How 'Borat 2' was written
And Pepsi makes a game show
What to know
I’m fascinated by Sacha Baron Cohen’s process and how he blends narrative filmmaking with improvised segments starring real people. On Tuesday’s new Good One Podcast (Jesse David Fox’s excellent interview show with comedians breaking down their bits) Borat 2 director Jason Woliner revealed some secrets about how Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was written. It all started when the film’s “story by” group wrote a 30-page outline in 2018 with the idea of Borat having a daughter and focusing it more on Trump’s sexism and misogyny in America. At the end of 2018, this document that had “ideas for scenes” evolved to take on more of a “script form,” which included all the pre-written scenes between Borat and Tutar. Woliner goes on to explain that the real world scenes with real people are then just half-page summaries that contain a few possible jokes. When Woliner first got this script it was “between 60 and 70 pages.” So much of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work seems done on the fly, but it makes sense that there would need to be this much pre-writing and preparation.
Despite a slower than expected vaccine rollout, markets expert Eric Wold is predicting that movie theaters will bounce back to record highs in 2023. The roaring ‘20s did proceed the 1918 Spanish flu after all. He claims that more flexible release windows will benefit both theaters and streaming services, and that it’s a good sign that big movies like No Time to Die and Ghostbusters: Afterlife are sticking with theatrical releases. While it’s just one man’s prediction, this should be somewhat soothing to movie fans worried about the future of theaters. It’s interesting that Wold says 2023 is when things will really roar back and not 2022. If the vaccine goes according to plan, I think I’d be ready to go back to theaters by 2022.
The Independent Spirit Awards might be my favorite event in all of awards season. It’s usually hosted by actually funny people and honors more under-the-radar movies. Though this year, with everything on streaming or VOD anyway, its nominees and the Oscar nominees could be pretty synced up. You can click the link to see all the nominees. Their list makes me want to see Minari even more. I’m also hoping Sound of Metal wins Best First Feature. Meanwhile, the National Board of Review named Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods Best Director and Best Film of 2020.
Pepsi is launching a game show on Fox | Variety
As traditional TV ads continue to go the way of the dodo, Pepsi is looking to the future by borrowing from the past. The soda maker is launching Cherries Wild on Fox, a slot machine-themed game show hosted by Jason Biggs. While cola and game shows are hardly strangers (Coke and American Idol feel inextricably linked), what’s different about this is Pepsi produced the show and has full creative control to infuse its brand as it sees fit. All this harkens back to the 1950s when brands would sponsor entire blocks of programming with shows like The Colgate Comedy Hour and Kraft Television Theater. Everything old is new again.
Quick correction: Last week I speculated if Raya would be coming to Disney+. Turns out Disney already made that decision back in December. Raya will hit theaters and Disney+, with a premium up-charge, on March 5. Anyway, this movie looks great.
Kevin Hart joins Cate Blanchett in video-game adaptation Borderlands … there are 2 people I never thought I’d see on screen together 🎮
Golden Globes to honor Jane Fonda with Cecil B. de Mille Award … and if Fonda doesn’t address climate change in her speech, I’m going to be disappointed 🏆
Disney is updating the Jungle Cruise ride at its parks to address racial issues … back side of water to remain in place 💦
Demi Lovato is making a comedy pilot at NBC about eating issues … triple threat alert! 🎤
Spike Lee is getting his own Funko Pop … this is the best news since the Werner Herzog Funko Pop (which is a real thing thanks to The Mandalorian) 🎬
What to watch
For whatever reason, Star Trek as a franchise feels less accessible than Star Wars, Marvel, or even Doctor Who. Maybe it’s the deep canon and long history, or the fact that it’s hard sci-fi and can get pretty jargon-y? Whatever the reason, you don’t hear as often of people suddenly getting into Trek — like they do with Star Wars and Marvel. (At least not since J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot.) But if you like those properties, if you miss The Mandalorian or Thor or the Guardians of the Galaxy, start watching Star Trek Discovery season 3 on CBS All Access (soon to be Paramount+). You don’t even need to see the earlier seasons. I firmly believe, if spacey sci-fi is your jam, you can start right here. Season 3 of Discovery blends high concepts and action with character stories about duty, sacrifice, love, and diplomacy — all set against a galaxy in chaos. It’s as beautifully shot as it is written. The secret sauce is that they turned what was a prequel series (season 1 and 2) into a sequel series (season 3). It still honors the past but charts a new path forward. Honestly, it’s what Star Wars should have done with its sequel trilogy. Lastly, Sonequa Martin-Green is straight crushing it as the show’s lead. Her performance holds the whole thing together and is way above what you’d expect from a genre show such as this.
New notables this week:
Penguin Bloom — Jan 27 — Netflix movie | 69% RT | Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln, Jackie Weaver family drama
The Dig — Jan 29 — Netflix movie | 86% RT | Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes British historical drama
Finding O’hana — Jan 29 — Netflix movie | No RT yet | Hawaiian family adventure
The Little Things — Jan 29 — HBO Max movie | 52% RT | Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto neo-noir crime thriller
Palmer— Jan 29 — Apple TV+ movie | 58% RT | Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, June Squibb indie drama
Before you go… what if Blink 182 wrote Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week”
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About the author: Alex Rabinowitz has led the way on social media and story packaging at media outlets big and small. With his acclaimed Tumblr site PopCultureBrain.com, Alex became a leading figure in emerging social networks and entertainment news. Sourced by many top destinations, including New York Magazine, BuzzFeed, and Videogum, Pop Culture Brain was featured by BuzzFeed and TIME as the best pop culture blog on Tumblr. Alex's writing has appeared on The Huffington Post, GQ.com, Mic, and Time Warner Cable.