Although his imminent move to Austin promises to settle it for good, there has long been some quibbling around here about whether Woody Harrelson truly qualifies as Texan. Harrelson was born and raised in Midland—the son of one of Texas’s most notorious killers, no less—yet his doubters will point out that he’d long since decamped to the Midwest by the time he hit puberty. Despite his technically being a Texas native, it is sometimes argued, Harrelson therefore lacks whatever essential Texas-ness is baked into one’s natural fiber during those formative years.
Still, it cannot be denied that Woody Harrelson has a distinctly Texan demeanor, one that is laid-back yet quietly formidable, and which sees him cast, repeatedly and believably, as Texans in films like No Country for Old Men, The Highwaymen, and LBJ. Harrelson is also, by many accounts, a very nice man (now that his hardest-partying days are behind him, at least), and these are two qualities that any self-respecting Texan aspires to. As proof, this week we learned that, back when Harrelson hosted Saturday Night Live in September 2019, he even took it upon himself to leave behind a friendly note of welcome and encouragement for the next week’s host, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Harrelson’s sweet gesture kicked off a new SNL tradition, one that’s been passed down through hosts from Dan Levy to Regina King, all the way up to Harrelson’s fellow dubious Texan, Nick Jonas. It’s the sort of generosity you’d expect from a guy who once studied to be a minister. And it’s definitely what a good Southern boy who was properly raised in the Texas Bible Belt would do.
Woody Harrelson is so nice, so capable of bringing out the affable best in everyone, in fact, that you could maybe even buy him as a positive influence on a literal Nazi. The Hollywood Reporter says that Harrelson will soon be The Man with the Miraculous Hands—no longer merely words of praise delivered in the hazy grips of a Matthew McConaughey bro hug, but rather the title of an upcoming World War II thriller that finds Harrelson playing Felix Kersten, the real-life physician who tended to Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler. As dramatized in Joseph Kessel’s novel of the same name, Kersten found himself in Himmler’s trust after relieving the Holocaust architect of his crippling abdominal pains, becoming his unlikely confidante. This relationship allowed Kersten to wield an unusual influence over his patient, which Kersten used to push for pardons that spared untold thousands from the concentration camps. It’s an ambitious role for Harrelson, one that will find him playing an Estonian-born Finnish citizen and very possibly trying on a Baltic accent, which would certainly be an interesting stretch. But behind it all will be that same Southern gentility that Texans will recognize as their own, however begrudgingly.
Maya Rudolph’s Beyoncé Returns to Saturday Night Live
On the subject of SNL, last weekend’s episode saw a return appearance from the show’s classic recurring character Beyoncé, with host Maya Rudolph reprising her well-honed impression in a sketch parodying the popular web series Hot Ones. Like the show it was based on, it has a simple premise: Beyoncé—after confidently declaring, “I’m from Texas, baby”—eats her way through a platter of increasingly spicy wings, then struggles to maintain her unflappably cool composure as they liquefy her insides. As always, although Rudolph is poking fun at Beyoncé’s air of regal superiority, her take is less about criticizing the Houston star than mocking the persona we’ve all collectively created for her, which makes this a more loving work of satire—even when she has Beyoncé guzzling milk while issuing threats to Solange. Besides, considering that thieves recently stole $1 million worth of dresses and handbags from her storage units, Beyoncé definitely has bigger things to be mad about right now than getting dinged on SNL.
Lizzo Sued, Again
Beyoncé’s fellow Houston phenom Lizzo has seen her own fair share of celebrity-induced problems of late, several of them in the form of lawsuits. After being sued by a Postmates driver whom Lizzo had publicly accused of stealing her food in 2019, then successfully fending off songwriters seeking royalties from her single “Truth Hurts,” Lizzo is being sued yet again—this time by a man who says she sampled his singing without permission on her 2016 song “Coconut Oil.” Orlandus Dunning of Detroit claims that, when he performed a hymn at a mutual relative’s private funeral that both he and Lizzo had attended, Lizzo apparently recorded his singing without his knowledge or consent, then used it in the opening and closing bars of the track without his permission. Not that he would have granted permission, Dunning’s lawsuit says, because “the message in the song is contradictory to his own brand and beliefs as an ordained elder in the Church of God in Christ.” The message of “Coconut Oil”—an ode to self-care, self-love, and self-actualization—so clashes with Dunning’s sense of humble piety that it’s caused him untold “anguish, embarrassment, and outrage,” to the tune of $750,000 in damages. God doesn’t condone good moisturizer, apparently.
Megan Thee Stallion and Lizzo Headline a Revived Bonnaroo
While she’s yet to comment on her latest legal troubles, Lizzo has reason to look past and celebrate this week (even while bracing for yet more shoes to drop). She and fellow Houston star Megan Thee Stallion have been confirmed to headline the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which is slated to return this fall. Many of the scheduled performers—including Tame Impala, Run the Jewels, Lana Del Rey, and Lizzo herself—are 2020 holdovers reclaiming the slots they lost after the pandemic forced the fest’s first-ever cancellation. But the 2021 lineup also reflects some of the artists who have experienced tectonic shifts since last March, arguably none more so than Megan Thee Stallion, who made the leap from a second-line, small-font billing in 2020 to claim this year’s Friday co-headlining slot alongside Foo Fighters. Bonnaroo 2021 will take place in Manchester, Tennessee, from September 2–5 with as-yet-unspecified COVID-19 safety measures in place—but also with the assumption that vaccines will have made this sort of thing seem fun again, rather than terrifying.
Austin Film Festival Announces Its Return to In-Person Events
That same cautious optimism is fueling the Austin Film Festival’s own return to in-person events this year, which makes it one of the first festivals of its kind to embrace a return to semi-normalcy. The annual eight-day festival will pick back up all over Austin the week of October 21–28, hosting live screenings and guest panels with a roster that so far includes The Queen’s Gambit co-creator Scott Frank, Inside Out writer Meg LeFauve, and Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Nicole Perlman. More names are sure to be announced as soon as everyone is able to relax a little bit. For those who are unable—or not yet willing—to attend, this year will also feature a “virtual badge” option allowing you to screen select, pre-taped festival programming, all from the safety of your home.
Jamie Foxx Signs Production Deal With MTV
The hope that vaccines will soon bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone suddenly giddy with possibilities, trying to pack an entire year’s worth of missed opportunity into this summer and fall. But if you’re Jamie Foxx, you never did let anything so minor as a global health crisis slow you down. The indefatigable Terrell native has been on an absolute tear these past twelve months, signing on to star in everything from an action thriller about a pool-cleaning vampire hunter, to a Netflix sitcom where he plays multiple zany characters a la In Living Color, to Hulu’s new prestige series about boxer Mike Tyson. Somewhere in there, Foxx also signed a production deal to create an indefinite number of feature films for Sony, and just last week, he made a similar arrangement with MTV, one that will see him producing a slate of diverse features for the entertainment group from filmmakers who are Black, indigenous, or from other underrepresented backgrounds. With Fox having starred in Disney-Pixar’s animated hit Soul last year, and having been reupped to host another season of Fox’s Beat Shazam, there is now practically no major media company that does not have some sort of working relationship with Jamie Foxx right now—and if there is, that’s on them.
Watch Jason Statham Kill Post Malone
With his relentless championing of lowest-common-denominator stuff like beer pong and Crocs, his Hootie and the Blowfish cover for an audience of Pokémon, and his maddeningly ubiquitous, algorithm-riding amalgam of warbly pop-rap, Grapevine singer Post Malone tends to provoke a lot of confused feelings from anyone who isn’t already primed to love him. Complicating matters, he seems like a decent enough, defiantly unaffected, capital-D dude who’s preternaturally skilled at capturing the zeitgeist, and there’s no denying that he’s both talented and hardworking. All of this makes it hard to genuinely resent Malone for any reason besides latent jealousy, or the cranky exhaustion he produces in people who are suddenly awakening to the fact that they’re getting older and aren’t in charge of the culture anymore.
But dealing with those kinds of deep-seated hang-ups is hard. So in lieu of performing a searching self-inventory, perhaps you’d like to watch Jason Statham shoot Post Malone in the head? If so, pay attention at the one-minute mark of this trailer for Guy Ritchie’s upcoming Wrath of Man, where Statham plays a renegade security guard (or something), and Malone plays a sketchy, Post Malone–looking guy who winds up getting in the way of Statham’s gun. The film, due out May 7, marks another notch in Malone’s burgeoning movie career, which all began with getting the crap kicked out of him by Mark Wahlberg. No doubt it will lead to many more appearances in things where an angry old man takes it out on Post Malone.
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
After a marathon few days in which he announced his imminent return to HBO, organized and hosted a two-hour, all-star benefit to raise millions in winter storm relief, and kept the burning embers of his possible gubernatorial run from getting completely cashed, Matthew McConaughey finally got back to just livin’ this week—and more specifically, l-i-v-i-n in the p-a-s-t, albeit all for a good cause. The erstwhile Wooderson will take part in a new Dazed and Confused reunion alongside director Richard Linklater, fellow cast member Parker Posey, and host Jack Black, recording their recollections via Zoom for a video to be shown after screenings of the film at Alamo Drafthouse theaters and beyond. It’s all scheduled to begin the week of—what else—4/20. That’s what you love about these high school films, man: You get older, but the jokes stay the same age.
The virtual reunion is all part of Alamo Drafthouse’s “Support Local Cinemas” initiative, which will provide films and other special-event screenings to theaters around the world at no charge, offering up comfort-food favorites in the hopes of getting people back to the movies. It’s also interactive: if you want to submit a question to McConaughey et al. to be asked during the Q&A, you can tweet it with the hashtag #Dazed. But keep it light, will ya? We’ve all had a tough year.