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Steven Spielberg: The urgency to make The Post was because of Trump’s administration



The director dropped everything including new blockbuster Ready Player One to tell the story of the Washington Posts decision to publish the Pentagon Papers. He talks about parallels between Nixon and Trump and why Oprah Winfrey would be a brilliant president

Shortly after The Sixth Sense became a global sensation, its director, M Night Shyamalan hailed on the cover of Newsweek in 2002 as the next Spielberg told an interviewer that, years earlier, he had realised the one ingenious trick that made Steven Spielberg movies so spectacularly successful. Like a soft-drink manufacturer who had stumbled on the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, Shyamalan could not believe his luck. What was Spielbergs killer formula, Shyamalan was asked. He would not say. Merely by understanding it, he had struck commercial gold and he did not plan to share it.

It didnt quite work out that way for Shyamalan, who has never matched the heights of that first hit. But I thought of his imagined revelation as I watched Spielbergs latest film. The Post stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, the duo who took on the Nixon White House in 1971 to publish the Pentagon Papers, the US Department of Defenses own secret history of the Vietnam war that laid bare decades of government dishonesty.

It is a timely, absorbing story, beautifully acted and masterfully told. But what is the essential ingredient that makes it a Spielberg movie? Where is the neat narrative trick that Shyamalan thought he had spotted, the trademark device that means The Post sits in a canon that includes Jaws, Indiana Jones and Schindlers List?

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Watch the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s The Post

Two days later, I am sitting opposite Spielberg now 71 and looking like a kindly college professor, a sweater over his shirt and tie and under his jacket about to ask the man himself. He is the most commercially successful director in cinema history, the man behind ET, Jurassic Park and dozens more. So what makes a Spielberg film?

He answers by noting that he recently saw Spielberg, a two-hour documentary by Susan Daly, detailing each stage of his storied career. Even having looked at that documentary about myself, I still cannot honestly tell you what attracts me to a project and what presses my buttons and what gets me to say yes. I cant tell you.

Really? No clue as to what the common thread that connects his work might be?

Theres a couple of movies that, yes, I see my dog tags around the neck of the film, like anything that has to do with dinosaurs or intrepid archaeologists. But more widely? He shakes his head and smiles. And I saw the documentary. And it didnt help.

As he toldDaly, he doesnt like to overanalyse his own work too much, for fear that the attempt to understand the source of all this creativity might cause it to dry up.

Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks on the set of The Post. Photograph: Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

As it happens, The Post has a couple of Spielberg hallmarks. There is the familiar clash of idealism against pragmatism, the brave soul (or souls) ready to stand up for whats right, against the vastly bigger forces pressing them to back down. In Bridge of Spies, Hanks was a lawyer pressured to cut corners who insisted, instead, on the primacy of the constitution. In The Post, Hanks is a journalist taking the same stand. (Both films join Lincoln as hymns to the virtues of the US constitution.) And like those fleeing the shark, the dinosaurs, or the relentless truck in Spielbergs debut movie, Duel the good guys have to face down an implacable bully.

But The Post has an added quality that some earlier Spielberg movies may have lacked: an uncanny topicality. That is not wholly coincidental. The director first read the script for The Post just 11 months ago, deciding instantly that he wanted to make this story of a Republican president at war with the press and he wanted to make it right now, assembling screenwriters, crew and A-list stars (including Streep and Hanks making their first film together) in a fraction of the usual time.

The level of urgency to make the movie was because of the current climate of this administration, bombarding the press and labelling the truth as fake if it suited them, Spielberg tells me, recalling the sense of offence he felt at documented, provable events being branded fake news. I deeply resented the hashtag alternative facts, because Im a believer in only one truth, which is the objective truth.

So The Post shows a silhouetted Richard Nixon pacing the White House, while we hear the disgraced former presidents voice taped on his own, notorious recording system as he tramples on the first amendment, seeking to use the might of his office to hobble the free press. No one needs to mention Donald Trump for his shadow to loom over this movie.

Journalists will lap it up, of course. Like James Grahams stage play Ink, it features one sequence lovingly recreating the old process of hot metal the clanging of heavy, blackened machines once necessary to produce a printed newspaper. For those who were inspired to go into the trade by Alan J Pakulas All the Presidents Men (arguably the greatest newspaper movie ever made, says Spielberg), with its heroic tale of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein exposing Watergate, The Post is a delicious prequel: it argues that the victory over the Pentagon Papers emboldened the Washington Post to keep fighting Nixon, all the way to his resignation in 1974. (For anyone who knew Bradlee, Hanks does not disappoint: he gets the macho swagger of the walk, the growl in the voice, just right.)

Spielberg (centre) with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks on the set of The Post. Photograph: Niko Tavernise/AP

But Spielberg insists his film is no nostalgia piece looking backward to the days when US journalism was in its pomp. I think theres a higher standard of journalism today than there even was then, he says. For that he credits todays competitive landscape, with the Post and the New York Times jostling daily for exclusives on the Trump White House. Back in 1971, that duel was, the director says, a one-way street. Bradlee was furious that the New York Times had beaten him to the Pentagon Papers, publishing them first. But to the Times, the Post was a provincial, local paper barely a rival at all.

These days, says Spielberg, the old obstacles he details so painstakingly in his film the need to have enough coins in your pocket to call a source from a payphone or the rigmarole of booking two seats on a plane to accommodate boxes filled with secret papers have gone. But the inky hassles of what he calls the analogue era of hard copy have been replaced by new challenges, chiefly the sheer number of breaking stories and the speed of the news cycle, which is less than 24 hours. Sometimes its 24 minutes. The intensity is tenfold what it used to be.

If The Post feels timely, it is not solely because Americans are witnessing anew a pitched battle of president v press. The central human story of the film is the transformation of Graham, the Posts owner who had taken the helm of the paper only after her husbands suicide from a hesitant, self-doubting Washington society hostess, into a decisive, steely woman who refuses to be pushed around.

Accordingly, Spielberg repeatedly shows us Graham/Streep as the only woman in a room full of besuited men, interrupted by men, talked over and down to by men, even those supposedly junior to her. We watch as she develops the strength finally to turn around and say: Enough.

Actor Oliwia Dabrowska (foreground) in Spielbergs
1993 Holocaust drama Schindlers List. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Universal

When, in February 2017, Spielberg picked up The Posts script, originally written by 31-year-old Liz Hannah, he cant have known how resonant it would become.

I didnt know because the sexual assault tsunami hadnt happened yet. Of course it had been happening for decades and decades, but this particular 8.2 earthquake had not yet occurred.

Was he aware of what certain men were doing in his industry?

Certainly aware of the existence probably all the way back to William Shakespeares time of the casting couch, and the prevalence of sexual abuse and sexual intimidation in the old Hollywood of the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

But he has been a player in Hollywood for nearly 50 years. Surely he must have seen something?

There was some inappropriate behaviour years and years ago inside my own company, which we dealt with and dismissed the person involved in that. But Ive always had small companies with no more than 70 employees, and my companies have always been run by women. I find when companies are run by women, theres less of a chance for men to get away with that kind of behaviour.

Spielbergs 1982 film ET. Photograph: Allstar/UNIVERSAL/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

And what about Harvey Weinstein himself? Surely that was not a surprise? I knew that he was a bully, and I knew that he was a very intimidating competitor. But I learned for the first time about his sexual proclivities when I read the [New Yorker] story by Ronan Farrow.

There is one scene in The Post that Spielberg tells me he improvised on the day. Graham is leaving the supreme court after the fateful ruling in the newspapers favour. A huge crowd of anti-Nixon protesters has gathered and, as she goes down the stairs, several young women spontaneously form a kind of guard of honour, lining her route. It rams home the point that Graham should be seen as a feminist role model, blazing a trail for the next generation.

Some have found that scene a little over-egged, as if Spielberg couldnt help but lay on an extra coating of sentimentality. It is a familiar accusation against the director, one that has dogged him for decades. But these days he leans into it. He owns it. That becomes clear when I ask him why he thinks the Spielberg biography by film critic Molly Haskell was published in Yale University Presss Jewish Lives series. Has his been a Jewish life? Does his work have a Jewish sensibility?

Well, Jews by and large have a sentimental quality. We also love high drama. I think both of those things are evident in most of my work.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Spielbergs 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Theres another way of looking at this question of sentimentality. Somehow Spielberg manages to peer quite hard into the dark and nevertheless find a point of light. It is wrong to think he shies away from the darkness: his subjects have included the Holocaust, slavery and domestic violence. (In 1994, he founded the Shoah Foundation, which is committed to recording on video the testimonies of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, as well as of genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia and elsewhere.) But he also ensures that audiences leave every Spielberg film with their spirits lifted. What is that about?

He smiles. Well, look. To be Jewish, you have to be optimistic, because if youre not we would have perished in the desert. Wed never have reached the end of that 40-year hike. We would all have perished without optimism.

Spielberg has plenty of it, planning for the release of sci-fi blockbuster Ready Player One, the film he interrupted to make The Post, and scanning scripts for the countless other movies he wants to make after that. Correction: not necessarily movies.

Dennis Weaver in Spielbergs 1971 film Duel. Photograph: Allstar/Universal Television

Id like to do a 10-hour miniseries very much, he says when we talk about the current surge in top-quality television. He has been looking, but I havent found one yet. With excitement, he volunteers the titles of his current three favourite shows: The Crown, The Handmaids Tale and Big Little Lies. I suggest that The Crown is not unlike The Post: the story of a woman thrust into a powerful role she never expected. Another smile: I see some of the echo between Her Majesty and Her Majesty of The Washington Post.

We talk about the nervy, nerdy boy Spielberg was as a child; the way he was bullied, singled out for particular abuse as one of the few Jewish kids in his Arizona suburb; about the 8mm movie camera he discovered aged 12 or 13, which became the antidote to being bullied. But, before long, we are talking once more about his country.

He is excited about the prospect of an Oprah Winfrey run for the presidency. He thinks she would be absolutely brilliant. Indeed, he refuses to sink into the bleak despair of so many of his fellow Hollywood liberals.

Our country has gone through all kinds of crises, and weve always bounced back from them. We are going to bounce back from this, no doubt. This is something we will look back on, we will make movies about. Well tell these stories. These will be lessons to our children of what not to do and how not to comport oneself. But we will absolutely bounce back and we will recover. All the damage being done today is reversible.

He doesnt fear for the republic?

At this moment in my life right now, with all my experience behind me, no, I do not fear for the republic.

Our time is up, we shake hands but not before he has checked to make sure my machine has recorded our conversation (Ive got your back) and we say goodbye. And it takes me a while to realise that with that last, hopeful glimpse of life after Trump, he has done it again. Even now, in a 45-minute interview to promote his new film, Steven Spielberg has supplied a Spielberg ending.

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Stephen Hawking made his mark on pop culture, as well as science

Charmaine Blake



Stephen Hawking in ‘The Simpsons.’

Image: fox

Stephen Hawking got plenty right about the universe, and that even extended to his thoughts on pop culture.

The Simpsons is the best thing on American television,” the late astrophysicist said on BBC’s The Culture Show, reflecting on his appearance on the hit animated series back in 1999.

The cameo was so prolific that it led to people thinking he was merely a character on the TV show, rather than recognising him for his work in science.

In 1999, Hawking appeared at the end of Season 10, in the episode “They Saved Lisa’s Brain,” saving the day when Springfield’s utopian meritocracy crumbled.

“I was depicted as a somewhat surreal character with enormous powers,” Hawking said, noting the show’s writers definitely used a bit of artistic license.

“Among the equipment they used for my cartoon image, I don’t like pizza, and I hope I wouldn’t use a boxing glove. Though sometimes I’m sorely tempted,” he added.

Hawking would go on to make three more appearances in The Simpsons, including an cameo where he MCs with the Flight of the Conchords. He also appeared several times as himself in Futurama.

Hawking wasn’t just an animated character. He appeared several times in The Big Bang Theory, the idea he spent much of his life working on.

“You made an arithmetic mistake on page two. It was quite a boner,” Hawking tells Sheldon after reviewing a paper on the Higgs boson in a 2012 episode.

Hawking also played himself in a 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing a poker game with the greatest minds in physics, including Einstein, Isaac Newton and Data.

“The uncertainty principle will not help you now Stephen,” Einstein tells Hawking. “All the quantum fluctuations in the world will not change the cards in your hand.”

There were also appearances on late night talk shows, like the time he kept making phone calls to Jim Carrey on the set of Late Night with Conan O’Brien back in 2007, and his recent bit with John Oliver on Last Week Tonight‘s “People Who Think Good” series.

“You’ve stated there could be an infinite number of parallel universes. Does that mean that there is a universe out there where I am smarter than you?” Oliver asked.

“Yes,” Hawking replied. “And also a universe where you’re funny.”

While Hawking kept busy making cameos on a host of television shows, he was played by other actors including Benedict Cumberbatch in 2004’s Hawking, and by Eddie Redmayne in 2014’s Theory of Everything. 

Redmayne, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance, dedicated the win to people with ALS, and the Hawking family. Hawking allowed the use of his speech synthesiser in the film.

Hawking’s influence also extended to music, where he voiced part of Pink Floyd’s 1994 track “Keep Talking” and 2014’s “Talkin’ Hawkin’,” both sampled from a BT commercial.

Although theories on relativity and black holes established him as a genius, his prevalence in pop culture made him a modern star, the likes science hadn’t seen before.

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The Shape of Water’s Oscars win is the triumph of a real artist and immersive cinema | Peter Bradshaw



Guillermo del Toro has created a richly sensual and dreamlike film that, in the end, seduced the Academy without being too threatening

At the end of a somewhat predictable evening, we were all longing for Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to work their anarchic magic, and start handing out the awards to the films that werent in the envelope. Perhaps for the sheer devilment, they could have given something to, say, Kathryn Bigelows powerful race drama Detroit, a highly plausible Oscar-worthy film, which the Academy hive mind mysteriously decided was worth precisely zilch and became utterly forgotten about. In the end, many deserving films got what they deserved, others didnt, the internal economy of awards season dictating, as it so often does, that the rich become richer. And it was hardly obvious that this was the year of radical change in Hollywoods sexual politics. As my colleague Benjamin Lee notes in his blog this years Academy Awards in fact garnered the fewest female winners for six years.

Guillermo del Toros escapist fantasy-romance The Shape of Water was the biggest winner, the story of a young womans love for a captured sea creature with best picture and best director, setting the official seal of approval on what is, by any measure, a beautifully made movie to which audiences have responded with distinctively sensual delight. It is a lovely piece of work, with a terrific performance from Sally Hawkins: you can get to the end of it, not quite believing that she doesnt say a word in the entire film, so commanding and eloquent is her presence. And yet in the end I couldnt quite swoon as much as everyone else and though this is a film which pays tribute to people who are different, it does so in the reassuring rhetoric of fabular unreality. There is something a little bit frictionless and unscary about The Shape of Water; though in progress, it has the eerie force of a dream. The Academy has gratefully submitted to its current and swirl.

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‘Stand with me’: Frances McDormand gets every female Oscar nominee on their feet video

From the acting awards, for me, easily the most satisfying is Allison Janneys barnstorming turn as LaVona Golden in I, Tonya: the dragon matriarch or icerink showbiz mom in I, Tonya, whose daughter Tonya Harding became an skating star and was then disgraced because of her ex-husbands assault on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. Like Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Janney plays an angry and unrepentant mother, and maybe the prevalence of mothers has been an under-recognised part of this years awards seasons, especially as Sam Rockwells racist cop in Three Billboards actually lives with his mother. (There is also Darren Aronofskys brilliant black comic provocation, Mother! overlooked, I am sorry to say, by the middlebrows and the sensible-shoe wearers of awards season, except of course to be mocked.) Janneys LaVona is a brilliantly nasty, funny creation, who is spared any spurious redemptive journey.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell got the best actress and best supporting actor Oscars for Martin McDonaghs jagged, angular, tonally unpredictable and for some objectionable black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The success of this film and the specific successes of these two stars in these two roles perhaps raises the thorny issue of intersectionality. McDormand radiated star quality in the part of the woman looking for justice for her raped and murdered daughter. What also radiated was her characters radioactive loathing of the police and of the men who didnt and dont care about women. She is a resoundingly satisfying and powerful winner in the era of #TimesUp. But Sam Rockwells racist cop is permitted a disputed moral comeback, and it sometimes looked as if his racism was allowed into the film as set-dressing, to offset a drama of forgiveness to which race was essentially irrelevant.

The movies admirers have been in a kind of Mexican standoff with this objection ever since it has been aired on social media, although I accept the good faith in which McDonagh created this character. Perhaps the least successful part of the film is that which is most easily forgotten: the sad, slightly whimsically uxorious tale of Woody Harrelson and his wife, played by Abbie Cornish. I personally would have preferred the best actress award to go to Saoirse Ronan for that excellent film Lady Bird, which came away from Oscar night empty-handed. And best supporting actor should really have gone to Willem Dafoe for his outstanding performance in The Florida Project: a performance which had a subtlety, resonance and genuine depth.

Of these three aforegoing adjectives, I think I can only really assign resonance to Gary Oldmans impersonation of Winston Churchill in Joe Wrights watchable wartime drama Darkest Hour, which won him his widely predicted best actor Oscar. He was roisteringly entertaining and charismatic, and the latex mask within which he was working interestingly different from the real, lived-in faces of other Churchill performances over the years gave his face precisely that babyish, cherubic expression that reportedly made him a seductive figure in real life. It was a highly watchable entertainment: comfort-food wartime entertainment, perhaps, but with a terrific storytelling zing. What actually made it different was not Oldman, in fact, but the emphasis on Halifax, an excellent performance from Stephen Dillane.

The screenplay Oscars (and the foreign language Oscar) made sure that the really great movies were not overlooked. James Ivory was a thoroughly deserving winner of the best adapted screenplay Oscar for his excellent work on Luca Guadagninos masterly love story Call Me By Your Name. It is highly satisfying to see Ivory, a veteran of cinema, get an Academy award which is not a lifetime achievement gong (though he surely deserves one of those as well) but something to recognise his continuingly vivid, urgently passionate work right now.

Get Out was the film that I had been hoping against hope might actually win best picture. Well, it won Jordan Peele the Oscar for best original screenplay, which is excellent news. Get Out is a brilliant satire on race and the gruesome twist ending of post-Obama America which functions also as a scary movie, black comedy and an acting masterclass from its four leads.

Very often, the foreign language Oscar is an embarrassing misstep for the Academy. Not last night it wasnt. I was tipping Ildik Enyedis strange love story On Body and Soul for this, while saying that Andrei Zvyagintsevs searing Russian drama Loveless would have been the worthy winner. In the end, I was wrong both ways but fair enough. The Oscar went to Sebastian Lelios glorious A Fantastic Woman, the story of a trans woman whose grief at the death of her partner is compounded by the cruelty and indifference of society. It is a wonderful film.

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‘Representation matters’: Coco director thanks the people of Mexico video

Elsewhere, there were other solid choices: Coco was the only possible choice as best animation, and this arguably could and should have been a best picture contender although it is hardly in the league of Pixar movies like The Incredibles or the Toy Stories. Roger Deakins rightly won best cinematographer for his superb work on Denis Villeneuves Blade Runner 2049, although this award, justified as it is, perhaps doesnt reflect quite how extraordinary a big-screen experience this film is.

Mark Bridges was also justly rewarded for his costume design on Phantom Thread but for me this is another point of niggling exasperation with this years awards. Paul Thomas Anderson created another brilliant film here: a really masterly piece of work with a performance by Daniel Day-Lewis which was a jewel of this years awards season. And yet it has been overlooked in favour of less interesting work.

Well, there we are. To return to The Shape of Water: however conflicted I feel about its triumph, it is certainly the work of a real artist, and someone who believes in immersive cinema, total cinema, cinema that enfolds you in a complete created world.

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Science friction: can Netflix figure out its blockbuster problem?

Charmaine Blake



Costly sci-fi films have received poor reviews but the streaming giant still has an eager audience in its vast subscriber base

The future hasnt been kind to Netflix. In the last two months, its launched three science fiction blockbusters Will Smiths orc cop adventure Bright, the shock assault The Cloverfield Paradox, and the bizarre Berlin-set Blade Runner-riff Mute each of which critics reacted to as though a cockroach crawled out of their TV (not one film managed to score over 27% on Rotten Tomatoes). A fourth attempt, Alex Garlands Annihilation, about five female explorers in a technicolor hellscape, received better reviews but Netflix still couldnt win. It scooped up theinternational distribution rights from Paramount, who lost confidence in the Natalie Portman cerebral chiller and decided to release it theatrically only in the United States, Canada and China. Netflix rescued the film for foreign audiences … who grumbled that theyd be forced to squint at Garlands giant, surrealist visuals at home on Netflix.

If Netflix could see into its own future, would it green-light each film again? Probably. Its already given the go-ahead to Bright 2, and just awarded a first look deal to the heavyweight producer of Transformers and World War Z and snatched another major studio film from the trash bin when Universal dumped the planet invasion thriller Extinction. Plus, last Friday as Mute tested wary audiences already primed to ridicule Paul Rudds handlebar mustache, Netflix announced it had won an expensive nine-way bidding war to produce another costly sci-fi flick, Life Sentence, in which convicts have their brains wiped to prevent them from repeating their crimes. Directed by War for the Planet of the Apes Matt Reeves, Life Sentence repeats the same high-concept, name-brand fantasia thats made Netflix duck tomatoes. And yet, the timing of the news feels pointed: Netflix knows exactly what its doing.

Beamed Reeves, Netflix is at the forefront of a new age in how storytellers are reaching an audience. Frankly, Netflix knows more than anyone about how people watch movies. However, the industry still doesnt know much about it. Before Netflix, a films success or failure was gauged by three numbers: its budget, its opening weekend and its total global haul. But when Netflix launched its streaming service a decade ago, it began to horde more sophisticated information. Who exactly wants to watch a movie about an orc not just which broad demographic, but which specific people sitting on their couch on a Tuesday? What are the viewing patterns even subscribers dont recognize? The key words they search, the films that make them watch other films, the scenes that make them turn a movie off?

We know what people like to watch, said Netflixs chief communications officer Jonathan Friedland when the company began to produce its own original content in 2011. It wasnt an empty boast. Netflix knew that there was an audience for their first show, House of Cards, because it had studied the overlap between David Fincher fans who also liked British miniseries. Plus, it didnt have to spend a fortune blanketing the country with ads. It could directly reach specific viewers with ten different online promos tailored to whether the target was more likely to click play for a story about a powerful woman, or for Finchers camerawork.

Since that first triumph, Netflixs subscriptions have quadrupled. Today, more Americans pay for Netflix than for cable television, and after an intensive international push, over half of Netflixs users live abroad. Its rightly been called a disruptive force in entertainment, as though founder Reid Hastings legendary annoyance at being charged a $40 late rental fee for Apollo 13 had mutated into a vengeance to destroy not just video stores, but traditional Hollywood itself. Meanwhile, though we know that Apollo 13s opening weekend box office was $25.3m, Netflix rarely trumpets financial data about its releases. Doomsaying reports claim that only 5m viewers watched Cloverfield Paradox in its first week. But crunch the numbers, and thats actually about as many people who bought a ticket to Apollo 13.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox. Photograph: Netflix/AP

Of course, the difference is that Netflix isnt trying to sell individual films. It wants to sell people on renewing their subscriptions or rather, not canceling them which is behind its strategy of taking risky swings. Sure, itd be great if the finished film was fantastic, and the companys investment in talented directors like Garland, Reeves and Mutes Duncan Jones means that it has good taste. Yet, what really matters is that people are talking about its orc cop flick, even if theyre just saying its a legendary disaster.

Traditional Hollywood studios struggle to sell full-price tickets to something iffy or complex like Annihilation or Extinction, an all-or-nothing push to inspire a trip to the theater, to make people make a choice. They have to scatter the film across 2,000 screens and spend major advertising money hoping the audience for it will hear, and care, that it exists. But Netflix embraces inertia. No ones going to cancel a subscription because one movie was bad. And hey, its fine if all people want is to sample 15 minutes of Will Smith grunting, Fairy lives dont matter, so they can join in the jokes. To Netflix, who needs less cash to reach a targeted audience and needs far less motivation from them its biggest danger in acquiring major studios cast-offs is the brand-tainting odor of being a dumpster diver.

Netflix has pledged to release 80 original films in 2018, a mix of small, quality films the company scooped up for cheap at film festivals and splashy, silly events guaranteed to get people tweeting, like the comedy Eggplant Emoji, about a teenager who loses his penis. Theres big money in giving people just enough excuses to maintain a low-risk subscription. Each month, Netflix makes nearly a half-billion in dues in America alone thats more than the entire domestic box office of Wonder Woman. For that money, they could make a high-profile disaster like Bright five times over, and still have enough pocket change for Oscar-nominated movies like Mudbound.

Perhaps to understand Netflix, we need to analyze their patterns just like theyve analyzed ours. The same key words keep coming up: strange, celebrity, curiosity, conversation. Whats more likely: that Netflix cant stop placing bad bets on costly science fiction films, or that these movies help them make money in ways the company isnt explaining? Maybe Netflix has the future figured out after all.

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