The Fast Five: Oscar® Bets On Fresh Blood With Billie Eilish While ‘Contagion’ Makes A Comeback
February 3, 2020
People distract themselves from a new virus spreading around the world by watching a movie about a new virus that spreads around the world. Meanwhile, Adam Sandler heads back to Netflix as Matthew McConaughey heads back to TV with the writer of True Detective, and product placement tries to find its mark in 2020.
CONTAGION GOES VIRAL
Want a feel-good movie to distract you from the growing threat of the Novel Coronavirus? If you’re anything like the many Americans who pushed Contagion back onto the iTunes charts, the answer is a resounding no! The film, written by Scott Z. Burns and directed by Steven Soderbergh, was heralded for being the most realistic look Hollywood had ever made about a pandemic when it was released in 2011. Considering the runner up has Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr. chasing a monkey with a helicopter, there wasn’t exactly fierce competition. Sure, Contagion features an all-star cast, but it might not be the best one to watch if you’re worried about the current situation unfolding around the world. While there is a happy ending, it takes over 25 million deaths to get there.
However, if you’re looking for a prime example of how a script can use intersecting storylines and realism without sacrificing tension, it’s a great study. Every instinct in a writer may scream to exaggerate the truth to make the project more exciting—which is how we get monkey helicopter chase sequences—Burns takes the opposite approach and sets out to present the most realistic view of what a pandemic would look like. If you want to watch Contagion, you can stream it on Cinemax in the US and Netflix in Canada, or rent it from your favorite provider.
As audiences migrate away from watching live television and tune into ad-less streaming services or ad-skipping DVRs, advertisers look for new ways to keep their products on the minds of consumers. The people at Procter & Gamble, makers of Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Crest, Pampers and Tide, among many others, decided that the next step is to just make their own content. The home and healthcare giant has partnered with Las Vegas and Empire Falls producer Stone Village Television to bring scripted TV shows to streaming services. These shows will all “boost themes of gender equality, diversity and inclusion.” And hey, if those diverse genders they’re including happen to spend a lot of time talking about how amazing Pepto-Bismol is, all the better. While this move may worry some that we’re heading towards a Truman Show-esque future, it’s not actually a new idea. Even for Procter & Gamble.
The term “soap opera” comes from P&G’s 1930s radio dramas that they transferred to television in the 50s. More recently, the company sponsored a plotline on ABC’s Black-ish and produced family friendly made-for-TV movies. A full series sponsored by the company may be difficult for writers to navigate, especially in today’s easily-offended-on-Twitter cancel culture. Except any show they make to be so vanilla that it’s incapable of offending anybody. And as I write this I’m now worried the term “vanilla” is insulting and somebody else will be writing Fast Five next week after I’ve been canceled.
It’s amazing how quickly actors can rehab their careers. Robert Pattinson focused on interesting indie projects after the Twilight franchise wrapped up and became Batman with no backlash. Keanu Reeves rebounded from Man of Tai Chi and 47 Ronin to become the internet’s favorite person thanks to John Wick, and Matthew McConaughey made the choice to only do movies that interested him instead of chasing after box office success. His decision led to Mud, Magic Mike, Dallas Buyers Club, and his foray into TV with the game-changing True Detective. Now he’s reteaming with creator Nic Pizzolatto on a new series for FX. Redeemer is inspired by the book The Churchgoer about an ex-minister who takes a job as a security guard and gets sucked into a murder investigation. There is no word on whether this will air on FX or be one of the shows to premiere on the newly launched “FX on Hulu,” but it does show how the storytelling options in television can still lure in A-list talent.
Can Billie Eilish’s year get any better? Just a week removed from the 18-year-old sweeping the big four awards at the Grammys—the first person to do so since Christopher Cross almost thirty years ago and the only woman to ever accomplish the feat—and the same month in which she was chosen to be the youngest person ever to record a Bond theme, Eilish will take to the stage for a special performance at the Oscars. Is she nominated? Nope. Is she affiliated with any nominated movies? Double nope. So why is she there? Maybe it’s to debut that theme from the upcoming No Time To Die, maybe it’s because most of the movies nominated are about old white guys and ABC is worried old white guys don’t care enough to watch the show. Call me cynical, but I’m going with the latter. Whether or not she has a reason to perform, one post to her 50 million followers could boost ratings. And even if it’s a slight boost, ABC will take it. The Oscars have been trying for years to find ways to get people to tune in. They overturned a rule that no trailers could play during the ceremony, they expanded the Best Picture field to ten after popular films The Dark Knight and Wall-E missed out, and last year they announced a “Best Popular Film” category before immediately reversing it amid backlash. Will Eilish bring in enough eyes to avoid record low ratings at a time where everything on TV gets record low ratings? Triple nope. Just don’t blame her for the impossible task they’re putting on her shoulders.
I hate how the words “resign” and “resign” are spelled the exact same but mean the exact opposite. Adam Sandler didn’t resign from Netflix, he resigned with Netflix. As in, he signed back up with the streaming service for his company Happy Madison to make four new movies. The actor has been on quite a run in the last year, starring in both Murder Mystery, Netflix’s most popular movie of 2019, and Uncut Gems, which got him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor. This is on top of his latest stand-up special 100% Fresh which, as of this writing, is only sitting at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. While Sandler has spent the last few years making “Adam Sandler” movies for the streaming service, those three projects show how multi-faceted the performer actually is. Hopefully there’s room in this deal for a wider variety of projects so that Sandler can show the range he rarely gets a chance to use, because of the stacks of money his “Adam Sandler” movies make him.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.