Music Features

Beyonce, Bridgers, Black Pumas: Our Take on the 2020 Grammy Nominations

If it feels like the same 5 people were nominated for everything, it's because they kind of were.

2020 was a tumultuous year, and the music industry felt it.

From tour cancellations and Zoom press junkets to #BlackoutTuesday originating from two Black women in the music industry, there was no aspect of the 2020 hellscape that didn't touch the music industry. Inevitably, this spawned a wealth of new content, from those awful "Imagine" viral videos to quarantine songs that evolved as the year did — isolation songs, to protest songs, to even election-themed songs.

With awards season in full swing after the American Music Awards this summer, the Grammy Awards, scheduled for 2021 with Trevor Noah slated to host, just released their list of nominations. With altered categories and June's promises of inclusion on the brain, the Grammys were under a lot of pressure to get it right this year.

Sometimes they did, mostly they didn't. Here are the highlights.

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Film News

Tilda Swinton Makes Impassioned Argument for Gender-Neutral Awards in Venice

"I draw a blank on the divisions of age or gender or any sense of identity."

This week Scottish actor Tilda Swinton is in Italy for the Venice Film Festival to accept a Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement award.

Swinton was one of two recipients this year, along with Hong Kong New Wave filmmaker Ann Hui. The Snowpiercer actor accepted the award at the socially distanced ceremony on Wednesday night, with a speech that included tributes to recently deceased Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman and to Swinton's late friend and collaborator David Bowie.

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Film Features

How China Is Controlling Hollywood

What "Red Dawn" taught us about defeating Chinese invaders–oops, we mean North Korean.

From Trump threatening to ban TikTok in the US to hordes of angry Americans defending their vituperative rhetoric as "free speech," America is in the midst of a "disinformation war."

But while most concern is (rightfully) centered on misinformation about the global pandemic and the upcoming 2020 election, there's another element of our lives that's being tweaked and manipulated in order to change our perception. A recent report from PEN America, a nonprofit organization that "defends and celebrates freedom of expression," documents how Hollywood has censored itself in order to appease the Chinese Communist Party's strict standards.

As the world's second-largest box office market, China has exerted undue influence over casting, plot, setting, and dialogue–according to the report, titled "Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing." Lead author of PEN America's report, James Tager, said, "The Chinese Communist party is increasingly shaping what global audiences see. While we are all well aware of the strict controls that China's government maintains over dissent, independent thought and creativity within its own borders, the long arm of Chinese censorship–powered by vast economic incentives–has also reached deep into Hollywood, shaping perceptions, inculcating sensitivities and reshaping the bounds of what can be shown, said and told."

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Film News

A Dissection of the Confusing Feelings We Have About Timothée Chalamet's Mustache

The new The French Dispatch trailer has left us feeling upset and...horny.

There's a lot of expected things going on in the new trailer for the upcoming Wes Anderson film, The French Dispatch.

Bill Murray does dead pan, Saoirse Ronan has piercing blue eyes and a look of wistful consternation, Owen Wilson bafflingly continues to use his real voice while acting. It's all pretty much business as usual—until about 1:14, when an unsettling oddity presents itself.

www.youtube.com

It would appear that at around this point in the trailer, we see Timothée Chalamet with...something on his upper lip. I leaned in closer to the screen, wondering if perhaps it was just a trick of the light; surely it's not real, right? But then, as the trailer draws to a close, the truth hit me like a sledge hammer. Timothée is, indeed, sporting something like a mustache.

My first reaction was repulsion. The mustache is so thin and so unsure of itself that it's hardly a mustache at all. If anything it's a flimsy wish, a dream of facial hair to some day come. For Timmy to ruin his otherwise angelic face this way? Tragic. Whoever made this directorial choice should be put in the stocks for daring to interrupt the delicate, bird-like flow of his porcelain face. These were my first thoughts.

But soon, something else began to set in. A kind of...nostalgia. This particular 3-inch strip of fuzz is not unfamiliar to me. It's a look that has been sported by every lanky, sleepy-eyed, weed-smoking Brooklyn hipster I've ever allowed to give me a UTI. This same faint shadow of a mustache has sat above the lip of every friend's-older-brother-who-dropped-out-of-college I pined over at 15; every video game playing, Colt 45 drinking, self ascribed "free thinker" who haunted my pubescent dreams in their beanies and torn Vans sneakers. This is the face of the dirty hipster you wish wasn't hot. This is the face of the preferred type of every girl who's attracted to Timothée Chalamet's unsettling lankiness, doll-like features, and air of nonchalance. This is Timothée Chalamet: fully realized.

You can love the mustache or you can hate the mustache, but you must accept the mustache. It was inevitable. It's what we were asking for, for better or for worse.

FILM

Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend of June 14

Who asked for a Men in Black reboot? Why would anybody want that?

RLJE Films

Welcome back to "Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend."

This week, someone rebooted Men in Black for some reason.

WIDE RELEASE:

Men in Black: International

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL - Official Trailer #2 www.youtube.com

The first Men in Black was just okay. It benefits from nostalgia goggles, but so do the Burger King tie-in toys it spawned, and nobody's going to argue that those were high-quality. There wasn't really any fan demand for a reboot of this franchise (are there even Men in Black fans?), and there probably wasn't any reason behind the decision besides "reboot everything." The point is, Men in Black: International doesn't seem like a story anyone genuinely wanted to tell, and the trailer reflects that. It looks painfully generic.

Shaft

SHAFT – Official Trailer [HD] www.youtube.com

Like everything else in 2019, the new Shaft arrives with a wink and a nod. Five films deep, the Shaft franchise has shifted from blaxploitation crime action to action comedy. The premise is really cool, centering around a new Shaft (Jessie Usher) teaming him up with the original two (Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree). The trailer seems fun, so hopefully the Shaft franchise can adapt to this new tone while still maintaining the serious themes that made it so culturally prescient in the first place.

LIMITED RELEASE:

Plus One

PLUS ONE Official Trailer www.youtube.com

Plus One is a rom-com about two friends who make a pact to be each other's plus ones at the many, many weddings they need to attend. It stars the incredibly talented Maya Erskine (PEN15) and was written and directed by Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, both writers for PEN15. The plot may sound a bit contrived, but that's part of the fun of rom-coms. The trailer looks funny and, again, Maya Erskine is fantastic. As such, Plus One is my PICK OF THE WEEK.

The Dead Don't Die

THE DEAD DON'T DIE - Official Trailer [HD] - In Theaters June 14 www.youtube.com

The Dead Don't Die is a horror movie with a cast. We know this because "CHECK OUT THIS CAST" has been their primary marketing point. I tend to distrust movies that market like this. If a movie needs to rely on the size and renown of its cast, it usually doesn't have a narrative that holds up on its own. Granted, the cast here really is great. Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Tilda Swinton are phenomenal. But chances are that the movie itself is just okay, at best.

Hampstead

HAMPSTEAD Official Trailer (2019) Diane Keaton Romantic Movie HD www.youtube.com

Brendan Gleeson absolutely kills every role he's ever been given. I love, love, love him. Old people movies though? Eh. Queen of old people movies, Diane Keaton (Book Club, Poms, etc.) plays a widow who falls in love with a kooky squatter and, as a result, discovers the spice of life or something. Brendan Gleeson is, of course, the squatter who just wants to be left alone in a shack that the government is trying to take away. But he's about to find out that sometimes, the only thing better than a shack is shacking up with an old person. Nice.

Whoa! As far as dramatic movie transformations go this is right up there with Charlize Theron’s Aileen Wournos Monster makeover!

Except, Tilda Swinton hasn’t gone down the tried and tested Oscar baiting “uglify” route—for her part in the upcoming Amy Schumer comedy, Trainwreck, the 54-year-old has gone full out glammed-up, with lashings of make-up, hair extensions and deep, deep tan—rendering her completely unrecognizable from her everyday, off screen look.

In Trainwreck, Swinton plays the part of Dianna—the pushy, outspoken, brassy blonde, bitchy British editrix of sleazy men’s mag, S’nuff, whom Schumer’s character—also called Amy in the movie—works for.

Amy Schumer Hits Back At Movie Critic Who Called Her Chubby And Ugly

Dianna’s character follows in the footsteps of Meryl Streep’s Devil Wears Prada Miranda Preistly—but kinda on steroids—assigning stories such as Does Garlic Make Semen Taste Different? and 10 Ugliest Celebrity Kids Under 6.

It’s an unusual role for Swinton, who is best known for more edgy, dark character portrayals—but, it’s one she took on with relish, as she explained to the Huffington Post:

This is a different generation, certainly of women, but also of magazines. The significance of the magazine in the film is this is the sort of culture that Amy’s character is not only brought up in, but is also aspiring to perpetuate.

This kind of cynical, unshockable, intimacy-free advice is really hip for a lot of people, and there are people out there who are spinning it. The idea of who this woman might be who actually started this magazine and named it S’nuff and employed these people to build this thing up, and as she said when she’s referring to the Ezra Miller character—‘We created this boy. This is our responsibility, to create the youth of today’—and that’s kind of off the wall.

That’s super loopy. So the idea that this women is really not all there, on a deep level, was really amusing to us. We really went with that.

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Swinton says that she’s “delighted” by her extreme transformation, and the chance to rock a completely different look:

I’m delighted to say that I’m unrecognizable. I don’t know whether one would really want to be recognizable in this role. It’s a lot of makeup and a kind of tandoori tan and a wig, and that’s all it takes. You know, Matthew, if you put that lot on, you’d look like that.

I hadn’t thought of this, but it’s interesting that you say I’m more disguised in this than in the other things that you mentioned, but the other things you mentioned are not necessarily very realistic garb.

You don’t necessarily walk down the street and see someone dressed as Madame D. from Grand Budapest Hotel. Certainly not in every neighborhood. I’m in a neighborhood here at the moment where there are quite a few people who look like that, but not everywhere do you see people who look like that. Or, for example, that monster in Snowpiercer. But the truth is there are a lot of women walking around rocking Dianna’s look, and I suppose you maybe didn’t ever expect to see me in it.

But here we are, and it’s available for everybody. You just have to go to a big makeup counter in a big department store and you, too, can get that look.

Good Deed Alert—Amy Schumer Leaves Waiter A Humungous Tip

But, don’t think all that makeup and hair takes away from the core of Dianna’s feminist spirit, as Swinton explains:

She would call herself a feminist with a capital F. But then she’d call herself everything. I think there’s nothing that you would suggest and she wouldn’t claim it and say she is the No. 1 fan. Every belief system out there.

Trainwreck hits theaters Friday July 17—you can watch the trailer below