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

This summer is a weird one. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are getting worse, not better, and any early-pandemic hopes that we might be celebrating with friends and family by now have long ago been dashed. 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.


Digital Dance DTLA

Fridays through September 4

The Music Center’s series of weekly dance lessons will look a little different this year, but it’s sure to be just as much fun. No more braving DTLA traffic on a Friday evening to shake your buns—this year you can party right in your living room via the Music Center’s YouTube account. The series kicks off with Bollywood dance on July 10 and wraps up with Samba on September 4. Click here for everything in between.

Artist Conversation with Gajin Fujita and and Matt Wedel

Friday, July 10

Hosted by L.A. Louver and moderated by its director, Elizabeth East, artists Gajin Fujita and Matt Wedel sit down to discuss the connection between their aesthetics and their shared experiences as artists.

Tom of Finland Foundation Virtual Drawing Session 

Sunday, July 12

Hone your hunky-man drawing skills with this virtual drawing session from the Tom of Finland Foundation. Live models pose for several hours while ticket-holders sketch from afar.

Vineland Drive-In

Ongoing

Drive-in movie theaters are currently generating 90 percent of box office revenue in the COVID era. There are some new movies to check out this weekend at Vineland in City of Industry, including highly anticipated horror Relic, the Andy Samberg time-loop farce Palm Springs, and more.

Tribeca Drive-In

Through July 26

Tribeca Drive-In rolls on this weekend with several live comedy shows, a screening of Spy Kids, and more (note: several screenings are already sold out, but now’s the time to plan ahead for future weekends!)

“The Sky Beneath Our Feet” at Descanso Gardens

Through September 3

Descanso Gardens is offering a special experience for those who stop by for a stroll. Five times each day, Pete Wyer’s musical composition “The Sky Beneath Our Feet” will play from 72 speakers sited among the garden’s coast live oak tree grove which inspired the work.

“Def Jam: Through the Lens”

Ongoing

Ever wonder how the most iconic images in hip hop history came to be? Iconic record label Def Jam has just dropped the first two episodes in a three-part series of mini-documentaries, going behind the camera with era-defining photographers. RIYL 2019’s “Contact High” at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Biking in Marina del Rey

Ongoing

Beaches are closed to avoid the type of coronavirus exposure that happened over Memorial Day, but if you really want to catch a glimpse of the water, consider a ride down Marina del Rey’s paved bike path. Because it’s not along beach sand, officials say it will be allowed to stay open this weekend–just be sure to wear your mask and recreate responsibly!

Stream away …

Ongoing

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.


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DAILY TRACKER: Updates on L.A. County’s COVID-19 Cases

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Coronavirus Cases Los Angeles, Update 7/9/2020:

Below is the current breakdown of coronavirus cases as of 8 p.m. on July 8. There are now 124,738 total confirmed cases (+1,777 from prior day). Of the cases, 9,392 have been hospitalized and there have been 3,689 deaths (+50 from prior day). The regions with the highest rate of infections per capita are Castaic, Vernon, Saugus, and the Wholesale District. The most deaths have been recorded in Glendale (114), Westlake (108), Pico-Union (69), and Inglewood (67).

Novel Coronavirus Cases in Los Angeles County, by Neighborhood
Acton 33
Adams-Normandie 122
Agoura Hills 69
Agua Dulce 16
Alhambra 569
Alsace 194
Altadena 298
Anaverde 5
Angeles National Forest 5
Angelino Heights 28
Arcadia 243
Arleta 580
Artesia 135
Athens Village 87
Athens-Westmont 640
Atwater Village 102
Avalon 6
Avocado Heights 94
Azusa 791
Baldwin Hills 315
Baldwin Park 1189
Bassett 315
Bel Air 51
Bell 756
Bell Gardens 870
Bellflower 1124
Beverly Crest 63
Beverly Hills 331
Beverlywood 78
Bouquet Canyon 1
Boyle Heights 2082
Bradbury 10
Brentwood 139
Brookside 1
Burbank 661
Cadillac-Corning 55
Calabasas 142
Canoga Park 896
Canyon Country 52
Carson 797
Carthay 136
Castaic 1813
Central 1138
Century City 60
Century Palms/Cove 739
Cerritos 278
Chatsworth 326
Cheviot Hills 38
Chinatown 47
Claremont 149
Cloverdale/Cochran 158
Commerce 252
Compton 1758
Country Club Park 170
Covina 744
Covina (Charter Oak) 125
Crenshaw District 149
Crestview 129
Cudahy 545
Culver City 237
Del Aire 35
Del Rey 161
Del Sur 3
Desert View Highlands 9
Diamond Bar 232
Downey 2038
Downtown 369
Duarte 286
Eagle Rock 373
East Hollywood 380
East La Mirada 48
East Los Angeles 2962
East Pasadena 11
East Rancho Dominguez 253
East Whittier 40
Echo Park 94
El Camino Village 80
El Monte 1942
El Segundo 70
El Sereno 528
Elizabeth Lake 5
Elysian Park 37
Elysian Valley 131
Encino 255
Exposition 42
Exposition Park 590
Faircrest Heights 18
Figueroa Park Square 131
Florence-Firestone 2710
Gardena 598
Glassell Park 334
Glendale 1638
Glendora 494
Gramercy Place 121
Granada Hills 589
Green Meadows 419
Hacienda Heights 476
Hancock Park 146
Harbor City 239
Harbor Gateway 390
Harbor Pines 9
Harvard Heights 278
Harvard Park 719
Hawaiian Gardens 223
Hawthorne 915
Hermosa Beach 102
Hi Vista 1
Hidden Hills 5
Highland Park 532
Historic Filipinotown 239
Hollywood 562
Hollywood Hills 150
Huntington Park 1415
Hyde Park 345
Industry 15
Inglewood 1230
Irwindale 26
Jefferson Park 131
Kagel/Lopez Canyons 10
Koreatown 557
La Canada Flintridge 84
La Crescenta-Montrose 66
La Habra Heights 17
La Mirada 424
La Puente 612
La Rambla 70
La Verne 181
Ladera Heights 34
Lafayette Square 39
Lake Balboa 402
Lake Hughes 1
Lake Los Angeles 77
Lake Manor 7
Lakeview Terrace 309
Lakewood 568
Lancaster 1364
Lawndale 264
Leimert Park 135
Lennox 269
Leona Valley 14
Lincoln Heights 584
Little Armenia 267
Little Bangladesh 269
Little Tokyo 40
Littlerock 31
Littlerock/Juniper Hills 2
Littlerock/Pearblossom 38
Llano 2
Lomita 107
Longwood 61
Los Feliz 92
Lynwood 1601
Malibu 58
Manchester Square 63
Mandeville Canyon 4
Manhattan Beach 180
Mar Vista 154
Marina del Rey 30
Marina Peninsula 21
Maywood 707
Melrose 1017
Mid-city 183
Miracle Mile 88
Mission Hills 333
Monrovia 403
Montebello 1096
Monterey Park 403
Mt. Washington 223
Newhall 3
North Hills 884
North Hollywood 1480
North Lancaster 7
North Whittier 77
Northeast San Gabriel 143
Northridge 678
Norwalk 1469
Pacific Palisades 82
Pacoima 1516
Padua Hills 1
Palisades Highlands 11
Palmdale 1562
Palms 331
Palos Verdes Estates 58
Palos Verdes Peninsula 1
Panorama City 1364
Paramount 1067
Park La Brea 46
Pearblossom/Llano 9
Pellissier Village 7
Pico Rivera 1185
Pico-Union 1042
Playa Del Rey 9
Playa Vista 62
Pomona 1971
Porter Ranch 156
Quartz Hill 80
Rancho Dominguez 35
Rancho Palos Verdes 166
Rancho Park 35
Redondo Beach 274
Regent Square 16
Reseda 1114
Reseda Ranch 41
Reynier Village 23
Rolling Hills 3
Rolling Hills Estates 28
Roosevelt 3
Rosemead 336
Rosewood 11
Rosewood/East Gardena 7
Rosewood/West Rancho Dominguez 42
Rowland Heights 331
San Dimas 209
San Fernando 353
San Gabriel 291
San Jose Hills 264
San Marino 32
San Pasqual 5
San Pedro 1289
Sand Canyon 1
Santa Catalina Island 4
Santa Clarita 1445
Santa Fe Springs 232
Santa Monica 469
Santa Monica Mountains 59
Saugus 7
Shadow Hills 24
Sherman Oaks 474
Sierra Madre 40
Signal Hill 121
Silver Lake 346
South Antelope Valley 1
South Carthay 60
South El Monte 369
South Gate 2098
South Park 1014
South Pasadena 177
South San Gabriel 101
South Whittier 689
Southeast Antelope Valley 7
St Elmo Village 72
Stevenson Ranch 77
Studio City 140
Sun Valley 647
Sun Village 63
Sunland 247
Sunrise Village 18
Sycamore Square 1
Sylmar 1513
Tarzana 388
Temple City 286
Temple-Beaudry 645
Thai Town 75
Toluca Lake 41
Toluca Terrace 10
Toluca Woods 6
Torrance 693
Tujunga 204
Twin Lakes/Oat Mountain 8
University Hills 30
University Park 418
Val Verde 34
Valencia 15
Valinda 322
Valley Glen 258
Valley Village 320
Van Nuys 1375
Venice 117
Vermont Knolls 398
Vermont Square 185
Vermont Vista 933
Vernon 13
Vernon Central 1546
Victoria Park 102
View Heights 20
View Park/Windsor Hills 75
Walnut 130
Walnut Park 341
Watts 855
Wellington Square 55
West Adams 473
West Antelope Valley 3
West Carson 194
West Covina 1303
West Hills 253
West Hollywood 307
West LA 27
West Los Angeles 251
West Puente Valley 179
West Rancho Dominguez 14
West Vernon 1120
West Whittier/Los Nietos 435
Westchester 213
Westfield/Academy Hills 2
Westhills 3
Westlake 1485
Westlake Village 10
Westwood 156
White Fence Farms 23
Whittier 959
Whittier 35
Wholesale District 1523
Willowbrook 699
Wilmington 727
Wilshire Center 544
Winnetka 561
Wiseburn 51
Woodland Hills 378
Under Investigation: 3160


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‘Glee’ Actress Naya Rivera Is Now Presumed Dead After Going Missing at Lake Piru

Actress Naya Rivera was reported missing late on Wednesday, July 8, after going on a boat trip with her four-year-old son. The pair had rented a pontoon boat to take out on Lake Piru in Ventura County, and when they didn’t return the vessel at the end of the rental time, staff went out to look for the boat. They found it in the water with the young boy on board asleep, but Rivera missing.

“It is believed that Naya and her son were swimming in the lake near the boat and as they were getting back into the boat, her son made it into the boat and Naya went underwater and did not resurface,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department told Us.

Since 1994, at least seven people are known to have drowned in the 1,240-acre lake, most often while swimming without wearing flotation devices. When Rivera’s son, Josey, was found, he was wearing his life vest, but an adult-sized life vest, presumably intended for Rivera herself, was still on board.

The search for Rivera began on Wednesday until pausing during the late-night hours due to a concern about risk and low-visibility. It resumed Thursday morning, including air and water searches, and specialized dive teams and other assistance from multiple jurisdictions.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 24 hours after she was last seen, E! reports that authorities have formally shifted the mission from a “search-and-rescue,” hoping to find Rivera alive, to what is termed a “recovery operation.”

“The goal is still to bring Ms. Rivera home to her family so that they can have closure,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Dyer stated at a press conference. He noted that, as of that time, the incident was being treated as an accident with now obvious signs of foul play.

Rivera is best-known for her starring role on the television series Glee. Some have noted the seemingly-eerie connection to two other deaths of cast members from that show. Co-star Cory Monteith died of a drug overdose in 2013, and Mark Salling committed suicide in 2018.


RELATED: A New Podcast Re-Opens the Case of Natalie Wood’s Suspicious Death


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Chances Are, You’re Only Tapping Into a Fraction of the Free Films Available Online

As everyone knows, the Coronavirus pandemic is forcing to the surface contradictions and injustices that have been around for some time but were much easier to ignore or rationalize when the state of things was simply “business as usual.” Yet by the same token, it’s now offering creative options to moviegoers who want to move beyond their usual diet of weekly high-profile releases that are made to seem important via expensive ad campaigns and heaps of media attention. Many of these alternative options already existed well before the pandemic. But now that theatrical releases have become scarce, other cinematic offerings are appearing—many of them free, others charging admission on diverse streaming platforms—and we should take advantage by surveying what’s becoming available. A sizable portion of what remains of our film history is what’s being offered, and what we might select from this ample harvest and how we might make use of it are questions well worth contemplating.

What if we spend our idle hours cruising for free movies available on the internet? The possibilities are far more bountiful than one might suppose. Just for starters, Open Culture promises and delivers “1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.,” and even this only scratches the surface.

The problem isn’t not enough free movies but too many. The full range of contenders available via search functions within YouTube.com, ok.ru (a Russian social media site that’s also a YouTube-like resource for music and movies, less user-friendly but no less copious), Uloz.to (a Czech/Slovakian site), archive.org, and countless other resources is so dizzying that one needs the guidance of lists to narrow things down. Even if we stick just to Open Culture, we have a dozen English Hitchcock films to choose between, four features by Andrei Tarkovsky, 60 noirs, 26 John Wayne Westerns, and most of Charlie Chaplin’s 80 comedies. Where to start?

One reason why most viewers stick only to new releases from big companies is that a limited pre-selection is far easier to navigate than an avalanche. Related canon-forming enterprises and institutions like the Oscars and ten-best lists perform the same function. In short, it helps to have a viewing agenda—and finding and then pursuing your own formulated viewing agendas might be more of a challenge and more taxing than following pre-existent ones. One recent hobby of mine has been hunting down features by Kira Muratova (1934-2018)—an eccentric, gifted, transgressive, and hilarious Soviet-Ukrainian filmmaker—and sometimes finding English subtitles for them on sites such as opensubtitles.org. (As with any of these, navigate at your own risk.)

What if your tastes are less esoteric than mine but you still, like me, enjoy watching films with English subtitles—even films with English dialogue—because this activity combines the pleasures of moviegoing with the pleasures of reading, or maybe just because you’re hard of hearing? Theoretically, you can take on the agenda of hunting down Marilyn Monroe’s features and watching them with English subtitles, if such is your fancy.

Whatever agendas you decide to adopt and pursue, you shouldn’t expect them to have the same currency or popularity as the latest Tarantino or Spielberg. As a film critic, I no longer believe that it’s desirable or even feasible to call any movie “good” unless I can add whom and/or what it’s good for. Some people go to movies to forget their lives, and some go to enrich their lives. How can the same movies be equally good for both factions?     Some people like subtitles, some hate them, and still others can take them or leave them.

What kind of sense does it make for critics to proclaim that one size or shape fits all? The sense of belonging to a crowd, I guess. But the cinematic possibilities available to us now suggests a new kind of crowd—a crowd of unique individuals pursuing and sharing their own special interests.


RELATED: What to Stream This Weekend: Palm Springs, The Old Guard, and More


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What to Stream This Weekend: Palm Springs, The Old Guard, and More

As California dials back its reopening efforts, staying safer at home is good policy now more than ever. Our weekly roundup of movies and shows to stream will keep you entertained while you keep yourself safe from the COVID.


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.

Greyhound

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+.

Relic

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.


Past recs …

Hamilton

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.

7500

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.

Selma

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.

Quincy

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.

13th

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.

Shirley

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.

HBO Max

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.

Homecoming

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.

Mascots

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.

Capone

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.

Driveways

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.

Brockmire

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.

Trying

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.

Upload

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+.

Baskets

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.

Run

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

Parasite

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

Unorthodox

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

Elephant

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

Outbreak

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

Devs

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


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Five Suspects Have Been Arrested in Connection with the Killing of Rapper Pop Smoke

UPDATE: JULY 9, 2020 – Five people have been arrested in connection with the February shooting of rapper Pop Smoke. The Brooklyn-based musician, otherwise known as Bashar Jackson, was killed at a Hollywood Hills home he was renting.

The LAPD has not revealed the identities of the five suspects; NPR reports that they are being described as three adult men and two teenaged boys. It is believed that the group may have been led to the rented house by a series of social media posts Pop Smoke dispatched in the days prior to his death.

“We believe that it was a robbery. Initially we didn’t really have the evidence but then we discovered some other evidence that showed this was likely a home invasion gone bad,” Captain Jonathan Tippet of the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division told the Associated Press today. “It’s our belief that [the robbery] was based on some of the social media. It’s based on the fact that he was posting his information may have contributed to him knowing where to find him.”

Since the “Dior” rapper’s death at just 20 years old, music fans–particularly fans of the Brooklyn Drill genre with which he was most closely associated–have felt a great loss to the artistic community.

His debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, was released just days ago, on July 3. Writing for The Atlantic in a review published on Tuesday, Hannah Giorgis praises the album for its “interplay between fatalism and ebullience,” describing Pop Smoke as “a preeminent voice of New York–and of a generation of Black youth.”


FEBRUARY 19, 2020 – Up-and-coming Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke was murdered early Wednesday morning in the house he was renting in the Hollywood Hills.

The Los Angeles Times reports that police responded to the $2.5 million home on the 2000 block of Hercules Drive just before 5 a.m. in response to a call from someone on the East Coast, saying that several suspects had entered their friend’s residence and that at least one of them was wearing a black mask and carrying a gun.

Cops found the 20-year-old rapper, born Bashar Barakah Jackson, with gunshot wounds; he was later pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood.

Two to six suspects were seen fleeing the house, which another report says Smoke was renting from Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Pop Smoke’s second mixtape, Meet the Woo 2, had recently hit No. 7 on the Billboard charts and his hit “Welcome to the Party” was one of the songs of last summer. “Welcome to the Party” was featured on Smoke’s breakthrough mixtape, Meet the Woo, which has 280 million streams worldwide.

While there have been no arrests yet, Smoke’s friends in the hip-hop world have cryptically suggested he may have known his killers.

50 Cent tweeted, “No such thing as success with out jealousy, treachery comes from those who are close. R.i.P”

In an Instagram post, Nicki Minaj wrote, “The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest In Peace, Pop.”

On Twitter, Pop Smoke’s fans are criticizing TMZ—which was the first outlet to report the shooting—for including graphic video of paramedics tending to Pop in its coverage. TMZ also caught heat when it reported the death of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna before police had time to inform next of kin.


RELATED: How to Get Tickets for the Kobe Bryant Memorial Service


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Mayor Garcetti Warns that Another Stay-at-Home Order Could Be Instituted

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When it comes to containing COVID-19, things aren’t looking good in Southern California. In Ventura County, a surge in cases has completely filled local emergency rooms and intensive care units. In Orange County, where people really hate wearing masks, the rate of new cases has double week over week. And here in L.A., Mayor Eric Garcetti is warning that locals could once again be ordered to stay at home if the county’s infection rate doesn’t get under control.

In his Wednesday evening briefing, Garcetti revisited the city’s new color-coded warning system. The city is currently at “threat level orange,” which means risk is high and residents should “minimize all contact” with people outside of their own households. If the city makes it to “threat level red,” aka extreme risk, stay-at-home orders could be reinstated.

“If things get worse, that dial could move to red in this coming week or two,” Garcetti said. “That would place us at the highest risk of infection, and we’d likely return to a mandated safer-at-home order. But, if things get better, we’ll see that dial back down to yellow, indicating we’re successfully flattening the curve again.”

According to the city’s website, the threat level indicator is being updated on a weekly basis, but could be updated more frequently “if necessary.” Garcetti didn’t say exactly what stats would move the dial to red—i.e. how much or how rapidly the case count or infection rate would have to rise—but threat level red is described as “Severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 infection is spreading in the community and overwhelming the health care system. Outbreaks are spreading rapidly and testing and contract tracing is strained or above capacity. Hospitals are at capacity or overwhelmed. ”

Post-Memorial Day weekend, when quarantine fatigue resulted in people prematurely bucking safety suggestions, L.A. County’s stats have been on the rise. Earlier this week, the county had its biggest day-over-day case count increase, though it was largely due to a backlog of tests following the Fourth of July holiday.

“This isn’t complicated: Do not get together with someone who’s not in your household,” Garcetti said Wednesday. “These weeks are absolutely critical: critical to whether schools open, whether our economy and our economic recovery path continues. These weeks are critical for saving lives.”


RELATED: How L.A.’s Gymgoers Are Weighing the Pandemic Risk—and How Gyms Are Keeping Them Safe


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How L.A.’s Gymgoers Are Weighing the Pandemic Risk—and How Gyms Are Keeping Them Safe

To what extent are people willing to potentially risk their health to stay fit? Angelenos have been grappling with that question since June 12, when gyms and fitness facilities were allowed to reopen following a three-month shutdown, despite L.A.’s climbing COVID-19 case count. (As of July 8, there were 123,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in L.A. County.)

Gyms are taking mandated precautions, but the extra effort hasn’t prevented outbreak scares. In late June, fitness instructors and trainers at Equinox refused to work after a member at the gym’s Beverly Hills branch tested positive for the virus. At the time, company policy said that masks were required at all times “except when vigorously exercising. During periods of intense exercise, you can remove your mask.” COVID is understood to spread through respiratory droplets, and the risk of infection could increase while multiple people are breathing heavily in enclosed spaces.

“I do not feel safe teaching at Equinox right now,” one of the gym’s long-time instructors, who’d refused to go to work out of fear for their health, said. “I would feel safe if members were required to wear masks at all times.”

Since then, the steady rise in new cases has led the L.A. County Department of Public Health to strengthen restrictions, and mandate that clients have to wear both masks and gloves at all times while exercising at the gym.

Equinox declined to comment, but Crunch Fitness was eager to flaunt the protocols it’s instituted. In addition to enforcing the new mask and glove policies, Crunch has also implemented contactless check-ins, put six feet of space between lifting stations, and added partitions between cardio equipment.

“We are adhering to this new mandate that L.A. Public Health has put out for all members and all staff,” Amita Balla Casey, Crunch’s regional director of West Coast sales, explained following a tour of the gym’s Crescent Heights facility. “As L.A. County presently has some of the highest number of cases in the county, we all have the same intention: to bring cases down.”

Of course, at the gym or anywhere in public, COVID protocols aren’t foolproof. While masks are considered a main line of defense in the war against the coronavirus, the average fabric face-covering isn’t 100 percent effective. As for gloves, an article in The Conversation explains thatif someone has touched a contaminated surface with a gloved hand, they are just as likely to transmit contamination as someone who hasn’t worn gloves. Failing to change gloves when needed is no different from failing to wash your hands.” (It’s worth noting that while it’s possible to pick up the virus on surfaces, the CDC says it doesn’t spread easily that way.)

For some people, the potential risk of returning to the gym is outweighed by the mental health benefits. According to a recent study by NORC at the University of Chicago, which found happiness has dipped at a five-decade low, the majority of the 2,190 adults surveyed felt anxious, depressed, lonely or hopeless in at least one of the last seven days when the survey was conducted. Exercise releases endorphins, triggers euphoria, and can reduce depression.

Other people still have their images in mind. “I was at the point where I felt so fat, I could deal with a mask for the privilege of of having access to something other than jogging outside and the 25-pound dumbbells I bought at Target,” quips Crunch member John B. “I feel fine working out there. I don’t feel they are doing everything they should be doing, but it’s not stopping me from working out there.”

Gyms’ facility managers are tasked with frequently disinfecting equipment, but that can be a tall order in some of the larger corporate gyms with lots of equipment and a high volume of clients. Beth Bishop, owner of Phoenix Effect, thinks this gives small, boutique workout centers like hers a leg up.

“I know those gyms are doing the best they can to have workers go around and sterilize the equipment as much as they can, and ask their members to disinfect things. But when you have hundreds of people around, are you really able to do that?” Bishop wonders. “Where as we have one coach to 12 people, so everyone knows each other and cares for each other.”

Besides keeping the gym’s front and back doors open for more airflow, Bishop has also converted a rear parking lot into an open-air workout space for even more peace of mind.

As the owner of a small business with much tighter margins than its corporate counterparts, Bishop is hopeful the safety protocols that have been put in place are effective so there isn’t a second shutdown.

“It hasn’t been easy. Our revenue is down,” Bishop confesses. “If we do have to close again, well, we’re the Phoenix Effect. Phoenixes don’t die easily.”


RELATED: This Is Why Everyone’s Suddenly Canceling Their Equinox Membership


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Morning Brief: L.A. County Narrows COVID Testing Priority

» L.A. County officials are narrowing their recommendations on who should request COVID-19 testing in an attempt to keep up with demand from those most at risk. Priority will be given to those with symptoms, who work in high-risk environments, and individuals who have been in contact with a confirmed patient. [Los Angeles Times]

» Glee actress Naya Rivera went missing while boating with her four-year-old son on Lake Piru in Ventura County. Roughly three hours after Rivera and her son left the dock in their rented vessel, the boy was found sleeping alone in the boat as it drifted. [CNN]

» Zendaya and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson secretly produced and shot an entire feature film during quarantine. The writing started in mid-March; a tiny cast and crew filmed in an isolated quarantine bubble in June. [Deadline]

» The current COVID-19 surge is changing plans for the upcoming school year. L.A. County officials have informed school leaders to prepare for completely online education, rather than a return to campuses. [Los Angeles Times]

» Roger Stone’s Instagram privileges have been taken away. He was kicked off the platform for allegedly attempting to use it to “spread inauthentic information,” including about his own criminal trial. [Politico]

» Dr. Michael V. Drake will take over the U.C. system from outgoing president Janet Napolitano. Drake, the first Black president of the system in its 152-year history, formerly helmed U.C. Irvine. He takes over a system in financial distress, under pressure to better address the needs of a diverse student body, and struggling to function amid pandemic.  [The New York Times]

» The Wonder Years is getting a reboot. But this time around, the family living through the turbulent events of the 1960s will be a Black family in Montgomery, Alabama.  [Entertainment Weekly]


TOP STORIES FROM L.A. MAG

» The City of L.A. Has Millions to Help Bail Out Renters, but Demand Is Going to Be Sky High A new program that will offer emergency rent subsidies for some at-risk residents starts accepting applications July 13

» Kanye West on Vaccines, the Devil, and God Calling Him to Be President The mogul offered some insight into his political ambitions

» Andres Guardado Was Shot in the Back Five Times, an Autopsy Reportedly Shows The 18-year-old’s family calls the incident “unjustified police violence”


ONE MORE THING

 

skinny fish

This Japanese Sushi Chef Is Experimenting with Cauliflower Rice and It’s Delicious

As a sushi chef with more than 20 years’ experience in the craft, Ei Hiroyoshi, an alum of Beverly Hills’ acclaimed Sasabune, never expected that he’d be making rolls with a rice substitute. He didn’t even like it when calorie-conscious patrons asked for slightly less rice in their rolls and nigiri. “I’m Japanese. I’m all about rice,” says Hiroyoshi. But after getting requests from friends and sushi-counter regulars on the ketogenic diet, he relented. He spent nearly a year developing his own special cauliflower “rice” before launching his new restaurant.

 [FULL STORY]


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The City of L.A. Has Millions to Help Bail Out Renters, but Demand Is Going to Be Sky High

An estimated 50,000 households in Los Angeles are about to get a little bit of rent relief. The Emergency Renters Assistance Program will provide subsidies of up to a total of $2,000 to help at-risk Angelenos stay in their homes. Most of the money for the program— described as the largest pandemic rent assistance program attempted anywhere in the country—will come from federal CARES Act funds.

“Allocating this funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will help stabilize thousands of families in Los Angeles,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell told the Daily News. “The recovery will be hard enough without people having to worry about how to stay housed and put food on the table while meeting their financial obligations.”

To qualify for the subsidies, a tenant must have already met the HUD standard of “low to moderate income” before the pandemic began, and now also be financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That household income standard ranges from $58,450 for one person living alone to $110,250 for a family of eight. Residents are eligible for the program regardless of immigration status.

Rent assistance subsidies of up to $1,000 per month, and $2,000 in total, will be paid directly to landlords. If a landlord accepts the funds, they commit to not charge interest or late fees on rent that was owed by the tenant, to not evict the tenant for six months after whenever the local emergency order ultimately expires, and to not impose a rent increase for a year after the order expires.

But the application process may present some challenges. The application will be open for only five days, from 8 a.m. on July 13 until 11:59 p.m. on July 17. It’s expected that there will be many more applications than can be funded through the program, so applications will be drawn at random from the pool. Those who are not selected will be placed on a waiting list should more money become available.

That allocation system brings to mind the recent rocky launch of the Angeleno Cards, where demand overwhelmed available supply immediately, and the struggles many encountered to use California’s online unemployment application system.

Even a $103 million program will only be able to help a small fraction of L.A. residents in dire economic need as the pandemic and economic crisis continue.

“We know people throughout the city of Los Angeles need assistance, particularly our working poor and disenfranchised communities, who are hit hardest by both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19,” Council President Nury Martinez told the Daily News. “Demand will be high and serve as a reminder that the federal government must offer billions more in housing assistance if we are going to help all who need assistance to remain in their homes during and after this pandemic.”


RELATED: L.A. City Councilmembers Want to Stop Coronavirus-Related Evictions Before They Start


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