Emma Thompson was going to lend her voice for the upcoming animated film Luck. Then the film’s studio, Skydance, put John Lasseter in charge.
Skydance CEO David Ellison hired Lasseter just days after he left his posts at Disney and Pixar under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations.
“It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate,” Thompson wrote in a letter to Skydance management. The Los Angeles Times published the letter in full this week.
The letter is full of excellent points, including this one:
If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don't want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?
I applaud Thompson for not only stepping away from Luck, but for using her powerful voice to articulate why she was doing so. That’s how things really change, when people combine speaking out with standing up.
“If people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation,” she continued.
As I read about this news this week, what came to mind for me was that Luck would not have been the first time Thompson worked on an animated film overseen by Lasseter. She also voiced the queen Elinor in Brave, which would have been Pixar’s first feature film to be directed by a woman, before that woman — Brenda Chapman — was fired from the project and replaced with a man.
(Years later, that milestone of “first Pixar feature directed by a woman” remains unreached — though Domee Shi won an Oscar on Sunday for directing the short film Bao.)
I wonder what Thompson thought of the culture she saw at Pixar during the troubled production of Brave. Chapman has described her experience as “devastating.”
Thompson has seen Lasseter lead a film she was a part of, and she’s opted out of going through that again. I don’t blame her.
On my radar: March 1-7, 2019
To put something good on my radar, please get in touch.
Saturday, March 2
📺 Saturday Night Live (New episode @ 11:30 p.m., NBC, John Mulaney hosting with musical guest Thomas Rhett) — With the exception of the recent excellent episode featuring Halsey, SNL is stale these days. Alec Baldwin’s impression of Trump is neither biting nor revealing, Che and Jost bring a spirit of out-of-touch self-congratulations to “Weekend Update” each week, and the show’s best cast members often get underutilized. But I still can’t give up on this show, which is over-ripe for disruption from newer and fresher voices. There have been better sketch shows, and live TV is less relevant now than it used to be, but the live format still means something to me, and so until another show comes along, I’ll be tuning in to the institution that is SNL.
Sunday, March 3
📚 Sunday Film Discussion at Inwood Library (Inwood Library @ 2 p.m.) — A screening of the 1960 film House of Usher in 16mm, paired with a short film. More info.
Monday, March 4
📺 Leaving Neverland (Part 2 @ 8 p.m., HBO) — The second half of the Michael Jackson documentary will air on HBO, followed immediately by a special with Oprah Winfrey.
🎬 Clemency (Release date TBD, but will open New Directors New Films in NYC on March 27. Tickets go on sale March 4) — This film by Chinonye Chukwu won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival but still has not been picked up for distribution. You can sign up here to get notified when it does. The film is a drama about a woman whose job at death row leads to a crisis of faith in her employment. Sounds amazing.
Tuesday, March 5
📚 African American Genealogy Part 1: An Introduction (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building @ 2 p.m.) — This class aims to provide folks with genealogical tools to trace their African American ancestors. I am interested to attend out of general curiosity, but also because I have been hoping to trace my own white ancestors’ history of owning slaves, and I hope the teachers of this class will point me in a good direction. More info.
🎭 White Noise (The Public Theater, opens March 5, closes April 16) — Very excited to see Daveed Diggs perform in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ new play, which, according to the official description is “about race, friendship, and our rapidly unraveling social contract.” More info.
Wednesday, March 6
📚 Midweek Movie: The Famous Ferguson Case (Riverside Library @ 11:15 a.m.) — More info.
📚 Stonewall 50: The Experience of Unstably Housed LGBTQ Youth and the Importance of Public Space (George Bruce Library @ 4-5:30 p.m.) — More info.
Thursday, March 7
🎬 Captain Marvel (In theaters March 8, early screenings March 7) — What message was in the mysterious text Nick Fury sent at the end of Avengers: Infinity War? I bet we're going to find out. The film is set in the '90s, and the fate of Blockbuster Video hangs in the balance.
📺 Superstore (New episode @ 8 p.m., NBC) — Slept on this show for too long. It's hilarious and well-written.
📺 Broad City (New episode @ 10 p.m., Comedy Central) — The final season continues!
🎬 Movie Marathon Series: The MCU in chronological order — I’m doing a series of movie marathons this year, and the first is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, leading up to Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. More info.
At the end of each newsletter, I look to -- the past! -- to mention the most most notable pieces of culture I've been paying attention to, whether they were previously on my radar or not.
🎬 Apollo 11 (Now playing on IMAX screens, in regular theaters March 8) — A new documentary that played at Sundance last month, Apollo 11 is composed of extraordinary, large-format, never-before-seen footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission. No talking heads or commentary, just archival footage that made my jaw drop for 90 minutes. I strongly recommend you seek this film out on the largest screen you can find it on. More info.
📺 Film Independent Spirit Awards — Host Aubrey Plaza was a perfect emcee the night before the Oscars. She was hilarious and brought a sharp wit to the festivities that was definitely lacking the next evening. Check out her monologue here.
🤣 Movies, Musicals, and Me (UCB Hell’s Kitchen, Next show: March 18 @ 10:30 p.m.) — This was one of the best things I have seen so far at UCB. It’s created by Al Fallick, Clark Baxtresser and Pierce Siebers, with Fallick and Baxtresser on stage performing along with special guest performers. Fallick plays a conceited Broadway star named Halpert Evans, and the night plays like a revue of classic Broadway tunes, only they are all original parody songs of pretend musicals based on real movies. At the show this week, Fallick dressed in full Buzz Lightyear costume at one point and also played Forrest Gump. Every single performer was amazing and could perform on Broadway (and indeed, some of them have). I will definitely be back for more. More info.
🎭 Network (Broadway, closes June 8) — I saw this with a walk-up standing-room-only ticket and I enjoyed it! The show has some compelling stagecraft, and Cranston’s energy is electric. More info.
Visit the full list for my complete listing of upcoming movies, TV shows and more.
ADDED THIS WEEK:
🤣 Crate Night w/ Set Fires (UCB Hell’s Kitchen, March 14 @ 9 p.m.) — Improv from the writers of Late Night with Seth Meyers. Last time Katie and I went, they did a bit based on our love. More info.
🤣 Shamilton (UCB Hell’s Kitchen, March 16 @ 10:30 p.m.) — An improvised hip-hop musical based on an historical figure of the audience’s choosing. More info.
💿 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Blu-ray (March 19) — One of the best movies in years comes out on Blu-ray! Really looking forward to picking up a copy.
🤣 SHIZ: Broadway Meets Sketch Comedy (UCB Hell’s Kitchen, March 25 @ 10:30 p.m.) — I have been meaning to see this show since I found out it was created by my fave Shaina Taub and her husband Matt Gehring. Now it’s coming to UCB and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that. More info.
📺 Barry (Returns March 31 @ 10 p.m., HBO) -- The first season of Barry was a comedy about what it means to kill (both people and onstage). I can't wait for more. Trailer.
🎭 Socrates (The Public Theater, opens April 2, closes May 19) — Tim Blake Nelson directs, but what I’m most looking forward to is seeing Michael Stuhlbarg in the cast. More info.
📺 Tony nominees announced (April 30) — The American Theatre Wing will announce the nominees for the 2019 Tony Awards. More info.
📺 The Tony Awards (June 9) — The American Theatre Wing will award the 2019 Tony Awards. More info.
🎬 Midsommar (In theaters Aug. 9) — From A24 and writer/director Ari Aster (Hereditary), this looks to be another piece of horror cinematic art. Also starring The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper! More info.
Thanks for reading! What's on your radar? Get in touch to let me know! And look for my next letter to go out on March 8.