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Apple TV+ Just Won Best Picture. Everything Is Different Now

Apple TV+ Just Won Best Picture. Everything Is Different Now

Toward the end of 2021, the buzz was palpable. The Power of the Dog, director Jane Champion’s Western allegory about toxic masculinity, was on track to be the first Best Picture Oscar winner for Netflix. With a whopping 12 nominations total, it was riding high. By March, though, things had changed. Suddenly CODA, a plucky coming-of-age drama Apple TV+ nabbed at Sundance last year, was gaining traction. It won top honors at both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Producers Guild of America Awards while Dog seemed to chase its tail. On Sunday, it was decided: CODA won top honors, marking the first time a streaming service had done so.

This has been a long time coming, and that time has been fraught. Ever since Netflix and Amazon started shelling out for prestige content in the hopes of winning trophies (and respect), Hollywood has been waiting, curiously, to see if it’s possible for a streaming service to win the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ biggest trophy. Not everyone in the industry was keen on players like Netflix bagging big wins, predominantly because the company was instrumental in moving films out of theaters and into living rooms. When Netflix’s Roma was making a play for the top prize in 2019, an Oscars campaign advisor told Vulture that voting for Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white family drama was “a vote for the death of cinema by TV.” Steven Spielberg, whose West Side Story was nominated for seven awards this year and won one, flat-out said Netflix films shouldn’t be eligible for Oscars, claiming they were more akin to TV movies. Now, it seems big wins for streamers are here to stay.

Although it seems impossible to think a streaming service would never win Best Picture, exactly how it would happen, or should happen, was another point of contention. Amazon had luck early on, acquiring Manchester By the Sea at Sundance and then riding it to many Oscar nominations in 2017. Netflix, although it definitely shells out for films at festivals, has had better luck with its homegrown efforts like The Irishman and Roma. But that doesn’t mean both haven’t faltered. Netflix got 35 nods and Amazon got 12 last year, but the latter only got one nod—for The Big Sick—the year after its Manchester triumph. Neither had been able to secure the top prize, despite constantly circling it.

All of which makes Apple’s win so shocking. After years of Netflix and Amazon trying to produce and acquire their way to the top—despite the Hollywood old-schoolers who looked down their noses at it—Apple swooped in thanks to a movie it just picked up at Sundance. Granted, it paid a pretty penny for *CODA—*reportedly around $25 million—but it still beat Power and a slew of other juggernauts, like Warner Bros.’s Dune and films from previous Oscar winners like Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley). For a streaming service that, although backed by Apple’s troves of cash, only launched in November 2019, that’s huge. One could also argue that the production and release delays caused by Covid-19 made room for smaller movies to make a bigger noise than they could have in years’ past, but even so that smaller film could’ve been from an indie studio like A24 rather than Apple.

But the Oscars are just one night. The impacts of this win will be felt for a while, both in Hollywood and within the offices of streamers. Over the last few years, Netflix has run itself ragged chasing Oscar gold—and perhaps lost some of its verve in the process—so what happens now that Apple has beat them to the big award? Undoubtedly it’ll make more plays, but now that CODA has demonstrated what a successful run looks like, will Netflix just mimic that success? Will Amazon? Will studios? Apple TV+’s win proves that the old grudges against streamers are gone (or at least waning) and that it’s possible one of them can win. Audiences now know that the best films in the world are a click away. Traditional studios understand that their distribution models can, and maybe should, change without impacting how their movies are received.

For a long time, the disruption of Hollywood by streamers has felt like a battle for the soul of Tinsel Town—how it’s run, who gets to participate in it, what the definition of a “film” even is. Truthfully, there might be something to that. Moviemaking, and filmgoing, has thrived for years because movies are a huge piece of cultural currency. They’re also an artform that’s gotten overtaken by massive corporations looking to make movies that are all but guaranteed to sell tickets and pack theaters. For years, particularly in the 1990s when Oscars viewership was much higher than it is today, Best Picture winners were artistically-driven crowd-pleasers like Titanic and Forrest Gump, that won over critics and killed at the box office. The pool of films, and filmmakers, that even got a shot at a little gold man was small.

Netflix’s Windfall Is a Perfect Class-Rage Noir

Netflix’s Windfall Is a Perfect Class-Rage Noir

Ever notice how the houses of the ultra-wealthy look like nobody lives in them? There’s an eerie quality, the opposite of hominess. Netflix’s new movie Windfall opens with a long, lingering shot of a mansion’s poolside patio furniture, straight out of an Architectural Digest spread. Birds chirp, flowers bloom, the outdoor coffee table is a solid slab of concrete. It all screams expensive. In a long, wordless scene, we follow a nameless man (Jason Segel, credited as “Nobody”) as he wanders around this gorgeous property, sipping iced coffee by the pool and eventually walking into the empty home. Its rooms are as posh as the grounds, with Spanish tile, pristine plaster walls, and abstract pottery everywhere. The man almost leaves, then doesn’t. Instead, he returns to the house and starts looting. He fastens a Rolex around his wrist, collects jewelry, stuffs all the cash he can find into the pockets of his ratty pants. This is a burglary, albeit a laconic one. The thief is on his way out when the owners show up for a last-minute romantic getaway. They catch him before he manages to sneak out. And although this man is a total amateur, he piles crime on top of crime, taking the well-heeled couple hostage.

The owners, a tech billionaire (Jesse Plemons) and his chic wife (Lily Collins), attempt to reason with the burglar, offering him whatever he can grab. They almost succeed in getting him to leave. But when “Nobody” suspects he’s been caught on tape, he asks for enough money to start a new life, so the trio must wait around for a half a million in cash to be delivered the next day. As they watch the clock, the burglar and his captives stroll around the pretty, sun-dappled grounds, meandering through its expansive orange grove, sitting around a fancy fire pit, snippily making conversation. The billionaire can’t believe what an oaf his captor is and finds any excuse to needle him. We learn that the origin of the billionaire’s fortune is an algorithm for layoffs and that he doesn’t feel bad about having created it; he wastes little time asking the thief if he was one of the unlucky who lost their jobs because of his work. And the burglar is an oaf; he struggles to unclasp the wife’s purse, can’t keep his boots tied, and has tantrums every time something doesn’t go his way, which is frequently. Meanwhile, as the wife plays peacemaker between the two men, she starts to stew on the state of her marriage.

Director Charlie McDowell excels in putting unhappy couples through their paces during would-be secluded retreats. In his 2014 film The One I Love, another husband and wife encounter unexpected strangers at a dreamy vacation home while attempting to revive their relationship. But whereas The One I Love had a science-fiction twist, Windfall is propelled by a real-life crisis: the gaping chasm between the incredibly rich and the rest of us, and the impossibility of bridging it unscathed. Despite its gleaming setting, Windfall strikes the tone of a noir, its story suffused with a cynicism as sweeping as the vistas its mansion overlooks.

Watching Segel’s burglar bumble his way into increasingly grim circumstances, I was reminded of The Edukators, the 2004 German-Austrian crime drama about a trio of young radicals who decide to teach the wealthy a lesson by breaking into their homes just to unsettle them. But while The Edukators has sympathy for its underclass, Windfall is pitiless. It would’ve been easy for this film to slide into a morality play—poor schlub robs rich assholes, hurrah!—but it’s no triumph of the proles. If anything, it’s a testimony to the amorality of the universe, a Fargo with no Marge Gunderson in sight. Segel’s burglar isn’t a modern Robin Hood; he’s just a doofus who summoned up enough courage to commit a robbery and enough foolishness to get greedy and ask for more. Although its characters are presented as archetypes, there is no hero here.

For the first hour, Windfall plays like a dark comedy. The burglar’s ineptitude fuels some funny moments, like when he’s demanding more money and asks for $150,000 in cash. The wealthy people he’s extorting tell him he’ll need more than that if he’s trying to create a whole new identity. Nobody in the trio seems violent, and they’re all more annoyed than scared. Collins’ wife isn’t an innocent ensnared so much as a person slowly realizing that the terms of her deal with the devil weren’t really so favorable. Plemons’ billionaire, cocky and contemptuous, is technically a victim yet so viscerally unpleasant that it is hard to muster sympathy when he gets tied up and looted.

But hostage situations rarely end with everyone going off on their merry ways unscathed. I won’t say more about what unfolds, except that there is a scene about 70 minutes in that shocked me so much I leapt off my couch. (Gore-averse, be forewarned!) Jokes aside, this is a tart, nasty little thriller. Despite its modest scale, it leaves a powerfully astringent aftertaste.

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20 Movies We Can’t Wait to See in 2022

20 Movies We Can’t Wait to See in 2022

Several years from now, when people look back on the many ways the Covid-19 pandemic forever altered the definition of “everyday life,” movies will undoubtedly be a big part of that conversation. Since early 2020, coronavirus mandates have had the power to shut down entire film productions for weeks, and sometimes months, on end (if not entirely). On the distribution end, shuttered cinemas haven’t helped matters. Some of the most anticipated movies of both 2020 and 2021 have been delayed or had their release dates rejiggered multiple times, in part because of the growing popularity of the day-and-date distribution model (aka when a movie premieres in theaters on the same day it drops on a cable or streaming network), which not all filmmakers are championing. We can’t say whether you’ll end up seeing the biggest movies of 2022 in a theater, at a drive-in, or from the comfort of your living room couch. But what we do know is that there’s an enormous slate of must-see movies coming in the next 12 months. Here are the 20 we’re most looking forward to seeing.

The 355

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If we ever needed a team of experts to save the world from certain death after a top-secret weapon finds its way into enemy hands, the stars of The 355 might be it. Jessica Chastain stars as a smartest-person-in-the-room CIA agent who assembles an all-star squad of fellow badass women to recover the weapon. Together, rival agent Marie (Diane Kruger), psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz), and computer scientist Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) travel around the world to take down the enemy—while Sebastian Stan plays second fiddle. We’d believe it.

Release date: January 7

Scream

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Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett take over directing duties for the late master of horror Wes Craven on the fifth film in the Scream movie franchise, which will see the return of original stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette. The film, which is being released 26 years after the original meta horror-comedy, takes place 25 years later, with a new killer(s) dusting off the Ghostface mask and knocking off a group of Woodsboro teens. That the script was cowritten by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Gary Busick (Ready or Not) gives us higher than average hopes for the relaunch of this franchise.

Release date: January 14

The Batman

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By the time Matt Reeves’ The Batman hits theaters, it will have been nearly three years since former teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson was officially announced as the newest actor to be handed the keys to the Batmobile. There was, of course, the requisite backlash that has followed any new actor being cast in an iconic role (see: James Bond, Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Batman, Batman, Batman, Batman, and Batman). And then another uproar when Pattinson questioned whether Batman was really a superhero, given that he has no superpowers (which seems like a fair question). But all that doubting appeared to magically transform into anticipation once the first trailer dropped and audiences finally got a glimpse of what Pattinson has described as a “crazy and perverse” version of The Dark Knight. Which might be just the twist it needed to cement Pattinson’s place in the Gotham City universe. Zoë Kravitz, Andy Serkis, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, and John Turturro costar.

Release date: March 4

Turning Red

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We’ve rarely met a Pixar premise we didn’t like, and Turning Red is proof of why. It’s about a teenager named Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang) who turns into a red panda whenever she gets overly excited. Sandra Oh voices Mei’s mom, Ming.

Release date: March 11

Downton Abbey: A New Era

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If you weren’t a dedicated fan of Masterpiece’s original Downton Abbey TV series, which kept audiences around the world glued to their TV screens for six seasons, then the shenanigans of Lord and Lady Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) and their upper-crust friends and family members, plus the servants who wait on them, probably seem downright silly. Which is kind of the point. But with this new movie (its second feature film outing), creator Julian Fellowes sends the Crawleys out of the comfy confines of their Yorkshire estate and to a villa in the south of France, which family matriarch Violet, the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith), has inherited from an old flame. Let the well-mannered hijinks begin!

Release date: March 18

The Northman

Anya Taylor-Joy reunites with her The Witch director Robert Eggers in this hotly anticipated historical thriller, set in Iceland in the 10th century. It features Alexander Skarsgård as a Viking prince (that tracks) who is intent on avenging the murder of his father. The film also re-teams Eggers with Willem Dafoe, who earned some of the highest praise of his career for his role in The Lighthouse. No word yet on how much, if any, flatulence there might be. Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Ralph Ineson, and Björk costar.

Release date: April 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Fifteen years after directing his final Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire, legendary director Sam Raimi is dipping his toe back into Marvel’s waters with this follow-up to 2016’s Doctor Strange, which follows the time-jumping adventures of the eponymous surgeon-turned-sorcerer played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He’ll be joined again by fellow Oscar nominees Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor, with Elizabeth Olsen joining in as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (fans of WandaVision will remember that the end of that series opened the door to this movie).

Release date: May 6

Legally Blonde 3

While it would be easy to call Legally Blonde a “guilty pleasure” (as Jim Halpert did on The Office), the fact is that Reese Witherspoon’s presence alone added a bit of heft to the pink-outfitted-fish-out-of-water comedy that ultimately allowed the actress to play up every ditzy blonde stereotype to her benefit, and then turn it on its head. It’s been nearly 20 years since we last saw Witherspoon’s Elle Woods, and we’re excited to catch up.

Release date: May 20

John Wick: Chapter 4

The new year is bound to be a big one for Keanu Reeves, and for fans of Keanu Reeves, as the actor delivers the one-two punch of The Matrix Resurrections in late December, followed by this fourth installment in the John Wick saga. Adorable doggos are sure to abound.

Release date: May 27

Top Gun: Maverick

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Tom Cruise is feeling the need for speed yet again in this follow-up to 1986’s Top Gun. In the sequel, Cruise’s Maverick is now the one teaching young hotshots how to (safely) navigate the highway to the danger zone. Among them? Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late BFF Goose. Cue the Kenny Loggins.

Release date: May 27

Jurassic World: Dominion

The past meets the present in the sixth installment of the Jurassic World dino-saga, as relative franchise newbies Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard mix it up with OGs Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Dern. Just when you thought there wasn’t any way to make onscreen dinosaurs even cooler, life finds a way.

Release date: June 10

Crimes of the Future

David Cronenberg is going back to the future. More than 50 years after filming Crimes of the Future in 1970, he’s revisiting his splatter-happy roots with this futuristic tale of a world in which humans are being forced to adapt to their synthetic surroundings and transforming into another kind of being altogether in the process. Viggo Mortensen, who’s partnering with Cronenberg for the fourth time, is a performance artist making the most of the evolutionary state of things and a condition known as “Accelerated Evolution Syndrome” to quickly grow new, and sometimes unusual, organs as part of his act. Yep, sounds like a Cronenberg joint alright. Kristen Stewart, Léa Seydoux, Scott Speedman, and Welket Bungué costar.

Release date: June 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder

Taika Waititi is back to infuse another Thor movie (the fourth) with his trademark wit. And while Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will definitely be there, so too will Thor’s lady love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).

Release date: July 8

Nope

Jordan Peele is back in what could be considered the third installment of his Let’s Upend Every Horror Trope There Is About People of Color trilogy. Not much is really known beyond the fact that it’s a psychological thriller and that Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yeun star. And really, what more do you need to know?

Release date: July 22

Don’t Worry Darling

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Olivia Wilde has become the topic of many media headlines over her reported romance with former boy-bander Harry Styles, whom she directs in this movie. But don’t let any of that nonsense distract you from the fact that Wilde just may be the voice of a new generation of filmmakers. After tackling high school awkwardness (and wowing critics) with her directorial debut Booksmart, Wilde’s moving on to more adult themes, following Styles and Florence Pugh as a couple working to navigate the ins and outs of married life and utopian living in 1950s America.

Release date: September 23

Mission: Impossible 7

It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility to imagine that Tom Cruise, now 59 years old, might still be running across rooftops and trying to save the world from one potential threat or another 20 years from now as IMF agent Ethan Hunt (just with a handful of Werther’s Original candies in his pocket). In the meantime, we’ll settle for witnessing how the seventh film in the M:I franchise, which was filmed in starts and stops as Covid-19 led to a number of set lockdowns—and at least one epic A-lister rant for the ages—turned out in the end.

Release date: September 30

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

It’s a testament to the singular talent of Chadwick Boseman, and just how special the original Black Panther was, that Marvel has opted not to recast the eponymous superhero following the death of Boseman on August 28, 2020, just a few months shy of his 44th birthday. Though the story will continue with most of the original cast returning, including Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, and Angela Bassett, writer/director Ryan Coogler has been honest about how devastating it was to write another Black Panther story without Boseman. Not much has been revealed about the movie’s plot, but we do know that Michaela Coel, the creator and star of the devastatingly brilliant I May Destroy You, will find her way to Wakanda.

Release date: November 11

Pinocchio

Not to be confused with Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks’ live-action version of Pinocchio (which sounds/looks rather frightening in its own right), this retelling of the classic fairy tale comes straight from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. So you know it’s not going to be something Walt Disney would likely approve of.

Release date: 2022

Rustin

Dustin Lance Black won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2009 for his work on Gus Van Sant’s Milk, a biopic of the life and tragic murder of Harvey Milk, a queer rights activist and California’s first openly gay elected official. Now he’s back to the tell the story of another iconic LGBTQ leader, Bayard Rustin, who organized the 1963 March on Washington. Colman Domingo stars as the title character in this Netflix original, which was produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions.

Release date: 2022

Deep Water

Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas play a married couple who have fallen out of love, but whose penchant for messing with each other’s heads is the one thing that keeps them together in this erotic thriller. While the real-life romance that developed offscreen between Affleck and de Armas drew much of the early interest in this movie, it blocked out the real story: that the movie, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 novel, marks the big-screen return of Adrian Lyne, who hasn’t directed a film since his Oscar-nominated Unfaithful (2002). With films like Fatal Attraction, Lolita, 9 1/2 Weeks, and Indecent Proposal on his resume, Lyne has long been a master of the Happy Couple Doing Very Bad Things genre.

Release date: 2022


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2021 Was Bound to Be a Year of Pop Culture Disappointments

2021 Was Bound to Be a Year of Pop Culture Disappointments

Nearly two hours into Eternals’ mildly excessive 2-hour-37-minute runtime, it struck me: This movie is bad. Strange and unsettling, it was a realization not unlike the feeling of knowing you’re about to be dumped. The spell is broken; it can’t be recast. For the previous 100-plus minutes, Chloé Zhao’s thoughtful exploration of an immortal race of superheroes had captured my full attention. It had fights, banter, moments of catharsis. Watching it felt like making new friends. But soon it became clear: That’s all it felt like. My joy came from experiencing the movie in a theater, surrounded by people—not the movie itself.

Culturally, there was a lot riding on this year. As an epoch, the Covid-19 era has been shot through with missed opportunities. Many of these are personal milestones—a postponed wedding, a freshman year spent away from classmates. Others are more broad—NBA games played without fans, Mulan premiering in the US on Disney+. But as 2020 morphed into 2021, things changed. Vaccines rolled out and music venues opened; people started going to cinemas and flooding sports arenas. Pop culture touchstones, and the ways people enjoyed them, began to reemerge, bringing with them scores of expectations. No Time to Die needed to be excellent because, for some fans, the new James Bond film was their first time seeing a big movie on a big screen in months. The same was true for Dune. Eternals too, which was why anything short of incredible felt like a let down—and it was.

Such disappointments were abundant this year. But frankly, there was no way to avoid this. Lockdowns in 2020 led to a lot of pent-up demand for cultural outlets. A spring without Coachella, a summer without blockbusters, a fall and winter without much of the usual holiday fanfare—these things left lots of folks wanting. Sure, we filled the void with streaming marathons, podcasts, and TikToks, but it was hard to reckon with the fact that something, a lot of things, were missing.

Come 2021, many of them returned. Delayed movies like Dune and the new 007 flick found their way to Imax screens. And while both of those films were solidly good, no movie this year had that Ohmygod, did you see? air that Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Black Panther did. (Of anything Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings came closest. Maybe Spider-Man: No Way Home, but it hit theaters just as Omicron fears were peaking.) And not necessarily because they failed at being feats of filmmaking. We just needed them to be too much. Like their first post-lockdown hugs, people hoped their inaugural trips to the multiplex would feel monumental. Perhaps, in my head, I expected my first meeting with the Eternals to feel like returning home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Eternals just felt like any other trip to the theater—a nice time, but rarely life-changing—the effect was melancholic. And that’s probably for reasons that aren’t the movie’s fault.

A slightly different shift happened with TV consumption. During 2020, media diets maxed out on comfort food: Friends, The Office, The Circle. Much of that carried over into 2021, as streaming became the most reliable—if not best—source of new cultural output. Of course, plenty of challenging programs broke through in the last two years—I May Destroy You and Mare of Easttown come to mind—but, if anything, quarantine reacquainted lots of viewers with easygoing shows like New Girl and Schitt’s Creek or any one of a half-dozen escapist genre programs on Disney+. Sure, some people discovered, or rediscovered, complicated fare like The Sopranos, but when it came to excitement over new programming, absurd shows like Tiger King and Selling Sunset seemed to grab the most attention—offering a form of tuning-out-while-tuning-in that other new series didn’t. The breakthroughs, like Squid Game, leaned obscure and/or absurd. Those that were expected to make a splash, like Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop and Apple TV+’s Foundation, fell flat. Even as TV became the more dominant medium, it was still riddled with letdowns.