Top Gun: Maverick stands up to China; Tesla plans a drive-in; Stranger Things viewership is a huge win for Netflix; that girl on Stranger Things is right, Kate Bush is awesome. All in today’s Rundown.
But First: On the latest MovieMaker podcast, we talk with Dr. Gilda Sheppard about her new film Since I Been Down, which follows a man named Kimonti Carter from his indoctrination into a gang at age 11, to committing murder at 18, and now trying, in his 40s, to make amends and give other prisoners a second chance. You can listen on Apple or Spotify or here:
Top Gun: Maverick Stands Up to China: We’re sorry we ever doubted you, Top Gun: Maverick. A book excerpt we cited in this newsletter months ago said Maverick self-censored itself to appease China, by removing a Taiwanese flag from Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s jacket. (China considers Taiwan a rogue territory rather than an independent country.) But now we know that either the book was wrong, or the filmmakers changed their minds, because the Taiwan flag patch is, in fact, in the movie, according to Taiwan News and others. In fact, Bloomberg reports that during an advanced screening in Taiwan, audiences cheered when the flag appeared on screen. Bloomberg also reports that Top Gun: Maverick isn’t expected to be released in Chinese theaters. This is a welcome case of a major blockbuster not trying to kiss up to Chinese government censors.
Housekeeping: In light of this development, we have updated our previous references to the book, and also updated our May 26 story on who the mysterious enemy is in Top Gun: Maverick. But we still don’t think it’s China.
MLFF: At the Mammoth Lakes Film Festivals, one of our 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, Marat Parkhomovsky’s drama Tel Aviv won two awards and Clay Tatum and Whitmer Thomas’ ghost comedy The Civil Dead won the jury award for best North American narrative feature. Here’s Caleb Hammond with all the winners.
Stranger Things Record: Since premiering last Friday, Stranger Things Season 4 has racked up 286.79 million hours of viewing — the biggest weekend premiere ever for a Netflix series. (Bridgerton previously held the record.)
Congratulations: It’s a great win for Netflix at a time it can really use one — the company’s stock cratered after it announced it had lost 200,000 viewers in the first quarter of this year, never mind that it picked up 10 million new subscribers just in the first three months of the pandemic. The New York Times ran a very readable profile of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos over the weekend, in which he addressed questions like whether he thinks he’ll keep his job. (Yes.)
From Video Store Clerk to CEO: I also learned from the Times profile that Sarandos dropped out of community college, and also once worked in a video store — like two of my favorite characters on Stranger Things. Maybe I’m a sucker, but learning this made me root harder for both Sarandos and Netflix.
May I Editorialize? As massive companies go, Netflix is definitely one of the better ones. Yes, I have issues with it sapping audiences from movie theaters. But it has also supported lots of movies I love — like The Irishman — that might never have been made if not for Netflix. And released them in theaters. It has also richly expanded the number and variety of voices we see onscreen, and remember when Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings pledged $120 million to historically Black colleges and universities?
Also: Hubie Halloween.
Fun Trailer: If you’ve burned through Stranger Things and are looking for something else with a throwback vibe — maybe a little more E.T. and Home Alone than A Nightmare on Elm Street? — you might enjoy the Vietnamese family film Maika the Girl From Another Galaxy. It’s adapted from a 70s Czech TV show that became quite popular in Vietnam.
Tesla Drive-In: Elektrek reports that Tesla is planning a diner/drive-in movie theater at the site of the Shakey’s pizza parlor on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. (Six-year-old me: “Nooooo, not Shakey’s!”) What interests me most is that it will reportedly show 30-minute films, the length it’s supposed to take to charge your car. Whatever your thoughts on Tesla, I would not hate living in a world where more people watch short films while charging their electric vehicles. But does Shakey’s have to go? One of my biggest thrills as a kid was watching cartoons and The Dukes of Hazzard on a big screen at the local pizza parlor on Friday nights. Shout out to Straw Hat Pizza in San Pedro.
Kate Bush: I guess everyone knows her 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” shot up to No. 1 on iTunes because of its prominent role in saving a Stranger Things character from a grisly demise? This is what I call a great excuse to post an ’80s video. But I’m sure you’ve already watched the fantastic one for “Running Up That Hill,” so I humbly submit this one instead — a model of beauty and simplicity. I love this song:
Main image: Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel in the video for “Don’t Give Up.”