The question of what movie to watch is a loaded one. The list of movies to watch bends to the will of passwords you’ve acquired for various streaming services whether your own or from a generous friend or family member.
Most streamers have a staple service — the one that’s been solidified into our monthly budget like bills and rent (probably Netflix for most people in the UK). But your reliable option probably doesn’t have every single film you want to watch, especially when titles are constantly flip-flopping which service they call home.
marks 2018 as the start of the streaming wars. Since then, the streaming service market has been an ever-evolving car crash. Disney+ came out in 2019, followed by HBO Max and Peacock in 2020, and then Discovery+ arriving and CBS All Access turning into Paramount+ in 2021. This isn’t even counting any niche platforms that were also introduced in such a short time. Read more…
BEST FOR RANGE
There’s a reason that the iconic buh bum sound just played in your head — Netflix is that widespread because it’s that good.
- Price: £5.99/month for Basic, £9.99/month for Standard, or £13.99/month for Premium
- Free trial: None
- Max simultaneous streams: 1 with Basic, 2 with Standard, or 4 with Premium
BEST FOR DISNEY, MARVEL, AND STAR WARS
The combination of nostalgia and action between Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and vault classics is unbeatable.
- Price: £5.99/month
- Free trial: None
- Max simultaneous streams: 4
BEST FOR AMAZON REGULARS
Anyone who already pays for Prime shipping has access to one of the best streaming libraries on the market.
- Price: £7.99/month or £79/year
- Free trial: 30 days
- Max simultaneous streams: 3
BEST FOR HORROR
A must in the pocket of any horror fan, Shudder organises its scary-good selection of classics and originals with sick curation.
- Price: £3.99/month
- Free trial: 7 days
- Max simultaneous streams: 1
BEST FOR STAR-STUDDED ORIGINALS
Head to Apple TV+ for fresh original films and music docs featuring some pretty huge stars.
- Price: £4.99/month
- Free trial: 7 days
- Max simultaneous streams: 6
Marvel’s Spider-crew has been mercilessly toying with fans today, with stars Tom Holland, Jacob Batalon, and Zendaya each sharing different title cards revealing different titles for the next MCU Spider-Man film. According to Holland’s Instagram, the third film will be called Spider-Man: Phone Home, giving a distinct E.T. vibe. However, Batalon’s feed declared the title to be Spider-Man: Home-Wrecker. To make matters more confusing, Zendaya then announced a third potential name: Spider-Man: Home Slice.
Unfortunately, Holland didn’t seem inclined to clear up any of the confusion in an interview with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday. The one thing the current Spider-Man would say, however, is that, despite rampant fan speculation, former Spider-Men Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire do not have cameos in the film. Read more…
Nothing says “Happy New Year” quite like a good, old-fashioned…jello explosion? Well, OK!
During NBC’s 2021 New Year’s Eve celebration on Thursday, The Office stars Kate Flannery and Oscar Nunez made a surprise appearance to mark the sitcom’s official move from Netflix to Peacock. In a pre-taped stunt, the ludicrously likable sitcom alums reflected on the (to put it mildly) bumpy past few months and enthused over the promise of a fresh trip around the sun.
Then, they topped off those cozy sentiments by putting some World’s Best Boss-style mugs — that read “2020: Best Year Ever” — inside of a yellow jello mold and blowing them up in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. Obviously. Read more…
“Are you okay?”
I don’t have a good answer to the question. Knowing full well that I’m talking back to an algorithm — even one asking the same question of everyone with a different band mad-libbed in — doesn’t soften the blow. Am I? Are we? Is anyone, really?
In this case, it’s referring to Waxahatchee. I mean, yeah, I totally listened to a lot of Waxahatchee this year. Waxahatchee is good. Saint Cloud was one of my favorite albums of the year. Katie Crutchfield’s music doesn’t exist in the Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen bin for me. It’s not time to send up the signal flares when you see the band all over my Spotify social feed.
The Spotify roasting AI that’s been making the rounds this week is a fun exercise in music snobbery. It also may be brushing against some larger truth here. Something I think we all considered at least in passing this year when Spotify offered its annual “Wrapped” year in review.
What’s the soundtrack to the worst year, ever? What do we listen to while the world burns? In 2009, a former CNN intern stumbled across a video tape in the archives labeled with the title, “Turner Doomsday Video.” The minute-long video features a band playing, “Nearer My God To Thee,” believed to be the final song played by the band on the Titanic. It carried the explicit instructions, “HFR [Hold for Release] till end of the world confirmed.”
Barring any sort of last-minute surprise, it seems likely we’ll make it through 2020 shy of a full-on apocalypse (in spite of, perhaps, the best efforts of some). But for me, Spotify’s year in review was a testament to hell year, just as my Apple Watch exercise bars saw a zeroing out in late-March and April, as the pandemic bore down on my home of Queens, New York and I dealt with some personal health issues.
What was pitched as a celebratory aggregation of my listening habits over the previous 12 months exited the machine as a testament to the long stretches of time where engaging with music felt like an impossibility. Ambient music and post-rock got me listening again when lyrics seemed like too much to process. And I’m sure I’m not alone in having listened to some comfort tracks with an alarming frequency.
Looking back is a useful reminder of the role music played in what undoubtedly qualifies as the worst year to date for many. It would be an overstatement to suggest that music saved my life in 2020, but it certainly cushioned the blow of one too many emotional gut punches.
“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear,” the late-neurologist, Oliver Sacks wrote. “But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”
Louis Armstrong put it even more succinctly: “music is life itself.”
It’s a cruel irony that, in a year when music has meant so much to so many, most musicians have struggled to make ends meet. The musical field certainly isn’t unique in that respect this year, but their struggles have been pronounced in an era when streaming revenues offer fractions of cents what musicians make in record sales, and touring has become the most important revenue stream for all but the biggest names. For the past 10 months, that all but dried up.
“The pandemic utterly decimated the live-music industry,” Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy noted in a recent interview. “There’s been almost an entire year now of absolutely zero revenue.”
In May, a survey from the Musician’s Union noted that 19% of musicians said they might end up giving up their careers due to the impact of COVID-19. Seven months later, one wonders whether that figure might have been optimistic.
Tweedy adds, “There will be places to play. But the landscape won’t ever look the same. I imagine that a lot of the more intimate music venues will be gone, just like a lot of small businesses and restaurants.”
Bandcamp has been a beacon for many. The service’s “Bandcamp Fridays,” which waive its revenue cut, have raised $40 million to date. The site has promised to continue offering the feature at least through May of next year.
This year’s struggles have served to highlight concerns over streaming royalties. Spotify has understandably been the focal point for this conversation, all while the company has spent hundreds of millions to bolster its podcast programming. CEO Daniel Ek didn’t do himself any favors in July when he noted, “Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.”
In October, Justice at Spotify rep (and Galaxie 500 member) Damon Kurkowski told me “[R]esponse from certain corners of the industry has been as cold as we expected: ‘You’re just musicians and don’t understand business,’ is the basic gist of it. To which I would say: The problem we are calling attention to is precisely that musicians have been left out of the conversation! We always come last in payment and in consultation — even though our work is what the streaming business is built on.”
The struggle to survive on music is nothing new, of course. Jazz genius Thelonious Monk famously had a benefactor in Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. But just because we’ve failed musicians in the past doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t do better.
Am I okay? I’m still not sure, but listening to music seems to help.
It feels like a million years since John Krasinski last graced YouTube with an episode of Some Good News, the adorably janky posi-vibes-only fake news show he created in the first wave of the pandemic. (It was May, by the wayMay.) And we thought we’d seen the last of Krasinski behind the SGN home-office desk when he wrapped it up after eight installments earlier this year (and controversially sold the show to CBS).
But given that the pandemic is raging well into its tenth and most deadly month, with the nation’s elected representatives having spent all year deliberating whether or not to help its desperate citizens out with a non-insulting amount of cash relief (spoiler: they picked “not”), Krasinski threw some tinsel up in his study again for a surprise holiday special. Read more…
“Hi, I’m Rivers from the band, Weezer,” Rivers Cuomo says with a slight smile and a wave. He turns away from the camera for a bit, before launching into his best infomercial pitch. “Imagine you’re on tour, and you’re sitting in your dressing room or your tour bus. You’re backstage. You have stage fright, you’re stressing out. You’re pacing back and forth. And then on top of that, your tour manager is constantly calling you, asking you logistical questions.”
As far as internet pitch videos go, it’s not the most universal. If anything, the three-minute clip loses any hope of populist appeal by the end. In a final shot, the singer in a maroon SpaceX hoodie is the last up the ramp onto a private jet. The plane door closes revealing a Weezer flying “W” logo.
“Download Drivetimes now, on GitHub,” Cuomo adds in voice-over. “This is CS50X.”
It’s not the most polished app pitch video, and Cuomo’s elevator pitch could probably do with a bit of refining before approaching venture capitalists about a seed round. As far as final projects for online programming courses go, however, it’s something to behold. The images alternate between pages of code, Google spreadsheets and POV shots as he takes the stage for a co-headlining tour with the Pixies.
It helped earn Cuomo a 95 in the class.
But while, in its current configuration, the Drivetime tour scheduling tool might have limited appeal, the musician’s final project from Harvard’s follow-up course, CS50W, is immediately apparent for an army of fans who have followed his quarter-century-plus career. This week Cuomo dropped more than 2,400 demos totaling more than 86 hours. Spanning 1976 to 2015, the songs range in quality from tape-recorded sketches to more polished fare. Some would eventually find their way onto Weezer’s 13 albums, or assorted side projects. Others wouldn’t be so lucky.
Available through Cuomo’s “Mr. Rivers’ Neighborhood” site, the tracks are gathered into nine bundles, each available for $9 a piece. “By the way,” Cuomo writers at the bottom of a disclaimer, “this market is my final project for a course I’m taking in web programming.”
For half-a-decade, the platinum-selling rock star has been moonlighting as a computer programming student.
“I was always a spreadsheet guy,” Cuomo tells TechCrunch. “Around 2000, I think I started in Microsoft Access and then Excel. Just keeping track of all my songs and demos and ideas. Spreadsheets got more and more complicated to the point where it was like, ‘Well, I’m kind of almost writing code here in these formulas, except it’s super hard to use. So maybe I should actually do programming instead.’ ”
It would be an odd side hustle for practically any other successful musician. For Cuomo, however, it’s the next logical step. In the wake of the massive success of Weezer’s self-titled debut, he enrolled as a sophomore at Harvard, spending a year living in a dorm. He would ultimately leave school to record the band’s much-loved follow-up, Pinkerton, but two more more enrollments in 1997 and 2004 found the musician ultimately graduating with an English BA in 2006.
CS50 found Cuomo returning to Harvard — at least in spirit. The course is hosted online by the university, a free introduction to computer science.
“I went through some online courses and was looking for something that looked appealing and so I saw the Harvard CS50 was very popular,” Cuomo says. “So I was like, ‘Well, I’ll give this a shot.’ It didn’t take immediately. The first week course was using Scratch. I don’t know if you know that, but it’s like kind of click and drag type of programming, and you’re making a little video game.”
A six-week course stretched out for six months for the musician. That same year, the musician — now a father of two — played dozens of shows and recorded Weezer’s 10th album, the Grammy-nominated White Album.
“When we hit Python halfway through the course,” Cuomo says, “I was just amazed at how powerful it was and intuitive it was for me, and I could just get so much done. Then by the end of the course, I was writing programs that were really helping me manage my day-to-day life as a traveling musician and then also managing my spreadsheets and managing my work as a creative artist.”
For Cuomo, productivity has never been much of an issue. The band has two albums completed beyond this year’s Black Album, and he’s already begun work on two more follow-ups. What has seemingly been a bigger issue, however, is organizing those thoughts. That’s where the spreadsheets and database come in.
The “thousands” of spreadsheets became a database, cataloging Cuomo’s own demos and work he was studying from other artists.
“For years it seemed like kind of a waste of time or an indulgence,” he says. “I should be writing a new song or, or recording a song rather than just cataloging these old ideas, but I’ve found that, years later, I’m able to very efficiently make use of these ancient ideas because I can just tell my Python program, ‘Hey, show me all the ideas I have at 126 BPM in the key of A flat that start with a third degree of the scale and the melody and are in Dorian mode and that my manager has given three stars or more to.’ ”
He admits that the process may be lacking in some of the rock and roll romanticism for which fans of the bands might hope. But in spite of drawing on pages of analytics, Cuomo insists there’s still magic present.
For Cuomo, productivity has never been much of an issue. Given his level of productivity, however, organizing all of those thoughts can get tricky. That’s where the spreadsheets and database come in.
“There’s still plenty of room for spontaneity and inspiration in what we traditionally think of as human creativity,” Cuomo explains. “One of my heroes in this realm is Igor Stravinsky. There’s a collection of his lectures called “The Poetics of Music.” And he had a note in that collection. He said he has no interest in a composer that’s only using one of his faculties, like a composer that says, ‘I am only going to write what pops into my head spontaneously when I’m in some kind of a creative zone. I won’t use any of my other tools.’
“He says, ‘No, I prefer to listen to the music of a composer who’s using every faculty at his disposal, his intuition, but also his intellect and his ability to analyze and categorize and make use of everything he has.’ I find that those ended up being the most wild and unpredictable and creative compositions.”
And there’s been no shortage of compositions. Cuomo says the band has two albums completed beyond this year’s Black Album, and he’s already begun work on two more follow-ups. After decades of feeling beholden to the 18-month major label album release cycle, the singer says that after the Demos project, he has a newfound interest in finding more ways to release music directly to fans.
“I don’t feel like I’m really good at understanding the big-picture marketplace and how to make the biggest impact in the world,” he says. “My manager is so good at that, but I just told them like, ‘Hey, this feels like something here. First of all, it’s really fun. The fans are really happy. It’s super easy for everyone involved.’ The coding part wasn’t easy, but for everyone else, it’s a couple of clicks and you’ve got all this music, and it’s a cheap price, and there’s no middleman. PayPal takes a little bit, but it’s nothing like a major label. So, this could be something. And there’s just something, it feels so good when it’s directly from me to the audience.”
For now, computer science continues to take up a major chunk of his time. Cuomo estimates that he’s been spending around 70% of his work hours on programming projects. On Wednesday nights, he helps out with programming for a meditation site (another decades-long passion), and he plans to take Harvard’s follow-up CS50M course, which centers around developing for mobile apps.
There are, however, no immediate plans to quit his day job.
“I can’t see me getting a job at a startup or something or maintaining somebody’s website,” he says. “But maybe the line between rock star and web developer is getting blurred so that musicians will be making more and more use of technological tools. Besides just the music software, we’ll be making more and more use of means of distribution and organization and creativity that’s coming out in the way we code our connection to the audience.”
On paper, “The Queen’s Gambit” might not sound like a compelling drama: Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, the Netflix series tells the story of Beth Harmon as she rises through the world of competitive chess, eventually taking on the world champion from the Soviet Union.
But on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, your hosts are unanimous in their love for the series. We talk a bit about some of the flaws (a setup-heavy first episode, the unsatisfying treatment of Beth’s friend Jolene), but for the most part, we’re happy to spend our time praising the show.
Some of that has to do with the period setting — “The Queen’s Gambit” traces Beth’s life through the 1950s and ’60s, with some delightfully retro sets and costumes, along with a clear-eyed approach towards the condescension and sexism that Beth faces in her early matches.
At the same time, it’s Beth (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who pulls you through all eight episodes as they depict her complex relationship with her foster mother, her struggles with substance abuse and her friendships with other chess players. While Beth has a handful traits you’ll recognize from other difficult geniuses portrayed on-screen, she’s ultimately too complex to boil down to a single idea or logline.
And while you don’t need to know much about chess to enjoy “The Queen’s Gambit,” the show’s focus on character and personality allows it to depict competitive chess in a way that is, in fact, thrilling.
You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)
f you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
4:28 “The Queen’s Gambit” review
34:11 “The Queen’s Gambit” spoiler discussion
While short videos are what drive ByteDance’s revenues and give the Chinese startup international recognition, the firm is expanding into numerous new areas like other tech giants to fuel growth. It’s dabbled in enterprise software and online learning, and the news came this week that ByteDance will invest in one of China’s largest e-book readers and publishers, Zhangyue.
Zhangyue announced Wednesday evening that a ByteDance wholly-owned subsidiary plan to acquire about 11% of its shares for 1.1 billion yuan or $170 million. The China-listed online literature company, with a current market cap of 12 billion yuan, operates an app where 170 million users read novels, magazines, anime and listen to audiobooks every month during H1.
The partners are targeting a booming online reading market driven by China’s smartphone penetration. In 2019, users spent nearly an hour a day on their e-reading apps, according to market insight provider iResearch. The sector is projected to generate 20.6 billion yuan in revenue, which includes subscription and licensing fees, by 2020; that’s up from 6.6 billion yuan in 2015. Meanwhile, e-book users in the country will reach 510 million this year, the researcher said.
The deal will form a close alliance between Zhangyue and China’s leading digital entertainment titan. Under the agreement, ByteDance gets to assign one board member to Zhangyue and will be able to license the publisher’s intellectual property.
In return, Zhangyue will get ByteDance support in areas like ad buying, monetization, and other technologies. The success of Douyin, TikTok and newsreader Toutiao, which collectively claim users in the hundreds of millions, have turned ByteDance into a new darling for brands and advertisers.
In all, the collaboration will incur 470 million yuan worth of transactions between the partners in the following year, up from 270 million yuan a year before the equity acquisition.
Magic: The Gathering‘s upcoming Commander Legends expansion isn’t like other sets. While most of the game’s expansions are designed to work with traditional two-player gameplay formats, the 361 new cards arriving in November have Magic’s four-player Commander format in mind.
“[F]our players means that just trying to go after one player quickly isn’t an effective way to win,” senior game designer Gavin Verhey told Mashable via email. “You have to play the long game, and think about how you can use your resources to fight off three opponents… ‘I’ll attack Gavin instead of you if you don’t attack me next turn… deal?’ is the kind of thing you hear plenty of.” Read more…
Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar made their Twitch debuts today, enjoying a few rounds of Werewolf–like sleeper hit Among Us with several high profile streamers. AOC may be a highly intelligent, engaged politician, but it turns out she is an absolutely terrible space murderer.
The two Among Us newbies were joined by a constellation of Twitch stars, including Pokimane, Hasanabi, Disguised Toast, Dr Lupo, Myth, mxmtoon, Jacksepticeye, Cr1TiKaL, and Corpse Husband. Omar’s teenage daughter Isra Hirsi also jumped in for some mother-daughter bonding time.
However, it was AOC‘s stream that received the most attention. Twitch confirmed to Mashable that her channel reached a peak of over 435,000 concurrent viewers during the three-and-a-half hour broadcast. This is an incredibly impressive figure for a new streamer, especially considering the number one record is 667,000, currently held by hugely popular Fortnite streamer Ninja. Read more…
This article contains some spoilers for Alien and Raised by Wolves Season 1.
Listen, I love Ridley Scott as much as the next girl — and I’m also never one to kink shame.
But for sanity’s sake alone, we need to discuss the indisputable fact that the seminal sci-fi director has a milk fetish. At the very least, the man has a notable artistic fixation with milk, to the point where it is now a staple of his filmography, from Alien to his new HBO Max series, Raised By Wolves.
Egregious uses of milk are as common a visual motif in Scott’s work as women’s feet are in Quinten Tarintino’s movies. Yet for some reason, we’re not ready to call a fig a fig when it comes to Scott’s persistent ingenuity in finding new ways to feature high-production titty juice every chance he gets. Read more…
The virtual 2020 Emmys, or “Pandemmys” as we may or may not call them, took place Sunday night and proceeded with surprisingly few technical glitches and some generally pleasant surprises. We loved sneaking a peek at celebrity homes and makeshift Emmy parties, and seeing TV’s top players in the same situation as those watching at home was oddly comforting as we all celebrated television together.
In a normal year we round up the best and worst moments of the Emmys, but since this year is far from normal, we decided to just focus on the highlights (although that fake audience bit from the beginning… we could have done without). Here are our favorite moments from the 2020 Emmy Awards. Read more…
UPDATE: Sept. 16, 2020, 8:48 p.m. EDT PS5 consoles are already listed as “out of stock” at Walmart, Target, and GameStop. Don’t fret: We suspect there are more to come. We’ll keep updating this story as we spot more availability.
Official release is Nov. 12 in the U.S.
Regular edition will retail for $499; digital edition will retail for $399
Gaming’s next generation is just about here.
Sony’s PlayStation 5 finally has a release date and a price: Both the regular and digital editions of the PS5 will launch on Nov. 12 in the U.S., and will retail at $499 and $399, respectively. The digital edition of the console has the same internal components as the regular version, but gets rid of the disc drive for an all-digital experience (and it’s $100 cheaper). Read more…
CBS All Access just released the first teaser for 10-part miniseries The Stand, based on the post-apocalyptic fantasy novel by Stephen King. In The Stand, groups with opposing ideas of what society should be clash in the wake of a deadly pandemic, leading to significant repercussions for humanity’s future. The book was originally released in 1978, but its themes are unsettlingly relevant to 2020.
The Stand‘s 30-second trailer doesn’t give away much, mainly featuring people wandering eerily abandoned streets or experiencing emotional distress. We do get a good look at Whoopi Goldberg as spiritual leader Abagail Freemantle though, as well as Alexander Skarsgård’s supernaturally powered Randall Flagg. Read more…
Mourning together isn’t easy in these socially distant times, but Chadwick Boseman fans will have a chance to do that on Sunday night.
Marvel’s Black Panther is set to air commercial-free on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 30. Then, immediately after the movie, ABC News will deliver a 40-minute special tribute, titled Chadwick Boseman – A Tribute for a King.
Boseman died on Friday at the age of 42 after a four-year struggle with colon cancer. The news of his death came as a shock to fans, as the Black Panther star had opted to keep his diagnosis and subsequent treatments a secret.
The Sunday evening special will, according to ABC, “celebrate Boseman’s storied life, legacy and career, and the cultural imprint he made on- and off-screen.” The network doesn’t name any participants, but the announcement promises to feature tributes from “celebrities, political figures, and fans across the world,” as well as “special words” from friends and co-stars. Read more…
Actor Chadwick Boseman, perhaps best known for his star performance in Marvel’s Black Panther, has died at 43.
A statement shared on Boseman’s official Twitter account Friday night confirmed the star had passed in his Los Angeles home with his wife and family, four years after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy,” it reads. Read more…
Microsoft has inserted itself into the ongoing legal dispute between Apple and Epic Games, and the Xbox company is lining up behind the Unreal Engine.
Unreal, which is Epic’s creation, is a set of software tools (often referred to as an “engine”) that developers use to build video games. Epic confirmed on Monday that Apple will cut the company off from iOS and MacOS development tools on Aug. 28. That spurred a response from Microsoft.
On Sunday, Microsoft filed a statement with the U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif. claiming that Apple’s move to cut off Epic threatens a sizable community of creators that have no connection to the ongoing litigation. Read more…
The fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention wrapped up on Thursday night with a speech from now-official nominee Joe Biden, and fireworks in place of a balloon drop. But the most powerful moment of the four-night event came in the form of a two-minute speech from an extraordinary teenager.
Brayden Harrington recounted how he met Biden at a campaign event in New Hampshire earlier this year.
“He told me that we’re members of the same club: We stutter,” Harrington said. “It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became vice-president. He told me about a book of poems by Yeats he would read out loud to practice. He showed me how he marks his addresses to make them easier to say out loud, so I did the same thing today. And now I’m here talking to you today about the future — about our future.” Read more…
The summer of Jimmy Kimmel Live guest hosts rolls on, with a super glam Kerry Washington taking the reins for Monday night’s show. She was joined by her dad Earl, whom she reveals was an Emmy-deserving background extra on Little Fires Everywhere.
“He’s the most adorable man in America, and he loves to tell jokes,” she said, “so when he heard I was doing my first late night monologue, he wanted to pitch in and help me out with material, because he doesn’t think I’m funny.”
Earl is indeed completely adorable, telling Washington about the importance of humor during tough times, and kicking off with a meta moment: “How do you know it’s a dad joke? It becomes ap-parent.” Read more…
Bryan Cranston. Is a man. Of many hats.
Sure, we all know the Heisenberg pork pie chapeau (and it makes an appearance here). But before this mildly unhinged Fallon segment who knew Cranston could rock a sailor’s cap, a little red bonnet, or a sweeping fuchsia fascinator while on the toilet with such dead-eyed, menacing panache? Truly, he has the range, and I am just crazed enough after months in my house that it feels like the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.
I desperately want to have been in the Zoom pitch meeting where some exhausted writer went “He wore that hat in Breaking Bad, right? Can we write a weird banger and just stick him and Jimmy in a bunch of random crap from the hat closet then cut it together like a TikTok ripoff?” Read more…
Wilford Brimley, whose work as an actor and as a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association made him a transgenerational favorite, is dead at 85.
Brimley died on Saturday morning, his manager Lynda Bensky confirmed to Mashable. He was in intensive care at the time, receiving dialysis treatments and dealing with unspecified medical problems. He is survived by his wife Beverly and his four children.
“Wilford Brimley was a man you could trust,” Bensky said in a statement. “He said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. I’m sad that I will no longer get to hear my friend’s wonderful stories. He was one of a kind.” Read more…
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is a bonafide wonder. The game has been setting new records for Nintendo, is adored by players and critics alike and provides millions of players a peaceful escape during these unprecedented times.
But there’s been something even more extraordinary happening on the fringe: Players are finding ways to augment the game experience through community-organized activities and tools. These include free weed-pulling services (tips welcome!) from virtual Samaritans, and custom-designed items for sale — for real-world money, via WeChat Pay and AliPay.
Well-known personalities and companies are also contributing, with “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” scribe Gary Whitta hosting an A-list celebrity talk show using the game, and luxury fashion brand Marc Jacobs providing some of its popular clothing designs to players. 100 Thieves, the white-hot esports and apparel company, even created and gave away digital versions of its entire collection of impossible-to-find clothes.
This community-based phenomenon gives us a pithy glimpse into not only where games are inevitably going, but what their true potential is as a form of creative, technical and economic expression. It also exemplifies what we at Forte call “community economics,” a system that lies at the heart of our aim in bringing new creative and economic opportunities to billions of people around the world.
What is community economics?
Formally, community economics is the synthesis of economic activity that takes place inside, and emerges outside, virtual game worlds. It is rooted in a cooperative economic relationship between all participants in a game’s network, and characterized by an economic pluralism that is unified by open technology owned by no single party. And notably, it results in increased autonomy for players, better business models for game creators, and new economic and creative opportunities for both.
The fundamental shift that underlies community economics is the evolution of games from centralized entertainment experiences to open economic platforms. We believe this is where things are heading.
E-commerce giant Flipkart is planning to launch a hyperlocal service that would enable customers to buy items from local stores and have those delivered to them in an hour and a half or less. Yatra, an online travel and hotel ticketing service, is exploring a new business line altogether: Supplying office accessories.
Flipkart and Yatra are not the only firms eyeing new business categories. Dozens of firms in the country have branched out by launching new services in recent weeks, in part to offset the disruption the COVID-19 epidemic has caused to their core offerings.
Swiggy and Zomato, the nation’s largest food delivery startups, began delivering alcohol in select parts of the country last month. The move came weeks after the two firms, both of which are seeing fewer orders and had to let go hundreds of employees, started accepting orders for grocery items in a move that challenged existing online market leaders BigBasket and Grofers.
Udaan, a business-to-business marketplace, recently started to accept bulk orders from some housing societies and is exploring more opportunities in the business-to-commerce space, the startup told TechCrunch.
These shifts came shortly after New Delhi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The lockdown meant that all public places including movie theaters, shopping malls, schools, and public transport were suspended.
Instead of temporarily halting their businesses altogether, as many have done in other markets, scores of startups in India have explored ways to make the most out of the current unfortunate spell.
“This pandemic has given an opportunity to the Indian tech startup ecosystem to have a harder look at the unit-economics of their businesses and become more capital efficient in the shorter and longer-term,” Puneet Kumar, a growth investor in Indian startup ecosystem, told TechCrunch in an interview.
Of the few things most Indian state governments have agreed should remain open include grocery shops, and online delivery services for grocery and food.
People buy groceries at a supermarket during the first day of the 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Bangalore on March 25, 2020. (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images)
E-commerce firms Snapdeal and DealShare began grocery delivery service in late March. The move was soon followed by social-commerce startup Meesho, fitness startup Curefit, and BharatPe, which is best known for facilitating mobile payments between merchants and users.
Meesho’s attempt is still in the pilot stage, said Vidit Aatrey, the Facebook-backed startup’s co-founder and chief executive. “We started grocery during the lockdown to give some income opportunities to our sellers and so far it has shown good response. So we are continuing the pilot even after lockdown has lifted,” he said.
ClubFactory, best known for selling low-cost beauty items, has also started to deliver grocery products, and so has NoBroker, a Bangalore-based startup that connects apartment seekers with property owners. And MakeMyTrip, a giant that provides solutions to book flight and hotel tickets, has entered the food delivery market.
Another such giant, BookMyShow, which sells movie tickets, has in recent weeks rushed to support online events, helping comedians and other artists sell tickets online. The Mumbai-headquartered firm plans to make further inroads around this business idea in the coming days.
For some startups, the pandemic has resulted in accelerating the launch of their product cycles. CRED, a Bangalore-based startup that is attempting to help Indians improve their financial behavior by paying their credit card bill on time, launched an instant credit line and apartment rental services.
Kunal Shah, the founder and chief executive of CRED, said the startup “fast-tracked the launch” of these two products as they could prove immensely useful in the current environment.
For a handful of startups, the pandemic has meant accelerated growth. Unacademy, a Facebook-backed online learning startup, has seen its user base and subscribers count surge in recent months and told TechCrunch that it is in the process of more than doubling the number of exam preparation courses it offers on its platform in the next two months.
Since March, the number of users who access the online learning service each day has surged to 700,000. “We have also seen a 200% increase in viewers per week for the free live classes offered on the platform. Additionally there has been a 50% increase in paid subscribers and over 50% increase in average watchtime per day among our subscribers,” a spokesperson said.
As with online learning firms, firms operating on-demand video streaming services have also seen a significant rise in the number of users they serve. Zee5, which has amassed over 80 million users, told TechCrunch last week that in a month it will introduce a new category in its app that would curate short-form videos produced and submitted by users. The firm said the feature would look very similar to TikTok.
The pandemic “has also accelerated the adoption of online services in India across all demographics. Many who would not have considered buying goods and services online are starting to adopt the online platforms for basic necessities at a faster pace,” said venture capitalist Kumar.
“As far as expansion into adjacent categories is concerned, some of this was a natural progression and startups were slowly moving in that direction anyway. The pandemic has forced people to get there faster.”
Roosh, a Mumbai-based game developing firm founded by several industry veterans, launched a new app ahead of schedule that allows social influencers to promote games on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, Deepak Ail, co-founder and chief executive of Roosh, told TechCrunch.
ShareChat, a Twitter-backed social network, recently acquired a startup called Elanic to explore opportunities in social-commerce. OkCredit, a bookkeeping service for merchants, has been exploring ways to allow users to purchase items from neighborhood stores.
And NowFloats, a Mumbai-based SaaS startup that helps businesses and individuals build an online presence without any web developing skills, is on-boarding doctors to help people consult with medical professionals.
Startups are not the only businesses that have scrambled to eye new categories. Established firms such as Carnival Group, which is India’s third-largest multiplex theatre chain, said it is foraying into cloud kitchen business.
Amazon, which competes with Walmart’s Flipkart in India, has also secured approval from West Bengal to deliver alcohol in the nation’s fourth most populated state. The e-commerce giant is also exploring ways to work with mom and pop stores that dot tens of thousands of cities and towns of India.
Last week, the American giant launched “Smart Stores” that allows shoppers to walk to a participating physical store, scan a QR code, and pick and purchase items through the Amazon app. The firm, which is supplying these mom and pop stores with software and QR code, said more than 10,000 shops are participating in the Smart Stores program.
In the last episode of Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart for a while, the host and superfan brought together the cast of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, arguably the quintessential ’80s movie. Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, and Jennifer Grey joined Gad over video call for a chat about their memories of the shoot, as did Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett (who played Ferris’ parents) and Ben Stein, the economist and occasional actor responsible for “Bueller?… Bueller?… Bueller?” (He can also still do that improvised monologue about the Hawley-Smoot tariffs, and it’s still super boring.)
Gad also brought in Jake Gyllenhaal to quiz the cast on some seriously obscure Ferris trivia, and High School Musical director Kenny Ortega to talk about the one-take perfection and joyous legacy of the parade scene, which he choreographed. Read more…
With the filmed original cast performance of Hamilton hitting Disney+ next week, creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda returned to the Tonight Show for the first time since Jimmy Fallon’s first at-home show in March. Miranda, who also happens to have a documentary about his improv show Freestyle Love Supreme coming out next month, was game for a game called Random Object Freestyle.
Fallon held up a number of not especially random, suspiciously topical objects — including a Hamilton poster, a Broadway street sign, a box of popcorn, and a face mask — for Miranda to riff on lyrically. He didn’t bat an eye until Fallon revealed a copy of former national security advisor John Bolton’s tell-all Trump White House memoir, whose title happens to be a Hamilton reference. Read more…
Need a new binge?
We’ve looked through Amazon’s catalog for the best shows included with a Prime membership. So whether you’re searching for a snappy comedy, a historical adventure, or an emotional medical drama, we have you covered.
In no particular order, here are fifteen shows on Amazon Prime that you should be streaming right now.
Step aside, Space Force. Greg Daniels’ other new comedy is getting the good reviews.
Upload fast-forwards to the year 2033 when computer programmer Nathan decides to transport to a virtual afterlife. Though his new Lake View home boasts many thrills, he soon discovers that there’s a dark side to his arrival. It’s not The Good Place, but Upload’s take on the afterlife comedy is nonetheless fresh. Read more…
Like a lot of us right now, I was frazzled and bored and fed up with TV the night I clicked on Zenimation, a series of shorts that launched on Disney+ over the long Memorial Day weekend. My mind was open; it was also skeptical. There was no original animation to be found in the series; this was simply snack-sized chunks of Disney animation from across the years, arranged thematically into 10 episodes of around five minutes each. How could that not come across like a greatest hits compilation at best, and a 50-minute trailer at worst?
Yet once I’d blasted through the first three episodes, simply titled “Water,” “Cityscapes,” and “Discovery,” I found a level of peace and calm I haven’t felt since the coronavirus pandemic began. And that’s coming from someone who has been meditating more than normal since quarantine began, even running a global meditation contest over Zoom. Read more…
Neill shared the short film (which we can imagine making the rounds at the next Sundance) with his Twitter followers on Saturday, detailing its vast budget and sprawling production across two continents. What resulted from their efforts is two minutes of pure quarantine madness with an evocative meditation on the ills of digital life.
HELENA BONHAM CARTER stars in this groundbreaking Cinema Quarantino Production DAS FONE HELL. At vast expense, filmed on two continents over what (seemed like) five years , this profound and heartbreakingly candid insight into Modern Life will shake you to the core (Pilates 101) pic.twitter.com/aVXCfvAyfd
Few things delight me more than a multi-hour trailer binge. With a laptop on my desk and cup of tea by my side, I’ll swim though YouTube’s cinematic pool with no intention of watching the movies being marketed. It’s a reliable way to pass the time, an endless nowhere-to-be activity that alludes to the possibility of adventure but revels in monotonous sameness. It’s comforting, frivolous, relaxing, safe.
But every once in a while, my scroll will be disrupted by a teaser so startling I’ve got to watch the full film right then. Such was my experience with Swallow, a psychological thriller from writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis as inexplicably seductive as it is repulsive. Read more…
We got the first trailer for the long-awaited Artemis Fowl movie adaptation way back in November 2018, and the last teaser released on St Patrick’s Day still sported that May 29 “in theaters” date. Now, due to social distancing making cinema-going Not A Thing Right Now, Disney’s Irish-set supernatural family adventure will premiere directly in your living room via Disney+ instead.
Starring Ferdia Shaw as the pre-teen criminal mastermind, with Colin Farrell, Josh Gad, and Judi Dench along for the ride as Fowl’s father, a dwarf, and a fairy commander respectively, Artemis Fowl will arrive on the streaming service June 12. Read more…
Regardless of how you feel about the ending of Game of Thrones, it was the world’s favorite TV show for a long, long time. Popular for its twists, intrigue, characters, and great dialogue, Thrones is still endlessly quotable years after any given episode aired.
Westeros was a wild, terrifying place, and the kinds of people who lived there had a hard wisdom about them, some of which is pretty applicable to those who don’t live in a zombie and dragon infested wasteland with weird seasons and an unyielding dedication to the feudal system.
Give us a nice thing, and we shall ruin it!
It’s been less than a month since Animal Crossing: New Horizons graced the world with its wholesome presence. The delightful island-set, sandbox game from Nintendo has inspired stunning user creations, beautiful fan art, and heartfelt homages to other pop culture worlds we love.
But it has also brought out the cursed, the horrid, and the truly terrifying.
There are the atrocities we’ve committed, like trapping our neighbors, attacking visitors with axes, and amassing huge collections of tarantulas to sell to children for profit. And then there are the institutional terrors: the unexplained mysteries and disturbing evidence indicating a seedy underbelly to the “paradise” we’ve come to call our own. Read more…
“The Platform” is not a subtle movie.
That’s true of its approach to horror, with intense, bloody scenes that prompted plenty of screaming and pausing from your hosts at the Original Content podcast. It’s also true of its thematic material — right around the time one of the characters accuses another of being communist, you’ll slap yourself on the forehead and say, “Oh, it’s about capitalism.”
The new Netflix film takes place in a mysterious prison, with two prisoners on each level (they’re randomly rotated each month). Once each day, a platform laden with delicious food is lowered through the prison. If you’re on one of the top levels, you feast. If you’re further down, things are considerably more grim, and can become downright gruesome as the month wears on.
“The Platform” is a hard movie to sit through, and it has other faults, like an irritatingly mystical ending. But it’s certainly memorable, and even admirable in its dedication to fully exploring both the logistical and moral dimensions of its premise.
You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)
And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:27 “The Platform” review
17:29 “The Platform” spoilers
There’s still a month to go before Rick and Morty returns on May 3 for the second half of its fourth season. It feels more like a lifetime away right now, especially considering how long March was. Fortunately, Adult Swim has dropped a new video to help us with the wait.
In a rollicking trailer set to Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town,’ Rick continues to drag Morty through dangerous interdimensional hijinks in the fourth season’s final five episodes. This time, said exploits involve vats of acid, tentacled monsters, S.W.A.T., and running naked and screaming. The duo also get an “unnecessarily badass suit-up” though, so it isn’t all terrible. Read more…
Last week, John Krasinski asked his Twitter followers to share #SomeGoodNews as a little break from… well, all the news that isn’t very good. Now, that Twitter thread is a show, with Krasinski joining the pro late night hosts by turning his home office into an incredibly wholesome little DIY “news network for good news”, with some help from his kids’ graphic design skills. And, well, good news: turns out The Office star, A Quiet Place writer-director, and super ripped action star also makes a pretty decent YouTuber.
Jim John shares some of the highlights from his hashtag replies, from the global shows of appreciation for healthcare workers to sweet stories of (sigh) love in the time of coronavirus. (If all the stories of older people who can’t visit their spouses in nursing homes are ruining you, then be warned: there’s a doozy in here.) Read more…
As major films slated for release over the next few weeks are bumped due to public health concerns around the spread of the novel coronavirus, movies released earlier in the year are coming to VOD earlier than originally planned. Depending on your level of cynicism, it’s either to capitalise on the huge numbers of people responsibly staying home to slow the spread, or to selflessly add to the vast catalogue of streaming entertainment people can access from their couches.
Either way, Birds Of Prey, aka Harley Quinn: Birds Of Prey, aka The Movie Formerly Known As Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn), will be made available on demand earlier than scheduled, hitting the small screen on Mar. 24 (alongside Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen) according to Fandango. Read more…
In a galaxy far, far away from the shallow, there is finally a new Lady Gaga single that has nothing to do with Bradley Cooper.
The clip for ‘Stupid Love’, a regulation rah-rah-mode Gaga banger with arpeggiated synths for days, was reportedly filmed on an iPhone 11, with the Lady herself repeatedly tagging #ShotOniPhone as she teased the simultaenous drop of both track and vision.
Watch Gaga and her “Kindness Punks” battle it out with some help from a lot of brightly coloured latex, chains, and joyous, surprisingly accessible choreography you could totally learn in the space of an evening. But a lot of it is just the kind of loose, instinctive jumping and flailing you’re going to be doing to it on dancefloors for the next year. Read more…
It’s finally here, folks. The big one.
BTS Carpool Karaoke was first teased last week, in a tweet showing Corden packed into a vehicle with all seven members of the unstoppable K-pop boyband (RM, of course, sat up front) — and now we have the full episode itself.
In the 17-minute video above, we see BTS attempting to sing the Friends theme song, more successfully singing Bruno Mars’ “Finesse,” and Corden doing his best to become part of the band. Then to cap it all off, the group stop by a dance class after “Baby Mochi” Jimin says he wants to see “Papa Mochi” Corden dance.
The stakes were high, but BTS have, once again, more than delivered. Read more…
Give Justin Bieber a Pulitzer for this, the most hard-hitting interview of the year so far.
During the regular Late Late Show truth-or-icky-dare segment “Spill Your Guts Or Fill Your Guts” Bieber (or at least the producer who handed him the card) hit host James Corden with a tough question: on a scale of one to 10, how much does he regret doing Cats?
As always, it’s hard to know whether this question is genuinely a surprise to Corden, but he thinks about it hard, briefly considers opting to eat some cod sperm instead, then answers, it seems, truthfully. The number he gives is diplomatic, but his grimacing, umm-ing and aah-ing tells the real story. Read more…
Sonic The Hedgehog may be an empty cash grab slightly sweetened by an unhinged, perfectly calibrated Peak Jim Carrey performance, but it’s apparently what the people want.
The long-delayed, redesigned live-action Sonic movie finally opened last week and promptly smashed the opening weekend box office record for video game film adaptations.
Blue Rat Creature: The Movie is estimated to hit $57 million domestically, with an extra $11 million projected for President’s Day on Monday, and an overall global weekend take of $100 million. (There’s no release date set in China yet — amidst the coronavirus crisis, lockdowns continue to hinder most everyday activities, which obviously includes going and sitting in large dark rooms in close quarters with a couple of hundred other people.) Read more…
Out of all the faces to put on Doc Brown and Marty McFly in Back to the Future, I never knew how bad I needed it to be Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland.
This deepfake clip superimposes the faces of Downey Jr. and Holland over the original actors Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox, giving us an incredibly convincing glimpse at what it would be like if the Avengers themselves rebooted the 1985 classic Back to the Future. YouTuber EZRyderX47 did a very good job with this one.
Given the two actors’ history as Iron Man and Spider-Man, and the pseudo-father-son dynamic that happened in the Marvel movies, this seems like it would be a great fit for Downey and Holland. Or we could just deepfake their faces into the entire movie. Read more…
Janet Jackson joined The Roots and Jimmy Fallon for their Classroom Instruments cover challenge, and updated the lyrics of her classic hit “Runaway” for this dreamy version. The chill, globe-trotting cover is like a little holiday for your overloaded brain.
The change is tiny, but a very good one. The line “I woke up with an Australian breeze / and danced the dance with Aborigines” has always grated a bit, as it’s best not to refer to Indigenous Australians as “Aborigines.” (Here’s a good explanation as to why.)
In this version, though, she’s changed it to “and danced the dance with Indigenous peeps,” possibly for the first time. (She can be seen singing the old lyrics at live shows as recently as 2018.) It’s a small tweak that totally works with the song, and the insensitivity of the original term probably wouldn’t even have registered with the vast majority of listeners — but the language we use about people matters, and being proactive about getting it right helps everyone have a good time. Yeah. Read more…
There are certain things we all know to be good advice: Never work with children or animals, never get involved in a land war in Asia, and never start a water fight with a teen heartthrob.
Noah Centineo, the official internet boyfriend of 2018, probably went on The Tonight Show to promote To All The Boys 2, but there is no way the forthcoming Netflix sequel is as purely satisfying as watching him repeatedly drench an increasingly frustrated Jimmy Fallon with cold water.
What’s the best bit of this? Is it Centineo’s gleeful grin as he flings glasses all over the host’s fancy suit — starting with the crotch? Fallon’s barely concealed, possibly quite genuine, spluttering annoyance at being so comprehensively rinsed? The bit where the soaked lapel mics audibly squelch and go muffled and the pair glance like naughty children at, I’m assuming, half a dozen wincing sound techs? Read more…
Makeovers! Love triangles! Holland Taylor! The second official trailer for To All The Boys 2: P.S. I Still Love You has everything a great teen romance movie needs.
After an adorable Covey-sisters recap for anyone who hasn’t already watched To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before five to twelve times (pocket spin!), the new trailer for the sequel gives us a better look at how the recast John Ambrose McLaren (Jordan Fisher) might come between Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Notably, they’re volunteering together (cute!) and Peter K is getting a bit green-eyed (less cute!). Read more…
Comcast NBCUniversal believes its can access startup innovation while supporting future Olympic gold-medalists.
The American mass media company launched its new SportsTech accelerator today, based in part, on that impetus.
TechCrunch attended a briefing with Comcast execs at 30 Rock NYC to learn more about the initiative.
The SportsTech accelerator is a partnership across Comcast NBCUniversal’s sports media brands: NBC Sports, Sky Sports and the Golf Channel.
Accepted ventures will gain $50,000 in equity-based funding and enter SportsTech’s three-month accelerator boot camp — with sports industry support and mentorship — to kick off at Comcast’s Atlanta offices August 2020.
Boomtown Accelerators will join Comcast in managing the SportsTech program, with both sharing a minimum of 6% equity in selected startups.
Industry partners, such as NASCAR and U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will play an advisory role in startup selection, but won’t add capital.
An overarching objective for SportsTech emerged during conversations with execs and Jenna Kurath, Comcast’s VP for Startup Partner Development, who will run the new accelerator.
Comcast and partners aim to access innovation that could advance the business and competitive aspects of each organization.
From McDonald’s McD Tech Labs to Mastercard’s Start Path, corporate incubators and accelerators have become common in large cap America, where companies look to tap startup ingenuity and deal-flow to adapt and hedge disruption.
Toward its own goals, SportsTech has designated several preferred startup categories. They include Business of Sports, Team and Coach Success and Athlete and Player Performance.
SportsTech partners, such as NASCAR, hope to access innovation to drive greater audience engagement. The motorsport series (and its advertising-base) has become more device-distributed, and NASCAR streams more race-day data live, from the pits to the driver’s seat.
“The focus has grown into what are we going to do to introduce more technology in the competition side of the sport…the fan experience side and how we operate as a business,” said NASCAR Chief Innovation Officer Craig Neeb.
“We’re confident we’re going to get access to some incredibly strong and innovative companies,” he said of NASCAR’s SportsTech participation.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard — the nonprofit that manages America’s snowsport competition teams — has an eye on performance and medical tech for its athletes.
“Wearable technology [to measure performance]…is an area of interest…and things like computer vision and artificial intelligence for us to better understand technical elements, are quite interesting,” said Troy Taylor, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Director of High Performance.
Credit: U.S. Ski & Snowboard
Some of that technology could boost prospects of U.S. athletes, such as alpine skiers Tommy Ford and Mikaela Shiffrin, at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
In a $7.75 billion deal inked in 2014, Comcast NBCUniversal purchased the U.S. broadcast rights for Olympic competition — summer and winter — through 2032.
“We asked ourselves, ‘could we do more?’ The notion of an innovation engine that runs before, during and after the Olympics. Could that give our Team USA a competitive edge in their pursuit for gold?,” said Jenna Kurath.
The answer came up in the affirmative and led to the formation of Comcast’s SportsTech accelerator.
Beyond supporting Olympic achievement, there is a strategic business motivation for Comcast and its new organization.
“The early insights we gain from these companies could lead to other commercial relationships, whether that’s licensing or even acquisition,” Will McIntosh, EVP for NBC Sports Digital and Consumer Business, told TechCrunch.
SportsTech is Comcast’s third accelerator, and the organization has a VC fund, San Francisco-based Comcast Ventures — which has invested in the likes of Lyft, Vimeo and Slack and racked up 67 exits, per Crunchbase data.
After completing the SportsTech accelerator, cohort startups could receive series-level investment or purchase offers from Comcast, its venture arm or industry partners, such as NASCAR.
“Our natural discipline right now is…to have early deliverables. But overtime, with our existing partners, we’ll have conversations about who else could be a logical value-add to bring into this ecosystem,” said Bill Connors, Comcast Central Division President.
In his recently published book “Astounding,” the author Alec Nevala-Lee brings American science fiction’s Golden Age back into focus by following four key figures: John W. Campbell, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard — and Isaac Asimov, who officially turned 100 today (his exact birth date was unknown).
Nevala-Lee’s warts-and-all portrait paints Asimov — known to his fans as the Good Doctor — far more sympathetically than the genre’s other founding fathers. He’s charming and self-deprecating, generous to other writers and editors, a politically progressive thinker and a tireless defender of science and rationality.
But Nevala-Lee is clear about another aspect of Asimov’s story: He was someone who unapologetically groped women.
As recounted in “Astounding,” Judith Merrill said Asimov was known in his younger days as “the man with a hundred hands.” Harlan Ellison wrote, “Whenever we walked up the stairs with a young woman, I made sure to walk behind her so Isaac wouldn’t grab her tush.” And Frederik Pohl even recalled Asimov telling him, “It’s like the old saying. You get slapped a lot, but you get laid a lot too.”
And these aren’t the words of Asimov’s critics or detractors; they’re his friends and peers. Asimov’s habits were so well-known that in 1962, the chairman of the World Science Fiction Convention invited him to give a talk on “The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching.”
I’d already heard rumors about Asimov’s behavior back in 2014, when I wrote a birthday essay for BuzzFeed describing him as my favorite author. But I limited the piece to my personal relationship with his work — to the ways in which the Foundation and Robot books turned me into a lifelong science fiction fan, and how his wide-ranging nonfiction expanded my horizons.
Six years later, Asimov remains one of my favorites (alongside Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany and Philip K. Dick). And I’ve been happy to sing his praises when he’s in the news.
Still, it seems increasingly difficult to ignore the less admirable aspects of his personality. Fans, friends and other defenders might argue (as Ellison did) that “times were different,” that Asimov saw his behavior as “harmless” and that it’s a relatively minor blemish on his otherwise laudable career. But harassment at conventions is a serious problem, and if Asimov hadn’t died in 1992, it’s hard to imagine that he would have (or should have) escaped the #MeToo era unscathed.
Television critic Emily Nussbaum confronts some of these issues in her essay “Confessions of a Human Shield,” in which she asks, “What should we do with the art of terrible men?”
In the past, Nussbaum says she followed the conventional method of separating the art and the artist: “Decent people sometimes create bad art. Amoral people can and have created transcendent works. A cruel and selfish person — a criminal, even — might make something that was generous, life-giving, and humane.” But now, she admits that “the sociopath’s approach” no longer satisfies.
That’s particularly true with Asimov, whose personality seems inseparable from his work. One of his strengths as a writer was his ability to be clear, conversational and personal. When you read one of his science books or essays, you come away feeling like your good friend Isaac has been explaining things to you in a way that you can finally understand. Even his science fiction is usually prefaced by autobiographical essays written in that same friendly voice.
So for me, it’s not simply a question of separating the art and the artist. It’s about acknowledging that so much of what’s admirable in Asimov’s writing seems to emanate from the man himself — and that, like or it not, he did more to shape my worldview than any other single writer, convincing me (as I put it six years ago) that “ideas matter and the universe can be explained” — while also acknowledging how indefensibly he treated women.
And in the end, it may be something simpler that poses the biggest threat to Asimov’s reputation — namely, the passage of time.
Science fiction has changed dramatically in the past decade, with a gratifyingly diverse group of writers reshaping the field. A new canon is forming, one that doesn’t center on Asimov, Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. As the writer John Scalzi put it, “Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov and etc were and are titans. But remember that the titans were overthrown by newer gods — and that those gods themselves were supplanted over time.”
This is probably how it should be. After all, Asimov’s work is very much of its era. Readers in 2020 and beyond will have an increasingly difficult time recognizing the future he depicted: a future without personal computers or the internet, and in which no one finds it remarkable that every single scientist, politician and person of importance is a man. (The major exception being the roboticist Susan Calvin, who’s still defined by her preeminence in a male-dominated field.)
Not that I think Asimov is about to fade into obscurity. In fact, Apple is producing a new TV+ series based on his Foundation stories, which take place over hundreds of years, depicting the efforts of a small group of scientists to rebuild civilization after the fall of the Galactic Empire.
So Asimov will probably be reentering the conversation soon. And despite my reservations, I’m glad.
Because for all the ways in which he might have missed major technological trends, and for all the ways in which his worldview was rooted in the 1930s and ’40s, Asimov still speaks to the challenges we face today. Not just in his famous Foundation and Robot stories, not just in the essays in which he defends science against religious fundamentalism, but also in “The Gods Themselves,” which I recently reread. Published back in 1972, the novel remains scarily prescient in its depiction of how humanity’s stupidity, greed and attachment to cheap energy can blind us to an existential threat.
And one of Asimov’s major subjects was the very passage of time that’s eroded his prominence in the field. His best work makes that it clear each generation will be eager to leave the last one behind, that it must face new problems with new ideas.
Despite his very real flaws as a writer and as a person, he encouraged us to search for those better ideas and work for that better future. That’s why his books will always have a place on my shelves. And that’s why I hope he’d be happy to give up some of that shelf space to writers who don’t look, think or write like him.
The Witcher‘s blend of fantasy, realism, and straight-up folk rock ballads make it one of the more interesting new shows to come out of Netflix in 2019. It is not, however, one of the streaming network’s most straightforward.
Taking place over three timelines, The Witcher weaves all over the place and bamboozles its viewers on purpose, making it hard to discern where and when its characters are at any given time. Whether or not this timeline gambit effective is a question for another time, but for now it’s given Witcher fans (witchies?) a pretty puzzle to parse until Netflix releases Season 2. Read more…
Snapchat’s most popular yet under-exploited feature is finally getting the spotlight in 2020. Starting in February with a global release, your customizable Bitmoji avatar will become the star of a full-motion cartoon series called Bitmoji TV. It’s a massive evolution for Bitmoji beyond the chat stickers and comic strip-style Stories where they were being squandered to date.
Creating original in-house shows for its Discover section that can’t be copied could help Snapchat differentiate from the plethora of short-form video platforms out there ranging from YouTube to Facebook Watch to TikTok. Bitmoji TV could also up the quality of Discover, which still feels like a tabloid magazine rack full of scantly clad women, gross-out imagery, and other shocking content merely meant to catch the eye and draw a click.
With Bitmoji TV, your avatar and those of your friends will appear in regularly-scheduled adventures ranging from playing the crew of Star Treky spaceship to being secret agents to falling in love with robots or becoming zombies. The trailer Snapchat released previews an animation style reminiscent of Netflix’s Big Mouth.
TechCrunch asked Snap for more details, including how long episodes will be, how often they’ll be released, whether they’ll include ads, and if the company acquired anyone or brought on famous talent to produce the series. A Snap spokesperson declined to provide more details, but sent over this statement: “Bitmoji TV isn’t available in your network yet, but stay tuned for the global premiere soon!”
The Snapchat Show page for Bitmoji TV notes it is coming in February 2020. Users can visit here on mobile to subscribe to Bitmoji TV so it shows up prominently on their Discover page, or turn on notifications about its new content.
Snap realizes Bitmoji’s value
Snap has had a tough few years as many of its core features have been ruthlessly copied by the Facebook family of apps. Instagram Stories killed Snap’s growth for years and effectively stole the broadcast medium from its inventor. Facebook also ramped up it augmented reality selfie filters, added more ephemeral messaging features, and launched Watch as a competitor to Snapchat Discover.
Two years ago I wrote that Facebook was crazy not to be competing with Bitmoji too. Six months later we were first to report Facebook Avatars was in the works, and this year they launched as Messenger chat stickers in Australia with plans for a global release in 2019 or early 2020. But Facebook’s slow movement here, Google’s half-assed entry, and Twitter’s lack of an attempt have given Snapchat’s Bitmoji a massive headstart. And now Snap is finally leveraging it.
“TV” is actually a return to Bitmoji’s roots. The startup Bitstrips originally offered an app for customizing the face, hair, clothes, and more of your avatar and then creating comic strips for them to appear in. Snap acquired Bitstrips back in 2016 for just $64.2 million — a steal not far off from Facebook snatching Instagram for under a billion. The standalone Bitmoji app blew up as soon as Snapchat began offering the avatars as chat stickers. It had over 330 million downloads as of April according to Sensor Tower despite Snapchat now letting you create your avatar in its main app.
Eventually, Snap began expanding Bitmoji’s uses. In 2017 Bitmoji went 3D and you could start overlaying them as augmented reality characters on your Snaps. The next year Snap improved their graphics, then launched the Snap Kit developer platform and Bitmoji Kit. This allows apps to build atop Snapchat login and use your Bitmoji as a profile pic. Soon they were appearing as Fitbit smart watch faces, alongside your Venmo transaction, and on Snapchat-sold merchandise from t-shirts to mugs. It’s part of a wise strategy to beat copycats by allowing allies to use real thing rather than building their own knock-off. That’s fueled the “Snapback” comeback which has seen Snap’s share price climb out of the gutter at $5.79 at the start of 2019 to $16.09 now.
One of Snap smartest innovations was Bitmoji Stories — the ancestor to Bitmoji TV. These daily Stories let you tap frame-by-frame through short comic strip-style interactions starring your avatar. Occasionally Bitmoji Stories would include rudimentary animation, but most frames were still images with text bubbles. Bitmoji could once again drive a narrative, rather than just being a communication tool. Still, they seem underutilized.
In 2019, Snapchat wised up. Bitmoji have become nearly ubiquitous amongst teens and Snapchat’s 210 million daily users. They’re the Google or Kleenex of cartoonish personalized avatars. Their goofy nature is also a perfect fit for Snapchat, and a reason they’re tough for stiffer and older tech giants to convincingly copy.
In April, Snap announced its new games platform inside its messaging feature that let you play as your Bitmoji against friends’ avatars in games ranging from Mario Party ripoff Bitmoji Party to tennis, shoot-em ups, and cooking competitions. Snap injects ads into the games, making Bitmoji key to its efforts to monetize its central messaging use case. Last month it launched custom and branded clothing for Bitmoji, which could open opportunities to earn money selling premium outfits or showing off brand sponsorships.
To truly take advantage of Bitmoji’s unique popularity, though, Snap needed to build longer-form experiences with the avatars at the center that . Stickers and Stories and games were fun, but none felt like must-see content. With Bitmoji TV, Snap may have found a way to get users to drag their friends into the app. Since everyone sees their own Bitmoji as the star, the cartoons could be more compelling then ones with impersonal characters you might find elsewhere around the web.
But Bitmoji TV’s success will depend largely on the quality of the writing. If your avatar is constantly getting into funny, meme-worthy situations, you’ll keep coming back to watch. But Snap’s teen audience has a keen nose for inauthentic bullsh*t. If the Shows feel forced, too childish, or boring, Bitmoji TV will flop. Snap would be savvy to invest in great Hollywood talent to produce the episodes.
High quality Bitmoji TV shorts could rescue Snapchat Discover from its own mediocrity. There are a few strong brands like ESPN SportsCenter on the platform, and Snap has several original Shows with over 25 million unique viewers. It’s also greenlit additional seasons of Shows like Dead Girls Detective Agency and new biopic clips from Serena Williams and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still, a scroll through the Discover and Shows sections reveals plenty of trashy clickbait that surely scares away premium advertisers.
Bitmoji TV could offer video that’s not only fun and snackable, but out of reach for competitors who don’t have a scaled avatar platform of their own. As with the recent launch of Snapchat Cameos, the company has realized that the most addictive experiences center on its users’ own faces. Snapchat turned the selfie into the future of communication. Bitmoji TV could make an animated recreation of your selfie into the future of content.
What could possibly be better than Chris Evans in the lush, luxe, off-white cable-knit sweater that broke the internet?
The matching version worn by his dog.
The sweater heard round the world — or, specifically, by someone sitting next to Mashable’s Nicole Gallucci at a screening of Knives Out during a moment of pure and overwhelming thirst, captured in a viral tweet — inspired waves of fans wearing similar items to screenings.
Evans’ Knives Out character Ransom Drysdale may have been less than wholesome, but in our divided era, at least everyone can agree that Chris Evans wore the shit out of that knit. Read more…