Discover more from The Bulwark
Hollywood Waits, and Watches
Plus: a scandalous assignment!
Everyone in Hollywood is sitting around and holding their breath, hopeful that the writers strike is going to come to an end in the next few days here. For the first time in weeks—months? since the thing really began?—there’s some hope that real progress has been made at the negotiating table as studio CEOs sit down with the WGA to finally hammer out a new deal. David Poland, not prone to flights of fancy on this topic, suggests the deal is likely to close later today. Hooray!
In the absence of actual news on this front to analyze, let’s hop around the rest of the entertainment industry and see what’s going on, shall we?
•I’ll be honest, I was tempted to do 800 words on Amazon’s announcement that Prime Video is going to introduce an ad tier (and offer the chance to pay $3/month to avoid ads), but I think you’ve all had enough of me tapping my “Streaming has only begun to suck, it’s going to get suckier” sign. (See previous entries here and here.)
I think Sean McNulty is right that this is a bigger deal than people are making it out to be because Amazon is making the ad tier the default tier on Prime Video rather than introducing an ad tier, jacking up prices on the ad-free tiers, and seeing how many people switch over to the ad tiers. It creates a huge base of subscribers for their ad sales guys and instantly turns Prime Video into the biggest ad-based streamer amongst the traditional streaming companies (e.g., Netflix or Disney+, as opposed to the so-called FAST services like Tubi).
Prime Video is kind of a weird service in that no one outside of Amazon really knows how many people actually use the service (which is included as part of an overall subscription to Amazon Prime), and we’re even less sure how many people subscribe to Prime primarily because of Prime Video (I would guess the number is very small). I’ll be very curious to see how this plays out.
•The new movie Dumb Money is, I think, not very good as a work of cinematic art, but it is at least pretty interesting insofar as it’s one of the very few movies to actively deal with life during the pandemic and how it drove all of us at least a little crazy.
•On this Friday’s episode of Across the Movie Aisle, we talked about Hasan Minhaj and the devastating examination of his “emotional truths” in The New Yorker. It’s a really interesting piece and I think it asks an interesting question—namely, how true do we expect standup routines to be—but what grates about Minhaj and similar comics is the effort to have it both ways. You can either be an entertaining artist dealing in half-truths or you can be a prophet of social change whose life shows us how to improve society. You can’t have it both ways.
•Fourteen years ago, I interviewed Michael Caine on the press tour for Is Anybody There and for reasons too convoluted to explain here1 we talked about retiring; it didn’t really make it into the piece, but he said something to the effect of there’s really no need for actors to retire, because eventually you just stop getting parts. I guess that’s changed for him somewhat since, as he told The Telegraph “I’m sort of retired now” while noting that, at 90, he has trouble getting around. One of the all-time greats.
•The Taylor Swift concert movie is going to make so much money. So. Much. Money.
•On the one hand, I think “cancel culture” is a real thing and a real problem. Policing everyone’s thoughts and statements at all times in all venues and then punishing them financially when they transgress some hidden bound in a way unrelated to their actual job—be it acting or changing oil at a Kwik Stop—is a net negative for society.
On the other, when you say or do something racist that has a direct impact on your job you’re probably going to lose that job. All of which is to say that Bob Guccione Jr.’s defense of Jann Wenner—who recently told the New York Times that black and female performers aren’t articulate and that’s why he didn’t feel the need to conversations with them in his new book, The Masters—is, well, suspect.
Assigned Viewing: I, Tonya (Max, Kanopy)
Again, I didn’t really love director Craig Gillespie’s Dumb Money—it’s just not a very cinematic subject, and I think it elides important aspects of the GameStop story, namely all the normie investors who got crushed when they got in at the top of the bubble—but I do kind of love his look at the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan affair, I, Tonya, which is surprisingly empathetic to its subject and helped introduce the world to the talents of Paul Walter Hauser.
Have you ever seen PCU? You should, if you can find it. Anyway, in that movie, a slacker college student creates something called the Caine-Hackman Theory, which posits that at any point on any day you can find a movie on cable starring either Gene Hackman or Michael Caine. The question came up in our interview because I asked him if he was aware of it (he said he wasn’t) and Hackman had retired a few years back.