‘The Beatles: Get Back’ Is A Miracle For Hardcore Beatles Fan

Around five hours into Peter Jackson‘s eight-hour epic The Beatles: Get Back, we see Michael Lindsay-Hogg – the director of the 1970 film Get Back who was responsible for all of this footage existing in the first place – with a distressed look on his face and he kind of sighs and says, “I don’t know what story I’m telling anymore.” His biggest problem, which he fully admits, is, if everyone is being honest, he’s got, on film, the most intimate portrait of the most famous band in the world. And of course when he says this out loud all The Beatles seem into the idea of just “putting it all out there,” but Lindsay-Hogg has that look on his face that he knows this will never happen. There’s no way anyone is going to see what really happened for at least 50 years. (It would take almost 53.)

The Let It Be sessions are infamously legendary. And every Beatles fan has dreamed about being given access to the vault with approximately 60 hours of footage from this time period. The fact that it’s never been released just fueled the idea that it must be The Beatles at their worst, constantly at each other’s throats. And the Let It Be film that came out in 1970 didn’t help. At only 80 minutes, it is basically just the songs preformed, inter-spliced with a few “fly on the wall” moments with not much context. (This movie is pretty hard to find. A couple years ago I had to buy a bootleg off of eBay.)

The most notorious scene involves Paul and George while rehearsing “Two of Us” (a very pleasant song that, somehow, always seems to be surrounded by drama in both the original Let It Be and Get Back). Paul McCartney is trying to tell George Harrison what he wants and adds an aside that he knows this annoys George. George fires back, “You don’t annoy me anymore,” with the “anymore” part being extra pointed. Now, when you take into account that the film was released right about the time The Beatles broke up, everyone just assumed every interaction was like this. There’s a scene in Get Back, late in the sessions, when Paul and John Lennon are singing “Two of Us” as ventriloquists, both trying to outdo each other as to keep their smiling teeth together and not move their lips as they sing. They are having a blast. It shows a portrait of two people who, yes, can get on each other’s nerves. But these are obviously two people who still genuinely like each other.

What is hard to get over is everything we’ve always heard about this era of The Beatles is now just … here. Like, want to know what it was like? Well, now you can travel back in time to January 1969 and spend eight hours with them. This is how I engaged with the material. Other than, every so often, a few written out captioning explaining what is happening, there’s no modern voiceover or talking heads. For people who maybe don’t care that much about The Beatles and are looking for a more straightforward documentary, this might get tedious. You know, maybe by the 15th time the band rehearses “Get Back,” I could see the more casual fan thinking, why am I watching this? But, for me, I was transported back just to observe. I literally felt like I was there as a frustrated Paul started strumming his bass trying to come up with anything new and, slowly, you can hear the formation of “Get Back” start to emerge. It’s like watching one of those miracle of lifetime lapse videos of a flower blooming. It’s incredible to watch McCartney literally just make up one of the most famous songs of all time in real-time.

Another fascinating aspect is the presence of Yoko Ono during all of this. Much has been assumed about her relationship with the rest of the band and the repercussions, but, again here, we get to see it. And, yes, she’s always there. And if I’m Paul McCartney, yeah, I can see how someone bringing their significant other to work every day might be a little disruptive. And you can tell sometimes he’s annoyed. But there’s no real blowup or anger. For the most part, she’s just there, sitting next to John, not saying much. Sometimes when the band is jamming she will scream into the microphone. On a day John is late, Paul is asked point-blank about her presence and he says John and Yoko want to basically merge as one, and to do that they have to be around each other at all times and who is he to say they can’t do that. He goes as far to say, “she’s okay, honestly.” And admits if he pushes things, John would choose Yoko over The Beatles and, as the defacto leader of the band, he’ll take John and Yoko over no John at all.

And this all leads to another interesting development. Most Beatles fans know that when the band formed it was John Lennon’s band. And as the years went on, Paul’s influence became greater and by the time Let It Be happens, Paul’s the one running the show. And running it without a manager since Brian Epstein died, so he’s also doing that. It’s weird, Paul gets some criticisms for this era but Get Back puts all this in better context. Yeah, he can be a jerk sometimes, but he’s the only one in the band trying to keep the band together. Ringo Starr had already quit and come back during their previous album. George quits and comes back during this one. And John looks, honestly, pretty content, but also it’s obvious he has no interest in a leadership role.

After George quits, Paul and John go to a cafeteria to have a private meeting, but didn’t realize there’s a hidden microphone in the room. And we get to hear the whole conversation. And it’s fascinating. It’s Paul basically saying he has to be the leader because John doesn’t want to be the leader and admitting that his leadership style has pissed off George, as John gives Paul advice on how to be a better leader. What’s interesting is both men are frustrated, but voices are never raised. If there were ever a time the two would be at “each other’s throats,” this would probably be the time. But, instead, it’s constructive. And, again, a peek behind The Beatles curtain and it’s unbelievably fascinating.

Get Back is not about a band breaking up. It’s about a band trying to save itself, but ultimately fails. The whole idea of a rooftop concert is to do something new and exciting. After that performance, which would be their last together, the idea is that is just the beginning. They start talking about more ideas for popup concerts. But what Get Back deftly shows is that the seeds are already planted for a breakup. Even after George returns, he’s frustrated because he doesn’t get enough of his songs on the album and says he has a lot of songs built up. And had contemplated selling them off but, instead, now wants to make a solo album separate from The Beatles. John has become enchanted with Allen Klein, the manager of The Rolling Stones. And Klein wants to manage The Beatles and John is pushing the others hard about this, but the rest of them seem, at the best, nonplussed about this idea.

(I know some people won’t like what Jackson has done with the film, making it look modern. And to be honest I usually don’t like that either. When I buy a 4K disc of a movie, I want it to look grainy. One of the worst 4K discs is Terminator 2, which has so much digital noise reduction applied it looks like it was filmed on an iPhone. It’s terrible. But what Jackson does with Get Back doesn’t bother me. He’s doing something else here. He’s not restoring an existing movie, he’s making a new thing. And I do think the aesthetic he comes up with here does help immerse a viewer. Put it this way: if Jackson did this to, say, The Frighteners, I would not like this. But, here, I get what he’s doing and, for me, it works.)

Again, for casual fans, Get Back might be a bit much. Honestly, even for big fans of Beatles music, if you don’t care about the inner workings of the band and their personalities, it might, too, be a bit much. (There were times even I was like, okay, this seems a bit much. But when I think of this as more of a historical document than a piece of entertainment, I get why certain scenes were included. I get why Jackson decided that even some tedious scenes needed to be seen by the public instead of locked in a vault somewhere.) But if you want to go back in time to January 1969 and just hang out with The Beatles and see what that’s like, there is nothing that comes closer to this experience than Get Back.

‘The Beatles: Get Back’ begins streaming on Thanksgiving Day via Disney+. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

‘The Last Waltz’ Is The Best Thanksgiving Movie Ever Made

(Editor’s note: In honor of Thanksgiving, we’re recirculating this piece, originally published in 2016. We hope you enjoy it.)

The Last Waltz is a concert film directed by Martin Scorsese about a star-studded “retirement” show by The Band that occurred 40 years ago on Thanksgiving day in San Francisco. The co-stars are Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, and about another half-dozen rock stars from the ’60s and ’70s. Every year around this time, I try to watch The Last Waltz at least once, in the way that people watch A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life whenever mid-December rolls around. I’ve come to regard The Last Waltz — and I preface this by offering sincere apologies to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles — as the greatest Thanksgiving movie ever. That’s not simply because The Last Waltz takes place on the holiday, but also because this film embodies what’s wonderful, horrible, hilarious, and moving about one of this country’s most sacred annual traditions, and how many of us manage to survive it. Other films have used Thanksgiving as a backdrop. But to me, The Last Waltz is Thanksgiving.

Allow me to recount the plot of The Last Waltz: A dysfunctional family of five brothers has decided to stop living together. Before they split up, they invite a coterie of friends dressed in colorful suits and floppy hats over for a holiday celebration. Despite years of pent-up resentment — the brother with the amazing voice loathes the brother with the amazing haircut, whom he views as disloyal and undermining — all parties agree to put these tensions aside and put on a good face in front of the guests.

The guest list at this party is truly a mixed bag. There is a wise old man from Mississippi. There is a beautiful blonde poet from the Hollywood hills. There is a jive-talking hipster from New Orleans. There is a coked-up Canadian hippie. There is a portly, purple-suited Irishman who mistakenly believes that he knows karate. And then there’s the Jewish rock star for Minnesota who can’t decide if he really wants to be there.

Thus far, it sounds like I’m describing a Wes Anderson film. And, in some ways, I am — beneath the formalism of the filmmaking is a whole lot of messiness.

On the surface, the party is lavish — there are chandeliers on loan from Gone with the Wind (really!) and the lighting is bold and theatrical and there are famous writers reciting indecipherable passages from Chaucer. Beyond the pomp and circumstance, however, it’s like the bowery. Nearly everyone is sneaking away to get smashed on booze and smuggled chemicals — this is out of habit, but also because family reunions tend to be fraught with tension. It is the most certain of all inalienable truths. The trio of sweet, soft-spoken brothers know that the brother with the amazing haircut will be overbearing and arrogant, and that the brother with the amazing voice will make his stirring but problematic case sympathizing with Southerners who lost the Civil War. And the sweet, soft-spoken ones will once again be caught hopelessly in the middle. You feel for them. Weird politics and flawed family dynamics – who can’t relate to dreading these things at this time of the year?

And yet — in spite of the resentments, and the betrayals, and the intensifying intoxication — everyone is able to come together and conjure a feeling of community. When they gather around to tell old family stories that have been told and re-told umpteen times — like the one about Jack Ruby, or the one about shoplifting bologna and cigarettes — the brothers pretend to laugh whenever the overbearing brother takes over the conversation. (The upside of being on stage is that you can turn off his microphone.) After a while, the laughs seem less forced. They’re faking it so well that they start to feel actual community and love and understanding. This is what The Last Waltz, and Thanksgiving, is all about.

Earlier this month, Robbie Robertson put out a memoir, Testimony, that concludes not long after The Last Waltz. (Condolences to anyone hoping for an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the making of 2011’s How To Become Clairvoyant.) My feelings about Testimony are as conflicted as they are about Robertson — he’s a great artist and an insufferable person, and Testimony similarly is artfully rendered and often hard to stomach.

As is my custom with rock memoirs, I’ve been reading Testimony out of order, in order to get to the parts that most interest me. The Last Waltz is near the top of that list. Robertson was the chief engineer of The Last Waltz — he conceived the concert, brought on Scorsese, and acted as the film’s producer. Unsurprisingly, his view of the concert is sanitized and romanticized — he goes into deep (perhaps unnecessary) detail about the conception and planning of the concert, recounting every personnel hire and rehearsal. Of course, every move is confirmation of Robertson’s genius.

For people that have seen The Last Waltz as many times as I have, Testimony will be interesting be default. Because I am one of those nerds who is curious about any and all minutia related to this concert, including what Van Morrison was wearing before the show. (“A beige trench coat,” Robertson writes, clearly less exciting than the extravagant purple jumpsuit he wore on stage.) For anyone else, however, Robertson might seem ponderous. He heaps praise upon the performers, particularly Neil Diamond, who in Robertson’s estimation performed “Dry Your Eyes” (which Robertson co-wrote) “like a sermon out of Elmer Gentry.” Robertson even spends a paragraph describing the Japanese bath in his San Francisco hotel room.

As for the other guys in The Band… well, Robertson admits that they weren’t as into the film as he was, but “they didn’t have the cinematic passion that I did.” Hm … sounds a little fishy, Robbie.

At that point, I decided it was best to chase what I was reading in Testimony with some passages from Levon Helm’s scathing 1993 book This Wheel’s On Fire, a dishier and more overtly nasty book than Testimony.

(Notice that I said “overtly” — Robertson isn’t above score settling, he just does it in a more magnanimous tone. For instance, when describing a disastrous 1970 gig at the Hollywood Bowl, Robertson hints that Helm’s heroin addiction adversely affected The Band’s performance, though he later diffuses the accusation by adding that Helm himself admitted as much after the show. Why Robertson chose to write about a forgotten concert — and throw Helm under the bus 46 years later — is a mystery. Though, perhaps, it does explain why he waited until after Helm died to write a book.)

In Testimony, Robertson claims that when he brought up the idea of a retirement concert to the guys in The Band, “no one was opposed to the idea.” Even Helm “knew we couldn’t continue with out live shows.” If Robertson really believes that, then I suggest that he read This Wheel’s On Fire. Helm’s take on The Last Waltz is unequivocal: “I didn’t want any part of it,” he writes. “I didn’t want to break up the band.”

In Helm’s version of events, Robertson pressed Helm about the dangers of the road, and how it took the lives of everyone from Hank Williams Sr. to Jimi Hendrix. “Every time I get on the plane I’m thinking about this stuff,” Helm recalls Robertson saying. “The whole thing just isn’t healthy anymore.”

“I’m not in it for my health,” Helm replies. “I’m a musician, and I wanna live the way I do.” (This quote later inspired the title of the heart-rending 2013 documentary, Ain’t in It for My Health: A Film about Levon Helm.)

Helm claims he only went along with The Last Waltz because management made it seem that he had no choice — whether that’s really true or if it speaks to the same self-defeating fatalism that caused Helm and the rest of the Band to slowly cede control to Robertson, it’s hard to say. Like so many families, the Band was undone by money problems. Robertson was credited as the Band’s primary songwriter, a distinction that Helm felt put too fine a point on the group’s collaborative process. At one time, these men freely pooled their talents and personal experiences for the common good. While Robertson technically wrote “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” the song’s authenticity and soul came from Helm. But that partnership was over by the time of The Last Waltz.

In The Last Waltz, Robertson’s dark proclamations about “the road” form the narrative, while Helm’s contrasting view goes unacknowledged. This inevitably influenced Helm’s view of the film. When Helm finally saw The Last Waltz, he “was in shock over how bad the movie was,” he writes in This Wheel’s On Fire. Helm hated how many overdubs there were. (In Helm’s book, the Band’s producer John Simon claims that the only tracks that weren’t re-recorded were Helm’s vocals and drums.) Helm hated that Scorsese (whom he refers to, hilariously, as “the dummy”) didn’t shoot the dress rehearsal or any of the pre-show festivities orchestrated by concert promoter Bill Graham, which he felt were some of the best parts of the event.

Most of all, Helm despised Robertson’s “world-weary angst” about the life of touring musicians. In Helm’s view, this was like a gangster trying to leave the mafia. Ultimately, Helm felt that Robertson sold out his former comrades. “To me,” Helm concludes, “it was unforgivable.”

All of this stuff composes the poisonous subtext of The Last Waltz. Perhaps it’s easier to enjoy the movie if you aren’t aware of it. Or if you stick with Testimony and ignore This Wheel’s On Fire. But for me, the subtext actually deepens the experience of watching The Last Waltz.

I don’t think the movie would be as rich if it was simply about an old ’60s rock group that decided to hang it up. The tension between the joyous performances and the embittered back-stage reality is what gives The Last Waltz its emotional and spiritual power. If Helm really hated being there, then his ecstatic yodeling at the end of “Up On Cripple Creek” is all the more remarkable. If Rick Danko was already focused on his solo career — when Scorsese tries to interview him in The Last Waltz, Danko instead plays the luminous “Sip The Wine” from 1977’s Rick Danko — then his definitive performance of “It Makes No Difference” is that much more awe-inspiring. If Richard Manuel already seemed to be on his last legs, as both Robertson and Helm suggest in their books, the courageous grit he lends to “The Shape I’m In” is flat-out heroic.

(Garth Hudson is the only member of The Band I have not yet directly referenced. I am the one billionth person to make this mistake when talking about The Band, but only because he was seemingly unbothered by the humanoid craziness surrounding him in The Last Waltz. To quote Ronnie Hawkins, Hudson was werrrd, a musical genius living in his own solar system.)

Perhaps Helm’s point of view made it into The Last Waltz after all. No matter what Robertson says about the impossibility of road life, the rest of the guys refute by showing. These musicians are so devoted to their craft that they can perform masterfully, no matter the circumstances. They are weary men who find the wherewithal to transcend their weariness and approach grace.

This is what keeps me coming back to The Last Waltz every Thanksgiving. It affirms the faith in the power of ritual to heal — at least temporarily — whatever is awkward or unresolved or plain broken about your familial bonds. Sometimes, that belief is just enough to make things okay for a little while.

Louis C.K. And Dave Chappelle Getting Grammy Nominations Is Making People Wonder If Maybe ‘Cancel Culture’ Isn’t Real

It’s become fashionable, even profitable, to come out against what is known as “cancel culture.” Opponents to this practice, whose very existence is debatable, claim people, usually young progressives, destroy the lives of those who say or do things they problematic. Others argue it’s a fiction, invented by culture warlords to protect those who don’t want their controversial views called into question. So when Dave Chappelle, under fire for anti-trans comments, and Louis C.K., who confessed to multiple cases of sexual misconduct in 2017, wound up with Grammy nominations on Tuesday, some wondered if “cancel culture” was perhaps not as powerful, or as real, as some have claimed.

C.K., who’s been playing big shows again, wound up fêted with a Best Comedy Album nom for Sincerely Louis C.K. Meanwhile, fellow comic Chappelle received a nom not for comedy but for Best Spoken Word Album, for 8:46, which he released mid-pandemic, and which addressed the murder of George Floyd. That means he’ll be competing against no less than Barack Obama, for A Promised Land.

The two weren’t the only “cancelled” artists who wound up with Grammy nominations. Marilyn Manson, who’s facing sexual assault lawsuits from several women, wound up recognized for his work on Kanye West’s Donda. Kevin Hart, whose homophobic comments led to him withdrawing as host of the 2019 Oscars, will compete with C.K. for the comedy album Zero F***s Given.

Chappelle has not apologized for his anti-trans comments, which he’s made across numerous specials for Netflix. After his most recent controversial special, The Closer, dropped, he even told a roaring crowd, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.” Perhaps it was a joke on how “cancel culture” isn’t real, that it doesn’t destroy lives but make them stronger. Or perhaps he was just reveling in his infamy.

But when word broke out that C.K., Chappelle and other “cancelled” artists were being celebrated by a major awards body, some people on social media wondered if “cancel culture” was just a bunch of BS.

Some wondered why Chappelle was nominated but not Bo Burnham’s acclaimed Inside.

Others pointed to another “cancelled” celebrity who recently revealed good career news: alleged Lethal Weapon 5 director Mel Gibson.

Lady Gaga Called Adam Driver A ‘Weirdo Like Me’ In A Touching Birthday Post

We’re still a few days removed from the holiday release of House of Gucci, the star-studded, epic account of the legendary fashion line and the crumbling marriage of Maurizio Gucci and Partrizia Reggiani. But in real life, the two main stars, Adam Driver and Lady Gaga, get along like gangbusters. They so connected on the shoot — including during a sex scene — that the latter sent a touching birthday greeting to the former.

“I hope you have the best day,” Gaga wrote on Instagram, beside a picture of the two on-set. “I’m the lucky actress who got to learn from you and lead with you every day. Shoutout to all your fans! I know why they adore you, it’s cuz you’re the best! (and you’re a weirdo like me).”

When House of Gucci hits theaters the day before Thanksgiving, it will be the second Ridley Scott movie in as many months, after The Last Duel, which also co-starred Driver. That movie tanked, despite strong reviews, but Gucci seems to at least be generating a ton of good press and social media coverage. Some of that has circled around the over-the-top Italian accents, while the singer and actress has said making the film wound up triggering some old trauma.

House of Gucci hits theaters on November 24.

(Via EW)

Lil Nas X Jokes That He’s Playing Miles Morales In The Upcoming ‘Spider-Man’ Movie

Lil Nas X has basically taken over pop culture at this point. He’s got inescapable music, he’s in commercials, he’s on billboards, he even took over an entire episode of Maury to extend the pregnancy gag from the rollout of his excellent debut album Montero. His cultural ubiquity is beginning to rival even that of the vaunted Marvel Cinematic Universe — so naturally, he wants a piece of that too, in one of the most iconic roles yet to be cast.

Replying to a fan account’s post with a photo of current and prior motion picture Peter Parkers Tom Holland and Andrew Garfield, Nas joked, “the rumors are true i will be playing miles morales.” Morales is, of course, another Spider-Man from an alternate universe who was recently transplanted into the mainstream Marvel universe (comics are weird, y’all). Considering the plot of the upcoming Spider-Man film, No Way Home, in which a magic spell gone wrong brings visitors from multiple alternate universes to the modern MCU we all know and love (yes, even you haters, stop pretending, man, no one is impressed), it’s well within the realm of possibility that Miles could be one of those visitors. This gives Nas’ “announcement” a non-zero chance of being true.

Look. I know that Lil Nas X is an incorrigible prankster with a wild sense of supremely unserious, internet-bred humor and that very little he says can ever be taken seriously. But, to borrow a phrase from the late, great Stan Lee himself — what if?

Either way, we’ll find out when Spider-Man: No Way Home hits theaters on December 17.

Bruno Mars And Anderson .Paak Are Hosting Their Own Limited Silk Sonic Radio Series On Apple Music

Now that Silk Sonic has released its debut album, An Evening With Silk Sonic, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak are ready to give something else a try. In fact, they just announced their next endeavor: The duo is hosting a new limited Apple Music radio series, which shares its name with the new album. They also shared a trailer for the show today.

The series premieres today at 10 p.m. ET on Apple Music 1 and press materials note of the first episode, “On the debut episode, Bruno and Anderson, with the help of Bootsy Collins, invite listeners to join them on an after-hours journey with music from The Jackson 5, Con Funk Shun, Thundercat, The Isley Brothers, Partynextdoor, and much more.” Of the series as a whole, press materials also say, “Over the course of four one-hour episodes, the pair feature Silk Sonic-inspired sets of all of their favorite records, ranging from old-school hits to R&B jams, hip-hop, funk, disco, and everything in between. From surprise guests to even more surprising conversation, it’s your turn to be a fly on the wall and spend some time with the kings of smooth.”

Mars says of the show, “Apple Music asked us to host a radio show to talk about the album. We had so much fun that we’ve decided to retire from music and become full time radio personalities. We want to thank Apple Music for helping us find our new calling. Goodbye cruel world of music. Hello radio. See you at the top.”

.Paak added, “When we come together on those rare instances when the clouds open and the stars unite, we go as Silk Sonic. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s never too late to turn it around, and speaking of never too late, I think we right on time.”

Watch the teaser clip above.

An Evening With Silk Sonic is out now via Atlantic Records. Get it here.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

Harry Styles Opens Up About His Marvel Debut, Which Is Pretty Much Out In The Open Now, Right?

WARNING: Spoiler for Eternals below. Although, the cat’s really out of the bag on this one.

In a casting coup that was unfortunately blasted all over Twitter two weeks before Eternals hit theaters, Harry Styles made his MCU debut in the film’s mid-credits scene as the classic Marvel character, Eros (a.k.a. Starfox if you want to get super nerdy), a hedonistic, yet occasionally heroic Eternal who spends his days wandering the galaxy looking for love. Oh, and also, he’s Thanos’ brother, which is why MCU fans absolutely flipped over Styles showing up in the cosmic film.

With the One Direction singer’s Marvel debut out in the open, Styles recently revealed to Dazed how he ended up playing the sibling of the MCU’s most brutal villain — for now:

Styles cautiously checks the publication date of this Dazed story before confirming his inclusion as the brother of villain Thanos. “I’m only in right at the very end,” he says humbly. “But who didn’t grow up wanting to be a superhero, you know? It was a great experience and I’m so grateful to have gotten to work with Chloé.”

According to Eternals director Chloé Zhao, she had Styles pegged for Eros from the first moment she saw him in Christoper Nolan’s Dunkirk, and that instinct was only further confirmed after meeting him. “There’s so much of Eros in him,” Zhao recently told Deadline while thanking Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige for making the casting happen.

As for what exactly Eros’ presence in the MCU means… that’s still anyone’s guess. He was never close with his genocidal brother in the comics, so there’s probably not a concern that he’ll be looking for revenge. Although, if there’s one thing the MCU has prided itself on, it’s switching things up, so maybe the Marvel Universe is about to be rocked again.

But, you know… handsomely this time.

(Via Dazed)

A Certain Oscar-Nominated Actor Is ‘Casually Cruel’ In Taylor Swift’s Stunning ‘All Too Well: The Short Film’

“All Too Well,” Taylor Swift‘s most beloved (and best) song, is rumored to be about her relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal. “Rumored” as she never names the actor in the Track Five (because nothing rhymes with “Gyllenhaal”?), but come on. There’s a reason he’s public enemy No. 1 among Swifties on the day that Red (Taylor’s Version) came out — “All Too Well: The Short Film” probably isn’t going to win him any fans, either.

The 13-minute video of the 10-minute song premiered on Friday at New York City’s Lincoln Center 13, where Swift also performed the song live for the first time. Now, the short film can be enjoyed by everyone — except Jake and Maggie, presumably — as it’s available on YouTube. The emotional part-music video, part-domestic drama tracks the relationship between Stranger Things standout (and Swift mega-fan) Sadie Sink as Not-Taylor and Dylan O’Brien as Not-Jake; there’s also a surprise cameo at the end.

Swift, who directed the short, told Seth Meyers that if Sink had said no to the role, “I don’t think I would’ve made it. I don’t think I would’ve made the film. I think I would’ve just been like, this is a sign.” You can watch “All Too Well: The Short Film” above.

‘The Harder They Fall’ Is A Better Music Video Than Western Movie

Contrary to some of the chatter online surrounding the release of Netflix’s new movie, The Harder They Fall, multiple hip-hop generations have a strong affinity for the Western. Consider that one of rap’s earliest music videos, Juice Crew’s “The Symphony,” revolves around a Wild West theme. Another, Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West,” made the connection plain, as did Will Smith’s redux over a decade later on the soundtrack of the film of the same name.

So it’s no surprise that The Harder They Fall — directed by Jeymes Samuel, aka The Bullitts, a musician and music video director for Jay-Z, one of the film’s producers who also appears on the excellent soundtrack — plays more like a long-form music video in the vein of Beyonce’s The Gift than it does genre staples like A Fistfull Of Dollars or The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Although it’s an important film in terms of representation of Black cowboys — who were actually just as prevalent as any other ethnicity — its true strength is as much in its soundtrack and visuals as its off-kilter storyline and mixed-bag performances.

Intriguingly enough, The Harder They Fall is far from the first movie to feature Black cowboys. In fact, it’s not the first one on Netflix this year, nor is it Samuel’s first effort. Those distinctions go to Concrete Cowboy and They Die By Dawn, respectively, although the former was a modern movie rather than a Western and the latter saw limited distribution (although, intriguingly, it also featured a strong emphasis on music, with Erykah Badu playing the same role as Zazie Beets, Stagecoach Mary, and featured another alumnus of The Wire in the late Michael K. Williams, playing Nat Love).

And while there has been much emphasis placed on the true-life inspirations of characters like Mary, Nat, Rufus Buck, Cherokee Bill, and Bass Reeves, the actual story of the films plays out more like the plot of Tombstone, with little of these real-life characters’ actual histories represented here. It’s not quite an affront to fictionalize real peoples’ lives to tell a historical fantasy, but it does feel a bit self-indulgent. The story, such as it is, doesn’t really need to use the names and likenesses of real people, and while it may generate interest in them, so too might have just playing their individual stories straight.

Meanwhile, the story itself is quite thin and feels almost like it was pulled together by committee, culling hot topics from Black Twitter without really putting much effort into making the pieces fit. Particularly, Rufus Buck’s motivations seem like a hazy reference to Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Idris Elba’s performance is almost sublimated by the overall focus on Jonathan Majors’ Nat Love and his quest for revenge against Buck, and the film’s biggest emotional twist comes in way too late, after a set of diversions that add nothing to its forward momentum other than possibly providing a small bit of revenge fantasy. That’s fine, but if it detracts from the emotional story you want to tell, it’s really unnecessary.

But the story and the performances feel almost secondary to the visuals. They’re beside the point. The point appears to be to set right the erasure of Black people from the grandiose history of the American West. To that end, Samuels goes to lengths to portray his characters as intelligent, savvy, and beautiful, shooting them against picturesque tableaus of deserts, forests, and steppes. While things tend to get a little bland whenever the characters come to a town, a sequence featuring Stagecoach Mary’s saloon could almost fit in on MTV in its heyday.

Likewise, the film’s soundtrack peppers in classic and contemporary soul and reggae cuts to highlight the characters’ travels and the action scenes. Dennis Brown’s “Promised Land” blares over a scene of Rufus Buck’s gang riding into town, Seal’s “Ain’t No Better Love” soundtracks part of the climactic shootout, and Barrington Levy belts “Here I Come” and “Better Than Gold” as Samuels’ camera glides over twirling six-shooters, swirling gunsmoke, and galloping horses. It almost feels like the cursory storyline beats are just breaks between the bits that The Bullitts really wanted to get to: The musical set-pieces that nearly do enough to justify the film’s existence on their own.

I’d go so far as saying that they could have just been the movie without needing a story, like The Gift and other, similar films that have become almost de rigeur for a certain class of prestige artist — like Jay-Z, whose “Moonlight” video Samuels directed, likely leading to the mogul’s funding of this endeavor. I’m not the first to notice this; Okayplayer’s Latesha Harris noted as much in her own review. Films like The Harder They Fall are needed, but what’s needed more is to get beyond the need for surface representation and to actually tell stories worth telling. The movie can also be a guidepost as well, pointing out how to make those stories look and sound as pretty as possible.

The Harder They Fall is streaming now on Netflix.

‘SNL’ Tried To Figure Out Why On Earth Ice Cube Won’t Get Vaccinated

Last week, it was revealed that Ice Cube is not vaccinated. And he has no intention of doing so. He even walked away from a comedy movie, Oh Hell No, opposite Jack Black, which would have netted him both $9 million and a winter shoot in Hawaii. What is he thinking? On this weekend’s Kieran Culkin-hosted SNL, the show’s writing room hazarded a guess as to why.

During Weekend Update, Keenan Thompson swung by as the rap legend and movie star to explain to co-anchor Michael Che why on earth he, like Emilio Estevez, is turning down easy money and paid vacations by refusing to take an FDA-approved vaccine to protect himself from a highly transmissible and deadly virus.

“Hey look, man. I’d just rather be myself than take that vaccine, like you other three billion bozos,” Thompson’s Cube replied. When Che pointed out that he’d “lost” a good gig, Cube disagreed. “Not my loss, your loss. Oh Hell No was going to feature the greatest comedy duo of all time: Ice Cube, Jack Black,” he said. “The comedy chemistry, man. You know what I’m saying?”

He then rattled off a list of all the movies we won’t be getting because Cube won’t take some world-saving medication, from a fourth Barbershop, to a Friday prequel (Thursday, natch), to an M. Night Shyamalan twist-a-thon called Uh Oh, Twist Comin’, which has its own novel twist.

Throughout, Thompson’s Cube avoids the question: Why won’t he get vaccinated. But Che had a theory. “So you’re scared of needles, right?” he asked him, to which Cube replied with a sheepish affirmative.

You can watch the sketch in the video above.