Dana Rohrabacher, the Orange County pol famous for being “Putin’s best friend in Congress,” is spending his retirement as many ex-elected officials do: lobbying current elected officials. Most recently, that has seen Rohrabacher meeting with V.P. Mike Pence to advocate on behalf of a biotech start-up that thinks it might have a treatment for COVID-19.
Relatively little is known about Linear Therapies, but we do know who is behind it.
Tim Yale, president of the company, is described by O.C. Register as “a veteran GOP fundraiser who helped support President Donald Trump’s election, including working with a super PAC started by indicted Trump adviser Roger Stone.” Another not-exactly-biotech line on Yale’s résumé is working on a documentary about Hunter Biden at the behest of Rudy Giuliani.
Joining Yale on the Linear Therapies team is Phil Oakley, an ex-Army intelligence analyst linked to Michael Flynn.
O.C.Register reports that the startup says it has been working with and funding researchers in several countries, though Yale declined to name any scientists in particular. Yale did tell the paper that they’re “roughly two weeks” from applying to conduct human trials on their COVID-19 therapy.
The therapy is believed to be a type of oral inhaler, which would somehow deliver a medication designed for “stopping the coronavirus from replicating itself in people who’ve been exposed to, or already sickened by, the virus.”
Five independent biochemists who specialize in this type of treatment were contacted by the Register to share their thoughts on the viability of the treatment. While none were granted access to the research findings to evaluate in detail, all five expressed skepticism of the project.
In honor of the death of George Floyd and the ongoing struggle to end police violence against people of color, we’ll be focusing on films and documentaries that celebrate and elevate Black talent and Black stories.
This film escaped a lot of 2019 year-end lists and the Academy Awards conversation, which is a shame. Destin Daniel Cretton’s drama is about real-life civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, played by a riveting Michael B. Jordan, trying to free an Alabama man (a stellar Jamie Foxx) wrongfully on death row. The film “keeps its emotions on a low simmer,” wrote the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday, “its absorbing, tautly designed drama finally coming to a climax that is satisfying on one level, and absolutely shattering on another.” Free on VOD in June.
Spike Lee’s newest joint, Da Five Bloods, drops next weekend on Netflix. In the meantime, catch his 1992 opus about one of the defining black leaders in American history, played by Denzel Washington in an Oscar-nominated performance. It “showed that epic filmmaking could be politically urgent, and that a biopic could contain multitudes,” A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times. “Malcolm X, changing its visual palette and its mood to match each decade of the story, is a comedy, a love story, an almost-musical and a whodunit, held together by Denzel Washington’s somber, witty, altogether electrifying performance.” Netflix.
If you want to understand just how much the deck is stacked against anyone born black in this country, watch Ava DuVernay’s gripping, righteous documentary about the legacy of slavery in our modern incarceration system. “Powerful, infuriating, and at times overwhelming,” the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis wrote, the film “will get your blood boiling and tear ducts leaking. It shakes you up, but it also challenges your ideas about the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States.” Netflix.
I Am Not Your Negro
One of America’s most insightful, incisive writers on the subject of race was James Baldwin (If Beale Street Could Talk), who is both the subject and posthumous author of this 2016 documentary directed by Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson from Baldwin’s own words. “By assembling the scattered images and historical clips suggested by Baldwin’s writing, I Am Not Your Negro is a cinematic séance,” wrote The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman, “and one of the best movies about the civil rights era ever made.” Amazon Prime.
This Sundance winner from director Josephine Decker, an imaginative portrait of horror novelist Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) told through the prism of the author’s gothic style, features an original score by Tamar-kali—a composer who made her scoring debut with Dee Rees’ Mudbound. Tamar-kali’s background as a punk rocker and classically trained singer lends a unique vibe to her scores, which also never forget the importance of subtle suggestion and storytelling. Shirley was one of three films she scored that premiered at Sundance (The Assistant and The Last Thing He Wanted being the other two), and together they “announce her as a major player in the almost lost art of old-fashioned (in the best sense) film scores,” says Sheila O’Malley at RogerEbert.com. VOD on multiple platforms.
Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992
“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare said, and this sober, human documentary from 2017 about the Rodney King uprising—and the accumulating mountain of grievances and tension that formed in the decade prior—is incredibly enlightening in our city’s current moment of protest. The two events differ in many ways, but there are so many echoes, it’s eerie. Director John Ridley deftly wove archival footage into an extensive oral history with a vast number of former police officers, South Central residents, key witnesses, and bereft family members—resulting in an opus that is “so powerfully elucidated by the movie’s commitment to context and nuance,” wrote the New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis, “that even too-familiar tragedies—like the agonizing beatings of Rodney King and Reginald Denny—arrive freighted with fresh insight.” Netflix.
Past recs …
The Vast of Night
A paranormal mystery set in 1950s New Mexico, this debut feature by Andrew Patterson stirs a little bit of The Twilight Zone, H.G. Wells, vintage Spielberg, and even the Coen brothers into a throwback to classic drive-in fare. (You can, in fact, see it at the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair tonight.) Justin Chang at the L.A. Timescalls it “ingenious,” and says the film “exists somewhere at the intersection of radio, television and cinema, and … excavates some of our fondest old-timey memories of all three in order to build something playfully, strikingly new.” Amazon Prime.
Yes, this is a recommendation for an entire streaming service. The latest heavyweight to enter an overcrowded ring—mustering the armies of HBO, Warner Bros., DC, New Line, and the Turner family—debuted this week, and it offers a feast to just about every taste. Whether you love classic films (from Casablanca to Apocalypse Now), classic sitcoms (from Friends to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Studio Ghibli anime, dramatic TV masterworks (The Sopranos), Batman, Harry Potter… you get the idea. If you don’t already have free access through an existing HBO subscription, you can sign up for a seven-day trial.
On the Record
One of several new offerings on HBO Max is this “absorbing, emotional gut-punch of a documentary,” according to the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday, about music executive Drew Dixon and her 2017 sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons. “On the Record would be mesmerizing enough simply as a portrait of a young woman who, having majored in history at Stanford University, pursued the music she loved all the way to its sizzling epicenter in the 1990s,” Hornaday says. But directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering “wisely pull the lens back to enlist an impressive group of black feminist intellectuals to comment throughout,” turning “an already worthy portrait of individual courage into a breathtaking and deeply moving survey of the precarious position occupied by women of color throughout history.” HBO Max.
Somebody Feed Phil
On the way lighter end of the spectrum is the new third season of this travelogue food show, hosted by the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. Phil Rosenthal is a goofy, lanky, lovable embodiment of dadhood, and he is admittedly far from an expert on culture or cuisine. Instead, he brings boundless enthusiasm, curiosity, and wry humor to his adventures—this season, that includes to Seoul, Marrakesh, and Montreal. Skype calls to his adorable parents and an emphasis on our planet’s shared humanity just add to the delight. Netflix.
End of Sentence
This father-son drama stars John Hawkes and Logan Lerman, here playing against type as a hardened criminal, in a story about inherited trauma and the fallout from bad parenting. “Lighter than it sounds,” says IndieWire’s David Erlich, the film is “casually cathartic at times, cathartically casual at others, [and] knows that some wounds never heal, but it’s never too late to stop the bleeding.” VOD on multiple platforms.
In a phrase that was unimaginable ten years ago, Julia Roberts starred in the first season of this Amazon original series based on the popular podcast. Season two subs in Janelle Monáe as an amnesiac trying to piece together the mystery of who she is and why she wakes up on a rowboat in a lake. It continues the first season’s narrative about the Geist Group and its meticulous homage to 1970s thrillers, but expands more into psychological territory, surrounding Monáe with the luminous likes of Chris Cooper and Joan Cusack. It’s a handsomely made, deliciously bingeable (30-minute episodes!) throwback to tight, old-school mysteries, and it also features a glorious musical score. Amazon Prime.
Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, writer Emily V. Gordon, have been keeping my wife and I sane and laughing in sync with their quarantine podcast, so the least I can do is recommend his new movie. Originally scheduled for theaters (weren’t we all?), this action rom-com reteams Nanjiani with The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, and pairs him with Insecure star Issa Rae. “A farcical murder mystery, it turns out, provides just the right backdrop for an exploration of why long-term relationships can fizzle out—and why doing the work necessary to maintain them can be worth it,” says Beandrea July at the Hollywood Reporter.Netflix.
The Trip to Greece
Dueling celebrity impressions, bromance road trips, five-star cuisine, and gorgeous travelogues, The Trip films are also sneakily somber meditations on aging, marriage, and grief. The fourth and final trip finds Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing exaggerated versions of themselves, in the land of Odysseus. “The film doesn’t try too hard to adhere to any kind of mythic structure,” says Bilge Ebiri at Vulture. “But what does remain at the end of this final and most despairing of the Trip entries is a sense that the past is never quite done with us, that today’s heartbreaks and passions and tragedies are merely variations on ancient patterns.” VOD on multiple platforms.
The Wolf House
Ben Wyatt expressed his cooped-up depression through stop-motion animation, and now you can relieve your own with someone else’s. Two Chilean filmmakers created this strange, surreal nod to the Three Little Pigs story—from the pigs’ perspectives—using painstaking stop-motion and hand-drawn animation. “How does one go about describing the stomach-churning terrors of Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León’s The Wolf House?” asks Matt Fagerholm at RogerEbert.com. “Its visual landscape is unlike any I’ve experienced, and though everything about it is aggressively repellant, it still managed to hold me in a constant state of gobsmacked awe.” “These filmmakers have a perspective and a voice that feels entirely new,” says the New York Times’ Glenn Kenny. “The film surprises, with incredible force, in every one of its 75 minutes.” KimStim Virtual Cinema.
Another week, another heartbreaking loss—this time it was funnyman Fred Willard. (I’m lucky enough to have interviewed Fred a few times, as recently as April.) There are plenty of great performances to remember him by, but I’m going to recommend a less celebrated but no less deserving one. Christopher Guest’s most recent (and possibly last) faux-documentary took the competition conceit of Best in Show to the world of mascots, and features many of his regular players and an all-timer, cry-laughing routine involving a plumber and an oversized toilet (trust me). And as with basically every movie he ever graced, the funniest scenes are the ones with Fred Willard, here playing an aging mascot trainer with no filter. Netflix.
Josh Trank had gloriously ascended from directing his first feature at 27 (Chronicle) to being handed the keys to his own Star Wars film and the star-studded Fantastic Four reboot…before he gloriously flamed out on the set of the latter bomb. Now the local prodigy is back with a vengeance—writing and directing a brash, ballsy tale of the final days of Al Capone, played by Tom Hardy. The actor is known for going to extremes (Rob Harvilla describes his voice here as sounding “like a Muppet gargling the remains of another Muppet.”) But “Trank and Hardy are firmly entrenched on the same earnestly grim wavelength,” says Scout Tafoya at Consequence of Sound, “and their joint creation…is so unwieldily that even if it didn’t work (it does), the sheer volume of effort to create something so deliciously antisocial and grotesque would still have to be commended.” VOD on multiple platforms.
Muppet Guys Talking
Jim Henson died 30 years ago this weekend, and his old pals Frank Oz and Dave Goelz are reuniting with two other Muppet veterans (Bill Barretta and Fran Brill) to talk about him and his legacy—via laptop cameras, of course. Oz (the Bert to Henson’s Ernie, the Fozzie to his Kermit) directed the similarly themed documentary Muppet Guys Talking in 2018—but if you’re like me, you can’t get enough of Henson and his merry band of misfits. Oz, who’s using the event to raise money for non-medical hospital workers in Queens, told Los Angeles’s Jared Cowan, “I’m going to find out things about Jim that I didn’t know, I betcha.” Streams Saturday at 1 p.m. PT at muppetguystalking.com/jim.
I Know This Much Is True
A number of actors have played twins on screen: Nicolas Cage, Jeremy Irons, Armie Hammer, Zach Galifianakis. Add to the list Mark Ruffalo, blessedly freed from Marvel prison to do some dramatic heavy-lifting as Dominic and Thomas Birdsey in this six-part HBO adaptation of a 1998 novel by Wally Lamb. It’s a dark story about abuse and trauma, and “often a tough watch,” says Sheila O’Malley at RogerEbert.com. “There are times when ‘compassion fatigue’ sets in, particularly in the final episode. But seeing actors do what they do best, with [writer/director Derek] Cianfrance giving them the space to do it, makes I Know This Much is True a real feast.” HBO Go.
Marie Antoinette meets The Favourite meets an R-rated The Princess Bride in this loosey-goosey telling of Catherine the Great’s mission to enlighten a barbarous Russia. Elle Fanning stars (she’s also an executive producer) alongside a grinningly, callously awful Nicholas Hoult as Peter III. Written by The Favourite’s Tony McNamara, it’s a crude, contemporary spin on history that—at ten nearly hour-long episodes—may be a bit too long. Still, “the caustic brilliance of McNamara’s scripting cannot be overstated,” says Paste’s Allison Keene, “but I was also truly emotionally invested in the season’s final crescendo to Catherine’s desperate power grab. … The Great’s exceptional, understated cast made me genuinely care for all of these madcap players, and the stakes became incredibly high.” Hulu.
Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese
A detailed peek behind the scenes of one of our great directors, Martin Scorsese, collaborating with one of our great actors, Leonardo DiCaprio, on one of the great modern crime dramas, The Departed, is now streaming for free. The late avant-garde director Jonas Mekas was given VIP access on the set of the 2005 film, and the result “gives Martin Scorsese fans an up close and personal look at the filmmaker,” says Zach Sharf at IndieWire. “Mekas’ approach is unobtrusive and much of the documentary is real-time footage, providing one of the best windows into Scorsese and his cast and crew at work.” Vimeo.
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl
For Angelenos, one of the most crushing casualties of the pandemic was announced this week: the complete and utter cancellation of the Hollywood Bowl’s 2020 season. It’s almost too painful to imagine a whole “summer” (for now it can only be summer in name only) without it—but thankfully, the iconic amphitheater has appeared in many films, TV shows, and Bugs Bunny cartoons over the last century, so why not take a virtual trip to the Bowl? This 1980 concert film “may be accurately described as Python lunacy of a purer grade,” wrote the New York Times’ Vincent Canby when it was released in 1982. “This photographed recording of the stage show is not a conventional film, but it’s the next best thing to seeing the Python troupe in person.” Amazon Prime.
Damien Chazelle clearly loves jazz. The director introduced himself with Whiplash, a blood-soaked diary about the highs and lows of being a jazz drummer, and he won an Oscar for La La Land—which let Ryan Gosling (a guy from the Mormon, Canadian suburbs) explain why jazz is so great. Chazelle directed the first two episodes of The Eddy, a new miniseries about an American musician (André Holland) who runs a struggling jazz club in Paris, and Vulture’s Jen Chaney says the show itself “behaves like a work of improvisation. It meanders into various lives and musical performances while telling a story that bops from crime thriller to meditation on grief to portrait of the thrilling agony of being a musical artist.” Netflix.
Brian Dennehy, the great bear of a character actor, died in April—and one of his final roles was in Driveways, an indie movie about grief and the unlikely bond between a little boy and Dennehy’s gruff widower, Del. Far from a cliché retelling of similar stories, Justin Chang at the L.A. Times says the movie often lingers “in that rueful gray zone between humor and sorrow,” and called Del “as forceful and tender a creation as any in this great actor’s body of work.” VOD on multiple platforms
Dead to Me
For many of us, dark humor is the best humor—especially in dark times. This Netflix series, starring Christina Applegate as a new widow and Linda Cardellini as her new friend (with a secret), likes to splash around in the inkiest part of the comedy ocean. “A funny thing happened between Dead to Me’s very good first season and its second,” writes CNN’s Brian Lowry. “[It] became an even better, twistier show, with—in very Big Little Lies-like fashion—a female friendship frequently tested by one impulsive act, and the escalating consequences that flow from it.” Netflix.
In Brockmire, Hank Azaria—best known for his circus of Simpsons character—plays a disgraced baseball commentator who has gone from the minors to the majors, to now flat-out running Major League Baseball. The series came to an end on Wednesday, and even though the fourth season depicts a blisteringly bleak near future (riddled with scorching climate, lawlessness, food shortages, and “supercancer”), Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall argues that “among the amazing accomplishments of these last eight episodes is how they wind up feeling oddly comforting for this strange and scary moment in which we all find ourselves.” First three seasons streaming on Hulu, fourth season on IFC.
How to Build a Girl
Beanie Feldstein, whose supernova charm expanded from a supporting role in Lady Bird to co-leading last year’s Booksmart, is finally headlining her own movie. And doing it in a convincing British (specifically Wolverhampton) accent to boot. Adapted from British music journalist Caitlin Moran’s memoir-novel, How to Build a Girl is a coming-of-age comedy that’s “as fun as a night in the mosh pit with your best mate,” according to Leslie Felperin at the Hollywood Reporter. “[S]upercharged by Feldstein’s intense charisma, this crowd-pleasing comedy has smart things to say about class, sex, and female identity.” VOD on multiple platforms.
In the “sadcom” spirit of Fleabag and Catastrophe comes Trying, a new series about a young couple (played by Esther Smith and Rafe Spall) who work humdrum jobs and, having failing to conceive a baby, decide to adopt. What begins with “a simmering goofy energy,” says IndieWire’s Steve Greene, crystallizes “into truer, more endearing doses of reality.” Apple TV+.
A Parks & Recreation Special
Only a pandemic could convince this band to get back together. And even though the lousy legacy of TV reunion specials—and the prospect of an ensemble comedy shot on iPhones where every actor is isolated from each other in their own actual homes—doesn’t necessarily portend success…doggone it, this is one of the best comedies ever made, and it’ll just be nice to see everyone in character again. As someone currently on their fourth rewatch of the series on Netflix, I can attest to the salve of escaping into a consistently funny utopia where hardworking, unfailingly optimistic people work in American government. Hopefully this special will, if nothing else, provide a taste of that delicious sauce. Airs Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on NBC; streaming on NBC.com and Peacock starting May 1.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live Riff-Along
At this point we’re probably all riffing movies, both good and bad, at home—so why not let the professionals take over? Forced off the road but running on the momentum of their recent live tour, a new traveling company of human and robot riffers will apply their sarcastic craft to the short Circus Day (circus-related shorts are a grand tradition in MST3K), and will riff an ancient 1990 episode, Moon Zero Two, alongside the original joke track from the show’s OG Comedy Channel cast. “We tend to ignore the first season, because we got so much better the next season,” Joel Hodgson told AV Club, but “there’s so much in there.” The creator and original host of MST3K will also be on hand to answer fan-submitted questions on social media. Airs on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook on May 3 at 3 p.m. PDT.
We lost the respected Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan this week—a great excuse to rewatch some of his films and pay special attention to his quiet, unassuming charisma. Khan was already well into his acting career in 2008, but Danny Boyle’s vibrant, Oscar-sweeping film introduced him to American audiences. As the detective who questions Dev Patel’s teenage character, “Khan’s mixture of tough, careworn authority with a hint of gentleness makes him just right for the role,” says Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian. HBO Go.
Never Have I Ever
Mindy Kaling co-created this teen rom-com, loosely based on her own experience as a first-generation Indian growing up in America. Kathryn VanArendonk at Vulturecompared it to Jane the Virgin, both shows possessing “a fizzy combination of a slightly heightened fictional world that’s grounded in insistently realistic emotions.” “I watched every episode as quickly as I possibly could,” VanArendonk says, “and when it ended I was furious I hadn’t forced myself to slow down.” Netflix.
Star Wars Day on Disney+
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion may be a literal ghost town right now, but don’t feel bad for the colossal corporation: they’re still printing money thanks to endless new Star Wars content. But some of that content’s pretty good! On May the Fourth (get it?), you can watch the finale of the popular animated series The Clone Wars, stream the “final” entry of the nine-part movie saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and dive back into Baby Yoda’s world courtesy of the eight-part documentary series, Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian. Mandalorian is arguably the best thing to come out of the galaxy far, far away in a long, long time, and this promises a rich bounty of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of Werner Herzog interacting with adorable puppets. Disney+ starting May 4th.
Since we’re all thinking about death a little more these days, it might as well be funny. Greg Daniels applies his satirical skewer to the afterlife in this sci-fi comedy about a man at death’s door, after a terrible car accident, who opts to “upload” himself into a virtual heaven. It’s a darker and more adult show than Daniels’s previous creations, Parks & Recreation and The Office—and than co-creator Mike Schur’s cousin series, The Good Place—but “despite the big concept central to the show’s premise,” says Adam Chitwood at Collider, “deep down Upload is very much a show that’s interested in humanity—the best and worst of us, and how we persevere in the face of a stacked deck and insurmountable odds.” Amazon Prime.
Better Call Saul
It’s gone from a suspect, even foolish-sounding concept—a prequel series to the untouchably great Breaking Bad, centered on the fun but almost cartoonish lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk—to proving one of the best dramas ever made. Better Call Saul wrapped its penultimate season this week, in cliffhanging fashion, so if you haven’t caught up with the whole series yet, now’s the perfect time. Season five “was a bleak, beautiful masterpiece,” says Miles Surrey at the Ringer, “a triumph on the levels of writing, performance, cinematography, direction, and, of course, dank montages. This was always a great, if somewhat underappreciated show, but there’s never been a better time to say the other quiet part out loud: Better Call Saul has surpassed Breaking Bad.” First four seasons streaming on Netflix; season five available on AMC.
Little Fires Everywhere
Another critically hailed drama wrapped up this week. It may sound like something Hulu executives cooked up while playing Big Little Lies bingo—adapting a popular airplane read with a similar-sounding title, starring Reese Witherspoon in a women-centric melodrama. But this series is its own midwestern animal, which has “gone from a slow start to a straight-up explosive drama,” says AV Club’s Saloni Gajjar. “The show overall acts as quite a showcase for [Witherspoon] and Kerry Washington’s talent. Every expression they serve up, ranging from despair to heartbreak to seething rage, is spectacular.” All episodes now streaming on Hulu.
An animated film, starring the voices of Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Will Forte, and Maya Rudolph, adapted from a Lois Lowry children’s book about a kooky family cooped up in their house together. Too soon? Maybe, but this darkly comic tale in the spirit of Roald Dahl is a movie that Monica Castillo at RogerEbert.com argues, “For all its candy-colored silliness, The Willoughbys is a surprisingly sweet story about chosen families. … It’s a message both timely and timeless told through a whimsical story fit for most children of any age.” Now streaming on Netflix.
Peter Debruge at Variety calls this HBO film, based on a true story, the best work Hugh Jackman has ever done. The charming Aussie plays a charming superintendent of a New Jersey school district who is secretly embezzling millions of dollars, with the help of a superb Allison Janney. “Here’s a star at the height of his powers leveraging his own appeal to remind that even our heroes are fallible and that you can never really judge someone from the outside.” Premieres Saturday on HBO.
Beastie Boys Story
Spike Jonze started out as a music video director, working with bands including the Beastie Boys, before “going pro” with feature films like Being John Malkovich and Her. Now, Jonze has reunited with the surviving Beastie boys, Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond, for a “live documentary” filmed in Brooklyn last year, which A.O. Scott at the New York Times says is “a jaunt down memory lane and also a moving and generous elegy.” Streaming on Apple TV+.
It’s never too late to visit Bakersfield, where Zach Galifianakis plays twin brothers—Chip, a sad sack rodeo clown, and Dale, the dean of “the first open-carry career college”—and Louie Anderson plays their exasperated mother, Christine. In the fourth and final season, Christine “continues to anchor the series with an immense amount of heart,” says Allison Keene at Paste, “which has helped turn Baskets from just an experimental comedy to an essential, emotional watch.” All seasons now streaming on Hulu.
Ricky Gervais is one of the more polarizing comedians in the biz. You either find his acerbic, take-the-piss-out-of-Hollywood shtick insufferable…or hilarious. You either find his performance as Derek, a nursing home worker with special needs, heartwarming and hysterical…or saccharine and obnoxious. But if you like the cut of his jib, you’ll likely love After Life, another Netflix series he created where he plays a caustic widower in a small English town. Allison Shoemaker at RogerEbert.com says the new season continues to feature “a career-best turn from Ricky Gervais; a willingness to let tart and even bitter punchlines rub alongside things much more fragile; ongoing acknowledgment of the complexity and messiness of grief; a complete disinterest in saintly suffering.” Both seasons now streaming on Netflix.
Cate Blanchett plays anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly in this ten-part miniseries about the 1970s feminism movement, with Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem and a host of other great actors including Uzo Aduba, Margo Martindale, Tracey Ullman, and Elizabeth Banks. “At its best, the series gives you the contact high of a heist picture,” writes Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz. “The vault is patriarchy, the locked-up fortune is equal rights and equal wages, and the recurring strategic question is whether to keep gently turning the lock back and forth until the right combination reveals itself, or just blow the bloody doors off.” First three episodes are streaming on Hulu.
The Last Show on Earth
Saturday Night Live is having to adapt to the new abnormal, and now one of its farm teams—the Second City—is doing it too. Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame hosts this home-quarantined version of a weekly sketch show, featuring new sketches by current cast members and famous alumni, musical performances, and even rare archival footage. The premiere episode has Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Fred Willard (one of sketch comedy’s elder statesmen), and Saff from Tiger King. Airs Thursdays on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
What We Do in the Shadows
TV adaptations of films don’t always work, but Jemaine Clement figured out a way to turn his and Taika Waititi’s 2014 film, a mockumentary about the quotidian grind of a group of vampires, into episodic gold. The second season premiered this week, and AV Club’s Katie Rife says that “it’s exciting to see that the show is getting a little more ambitious in its action scenes and with its special effects—ghost-Jesk’s demonic severed head looked great!—while keeping all the things that made the first season click.” Airs Wednesdays on FX; first two episodes are streaming on Hulu.
The Innocence Files
Netflix has been as responsible for the recent glut of true crime documentaries as any other entertainment company. But in contrast to some of the more salacious fare it’s produced, this new series focuses on the consequential work of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that’s been fighting to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners since 1992 (mostly through DNA evidence). Across nine episodes, the series “delivers a captivating and powerful exposé that balances frustration and outrage alongside triumph and hope,” says Tom Reimann at Collider. “In short, it’s some of the best nonfiction television Netflix has ever produced.” Streaming on Netflix.
The Last Dance
For anyone missing live sports—or anyone (like me) who prefers a riveting sports documentary to an actual game—ESPN is here to scratch your itch with a sprawling, ten-part docuseries about the glory days of Michael Jordan’s 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls. The show, which features rare footage and interviews and has been compared to O.J.: Made in America, is “both a perfect diversion and a tribute to shared sacrifice,” writes Phil Rosenthal in the Chicago Tribune. Premieres Sunday on ESPN.
Tales from the Loop
This American spin on a Swedish sci-fi art book about a midwestern town built on top of a device “built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe” is part Twilight Zone, part ’80s Amblin movie, with a uniquely ponderous and melancholy tone. The series features Jonathan Pryce and Rebecca Hall, and “is that rare sci-fi show,” according to Jacob Oller at Paste, “that trusts us to breathe in deep the oddities of its world, accept that we aren’t going to know everything, and climb aboard anyways. That trust, built with its tactful scene-setting and human-sized troubles, allows for easy investment in deceivingly simple dramas.” Streaming on Amazon Prime.
A Goofy Movie
It’s the goofy, gawky little brother of the Disney animation renaissance, slipping out in the wake of pretty princesses and dashing boy heroes. But for a certain wave of ’90s kids, A Goofy Movie is up there with the best of cartoon releases. The father-son-road-trip musical turns 25 this week, and Disney fan club D23 is throwing a virtual watch party and cast-crew reunion Friday night. Anyone who’s ever been a teenager can relate to Max’s feelings of embarrassment about his, well, goofy dad—and anyone with a heart will enjoy their journey to warm understanding. (And Powerline still slays.) The reunion starts at 4:30 p.m. PDT on Disney+.
The slow-burn-to-beloved series came to an end this week, which means you can finally binge the entire run from start to finish. Starring Canadian comedy royalty Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara and introducing new talent—including two of Levy’s children, Sarah and Dan, who cocreated the show with his dad—Schitt’s Creek was the little Pop TV series that could and a welcome escape from pandemic panic into a rustic wonderland of heart-filled humor. While it began as a somewhat broad, rich-people-out-of-water farce, over the course of six seasons, “everything about Schitt’s Creek has grown warmer,” writes Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk. “The Rose family has become a bedrock of supportive love for one another and the community.” Seasons 1–5 are on Netflix; season 6 is on the Pop Now app.
Her Royal Highness, Dame Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is back on the small screen. After a dizzying victory lap for her show Fleabag, Waller-Bridge reteams with creator-director Vicky Jones (who helmed the stage production of Fleabag) as an executive producer and in a small supporting role in Run, a new HBO limited series about two old flames (Merrit Weaver and Domhnall Gleeson) on a train, which mixes comedy and Hitchcockian mystery. But this is really Weaver’s show, as Alan Sepinwall writes in Rolling Stone, “the star vehicle she’s earned through years of endearingly loopy scene-stealing work in TV and film.” Premieres Sunday on HBO
There’s a good chance you’ve already seen the Best Picture-winning, buzz-heavy black comedy from South Korea; it was one of the rare non-English-language films to find a broad audience in America, a film that seduced every last critic—like Justin Chang, who says it “begins in exhilaration and ends in devastation, but the triumph of the movie is that it fully lives and breathes at every moment, even when you might find yourself struggling to exhale.” But in case you haven’t seen it, or you just want to go back inside the Park mansion to revel in the Rube Goldbergian twists and turns in Bong Joon Ho’s serrated dissection of class war, Parasite is now streaming. Watch it before HBO turns it into an American miniseries. Hulu
Just in time for the first Passover via Zoom, this four-part series, loosely based on a popular memoir, is about a teenage bride who escapes her marriage and her uber-conservative Hasidic community in Brooklyn, fleeing to Berlin to find her estranged mother. Detailed, sympathetic, and timely, “it’s a kind of espionage caper,” writes James Poniewozik in TheNew York Times, “a thrilling and probing story of one woman’s personal defection.” Netflix
The CW musical comedy ended last year after four seasons, but now’s as good a time as any to discover Rachel Bloom’s messy antiheroine fantasia—which Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz praises for “going the distance,” “digging progressively deeper into its heroine’s psyche, and continuing to deliver consistently clever, sometimes dazzling musical numbers.” Most of those songs were cowritten by Fountain of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, who, at just 52, was one of COVID-19’s victims. Schlesinger earned five Emmy nominations for his work on the show; watch it for his hilarious and catchy numbers if for no other reason. Netflix
Tim and Eric are back on Adult Swim, this time skewering the ’80s/’90s family-sitcom format. They’ve played with these conventions (phony laugh tracks, corny theme songs) before, but Beef House is a full-on series in the Full House mold—they even employed the same cameras used on Fuller House—only here that mold is filled with the funky Jell-o of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s cockamamie, cheerily dark style of non sequitur humor. The cast features several Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! alumni, and the AV Club says it’s “cooked to perfection.” Airs Sundays at 12:15 a.m. on AdultSwim.com; first episode can be streamed at AdultSwim
Some Good News with John Krasinski
Fighting off the pandemic of bad news (and his own encroaching cabin fever), Krasinski created a YouTube show to supplement your seventh time binge watching him as Jim on The Office. In the first episode (of how many, and how often, we don’t know), he highlights several recent acts of kindness and humanity that were shared on the internet, interviews a teen girl who recently finished chemo, and reunites with Michael Scott himself, Steve Carrell (via Zoom). Uplift yourself! YouTube
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
One of many buzzed-about films set adrift in the lockdown’s shuttered theatrical release market, this intimate drama concerns two teenage girls on a journey from rural Pennsylvania to an abortion clinic in Manhattan. Critics gave the film, directed by Eliza Hittman, near-unanimous high marks—with Variety’s Andrew Barker writing: “At once dreamlike and ruthlessly naturalistic, steadily composed yet shot through with roiling currents of anxiety, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a quietly devastating gem.” VOD on multiple platforms
Want to escape humans for a while? Travel somewhere exotic? Hear the silky strain of your new Angeleno neighbor, Meghan Markle? Elephant checks off all the boxes, as the Duchess of Sussex narrates a Disneyfied story built from sumptuously shot footage of real elephants (in the grand tradition of Disney nature documentaries, going back to Walt’s day—many of which can also be found on Disney+). Justin Chang of the L.A. Timessays it “emerges a generally charming, sometimes cloying exercise in wildlife anthropomorphism.” (Also dropping this weekend is the Natalie Portman-narrated Dolphin Reef.) Disney+
Shudder, the one-stop-shop horror streamer, offers a free seven-day trial—and now is a good time to bite. Its new original series, Cursed Films, explores the freaky accidents, deaths, and (possibly) supernatural shenanigans that have plagued several famous horror movies. The first episode delves into The Exorcist and the many mysterious deaths and on-set traumas linked to William Friedkin’s 1973 classic; future episodes will cover The Omen, Poltergeist, and Twilight Zone: The Movie. Brian Tallerico at RogerEbert.com says the series “isn’t some cheapo scare tactic, focusing just as much on human stories and on-set details as it does the rumors of curses and bad karma around these movies.” First episode on Shudder.com
This seven-part docuseries is like the wildest of white-trash reality shows … but it’s actual reality, told in prestige documentary style. The addictively bingeable story has polygamous sex cults, throuples, guns, amputations, blood feuds, contract killings, bad country music videos, mullets, expired meat—and lots and lots of tigers. Vanity Fairsays it’s “a portrait of a world that’s entirely alien, and yet also reflective, and diagnostic, of this country as a whole.” Netflix
Some of us like to imagine worst-case scenarios in the midst of a disaster—or at least commiserate with A-list actors in a similar situation. Contagion may be the bleaker and more recent pandemic movie, but Wolfgang Petersen’s Outbreak has 1995-era Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo … and monkeys. Its fictional virus kills you within 24 hours by liquefying your organs, so it might actually cheer you up about COVID-19. In his review, Roger Ebert calls it “the kind of movie you enjoy even while you observe yourself being manipulated.” Netflix
The O.J. Simpson Trial
Speaking of 1995: that summer was a simpler time, when the world was sheltered in place not because of a pandemic, but to watch the “trial of the century.” Now you can watch the actual murder trial of O.J. Simpson, unedited and in all of its undramatized, VHS-era glory. YouTube
Alex Garland, the writer-director mastermind behind modern sci-fi gems Ex Machina and Annihilation, takes to the small screen (via FX and Hulu) for a slow-burn murder mystery set at a mysterious tech company. The series id led by Nick Offerman with serious ancient-prophet hair energy. The New York Timescalls it “a cold and beautiful machine.” Hulu
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
This Sundance darling documentary, produced by the Obamas, is a time machine to the Catskills in the 1970s, at “a summer camp for the handicapped run by hippies.” Directed by a former camper and using a bounty of archival footage, it’s a feel-good sleepover that has a social activism motor. It’s “buoyant and inspiring,” according to Vox, “a tale of people working together through difficulty and opposition to change the world.” Netflix
The Way Back
You may have missed it in theaters, where it came out way back on March 6, so Warner Bros. has conveniently made it available to view in your home-quarantine theater. Ben Affleck plays a divorced alcoholic who gets conscripted to coach a boy’s basketball team at his old Catholic high school. What sounds like a recipe for cornball cliché is actually an understated, complicated character study that feels like it’s flowing out of Affleck’s actual opened veins. “[T]his sober little studio movie is so uncommonly effective because of its steady insistence that life can’t be lived in reverse,” IndieWire says; “that, contrary to its title, there’s no going back.” VOD on multiple services
The Imagineering Story
If you’re one of the many people desperately missing Disneyland and other Disney parks, you can scratch that itch with The Imagineering Story on Disney+. The six-episode series is a delightful well of archival and behind-the-scenes footage, tracing the story of cutting-edge animatronics and family-friendly thrill rides from Walt’s original vision to occasional missteps to the latest innovations. It may be “sentimental” and “self-congratulating,” The Hollywood Reporter writes, but it’s also “by far, the most appealing and intellectually engaging offering from Disney’s new nostalgia-driven SVOD streaming service.” Disney+
Below is the current breakdown of coronavirus cases as of 8 p.m. on June 3. There are now 59,650 total confirmed cases (+1,469 from prior day). Of the cases, 6,767 have been hospitalized and there have been 2,531 deaths (+44 from prior day). The regions with the highest rate of infections per capita are Castaic, City of Industry, and Little Armenia. The most deaths have been recorded in Glendale (91), Westlake (80), Pico-Union (60), and Inglewood (55).
Novel Coronavirus Cases in Los Angeles County, by Neighborhood
Agoura Hills 35
Agua Dulce 9
Angeles National Forest 2
Angelino Heights 18
Athens Village 34
Atwater Village 52
Avocado Heights 32
Baldwin Hills 180
Baldwin Park 382
Bel Air 38
Bell Gardens 353
Beverly Crest 37
Beverly Hills 141
Bouquet Canyon 1
Boyle Heights 869
Canoga Park 543
Canyon Country 36
Century City 36
Century Palms/Cove 341
Cheviot Hills 22
Country Club Park 104
Covina (Charter Oak) 48
Crenshaw District 81
Culver City 161
Del Aire 16
Del Rey 1
Del Rey 84
Del Sur 2
Desert View Highlands 6
Diamond Bar 75
Eagle Rock 190
East Hollywood 236
East La Mirada 18
East Los Angeles 1191
East Pasadena 4
East Rancho Dominguez 70
East Whittier 12
Echo Park 50
El Camino Village 44
El Monte 650
El Segundo 37
El Sereno 194
Elizabeth Lake 3
Elysian Park 16
Elysian Valley 63
Exposition Park 286
Faircrest Heights 5
Figueroa Park Square 42
Glassell Park 192
Gramercy Place 74
Granada Hills 380
Green Meadows 199
Hacienda Heights 168
Hancock Park 83
Harbor City 113
Harbor Gateway 163
Harbor Pines 9
Harvard Heights 150
Harvard Park 356
Hawaiian Gardens 79
Hermosa Beach 35
Hi Vista 1
Hidden Hills 3
Highland Park 223
Historic Filipinotown 147
Hollywood Hills 86
Huntington Park 575
Hyde Park 175
Jefferson Park 42
Kagel/Lopez Canyons 8
La Canada Flintridge 52
La Crescenta-Montrose 32
La Habra Heights 10
La Mirada 203
La Puente 148
La Rambla 12
La Verne 39
Ladera Heights 20
Lafayette Square 21
Lake Balboa 219
Lake Hughes 1
Lake Los Angeles 32
Lake Manor 4
Lakeview Terrace 120
Leimert Park 63
Leona Valley 3
Lincoln Heights 299
Little Armenia 210
Little Bangladesh 159
Little Tokyo 23
Littlerock/Juniper Hills 2
Long Beach 2118
Los Feliz 54
Manchester Square 27
Mandeville Canyon 2
Manhattan Beach 80
Mar Vista 87
Marina del Rey 15
Marina Peninsula 14
Miracle Mile 43
Mission Hills 171
Monterey Park 177
Mt. Washington 111
North Hills 516
North Hollywood 771
North Lancaster 6
North Whittier 15
Northeast San Gabriel 62
Pacific Palisades 59
Palisades Highlands 4
Palos Verdes Estates 43
Panorama City 859
Park La Brea 21
Pellissier Village 1
Pico Rivera 579
Playa Del Rey 3
Playa Vista 30
Porter Ranch 94
Quartz Hill 46
Rancho Dominguez 20
Rancho Palos Verdes 96
Rancho Park 18
Redondo Beach 146
Regent Square 4
Reseda Ranch 30
Reynier Village 12
Rolling Hills 2
Rolling Hills Estates 14
Rosewood/West Rancho Dominguez 28
Rowland Heights 157
San Dimas 70
San Fernando 203
San Gabriel 149
San Jose Hills 78
San Marino 22
San Pasqual 1
San Pedro 936
Santa Catalina Island 2
Santa Clarita 807
Santa Fe Springs 78
Santa Monica 293
Santa Monica Mountains 26
Shadow Hills 11
Sherman Oaks 246
Sierra Madre 12
Signal Hill 37
Silver Lake 196
South Antelope Valley 1
South Carthay 36
South El Monte 9
South El Monte 113
South Gate 734
South Park 443
South Pasadena 134
South San Gabriel 42
South Whittier 180
St Elmo Village 49
Stevenson Ranch 34
Studio City 86
Sun Valley 337
Sun Village 20
Sunrise Village 5
Sycamore Square 1
Temple City 173
Thai Town 33
Toluca Lake 20
Toluca Terrace 6
Toluca Woods 3
Twin Lakes/Oat Mountain 4
University Hills 13
University Park 219
Val Verde 28
Valley Glen 145
Valley Village 221
Van Nuys 813
Vermont Knolls 182
Vermont Square 89
Vermont Vista 394
Vernon Central 699
Victoria Park 62
View Heights 10
View Park/Windsor Hills 37
Walnut Park 147
Wellington Square 25
West Adams 249
West Antelope Valley 2
West Carson 109
West Covina 422
West Hills 149
West Hollywood 188
West LA 24
West Los Angeles 85
West Puente Valley 47
West Rancho Dominguez 10
West Vernon 534
West Whittier/Los Nietos 187
Westlake Village 6
White Fence Farms 6
Wholesale District 761
Wilshire Center 271
Woodland Hills 174
Under Investigation: 1,993
Social media users have responded to the killing of George Floyd and the activism that’s taken place in the aftermath in a variety of racist ways. Fortunately, the internet isn’t having any of it.
A handful of mostly white beauty influencers posted “Black Lives Matter” makeup tutorials, which were met with instant backlash. One, a German woman, known on TikTok as catharinas_beauty, showed off a half-blackface look and was immediately called out by her followers in the U.S. She apologized multiple times on that platform, Twitter, and on Instagram, and has since removed the post. “I only wanted to send a message against racism, but I did it wrong,” she wrote. “I’m only 16 and have to learn much more about the world history.” (Yeah, you do.)
Others took Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe” scrawling it across their mouths or necks in black eyeliner. Another, reportedly the daughter of Jouer Cosmetics founder, Christina Zilber, cut letters out of a magazine to spell the phrase, ransom note-style, and attached them around her false eyelashes (for some reason?). Over 600 people commented on the post. One incredulous critic said, “She really took a man’s last words, turned it into a tumblr aesthetic and was like ‘yup this is it.'” Others backed the influencer, arguing that makeup was a way to spread the message of the BLM movement, but many others were dubious of the value of a makeup revolution. “These people are using this movement to gain, it’s obvious,” one commenter said. “Their intent isn’t to spread awareness or educate. It’s to use the hashtags and movement to boost their engagement. Black people aren’t okay with this, it’s offensive.”
Almost all of the women have since taken down their posts or deleted their accounts entirely. Makeup guru Ashley Richter, however, engaged with her followers after deleting her Twitter post and shared a caution to other beauty influencers: “If you are thinking of doing a makeup look, PLEASE PLEASE reconsider and use your time better to donate, sign petitions, uplift Black creators and take action. I am deeply sorry to those I offended with my ignorance and will continue to do better to become a better ally.”
And then there’s the disgusting #GeorgeFloydChallenge” that recently made the rounds from Snapchat to TikTok, where users were urged to share reenactment shots of Floyd’s final moments by kneeling on the neck of a friend. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are blocking all posts with the hashtag. You you can still view some of the posts (but why would you?) on Twitter using the hashtag #georgefloydchallengeisdisgusting. A company spokesperson stated, that they are leaving the posts up that denounce the challenge and are slapping a warning label on them. Two teens were arrested for taking part in the challenge in the UK, where authorities there have labeled it a hate crime.
After weeks of wondering when and how live sports might resume, the NBA Board of Governors has voted today to approve a novel plan that could see games resuming as soon as late-July. Under the plan, 22 teams–including the Lakers and Clippers–would all travel to Orlando, Florida, and consent to enter “a bubblelike environment” for the duration of the season, The Washington Post reports.
The players and their organizations will all take up residence, train, and play their matches within the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex located at Disney World. Once in, they will limit any contact with any individuals outside the “bubble” community, to isolate from potential COVID-19 exposure.
A proposed schedule would allow each of the 22 participating teams to play eight games that would be considered the last of the regular season. After that, the typical 16-team playoff format would commence, with the possibility for a ‘play-in round’ to confirm which teams advance.
While a plan to conduct games in Las Vegas had been floated earlier, the Post notes that the Florida plan fit with a long-standing corporate relationship between Disney and the NBA, as well as logistical advantages to the complex itself.
The timing of the announcement struck an ill note for many, including Los Angeles Clippers player Patrick Beverley. “Everything going on right now,” he tweeted, “[Basketball] is not important.”
Many celebrities have dispatched messages of encouragement to high school and college students in the graduating class of 2020 over the past several weeks. In a commencement address to seniors at her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz, L.A. native Meghan Markle used the opportunity to address the issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment.
“For the past couple weeks, I’ve been planning to say a few words to you for your graduation,” Duchess of Sussex says. “And as we’ve all seen over the last week, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of L.A. has been absolutely devastating. And I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing.”
“George Floyd’s life mattered,” Markle says, naming off several other people who’ve been killed by police in recent weeks, months, and years—Brionna Taylor, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice—as wells as “all the names we don’t know”
“We are seeing people stand in solidarity, we are seeing communities come together and to uplift. And you are going to be part of this movement,” she says.
She goes on to describe a moment she recalls from her sophomore year, when a teacher told her, “Always remember to put others’ needs before your own fears.”
“That has stuck with me through my entire life,” she says. Markle, who went on to become an actress before marrying Harry, the Duke of Sussex, graduated from the Catholic all-girls school in 1999. Since wedding Harry, Markle, who is Black, has been the target of racially charged tabloid coverage in the United Kingdom; the couple recently relocated to Los Angeles, and have already been spotted doing doing work for charitable causes.
Besides encouraging the students to be part of the current movement, Markle stresses that they need to vote in November: “You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, and you’re going to use your voice in a stronger way than you’ve ever been able to. Because most of you are 18 or you’re going to turn 18, so you’re going to vote.”
UPDATE 6/4/20: After weighing in on anti-police brutality demonstrations by telling a Yahoo Finance interviewer that he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States,” Drew Brees issued an apology.
In a lengthy Instagram post, the aging quarterback, who suddenly remembered he helms a team in one of the Blackest cities in the U.S., said:
I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.
In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.
This is where I stand:
I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference.
I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today.
I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community.
I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement.
I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right.
I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy.
I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen.
For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is apparently still bent out of shape about his colleagues kneeling during the national anthem. Even after the death of George Floyd and the anti-brutality demonstrations that have spread across the country for more than a week, Brees took time out of his day to tell Yahoo News what he thought of the peaceful protests. “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” he said.
LeBron James, for one, was not amused. He tweeted a response to Brees, invoking Colin Kaepernick by name.
“WOW MAN!! Is it still surprising at this point? Sure isn’t!” LeBron wrote. “You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong! God bless you.”
James wasn’t the only prominent athlete to respond passionately to Brees’s comments. He received replies from numerous famous players, including two members of his own team, Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
The guild that represents cinematographers and camera crews, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 600, have released guidelines to ensure that its members can return to work without getting sick or being exploited as film, TV, and theater production come back to life during the pandemic.
At the heart of these new protocols, IATSE 600 is demanding that none of their crew members be asked to sign liability wavers in the wake of the coronavirus danger. As Deadline reports, the Guild’s Principles, Key Recommendations and Recommended Departmental Protocols states that, “no one should have to waive their rights or assume liability in order to go back to work.”
Safety guidelines issued Monday by the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force don’t address the liability question, despite the fact that many within the industry suspect that some employers will try to muscle casts and crews into signing such waivers.
The Guild also suggests, “The most effective and broad-based testing and screening must be put into place as part of any return to work protocols,” and that companies must, “employ a sufficient number of employees within the camera department, so that at least one person can be assigned the primary duty of cleaning and sanitizing the equipment and expendables utilized as necessary.”
To that end, the Guild specifically warns companies against using the pandemic as an excuse to artificially cut labor costs, writing, “Arbitrarily limiting the size of crews and attempting to combine jobs leads to inefficient, unsafe work practices and harms workers financially. Department heads and their crews, in collaboration with line producers, UPMs and assistant directors are still in the best position to manage the staffing needs and scheduling of their departments to achieve the quality and efficiency that we all desire.”
Another recommended change is that the historically health-shattering hours crews are expected to work should be addressed: “Limit the duration of workdays and excessive consecutive workdays whenever possible and extend rest periods whenever possible to ensure cast and crew remain healthy and receive adequate rest.”
Fearing that producers will also seek to cut their losses by replacing COVID-vulnerable older crew members with younger labor, the Guild is moving to nip that idea in the bud, insisting, “There cannot be discriminatory practices…under the guise of safety, e.g., ageism, sharing of medical information.”
UPDATE 6/4/20: On Thursday, Sheriff Villanueva announced that there will be no curfew issued for tonight, and that perhaps curfews related to the current outburst of protests have concluded entirely.
“Based upon current situational awareness and the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer enforce a curfew,” his statement reads.
Not mentioned in his statement is that on Wednesday evening, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed an emergency lawsuit declaring the curfews in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties to be violations of the First Amendment. The suits were filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter, journalists, protesters, and others who found the curfew inappropriately limited their speech.
County Supervisor Janice Hahn stated on Wednesday night that she believed the curfews had evolved from an emergency tactic to put a lid on pockets of vandalism and looting into a cudgel being wielded to suppress demonstrations, telling the Los Angeles Times that, “it seems like they are being used to arrest peaceful protesters. I don’t think they are needed anymore.”
Cities within the county are still allowed to impose curfews if they feel it necessary.
UPDATE 6/3/20: Los Angeles County will again be under countywide curfew beginning at 9 p.m. The curfew will last through 5 a.m. on June 4. This fourth night of widespread curfews follows Tuesday’s massive protests, during with virtually no incidents of violence or property damage were reported, and when the majority of arrests made were for curfew violations.
In Beverly Hills the city curfew will go into effect at 1 p.m. in the business district and 4 p.m. elsewhere. In Culver City, city curfew starts at 6 p.m.
That acknowledgement that the curfews are being used to suppress not just potential looting but also non-violent protests raised the ire of the ACLU. “The Order in its present form is neither authorized by state statutory law nor consistent with the United States Constitution,” an open letter from the civil liberties group to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors reads.
UPDATE 6/2/20: Los Angeles County has announced that the 6 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew will be in effect for a fourth night. City-level curfews will begin in Beverly Hills at 1 p.m., Santa Monica at 2 p.m., Culver City and West Hollywood at 4 p.m., and Burbank at 5 p.m.
In addition to the standard exceptions for essential workers and emergency medical care, today’s order also makes an exception for individuals going to cast in-person votes in the local special elections happening today in the City of Commerce and El Rancho Unified School District.
UPDATE 6/1/20: For a third night, L.A. County will be enforcing a 6 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew throughout all incorporated and unincorporated areas, including the City of Los Angeles. The order instructs people to stay off “public streets, avenues, boulevards, places, walkways, alleys, parks or any public areas or unimproved private realty” starting and ending at the designated times. The order does not apply to police officers, firefighters, and the National Guard, as well as credentialed media, people traveling to and from work, people who need medical help, and “people experiencing homelessness and without access to a viable shelter.”
Earlier today, an alert went out claiming that the curfew had been moved up to 5 p.m., but that appears to have been in error. At 4 p.m., Mayor Eric Garcetti reiterated the 6 p.m. curfew for the city of L.A.; likewise, L.A. County’s website still says 6 p.m.
In a statement, Garcetti said, “The focus needs to stay on taking down systemic racism and ending senseless violence against Black men and women—and we can’t let a small number of people hijack that movement by putting lives in danger and destroying property,” Garcetti said in a statement. “We are keeping the curfew in place tonight to protect everyone’s safety and help our first responders keep the peace.”
More stringent curfews in municipalities supersede the County order. For instance, Santa Monica is enforcing a 1 p.m. curfew in the “downtown business area” and a 4 p.m. curfew in the rest of the city. Same goes for Beverly Hills and Long Beach (1 p.m. in business districts, 4 p.m. citywide).
UPDATE 5/31/20:As protesters continue to demonstrate against police violence across the city, L.A. County has implemented a curfew beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday and ending at 6 a.m. on Monday morning. Earlier today, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that a citywide curfew would be in place beginning at 8 p.m., but Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s curfew supersedes the Mayor’s order.
“In the event the county curfew is more stringent than a resident’s local curfew order, the county curfew will supersede it,” the county’s website explains. “In other words, if a resident’s local curfew order is 8 p.m., the 6 p.m. county curfew supersedes it; if the local order is 4 p.m., the local order still stands.”
Throughout Los Angeles, people received conflicting emergency alerts on their phones, prompting confusion and suspicion that the conflict was meant to confuse people. Mayor Garcetti has not deleted or updated a tweet from earlier today that says curfew begins at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
“All incorporated and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County shall adhere to staying off public streets, avenues, boulevards, places, walkways, alleys, parks or any public areas or unimproved private realty within Los Angeles County, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following day,” the county’s website says. The order does not apply to police officers, firefighters, and the National Guard, as well as people traveling to and from work, people who need medical help, and “people experiencing homelessness and without access to a viable shelter.”
Originally published 5/30/20:
A protest that began around noon in Pan-Pacific Park has since migrated to the area of 3rd and Fairfax, where the LAPD has declared an unlawful assembly. At least one police vehicle was set on fire and several others were vandalized as police bombarded the area, reportedly deploying tear gas and flash bangs.
As some of the crowd dispersed, a group of protesters, both on foot and in cars, made its way through the city, heading east on Beverly Boulevard. At approximately 3:30 p.m., moments after a parade of police cars and motorcycles headed west through the area, the protesters made their way through Larchmont Village, where neighbors stopped and chanted in support.
It’s the fourth day of nationwide protests against racism and police violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died while being detained by Minneapolis police on May 25. Derek Chauvin, the officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for a prolonged period of time, has since been arrested and charged with murder.
After a night of protests in downtown L.A. that resulted in upward of 500 arrests, Mayor Eric Garcetti has implemented a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday night, continuing through 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Initially, the curfew only impacted downtown, but it’s now citywide.
Currently, the curfew will apply to downtown Los Angeles between the 110 fwy on the west, Alameda on the east, and 10 fwy on the south, and 101 fwy on the north between 8 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
Last Sunday in Santa Monica, a day of protests turned into an afternoon and evening of vandalism and looting. But the most wanton acts of destruction occurred in broad daylight as tourists gaped and news cameras rolled. While the full toll of destruction is still being tallied, there are reports that close to 150 businesses were ransacked and around 400 people arrested during the chaos of that day. It’s important to note: what occurred in Santa Monica on Sunday had nothing to do with the official protests. Many have sought to link the two in order to delegitimize the larger movement for their own political gain, but what I observed was different.
I was in Santa Monica that afternoon, on my way to the protests when a caravan of luxury vehicles brimming with passengers arrived on the scene, leaving a strong scent of cannabis in their wake. Instead of heading towards Ocean Avenue, I followed them, believing that something was about to go down. For the next two hours I watched, then filmed, as they surrounded one store after another. There was no pretext of politics to their activities and they certainly weren’t there to protest. Instead, what I witnessed was a well-planned organized heist that used the protestors as a shield and a diversion for their own nefarious purposes.
“Many have sought to link the protests and the looting in order to delegitimize the larger movement for their own political gain, but what I observed was different.”
The convoy finally stopped at the Van’s store on Broadway and Fourth Street, a few blocks away from the site of the protests on Ocean Avenue. Clad in jeans and hoodies, about 25 people spilled out of their autos and onto the street. They appeared to be highly organized. As they fanned across the neighborhood, a few people yelled out orders from inside their idling vehicles, waving this small army from one target to another with military precision. I watched as one group would break into the stores, smashing the windows with their hammers and screwdrivers. When the doors were finally breached, a second group would file in with empty duffel bags and emerge a few minutes later with their bags full. Then they would jump back into waiting vehicles and speed away to the next target.
While it is not clear who may have orchestrated the looting in Santa Monica, police in other cities have suggested that anarchist and white supremacist groups may be linked to similar activity. Some have speculated that the local looting may have been carried out by organized gangs. The relative absence of police from the scene—and their inability to stop the open looting—has since become a topic of heated criticism, with thousand signing a Change.org petition calling for the removal of Santa Monica’s police chief, Cynthia Renaud.
The following is my account of what I saw on Sunday: a view from one block, on one street, in one city, engulfed by unrest and grief.
2:14 p.m. – Arrival
Walking up Fourth Street toward Broadway, I first hear the boom of tear gas canisters being fired. It’s far enough away that there is no smoke. Tiny explosions reverberate through downtown Santa Monica, an ominous welcome to the neighborhood. On Twitter, I read that a small group of protesters has broken away from Ocean Avenue and is making its way to Third Street Promenade. The police, hoping to prevent a repeat of what happened the night before on Fairfax, stands alert.
2:26 p.m. – Vans Store
I first see the familiar red and black boxes strewn in piles outside the smashed storefront. A young woman looking for some checkerboard slip-ons shouts, “Get me a size 11!” Two young men drag one of their friends inside the store, exhorting him to “Get a new board.” It’s a strange sensation to watch a store being looted in broad daylight. The sense of lawlessness creates a weird tear in reality where I feel slightly outside myself, like I’m watching all of this happen in a dream, asking myself and others, “Is this really happening?” But it is real. And the looters come streaming out of the store pushing hand trucks piled high with shoes and clothing. They carry boxes on top of boxes, their arms stuffed to capacity. A woman standing next to the entrance shouts, “Please stop, you’re going to get Trump reelected.” Instead, they leave with backpacks and skateboards and hoodies. The store is quickly picked clean.
2:34 p.m. – Jack’s Jewelers
Traffic on Broadway is thick and slow. A volley of incessant honking breaks the peace. The Spotters sitting in several of the waiting cars stick their heads out the windows and shout warnings and encouragement to the small army on the street carrying crowbars and hammers. The word has gone out that “It’s clear.” A crowd of 20 young men makes a beeline for the jeweler’s storefront, only to be stopped as the sound of approaching sirens spooks the crowd. “Chinese,” somebody shouts—a code word to signal oncoming cops. A car pulls directly in front of the storefront, and out pour more bodies. An older woman, wearing a white sports bra over a purple sweatshirt with sweatpants and flip flops, emerges from the passenger seat and begins directing the activity. It’s the same voice that shouted, “Clear,” and she appears to me to be in charge, quickly organizing the group and shouting instructions. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that the glass is reinforced and the security gate too hard to break or bend. The leader of the pack reluctantly returns to her vehicle and the group moves on.
2:48 p.m. – Crossroads
I shoot a video on my phone as glass flies outwards, almost like it’s been shot. It’s just the ricochet from the crowbar striking the glass door with extreme force. A young man, dressed in red from head to toe, jumps backwards to avoid being coated in shattered glass. Soon the entire mob that just emptied the jeweler reassembles in this popular consignment shop. They emerge wheeling out entire racks of clothing. Even from the outside, you can hear people shouting instructions about what goods to grab, what to leave behind and where to go next. The dull roar of voices and competing horns creates a raucous symphony that can be heard all across this normally quiet seaside neighborhood.
2:51 p.m. – Santa Monica Tobacco
The safety gate is breached and the store entered. The pilfering here seems to be driven by adrenaline—the looters seem more like they are driven by the excitement of the experience rather than by the relatively inexpensive contents of the dusty store, grabbing armfuls of sodas and cigarettes and moving on. An empty box of Swisher Sweets sits orphaned on the curbside; a young man clad in an orange jumpsuit pauses his escape to roll a blunt, which he lights up with visible satisfaction.
2:56 p.m. – Sunny Optometry
The crowd on the side streets off Broadway begins to grow and I lose track of the person I thought was the leader. A navy blue Jaguar stops suddenly. At least four people get out, following the waving of someone guiding them from the sidewalk. Across the window, “Save a Life, Kill a Cop,” is scrawled in white spray paint. They have smashed through the front door and are leaving with armloads of designer sunglasses. A few try on the prescription frames.
2:57 p.m. – Roadrunner Sports
Across the street a new crowd has gathered and appear to be following the woman I observed at the jewelry store. They smash through the window and swarm inside. The crowd emerges with boxes of Nikes, T-shirts, and running shorts; the shot caller waits patiently for her crew to emerge with the real prize from the store—the safe.
3:04 p.m. – Chase Bank
The mayhem and looting now consumes both sides of the street. At the same time, there’s an element of normalcy to the day with people jogging down the street and European tourists having brunch, creating a rather surreal tableaux, this outburst of anarchy juxtaposed against a weekend afternoon in an upscale Westside neighborhood. There are no police anywhere, save for the phalanx of heavily armed riot cops guarding Santa Monica Place. A few shopkeepers stand sentinel in front of their stores and I notice two security guards filming the mayhem on their phones as if for posterity. A small group breaks into a Chase Bank branch. While they initially appear thrilled to have made it inside, they soon seem unsure of what to take. A passerby yells at them to get out, and they quickly disperse.
3:05 p.m. – Jack’s Jewelers
Not surprisingly, this landmark jeweler is a prime target. A determined group spends close to half an hour smashing their way inside the store before they finally succeed in bringing down the reinforced glass and breaching the safety fence. The crowd swarms back across the street into the store and pick it clean. Standing apart from the melee is a woman with two children who appear frozen with fear as they watch the scene. She grips both their hands tightly, the little girl standing astride her scooter with her young son holding a skateboard and staring straight ahead. On the street is the detritus of the afternoon’s looting. There are empty jewelry cases, lone sneakers, and employee badges. A laptop sits smashed on the pavement.
3:09 p.m. – Roadrunner Sports
A group of four carries the store’s safe into the street where a young man in a grey hoodie and black face mask stands on top of it. He seems to be searching for someone. A white Mitsubishi SUV soon pulls up and its occupants quickly get out, grab the safe, and drive away. I can hear shouts and cheers from inside the vehicle. A few doors down at the Jamba Juice, some enterprising looters help themselves to scones and pre-made juice, a kind of anarchic snack time. They stand, laughing and munching—a time out, it seems, from the madness.
3:10 p.m. – Patagonia
A young man wearing a Third Eye Blind tee shirt guides some of the crowd from Roadrunner into Patagonia. They emerge with fleece and GORE-TEX jackets. I hear cheers from the crowd. At this point it has become apparent that the police won’t be stopping the looting. The pace seems to quicken as more stores are vandalized and emptied. The crowd had swelled along Fourth and Broadway, streets hum with people running in and out of stores and back into waiting cars.
3:16 p.m. – REI
A protestor still holding her sign attempts to prevent a group from entering the store. A man carrying a crowbar yanks her sharply by the wrist and pushes her out of the way. He proceeds to smash a hole through the reinforced glass large enough for someone to crawl through and disappears into the store. This is followed by more smashing of glass until they’ve removed enough of it for a stream of people to enter. The outdoor retailer quickly becomes a focal point for the larger crowd who begin smashing the window displays and climbing into the store from the sidewalk. I watch as people emerge with Yeti coolers, tents, stoves, sleeping bags, backpacks, and bicycles. The mood is festive, Christmas in May. A group of cars pulls up alongside the store and piles in the loot. I see bicycles strapped to a roof and a trunk stuffed full. I observe others talking on phones, impatiently shouting directions as if they were waiting for a tardy Uber.
3:40 p.m. – Tar and Roses
With a 4 p.m. curfew quickly approaching, the police, who up until this moment had been focused on the protest, begin to stage one street over. A line of cruisers and a massive armored vehicle closely follow a fleet of motorcycle cops all headed for the locus of the action. This sends hundreds of looters scurrying in all direction with the core group, whose actions I’ve followed all afternoon hopping into their waiting vehicles and driving off.
Meanwhile, a few stragglers continue their journey on to Broadway. At Tar and Roses, a tony restaurant on Fifth Street, I watch people make off with most of the bar; in the process they drop expensive bottles of wine that stain the sidewalk a deep red. A man in a scarlet ski mask stands in front holding a sign that says simply, “Black.” He is pacing in circles shouting, “Karma’s a bitch,” over and over. But no one pays him much attention. There’s too much left to steal. So the crew goes next door to Tru Salon, departing the smashed salon with all the overpriced shampoos and conditioners and hair gels they can carry. Someone from the crowd notices me, reaches for my camera, demanding to know why I am following him and filming. He breaks my reverie and I beat a hasty retreat for my car and walk out of the area.
The scope of the afternoon’s looting only began to sink in after I left the scene. As I walked out of the commercial district and towards my car, the damage was shocking. Store after store had been vandalized and emptied. Now local business owners and neighbors are left to pick up the pieces. Many express solidarity with the protestors, but say they feel abandoned by the SMPD.
In the next few days, as the enormous breadth of the looting became apparent, Andrew Kirschner, chef and owner of Tar and Roses, told Eater, “Santa Monica was targeted. I kept telling myself throughout the coronavirus that Santa Monica was safe. It’s been a ghost town the past few months, why would I need to board up the place and protect it? But I’ll say this: The outpouring of community support is really amazing. Hundreds of people in the streets with brooms, cleaning up, removing graffiti. You do see how the community can rally together.”
The police response to Sunday’s looting has been roundly criticized. “This was a tactical failure on the part of the SMPD,” says Eric Preven, a local activist and former city council candidate. “They were wrongly focused on arresting peaceful protestors while the looters were left to go about their business.” Reached for comment by Los Angeles, a member of SMPD had no official response to the issues raised in this article as they were unauthorized to speak to the press. They did agree to speak on background and offered the following assessment. “These are gang members,” he said based on information ascertained from suspect interrogations and arrestee reports. “They’re highly organized and deadly serious and are using social media to decide where and what to hit.”