In This Episode
- Hollywood is going through some massive changes. The Golden Globes, usually the start of awards show season, was a non-event when it took place earlier this week because of problems that face the organization that puts it on, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Plus, theaters continue to struggle to lure back moviegoers except with big tentpole films. The Hollywood Reporter’s Senior Film Editor Rebecca Keegan joins us to discuss what’s going wrong and what the future of the film industry looks like.
- And in headlines: The White House promised 10 million free COVID tests to schools nationwide every month, more than 8,000 grocery store workers at Colorado King Soopers grocery stores went on strike, and inflation climbed to the highest it’s been in 40 years.
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Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, January 13th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, where we both graduated from Euphoria High School, but we’re too busy with extracurricular activities to do anything too crazy.
Gideon Resnick: I had no time to do insane drugs or almost die because I was editing the school newspaper.
Tre’vell Anderson: People didn’t invite me to parties because they knew I had my hands full, OK? On today’s show, over 8,000 grocery store workers in Colorado went on strike yesterday. Plus inflation jumped to its highest levels in 40 years.
Gideon Resnick: Not great. But first, today, we’re going to update you on the state of Hollywood and the film industry, which is going through some pretty massive changes right now, to say the least. And that is becoming all the more apparent as this awards season unfolds. So the Screen Actors Guild announced its nominations yesterday, and the Oscar nominations are going to be unveiled early next month. And that was all proceeded as usual by the illustrious Golden Globes on Sunday.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, but Gideon, if you didn’t say it just now, people might not have known. That’s because the industry has been side eyeing and boycotting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association—those are the people who put on the Globes—over a number of issues, making it less relevant in awards season when it used to help set trends. So we wanted to talk about all of that, but also the future of film, with many movies struggling to draw audiences back into theaters. Joining us to discuss it all is The Hollywood Reporter’s senior film editor Rebecca Keegan. Welcome to WAD.
Rebecca Keegan: Happy to be here.
Tre’vell Anderson: So let’s start with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or the HFPA. Full disclosure: because of some of the recent controversies over the last year, namely them not having any Black members, the HFPA kicked off a number of diversity and inclusion efforts over the last year, one of which included hiring me and four other nonmembers to join a committee to review the applications of folks who apply to be members of the HFPA. So Rebecca, could you talk to us about some of the other issues that the HFPA has been navigating over the last year and how they have attempted to course correct with some of the accusations and criticism that they’ve received?
Rebecca Keegan: Sure. I mean, they’ve long been the butt of jokes. If you remember, you know, Ricky Gervais’s jokes at the telecast, there’s sort of an open secret about issues like the HFPA members accepting trips and gifts and in exchange for awarding certain films or certain performances. But this past year, the L.A. Times did a series of stories that were sort of kicked off by a lawsuit from someone who was applying for membership to the HFPA, and it really forced people to look a little more closely at the organization.
Tre’vell Anderson: So how would you say those changes have been received by the larger industry? We know that NBC still didn’t air the show this year. We know that the show that they did have didn’t have much celebrity glitz and glam as part of it. How have folks responded?
Rebecca Keegan: It feels sort of like the town has the HFPA sitting in the time out naughty mat corner, you know? Like, think about what you did! It does not seem like people are ready yet to welcome back the HFPA for the efforts that they’re making. I think it’s going to take some time to rebuild trust. I think people are also starting to just ask the question Why is this organization or this show been worth so much energy, so much attention, so many resources? Why does this small group of people as opposed to any other group of people, why do their opinions matter and have the ability to shape how films perform at the box office and how people’s careers unfold?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And to that point, that small group has often signaled the start of the film awards season, their opinions have at least. Considering that this show did not air on TV this year, and many press outlets didn’t do the typical coverage of both the nominees or winners, does it feel like something is missing, and do you get the sense that there will be a legitimate future life for the HFPA and the Globes considering all of this?
Rebecca Keegan: Well, it’s interesting that this happened, sort of non-event happened, during the pandemic because really nothing is happening. All of the glitzy, you know, red carpet events that normally happen in January that signal this kind of march toward the Oscars are happening virtually, if at all. So there’s a way in which potentially the HFPA is benefiting from having to go through this controversy at a time when the industry is so quiet. I do think people miss the sort of fizz and fun of the Golden Globes. There was a chaotic energy and a sort of hot mess-ness to that telecast in particular that’s fun and if they can find a way to recapture that while also kind of making these existential changes, potentially they can come back.
Tre’vell Anderson: Definitely. So now beyond awards, the industry itself has had to deal with a major shift since over the last two years. People weren’t going to the movie theaters. We’re living through a pandemic right now. And so we’ve seen a lot of new movie start premiering simultaneously in theaters and on streaming platforms. In the midst of that, a number of movie theaters closed. And now it seems like we’re moving back to a space where films are premiering exclusively in theaters. Can you talk about kind of why that is, why we’re seeing that shift?
Rebecca Keegan: I’ve been covering Hollywood for almost 20 years, and I have never seen a period of time where people are this clueless about what is going to happen next. I mean, when people say, I don’t know, they really don’t know. And I’m hearing that from everyone, from the heads of studios to directors. It seems like the pandemic cemented a lot of changes that were already on the way. It may have permanently taught people to expect certain types of movies at home and really only one type of movie in theaters. And that is, you know, a spectacle-driven comic book movie like Spider-Man. Lots of people are vaccinated, but people don’t seem to be coming back, despite that.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I was going to ask, like, do we have a sense of whether there is enough of an audience out there that is willing to, you know, put on a mask and go to a theater to see Being The Ricardos or House of Gucci, or whatever?
Rebecca Keegan: You kind of have to ask yourself now before you go to the movies like is this worth potentially getting sick over? You know, it’s not just like, it used to be is this worth, you know, 12 bucks? And now it’s like, I mean, Nicole Kidman looks great, but that’s going to be on Amazon in five minutes so is this worth, you know, potentially getting COVID?
Gideon Resnick: Spider-Man No Way Home was this enormous deal because it did premiere in theaters only. It has since gone on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time. At the time of this recording, it is the sixth highest, beating out Titanic and The Avengers. We’ve been kind of driving at this, but what is the conversation around what this is supposed to mean for us as people in media, as watchers of movies, the industry overall?
Rebecca Keegan: It means that people will leave their houses for certain movies. It’s just an incredibly narrow, apparently, movie. It is not just a superhero movie, it’s the ultimate fan service movie. This is just a wild anomaly what’s going on with Spider-Man? I hope that it makes people enjoy being in the theaters and remember, like, Oh, this was fun, and want to come back and see other things. But of course, there have to be the other things to see. You know, if studios start just releasing everything quickly to streaming or on demand, there’s just not going to be that much choice at the theater.
Tre’vell Anderson: I will say that I did not go see Sing II in the theaters like I wanted to, but I did enjoy streaming it at home and paying $25 for it. It was wonderful. Anyway, Rebecca Keegan is the senior film editor for The Hollywood Reporter. Thanks so much for joining us.
Rebecca Keegan: Thanks, guys.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, more on all of that very soon, including if Spider-Man will get any Oscars. I don’t know. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: More than 8,000 grocery store workers at King Soopers stores across Colorado went on strike yesterday. It began in the Denver area a day after their union rejected the chain’s latest proposal, which the company called its quote, “last, best, and final offer.” But the union said this proposal was even worse than the original one. Negotiations started back in October, but the existing contract expired on January 8th because the union and grocery chain couldn’t compromise. Workers are picketing King Soopers and its parent company, Kroger, because of unfair labor practices. Kim Cordova, the president of their union, told us this yesterday:
Kim Cordova: King Soopers and Kroger are the largest grocers, not just in Colorado, but in the United States. Yet the workers here are mostly part time, and they are barely paid at minimum wage. And so workers, our members are experiencing homelessness or food insecurity.
Tre’vell Anderson: The strike is expected to last for at least three weeks. We will keep following this strike and air more of our conversation with Cordova tomorrow.
Gideon Resnick: Bad news for anyone who thought the rent was already too damn high: the latest numbers from the consumer price index came out yesterday, and they show that housing prices jumped 4.1% compared to the year before. On top of that, inflation also climbed 7% through the course of 2021, the highest that it’s been in 40 years. That means that people in the U.S. are paying even more for basics like rent and groceries. Some of the reasons include landlords charging more because of increased demand, as well as the stuck supply chain that is keeping factories closed and goods off of shelves. Now, that sticker shock across the board has put pressure on the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve to take action soon to cool things off a bit. And one possibility came up on Tuesday when Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers this:
[clip of Jerome Powell] If we see inflation persisting at high levels longer than expected, if we have to raise interest rates more over time, we will.
Tre’vell Anderson: COVID tests continue to be the main test we associate with schools instead of tests about, you know, cell division or something. Yesterday, the White House promised 10 million free COVID tests to schools nationwide every month, both PCR and rapid, with rapid antigen tests to start shipping in February. A portion of these tests are intended for screening, where students with no symptoms are tested regularly in hopes of detecting new infections. The moves fit with Biden’s push to keep schools in-person, but it’s coming late with Omicron cases near their peak in some parts of the country. Nationally, some students are speaking out about what they consider to be unsafe conditions for in-person learning. Hundreds of students in New York City walked out yesterday, calling for an option to take classes from home. And in Oakland Unified School District, students are threatening to boycott in-person classes unless the district provides more testing, sends free K95 masks to students, and more.
Gideon Resnick: I can say I have never wanted to hear more about the SAT as I have now. Just some other kind of test would be good. One fun fact about England is that when people in power violate their own COVID guidelines, there they do it on the opposite side of the road. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly apologized yesterday for attending a happy hour at the garden of Downing Street in May of 2020, when the rest of the country was under strict lockdown. For weeks, Johnson has been challenging the very existence of the party and the allegation that he attended it, ripping lines straight from the playbook of a teenager whose parents left for the weekend and returned to find a big crack in their precious vase. Yesterday was the first time he admitted that he was there, speaking here at the House of Commons:
[clip of PM Boris Johnson] I want to apologize. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months, and I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
Gideon Resnick: Boris Johnson did continue to insist that he attended the party under the assumption that it was a quote, “work event” in spite of an invitation from Johnson’s private secretary advising about 100 potential attendees to quote, “bring their own booze.” OK. Members of the opposition Labor Party and even some with the Johnson’s Conservative Party are calling on him to step down over his handling of the event. For now, the Prime Minister is asking lawmakers to wait for an internal investigation into the BYOB party and others like it hosted at Downing Street to conclude. What is this internal investigation going to yield? How many drinks he had?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, apparently he had too many because he didn’t remember he was there.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it was a bit of a good event. Good for him. Also we’re talking about something that happened nearly two years ago now. It’s crazy that it took so long to reach this point but here we are. And those are the headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: One more thing before we go: this week on Pod Save The World, Ben talks with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk about tensions with Russia and how Ukraine plans to maintain democracy despite Putin’s efforts to destroy it. Plus, Ben and Tommy discuss protests and power struggles in Kazakhstan, Boris Johnson’s garden party problems—you heard a little bit about that already—how Novak Djokovic’s vaccination status caused the diplomatic crisis in Australia, and more. New episodes of Pod Save The World drop every Wednesday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, hands off your parents precious vase, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading, and not just study guides on cell division like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And shout out to our alma mater, Euphoria High School.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they taught me this journalism you’re hearing today.
Tre’vell Anderson: They taught me nothing, but I’m still here with Gideon, so it worked out.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. We’re happy. We’re happy to still be together. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.