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Movies New to Netflix in January: ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ and More 

As Netflix heads into its first legitimate Oscar season, the streaming giant is hoping to pull out nominations and wins for “ROMA,” “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” and “Girl.” Lest Netflix lose sight of its one true purpose, the platform will be streaming the entire “Indiana Jones” franchise beginning in January. The streamer announced today its full list of titles for the new year, and it’s the expected mix of cult hit indies and little-known original films.

Quentin Tarantino fans can rejoice in January: “Pulp Fiction” heads to Netflix in the beginning of the month, and the classic continues to be endlessly re-watchable. Guillermo del Toro fans can also peruse “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and relive a simpler time before the Mexican filmmaker’s polarizing “The Shape of Water” Oscar win. David Mackenzie and Taylor Sheridan’s 2016 crime drama “Hell or High Water” also becomes available on the same day.

For those looking for something a little lighter to celebrate the new year, Netflix will also have comedies 1991’s “The Addams Family,” Jon Favreau breakout “Swingers,” and the legendary “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” On the Netflix Originals slate, be sure to check out Icelandic filmmaker Ísold Uggadóttir’s stunning immigration drama “And Breathe Normally.”

Without further ado, here is the full list of movies coming to Netflix in January, 2019.

January 1

Across the Universe
Babel
Black Hawk Down
City of God
Definitely, Maybe
Godzilla
Happy Feet
Hell or High Water
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
It Takes Two
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Jersey Boys
Mona Lisa Smile
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
Pan’s Labyrinth
Pulp Fiction
Swingers
Tears of the Sun
The Addams Family
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Dark Knight
The Departed
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns
The Strangers
Watchmen
xXx
XXX: State of the Union

“Pan’s Labyrinth”

FilmStruck / Criterion

January 2

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

January 4

And Breathe Normally — NETFLIX FILM
An Icelandic single mom struggling with poverty and a Guinea-Bissauan asylum seeker facing deportation find their lives intertwined in unexpected ways.

El Potro: Unstoppable — NETFLIX FILM
A singer makes a splash in the Tropical music scene thanks to his good looks and magnetism, but must navigate tragedy and the trappings of fame to survive.

Lionheart — NETFLIX FILM
When her father falls ill, Adaeze steps up to run the family business — alongside her uncle — and prove herself in a male-dominated world.

January 9

Solo: A Star Wars Story

January 11

Solo — NETFLIX FILM
In a remote area of the Canary Islands, young surfer Alvaro Vizcaino accidentally falls from a cliff. Seriously injured, he must fight to survive.

The Last Laugh — NETFLIX FILM
Retired talent manager Al reconnects with former client Buddy, a comedian who gave up performing decades ago, and urges him to go back out on the road.

January 15

Revenger — NETFLIX FILM
A former detective hell-bent on revenge infiltrates a remote island serving as a prison for dangerous death row criminals in search of a brutal fiend.

January 16

American Gangster

January 18

Close — NETFLIX FILM
To protect an heiress from highly trained kidnappers, a lone security expert must unravel a sinister plot — while striving to stay alive.

GIRL — NETFLIX FILM
In this award-winning drama inspired by a true story, 15-year-old Lara trains to become a ballerina as she transitions from her assigned gender.

IO — NETFLIX FILM
One of the last survivors on Earth, a teen races to cure her poisoned planet before the final shuttle to a distant space colony leaves her stranded.

Soni — NETFLIX FILM
While fighting crimes against women in Delhi, a short-fused policewoman and her level-headed female boss grapple with gender issues in their own lives.

Donald Glover is Lando Calrissian in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Lucasfilm Ltd.

January 24

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

January 25

Animas — NETFLIX FILM
When her best friend starts acting odd after a strange accident, a young woman descends into a living hell where nightmare and reality are blurred.

Polar — NETFLIX FILM
The world’s top assassin, Duncan Vizla, aka The Black Kaiser, is settling into retirement when his former employer marks him as a liability to the firm. Against his will, he finds himself back in the game going head to head with an army of younger, faster, ruthless killers who will stop at nothing to have him silenced.

January 29

Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and the Wasp

January 30

Disney•Pixar’s The Incredibles 2

‘Champaign ILL’ Review: Adam Pally and Sam Richardson Pop in Sharp YouTube Comedy 

When the universe closes a door, it opens a window. On December 12, Comedy Central confirmed the cancellation of “Detroiters,” a joyous comedy co-starring and co-created by Sam Richardson. On December 13, YouTube Premium released the first season of “Champaign, ILL,” co-starring Richardson and co-created with David Caspe (“Happy Endings”) and a slew of his former writers.

“Champaign, ILL” isn’t quite the second coming of “Detroiters” — its black comic elements stemmed from characters more jaded than Sam (Richardson) and Tim (Tim Robinson) ever were —  but the two shows share more than Richardson’s increasingly bankable charms. They both rely on chemistry and creativity, track two best friends who rely on their artistic prowess to succeed in life, and take their show titles from the Midwest. (“Champaign ILL” references Champaign, Illinois, home of the University of Illinois and the best gosh darn Italian restaurant West of New York.)

Most significantly, the new buddy comedy is an absurd, fun, and fresh spin on adults stuck in arrested development. Kicking off in 2003, “Champaign ILL” introduces Ronnie (Pally), Alf (Richardson), and Lou (Jay Pharoah) as three best friends who just graduated high school. Ronnie is a “certified genius” with plans to go to Yale and start a non-profit. Alf insists he’s going to marry his third-grade sweetheart, and Lou has a secret: He just signed a recording contract to become the next hip-hop superstar. Though nothing is guaranteed — as his cohorts quickly remind Lou — he’s heading to Miami to put down his first album and asks his friends to come along for the ride..

Thinking they can defer college for a year without any damage, they agree. Next thing you know, it’s 15 years later, Lou has hit the big time, and Ronnie and Alf have been totally corrupted by the fame and fortune provided by their friend. Selfish, image obsessed, and sporting some seriously questionable hairstyles, they have become so wrapped up in Lou’s luxe world they forgot to grow up and become their own men.

Jay Pharoah, Adam Pally, Sam Richardson - Champaign, ILL Season 1

Sam Richardson, Jay Pharoah, and Adam Pally in “Champaign, ILL”

YouTube Premium

Through a blunt and nicely timed twist not to be spoiled here, Ronnie and Alf soon find themselves broke, adrift, and “slumming it” in their respective parents’ houses back in Champaign. After bouncing between Miami and Paris for $40,000 dinners, the quaint confines of suburban Illinois feel a tad, well, confining. Will the two men languish without the lucrative support of their peer, or rediscover and realize the potential they had before the mooching began?

It’s a simple premise, but intentionally so. Pally and Richardson run wild with their cocky characters, bringing loud, empty, but comedically inventive aggression to scenes that illustrate their frustration with the sudden lack of privilege. (Their first trip to the airport, without the accommodations of a private jet, quickly craters into relatable and hysterical outrage when they discover what “normals” are charged for carry-on luggage.) At times, their childish antics can paint the macho men as too self-involved, which lowers any interest in their journey, but usually the writers know where to draw the line and how to bring the characters back toward empathy.

Having these actors lead the way is invaluable, and not only because they’ve racked up more canceled-but-beloved series than anyone short of 40 deserves. Pally can downshift from wide-eyed, authoritative accusations to a put-upon lapdog, and the miniature fits he throws are a delightful push-and-pull between the extremes of Ronnie’s ego. It’s like he’s only arguing with himself, at all times, and he’s still elatedly stunned to win or dejectedly tolerant of losing. (There are a few great scenes where Ronnie unveils a new life plan, but one family dinner features a particularly detailed performance via a beat-by-beat breakdown of Ronnie’s dreams clashing with reality.)

Richardson, on the other hand, is as skilled a physical performer as he is a master of timing. The way he pops his lips when emphasizing a certain point is enough to garner chuckles, and there’s a barely controlled energy that makes you perk up and pay attention. Best of all, the two have immediate chemistry. “Champaign ILL” is well edited with clever visual additions (like texting bubbles and expository inserts) that keep the momentum up, but much can be said for the two men’s learned timing with each other.

Through three episodes, there’s more than enough here — including a strong supporting cast highlighted by Danielle Schneider and Allyce Beasley — to make a season’s investment worth your time. “Champaign ILL” sets itself a clear path toward growth, crafting compelling episodic arcs, but the series still relishes the foolish side of its stars. Now, it just needs viewers.

Grade: B

“Champaign, IL” Season 1 is streaming now on YouTube Premium.

‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’: Breaking the Rules of Animation 

Animation

One of the reasons why “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has become an Oscar contender and the most honored animated feature this season is because of its bold, innovative style. In bringing Miles Morales to the big screen, producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller wanted to break the rules of animation by making a moving comic book.

The producers supplied the vision, assembling a trio of talented directors (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and co-screenwriter Rodney Rothman) and an impressive voice cast (led by Shameik Moore as Morales). But Lord and Miller relied on go-to production designer Justin Thompson to design the ambitious look.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Read More:‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’: Phil Lord & Chris Miller Introduce Game-Changer Miles Morales

“As somebody obsessed with comics my whole life, I had seen films translated from comics and I always thought something got lost in the translation,” said Thompson. “So I thought it would be amazing to make a movie from Miles Morales’ point of view, living inside a comic book and staring out at me: those Ben-Day dots, those screen tones, those offsets, the line work.”

First, Thompson consulted with Danny Dimian, Sony’s VFX supervisor. And at the top of his wish list was removing motion blur. “Then I thought it would be cool to give me the ability to make it any color that I want,” Thompson said. “And then it would be cool if you could give me the ability to shift it as far as I want. And then it would be cool if you could actually make those key offsets shift with a character, depending on how fast a character is moving.”

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

This required Sony to invent a new visual language and break their pipeline in the process. “They wanted something they’d never seen before on screen and unique enough that they couldn’t tell how it was made,” said Dimian. “It affected every department and the motto became, ‘If it ain’t broke, break it.'”

They looked at comics, illustrations, and 2D animation for inspiration, and borrowed a 2D trick by animating on 2s instead of 1s (12 frames per second and not 24) to remove the motion blur and get snappier poses.

But the in-between gaps in the poses ran counter to simulation-based animation (hair, cloth, effects), which relies on continuous motion in the computer. So they had to rethink simulation to help fill in the gaps. On the tech side, they wrote new software to connect characters and simulation. A hand-drawn animation style was also applied to effects so explosions looked more like illustrations. Therefore, a library of 2D sparks was fed into the simulations.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

But the biggest innovation had to do with line drawing, with Sony writing new software to allow two-dimensional drawing over the CG character models. “Then we had to write tools to create rigs out of those lines to be used by the animators,”  Dimian said. “The geometry generated from those lines made it more immersive. For the lines that are not as expressive (on the hands or the chin over the neck), we wrote software for machine learning to automate that process for the rest of the drawings.”

The use of halftones and line hatching for shadowing was also assimilated from the comic printing process. The end result successfully conveyed the impression of an artist’s hand overlaid on top of the animation. But the greatest cool factor for the animation team, aside from making Miles a new kind of teenage superhero of color, was creating such a diverse range of styles for the supporting Spidey characters.

“The visual challenge was how everyone was going to look,” said Joshua Beveridge, the animation director. “We didn’t want to emulate reality or look like a cartoon. We needed our own language for different animation styles, and different universes. We did two-dimensional shapes as opposed to puppets. It’s an outside in versus inside out process of thinking and that changed everything.”

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Sony Pictures Animation

Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) looked past his prime; the anime-inspired Peni Parker (Kamiko Glenn) was a CG/2D hybrid; Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) was a hand-drawn delight; Spider-Noir (Nicholas Cage) was a black-and-white throwback; and Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) was free-spirited and balletic.

When it came to the trippy, action-packed finale, where everything gets ripped apart, the animators gave a shout out to both “2001: A Space Odyssey” and legendary Marvel illustrator Jack Kirby. “They all have a half-toning, dot, bubbles thing going on,” said Dimian. “So we were inspired by the Kirby Dots for the particle energy [black blobs and red light] in this ‘2001’ moment full of color and craziness.”

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‘The Favourite’: Oscar Nod Likely for DP Robbie Ryan, But Damned If He Knows Why 

To hear Robbie Ryan tell it, he was “a glorified camera operator” on “The Favourite.” Shot entirely in natural light, director Yorgos Lanthimos was against his cinematographer cluttering the set with flags, bounce or diffusion in an effort to shape the light. He also picked the lenses, knowing he would rely almost entirely on the extremely wide 10mm lens he experimented with while shooting “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

“At the end of the job, I said to Yorgos, ‘You should be shooting your own films, ’cause your an amazingly astute cinematographer in your own mind and I’m just kind of a glorified operator on this,’” said Ryan. “And I still kind of stick to that adage, but he’s going, ‘No, no. I like the way we worked.’”

Ryan was in many ways a natural partner for Lanthimos on “The Favourite.” From his collaborations with director Andrea Arnold, Ryan had established himself as master of crafting expressive and evocative images working with natural light. And although known for his use handheld, Ryan’s camera moves has always had a verve that Lanthimos needed for a film he conceived in terms of movement.

“I always thought that there was gonna be a very particular physicality to it, and I didn’t know what that meant,” said Lanthimos. “I knew that one other element would have been the physicality of all these characters, and how they move around in a space and how their physicality brings them a more contemporary feel along with language and other elements that we used.”

“The Favourite” cinematographer Robbie Ryan

Fox Searchlight

The director relied on his unorthodox three-week rehearsals with the principal cast to discover what that “texture of the movement” was going to be. He also knew Ryan, who joined the rehearsal a number of times, would help him translate and execute it.

Beyond Ryan’s distinct skill set, Lanthimos’ decision to work with the cinematographer for the first time had more to do with his easygoing temperament. He wanted to make sure he didn’t get locked into any limitations, resistance, or an orthodoxy when it came to shooting his first period film.

“I’m quite particular about how I want to film things. I need people that are gonna be up for anything, and because I knew that I wanted to push things further for this film to what I’ve been gradually doing the last few films and last few years,” said Lanthimos. “I knew that I needed someone that would have nothing holding him back in trying anything, and Robbie felt like that from the beginning. He’s up for anything, and he basically gets excited the bigger the challenge, the more he gets excited about it.”

One example of pushing things further was deviating from the already extremely wide 10mm lens to use a fish-eye 6mm lens that creates very noticeable distortion. It brings a garishness to a period film that would make other cinematographers balk.

Olivia Colman in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

“The Favourite”

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

“There’s an absurdist thing about that lens that its kind of almost comical, but it’s fantastical as well – it’s not totally out of place in the film, which you never would imagine,” said Ryan. “He’s just a very confident director who wanted to use that as the voice for the film and you had to take a chance with it and prove that it’s a good move. And we weren’t shooting on other lenses. We weren’t maybe doing the safe version of that. It was, a lot of the time, the kind of balls-out version of that. I thought that was very brave and I was going, ‘Oh my god, okay.’”

One of the advantages of shooting on wide lenses was it made Ryan’s biggest challenge  — nailing the film’s distinct camera movement — easier. Lanthimos disdains what Ryan described as “that soft sort of seasickness feel” of a steadicam, but the vigorous speed and stop-on-a-dime nature of “The Favourite” required a fairly stable frame.

“I think the sort of solidness of it is really important, where you land and then you move,” said Ryan. “If we’re shooting everything on a 25 or 50mm, you’d be bouncing all over the place, it wouldn’t look great. The 10mm is very forgiving in the camera movement.”

Lathimos was hoping to use something like body camera rig used in the 1983 German film “Angst,” where the camera moved in conjunction with actors’ hips. That proved impossible with the period costume in “The Favourite” combined with the weight of a 35mm camera. Ryan, who operated the camera, preferred to lean on a dolly, but strapped himself into a double helix rig for scenes shot in the bouncy carriage rides, the large corridors, and interactions between Abigail (Emma Stone) and Masham (Joe Alwyn).

“It’s a Gimbal rig that could take the way of a 35mm camera, but it also needed to be supported, so you have to wear a vest and these kind of exoskeleton spring arms that make you look really ridiculous,” said Ryan. “I really liked the idea of it, but it was particularly slow to get working because it was quite a lot of electronics. You just have to calibrate it all the time and it would always go off center. It was really frustrating, and if we could we ended up doing it on the dolly because it was simpler.”

Emma Stone in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Emma Stone in the “The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos

Lanthimos loved the wide-angle view for how much of the castle location could be seen in frame.

“One of the things that I was interested was the architecture of this world and how people moved from one room to the other and how these big rooms felt,” said Lanthimos. “We played around with that, and we enhanced that feel of one person in a huge room or two or three people in a huge room that play games and have intimate relations that affect a bigger picture.”

The challenge for Ryan was mastering the timing of that movement through those wide-angle perspectives. Whip pans now felt like panoramas. Actors needed to be much closer to wide-angle camera or they would be too small in frame, which made the movement feel more dynamic and often faster, more violent.

“Getting the timing down wasn’t natural at first, it took practice” said Ryan. “I’m probably more known for doing handheld, so it was kind of challenge for me to do this sort of lot of very precise camera moves from panning to dolly moves. It was complicated; each scene had a different sort of sense of what way it would be speed-wise.”

WIth certain types of action – like in the scene when Lord Hardley (Nicholas Hoult) throws a hissy fit, kicking the table over and getting in the face of Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) – Ryan learned the 10mm required the film to feel faster and more stylized.

“Because I’m so close to both of them, at the end it’s really like it just had to be fuckin’ violent, to get in there,” said Ryan. “Because otherwise you wouldn’t get there quick enough.”

First Assistant Director Atilla Salih Yücer and Emma Stone on the set of THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

On the set of “The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos

The lighting in “The Favourite” looks amazing, but is something Ryan won’t take credit for, beyond suggesting it be shot in 35mm film. The one time he used bounce to shape the lighting, he said, Lanthimos got grumpy and he understood not to do it again. Meanwhile, the wide lenses made filtration impossible.

He credits the location’s large windows that produced soft directional light, luck with sunny weather, and the way the Kodak Film stocks rounds the highlights in blown-out windows. According to Ryan, an attractive and well-costumed cast did his job for him.

This isn’t the first time Ryan has shot a gorgeous, naturally lit film; as he proved with “American Honey,” he can do it digitally as well. It’s naive to assume any trained cinematographer with a 35mm camera in those castle rooms – a location used in countless UK productions, due to its proximity to London – would produce a film this handsome, this cinematic. Like a great photographer, how a cinematographer reacts to and captures found light can make all the difference.

I once asked Ryan’s long-time collaborator Andrea Arnold how often she and Ryan planned their shooting schedule based on the position of the sun. Arnold, who shoots chronologically, explained that planning around the time of day is often a virtual impossibility. Ryan, she said, is simply intuitive and a genius with natural light.

“The Favourite”

Atsushi Nishijima

“Rarely do we wait for the light,” said Ryan. “But Robbie, whatever beautiful light there is, he’ll find it. He loves his backlight with sun behind people. It’s beautiful.”

Lucrecia Martel Turned Down ‘Black Widow’ After Marvel Told Her ‘Don’t Worry About’ Action Scenes 

The thought of Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel directing a Marvel movie may sound unusual (her challenging style is a far cry from the MCU), but she was included on the studio’s shortlist of filmmakers to helm the Black Widow standalone movie, starring Scarlett Johansson. Martel recently told India’s English-language newspaper The Daily Pioneer (via The Playlist) that her interest in the Marvel film didn’t go beyond her first meeting with the studio.

“I received an e-mail from Marvel for a meeting,” Martel said. “So I went to the [Marvel 10th Anniversary] reunion. I actually signed this thing where I can’t talk about that reunion. Marvel and other such production houses are trying to involve more female filmmakers…What they told me in the meeting was ‘we need a female director because we need someone who is mostly concerned with the development of Scarlett Johansson’s character.'”

Martel continued, “They also told me, ‘Don’t worry about the action scenes, we will take care of that.’ I was thinking, well I would love to meet Scarlett Johansson but also I would love to make the action sequences.”

With Marvel seemingly not interested in Martel’s approach to Black Widow’s action scenes, the director decided to pass on the gig. Marvel announced in July it officially hired “Berlin Syndrome,” “Lore,” and “Somersault” filmmaker Cate Shortland to direct the movie. Shortland will be the the MCU’s first solo female filmmaker, as Anna Boden is the co-director of this March’s “Captain Marvel” with Ryan Fleck.

“Companies are interested in female filmmakers but they still think action scenes are for male directors,” Martel said. “The first thing I asked them was maybe if they could change the special effects because there’s so many laser lights. I find them horrible. Also the soundtrack of Marvel films is quite horrendous. Maybe we disagree on this but it’s really hard to watch a Marvel film. It’s painful to the ears to watch Marvel films.”

Martel appears to have sensed a level of sexism in Marvel’s offer, although it should be noted the studio is known to give stunt coordinators and VFX specialists a lot of responsibility when it comes to capturing action scene coverage. Marvel has been able to lure high profile directors without much action filmmaking experience (Taika Waititi, Ryan Coogler, Kenneth Branagh, Scott Derickson, etc.) for this reason.

Martel most recently directed the acclaimed historical drama “Zama,” which Film Comment magazine just named its best movie of 2018. Shortland will kick off production with Johansson on the Black Widow movie in 2019, which means a possible 2020 release. Marvel has not set an official date. The Black Widow character is set to appear in April’s “Avengers: Endgame.”

The 20 Best TV Moments in 2018 

IndieWire Best of 2018

More often than not, it’s the heart-pounding, jaw-dropping, or heartbreaking moments which define our memories of great television. Which is why each year, IndieWire chooses to recognize those scenes and twists which keep us enraptured in TV’s variety of narratives.

The picks below celebrate on-screen seconds which are the best sort of gut-punches and serve as examples of how this medium can have a genuine impact on how people see the world. From the far-off future to the Biblical past, it was an incredible year for TV, and these moments will be remembered for a long time.

[Editor’s Note: The following article contains light spoilers for the featured series.]

“911”

Bounce House Time! 

9-1-1: L-R: Aisha Hinds, Peter Krause, Oliver Stark and Kenneth Choi in the

“9-1-1” is a show built on sheer audacity. What other show would begin with a woman getting slowly constricted to death by a giant snake (and not have that be the craziest thing that happened in the episode)? Showing that no one was truly safe from the whims of Los Angeles-area disasters, this bounce house misadventure was one of the show’s first and wildest examples that there is literally no height that its characters can’t reach. Of course, it’s also an example of how one crisis isn’t good enough. Not only does this inflatable party piece detach from the ground on a windy afternoon, it has to fly over an entire valley canyon. Luckily no one died, so we can all kind of laugh about it now. – SG

“The Americans “

The Train Escape

THE AMERICANS --

Keri Russell in “The Americans.”

FX

A sleight of hand trick that’s anything but slight. Watching three-fourths of the Jennings family cross the American border to freedom was packed with tension, long before its heartbreaking twist ending. This is a family that doesn’t want to say goodbye to their adopted country. Even Elizabeth (Keri Russell) had come around a bit to the U.S. way of life, while Philip (Matthew Rhys) is giving up line dancing forever. Both are saying goodbye to their son, Henry (Keidrich Sellati), a sacrifice that proves to be too much for Paige (Holly Taylor). As the haunting U2 melody of “With or Without You” plays over border guards carefully expecting each passport, the flood of relief when the train starts moving is almost immediately replaced with horror as Elizabeth sees her daughter waving goodbye from the platform. Whether it was leaving Henry or leaving America altogether, Paige’s choice shatters her parents, making their trip home to Mother Russia colder than ever. (But oh what a sequence it is.) – BT

“Atlanta”

Beware Florida Man

There are plenty of choice moments to savor throughout “Atlanta’s sophomore “Robbin’ Season,” from the sauntering alligator and naked fraternity hazing to every second in the pocket horror masterpiece “Teddy Perkins.” But it’s a joke in the very first episode that clues viewers in that Season 2 will be something special: Florida Man. Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) refers to Florida Man as a figure of American legend, “an alt-right Johnny Appleseed” who is responsible for bizarre incidents in the Sunshine State. As he recites various headlines, all crediting Florida Man with a number of abnormal and often violent events, a tragicomic montage illustrates his words. It’s a brilliant bit of wordplay that ties into the series’ absurdist atmosphere and omnipresent danger, delivered with Stanfield’s chill humor. When guest star Katt Williams makes an unexpected callback to Florida Man later in the episode, the ludicrous lore is now complete. – HN

Barry

“My Lord, the Queen is dead.”

Barry Season 1 Episode 7 Bill Hader

BIll Hader in “Barry”

John P. Johnson/HBO

Barry (Bill Hader) just has to give one line. The scene isn’t about him, as Sally (Sarah Goldberg) has made perfectly clear: She’s taking on the difficult monologue from “Macbeth,” she’s the one who invited an agent to watch the performance, she’s the one feeling the pressure to put on a show or lose out on paid shows for the rest of her professional career. But Barry has just gone through something awful. Forced to kill one of his best friends to save himself, he shows up to Shakespeare night in raw form, confronting the painful memory of mere moments prior and imagining the dead man’s wife and son finding out he’s gone forever. Still, he walks on stage — sans wardrobe, makeup, or any sense of himself — and delivers his one line: “My Lord, the Queen is dead.” Barry’s tears, sniffling, and uncompromised emotion connects not only with the audience but Sally, too, who turns her performance around and wows the crowd. The scene is a testament to acting as a give and take, as well as Hader and Goldberg’s talents. But what’s amazing about it so long after it aired is the pressure Hader put on himself to deliver: If that moment, as written, doesn’t resonate with the audience at home as deeply as it’s meant to with the characters in the room, the whole episode falls apart. Hader and his team find the magic, though, telling a tale of sound and fury, signifying everything that makes “Barry” great. – BT

“Better Call Saul”

Pinata

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

“Better Call Saul.”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Character reversals are a tricky sell, but when done well, they’re unforgettable. So when Jimmy McGill (as we still should call him at this point) threatens the punk kids who mugged him — while they dangle upside down inside a piñata factory — he shifts from a flawed but likable con artist to someone genuinely frightening. The scene is a real turning point for the fourth season of the “Breaking Bad” prequel. Prior to this point, “Better Call Saul” focused on Jimmy trying to be his best within limited parameters. Here, though, Jimmy goes off the leash, everyone can tell, and no one will forget it. – LSM

“Big Mouth”

Groove Is In the Heart

It’s a shrewd act of storytelling to tell years’ worth of a story in a handful of (mostly dialogue-free) minutes. For a show that can get as outrageous as “Big Mouth” often does, this montage of Andrew’s conception and his parents meeting for the first time takes a lot of the show’s singular energy and personality and puts them towards something surprisingly touching. Done with just the right period detail (there are few better instant early ‘90s signifiers than Deee-Lite), it’s another example of how the show doesn’t mind taking an unconventional approach when something unexpectedly profound can be found at the end of the trip. – SG

“Bodyguard”

Dangers on a Train

Bodyguard

Richard Madden in “Bodyguard”

Sophie Mutevelian/World Producti

Jed Mercurio’s new British thriller should come with a warning… or maybe a masseuse to alleviate the white-knuckled tension that will plague viewers throughout the series. Within the first 10 minutes, Sgt. David Budd (Richard Madden) becomes embroiled in a crisis situation on a train when he comes upon a terrorist bomber in the loo. The moment when he and the distressed woman “embrace” in an attempt to avoid getting her shot is one of the most stressful pas de deux ever seen on screen. The entire sequence never lets up, switching from the action outside as soldiers are prepared to storm the train to the claustrophobic action inside as Budd pleads with the bomber. By the time viewers are granted relief 10 excruciating minutes later, they’re hooked, having bonded with Budd after surviving that harrowing experience. While the rest of the season ups the tension with many more scenes, it’s hard to shake this initial introduction to Mercurio’s ruthless storytelling. – HN

“Dear White People”

Coco’s Choice

Dear White People

Dear White People

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

In “Chapter IV,” “Dear White People” delivers a devastating fake-out — a fantasy sequence in which Coco (Antoinette Robertson) imagines what might have happened in a timeline where she gives birth to a baby girl mistakenly conceived with Troy (Brandon P. Bell). This alternate vision of the future proves all the more moving when her true choice is revealed: Coco walks forward into the abortion clinic, certain in her decision. Directed by Kimberly Pierce and written by Njeri Brown, framing the scene in Coco’s choice emphasizes the importance of her right to choose, without sacrificing the struggle within her decision. The way “Dear White People” reminds us of that, as just one facet of its amazing second season, is why the series is worth celebrating again and again. – LSM

“The First”

Sharing the Aurora

The First --

Sean Penn in “The First”

Paul Schiraldi/Hulu

The most affecting scene in this eight-part sojourn into space has nothing to do with a rocket or a hefty space suit. It’s a moment that taps into the feeling of wonder and destiny that powers all of the great narratives about why we choose to explore. With the Aurora Borealis rendered in colors so vivid and in a hue of green that, like Tom Hagerty says, you’ve never really seen before, there’s an instant understanding of what this profession means to everyone who takes to the skies. Delivered with the delicacy of the show’s subtle futuristic technology and underscored by Colin Stetson‘s unbelievably gorgeous piano theme, it’s a sequence that ties together every soul-stirring element that made “The First” one of the year’s most under-appreciated gems. – SG

“GLOW”

Home on the Range

GLOW

GLOW

Erica Parise/Netflix

“The Good Twin” show-within-a-show episode is one of the most joyful things that Netflix put out all year, but that half hour only works if the proper groundwork has been set ahead of time. For Season 2, a major part of that was Debbie’s journey to discover who she really wants to be. In the midst of her decision to strike out on her own and raise her child the way that she wants to, a single solitary rendition of “Home on the Range” is as simple, poignant, and illuminating as it is royalty-free. Paired with the episode-ending cut of Aretha Franklin’s “You’re All I Need to Get  By,” it’s a set of musical bookends that express the relationship between a new mother and her daughter in one of the sweetest, simplest ways possible. – SG

‘The Mule’ Review: Clint Eastwood’s Best Movie in More than 25 Years 

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At 88 years old, Clint Eastwood might be the hardest-working man in Hollywood. And now, with his second directorial outing of 2018 — and his best film since at least “Letters from Iwo Jima” in 2006, and perhaps 1992’s “A Perfect World” before that — he’s finally explained why.

Inspired by a Sam Dolnick article in the New York Times Magazine called “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule,” “The Mule” is a far cry from the red state fantasy that some people feared from a MAGA-era vehicle by an auteur who’s publicly endorsed the Republican Party in the somewhat recent past (two presidential elections and a zillion news cycles ago). On the contrary, Eastwood’s latest thriller is a tender, conflicted, and sometimes very funny meditation on what America conditions people to want for themselves — on how natural it can be to forget who you are in a country where work is an identity unto itself.

To that end, it’s all too easy to see “The Mule” as a semi-autobiographical movie by an immensely rich old man who refuses to retire because he’s more recognized as a filmmaker than he is as a father; a poignant apologia to the family he may never have put first (not for nothing, but Eastwood cast his daughter Alison for the first time in two decades, and invited her “secret” half-sibling to the world premiere). Then again, “The Mule” is also a goofy road story that doubles as one of the horniest things that Eastwood has ever made — his character has not one, but two different three-ways! — so there’s plenty of room for interpretation. And no, that’s not a joke.

Even the title can be read in at least three different ways, though it’s clear to whom it refers: Award-winning horticulturist Earl Stone (Eastwood) is a stubborn old war vet who cares more about his flowers than he does any of the people in his life. The film’s brief prologue finds Earl skipping his daughter’s wedding in order to collect another trophy for his buds; he approaches the podium with a self-satisfied grin, blossoms in response to the respect of his peers, and dazzles the room with a charm that his ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) never got to see. When the story picks up 12 years later, Earl’s daylily farm is in foreclosure, and he’s left with nothing to his name but the beat-up old truck he’s been driving for decades. That may seem like a short-term problem for a guy pushing 90, but Earl only knows how to measure his value in money, and he’s counting on having some handy in order to buy his granddaughter’s (Taissa Farmiga) affection.

Unfolding like a geriatric riff on “Breaking Bad,” “The Mule” is yoked together by a scene that’s clunky even by the run-and-gun, time-is-of-the-essence standards of a film that prioritizes grit over grace (and a filmmaker who always has). Earl, shamed into leaving his granddaughter’s engagement party, is approached by a Latino guest who says he might know a way for a geriatric white man with a non-descript truck to make some easy cash. Cut to: The card-carrying AARP member rolling his rustbucket into an El Paso garage, where he’s greeted by a group of heavily armed men who stash some contraband in the trunk and hand the old man a burner phone. If you think you’re too jaded to laugh at Clint Eastwood grumbling about the internet, you are sorely mistaken.

Grumpy old man jokes notwithstanding, this toxically masculine meet-cute is one of several moments in Nick Schenk’s script that feels like a first draft; given that “The Mule” went from page to screen in just a few short months, that may have actually been the case. But the movie is like a straightaway on an unpaved road, and the forward momentum of its threadbare story is enough to power over the bumpy patches and logic gaps (contrast that with “Gran Torino,” for which the bulldozer-like broadness of Schenk’s writing was considerably less constructive).

“The Mule”

Once Earl begins doing runs for the cartel, the movie effortlessly shifts into higher gear, and sustains velocity even when the action cuts away to a subplot about the standard-issue DEA agents who are on an obvious collision-course with our senescent hero. One of them is played by Michael Peña (who lightens the mood without deflating the tension) and the other by Bradley Cooper (who strolls through his scenes with the cocksure swagger of a guy who already has “A Star Is Born” in the can). Cooper’s performance deepens as the plot comes to a head, and — in a dynamic that evokes the central relationship in David Lowery’s recent “The Old Man & The Gun” — his character begins to see himself in his prey, the two men exposing each other as glorified lackeys who labor to no end; who choose work over family because their self-worth is rooted in capitalistic structures. There’s even an abbreviated thread about a cartel tough guy (Ignacio Serricchio) who can’t even imagine another life for himself; he is the job, and has been ever since a cigar-chomping drug lord named Laton (Andy Garcia, often seen toting a golden shotgun) pulled him off the streets and gave him a purpose.

What makes “The Mule” so sharp is how Eastwood — something of a workaholic, himself — sees that outlook as a double-edged sword. He finds real meaning in Earl’s flowers, and genuine purpose in the DEA agent’s task, but also takes full account of the costs. One of the more clever aspects of Schenk’s script is how it positions Earl as an accidental Robin Hood, using blood money to renovate the local veterans’ home and provide for the American public in a way the government won’t. That angle is flattened out so gradually that you don’t even notice it’s happening; by the time Earl threatens to become Laton’s top driver, the cash is little more than an afterthought. It’s the drive that matters.

Fittingly, “The Mule” suffers for its occasional detours, and shares the same blind spots as its hero. While there’s good reason to relegate Earl’s family to the shoulder area of his story, Eastwood reduces those characters to abstract symbols; they’re as thin and one-dimensional as the group at the end of “Million Dollar Baby,” if inevitably less cartoonish, and that hampers the sharp emotional turns in a third act that could have used a touch more feeling. But it’s Earl who shoulders most of the load here, and Eastwood — directing himself for the first time since “Gran Torino” — exudes enough leathery charm to forgive any manner of sins, both on and off the screen. His shrewd and irresistible performance is defined by a degree of self-awareness that once seemed to be in doubt, on either a political or a personal level.

Earl isn’t far removed from our collective understanding of Clint Eastwood. It goes without saying that he’s not politically correct (an amusing encounter with a lesbian biker gang hammers that point home). His rhetoric is woefully out of date, and he seems oblivious to the white privilege that makes him such a valuable asset to the cartel (the character wields an almost Jedi-like power over law enforcement). But the movie itself is constantly reckoning with Earl’s identity and attendant social value, and contextualizes his standing via a long and fraught scene in which an innocent Latino driver fears for his life during a highway stop. He’s as open and charismatic to strangers as he is shut and taciturn to his family, and while Earl might crack deportation jokes and slip into some condescending Spanish, the movie can’t help but afford the cartel members the same humanity that he does.

And even (or especially) in the moments when “The Mule” feels like the tired musings of an old man, it retains an ineffable honesty. Earl is nothing if not a late bloomer, and there’s no sugar-coating how bittersweet it is to watch him assess the opportunity for second chances, the almost 90-year-old man eying the time he’s got left as though Eastwood were looking at a shot clock off-camera. This is a movie rich with the wisdom of a man who’s fucked up more times than he can count — a man who desperately wants to make amends without apologizing for the meaning he’s found along the way. Yes, it would’ve been nice if family had always been Earl’s drug of choice, and he has to own the fact that it wasn’t. But this soulful and deeply satisfying film — a fitting swansong, if ever there was one — makes a compelling argument that change is always possible, and that the path we’re on is never as narrow as the highway makes it look.

Grade: B+

Warner Bros. will release “The Mule” in theaters on Friday, December 14.

‘The Mandalorian’ Adds Werner Herzog, Giancarlo Esposito, Carl Weathers to Cast 

Not only did Werner Herzog get closer to Disney World, it looks like he’s made it onto Disney+ for good measure.

Per an official release through the Star Wars website, the legendary director is part of a handful of new additions to the cast of “The Mandalorian,” the upcoming TV show being made for Disney’s new streaming platform. The official news confirms last month’s reports that Pedro Pascal will star in the series as the title character and that Gina Carano would be joining him. (At the time of the project’s announcement, screenwriter Jon Favreau revealed that the main character of this series would be neither Jango Fett nor Boba Fett.)

The latest batch of additions to the growing ensemble include Giancarlo Esposito (fresh off appearing on “Better Call Saul” and “Dear White People,” both of which made IndieWire’s Best TV Shows of 2018 list), Carl Weathers, Nick Nolte, Omid Abtahi, and Emily Swallow.

One can only assume that this is the project that Herzog was referencing during a September interview with IndieWire, in which he said he would soon be in “a big franchise film, about which I’m not supposed to say anything. I can only say the title. The code name is ‘Huckleberry.’ For god’s sake, that’s only a cover.”

“The Mandalorian” will feature a unique collection of episode directors, including “Star Wars Rebel” boss Dave Filoni, Taiki Waititi, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Deborah Chow.

Wednesday’s announcement also revealed that Disney+ is aiming for a late 2019 launch date, after which “The Mandalorian” will premiere exclusively on the platform. Another “Star Wars”-centered series, following Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor character from “Rogue One,” has also been announced as a future Disney+ title.

Regina Hall In ‘Support the Girls’ Is the Great Underdog Performance of the Year 

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Regina Hall’s career defies easy summation. The NYU journalism grad had an early stint on a soap opera, supporting roles in “The Best Man” and “Love and Basketball,” then mined for comedy in the Wayans brothers’ “Scary Movie.” That was the first year of her movie career. More “Scary Movie” entries followed, in tandem with a range of studio projects primarily aimed at black audiences — many of which did strong business, from “Think Like a Man” to “Law Abiding Citizen.” In 2010, after a nasty breakup, she almost quit acting to become a nun. Then came “Girls Trip,” the 2017 blockbuster comedy that grossed over $140 million worldwide. It’s the sort of massive cultural success that could have catapulted Hall to even greater commercial heights.

Instead, she starred in “Support the Girls,” a modestly budgeted character study from writer-director Andrew Bujalski. The endearing slice-of-life dramedy centers on Hall as Lisa, the committed manager of a grimy Texas sports bar staffed by scantily clad waitresses, as she juggles a day that never slows down. Bujalski’s understated approach is Altmanesque in its capacity to explore the nuances of a neglected corner of American society, but Hall injects the movie with revelatory energy: She’s the adult in every room, a stern warrior on behalf of her vulnerable staffers, a good samaritan at odds with an indifferent world. As she carries scene after scene, Hall makes it clear that another chapter of her career has arrived — and appreciation for her work is long overdue.

Though “Support the Girls” received raves out of the SXSW Film Festival, it opened to little fanfare with a day-and-date release over the summer. Fortunately, Hall has not been absent from year-end awards season appreciations. In September, she scored Gotham and Independent Spirit Award nominations; at the end of November, she was voted as the Best Actress by the New York Film Critics Circle, marking the first time the award has been given to an African American. (Disclosure: This writer is the 2018-19 chair of the NYFCC.) There may not be a powerful campaign behind her Oscar odds, but like her “Girls Trip” co-star Tiffany Haddish’s late-season momentum in 2017, many people would be thrilled to see it happen.

“I was really speechless,” said Hall in an interview a week after the NYFCC announcement. “I hadn’t even thought of the race part of it. It’s not just me, but this movement is celebratory for everyone, the evolution that we see in so many aspects of what we do. I’m thrilled.” Hall first met Bujalski on the set of “Girls Trip,” having no familiarity with his low-budget, idiosyncratic filmmaking, and found herself drawn to a script that didn’t force its leading woman into a box. “I kept waiting for movie things to happen,” she said. “Oh, she’s going to be bad. I had this cynical point of view. I was kind of surprised by her good intentions. That was so beautiful.”

The movie also came with another curious ingredient: a plot centered on the plight of a middle-aged African-American woman, written by a white man, that didn’t identify her race on the page. “It never came up,” Hall said. “It was something I thought about. Obviously it was a choice he had made, but I never felt like it served anything but pure intentions.” She spoke from experience, having encountered plenty of other projects that went the other direction. “I’ve read stuff where I felt like someone was trying to find a black voice, and that has felt not right — like, oh, she’s supposed to be sassy,” Hall said. “I liked that Andrew never really brought that up.”

Bujalski needed a strong lead who could handle being in virtually every shot of the movie and adapt to its unique tone, which veers from lighthearted comedy to introspective drama over the course of a packed 104 minutes. “I quickly learned I’d hit the jackpot,” he said, adding that role called for “a lot of weird emotional twists and turns, repressing emotion as often as she’s expressing it, and frequently lurching from one to the other.” At one moment, Lisa defends her staffers from leering men at the bar; in another, she’s coping with a pending divorce, or sitting through a temper tantrum from the bar’s alpha-male owner.

“It was abundantly clear that she’d have access to that den mother nurturing that was so central to Lisa,” Bujalski said, “and also that Regina was wildly charming, super sharp, and naturally unpredictable.” Hall was drawn to the character’s capacity for kindness in the midst of Job-like struggles. “Her life is always on the edge,” she said. “She has this muted expression, but an undercurrent of pain. That was completely different from anything I’d done, because it was much more internal. I had to do a lot of backstory.”

Because of her “Scary Movie” history, Hall has often been associated with comedies, a perception that “Girls Trip” helped solidify. But it wasn’t part of her initial impulse to act. “Wen I first came up, a lot of people thought I was a comedian,” she said. “I started in New York and I loved creating characters, creating life, and having something that resonates with an audience — whether it’s comedy or drama, big or small.” The 47-year-old embraced the possibility of deeper roles that might come her way. “As I’ve gotten older, there are roles that are more involved and have a life to them that is so complex,” she said. “When you’re preparing them, you have to go to places that aren’t always the most comfortable. I hope there are a lot more roles like that.”

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover UsageMandatory Credit: Photo by Michele K. Short/Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (8970068t)Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish

Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip”

Michele K. Short/Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

A world apart from the bawdy antics of “Girls Trip,” Hall is a soft-spoken, eloquent presence who considers every facet of her career as if holding up a vial to the light. “I have done a lot of studio films,” she said. “If ‘Support the Girls’ went to a studio, it would have a plot twist. Something about the sincerity of the movie would change. It doesn’t have a lot of giant second- or third-act resolutions. The day becomes more reflective as you enter into it.” She has watched the movie become a gradual discovery over the course of the year. “It fell right where it’s supposed to be,” she said, “and it gives the filmmaker a lot of autonomy to really create something that serves the vision, and not a corporate board or fiscal expectation because of all this investment.”

Hall knows that arena well. Years before “Black Panther” became the beacon of hope for commercial black cinema, Hall was benefiting from the support of Screen Gems executive Clint Culpepper, who sent projects ranging from “About Last Night” to “When the Bough Breaks” her way. “Clint Culpepper never stopped,” Hall said. “All these movies were performing and the studios were like, ‘Oh, maybe we should make black movies again.’”

With “Support the Girls,” she landed a role that resonated for other reasons: Lisa serves as the ultimate rejoinder to workplace harassment. “The movie came out at a time when we really didn’t know how people would receive it, because it was at the beginning of the #MeToo movement, this big idea of supporting women moving forward,” she said. “It has all of those themes, but we didn’t know how people would feel about the backdrop of it being that kind of restaurant. The fact that people see what the spirit of the movie is about and they walk away with that is really wonderful.” In one scene, Lisa fires a staffer who puts her in a compromising position in the most tender way possible. “I tried to be generous,” she tells an employee before firing him. “You are every day,” he replies.

Hall first began peering beyond more-formulaic studio options after taking a supporting role in James C. Strouse’s “People Places Things,” which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was later acquired by The Film Arcade. “That helped a lot to put me in the indie circle,” Hall said. “Because I’d done things like ‘Scary Movie,’ a lot of stuff had fallen through the cracks that had more subtlety.”

Strouse said he appreciated Hall in both “Scary Movie” and “About Last Night,” particularly the way she had juggled chemistry with Anna Faris and Kevin Hart in two very different kind of projects. “I’ve never worked with an actor that could adjust so precisely to direction yet retain her own voice,” he said. “Regina’s a star. She has one of those faces that just lights up the screen. And her charisma is off the charts. But she also has this very relatable quality.”

Hall said that more filmmakers have approached her about a range of projects in the wake of her recent credits, particularly the one-two tonal shift of “Girls Trip” and “Support the Girls,” which together suggest she can pretty much do anything. “I do a drama and they say, ‘We forgot you do comedy,’” she said. “Then I do a comedy, and they forget I do drama. There are producers and directors I’ve had conversations with and we’re putting together projects and it’s been really amazing. It’s a huge difference from 10 years ago.”

She listed filmmakers ranging from Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan to Nicole Holofcener as among her favorites, but had no preference for studio or independent projects. “I don’t think these worlds have to judge each other,” she said. “They’re just different, and both fascinating when they’re done well.”

Hall is regularly asked about a “Girls Trip” sequel, which has yet to materialize as her co-stars’ schedules continue to fluctuate. “We probably should’ve planned a time for it a long time ago,” she said. “But everybody loves each other. They’re definitely figuring it out.” For now, however, she has plenty of other ways to remain visible. She has a major supporting role in “The Hate U Give” as the concerned mother to the woke activist played by Amandla Stenberg, and 2019 finds her at the center of the Showtime series “Black Monday,” a dark comedic take on Wall Street figures behind the 2008 crash. Then there’s the “Shaft” reboot, in which she stars opposite Samuel L. Jackson, and a role in Romany Malco’s directorial debut “Prison Logic.”

Regina Hall in

Regina Hall in “Support the Girls”

“Acting can be tough,” Hall said. “There’s what you want to do and then there’s what you’re doing.” She often thinks about that moment she nearly abandoned her career for the cloth. “I was at a personal crossroads in my life, and you’re sitting in New York and you’re doing theater. You just expect this continual upward climb,” she said. “Then you’re like, god, I’m not interested in that. You’re auditioning and it’s not happening for the things you want, only the things you don’t want.” The only reason she didn’t become a nun was because the sect that appealed to her deemed her too old. “I guess God was like, ‘Nope,’” she said. “One year earlier, and maybe I would’ve done it. I was 40. Things are different than they were, but listen, I still enjoy my spiritual life. I’m just not a nun.”

Hall’s latest professional chapter predates the surge of interest in diversity in Hollywood, but she’s happy to bask in the moment, including her historic NYFCC win. “Change happens when it happens,” she said. “It’s an honor to win, period. The fact that I’m a little chocolate shop is just the cherry on the icing.” She chuckled. “People have so much more access to watch things continue to expand and broaden our thinking,” she said. “As long as we continue to do that — with race and gender or whatever it is — it continues to push forward this idea of equality.”

Hugh Grant: ‘A Very English Scandal’ Reminds Him of Brett Kavanaugh 

Hugh Grant resisted television, and it took “A Very English Scandal” director Stephen Frears and writer Russell T. Davies to convince him to make the leap. It was his first TV project since the early 1990s — and it just earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television, and one from SAG for TV Movie or Miniseries — Male Actor.

“I was the last of the snobs about television,” Grant recently told IndieWire’s TURN IT ON podcast. “People tell me that everyone else has gone back to television, or what they call television. But it’s not really telly, is it? It’s streaming, really. I’ve only recently worked out how to use this stuff. My 7-year-old daughter teaches me how to use Netflix.”

Grant said he sees the streaming world as a TV/film hybrid, and is now “OK with it.” Mostly, he couldn’t resist the lure of playing notorious U.K. politician Jeremy Thrope.

“I’m always terrified to do any job and I find 16 ways not to do them,” he said. “But it was very hard to find a good reason not to do this because I did remember the story and I loved the story and the tone, when you can have drama and comedy co-existing, walking the tightrope of tone here. I couldn’t wiggle out of it.”

I recently moderated a panel with Grant about the series, what brought him back to TV, how he keeps working with Ben Whishaw in a variety of ways, and why “A Very English Scandal” felt so current this year, especially during the recent Supreme Court/Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. A warning, the audio isn’t great, but the conversation is. Listen below.

In the late 1960s, Jeremy Thorpe (Grant) was the leader of the Liberal party and the youngest leader of any British political party in 100 years. But he was also a closeted gay man in a time when homosexuality had just been decriminalized, and it was a secret no politician could reveal. When his former love, Norman Scott (Whishaw) threatens to reveal their relationship, Thorpe’s career is at risk — and he tries to silence him. What’s amazing is this is all true.

“We all loved it when it was happening, it was like ‘Monty Python,'” Grant said. “I was in my late teens, and the whole country was loving it. There were these people in three-piece suits, very establishment, plotting murders and talking about biting the pillow! The jokes were incredible.”

And as the title suggests, the farcical nature of this scandal was also very English. “If you imagine a Russian plotting a murder it would probably go quite well,” he said. “Or a Saudi. Or an American. The Mafia do a good job. But [here] it’s English because it’s such a failure!”

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 16:00:01 on 27/04/2018 - Programme Name: A Very English Scandal - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED UNTIL 16:00hrs BST 27th APRIL 2018*** Jeremy Thorpe (HUGH GRANT) - (C) BBC/Blueprint/Amazon/Sony - Photographer: Ray Burmiston

Hugh Grant, “A Very English Scandal”

BBC/Blueprint Television Ltd

Grant said he also relished the ability to watch actual clips of Thorpe on YouTube and use it as a resource.

“That was the distinguishing characteristic that he was a creature of the ’50s confronted by the ’60s and ’70s,” he said. “It all turns on its head, and this guy who went to the best university and the old boys’ network — suddenly, it’s not working for him anymore. His gay lover is suddenly center stage and being loved and listened to.”

That sense of entitlement hasn’t gone away among the privileged class, as witnessed by the Kavanaugh hearings. “It did seem like he came from a similar world, the American version of it, a sense of outrage that they could even be questioned,” Grant noted.

The story of LGBTQ strides in the UK was an important one for writer Davis to address, Grant noted. “It’s amazing how far we came in 20 years, in the ’60s and ’70s.”

“A Very English Scandal” reunites Grant with his “Florence Foster Jenkins” director, and the actor remains surprised that Frears is willing to work with him.

“I thought, ‘He makes low-budget, slightly left-wing subversive films with tense actors who have been in the National Theatre and the Royal Shakepeare Co. He’s not going to want me from romantic comedies,'” Grant said. “But I kept running into him on planes and at parties. He asked me to do ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ and that came out very well. But he’s so not what I expected. He sits there and waits to be entertained. Just watches the monitor. And sometimes he doesn’t even watch, he just listens. He’s like one of those idiot savants with the perfect ear. He can hear a false note. He’s always right.”

A Very English Scandal

“A Very English Scandal”

BBC

And then there’s his co-star Whishaw, with whom he also worked on “Paddington” and “Cloud Atlas.”

“It’s weird I’ve spent the last three years trying to either kill or have sex with Ben,” Grant said. “I don’t know how that happened.”

“A Very English Scandal” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.

Be sure to subscribe to “TURN IT ON” on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week. Some music by HookSounds.