorite scenes takes place in a car right before their wedding, as Tom floats the idea of his taking her last name. ‘She gives me this look as if I have three heads,’ he tells me, laughing. ‘It’s delicious.’

“Armstrong says he invented Shiv in part because she worked as a political consultant and ‘I wanted an easy way into the political sphere.’ Plus it helped to have someone in the family ‘not involved in the day-to-day mechanics of the firm,” which gave her some ability to see the nutty proceedings from a slight remove (which perhaps also explains how Shiv’s WTF side-eye became so iconic). He adds, however, that this is “a quite mechanical way of thinking of her,’ and explains that ‘the idea of accumulation and spending of capital: emotional business capital,’ runs throughout Succession. And Shiv is the ‘uncatchable fish,’ a master of accruing such power. That aloofness is part of why her father, Logan, respects her despite her not being a boy. ‘He has his prejudices, but he also has a brutal regard for people who are effective. Effectiveness trumps other prejudices.’

“Snook wants to tell me a story about meeting Patti Smith — ‘I summoned her like a shaman’ — that she seems to think explains a lot about how her life works, and works out. It goes back a few years, when Snook was just out of nida (from which she graduated in 2010 and — remember — for which she auditioned with a Smith monologue). She was 25 or 26 and had filmed The Dressmaker with Kate Winslet before being cast in Steve Jobs (both came out in 2015). She read a biography of Judi Dench over Christmas and was thinking, Fuck, I want to do theater. How do I go about this? ‘I just said to the universe, “I want to do theater,”’ she says. She’d gone to the U.K. for her sister’s wedding, and her agent called and asked, ‘Can you go for a read since you’re in London?’ The meeting with the casting director was at a hotel near Covent Garden. And though she hadn’t done theater since she was in an Australian-seaside production, she got the part, opposite Ralph Fiennes in The Master Builder. Such good luck ‘shouldn’t be allowed; it’s silly,’ she says convincingly.

“And here’s where the universe being open to her doing well comes back into the picture: When she was doing the play, her boyfriend gave her Patti Smith’s memoir M Train, and one day as she read the book, she realized that Smith had not only stayed in the same hotel in which Snook was cast but had been, according to the memoir, reading The Master Builder at the time, in the same library room she’d been cast in. Spooky!

“But there’s more: Later, in her dressing room, she was relating this story to a friend — when there was a knock at the door. It was Patti Smith. Snook and her friend must have seemed shocked, because Smith looked at them as if they were up to no good. ‘She goes, “You all right?”’ Snook remembers. ‘And then she drifts off into the night.’”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “[i]t's the end of an era.

“Following a 16-year run, Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book series has ended with this week's issue. The shocking end — Kirkman and his Image-based Skybound banner solicited orders for additional issues in a bid to keep the ending a surprise — brings to a close the source of what has become a multibillion-dollar franchise.

“With the satisfying conclusion — the comics jump decades into the future to reveal an adult Carl, married to childhood sweetheart Sophia and with a daughter named Andrea — Kirkman now will be left with a massive hole in his schedule as he turns his attention to other projects. (And likely a well-deserved break.)

“Even without The Walking Dead comics to work on, Kirkman's plate remains extremely full. The Skybound head, who wrapped up his Invincible comic in 2018, also has ongoing titles including Die! Die! Die! (co-created alongside The Walking Dead chief creative officer Scott M. Gimple), Oblivion Song and Outcast. The latter comic, which spawned a two-season drama series at Cinemax — will end later this year with issue 48.

“On the television side, Kirkman remains involved in all things Walking Dead at AMC. That includes the flagship series (which returns for its 10th season in October), the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead (currently in the midst of its fifth season) and the recently announced third scripted series in the franchise. (The untitled drama will revolve around two young female protagonists and focus on the first generation to come of age in the apocalypse.) What's more, star Andrew Lincoln will topline a series of three stand-alone movies for AMC as Gimple plots even more new entries into the franchise. Kirkman executive produces all three series, as well as post-show Talking Dead.

“Meanwhile, Kirkman also is busy prepping an animated take on his comic Invinciblewhich is set up at Amazon Studios. Kirkman — who is among those suing AMC for profits related to The Walking Dead — exited his longtime home at the basic cable network for a lucrative pact at Amazon Studios in August 2017. With Invincible, Kirkman will reteam with Walking Dead grad Steven Yeun on the eight-episode, hourlong adult-focused animated series.

“On the feature side, Kirkman has a first-look deal with Universal Pictures and has a live-action take on Invincibleset up for the big screen with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Preacher) attached to write, direct and produce. Kirkman's Skybound will also produce. (Invincible was Kirkman's second-longest running comic behind The Walking Dead.) Kirkman's Oblivion Song comic is also in the works as a feature film at Universal.

“Skybound also has a number of other titles in various stages of development for both TV and film. On the TV side, Skybound is teaming with Entertainment One for 5 Year, a drama about the five years before a fatal meteor hits the Earth. A network is not yet attached. The company also optioned the Top Cow comic Eclipse for series development (a network is not yet attached).

“So while this is the end of the Walking Dead comics, the franchise — and Kirkman — show no signs of slowing down anytime soon (especially with multiple Walking Dead novels and video game titles).”

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From EW: “Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven probably had the biggest season to date on Stranger Things 3. And I’m not even counting her discovery of scrunchies, bold prints, and The Gap.

“The telekinetic teen fell in and out of love with Mike, found a new best friend with Max (Sadie Sink), suffered a truly wicked monster bite, seemingly lost her adopted father Hopper (David Harbour) and may no longer be superpowered. That’s a lot for one summer.

EW talked to Brown about ST3, the hardest scene she shot and filming that big group goodbye:

You are REALLY put through the wringer this season. Was this your hardest year emotionally and physically?
Oh, 1000 percent. It was definitely the most difficult.

Was there a scene in particular that was most challenging?
Dacre Montgomery, who played Billy, is a method actor, so he really does walk around on set looking evil. And so, I’d say, the end of episode eight was probably one of the most difficult because physically we had to figure out how he’s going to climb on top of me and scream in my face, and how I was going to scream back in his face, and how to cry in those moments, and the specific lines and how to deliver them. It was a personal choice to touch his face at the end.

But I’d say the hardest thing for me to do is when the monster grabs my leg because I was lifted up into the air and I have to scream upside down, which was definitely a first.

You know the scenes where it looks like I’m falling? [When Eleven goes into Billy’s memories] I had to learn how to basically throw myself backwards and forwards for a few hours. And by the end of it, I was gagging because I was so nauseous, but it was the best. I loved it, I loved every second of it. But yes, stunt-wise, it was quite difficult this year.

I know you and Sadie are good friends so that must have been nice to get to play out Max and Eleven’s friendship.
Oh, yeah, Sadie’s a great girl, and it’s really fun to have two young female leads. I think we really worked well together as people and as a friendship, on and off the set, it really worked. So it was really easy.

Eleven has never really had great fashion sense so was that fun to get to give her a makeover?
What are you talking about? No, I mean, I think she’s had great fashion sense. Each season Eleven has had a makeover montage. The first season, it was just Mike putting the makeup on her and the boys putting a wig on her, and then stealing Nancy’s dress. The second was my sister, Kali, dressing me up as a punk. And then the third season is Max letting me be who I want to be. So actually, it was really special this season, and it felt really well deserved for Eleven to choose the person that she wants to be and how she wants to dress. It was definitely well-needed.

For the scene where you read Hopper’s letter, were you reacting to anything? Or was it just you in your head?
They had prerecorded David and they played it out loud. I didn’t’ want to read that speech. I didn’t want to hear about it. I didn’t want to rehearse it. I just immediately wanted to put a camera on me and find the way I react and the way I reacted was pure devastation and sadness, and a distraught child that just lost her father or so she thinks. So it was definitely a raw emotion, especially because David Harbour and I are really close. He is just one of the greatest men. I think something I admire about David is he respects girls and women so much. It felt so … I’m so gutted and I was like, “Oh, my God, this is horrible.” So the emotions were raw in that scene for sure.

What about shooting that final scene where you all say goodbye and Eleven leaves with the Byers?
It was as emotional as it looked. We all said, “Let’s just imagine that this the end of filming forever.” And we all start immediately crying as soon as they said, action. It felt really genuine and it was like saying goodbye to best friends.

Eleven seems to lose her powers at the end of the season. Do you think they’re gone forever?
I think Eleven is powerful with and without powers, so I think that’s always an exciting journey to explore further. But at the end of the day, I have a giant collaboration with the Duffer Brothers, and I definitely have my input, but they are the storytellers and I couldn’t tell you what they’re up to next.

Have they shared anything with you in regards to a potential Stranger Things 4?
The Duffer Brothers are like my older brothers, so I call them all the time, and I definitely try to press them on little clues and hints. I know things here and there, but nothing deep or something I could tell you about. If there was a season four, we would be really excited, but right now, we have to see how season three goes and how the fans react to it.”

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From Variety: “When Stranger Things introduces a new character, it’s almost immediately obvious which archetype they’re supposed to represent. As a deliberate throwback to 1980’s blockbusters that prioritized thrills and jokes over characterization, most everyone can be described in just a couple basic words. There are heroes and bad guys, cool jerks and funny nerds. Three seasons in, the core cast has evolved more past their initial descriptors, but any addition is usually ripped straight from central casting. (See: Cary Elwes’ slimy mayor, who smirks about corruption while literally chomping on cigars.)

“So when Robin (Maya Hawke) entered the picture in the premiere of season 3, a familiar pattern seemed to emerge. Positioned against prom king Steve ‘The Hair’ Harrington (Joe Keery), Robin is initially a deadpan smartass completely immune to her new co-worker’s charms — at least, until she isn’t. As the two become closer while fighting nefarious Russians (naturally), both reluctantly letting their icy instincts around each other thaw, their becoming an opposites-attract couple seems like a no brainer — at least, until it’s not. 

“In the penultimate episode, after insisting all season long that she could never be his type, Steve tells Robin that he has a crush on her. Everything we’ve been primed to expect — from both Stranger Things and the teen romance genre it draws from in season 3 — makes it seem like this is the triumphant moment when the cool guy finally lets his guard down, admits that the girl misfit he’s overlooked for years might actually be the girl for him, and they ride off into the sunset. But instead, as he keeps listing all the reasons he likes her, Robin’s face falls. As it turns out, Robin doesn’t want Steve, because she wants another person entirely, one who also happens to be a girl.  

“This scene is one of the best the series has to offer, and not just because Keery and Hawke both knock it right out of the park. It’s great because it’s truly surprising in a way that Stranger Things rarely is. 

“As a purposeful homage to adventure movies that tend to only include female characters in the margins, it wasn’t exactly surprising that Stranger Things didn’t quite know what to do with its own. Though the Duffer Brothers knew enough to include women and girls, they still struggled to find ways to make the characters distinctive on their own merits outside of which boy or man they’re inextricably tied to. Even when played by the iconic Winona Ryder, Joyce has rarely been more than a frantic mother. Even as she learned to stand on her own, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) primarily served as the common point in a love triangle between outcast Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and cool guy Steve (Joe Keery).  And even though she’s a telekinetic marvel, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has always been defined by her relationships to Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour). 

“In season 2, Stranger Things — maybe realizing after an overwhelming reaction to side character Barb (Shannon Purser) unceremoniously dying that fans were hungry for even a shred of a decent female character — did its best to adjust all this in season 2. The introduction of new girl Max (Sadie Sink) was a well-intentioned but clumsy attempt to balance out the gender balance of the Dungeons and Dragons party; the scripts forgot to give her much of a personality beyond ‘another girl,’ especially once they forced her into a tired rivalry with Eleven. It was frustrating, but given the show’s commitment to embracing tropes with open arms, also felt inevitable. Season 3, to its credit, does real work to undo the previous seasons’ stumbles by having Max and Eleven bond, Nancy commit to investigative journalism, and Joyce stand up more to Hopper’s steamrolling.

“But it’s still Robin who ends up breaking free of the show’s typical tropes and running away with the season. This is thanks in large part to Hawke and Keery, whose immediately electric chemistry proves that not every worthwhile dynamic between male and female characters needs to be romantic, and probably also the fact that Robin’s sexuality means she can’t quite be paired off with a male character in the way that every other female character can. Sure, she and Steve are clearly bonded together by the season’s end (her securing him a job at the local video store despite his “pedestrian” taste is a sweet and hilarious coda), but their friendship is a unique spot of innovation within the show’s usual pastiche constraints. Robin shooting Steve down because she’s gay — not to mention him quickly recovering to fondly tease her that she can do better than her crush — is a deviation from the usual script that none of the show’s beloved reference points would’ve ever approached. Stranger Things is way better off for embracing it.”