Altice One: The New Binge-Watching Culture Gets a New Technology

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Westworld, HBO

 

With the 2018 Emmy nominations being announced last week, surely binge-watching will be at an all-time high – as everyone tries to catch up on those shows that will be in contention for the biggest awards.

Of course, all this television fervor would have been nearly impossible to imagine even just fifteen years ago. At that time, HBO and Showtime went head-to-head with a handful of groundbreaking shows (remember Six Feet Under?), each that were challenging the primacy and dominance of the major networks. There was even a zeitgeisty slogan: “It’s Not TV…it’s HBO.”

Yet for the most part, it was still a wasteland of cheesy reality TV, dull cooking shows, and clichéd sitcoms and dramas.

But with the rise of Amazon, Netflix and Hulu – and with cable networks like AMC and FX producing must-see series’, we’re now all officially obsessed with the small screen. And we are indeed staying in, binge-watching, rather than going out on the town. So it’s probably time we reconsidered the technology we are using to view it all.

 

Killing Eve, BBC

 

Enter Altice One, from Optimum – a little black box that tidily combines cable set top, WiFi, router and streaming service device – especially great if you’re a neat freak who hates all those sloppy, bulky devices. (And of course, those dreaded ugly wires.) Even better, if you find yourself perpetually at odds with the labyrinthine nature of Verizon Fios pricing, it’s a great time to consider a change.

What do you get? 4K Ultra HD video; faster broadband; a centralized “command center” with voice activation (nicely futuristic, right?); Cloud DVR, so serious TV junkies can record 15 shows at once (though don’t forget to feed the cat); the ability to hook up high quality audio, especially urgent if you’re a fan of action films and epic series’ like Game of Thrones; and improved functionality and better organization all the way around.

If you haven’t marked it on your calendar already, the 2018 Emmys ceremony will take place September 17. So you have two months to catch up on the likes of Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve and The Crown – and thus be able to smartly make your own predictions. (For the record, we’re pretty confident of ours.)

Thankfully now, there’s a better way to do it.

 

The Crown, Netflix

Capital Punishment is Back! This Was Ben Stiller’s ’80s Industrial-Punk Band

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When the Brit version of The Office started to blow up in the middle oughts, it didn’t take long for the show’s newly famous star Ricky Gervais to be “outed” as a former New Romantic, well, ponce – with photos and videos of his early 80’s duo Seona Dancing surfacing, showing the comedian in full flamboyant makeup. (For the record, they had a couple of great songs, especially “More to Lose”.)

Now comes the news that Ben Stiller, prior to a spectacularly successful three-decade acting career that shows no signs of slowing down, was a bit of a punk. Indeed, his provocatively named band Capital Punishment released an album in 1982, unfortunately titled Roadkill (surely, they could have done better than that) – which is now being reissued in remastered form by Captured Tracks.

But this was no four-chord-adolescent-anger cliche of a punk band. Rather, Stiller and associates Kriss Roebling, Peter Zusi and Peter Swann (now an Arizona State Supreme Court Justice) dug deep into the avant-garde-industrial scene of time, drawing on such unsettling, atonal influences as Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. The first “single,” the actually kind of brilliant “Muzak Anonymous,” is very much a paradigm of that Sheffield-by-way-of-Berlin aesthetic, with its spasmodic beats, over-flanged guitars, and aloof, deliberately detached vocals. (Plus some obligatory military-style shouting.)

We’re not really expecting it to tear up the charts – but have to admit to having it on endless repeat.

 

The Simpsons Did a ‘Fake News’ Episode All the Way Back in 2000

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Though Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale has sort of accidentally become relevant to where we are now headed socio-politically, until recently it was mostly actually cartoons that were incisively offering prescient visions of our near future. To wit, South Park‘s prophetic take on urban gentrification, or American Dad‘s clever deconstruction of the American intelligence services.

But after 30 years on the air, the insightful brilliance of The Simpsons is often taken for granted. Yet at the height of Donald Trump’s war on the legitimate media (CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times), it was particularly fascinating to stumble across the December 3, 2000 episode of the show (pre 9/11!), titled The Computer Wore Menace Shoes, which profoundly predicted the onset of the “fake news” generation.

 

 

In it, Homer purchases his first computer – and when his website is getting zero traffic, decides to start presenting rumors as actual news stories. When he inadvertently uncovers a couple of major scandals – including a terrorist plot involving Mr. Burns – he’s actually awarded a Nobel Prize for journalism. (Which foretells of the absurdity of Trump’s own “campaign” for the Peace Prize.)

Ever the conscience of the Simpsons, Lisa suggests to her father, “It’s still irresponsible to present rumors as facts – maybe you should quit while you’re ahead.” And network news guy Kent Brockman is quick to nervously point out, “We must never forget that the real news is delivered by real officially licensed newsmen…like me.”

But Homer justifies his actions thusly: “Real news is great – but I’m getting a thousand hits an hour with Grade A bullplop.” (Best line: “I did it! I’ve changed the world! Now I know exactly how God feels.”)

The show ends with him being kidnapped to a mysterious island, in a parody of the ’60s British spy series The Prisoner – giving it all a thoroughly conspiratorial tone. It’s one of The Simpsons‘ best.

 

Trans Actors Praise Scarlett Johansson’s Withdrawal From ‘Rub & Tug’

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Trans actors and filmmakers have expressed their support for Scarlett Johansson’s decision to step down from her role in the upcoming film Rub & Tug.

Johansson had originally signed on to play trans man Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, who operated a prostitution and massage parlor in Pittsburgh in the ’70s and ’80s. After her casting was announced, trans artists publicly denounced the decision, explaining that trans actors are simply not given the same opportunities to tell their own stories as cis actors.

 

After intense online criticism, Johansson decided to step down from the project, after releasing an exclusive statement to Out (read in full here).

“While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.”

Rhys Ernst, an Emmy-nominated trans director and filmmaker, told The Hollywood Reporter“Scarlett deciding to pull out was a good example of listening to the community, and that was the right thing to do.”

“It says a lot about Scarlett Johansson. That actually makes me a little emotional because it’s not an easy industry for trans women. It’s not an easy industry for trans men,” said Transparent and Lopez actress Rain Valdez to THR.

Trans actress Jen Richards (Nashville, Her Story) said to THR: “I’m going to assume what she says in the statement, which is clearly very well-crafted by a team of very smart people, was nonetheless in earnest.”

And trans artist Zachary Drucker explained: “We are so troubled and so ravaged by feeling ignored, by feeling exploited, by feeling that our stories are not our own.”

Trans actress Trace Lysette tweeted:

‘Pose’ Stars Will Perform NYC Concert Celebrating Season 2 Renewal

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Stars of the FX series Pose will perform a special celebratory concert on July 23 at The Cutting Room, after news came that the series has been renewed for a second season.

Dyllón Burnside (who plays Ricky on the show), MJ Rodriguez (Blanca) and Ryan Jamaal Swain (Damon) will all take the stage for the event, as well as various suprise guest friends of the show. Burnsie and Rodriguez both come from New York City theater backgrounds.

Ryan Murphy, who created the show, has announced that he’s donating 100% of profits from the program to LGBTQ charities, per Variety. All proceeds from the upcoming concert will go straight to GLSEN. The show made history assembling the largest cast of trans actors ever in one TV program.

Get tickets here. The Cutting Room is located at 44 East 32nd Street.

Obama at the Nelson Mandela Lecture: ‘You Have to Believe in Facts’

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Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday, former President Barack Obama had some carefully considered words to say about the current political climate and, without explicitly naming him, our current POTUS.

“We have to stop pretending that countries that just hold an election where sometimes the winner somehow magically gets 90 percent of the vote because all the opposition is locked up, or can’t get on TV, is a democracy,” he explained in his speech.

His words then became more pointedly about Trump’s recent antics.

“The denial of facts runs counter to democracy, it could be its undoing. Which is why we must zealously protect independent media, and we have to guard against the tendency for social media to become purely a platform for spectacle, outrage, or disinformation. You have to believe in facts. Without facts, there is no basis for cooperation. Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up.”

Obama’s speech warned of the fall of democracy in the West, the rise of racist white nationalist groups taking over, and the power of social media to hurt knowledge:

“Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained – the form of it – but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. In the West, you’ve got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism.

Who needs free speech as long as the economy is going good? The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media – once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity – has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories.”

Take a look…

Wine Brand Quickly Pulls ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Collab Following Backlash

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If you haven’t been watching Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (now in Season 2), you’re missing out on one of the great shows of of our times. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, it follows a dystopian future in which women are enslaved and forced to bear children. Given the current outlook on women’s rights, it comes across as a cautionary tale.

 

 

It’s not quite the storyline, then, that makes you want to pop open a bottle of wine with friends. Unfortunately, no one told wine brand Lot18, who recently collaborated with MGM to release three wines based on characters from the show. It featured a pinot noir inspired by Offred (Elisabeth Moss), a cabernet sauvignon based on Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), and a Bordeaux blanc based on Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).

The irony that none of the above characters are allowed to drink in the Republic of Gilead was not lost on followers of the show. The unveiling of the new wine collection was quickly met with backlash. Within a day, the bottles were pulled from the site.

Marketing 101.

 

The 2018 Emmy Nominations Have Arrived

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The 2018 Emmy nominations were announced this morning, in a livestream hosted by Handmaid’s Tale’s Samira Wiley and New Amsterdam’s Ryan Eggold. The main categories have now all been announced: for the first time in 18 years, HBO lost out on the most nominations for a network, with 108 in total to Netflix’s 112.

Game of Thrones leads with 22 nominations, followed by 21 each for Westworld and Saturday Night Live. Notable names off this year’s list: Jeffrey Tambor’s role on Transparent, after he was booted from the show, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep, after filming was put on hiatus while she underwent treatment for cancer.

As predicted, frontrunners for Best Actress like Elisabeth Moss in Handmaid’s Tale, Claire Foy in The Crown, and Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black all scored noms. Sandra Oh also received recognition for season 1 of Killing Eve. Sarah Paulson scored a nom for American Horror Story and Laura Dern for The Tale, as well as Darren Criss for American Crime Story and Jesse Plemons for Black Mirror.  Newcomer HBO comedy Barry earned a Best Comedy and Best Actor nom for Bill Hader.

Drag Race scored a nom in the Best Reality Series category, and all the regulars like Westworld, Atlanta, Handmaid’s Tale, and Stranger Things found noms in their respective Comedy and Drama categories.

The 2018 Emmys will take place on September 17, hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che. Full list via live-stream here.

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesse Plemons, Black Mirror: USS Callister

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Jessica Biel, The Sinner
Laura Dern, The Tale
Michelle Dockery, Godless
Edie Falco, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King, Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Cult

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Bill Hader, Barry
William H. Macy, Shameless

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Allison Janney, Mom
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown,This Is Us
Ed Harris, Westworld
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Claire Foy, The Crown
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

Reality/Competition Series
The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Project Runway
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Voice

Variety Sketch Series
At Home with Amy Sedaris
Drunk History
I Love You, America
Portlandia
Saturday Night Live
Tracey Ullman’s Show

Variety Talk Series
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Last Week Tonight
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
The Late Late Show with James Corden
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Limited Series
The Alienist
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Genius: Picasso
Godless
Patrick Melrose

Comedy Series
Atlanta
Barry
Black-ish
Curb Your Enthusiasm
GLOW
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Drama Series
Game of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
The Americans
This Is Us
Westworld

Protesters Arrested For ‘Abolish ICE’ Banner & Climbing Lady Liberty

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Protesters were arrested yesterday after hanging a large banner reading ‘Abolish ICE’ on the base of the Statue of Liberty. One woman involved with the sign caused Liberty Island to be evacuated after she climbed up into the folds of the statue’s robes and refused to come down for four hours in protest of families being separated at the border.

Therese Okoumou ascended around 100 feet above ground onto the statue. After an hours-long, televised standoff with police, she climbed down to the observation deck and was taken into custody.

Initially, it had been thought Okoumou was not involved with the other protesters holding the ICE banner; but Jay W. Walker, a member of Rise and Resist, who organized the protest, later explained that she had been involved but the group had not known of her intentions to climb.

ICE, the United States’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is responsible for arresting and deporting immigrants who’ve entered the country illegally. Under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, more than 2,000 children entering the country have been separated from their parents at the border over six weeks.

Contact your reps and sign a petition to Abolish ICE here.