Home Blog

Pacific Dining Car As We Knew it Is Gone

The end of the Pacific Dining Car came with a few mouse clicks this week as the final bids were entered on the leather booths, fine china, and crystal goblets inside the landmark restaurant. Ninety nine years ago, Fred and Grace “Lovey” Cook started serving up meals just outside of downtown in a converted railroad car. Over three generations, the food got better, the wines got fancier, and the Dining Car expanded into a dim and sprawling, elegant oasis that never closed. It was a refuge for movie stars and politicians looking for a comfortable night out in a place where old-fashioned rules of decorum still applied. Los Angeles magazine raved about the restaurant for decades, and once named it one of the 101 Greatest Things About L.A. Our former food critic Jonathan Gold wrote that at the Dining Car, he “feasted on a prime dry-aged New York strip steak with the magnificent sour ripeness of a runny French St. Nectaire.”

While much of the kitchen equipment and plush décor (including the contents of a sister restaurant in Santa Monica) have been sold at auction, Cook’s grandson Wes Idol III does a good job convincing us that the restaurant is simply taking a nap during the pandemic and will return someday. “I have zero interest in having my family’s legacy go away,” Idol told us from his home in Calabasas this week. “There’s something very productive in a pause.”

The last crate of Dining Car relish and jam sold for $535, A wooden plaque for the “Club Car” sold for $5,025, and the restaurant’s curbside sign, two life-size steers that stood over 6th Street and Witmer Avenue for decades, fetched $7,250. “The whole physical space is on hold,” he says. “There’s going to be a large redecoration and renovation anyway, It’s really not as dramatic as it seems.” Idol removed photos and artifacts of personal or historical interest before the sale and insists that everything in the auction needed to be replaced anyway.

Whatever the interior looks like, it may involve more room for aging beef. Idol plans to use the restaurant building, which his family owns, for a new venture at the original location. Starting sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Pacific Dining Car will be selling frozen steaks online. Idol speculates on a whole line of future food products. If things go well, macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach, and potato souffle could also come back, in to-go form. “This is not the end of anything,” he says. “This is the beginning of something.” The restaurant needs to work out new supply chains and age the prime beef for up to two months (Idol claims his great grandfather introduced dry aged beef to Los Angeles) before offering a kit with easy-to-follow cooking instructions that Idol says “a college student with a hotplate” could follow.

The third-generation owner remembers a visit to a museum with his father, who passed away last year, where he spotted the Remington logo on an antique bicycle. The curator explained how the famous rifle company got their start manufacturing bikes. “How’s that for adapting?” his father said at the time. “This is personal. This is my family,” Idol says. “One of my main drivers is keeping Pacific Dining Car alive and going into the future. This is the pivot we’re going to do.”

Idol has worked every job in the restaurant, from busboy, to IT, to maître d’. Having spent decades seating warring politicians away from each other has taught him diplomacy, so he won’t take sides, but you can tell he’s not a fan of the regulations that closed his business. “Much of the state has been gutted,” he says. “Many of my peers would like to see our mayor and governor hung out to dry. They both have my sympathy, but the industry feels far more cantankerous.”

While I can’t imagine the Dining Car’s coddled customers finding the same pleasure grilling their own steaks and mixing their own martinis, perhaps some inhabit their own cozy labyrinth with overstuffed chairs and tuxedoed staff around every corner. Sure, the food at the Dining Car was great, but the experience was all about the service and the environment. Idol remembered “My dad used to say, ‘people may not remember what you do or say, but they’ll never forget how you make them feel.’”

RELATED: L.A. Restaurants That Have Closed Amid the Pandemic: Dominique Ansel Bakery, Preux & Proper, and More

Stay up to date with everything you need to know about L.A. by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

How a Chronically Extroverted WME Agent and His Daughter Raised Millions During Quarantine

You’re not supposed to worry about your agent. That’s the most appealing thing about the relationship. All you talk about is your career, your money, your opinions of studio executives.

But when lockdown started, I worried about Richard Weitz, co-head of WME’s scripted television department. Weitz is a blast of staccato, fast-talking, gravelly voiced, optimistic confidence that’s sometimes hard to contain long enough to follow what he’s talking about. He goes out every night, to such cool places and with such cool people that you could piece together a history of 21st century Los Angeles solely from his Instagram: Floorside at the Lakers game with Josh Groban, seeing Star Wars with LL Cool J, posing with Jennifer Hudson at the Saban Community Clinic gala, accepting the Bernie Brillstein Legacy Award from Rob Lowe at the Wilshire Country Club. He’s friends with Craig Sussed at Craig’s and also Gloria Leon, the 69-year-old waitress at Nate ‘n Al’s. He once, without explanation, handed me a Richard Weitz Funko Pop! figurine.

“Sometimes it was really really frustrating,” says Richard’s 17-year-old daughter Demi about her dad’s schedule. “He was home when he wanted to be home. But I was like, ‘No. Be home the other times when I want to hang out.’” Richard’s wife, Candie and son, Aiden, had struggled with his peripatetic ways as well. The Richard Weitz 2018-2019 Tour shirt, created by WME partner Ari Greenburg, lists 100 events around the world he went to.

I knew that if Richard had to spend two nights in a row in his own house, he was going to lose it. What I didn’t know about was Zoom. If he couldn’t go into the world, he was going to talk the world into coming to his house.

It was less plan than instinct. Like most parents back in the early days of the pandemic, he felt badly that his daughter’s birthday’s plans were ruined. So on March 27, he threw a virtual surprise party for Demi’s 17th birthday. Richard invited a friend who plays covers at a piano bar in Chicago to sing for her and 40 of her friends and family. When the teens quickly tired of 1980s cover tunes, Richard logged off and came up with a new, Richard-ier plan. He called John Mayer, Debbie Gibson, and Rick Astley, and got them to sing happy birthday. This went over much better. The teens eventually signed off, but Richard stayed on with his famous friends, getting his social fix.

Jonesing again, he invited some more musicians to perform for his friends the following weekend. Soon, Richard had more than 500 people at his weekend Zooms—dubbed “Quarantunes”—to hear songs by Groban, Astley, Thomas Rhett, Billy Ray Cyrus, Boy George, Rick Springfield, and Rev Run.

Demi, who is shy and never completely comfortable with her high school friends, finally found her own platform. She went from binge watching How I Met Your Mother to avoid her loneliness, to talking to powerful people and somehow making jokes around them, and being impressed with her dad’s skill as an agent, seeing him connect people who trusted his advice. “I thought his job was going out and was all fun and games. I’m seeing the hard work and dedication he puts into it,” she says. “I thought he did nothing.”

By April 4, Demi started to feel guilty for having the best pandemic ever. “I felt a little over privileged to be doing this with what is going on now. It wasn’t a good feeling,” Demi says. So she suggested asking guests to donate to the Saban Community Clinic, which was likely to be overwhelmed with virus patients. Richard, who is president of their board, was into it. Demi’s initial goal was to raise $10,000, which they accomplished in an hour. By the end of the night, they’d raised $100,000.

richard weitz quarantunes
Demi and Richard Weitz have raised millions of dollars during the pandemic

Courtesy Richard Weitz

The Wietzses put on a show nearly every week, often twice on weekends, supporting a new charity each time—Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Heart of Los Angeles, United Way of Greater L.A., the L.A. Food Bank. So far, over the course of 25 Quarantunes Zooms, they’ve collectively raised over $11.5 million. Billboard created an award—the Heroes of the Pandemic Award—just to give it to them. Girls Inc. had Tina Fey present Demi with the Champion for Girls Award, and celebrated her with appearances from the stars of her favorite shows: The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, and How I Met Your Mother.  “You really saved your dad’s life,” Fey said on the Zoom, referring to Richard’s “extreme extroversion.” Earlier this month, Bob Iger presented them with the Walt Disney Philanthropists of the Year Award at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles’ during its The Big Night In virtual gala.

As Demi felt empowered by raising money, Richard felt empowered by throwing events. He’d always been a huge music fan, and now he got to live out his dream of hosting Live Aid every week. He turned his Zoom call into a new type of entertainment, a combination music awards shows, variety program, and Hollywood party.

Which was a role Hollywood needed filled. People I’d never met, or hadn’t talked to in a long time, privately messaged in the chat room. I got at least one meeting out of it. Others got more. After playing a song, Jack Antonoff said that the quarantine made him realize he needs animals in his life and talked to songwriter Diane Warren about advice on getting some birds. Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda told Ashanti that she was the inspiration for one of the musical’s songs, and Broadway actress Emmy Raver-Lampman landed two gigs after covering a Lizzo song. When Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez gathered around a piano with their daughters to sing the Frozen songs they wrote, Bob Iger got made fun of in the chat box for typing, “Everyone can find it on Disney+ right now.” It was better than a Hollywood party, because it felt safe to mock Bob Iger.

Demi and Richard with their Walt Disney Philanthropists of the Year awards

Courtesy Richard Weitz

Paging through Zoom screens, I regularly saw Sherry Lansing, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tom Werner, Dana Walden, Tina Fey, Amy Adams, Courtney Cox, Rob Lowe, Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, and tennis star Pam Shriver. Nearly 300 performers have played their hits and told stories about writing them: Rod Stewart, Josh Groban, Elvis Costello, Earth Wind & Fire, Florida Georgia Line, Shawn Mendes, Smokey Robinson, and the Killers. At one point, I was convinced that people were coming back from the dead to be on the Zoom, when songwriter Mike Stoller of Leiber and Stoller (“Hound Dog,” “Yakkity Yak”) called in.

Richard plays the role of gushing, well-prepared interviewer. He’ll yell like a teenager at a Beatles concert. He’ll talk to his parents. He’ll cry. His favorite thing is declaring himself a “sniper,” demanding a performer sing something they didn’t prepare in the Zoom rehearsal.

“I sniper Melissa Etheridge to sing a Janis Joplin song. And she didn’t sing one but she sang two! She was going to sing ‘Come Through My Window’ and all of the sudden she’s singing ‘Me and Bobby McGee’!” Richard tells me in disbelief. He has made two producers his de facto cohosts, calling on them not only to book guests, but to ask them questions after they played: 88-year-old music executive Clive Davis, and songwriter and producer Jimmy Jam.

“I don’t think anybody turned us down,” says Davis, who wears a sweater and tie for every event. “Al Stewart was going to do ‘Year of the Cat’ and ‘Time Passages’ but the person coming to set up the Zoom got the virus. So we had to postpone it,” he says.

When Davis asked Barry Manilow to come on, he performed a particularly relevant song he recorded in 1989, ‘When the Good Times Come Again.’ I Facetimed my mom and held my phone up to the Zoom performance. I was not alone. Manilow sang it on The Late Late Show with James Corden and The Today Show and wound up at number 18 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. After Bryan Adams sang, he told Davis he had an unreleased solo version of Aretha Franklin singing ‘Never Gonna Break My Faith,’ a song he wrote for her and Mary J. Blige. A few weeks later, it  was number one on Billboard’s gospel chart.

Jam, a calm, professorial presence, became friends with Richard a dozen years ago when he burst into Jam’s meeting at WME yelling, “How come Jimmy Jam is in the building and no one told me!” then naming the most obscure songs that he produced and running of the room. “He texted me about Demi’s party. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Jam remembers. “The next week he did another one and after the fact mentioned that John Mayer was going to be on. I thought that sounded kind of cool.” Soon, Richard was asking him to book guests and calling on him to deliver commentary after they played. When he’s not talking, he’s scrolling through pages of guests. “ I like watching people listening to music. Watching the emotions wash over them,” he says. “We’re all in the same place feeling the same thing.”

On May 23, instead of hosting from their kitchen—the room in their Beverly Hills house with the best WiFi reception—Richard and Demi popped up at the Hollywood Bowl with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gustavo Dudamel, as they watched performances from Kenny Loggins, the trumpet section of the L.A. Philharmonic, and members of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles. Billie Eilish zoomed in. The week before Hamilton premiered on Disney+, creator Miranda and the cast reunited to raise money for Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative. A few weeks later John Legend cohosted to support his prison reform nonprofit FreeAmerica. Governor Gavin Newsom came on to talk about COVID. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms discussed how to cut hair during a pandemic. Weitz was set to host from Dodger Stadium to raise money for the team’s Dodgers RBI youth development program until Black Lives Matter protests led them to reschedule.

“Imagine a year ago. I had no clients. What was going on. A year later I’ve made the pivot from representing writers to taking my passion in connecting music artists. This is a dream for me. I’m taking to everyone I’ve ever been a fan of directly. From my kitchen,” Richard told me. A few months later, he went further: “This has been the best year of my life. I solidified a new relationship with my daughter, and a new reputation for me, well beyond being an agent.”

In fact, it’s hard for Richard to log off the Zooms. Really hard. They sometimes last more than seven hours – long after Demi gets exhausted and leaves. Once, she came down to her kitchen near midnight in her sleeping clothes, shocked Richard still is asking Amos Lee to play another song for former Comedy Central head Kent Alterman and 40 other die hards.

When the quarantine ends, Richard vows not to let Quarantunes end with it. He’s already figuring out a way to stage live events and Zoom holiday specials.

But Demi also knows that the quarantine has changed her dad as much as it’s changed her. “My dad is going to want to be home a lot more now,” she told her mom while we were on speakerphone. “I think he’s realizing the simplicity and beauty in life and what’s important.”

“Demi don’t get your hopes up. You’re going to be disappointed,” Candie added.

Hearing this, a newly wisened Richard gives it the millisecond of thought he gives everything. “I’m dying at home every day. I need to go out,” he says.

RELATED: Meet Ronnie ‘the Rooster’ Gunter, a Singer-Songwriter for the COVID-19 Era

Stay up to date with everything you need to know about L.A. by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

Aaron Sorkin Had No Idea His Latest Project Would Be Quite So Relevant in 2020


Aaron Sorkin has long been fascinated by the crackling combo of politics, media, and the law. Throughout his long, impressive career—which includes films like A Few Good Men and The Social Network, TV’s West Wing, and a Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird—the 59-year-old writer-director has dramatized some of the most topical subjects of the day.

His latest project, The Trial of the Chicago 7, might be his most pertinent yet. The film, which premieres October 16 on Netflix, is set in the summer of 1968, with protesters and police clashing violently outside the Democratic convention. With a high-wattage cast that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Strong, and Mark Rylance, it follows the six-month trial of the men accused of inciting the riot, among them Abbie Hoffman and Black Panthers cofounder Bobby Seale.

Sorkin recently talked to Los Angeles about the movie, the upcoming election, and whom he considers the best actor alive right now.

You first met with Steven Spielberg in 2006 about writing a film on the Chicago Seven that someone else would direct. What happened?

The one thing I remember distinctly about that 2006 meeting is that Steven thought it would be great to get this film out before the election. He was talking about 2008! At that point we had not heard of Barack Obama. The day after I turned in the second draft, the Writer’s Guild went on strike. When I did finally get back to it, Steven wanted to produce, but there were other directors he was interested in—Paul Greengrass, Ben Stiller . . . . Then two things happened: the election of 2016 and Molly’s Game, my directorial debut. Steven was pleased enough with Molly’s Game to say, “Now’s the time to do Chicago 7, and you should direct it.”

Working on the project in 2006 and more recently, you probably never could have imagined police brutality and violence in the streets all over again. It’s déjà vu.

It’s amazing, and very chilling. Someone asked me recently if I’d changed the script to mirror the times. The answer is no; the times changed to mirror the script—in the worst possible ways. Look, when we started on the final version of the script, we’d elected a president who waxed nostalgic to crowds about the good old days when we carried protesters out on stretchers—when you could beat the crap out of them. And then there was “Go back to where you came from!” And then I thought the movie was relevant when we were shooting it in late 2019. We didn’t need it to get more relevant, but it did. I watched this summer’s protests on television and thought how similar things looked to 1968.

And now you’ve got the president ordering soldiers to teargas American citizens who peacefully protest.

That’s right. At this performance, the role of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is being played by Donald Trump.

How much of what we hear in the film is what was really said, and how much is snappy Sorkin lingo?

There are a few moments in the courtroom scenes where what was in the trial transcript couldn’t be beat—like a lot of the Bobby Seale moments. Everything else is a writer’s imagination.

Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin is like nothing that guy has done. He always plays such a hard-ass.
Honestly, right now, he is one of the best actors alive. I saw him for the first time in The Big Short and thought, “Wow, he’s great, but that’s probably the part he can play.” Then I cast him in Molly’s Game. When I saw him in Succession, I decided there’s no limit to what this actor can do. Jeremy is for real.

You wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Social Network. What do you think about what’s happening with Facebook now, with Zuckerberg refusing to
censor clearly false political propaganda?

I think Mark and Facebook are intentionally confusing unpopular opinions with incorrect facts. They make more money from unpopular opinions. I think we’ve all seen how dangerous it is, and it’s not stopping. That tells you a lot.

Do you think it’s just about money? Or could it be politically motivated?

Your guess is as good as mine. My knowledge about Facebook is Facebook in 2005. But I would say, follow the money.

What did you think of the Democratic National Convention?

Loved it. I was very nervous about it. I’m a big fan of oratory; I like convention speeches. I didn’t know how they were going to work without a crowd. And it turned out it worked great. With the Obamas, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden, the effect was, “I’m not doing this because it’s an applause line. I’m not throwing red meat out to the crowd. I am talking to you.” So it actually had more weight. Now, do I hope big convention speeches with big crowds and balloons come back? I do. But for this very strange and frightening year, it was a great convention.

Since you’re Hollywood’s political sage, I must ask you, do you think Biden will win?
I don’t have any more knowledge than anyone else. But I’ve gotten The West Wing cast together, and we’re gonna do a benefit on HBO Max for an organization called When We All Vote. The cast will be doing a staged reading of an episode of the show that was kind of an ode to voting. [The special will be taped at L.A.’s Orpheum Theater in October and air later in the month.]

Did you see that Nicolle Wallace, after her MSNBC show was expanded, said she watched more episodes of The West Wing than she could ever admit to when she was working as the communications director for Bush?

Let me tell you that there’s no one I’d rather get a compliment like that from than Nicolle Wallace. Every four years there’s this opportunity in America for us to hear the best of two competing arguments, right? Health care, poverty, race relations, climate. And we never get to hear that argument because we’re gonna talk about dumb things like “The election is rigged.” That’s what the conversation has turned into. It’s too bad. I would love to hear people like Nicolle Wallace, Steve Schmidt, and a raft of others make strong counterarguments to things I believe. I’m definitely persuadable, so give me the best argument for your case. But I need to hear it from people who are not part of what I call “the silly season.”

So you’re a fan of the Lincoln Project?

Yeah, they’re strong. They can swing much harder, and they don’t have to say, “I’m Joe Biden and I approve this message.”

Which political commentators do you watch? Bill Maher? Colbert? John Oliver?

Yes to all three. Plus Seth Meyers—always love “A Closer Look.” Trevor Noah. Samantha Bee.

You’ve been compared to David Mamet, a staunch Republican, who, like you, is known for his fast, smart dialogue.

David Mamet is someone whom I disagree ideologically with, but I’d love to hear more from, politically. Because if Mamet cannot persuade me, I’m not persuadable! I think being compared to David Mamet as a writer is unfair to David.

On talk shows, actors from your projects always get asked, “How did you do all that language?” It seems very difficult.

You know, yes, from time to time when the actor will have a long speech—or a long list of names, dates, and places— sometimes that’s just me punishing them.

Did you plan for this film to come out before the November 2020 election?

Yes. Not because I think it can affect the results of the election but because right now—and this was before life began to imitate art in such a terrible way—is when we’re feeling these things and when it will have the most resonance.

I’ve read in several places that you’re the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood.

I have no idea if that’s true. If it is, then Tony Kushner has to have a serious talk with his agent.

RELATED: Answering Your Questions About How to Vote in Los Angeles

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.

Truck Seen Plowing Through Crowd of L.A. Protesters on Thursday Night

In an incident captured on camera, a large pickup truck drove through a crowd of protesters who were marching in Hollywood on Thursday night in response to the Kentucky attorney general’s handling of the Breonna Taylor case.

According to the L.A. Times, the protesters were walking east down Sunset Boulevard when the truck, traveling west, accelerated through the crowd and, as video shows, strikes at least one protester who was flung backward by the impact. One person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

[Note: the video below may be disturbing to some]

The news that Kentucky would decline to charge two of the three officers participated in the no-knock raid during which 26-year-old paramedic Breonna Taylor was shot to death in her bed has ignited a fresh round of protests against police brutality across the country. Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, who both discharged their weapons inside Taylor’s apartment, will face no charges in the homicide; Brett Hankison, who’s since been terminated from the Louisville police force, will face three counts of wanton endangerment, none of them directly related to Taylor’s death.

No serious incidents were reported at protests Wednesday night in downtown L.A., while two incidents involving vehicles were reported last night. A freelance photo journalist who witnessed the incident involving the truck told the Times that while other vehicles had yielded to protesters, the truck appeared to have, in his opinion, “instigated the incident.”

LAPD officers stopped and questioned the driver but did not arrest them because, according to Captain Steve Lurie of the Hollywood Division, the driver claimed the protesters attacked his vehicle first.

In a second incident, a white Toyota Prius drove through a group of protesters. That driver was also stopped and questioned by police and also claimed to be the victim in the incident.

Lurie tells the Times that in both cases they’re trying to determine whether the drivers are “the suspect of a hit-and-run or the victim of an assault.”

RELATED: L.A. Demonstrators Express Fury, Frustration Over Breonna Taylor Announcement

Stay up to date with everything you need to know about L.A. by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

Morning Brief: Another Heat Wave May Set the Scene for Worsening Wildfires


» With another heat wave on the horizon, California could see another swell in wildfire activityThe state is entering the time of year historically considered the peak of fire season. [Los Angeles Times]

» UC Regent Richard Blum has been named as one of the individuals linked to the admission of unqualified but well-connected students. Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein, denies any wrongdoing. [San Francisco Chronicle]

» A group of parents says they plan to file a lawsuit against the LAUSD, arguing the current distance learning plan “violates students’ rights to a basic public education.” The group says Black and Latino students, English as a second language learners, and children with disabilities have been disproportionately left behind by the district’s online learning systems. [KTLA]

» Mayor Garcetti is expressing concern about L.A.’s recent rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and transmission rate. “This virus is still here, and it’s still very dangerous,” he said at a briefing. [KTLA]

» Tory Lanez issued his first public statement since the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion. Lanez is accused of pulling the trigger in the July incident outside a Hollywood Hills party.  [XXL]


» California Will Ban the Sale of New Gas-Powered Cars Starting in 2035 Gavin Newsom announced the state will join countries around the world already committed to phasing out the technology

» Is Dianne Feinstein Ready for This Supreme Court Fight? The 87-year-old is the ranking Dem on the Judiciary Committee. Whispers on the Hill suggest concern about her acuity and vigor.

» How the Salton Sea, Once a Leisure Destination, Became an Ecological Time Bomb Filmmaker Greg Bassenian explores an environmental disaster decades in the making in a fascinating new documentary


rbg magnolia pictures what to stream

The Best Things to Stream This Weekend

Hulu has made the 2018 documentary RBG, about the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, available for free to everyone. Watch it and other selections from this week’s streaming picks.


Want the Daily Brief in your inbox? Sign up for our newsletters today.


Meet the Megadonors: These Are the SoCal People Giving the Most to Trump

It’s unlikely that California’s electoral votes will end up in Donald Trump’s column–and he’s losing the money race here too, currently falling more than $44 million behind Joe Biden on funds raised in the state. But, as Los Angeles Times analysis finds, there is a cadre of dedicated Trump donors in SoCal that have handed over major cash to his campaign.

Trump’s most generous ally in California is Beverly Hills real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer. The billionaire has given far and away the largest sum, totaling up to $6,405,200. Known for the Da Vinci, Orsini, Medici, and other downtown apartment projects, Palmer has been a long-time money man for the president, and was an initial donor to a PAC co-founded by Paul Manafort, which came under investigation amid Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Another Beverly Hills developer, Robert Zarnegin, comes in at number four on the top California donors list, forking over $375,000. Zarnegin’s firm, Probity International, owns numerous hulking commercial and mixed-used projects across the region, including the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel and a Rodeo Drive shopping complex.

Also on the list are husband and wife Joel and Barbara Marcus, giving a combined $525,000. Joel Marcus is the founder of Alexandria Real Estate Equities and, in 2019, sued his own son.

Perhaps the most recognizable name on the list of local megadonors is Jamie McCourt. The 66-year-old former wife of Frank McCourt was an executive and part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to 2011. Now, she serves as the U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco. McCourt donated $360,600.

Also on the list: Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey of Newport Beach, Colony Capital CEO and Neverland Ranch co-owner Thomas Barrack of L.A., and Kohl’s department store heiress Jana Kohl of Beverly Hills.

With its heavy concentration of super-donors, Beverly Hills ranked as the California neighborhood that’s given the most to Trump. Brentwood, Malibu, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula also saw significant giving.

Want to know if your own neighborhood is giving more to Trump or Biden? A tool on the Times site allows you to check by ZIP code.

RELATED: The Real Estate Developer Reportedly Hosting Trump’s L.A. Fundraiser Has a History of Controversy

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.

Things to Do (Inside and Outside) in L.A. This Weekend

Fall is here, if you can believe it, and we’re still hunkering down and staying safe to stop the spread of COVID-19. Nonetheless, it’s the weekend, and it’s best spent in the company of household-sharing loved ones, distancing out in nature, or enjoying some great entertainment at home. Here are our picks for things to do this weekend. Have fun, but be safe.

RBG Memorial at the Skirball

Friday, September 25

It’s been almost a week since Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, and it’s still unfathomable that she’s gone. You can now pay your respects to the late feminist icon at the Skirball Cultural Center, where a memorial has been set up on the steps. Inspired by the Ginsburg-centered exhibit at the museum a few years back, community arts organization Classroom of Compassion created and installed a memorial with flowers, candles, and photos on Sepulveda Boulevard.

Echo Park Rising

Saturday, September 26

Another beloved annual music fest goes digital so you can enjoy from your couch. The lineup still isn’t posted, but based on past years—when the lineup included everyone from Miya Folick to Starcrawler—you can expect a (swan) boatload of incredible local acts. You’ll also be encouraged to order food from neighborhood to eat while you watch.

Ohana Music Fest

Saturday, September 26

Perhaps you’ve missed Ohana, which typically takes place September in Dana Point, in recent years? Well, you’re in luck. Catch up on some of the best performances you’ve missed—Eddie Vedder, the Strokes, Jenny Lewis, and others—along with some brand spankin’ new performances from Deaf Charlie, Pluralone (aka former Red Hot Chili Pepper Josh Klinghoffer), surfer Rob Machado’s band Iron Sage Wood, and the Aquadolls, streaming live for free for 24 hours starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Def sounds best after a day at the beach.

Help Me, Help You, Help Me!

Saturday, September 26

Have a problem? Maria Bamford will solve it. The beloved L.A. comedian is inviting the general public to a two-hour, live-streamed group therapy sesh, during which she’ll attempt to solve audience members’ problems in five minutes flat. Described as “stand-up meets questionable advice meets after party,” Help Me, Help You, Help Me! kicks off at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

L.A. Intersections: Music, Language, Movement at the Broad 

Thursdays beginning September 17

It’s probably not quite how the museum expected to celebrate its fifth anniversary, but they’re making the most of their empty exhibition spaces by inviting musicians, poets, and dancers inside for a three-part performance series airing on YouTube and the Broad’s Instagram. Features music by San Cha & Mx. Matías, Georgia Anne Muldrow, serpentwithfeet and Sudan Archives; poetry from Shonda Buchanan, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Amy Uyematsu; and site-specific dance performances by d. Sabela grimes, Jermaine Spivey & Spenser Theberge, Rosanna Tavarez, and Mike Tyus.

Montana Avenue Al Fresco Shop & Dine

Saturdays through October 31

The air is (a little bit) clearer, and the shops and restaurants along Montana Avenue in Santa Monica are hosting a series of special outdoor events. Look for sidewalk sales and special outdoor seating arrangements for diners, and don’t forget your face mask.

Malibu Bike Tours

Beginning September 3

Need to step away from the computer and get outdoors—safely? Now you can take a spin around Saddlerock Ranch and vineyard on an electric bike, and take in some fresh air and a view. Oh and there’s wine too.

Pop-Up Drive-Ins and Outdoor Movies


We just updated our guide to summertime movies with a fresh batch of drive-in and rooftop screenings. This weekend’s offerings include a noir double feature, La La Land, and Hotel Transylvania.

Vineland, Paramount, and Mission Tiki Drive-Ins


Movie theaters are still closed and all of those pop-up screenings sell out fast, but the L.A. area’s stationary drive-ins don’t require advance tickets and have plenty of great movies to check out—and double features galore. It’s a throwback that’s become very welcome during the era of social distancing.

Stream away …


It feels like we’re living through one interminable Monday under this global house arrest, but it technically is the weekend. So why not take a break from the news and the glitchy Zoom meetings and watch something fun? Check out what we have in this week’s roundup of streaming recommendations because sometimes the best things to do are the most low-effort of all.

Looking for even more things to watch, eat, and do during the COVID-19 outbreak? Check out our Inside Guide.

Stay up to date with everything you need to know about L.A. by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

What to Stream This Weekend: Taco Chronicles, Fargo, and More


No matter what’s going on outside, staying safer at home is always a good idea. Our weekly roundup of movies and shows to stream will keep you entertained while you flip on the platform of your choice and chill.

What to Stream This Week

Fargo: Installment 4

Anthology series Fargo jumps to a new setting, era, and story for each season. This time around, the show finds itself in 1950s Kansas City, with two rival mobs–one Black, one Italian–vying for control of the territory, and observing racism in America in the process. Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, and Timothy Olyphant lead a stylish ensemble. FX, Hulu

Taco Chronicles: Volume 2

Netflix returns to Mexico for another series of episodes highlighting regional variations of your favorite food. This time around, birria, suardero, and even the “American taco,” each get their shine. L.A. Taco editor and cookbook author Javier Cabral serves as the show’s associate producer and “taco scout” on the scene. Netflix

Agents of Chaos

This timely two-part doc from Alex Gibney (Going Clear) is the product of years of reporting on exactly how Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election–and how we remain vulnerable to foreign meddling in our democracy today. HBO


This 2018 documentary about the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is poignant viewing in light of the iconic justice’s passing. Hulu, YouTube


This new spy series from the director of Homeland was made for Israeli television, but picked up for U.S. audiences by Apple. The story of a female hacker-spy for the Mossad on a mission in Iran has won praise from Foreign Policy, where writer Jonathan Ferziger remarked on the show’s “flouting of stereotypes about life in a strict Islamic society.”  Apple TV+

Past picks…

We Are Who We Are

Call Me By Your Name filmmaker Luca Guadagnino takes us back to Italy in his new series, We Are Who We Are, which follows two American teenagers as they come of age while living on a military base. HBO


Thirty-three-year-old middle schoolers Maya and Anna are back for season two of Pen15, the Emmy-nominated hit comedy about the travails of tweendom. As the BFFs confront slut shaming, the “seesawing between naïve, gleeful girlhood, and teenage growing pains is even more jarring than it was last season,” the New York Times says.

Chef’s Table: BBQ

The latest iteration of Netflix’s seductively-shot Chef’s Table series features chefs who play with fire. Episodes feature Rosalia Chay Chuc, the Mayan woman bringing new light to traditional cooking in the Yucatán, 85-year-old Texas pitmistress Tootsie Tomanetz, and others. Netflix


Janelle Monáe leads the cast of this time-travel thriller in which a modern-day author from Virginia finds herself transported back to the era of slavery against her will and attempts to escape the torture to which she’s subjected. Video on Demand


This One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest spin-off from Ryan Murphy focuses on the character of psychiatric hospital nurse Mildred Ratched. Sarah Paulson stars as the elegant-on-the-outside, troubled-on-the-inside nurse. Netflix

You Cannot Kill David Arquette

A dalliance with wrestling became a punchline that David Arquette blamed for the stalling of his acting career. This documentary catches up with him years after that first ill-fated bout, as he decides to go all in on a midlife pivot to pro-wrestling. Amazon Prime

Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President

While many of us might think of Jimmy Carter as our most wholesome ex-prez, this doc sets out to show that he was a bit of a hipster. The film pieces together footage and recollections of Carter the music-lover and his encounters with Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, and other ’70s stars. Laemmle Virtual Cinema

An Inconvenient Truth: Truth to Power

Al Gore produced this follow-up to his 2006 eco-doc in 2017, responding to the election of Donald Trump and the risk he poses to the environment. While the sequel never gained the popularity of the original, as we find ourselves amid heat, fire, and a climate crisis that is accelerating rather than coming under control, it seems like a good time to give it a watch.  Amazon Prime

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Oscar-winner Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) adapted and directed this new film based on the bestselling novel by author Iain Reid. The story of a woman’s unravelling emotions amid a surreal visit to her boyfriend’s family stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, and Toni Collette. Netflix

Love Fraud

CNN described Love Fraud as “a Lifetime movie turned, for better and worse, into a salacious Showtime docuseries.” The true-life story involves a con man spent 20 years hooking women online to catfish them out of their life savings–and the female bounty hunter who ultimately attempts to bring him to justice. Showtime


Disney’s long-anticipated live action remake of Mulan finally arrives for at-home streaming on September 4. Beyond the lush filmmaking, the movie’s release will be a closely watched business story in Hollywood, as studios wait to see if audiences will shell out $29.99 on top of standard subscription fees to watch a new release online. Disney+

Immigration Nation

This six-part docuseries looks at America’s immigration system, sharing the stories of people seeking asylum, those living in the country without documentation, and the family of people who have been deported or disappeared while attempting to reach the United States. Filmmakers say they were granted unprecedented access to ICE to film operations. Netflix

Bill & Ted Face the Music

The long-anticipated third installment in the Bill & Ted franchise is landing in scattered cinemas around the country (including a handful of “secret” drive-in screenings around L.A.), but most of us will be catching up with Keanu and co. via streaming. Fandango, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube

High Score

Anyone who lived through the “golden age” of video gaming–or just wants to learn how today’s super-sophisticated e-sports industry came to be–will enjoy the warm-hearted docuseries High Score. Featuring extensive interviews with key players dating back to the 1970s, the series delves into how the world fell in love with games. Netflix.

The Vow: A NXIVM Story

Stories of the NXIVM “self-improvement group” and its connection to sex trafficking, racketeering, conspiracy, and manipulation of vulnerable people played out in must-read headlines. Now filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer lay out the story in the words of the people who lived through it in this compelling series. HBO Max

Lovecraft Country

H.P. Lovecraft was, in real life, a vicious racist. In Lovecraft Country, a fictional series based on a novel by Matt Ruff, Black people make their way across segregated, 1950s America, forced to face the terrors of a racist society–and monsters inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s tales. The show has an impressive behind-the-scenes crew, including producers J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele. HBO Max.

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies

From the earliest silent films, the depicting–and regulating–on-screen skin is a story as old as Hollywood itself. This documentary examines how our culture has accepted and sanctioned filmmakers showing the human body in their work, and what that says about society’s values and power dynamics. Amazon Prime. 

Project Power

In this Netflix Original action flick, Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dominique Fishback attempt to uncover and dismantle a shadowy group flooding the streets of New Orleans with pills that offer average humans five minutes of a surprise super power. Netflix.

Love in the Time of Corona

Too soon, or right on time? This four-part rom-com about “the hopeful search for love and connection during this time of quarantine” has received mixed reviews, but the concept of an entirely pandemic-made show (FaceTime calls as major narrative device, etc.) might be intriguing enough to try. Freeform.

La Llorona

Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante’s new film finds its setting amid his home country’s post-civil war upheaval, where ghosts of Indigenous victims haunt the perpetrators of rape and genocide. Not to be confused with last year’s The Curse of La Llorona, AV Club credits it with being a “more intelligent” take on the legend of the Weeping Woman. Shudder.


An original docuseries from Netflix takes a deep dive into wellness–from ancient practices to a modern, billion-dollar industry. Episodes look at subjects including ayahuasca shamans and a “cult-like pyramid scheme” selling essential oils. CNN’s Brian Lowry says that “the scientists and journalists interviewed paint a coherent picture of how people can be manipulated, and the…way these products are often promoted and sold through apparatus like multilevel marketing companies.”  Netflix.

I Used to Go Here

Indie filmmaker Kris Rey (formerly Kris Swanberg) was set to debut this comedy about the angst of being in your mid-30s at SXSW in March, but those plans were derailed by the pandemic. Love’s Gillian Jacobs stars as a writer who’s overwhelmed with nostalgia when she returns to the town where she went to college. Sheila O’Malley of RogerEbert.com says the movie could have been dark, but definitely isn’t. “I Used to Go Here, grounded by a beautiful performance from Gillian Jacobs, treats its subject light-heartedly, while still managing to be honest,” she says. VOD on multiple platforms.


Produced by National Geographic, this documentary about Jane Goodall shows the her doing the work with chimpanzees that has come to define her life. Much of the archival footage of the young naturalist–shot on 16mm by Nat Geo photog (and later, Goodall’s husband) Hugo van Lawick–has never been previously released. Disney+, Hulu.

The Player

This 1992 satire of the movie business-slash-murder mystery, now on Criterion Channel, was directed by Robert Altman and features an “astonishing Hollywood who’s who” of the ’90s. Criterion recommends staging a double-feature of The Player along with Robert Townsend’s 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle for best effect. Criterion Channel.

Boy’s State

Each year, 1,100 teen boys from across Texas head to the state capitol in Austin to stage a mock government. This documentary, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance back in January, follows one session–including watching how Steven, a progressive child of Mexican immigrants, navigates the overwhelmingly white, conservative space. Apple TV+.

Slay the Dragon

As we enter yet another election year and wrap up the 2020 census, this documentary following a group of grassroots activists in their fight against partisan gerrymandering feels particularly timely. According to Variety, “it may prove to be one of the key political films of the decade.” Multiple Platforms.

An American Pickle

Based on Simon Rich’s novella of the same title, this fish-out-of-brine story follows Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogan), an immigrant laborer preserved in pickle brine for 100 years, who wakes up in modern-day Brooklyn. He meets up with his great-grandson (also Seth Rogan) for help navigating contemporary life. HBO Max.

The Speed Cubers

Maybe you feel like you’re just sitting at home, twiddling your thumbs–but you’re not on the twiddling level of Cerritos-reared Max Park and his friend–and arch rival–Feliks Zemdegs, the pair of superstar competitive Rubik’s Cube-solvers at the center of this new documentary. Netflix.

Steel Magnolias

Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, and Dolly Parton are among the ensemble of this classic 1989 mom-comedy/drama based on a true story. Southern twangs, pithy put-downs, and enormous ha(aaaa)ir abound. Amazon Prime.

Black Is King

Beyoncé’s third visual album is streaming on Disney+ and, according to Rolling Stone, it’s her “most elaborate visual work yet.” An abstract version of the Lion King narrative (which was based on Hamlet), Black Is King explores the idea of Africa, “paying respects to the continent’s very real inhabitants and cultures while also presenting it as a symbolic North Star for generations of Black people around the world to come.”


Set in the World War II-era English countryside, Summerland stars Gemma Artherton as a woman who doesn’t fit in—as explored in two different periods of her life. Her love interest is Gugu Mbatha-Raw in this soapy, grown-up drama by playwright-director Jessica Swale, whose “gentle creation allows for the possibility of magic—or, at the very least, good things—to work their way into even the worst of times,” says Indiewire’s Kate Erbland. “Even when the film leans toward predictability, the sense of reality melding into fantasy aids in digesting some of the film’s bigger risks.” VOD on multiple platforms.

Muppets Now

The Muppets have been around since before the moon landing, and their adventures on the screen have been as dramatically up and down—especially after creator Jim Henson died and veterans like Frank Oz retired their puppeteering hands. But by all accounts Disney’s newest iteration, made in typical meta fashion for the YouTube era, restores the characters to their early, variety show glory. “In this beyond-stressful world, who doesn’t need some Muppets in their life?” says Jen Chaney of Vulture, who argues that any generation can enjoy this new series “and believe it connects directly to their own sensibility, a quality that the overly adult, straining-to-be-edgy The Muppets lacked.” Disney+.

Los Lobos

This film about a family of Mexican immigrants in New Mexico, starring two real-life brothers and rooted in autobiography, reminded Eric Kohn of The Florida Project. “The bittersweet new feature from director Samuel Kishi plays like a thematic variation on the same beguiling premise in the context of the American immigrant experience. The result is an absorbing coming-of-age story about migrant life through the prism of its most innocent figures.” HBO Max.

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind and The Go-Go’s

This weekend brings two new music documentaries with very little overlap. Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian troubadour who took American ears and emotions by storm in the 1970s, is celebrated by filmmakers Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni in “a thoroughly engaging retrospective of a hard-working, hard-living performer who survived to tell the tale,” says Kevin Crust. Meanwhile, the first all-girl band in America to write and perform their own songs are chronicled in all of their chart-topping highs and attendant lows (a misogynistic music industry, drug addiction). “The story of The Go-Go’s is prime fodder for a documentary like this one,” says Gwen Ihnat, “even if the stories behind the songs … are likely darker than some fans would have expected. [Director Alison] Ellwood’s most valuable views are these more candid, honest looks, as there’s something refreshing about the band coming clean, revealing all its dirty laundry in a no-holds-barred manner.” Virtual cinemas / Showtime.

Rebuilding Paradise

Ron Howard continues to train his softhearted gaze on non-fiction stories with this documentary about the 2018 wildfires that turned Paradise, California into Dante’s inferno. The film opens with a montage of “devastatingly cinematic images” from that November day, says Ben Kenigsberg, and “while the subsequent visuals aren’t as striking, the drama scarcely ebbs.” Virtual cinemas.

She Dies Tomorrow (Drive-In Release)

Director-actress Amy Seimetz continues to prove her flair as a filmmaker with this darkly comic, apocalyptic thriller starring Kate Lynn Sheil as a broken, alcoholic woman living in a state of confusion (in suburban Los Angeles). She Dies Tomorrow “combines classic David Cronenberg body horror with the scathing surrealism of Luis Buñuel,” says Eric Kohn of Indiewire. “Envisioning a disease where the afflicted believe they’ll die by morning, the movie taps into a timeless anxiety with hilarious and disquieting results, often delivered in the same dose.” At Vineland Drive-In and Mission Tiki Drive-In and on VOD starting August 7.

We Are the Radical Monarchs

If your heart is weary from images of tear gas and violence, here’s an uplifting protest story about a troop of alternative Girl Scouts who are trying to save the world. The Oakland-based Radical Monarchs “create opportunities for young girls of color to form fierce sisterhood, celebrate their identities, and contribute radically to their communities.” In this documentary, which was completed in 2018, director Linda Goldstein Knowlton “presents a vibrant view of the Oakland community,” says Kevin Crust of the L.A. Times. “To see the girls embrace subjects such as Radical Beauty and Radical Pride that speak to who they are and where they live and meet inspiration Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, is to feel a surge of optimism.” PBS.

Animal Crackers

It took five years and a few regime changes to come out, but this animated kids musical—which involves magical cookies and is filled with A-list vocal talent (John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Ian McKellan, Danny DeVito, Sylvester Stallone)—is finally here and it’s… fine. “If Animal Crackers is another hideous reminder of how aesthetically catastrophic the rise of computer-generated animation has been for low-budget kids fare,” David Elrich says with extreme lukewarmness, “[director Christian] Sava’s debut is also proof that a decent script, some delightful voicework, and a few choice Lord of the Rings references can blend into the kind of charm that money can’t buy. For all of its limitations, the movie is good. Ish.” Netflix.

 Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist

Jim Gaffigan definitely has a lane—self-effacing jokes about being overweight, eating junk food, and raising five kids in New York City—and he owns it. But few veteran stand-ups are as reliably funny and endearing, and The Pale Tourist takes him out of his home and around the world for two specials based on his international travels…and the pale, American observations he made along the way. Since you’re unlikely to travel the world or see Gaffigan perform live anytime soon, this is a nice virtual substitute. Amazon Prime.


The filmmaking debut of actor Romola Garai (Atonement), this “feminist horror movie” is about a former soldier in London with guilt-loaded PTSD who becomes a live-in repairmen in a house with a dying old woman…who might just be cursed. The film slowly transforms “from an eerie cerebral horror fantasy into a full-blown rape-revenge parable of cowardice and sin,” says Toussaint Egan at AV Club. “Amulet elevates these themes of repentance and sin through deft editing, strong performances, and a chilling score. It’s an evocative, confident debut, recalling the metaphorical horror of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook or Babak Anvari’s Under The Shadow, even as it announces the arrival of a singular new voice.” VOD. 

Motherless Brooklyn

This new noir—directed, written by, and starring Edward Norton—wasn’t well received by critics when it came out last fall, and was completely ignored by the Academy. But for my money, it’s a worthy successor to Chinatown, a jazzy, moody tale of bureaucratic corruption and double crossing, packed with an impeccable cast (including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, and Cherry Jones), boasting a melancholic Thom Yorke ballad, and skating on the live wires of racial discrimination and Tourette syndrome with grace, humor, and sympathy. It’s a rarity: a smart, winning, romantic studio movie for grownups. HBO Max.

Showbiz Kids

Before he returns as Bill (of the “excellent” Bill and Ted) this fall, Alex Winter directs this documentary about the light and dark sides of being a child actor—and the unique obstacles to surviving into adulthood, both literally and vocationally. Winter, a former showbiz kid himself, rallies the likes of Henry Thomas, Mara Wilson, Wil Wheaton, and Evan Rachel Wood for an unflinching, empathetic portrait of a glamorized but grueling way of being a kid. “While each of the grown actors has an individual story to tell, clear themes emerge from their collective memories,” says CNN’s Brian Lowry. “They’re the kind that make you want to grab the contemporary kids—the ones whose families still harbor those dreams of Technicolor stardom—and urge them to click their heels and go back home.” HBO Max.

30 Rock: A One-Time Special

Unlike the early pandemic reunion of its NBC sister Parks and Recreation, this hour-long special liberates the 30 Rock cast (Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan) from the halting horrors of Zoom and, somehow, brings them out into the remotely filmed sunshine. It’s partly a lavish commercial for NBC’s new streamer, Peacock—to the point of inspiring several local affiliates around the country to boycott airing it, though thankfully not in L.A.—but it wouldn’t be 30 Rock if it didn’t feature the TGS crew roasting its corporate daddy. Help us, Liz Lemon; you’re our only hope. Airs Thursday at 8 p.m. PT; Peacock on Friday.

Brave New World

Speaking of Peacock, NBC attempts to play with the big boys with this new adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian saga, starring Alden Ehrenreich and Jessica Brown Findlay. With some technological upgrades and lots of NSF-NBC orgies, the story about a drug that keeps citizens euphoric but numb feels all too timely—and maybe an apt metaphor for yet another streaming service. “You realize the show isn’t just commenting on the modern world, but its own role within it,” says Ben Travers of IndieWire. “As long as it’s not boring, people will keep watching, and if people keep watching, they’ll keep using Peacock, and the world will go round and round without anyone questioning the nature of this self-perpetuating hype cycle.” Thankfully, Travers argues, this Brave New World is “an emotionally intelligent thriller, and it looks damn good to boot.” Peacock.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

This quasi-documentary, about the motley regulars drinking out the last day at a Las Vegas dive bar, shakes and stirs the line between scripted drama and reality. But it’s so “bursting with humanity, grounded in humility, and in love with the poetry of faces,” says Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com, that it doesn’t really matter what’s real and what’s not. “This movie appreciates every person that passes in front of its lens. It throws spotlights on magic moments even when the people they’re happening to don’t know they’re happening. It sees people’s potential even if they’ve never capitalized on it. It sees their pain when they can’t admit or describe it. It sees their struggle when they try to hide it. It’s a documentary of compassion.” VOD on multiple platforms.


Broadway sensation Cynthia Erivo emerged a full-fledged movie star from this biopic about Harriet Tubman, a real-life wonder woman whose superpowers include divine visions and a singing voice to call her sisters and brothers to safety. Directed by former actress Kasi Lemmons and co-starring Janelle Monáe and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr., Harriet is “a rousing and powerful drama, respectful of both the historical record and the cravings of modern audiences,” says The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott. And despite the tale’s supernaturalism, “Erivo’s performance is grounded in the recognizable human emotions of grief, jealousy, anger, and love. There is also a formidable intelligence at work, both tactical and political, and an elusive, almost mysterious quality as well. This is someone you want to know more about.” HBO Max.

Palm Springs

Before the world ended, this Lonely Island sci-fi-rom-com made headlines as the priciest purchase ever made at Sundance. No doubt Neon, who co-bought it with Hulu, had big theatrical plans for the film, about a guy (Andy Samberg) and a gal (Cristin Milioti) stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque infinite time loop at a wedding in the desert. But then, maybe our quarantine time loop is the perfect backdrop for watching such a story. “It’s certainly funny,” says Vince Mancini, “but seems to have more in common with Charlie Kaufman or Michel Gondry or the Coen Brothers—as stylish as those in its construction, but with a more internet-age sense of comedy and timing.” Hulu.

The Old Guard

Here to save the superhero genre from a slow, exhausting death of artlessness is Gina Prince-Bythewood, director of Love & Basketball, who infused this tale about immortal warriors with her own mortal sensibilities. Starring Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne, The Old Guard “is filled with such human moments, both frivolous and profound—quiet reveries, declarations of love, dreams about eternity, regrets over families and loves left behind and lost forever—and in the balance of the film, they hold equal weight with the action scenes, because ultimately everything feels connected,” says Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri. “I watch The Old Guard and try to imagine a new world, one where other comic-book movies are this well made and breathtaking.” Netflix.

First Cow

Another female director offering a very different take on an old genre (the Western prefigured our current superhero glut), Kelly Reichardt slows the mythology of the frontier down to a gentle, soft-spoken trickle with a story whose central action is literally stealing milk to make biscuits. It’s sure not to be everyone’s cup of buttermilk, but critics went gaga for First Cow when it quietly played theaters in March. The L.A. TimesJustin Chang said it “may be the most suspenseful and entertaining demonstration yet of Reichardt’s rigorous attention to detail—her patient, genuine and remarkably cinematic fascination with the workings of process and minutiae. All of which makes First Cow both a captivating underdog story and a brilliant demonstration of the pluck and ingenuity of American enterprise in action.” VOD on multiple platforms.


A cynic could argue that, like Wes Anderson or Nicolas Cage, Tom Hanks has become a self parody—leaning so heavily into being America’s Dad that he’s folded into himself like a black hole. But Hanks gonna Hanks, and Greyhound finds him playing yet another good-guy daddy hero, a Navy captain guiding Allied boats across the Atlantic with German U-boats in hot pursuit. (The actor even wrote the screenplay.) “There’s enough juice in Hanks’ personal, human-scaled interest in ordinary heroism under fire to make the movie … work on its own terms,” says the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips. “At its sharpest Greyhound uses its preferred Law & Order pacing and frequent fade-outs and fade-ups between scenes to roll forward, while the actors keep the one-to-one interactions as honest as possible.” Apple TV+.


Mental illness meets haunted-house terror in this debut from director Natalie Erika James. Starring Emily Mortimer as a middle branch in a sick family tree, Relic fits into the “intergenerational trauma” subgenre of horror alongside Ari Aster’s Hereditary. “James’s slow-burn horror is an incredible achievement of patience for a first feature, and the gradual suspense…eventually builds to a monstrous climax,” says Dilara Elbir at the Playlist. “While horrifying and tense throughout, Relic has a sharp awareness of stigmatizing mental illness and disorders like dementia and refuses to lean into easy exploitation.” VOD on multiple platforms.


Have you heard of this musical? OF COURSE YOU HAVE. But you may not have been one of the lucky ones to score an exorbitantly priced ticket to see the original cast, and now you get a prime seat at the feet of Lin-Manuel Miranda and company in New York, circa 2016, from the comfort of your own butt-dimpled couch. “It’s hard to imagine a more receptive backdrop for a drama that ingeniously recasts the Founding Fathers as people of color, placing America’s oft-repeated ‘nation of immigrants’ rhetoric into the most literal terms imaginable,” Justin Chang says about watching Hamilton in July 2020. “Nor can I think of a better moment for a musical that reminds us anew that the language of hip-hop is a language of protest.” Disney Plus.

John Lewis: Good Trouble

The 17-term congressman who marched with MLK in Selma, who’s been making waves and getting arrested for all manner of “good trouble” during his incredible life, gets a well-deserved documentary from Dawn Porter—a former attorney who has trained her legal eagle eye on the camera (see: Bobby Kennedy for President). “Unlike King, Malcolm X and other assassinated civil rights figures, Lewis isn’t frozen in time as a symbol. He’s a living, legislating link to our recent history, and a reminder that the battles fought for desegregation and voting rights weren’t all that long ago,” says Katie Walsh, who called the film “a lovely tribute to Lewis, with so many moments from his story remaining urgent and relevant.” VOD on multiple platforms.

Family Romance, LLC

Werner Herzog is back and weirder than ever in this quasi-scripted documentary about the Japanese industry of rental families (and other social units). Blurring the line between fact and fiction, a man who runs one of those operations plays a version of himself, hired to play the father of a girl whose real dad abandoned her when she was little. “They may not be professional actors, but they are very much acting, and their interactions nonetheless tap into something quite authentic and emotional,” says Diego Semerene. “It’s as though Herzog were more witness than author, more passerby than gawker, simply registering Japan being Japan.” MUBI.

The Truth

Another film from Japan (sort of) about actors playing actors, this is writer-director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s follow-up to Shoplifters, which won the Palme d’Or in 2018. The Truth is actually his first non-native feature, and stars French acting legend Catherine Deneuve as a French acting legend, Juliette Binoche as her daughter, and Ethan Hawke as her son-in-law. It’s a story about “the permanence of film versus the impermanence of memory,” says David Erlich, “suggesting that even the living can entomb themselves in the memories we invent for ourselves. Memories are what moor us to the world, and they’re also what make it so difficult for us to move through it freely. They may not be accurate, but they tend not to change once the die is cast; when something is printed on the film of our minds, it’s often projected through us for the rest of our lives.” VOD on multiple platforms.

The Baby-Sitters Club

“You couldn’t be a young girl in the 1990s and not know of Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club,” says Kristen Lopez. Well, I was not, and I did not—although I did laugh (a lot) at The Baby-Sitters Club Club, a podcast where two lovable idiots tackle it book by baby-sitting book. Regardless, Netflix’s new adaptation of the beloved series, created by Glow producer Rachel Shukert, is drawing raves. Lopez says it “isn’t just the perfect show for girls right now, it’s the balm for the soul we need as an audience. Watching a group of intrepid young women start a business, deal with irresponsible teens, and get their homework done is a level of responsibility to which we should all aspire.” Netflix.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara introduced herself to the world in the pages of this magazine, with a 2013 investigative essay about a serial rapist and murderer from the 1970s and ’80s that she dubbed the “Golden State Killer”—a disturbingly prolific predator most of us had never heard about. That led to a book deal, and she was hard at work on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark when she died in her sleep in 2016. Her passing was tragic for many reasons—not least because, soon after the book came out posthumously, the killer was captured. This six-part HBO docuseries is as much McNamara’s story as it is the killer’s, and much like the author’s powerful and deeply empathetic writing, the focus is on the beautiful lives that were lost. Premieres Sunday on HBO.

Search Party

The third season of this murder mystery-slash-comedy, starring Alia Shawkat and John Early, moves from TBS to HBO Max after a hiatus of more than two years—and it arrives as a breath of pandemic-free fresh air. “Search Party’s earlier seasons found joltingly dark humor in the absurdity of four clueless, sheltered, relatively young adults playing detective and then committing and covering up a murder,” writes Niv M. Sultan at Slate. This season, which features Louie Anderson in a small part, “rivals its predecessors in its intoxicating blend of bleak cynicism and irreverent comedy, but embraces a more exaggerated, madcap sensibility.” HBO Max.

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things

The great jazz singer gets her due with this documentary, which features a trove of archival footage and interviews with family members and famous admirers. “A suitably affectionate documentary portrait that walks us through her life and career, from her first appearance, as a skinny, nervous teen, on the stage of the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night, to her death in 1996,” says Michael O’Sullivan at the Washington Post. “The film’s most satisfying passages are when the talking heads shut up for a moment and let us listen to Fitzgerald, who … ‘almost single-handedly elevated the American popular song to the status of art.’” Streaming at theavalon.org, afisilver.afi.com, themiracletheatre.com, and cinemaartstheatre.com.

Athlete A

Not an easy watch, but an important excavation of the case against predatory Olympian doctor Larry Nassar and the system that protected him for so long. Told through the lens of the complaint brought against him by American swimmer Maggie Nichols, “Athlete A works as both a meticulous unpacking of the case against Nassar,” says IndieWire’s Kate Erbland, “and an emotional unburdening for his many victims. By its end, however, its revelations demand nothing short of the full-scale dismantling of every facet of USA Gymnastics.” Netflix.

St. Elmo’s Fire

Joel Schumacher died this week, causing many people to revisit his long and wildly diverse filmography. Even though it was poorly reviewed at the time, one of his most cherished films is about a group of 20-something friends who run up against the difficult, and even tragic, reality of adulting. As L.A. Times’ Mary McNamara wrote this week, St. Elmo’s Fire offered “the relatively new notion that friend groups could save us, even from ourselves. Adult friends were, in fact, the new, improved family.” Showtime.

The Princess and the Frog

An underrated, post-’90s renaissance film from Disney, this was their first fairytale to feature a Black princess, a return to hand-drawn animation, and a vibrant celebration of New Orleans music, food, and culture. It also undoes some retrograde princess morals, and features one of the creepiest, most seductive villains in the canon and a rollicking songbook by the Louisiana-loving Randy Newman. Disney just announced that they will re-theme the ride Splash Mountain from its current Song of the South trappings (a film so tainted by racist stereotypes that the company buried it long ago) to a Princess and the Frog theme—a great excuse to remember this latter-day classic. Disney Plus.

(In)Visible Portraits

First-time filmmaker Oge Egbuonu was ready to share this timely documentary with the world before the pandemic hit, and now it only feels more crucial. “A love letter to Black women,” the film “brings to light the invisible otherizing of African American women in America,” according to Julie Miller at Vanity Fair. “It features Black female academics and everywomen looking back on the historical oppression of Black women, honoring the strength and perseverance of generations rendered invisible by society, and reframing the narrative around the population in their own words. As Egbuonu, an associate producer on 2016’s Loving, [said], “This is me saying, ‘I hear you. I see you, and you matter.’” VOD on multiple platforms.

Miss Juneteenth

A former beauty queen and single mother tries to convince her teenage daughter to sign up for the Miss Juneteenth pageant she won—the top prize being a scholarship to a historically black college. This debut feature by Channing Godfrey Peoples contends with the legacy of slavery and racism in the more intimate context of black girlhood. “Instead of just depicting the myriad ways black women carry their communities,” writes Lovia Gyarkye at the New York Times, “the movie goes further to explore how these women and black girls support each other in a world that often fails them. VOD on multiple platforms.

You Should Have Left

Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried vacation in a cool house in Wales—and, in the grand tradition of haunted house stories, the home has other plans. Directed by David Koepp (better known as the screenwriter behind movies like Jurassic Park), it’s a concise, tightly wound thriller and a “rare horror film that makes more sense the more you think about it,” says the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle. “It’s more than an adrenaline rush. There are ideas here.” VOD on multiple platforms.

Perry Mason

This ain’t your grandmother’s Perry Mason. The new HBO series casts Matthew Rhys (The Americans) as the famous defense attorney in his younger years—before he was a bear in the courtroom and still a scrappy private eye investigating lurid crimes in 1930s Los Angeles. Also starring John Lithgow, Tatiana Maslany, Juliet Rylance, and Stephen Root, “the greatest joy of viewing Perry Mason comes just from having so many amazing performers playing off of each other,” says AV Club’s Gwen Ihnat. “Rhys deftly unfurls the enigmatic character layer by layer, crafting this degenerate into a more recognizable version of the legal icon revered for decades.” Premieres Sunday on HBO.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt hasn’t been seen on the screen since 2016, and this claustrophobic thriller gives the actor a welcome showcase for his return. A tense story of a hijacked airplane, told entirely from the confines of the pilot’s cockpit, “the result overcomes the reductive premise and archetypal characters through its adrenaline-pumping pace, dexterous camerawork, and a frantic performance by [Gordon-Levitt] that ranks as one of his subtlest turns,” says IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. Amazon Prime.

Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee doesn’t pussyfoot around. His last film, BlacKkKlansman—which earned the director his first Oscar nomination—may have found humor and undercover-caper fun in the true story of detective Ron Stallworth, but it was also angry, political, and finally a gut punch of denuded racism. His newest, Da Five Bloods, is a treasure-hunting adventure set in Vietnam with its own funny bone—but it, too, is mainlined Spike. “This long, anguished, funny, violent excursion into a hidden chamber of the nation’s heart of darkness,” says the New York Times’ A.O. Scott, “isn’t like anything else.” Netflix.


Far from a staid history lesson your substitute teacher might wheel in on a sleepy afternoon, Ava DuVernay’s film—about Martin Luther King Jr.’s (David Oyelowo) strategic campaign of nonviolent protest to force America’s hand on suppressing black votes—is a poetic, subtle, beautiful film full of channeled rage and optimism, and the herald of a major talent (even if the Academy ignored it out of spite). The Oscar-winning end song by Common namechecks the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri—a fierce declaration that this story doesn’t reside in the past. Amazon Prime.

Amazing Grace

Aretha Franklin returned to her gospel roots and gave the performance of a lifetime at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts in January 1972. Amazingly, it was captured for posterity on film—even though it took 40 years to be seen—and it is a church service that might convert the devil himself. “The lift-you-to-the-rafters intensity of Franklin’s voice remains so pure and galvanic that Amazing Grace is one of the few movies you could watch with your eyes closed,” wrote Justin Chang at the L.A. Times, “though you would hardly want to.” Hulu.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The Academy completely and inexplicably ignored this gem from last year, about a young man named Jimmie Fails (played by… Jimmie Fails) squeezed out of his beloved but rapidly gentrifying city, trying to hold on to the last remnant of his little piece of it—an old house that once belonged to his family. Stylized almost like a fairy tale, but grounded in hardscrabble reality, it’s a gorgeous and moving film that features a glorious score and a stunning performance by Jonathan Majors. Amazon Prime.


The influential jazzman, mogul, record producer, film composer, mentor, and legend, “Q” has been there from “bebop to doo-wop to hip-hop to laptop,” in his words, and this touching documentary is a celebration of his legacy that also captures the magic and inspiration he seems to effortlessly exude, despite an unthinkably painful childhood and no shortage of racist BS. Watching the film is like sitting by Quincy’s side, wrote IndieWire’s Jude Dry, “holding his hand as he narrates one of countless stories stored away in his ever-sharp and creative mind.” Netflix.

Just Mercy

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.

Malcolm X

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.

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. Times calls 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.

The Lovebirds

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.

The Great

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.

The Eddy

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.

Slumdog Millionaire

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 Vulture compared 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.

The Willoughbys

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.

Bad Education

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.

After Life

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.

Mrs. America

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+.

Schitt’s Creek

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 The New York Times, “a thrilling and probing story of one woman’s personal defection.” Netflix

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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

Beef House

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. Times says it “emerges a generally charming, sometimes cloying exercise in wildlife anthropomorphism.” (Also dropping this weekend is the Natalie Portman-narrated Dolphin Reef.) Disney+

Cursed Films

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

Tiger King

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 Fair says 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 Times calls 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+

RELATED: Inside Guide: What to Watch, Play, and Do Now

Stay up to date with everything you need to know about L.A. by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

Is Dianne Feinstein Ready for This Supreme Court Fight?

What happens in the Senate Judiciary Committee in coming weeks, as Senators clash over how to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s former seat on the Supreme Court, will be felt for generations to come. As the ranking Democrat on the committee, California’s senior Senator, Dianne Feinstein, will be at the center of the action. At 87, she is the oldest member of the U.S. Senate, and some sources are rumored to question if she still has the mental acuity and physical vigor needed for what is likely to be a very public brawl.

Feinstein holds the title of oldest Senator by only a nose. Republican Chuck Grassley, also 87, is less than four months her junior and serves as chairman of the Finance Committee. Several other senators and representatives in their 80s hold prominent positions in both houses of Congress.

Nonetheless, Politico, citing conversations with unnamed Democratic senators, says the issue is not merely her age, but a concern that she may be growing frail, appearing to have difficulty responding to some questions, and making minor verbal gaffes that opponents await eagerly to exploit. The article observes that Feinstein appears to lean even more heavily on her staff than is customary, at times even asking them to answer specific questions for reporters on her behalf.

Her personal style may also be at odds with a political environment, which has shifted dramatically since she entered the Senate in 1992. She is seen by some as old-fashioned in her inclinations toward compromise and upholding the body’s traditions. On Tuesday, she said she opposed the idea of abolishing the filibuster, something which has been a popular talking point among many on the left.

Feinstein’s handling of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh has also reemerged as a point of criticism. Christine Blasey Ford approached Senator Feinstein with her allegations against the nominee. Questions remain over why Feinstein and her team held onto the information from Ford for several weeks before acting.

“I’m really surprised and taken aback by this,” Feinstein told Politico when confronted with the concerns. “My attendance is good, I do the homework, I try to ask hard questions. I stand up for what I believe in.”

The first woman to ever hold ranking-member status on Judiciary, one of the most powerful committees within the Capitol, Feinstein feels her colleagues need not worry about her tenacity.

“Let me say this: I know it’s going to be a fight, I understand that,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of tools to use, but I’m going to use what I have. We can try to delay and obstruct but they can run this process through. That doesn’t mean that we won’t fight tooth and nail.”

RELATED: If Kamala Harris Becomes VP, What Happens to Her Senate Seat?

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.