Glen Weldon

This week kicked off not with a bang, but with a series of turbulent tweets announcing the winners of the Golden Globes, after a year in which the awards have been mired in controversy. The soundtrack to Encanto reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and the Library of Congress announced the 2022 Gershwin Prize winner: Lionel Richie.

It's impossible to watch actor, comedian and singer Bridget Everett in action on a cabaret stage without surrendering to the experience and goggling like a fool. She's hilarious, filthy and so supremely comfortable with her voice, her body and her sheer, scintillating presence that she casts a spell over the audience. There's also the fact that to watch her in action on the cabaret stage means watching her in action off of it — she spends a good deal of her act gleefully prowling the crowd to flirt, accost, challenge, embrace and rebuff audience members, one by one.

This week, viewers commemorated the finale of HBO's Insecure and the film world mourned the loss of director Jean-Marc Vallée.

Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

In 2021, movies tentatively returned to theaters. Television production stopped, and started, and sometimes stopped again. Movies and TV seasons that had been delayed were finally seen, and projects that would once have shown up only on big screens appeared on small ones.

With all that in mind, NPR's critics have rolled our movie and television picks into one big — and grateful — list of the things we most enjoyed watching this year, whether we were in or out of the house, with others or on our own.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

1. His name's Phastos

You've never heard of him. He's an Eternal — one of a band of super-powered immortal beings who have lived among us for over 7,000 years, tasked with protecting humanity from their evil counterparts, the Deviants.

No, he's not exactly a household name. Neither, for that matter, are any of the Eternals, which you might think would have Marvel worried. But it's not the first time they've sunk a lot of money and marketing into a film starring deep, deep-bench Marvel characters/raccoons/barely-talking plant creatures.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Updated June 22, 2021 at 6:23 PM ET

In an interview with Variety last week, the creators of the HBO Max adult animated series Harley Quinn revealed that a scene depicting Batman performing oral sex on Catwoman was blocked by DC Entertainment because "heroes don't do that."

No, I hear you: Now doesn't seem the ideal moment to Netflix-and-chill with an animated series about the last vestiges of humanity struggling to survive.

I mean, imagine the pitch meeting:

The future.

Cities lie in ruin.

The surface of the earth is overgrown with plant life — and with overgrown animals: mutated beasts, 300 feet tall, that stomp across the land hunting for prey.

The streaming service Quibi — short for "quick bites" — calls itself "the first entertainment platform designed specifically for your phone."

Translation: They're doling out their shows in 7-to-10-minute chunks — er, episodes — at a rate of one per day. Quick bites, get it? Perfect for the busy, distracted, on-the-go consumer! Too bad none of us are on-the-going anywhere these days.

Quibi divides its shows into three categories: Movies in Chapters (read: serialized narrative), Unscripted and Documentaries (read: episodic nonfiction) and Daily Essentials.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It's not about the plates. Not really.

It's an old tradition that endures, even amid the year-round deluge of programming brought to us by the age of streaming. It is the fall TV preview.

Turns out fall is the perfect time to refocus on television after a summer filled with vacations and outdoor distractions. So our pop culture team collected the coolest TV shows coming your way over the next few months as a guide through the madness. We haven't seen all of these programs yet, but we've learned enough to know they're worth checking out.

Call it The Film About Rich People Hunting Poor People ... That Lived.

But that's a mouthful. Maybe The Hunt Strikes Back; it's pithier.

Just two weeks ago, Ready or Not seemed poised to represent a second data point in 2019's "Murderous, Mansion-Dwelling One-Percenters In Film" trend graph, preceded by Craig Zobel's "blue bloods vs. red staters" thriller The Hunt and followed in November by Rian Johnson's latter-day Clue riff, Knives Out.

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