YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: The New Look

AppleTV
Fashion is most definitely not my thing, but even I’ve heard of Coco Chanel and Christian Dior. And that’s exactly what AppleTV is counting on with their new limited series, The New Look, which premiered on February 14.

But before you immediately dismiss The New Look as an inside look at the fashion world (for which you may have zero interest), it is worth noting that the series is not about fashion as much as it is the lives of famous designers in France in the 40’s, especially Chanel and Dior, and their lives were much more than just sewing and drawing. In fact, you’ll be amazed to hear how much more complicated and fascinating their lives actually were, apart from any fashion at all.

The series creator, Todd A. Kessler, has an impressive resume, which includes The Sopranos, Damages and serving as the showrunner for Bloodline. All of those shows were complex, dark and violent shows about complex, dark and violent people—not exactly what you think of when you think of fashion designers. But that’s what’s so great about The New Look—it isn’t at all what you expect.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Berlin

It seems I did this all wrong. I found myself browsing Netflix and came across a series called “Berlin.” Well, obviously, I was intrigued. My love of any and all things Berlin (the German city)-related led me to push play on the first episode and I quickly realized that it has nothing at all to do with Berlin, the city. But, by then, I was already hooked. It turns out Berlin the series is a prequel spin-off of a massively popular Spanish series called Money Heist, which aired from 2017 to 2021. Funnily enough, Money Heist has been sitting on my list of shows I’ve been meaning to get to, as I remember hearing a lot of buzz about it a few years ago. I had no idea, as I found myself getting sucked into this charming and addictive little Spanish series Berlin, that it had ties to that massive Money Heist franchise. For me, it was simply a clever and well-made show, appealing enough all on its own.

There were good and bad things about not knowing anything before I started watching Berlin. The bad thing is that I missed all the easter eggs and inside jokes that are obviously littered throughout. There were some key moments that felt like the audience was being winked at and character reveals that are done in overly dramatic ways, so I know the effectiveness of those were lost on me. However, the good part of watching this series before seeing any of the original first was I was able to enjoy it as a blank slate, with no preconceptions, no expectations. I compare it to, say, watching the Breaking Bad movie, El Camino, as a stand-alone experience. How would that movie play to someone who had never seen a single episode of Breaking Bad? Could it stand on its own? Would the audience care? Isn’t that the test of any movie or television series—it’s not about what it is, but how good it is.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Prime
It’s hard to forget the 2005 movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which starred Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as a married pair of assassins who work for competing agencies. Besides being a great film, with as much humor and charm as action, the film was notable for sparking the real-life romance between Jolie and Pitt, which would turn into a courtship and marriage that would captivate the tabloids for years to come.

Considering the indelible imprint on popular culture that film left, anyone who tries to remake it has a mountain to climb to match the original’s allure and entertainment value, not to mention the chemistry of its two stars. Well, that didn’t stop actor/producer/writer Donald Glover (Atlanta), who, along with Francesca Sloane, created Mr. & Mrs. Smith the television series, which premiered on February 2 on Prime. So, obviously, the big question is: can the series live up to the film?

What’s so great about Mr. & Mrs. Smith the series is that, even though you clearly know going in that it’s an homage to the film, most comparisons are set aside pretty quickly, as the series charts its own path and forges its own identity early on, so the question isn’t as much can it live up to the film, but how good is it when separated from all comparisons to the film. Can Mr. & Mrs. Smith the television series stand on its own?

Absolutely.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Mr. Inbetween

I had never heard of this show before Ricky Gervais recommended it. It’s rare for Gervais to recommend any show that’s not on Netflix (the home to his many series and stand-up shows), so I knew this one had to be worth checking out. And, boy, is it.

Mr. Inbetween is an Australian black comedy/crime drama that aired from 2018 to 2021 on FX (currently available to stream on Hulu). It claims to have aired here in the States, but I had never heard of it, which is crazy, because once I started watching, I literally couldn’t stop.

Mr. Inbetween was created by and stars Scott Ryan, an Australian actor/writer/producer who has virtually no credits to his name and broke out with this show (at least in Australia), a late bloomer at 50. Whatever life experience Ryan had before becoming an actor certainly informs his performance as Ray, a freelance fixer/hitman by night, a divorced dad by day.

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All of Us Strangers

Searchlight Pictures
Two recent movies about memory and grief have really stuck with me: 2016’s Personal Shopper and 2022’s Aftersun. Personal Shopper was much more about grief and Aftersun about memory, but they each plumbed the deepest depths of remorse, remembering and regret, of loss and love, of grief and healing. And now, writer/director Andrew Haigh has given us a film that surpasses both films, in terms of emotional scope and inner reckoning, and it is All of Us Strangers, one of the best films of 2023.

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Anatomy of a Fall

NEON
The highest prize awarded at the annual Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d’Or is the French festival’s version of Best Picture and carries with it automatic Oscar buzz. But, historically speaking, the honor hasn’t automatically translated to Oscar success, as only two Palme d’Or winners have won the Oscar for Best Picture, Marty in 1955 and Parasite in 2022. That’s not to say that the Cannes winner doesn’t regularly make an appearance at the Oscars. Just last year, Cannes winner Triangle of Sadness was nominated for Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay and this year, the Cannes Festival winner, Anatomy of a Fall, has even bested that with five nominations in total for Editing, Original Screenplay, Actress, Director and Picture.

The reason for so little overlap between Palme d’Or winners and Oscar Best Picture winners likely comes down to the completely different aesthetic between the two voting bodies. Cannes festival goers and judges pride themselves on awarding artists who present groundbreaking elements in storytelling or who are edgy, unique or challenge the boundaries of the medium. Oscar voters, by contrast, normally prefer safe, traditional and accessible storytelling, paired with high production values and performances. Rarely do you find films that can please both groups. But, in Anatomy of a Fall, writer/director Justine Triet has brilliantly created a film that is all at once accessible yet experimental, challenging yet relatable and weird yet traditional, a film for both France and Hollywood, and my favorite film of 2023.

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