| March 6, 2022
I never thought it would happen to me.
I wandered through Quibi’s programming selections the week it launched. A few minutes here, a few minutes there. A laugh or two. Pun titles all over, like Gayme Show and Dishmantled and Barkitecture. But nothing I felt compelled to stick with. After jumping on the app a bunch of times in the first week, it became just another app square staring from my phone.
And the app seemed dead.
But while sitting in a long Starbucks drive-thru line, wanting to distract myself somewhere outside of my home, I jumped back in. And the one show I had not watched but was intrigued by— to me, as in “why is she doing this?”—was Anna Kendrick and Dummy. The image of Kendrick and a sex doll that represented the show was off-putting. I mean, how could it be. On Quibi. The app with Chrissy Teigen as a judge, which seemed to be the natural extension of Kate McKinnon sexualizing Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
But there I sat. I turned the sound on in the car, turned the phone to widescreen, and it began.
The sexualized version of Anna Kendrick, who shows up now and again. When she grooms a hair on her (unseen) breast, you know something is different. Big handful of expired pot gummies. Her boyfriend is Donal Logue (Dan), who is about a decade too old for the relationship. Hmmm. Honest dialogue. Sweet kink.
And then, the sex doll. I won’t explain how she arrives. But she is found by Anna Kendrick’s Cody (same name as the writer/creator of the show) by calling for Cody.
So what is this? A fantasy? Michigan J. Frog? A set of universal rules that are outside of the norm? All of the above?
What follows for nearly an hour is a panini of the familiar and the unexpected. The Sex Doll, named Barbara (voiced by Meredith Hagner) becomes the comic driver of the piece. She is, even more than the characters we have already met, who love how super-honest they are, dead honest. Or at least she is as a reflection of the unspoken truths that Cody dare not speak.
Then there all the flavor crystals spread throughout. Dan is fully named Dan Harmon, who has been “involved with” the real Cody Heller for years. Ballsy. Though apparently Cody never met Dan’s sex doll. But the fact that she didn’t do sex doll research for the writing of this piece makes it all the more clear that it is about Cody and not about Barbara.
There is an episode where there is an exploration of feminism in terms of how women see themselves with men and how they see other women—or dolls—who are with men. And how dolls see women. The female in the Hollywood pool is a theme throughout, but most specific in the episode “The Bechdel Test.”
I really, really liked this piece. And that is really what it is. A short film with a beginning, middle and end. I like it so much that I don’t want a season two. It’s better than that.
If you are shy about words about human excretions, etcetera, this is not for you. It is rough and raw and right to the point (or the liquids left inside Barbara). But it’s fun and smart and remarkably serious at moments, though it doesn’t take itself seriously for a second.
They did take it seriously enough to hire Tricia Brock, who is a legitimate veteran TV director, to direct the piece.
I don’t know what category this fits in for the Emmys, but it is a worthy candidate for a nomination and maybe even for a win. Is Quibi going there? I don’t know. But it’s the only truly original, thoughtful, high-end piece I have seen on the app. Seriously… this could be an episode of Black Mirror and it would be all anyone could talk about for weeks.
Meanwhile, Ms. Kendrick is coming out in an HBO Max series (Love Life) in a few weeks that is already being positioned for Emmys. But I seriously hope this piece won’t be lost in the wake. It’s one of my favorite new things I have seen in these months of screening a lot of new stuff.
| March 6, 2022
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"Netflix, the great disrupter whose algorithms and direct-to-consumer platform have forced powerful media incumbents to rethink their economic models, now seems to need a big strategy change itself. It got me thinking about the simple idea that my film and TV production company Blumhouse is built on: If you give artists a lot of creative freedom and a little money upfront but a big stake in the movie’s or TV show’s commercial success, more often than not the result will be both commercial (the filmmakers are incentivized to make films that will resonate with audiences) and artistically interesting (creative freedom!). This approach has yielded movies as varied as Get Out (made for $4.5 million, with worldwide box office receipts of more than $250 million), Whiplash (made for $3.3 million, winner of three Academy Awards), The Invisible Man (made for $7 million, earned more than $140 million) and Paranormal Activity (made for $15,000, grossed more than $190 million).From the beginning, the most important strategy I used to persuade artists to work with me was to make radically transparent deals: We usually paid the artists (“participants” in Hollywood lingo) the absolute minimum allowable by union contracts upfront, with the promise of healthy bonuses based on actual box office results—instead of the opaque 'percentage points' that artists are usually offered. Anyone can see box office results immediately, so creators don’t quarrel with the payouts. In fact, when it comes time for an artist to collect a bonus based on box office receipts, I email a video clip of myself dropping the check off at FedEx to the recipient."
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