Lizzo leads the pack of the just-announced Grammy nominees with eight nods in all, dominating the awards much as she has the charts, festivals, memes, and the cultural conversation this year. Completing a nearly two-year journey to its rightful ubiquity, “Truth Hurts” is nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance, while Cuz I Love You (Deluxe) is up for both Best Urban Contemporary Album and Album of the Year. The Houston-bred singer scored more nominations for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Jerome” and Best R&B Performance for her Gucci Mane duet “Exactly How I Feel,” and she’s also up for Best New Artist—a bit of a misnomer for someone who’s already on her third solo album, though this is more or less on par for the Grammys. (She’ll face off in that category against Austin’s own Black Pumas, who genuinely are new, so we don’t really know what to think anymore.) Lizzo will vie for Record of the Year against El Paso’s Khalid and Dallas’s Post Malone, meaning the odds of a Texas artist taking home the big prize are good. Still, we know which one we’d bet on.
Lizzo to Join Eddie Murphy on SNL
Saturday Night Live also announced Lizzo as the musical guest on December 21—an episode notable not only because it’s just before Christmas, or because Lizzo’s Lizzo, but because it will mark the return of Eddie Murphy to the show for the first time since 1984. Murphy famously feuded with his old sketch comedy stomping grounds back when David Spade made an offhand joke about his floundering movie career, holding on to that grudge for well over a decade. Things have apparently been patched up well enough that Murphy’s not only coming back, he’s also reviving many of his classic sketches.
Undone Gets a Second Season
Amazon announced it has renewed the animated head trip Undone for another go-round, just a couple months after it premiered on the streaming service. Although Undone is filmed in Los Angeles—and largely takes place on some sort of astral plane—the show has deep Texas ties. San Antonio native Kate Purdy created the series and set it in her hometown, while Austin’s Minnow Mountain works on its digital rotoscoping animation, a technique first developed by Austin’s Bob Sabiston that’s been most famously used in films by Austin directors Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly, Waking Life) and Keith Maitland (Tower). Undone stars Rosa Salazar as a young woman who survives a near-fatal car accident, only to discover she has the ability to bend time and space. (Or does she??) She uses her newfound powers to commune with her late father (Bob Odenkirk) and investigate his mysterious death, a plotline that—without spoiling anything—came to something of a cliffhanger resolution in the first-season finale, making this news a boon to those who enjoy elastic realities but still prefer unambiguous storytelling.
Noah Hawley to Helm Star Trek
Austin resident Noah Hawley has been tapped to take over the rebooted Star Trek franchise, the Hollywood Reporter announced this week, and will direct the fourth film in the series relaunched by J.J. Abrams in 2009, with Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, and Zachary Quinto all expected to return to the Enterprise. Hawley has become sort of a go-to guy for taking old intellectual property and twisting it into something new and unexpected, as evidenced by his FX series Fargo and Legion. Various film studios—who love old intellectual property!—have naturally come calling, drafting Hawley to create new films based on things like classic Universal monsters and Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom. That said, his movie directing credits are, thus far, slim: he made his feature debut with this year’s Natalie Portman-starring Lucy in the Sky, a poorly received film loosely based on the criminal misadventures of real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak that became largely known for its dismaying lack of diapers. Still, Hawley has a distinct visual flair, as well as a talent for making frustrating plot points and confusing timelines seem like stylistic choices. So he should fit right in with the Star Trek universe. None of its astronauts wear diapers either.
Sin City Heads to TV
The Hollywood Reporter also notes that Legendary TV is close to signing Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez to executive produce a series based on Sin City, Frank Miller’s noir-nightmare comic that Rodriguez previously adapted into two films: 2005’s Sin City and its 2014 sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Miller is already onboard for the potential show, which has been guaranteed a first season should it land distribution with a network or streaming service—something that seems likely, given that the flood of new streaming services has created a rapacious need for content, particularly anything with a little bit of built-in name recognition. Although details are scarce, Rodriguez’s involvement suggests the series is looking to mimic the striking visual style of his movies, both of which were filmed in Austin. Hopefully we can expect to see local casting calls for men with enormous chins any day now.
So Will Varsity Blues
That insatiable need for new, but not too new, content has also led the fledgling streaming service Quibi to pick up a series based on Varsity Blues, the 1999 high school football movie that was set in the fictional West Canaan, Texas, and filmed around Coupland, Elgin, and Austin. The original, starring James Van Der Beek as a popular yet angst-filled quarterback, is these days largely remembered, in GIF form, for his famous line, “I don’t want your life!”—as well as for lending its name to the FBI investigation into the college admissions scandal that brought down celebrities like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. As the muted passing of the film’s twentieth anniversary demonstrates, Varsity Blues is perhaps not as celebrated as, say, Friday Night Lights, to which any TV adaptation of a movie about Texas football will inevitably be compared. Nevertheless, Varsity Blues is apparently considered fertile enough property that this is actually the second attempt to revive it, after CMT drafted then scrapped a Varsity Blues series in 2017. The Quibi project has tasked Stuber screenwriter Tripper Clancy with updating the story of a misfit football team suffering under an abusive coach (played in the movie by Jon Voight), though we don’t know much else about it at the moment—other than it will once again take place in fake Texas and concern the invented dramas of imaginary athletes.
Yet another Hollywood Reporter story reports that MGM has hired Little Monsters director Abe Forsythe for Robocop Returns, a sequel to the 1987 Robocop that was filmed largely in Dallas, where the clash of gleaming skyscrapers and rotting historic buildings proved an ideal stand-in for futuristic “Old Detroit.” That film spawned two follow-ups, the Houston-shot Robocop 2 and the dismal Robocop 3 (filmed in Atlanta), as well as a full-on reboot in 2014, but this new project will ignore all of those. Original screenwriters Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner are returning to produce a treatment they first drafted decades ago. As recently as 2018, Robocop Returns was attached to District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, and Neumeier told the Dallas Observer at the time that Blomkamp was determined to make it look and feel like the first RoboCop—very possibly meaning a return to film in the city. Although it’s obviously too soon to tell what Forsythe has in mind, it stands to reason that any RoboCop sequel demands at least a few pickup shots at Dallas City Hall, a.k.a. Omni Consumer Products headquarters, if it wants to be taken seriously—even though they probably can’t get away with blowing up big chunks of Elm Street anymore.
This Week In Matthew McConaughey
It was a busy week for the indefatigable McConaughey, who introduced a new eco-friendly cabin he’d helped to design with the help of “tiny home” start-up Unyoked, which is available to rent for a mere $150 a night on the New South Wales coast of Australia. Dubbed “The Reserve,” the small, solar-powered getaway was conceived as part of McConaughey’s creative director role at Wild Turkey and features several McConaughey-added touches like a hidden bar, some McConaughey-selected books and cassette tapes (playable on its vintage stereo system), and a wooden plaque above the bathroom that reads “Longbranch Loo,” a nod to McConaughey’s line of Wild Turkey bourbon.
While promoting his cabin Down Under, McConaughey reminisced with Today Show Australia about the year he lived there as a high-school exchange student, recalling how he was very nearly bitten by a venomous brown snake—a tragedy that would have robbed us of countless This Weeks in Matthew McConaughey. Elsewhere, he weighed in on the Takeout’s eternal “Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?” debate: “No, a hot dog’s a hot dog,” McConaughey said, before backtracking, “Technically, I believe you could call it a sandwich.” Finally, he kept up his burgeoning social media presence, offering shoutouts to Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback (and Austinite) Nick Foles and Welsh darts champion Gerwyn Price on Twitter; posting a photo of his wife and son, presumably post-skydive, to Instagram; and offering this zen koan beneath a photo of himself at a Longhorns game: “can’t have a stampede without a herd.”
Somewhere in there, the actor also apparently found the time to work on, you know, acting, sharing an artsy, heavily filtered snap of a screenplay that was riddled with notes and topped off by reading glasses presumably removed during a moment of intense contemplation. This was captioned simply “process.” Strangely, the script appears to be for the long-completed 2015 movie The Sea of Trees, although we suppose it just goes to show you that Matthew McConaughey never stops working.