By Thomas Brennan
In light of the recent events keeping us all inside and deprived of more public forms of entertainment. Here’s a list of 10 shows that are best to binge while stuck at home:
Parks & Recreation, Netflix
A Comedy that defines Classic. While this show may have wrapped five years ago and never got the praise it was worthy of in its time on air; it went on to launch the careers of some of the most popular and respected names in entertainment today Amy Poehler, Audrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, and Chris Pratt. The show is a testament to the workplace comedies. On a deeper level, the show always manages to find the idea there is fun to be had in friends and doing good for your community.
It’s rare to see a show able to balance a comedy in a setting based around politics, let alone do it well enough to deliver one of the best crack-up series of the 2010s. If Julia Louis Dreyfus had not solidified her position as the queen of comedy in any of her previous works, she does it here. The show highlights the back handed immature handling of politics. Every barb that the show throws out is a crackup. The wider ensemble is brimming with talent and always find a way to distinguish themselves with their own brand of witty cruelty. The series evolves, or rather devolves, from highlighting how the incompetence of government inner workings, to showing how greed and power are a path that leads nowhere; when you pursue power for the sake of no one but your own sake, you’re truly left with nothing.
I am Not Okay With This, Netflix
This new Netflix show is tough to place genre wise. On the surface it seems like a more copy and paste of the uncontrollably powered psychic girl trope seen in countless other pieces of media. Despite the trappings of the show’s concept, I am Not Okay With This still manages to often subvert its own premise; bringing out something almost boundary pushing with just the smallest steps. It doesn’t build a sense of fear of a greater external horror like similar shows. but a more relatable internal fear of losing control of one’s self that is neatly tied into the messy plight of being a teenager.
The Witcher, Netflix
Toss a coin to your Netflix account, cause The Withcher is another must see. Henry Cavil leads the brutal fantasy series as the monster hunter Geralt, the titular Witcher. The series is endearing and entertaining on a number of levels. Each of the three storylines that goes on carries a weight of real danger, fun, and adventure. It sometimes seems to stumble on bigger themes, but always lands on its feet with solid character writing and strong performances. The choreography of certain scenes and battles are absolutely cinematic. The Witcher likely would have landed higher on this list were it not for it’s very out of sorts timeline that can be vexing to almost anyone and has been a major point of criticism for the show.
Grace & Frankie, Netflix
A comedy that’s simple on the surface, but elicits both laughs and tears for people all ages. shows no matter how old you are it’s possible to make someone laugh. The whole ensemble of the titular women’s families is delightful, but Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s chemistry carries this show. The back-and-forth between these two characters is as likely to make viewers bust out giggling as they are to shed tears. Every episode brings a new rush of joy in what will be Grace and Frankie’s next endeavor. The core of this show, and likely why it relates to audiences young and old, is the fact it says nobody is too old to make a friend or a change.
The Dragon Prince, Netflix
From the minds that created the masterpiece of Avatar: The Last Airbender, comes The Dragon Prince. Don’t let the fact it’s animated let you dismiss this phenomenal world and story. It’s a fantasy series of children of opposing sides uniting to try and to end the war their parents and forefathers started. The story manages to capture the creativity and gravitas of Game of Thrones, but still be a joy to watch for both kids and adults. It pushes the envelope, catches the imagination, and pulls in the viewer with mature character work. It handles topics like grief from loss, the cost of war and hate, alongside the way friendship and love knows no borders. If you choose to pick up The Dragon Prince, be sure to also watch the end credits for Easter eggs, profound and relevant of things to come in this groundbreaking adventure.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon Prime
The best adjective to describe this show is right there in the title. The show’s wit and humor are so sharp it makes a bed broadswords seem as soft as a pillow. The central story builds off the career launch of the title character’s comic act after being dealt the surface level idea of the worst blow a woman of her time could endure in divorce; but Mrs. Maisel is as indomitable as she is marvelous. The rest of the cast packs humor and fun in tight paced and perfect delivery. Every beat of dialogue is a laugh. The set work determination to nail the ear of the 50’s is a sensation in itself and will arise nostalgia for older audience members. The best joke is on the viewer is it perfectly presents the concept that failure can just be the greatest opportunity that can knock on your door.
The Boys, Amazon Prime
Worn out from the constant peddling of recycled material from the superhero genre. The Boys have you covered. Don’t let the show’s simple title fool you, The Boys packs a punch as powerful as an evil star-spangled Superman. This show itself likely wouldn’t have the same resonance if our current world if we didn’t have the Marvel cinematic universe. The Boys highlights in the most horrifying way what a world with superheroes would look like. The depravity of a world of people with god like power is on full display in this show from the first episode. This isn’t a story of hope and heroics, rather the show works to peel off the human evil underneath. The show tackles relevant issues to our own world as well and handles its political themes with deep thought and nuance. It at times has a little too much fun with its more mature tone and freedom, but it’s still a perfect watch for anyone looking to see heroes taken down a peg.
Harley Quinn, DC Universe
The most surprising breakout show of the year. Harley Quinn, produced by Kaley Cuoco, who also voices the titular character, has found its way to be one of the most hilarious and emotionally resonant series in years. The show brings a graphic level to animation, blood and violence abound, but the series never gets bogged down in its more brutal elements. The show always finds clever ways to be humorous and action packed. Interestingly, past all the profuse amounts of blood and liberal use of cursing, the show’s heart is in its characters and deeper themes. Harley Quinn tackles issues like coping with abusive relationships, sexism in the work field, and learning to trust after trauma in ways that grip the soul itself. It’s a must see show that shakes the very idea of what animation and television can be.
The Good Place, Netflix
Just another classic crafted by the genius of Michael Schur. The show has just concluded its four-season run, ending the story of four dumpster fires of human beings evolving into better people even after they’ve died. The Good Place has cemented itself one of the greatest and most intelligent comedies of all time. It’s a show that is not just content to be hysterical with top notch performances from its talented cast. It raises deep philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and what being good truly means. The Good Place is never afraid to shine a light on their characters and their flaws, showing how hard it is to be good, but still standing by the theme doing good is worth it in itself. The saddest thing to say about this show is that it was so short compared to most serialized television, though this is also one of its greatest strengths. The series delivers its message of optimism in the nature of humanity in perfect fashion before saying one final and truly bittersweet goodbye.
SAN DIEGO – Six days brought the film world to San Diego as the 18th installment of the San Diego International Film Festival stole the focus from Los Angeles last week and saw the Southern California premiere of several films that are already generating award season buzz.
That hum intensified into a roar with the red-carpet arrivals of actors Jared Harris, fresh off the Emmy Award-success of the mini-series Chernobyl, and prolific performer Laurence Fishburne.
Things kicked off on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at downtown’s Balboa Theater with a screening of the controversial and much-lauded satiric sendup Jojo Rabbit and the festival closed on Sunday, Oct. 20, with Marriage Story, an emotional domestic drama. In a bit of a plot twist, both films star Scarlett Johansson, but the similarities end there.
These Southern California premieres bracketed a lineup that included a wide range of 107 full-length films, with five in the narrative spotlight competition, 20 in the narrative contest, nine in the documentary competition, and almost 70 short films, combining major regional premieres with a focus on social and environmental issues, Variety reported. The festival is produced by the nonprofit San Diego Film Foundation.
As always, the festival offered an array of social gatherings, including its “Night of the Stars Tribute”, which this year honored actor Fishburne, Harris, and others. The festival returned to the Pendry San Diego hotel and ArcLight La Jolla theater, and the 2019 box office was at the Gaslamp Quarter in the stunning multi-level Theatre Box, in downtown San Diego, which opened in June.
At the “Night of the Stars Tribute,” Fishburne received the Gregory Peck Award for Cinematic Excellence, Pitbull received the Music Icon Award, Lindsay Wagner received the Humanitarian Award, Harris received the Cinema Vanguard Award, Jillian Bell received the Fairbanks Award, and Camila Morrone receiving the Rising Star Award.
Harris, whose fans have launched a campaign to have him be the next James Bond, was a dynamic presence on Friday night charming both on the red carpet and in the VIP party. Another notable attendee was Bell, star of the wonderful film Brittany Runs a Marathon, who clearly is making a name for herself.
Yes, Laurence and Jared were in the same room and we even sneaked a photograph of them with styleboston/LeftCoast.LA creator Terri Stanley. “It was such a pleasure to meet both Laurence and Jared, but I have to admit I am smitten with the latter,” Stanley said. “Loved him in Mad Men, The Crown and most recently, Chernobyl. I told him the story of my connection to Chernobyl–the explosion happened on the day of my wedding, April 26, 1986. Our honeymoon was in Italy and Greece and the skies over Italy were very grey! When Laurence made his way over to Jared to say hello it was very sweet the way he spoke to him, genuinely thrilled to see him.”
“I’m still overwhelmed that I would be given something called the ‘Gregory Peck’ award. He was singular,” Fishburne told local FOX station. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Fishburne received the award from Peck’s daughter, Cecelia, who was sitting with San Diegan Geri Warnke, a close friend and former board president of the La Jolla Playhouse, which Peck co-founded.
Among the VIP crowd were representatives from the major sponsors including the Pendry, a new Montage brand, financial powerhouse Morgan Stanley, and luxe automaker Maserati.
The 2019 edition of the festival had a global reach and a social-justice conscience. The festival received more than 3,000 submissions from 68 countries, including feature films, shorts and documentaries. Panel topics ranged from technology and streaming services and what lies ahead for digital platforms while others included “Unstoppable Women” and “Social Impact.” SDIFF screened films from Brazil, Congo, France, Indonesia, Japan, Romania, and South Korea.
Most of the film showings were followed by Q&As with their casts and crews, something that sets the festival apart with attendees having access to many filmmakers.
On Oct. 19, the festival presented “Filmmaker Awards Show & Party” at the Pendry. The competitive categories included narrative (fictional) and documentary. After receiving nearly 70 short films, the competition was divided into categories: “Twisted Humor,” “San Diego Scene,” and “Global Consciousness.”
The winners of the SDIFF competitions were: 100 Days to Live, best world premiere; Angelique’s Isle, Kumeyaay award; Babysplitters, best comedy; Breaking Their Silence, best documentary; The Steed, best feature film; Inside Game, best ensemble cast; Safe Spaces, artistic director’s award; Love In Kilnerry, best original screenplay; Philophobia, best global cinema; Portraitist, best international short film; Riptide, best animation, Safe Inside, best thriller feature; Long Time Listener, First Time Caller, best short film; Sonora, best student film, and, Flourish, best local film.
In addition to the screenings at the Pendry and Theatre Box, ArcLight La Jolla hosted the SDIFF’s popular “Culinary Cinema” on Oct. 20, which paired the screenings with delicacies provided by top local chefs.
CAMBRIDGE – After 10 years and tons (probably, literally) of glitter, The Donkey Show will end its run this week at the American Repertory Theater’s Club Oberon on the fringes of Harvard Square.
The immersive theatrical experience was part of Artistic Director Diane Paulus’ first season in the “Shakespeare Exploded” festival that also included The Best of Both Worlds and Sleep No More, which took over a school in Brookline.
Paulus created The Donkey Show with her husband, theater producer Randy Weiner, and they staged it Off-Broadway in 1999 to rave reviews.
During its run at the ART, the show was extended because of popular demand and later moved to weekends only, where it continued as a destination stop for brides-to-be and superfans. The Boston Globe’s Meredith Goldstein documented the show’s long run. The show succeeded in at least one area, Goldstein writes, it attracted audiences considerably younger than had been seen at the ART.
The show’s closing also opens a coveted timeslot for local or smaller productions and marks a new chapter for Oberon.
Styleboston’s host and creator Terri Stanley interviewed Paulus prior to The Donkey Show’s opening as one of the TV show’s “Power Player” segments. (See clip above.) This segment originally aired 10 years ago this month.
To what lengths would you go to save your child from the pain and possible death from cancer? Weed the People, a documentary that follows five families who, in a desperate effort to find treatment for their children’s cancer, obtain cannabis oils to give the young patients a better path to a cure. It was screened in Cambridge on April 8, 2019.
The team behind the film – director Abby Epstein, Emmy Award-winning TV host Ricki Lake, and producer James Costa, a Boston native known for the documentary Lunch Hour – was in town for the screening and question and answer session at the Landmark Square Cinema in Cambridge. The event was hosted by the Boston Globe’s Meredith Goldstein. It was a return to town, of sorts, as the documentary brought Lake and Epstein to Boston, specifically Harvard Medical School, where we see the medical efficacy of marijuana in cancer treatment is being studied.
The documentary, which was released late last year, also looks at the federal government’s reluctance to allowing marijuana to be accessible to all patients. (Currently 33 states allow medical marijuana and 10 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for recreational use.) Weed the People is available for download and online viewing. For more on the film, click here.
Before the screening, styleboston.tv and LeftCoast.LA caught up with Ricki Lake and asked her a few questions about the documentary, the need for medical marijuana, and Dunkin’ Donuts and her other Boston connections.
Q: This project started with a 7-year-old girl reaching out to you at a time when the opioid crisis was coming to the front and center? How have people been reacting to this documentary?
A: The reactions to this documentary have been incredible. People seem to be ready to open their hearts and minds to the true medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant. Yes, the film began with a seven-year-old girl who was a fan of mine from “Dancing with the Stars.” She was undergoing chemotherapy and there were very few options to treat her condition. My late husband Christian Evans had been researching cannabis oil and CBD for his grandfather and we thought it might help this little girl as well because of the anti-tumor properties of the plant. That experience was how our film was born.
Q: Was there anything from the filming that surprised you?
A: One of the most surprising things for me personally was to see how well cannabis can actually work and how little you need to get therapeutic effect. You see one child in the film who was taking six OxyContin a day plus other pain relievers and after two days of taking a sesame seed-size dose of the concentrated cannabis oil, he was completely off the OxyContin. So not only was his pain gone but he was sleeping and eating, where on the opiates he was just vomiting and deteriorating.
Q: Here in Massachusetts we have embraced marijuana, first medical uses and later recreational. But even here, in a super-liberal blue state, it seems like people still don’t “get” the potential of what marijuana can do and the benefits of legalization of it.
A: Yes, there is such an intense stigma around the plant it is incredibly hard to break through, even in the medical community. Doctors have been trained that this is a drug abuse and of course the public has also been brainwashed into thinking this is a dangerous narcotic and a gateway to other substances, which is untrue. That’s been the revelation of this movie and we have shown it in places like Oklahoma City and weeks later they passed their referendum on medical cannabis! The film is a really powerful tool to help people understand the real potential of medical marijuana.
Q: As filmmakers you looked at the choices available to patients and parents. Have you seen changes since you started filming in those choices that the patients’ families have? In the attitudes of the medical community?
A: We’ve seen so many changes since we started this film back in 2012. At the time, a lot of the families were getting medicine from underground sources, medicine that wasn’t properly tested and in one case in the film you see it actually contained rubbing alcohol! In California the regulations have helped improve quality and testing for patients, but ironically the regulations have also made it harder for patients to access certain preparations and strengths. We’ve definitely seen the attitudes of the medical community change but it’s still way too slow and it seems to be that money and the green rush is what motivates most of the public perception changes these days.
Q: You and Abby set up a GoFundMe account for those in your project and others. It seems like this film pushed you in ways that a “typical” film project might.
A: Yes we set up a GoFundMe account for the kids in the film. All of them still take a maintenance dose of cannabis oil and one of the children is still in treatment. Unfortunately even the maintenance dose can run these families around $1,500 a month and it’s just not affordable without help. Our website is weedthepeoplemovie.com And you can make a donation there under the “get involved” menu tab.
Q: OK, a few Boston-centric questions. We know you’ve been to Boston before and even filmed a movie here, do you have any favorite things to do? Go see? Do you load up the carry-on with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee?
A: Oh yes, I grew up in New York so definitely a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts! I absolutely love Boston and have the best memories of shooting “Mrs. Winterbourne” there. I’m excited to share this film with the community.
Q: There’s always Provincetown, but the Fast Ferry is fully running this time of year. Do you get back to the area when you are not?
A: Yes, I have been to the Provincetown Film festival a few times and we screened my earlier documentary “the business of being born” there. My dear friend John Waters invites me there all the time.
Q: Many people know you from so many different things in your varied career. We imagine that people approach you with all kinds of references in your background, but we hope that none of the really whacky people are from Boston.
A: I definitely have some amazing fans from Boston! It’s a fantastic city and I’m so proud of Massachusetts for making cannabis accessible.
Q: Will you be stopping by the recently opened marijuana dispensary in Brookline?
A: I would love to check out the new dispensary Brookline! We are very fortunate that a local cannabis company called Green Line is sponsoring our Boston premiere screening. I love how Green Line is integrating social justice into their company philosophy. They are including members of the Roxbury community on their board and helping to repair some of the harms of the drug war on communities of color. I believe that social equity needs to be a major component of marijuana legalization.
By: Anna Paula Goncalves
Season 3 of TV’s number 1 drama (all around show really, if we’re being honest) is already giving us all the feels – as expected – with this first episode. With laughter, tears to some and a bit of curiosity, the touching stories and relatable characters is the consistently winning combination that makes this show the success it is.
It’s all in the “construct of the show,” as show creator, Dan Fogelman said during the panel discussion that followed the premiere screening. It’s a construct that he credits to the writers of the show (which he, and the cast, made a point to honor) for their brilliancy.
With a plot that lives in the past just as much as it does in the present (with this season expected to tackle glimpses into the “future”) there’s a level of excitement in learning about each character and what makes them, them. Like Chrissy Metz’ character, Kate, and how heartwarmingly real her character is depicted. Someone who “can’t catch a break” while battling her weight, guilt, loss, addiction, and how that all ties into her struggle with self-acceptance. Which to that point, Chrissy says, when asked how she feels about her storyline helping others facing the same struggles as she: “I just know things happen as they should. And that everyone has their really beautiful journey and we get to help each other along and through that journey.”
In the midst of laughter and “truth, dare, or ‘swear on Oprah’” (You need to watch S3E1 to understand the Oprah reference), the panel discussed the first episode and how it embraced a more light-hearted relationship between Randal (Sterling K. Brown’s character) and his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson’s character). They also each talked about their individual characters, the season’s construct and how we’ll “live in the past a bit” during season 3. We will get to learn more about Jack (Milo Ventimiglia’s character) and his past, including his time in Vietnam, and also life following his death as Rebecca (Mandy Moore’s character) navigates as a single parent caring for teenagers. We can also look forward to upcoming “stand alone” episodes that will dive into specific characters that we know little about underneath, like Chris Sullivan’s character, Toby – a character who suggests something deep in connection to his dependency on anti-depressants and after this first episode, also speculates about the trajectory of his relationship with Kate into the “future”. Another character we can all look forward to seeing unfold is Lyric Ross’ character, Deja, now a season’s regular. Described as “the truth” by her cast-mates after becoming a revelation to them while shooting season 3, and to us in this first episode as the embodiment of what boldness and hope looks like.
In true “This is Us” form, the first episode entitled “Nine Bucks”, which falls during the Big Three’s birthday (as it has consistently done in previous season premieres) gives us just enough to make us sink into our seats while looking forward to speculating what’s to come.
Thank you to NBC Entertainment Director Jeanette Eliot for the invitation.
Season 3 of “This Is Us” continues on Tuesday, October 2, on NBC.
Left Coast. La was honored to attend the San Diego International Film Festival’s VIP Film Insider Series featuring HBO’s new “Sharp Objects” starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and Taylor John Smith. The event was held at the ArcLight Cinemas in San Diego, CA.
Based on the book of the same name by The New York Times bestselling author Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Dark Places”), “Sharp Objects” is an eight-episode series that tells the story of reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) who “returns to her small hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Trying to put together a psychological puzzle from her past, she finds herself identifying with the young victims a bit too closely,” according to HBO. In addition to Adams, Clarkson and Smith, the series features Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Elizabeth Perkins and Matt Craven. It is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from scripts by Marti Noxon and Flynn.
Did you sit through the endless red carpet coverage? I did. I’m pretty sure I lost some IQ points and all I wanted to do was feed Giuliana Rancic a sandwich, but I powered through it. Ryan Seacrest just needs to embrace his vertical challenge and start standing on a phone book because when he interviews people like Taylor Swift or Nicole Kidman, he looks like a 12 year-old. It’s so awkward. Kat McPhee looked like a deer in the headlights when she was interviewed by Seacrest. I mean they KNOW each other right? Why was she so weird? I’m thinking it’s because she forgot to wash her hair.
Ariana Grande was interviewed with her new guy Big Sean and he was her biggest accessory. The level of cuteness was pretty high on the nausea scale, I mean she wanted everyone to know “this is my man and you can’t have him”. Look girl, if you want a man that will take your inevitable breakup and use it to write a marginally interesting song that will be played on radio stations everywhere, then you do you. I look at this and I think about my ex that I brought to my sister’s wedding. He’s in the pictures and I wish he wasn’t. I feel like when Ariana looks back at these pics after the public breakup, she will wish she hadn’t hung all over him like a cheap suit.
I’m not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, but here are my picks from the red carpet.
BEST: Taylor Swift, Chrissy Teigan, Jessie J and Gwen Stefani.
WORST: Rihanna (WHAT WAS THAT?) Iggy Azalea’s hair crown, Kim Kardashian’s bedazzled robe and Keith Urban’s ponytail.
New England Patriots will be on stage? What!! I had no idea. I was hoping for a Grammy Gronking, but Edelman and Butler did pretty well with a well-played interception joke.
Kanye West put on his best sweats to Auto-Tune his way through a crappy song. Someone please explain Kanye and his “art” to me, because I don’t get it.
Keith Urban has a ponytail? Stop. Just stop.
I felt the song with Paul McCartney, Kanye and Rihanna was all over the place. Matching black suits? Is it me or did Rihanna show NO skin this evening? Something is wrong in the world somewhere. The song is good, but I just can’t listen to Kanye sing. Mostly because he can’t. And Paul just looks so out of place. And constantly surprised.
The Grammy’s were far too long and peppered with performances that truly sucked (Usher singing Stevie Wonder) and performances that delivered (Madonna, Beyonce and Tom Jones) but it’s the one time where I will sit in front of the TV for hours on end that doesn’t involve Netflix.
EDITOR AT LARGE
CHIEF FASHION CORRESPONDENT
Anna Paula Goncalves
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