Inside Streaming - December 3rd, 2019

Inside Streaming (Dec 3rd, 2019)

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1. Netflix picked up more than half of the prizes at this year's Gotham Independent Film Awards. The Gotham Awards, distributed in a low-key ceremony on Monday night at Cipriani Wall Street, are among the first Oscar season events. "Marriage Story" won prizes for its screenplay, star Adam Driver and the overall award for Best Feature. (According to The New York Times, Netflix's "Marriage Story" writer-director Noah Baumbach took the stage so many times to accept awards, he practically served as a de facto emcee for the entire event.) The Netflix limited series "When They See Us" and its director, Ava DuVernay, were also singled out for recognition at the Gothams, as was the Obama-produced documentary "American Factory." ("When They See Us" won for Breakthrough Series: Long Format. The Short Format version went to Hulu's "Pen15.") Here's the full list of winners. – NYT

2. Larry David's improvisational comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will return to HBO for a 10th season in January. New seasons of the series, which debuted in 1999 as a one-off comedy special, appear sporadically, as they are conceived and outlined by David. The longest hiatus lasted for six years, between 2011 and 2017. HBO released a brief teaser for the new season, consisting entirely of David impatiently stalking around a toaster. – COLLIDER


ONE DAY AT DISNEY: Original feature documentary tracking a day in the life of various team members working at different divisions of the Walt Disney Company. Additional 5-7 minute shorts will be released weekly on Disney+. [Disney]

MAKING IT: NBC's DIY crafting-themed reality competition series, hosted by Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler, is back for a second season. Season 2 will consist of 8 episodes, airing and streaming throughout the next two weeks.  [Hulu]

THE GREAT CHRISTMAS LIGHT FIGHT: The ABC reality series, featuring families competing to create the most impressive Christmas light displays, returns for a seventh 6-episode season. [Hulu]

VANDERPUMP RULES: The seventh season of the venerable "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" spin-off, centered around the family of restauranteur Lisa Vanderpump, aired on Bravo earlier this year and now migrates to Hulu. [Hulu]

YOUNGER: Sutton Foster stars in this TV Land comedy-drama series as a 40-year-old single mom who posed as a 26-year-old to break into the publishing industry, and struggles to keep up appearances as her career advances. The sixth season aired over the summer; it's already been renewed for a seventh. [Hulu]

TIFFANY HADDISH: BLACK MITZVAH: The African-American and Jewish stand-up recorded her latest Netflix special on her 40th birthday (not to mention the anniversary of her bat mitzvah). [Netflix]

THE FIRST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (A PRIMEIRA TENTAÇÃO DE CRISTO): 45-minute Christmas special -- set at Jesus' 30th birthday party -- from the Brazilian comedy troupe Porta dos Fundos.  [Netflix]

24/7: KELLY SLATER: Original hour-long documentary that follows pro surfer Kelly Slater in the weeks leading up to the Billabong Pipe Masters competition in Hawaii. [HBO]

The following films are now available for rent or purchase on VOD platforms, such as iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and Vudu.

AD ASTRA: Brad Pitt stars in this sci-fi adventure as an astronaut venturing into deep space in search of his estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones), who's working on an experiment with potentially cataclysmic results. Director James Gray previously helmed "The Lost City of Z" and "The Immigrant." [VOD]

ABOMINABLE: Animated fantasy-adventure film from DreamWorks about a girl who befriends a Yeti and embarks on a perilous quest to return him home to the Himalayas. The voice cast includes Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, and Tsai Chin. [VOD]

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD: The fifth installment in the Rambo franchise once again stars Sylvester Stallone as the hard-to-kill Vietnam vet. In this edition, John Rambo ventures to Mexico, to save his adopted daughter (Yvette Monreal) from a drug cartel. [VOD]

3. Netflix closed a deal with comedian Ali Wong for two new stand-up specials. Wong has made two prior Netflix comedy specials -- "Baby Cobra" and "Hard Knock Wife" -- both of which she filmed during pregnancies. According to The Hollywood Reporter, WarnerMedia had also bid aggressively on the new specials, hoping to add them to the forthcoming HBO Max service. The final Netflix deal is apparently in the eight figures for both specials, the first of which will debut in 2020. A homegrown talent at Netflix, Wong also starred in the original romantic comedy "Always Be My Maybe" and provides voices for the animated series "Big Mouth" and "Tuca & Bertie." – THR


I've watched a lot of documentaries and docuseries about initially about inspirational, charismatic figures who are eventually unmasked as frauds, thugs, criminals, and killers. It's a running, popular theme, and not just in the true crime genre. We're all walking around with this baseline awareness that there are some real monsters among us, disguised as friends and mentors, just waiting for their opportunity to lure in new victims and drain them of their money, time, energy, and hope for the future. "Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator" will do little to quiet these feelings. It's a frequently terrifying profile of a truly malignant narcissist who had a perfect vehicle for becoming a central, dominating figure in his victims' lives.

The film tells the story of Bikram Choudhury, a yoga teacher from India who comes to the US some time in the 1970s (the timeline remains kind of fuzzy, at least in the film), and eventually becomes one of the key figures in expanding the practice's popularity in the West. Choudhury codified a series of positions and breathing exercises -- performed in a swelteringly hot room -- that he coined "Bikram Yoga," and then started instructing other hopeful teachers how to franchise his program in their own communities. The system not only made Choudhury wealthy and famous, but provided him access to a constant pool of new recruits who were entirely reliant on him and his program for their livelihoods and even their identities and senses of self. By the '00s, tens of millions of people around the world were practicing Bikram Yoga, and Choudhury was one of the most recognized names in the world of wellness. That's when former students and teachers began accusing him of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape.

The film relates all of this backstory, and speaks with a number of students who worked with Choudhury, along with several of his accusers, in a fast-paced and compelling manner. Along the way, it probes a few troubling questions, such as: what to do with Choudhury's (apparently effective) workout program now that we know the truth about the man himself? and how to feel any kind of sense of closure on the story despite a lack of legal consequences for Choudhury, and his continued ability to ply his trade around the world?

A number of the film's subjects -- even some who were victimized or knew people who were directly victimized by the man -- continue to praise the style of yoga that he taught, and rave about the massive improvement it has made in their daily lives. One woman, despite apparently believing the stories being told about her former guru, ends the film by saying that she's glad he continues to teach classes around the world, because the yoga is just that important. (I should add here that director Eva Orner implies that Choudhury stole most of his signature technique from his own master -- a man named Bishnu Charan Ghosh -- in a segment which has sparked a copyright lawsuit.)

"Bikram" doesn't even attempt to answer these questions, so much as explore this one case and then point to the larger, culturally relevant issues that it raises. It's striking how common stories like this have become in a modern age where so many people feel isolated and in need of a community, where marketing and propaganda tools have become so sophisticated, where a corrupt and overwhelmed system allows the wealthy and powerful to brazenly evade justice, and where the ability to attract and hold the attention of others has become such a rare and valuable commodity. Many Americans watching the film will likely be reminded of another charismatic fraud, who embellished the details of his own history, lived a publicly extravagant life to enhance and glamorize his personal brand, and made millions by franchising a dubious school with his own name on it, only to later be accused by multiple women of sexually inappropriate behavior without ever facing any consequences. Or maybe that's just me...


Title: "Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator"
Where to Watch: Netflix
Running time: 86 minutes

4. Olivia Jade Giannulli, the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli who found herself at the center of the "Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal, has resumed posting YouTube videos after a lengthy absence. Both of Giannulli's parents have been indicted for conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, after paying $500,000 to a fraudulent charity to get their daughters into the University of Southern California (USC). In a still-pending case, Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli have additionally been charged with bribing USC officials and have pleaded not guilty. Their daughter -- who goes by simply "Olivia Jade" online -- posted a new video titled "hi again" on Monday but declined to speak about the case, citing legal reasons. She plans to resume posting regular videos, on both YouTube and her popular Instagram account. – CNN

5. Bloomberg will rebrand its social media news service from TicToc to QuickTake. The name change comes ahead of the company's planned launch of a full 24-hour streaming news service in 2020, which will unite the TicToc short-form team with the rest of Bloomberg's digital video division. It's also designed to avoid confusion with TikTok, the breakout social video app from China. The QuickTake OTT streaming news service will launch in the first half of 2020 and will feature both real-time news coverage and a video-on-demand library of features and mini-documentaries. – VARIETY

6. Disney+ announced a new Star Wars-themed game show for kids, "Jedi Temple Challenge," to be hosted by Jar-Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best. In the series, young contestants will face challenges testing their strength, knowledge, and bravery, on their way to becoming full-fledged Jedi Knights. Best will portray an experienced Jedi Master guiding the participants on their way; he'll be joined by a drone companion voiced by actress and comedian Mary Holland. The show will debut on Disney+ sometime in 2020. – DEADLINE

7. Zoe Kazan and Adrian Grenier will star in the forthcoming Netflix limited series "Clickbait." The series was co-created by "The Slap" showrunner Tony Ayers and "Harry Potter" producer David Heyman; Ayers will also co-write the script. "Clickbait" will look at the dangers of social media, and the "widening gulf" between our real lives and our online personas. Kazan stars as a young woman searching for her missing brother, in a case that becomes "the biggest media story in the nation." Production on the series is underway in Melbourne, Australia. Betty Gabriel ("Get Out") and Phoenix Raei ("The Heights") will also appear in major roles. – DEADLINE

8. A new YouTube policy will eliminate most age-related restrictions on violent content from video games. Newly-uploaded videos that contain animated or simulated violence from games will now be approved for all ages more quickly and efficiently based on the new policy, which went into effect on Monday. YouTube noted that it will "still maintain our high bar to protect audiences from real-world violence," including simulated violence from live-action films and TV shows. The new policy does not apply to advertising-related restrictions, as some gaming videos may still be deemed too violent for sponsors. It also may not apply to videos with a specific focus on particularly violent moments in games. (For example, a video showcasing bloody "fatalities" from "Mortal Kombat" games.) – VERGE

9. HBO Europe ordered an eight-episode first season for the drama "Kamikaze," its first original series from Denmark. The show, based on a novel by Norwegian author Erlend Loe, centers on a young woman who goes on an international journey after her entire family is killed in a plane crash. Annette K. Olesen, who previously helmed episodes of the Danish drama series "Borgen," will direct the series; Johanne Algren will write the adaptation. – THR

10. Kate Knibbs of The Ringer sought out the dirtiest content on Disney+. Knibbs' search included a scan of ribald-sounding titles (such as "Once Upon a Mattress"), investigations into (mostly untrue) urban legends about pornographic content snuck into Disney animated films, and even an email exchange with a (mostly unhelpful) Disney spokesperson. Disney+ contains no R-rated movies but does have some films and shows that are rated PG-13 or TV-14. Ultimately, Knibbs concluded that the two most adult sequences on Disney+ are slave dancer Oola's performance in Jabba the Hutt's palace in "Return of the Jedi" and a shot where actor Brendan Fraser nearly reveals his butt from "George of the Jungle." – THERINGER

Lon Harris is the writer and editor of Inside Streaming, and was the very first person to ever write an Inside newsletter. He lives in Los Angeles, California, and also writes about TV and film for Fandom, Screen Junkies, Rotten Tomatoes, Gamma Ray and others. He competes on The Movie Trivia Schmoedown as "The Professor." You can follow him on Twitter @lons

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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