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Netflix’s New Deal: Streaming Is Just TV Now

Netflix’s New Deal: Streaming Is Just TV Now

The Golden Age of streaming is over. To be clear, this isn’t a commentary on the quality of the shows and films on streaming service. Rather, it’s a collective sigh let out in response to the news today that Netflix is launching its long-rumored ad-supported service on November 1, a hasty move that will beat the launch of Disney+’s own ad-supported service by roughly a month. To summarize, reader, streaming looks more like terrestrial TV than ever.

Over the past few years, as media companies have merged and consolidated their “brands” and services, it soon became evident that consumers were facing a world where the Big Three of TV—NBC, CBS, ABC—would just be replaced by a new Big Three. Maybe it was Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+; maybe it was Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Apple TV+. The streaming giants are still fighting for dominance, but the simple fact remains: Most people get their content from some constellation of streamers. Add to that the fact that those legacy channels now have their own services like Peacock and Paramount+, and everything old is new again.

This is not the future we were promised. When players like Netflix came on the scene, their claim to fame was that they were “disruptors,” here to shake up Hollywood by giving people what they wanted when they wanted it. Consumers rallied around a cry to “cut the cord” and leave cable packages behind forever to watch prestige TV over the internet. It worked. Streaming boomed. Then, as competition crept in and viewers started to realize they were spending almost as much money on internet and streaming subscriptions as they used to pay for cable, they called for new, more affordable options. The only way to do that—a tale as old as time—was for their offerings to be subsidized by advertisers.

Over the past year, as Netflix’s stock price and subscriber numbers have shrunk, it’s raced to develop an ad-supported model in pursuit of users and revenue. During a call with reporters today announcing the new $6.99-per-month plan, Netflix chief operating officer Greg Peters noted: “We built Basic with Ads in six months.” When it launches—first in Canada and Mexico, with the US, UK, and other regions coming later in the month—it will beat Disney+’s December 8 launch of its ad-supported model for $7.99 per month. During the call, Peters said the company wasn’t “anchoring” its launch time or price around the competition, but the timing does indicate a big shift, a beginning of the end for streaming as viewers know it.

Consider it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Back in July, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings predicted the demise of linear TV in the “next five to 10 years.” What he didn’t say was that Netflix and other streamers would just emerge in its place. The deals are a little different—the ads on streaming are fewer than on network TV; network TV is free—but with each one, streaming looks a little more like the television of 50 years ago. (See also: Starting in 2023, Netflix will be tracked by Nielsen—a huge move for a company that has closely guarded its viewership numbers.) Linear TV might be ending, but its replacement isn’t much more than meets the eye.

Super Mario Sounds Exactly Like Chris Pratt—and That’s Fine

Super Mario Sounds Exactly Like Chris Pratt—and That’s Fine

When Chris Pratt teased his upcoming role as gaming’s most iconic character, Mario, he called it “unlike anything you’ve heard in the Mario world before.” Charles Martinet, who has voiced both Mario and Luigi since 1992, would evidently not be a source of inspiration.

Fans have puzzled for months over how Pratt—elevated from goofy Parks and Rec roles into superhero status with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy—would tackle the Italian-accented plumber. After Nintendo dropped the first trailer for the movie today, the answer is … as Chris Pratt.

“What is this place?” Pratt Mario—who could be referring to anything from a dinosaur park to the most godforsaken bathroom at a concert with his tone—wonders aloud as he examines a mushroom-filled field. Shortly after, we hear him declare “Mushroom Kingdom, here we come!” in what may be his actual Mario accent—kind of a parody of your local Brooklyninte yelling he’s walking he’e.

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Mario’s voice reveal was inarguably the raison d’être to tune into today’s trailer. Nintendo has hyped fans up since news that Pratt, alongside Jack Black as Boswer, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, would voice a character many people have known since childhood. “I worked really closely with the directors and trying out a few things and landed on something that I’m really proud of and can’t wait for people to see and hear,” Pratt told Variety. Again … it’s just Chris Pratt, regular guy, in a film where everyone else has at least a little bit of whimsy to their voices.

This week fans have already mourned the loss of Mario’s ass, but hear me out: The sheer absurdity, the absolute troll of this reveal, is the funniest best outcome. Pratt’s Mario yelling “Mamma Mia” in an Italian accent cribbed from the early ’90s may not be as charming after an hour and a half in surround sound.

Good and bad news here: Black’s first lines as Bowser sound appropriately graveled and menacing for the Koopa king. But if Pratt’s any indication of how the Mario Bros. might sound, prepare yourself for the Charlie Day–voiced screamer of Luigi that’s still to come, as we saw at the trailer’s end.

Comic-Con 2022: The Most Wildly Creative Cosplay Masks

Comic-Con 2022: The Most Wildly Creative Cosplay Masks

Comic-Con wouldn’t be Comic-Con without cosplay.

As much a part of the event as Hall H panels and comics themselves, getting decked out in elaborate costumes—or looking at people decked out in elaborate costumes—is one of the main reasons people attend. This year, cosplay felt even more crucial. Due to health concerns over the spread of Covid-19, there hasn’t been an in-person Comic-Con for the past two years. Last weekend, when the event once again filled the streets of San Diego, the cosplayers came back too.

But not without some, um, modifications. Just because Comic-Con held an IRL event this year doesn’t mean Covid is over—far from it—so people had to take precautions to stay safe, namely by wearing masks. Now, cosplayers are used to wearing masks, but the kinds required to stop the spread of infectious disease aren’t necessarily the kind that Spider-Man wears. So, as should be expected, fans got creative.

WIRED asked photographer Daniel Gonçalves to attend last week’s convention and look for cosplayers with some of the most creative masks around. He found some great ones—and a few that didn’t have masks at all.

Netflix’s Windfall Is a Perfect Class-Rage Noir

Netflix’s Windfall Is a Perfect Class-Rage Noir

Ever notice how the houses of the ultra-wealthy look like nobody lives in them? There’s an eerie quality, the opposite of hominess. Netflix’s new movie Windfall opens with a long, lingering shot of a mansion’s poolside patio furniture, straight out of an Architectural Digest spread. Birds chirp, flowers bloom, the outdoor coffee table is a solid slab of concrete. It all screams expensive. In a long, wordless scene, we follow a nameless man (Jason Segel, credited as “Nobody”) as he wanders around this gorgeous property, sipping iced coffee by the pool and eventually walking into the empty home. Its rooms are as posh as the grounds, with Spanish tile, pristine plaster walls, and abstract pottery everywhere. The man almost leaves, then doesn’t. Instead, he returns to the house and starts looting. He fastens a Rolex around his wrist, collects jewelry, stuffs all the cash he can find into the pockets of his ratty pants. This is a burglary, albeit a laconic one. The thief is on his way out when the owners show up for a last-minute romantic getaway. They catch him before he manages to sneak out. And although this man is a total amateur, he piles crime on top of crime, taking the well-heeled couple hostage.

The owners, a tech billionaire (Jesse Plemons) and his chic wife (Lily Collins), attempt to reason with the burglar, offering him whatever he can grab. They almost succeed in getting him to leave. But when “Nobody” suspects he’s been caught on tape, he asks for enough money to start a new life, so the trio must wait around for a half a million in cash to be delivered the next day. As they watch the clock, the burglar and his captives stroll around the pretty, sun-dappled grounds, meandering through its expansive orange grove, sitting around a fancy fire pit, snippily making conversation. The billionaire can’t believe what an oaf his captor is and finds any excuse to needle him. We learn that the origin of the billionaire’s fortune is an algorithm for layoffs and that he doesn’t feel bad about having created it; he wastes little time asking the thief if he was one of the unlucky who lost their jobs because of his work. And the burglar is an oaf; he struggles to unclasp the wife’s purse, can’t keep his boots tied, and has tantrums every time something doesn’t go his way, which is frequently. Meanwhile, as the wife plays peacemaker between the two men, she starts to stew on the state of her marriage.

Director Charlie McDowell excels in putting unhappy couples through their paces during would-be secluded retreats. In his 2014 film The One I Love, another husband and wife encounter unexpected strangers at a dreamy vacation home while attempting to revive their relationship. But whereas The One I Love had a science-fiction twist, Windfall is propelled by a real-life crisis: the gaping chasm between the incredibly rich and the rest of us, and the impossibility of bridging it unscathed. Despite its gleaming setting, Windfall strikes the tone of a noir, its story suffused with a cynicism as sweeping as the vistas its mansion overlooks.

Watching Segel’s burglar bumble his way into increasingly grim circumstances, I was reminded of The Edukators, the 2004 German-Austrian crime drama about a trio of young radicals who decide to teach the wealthy a lesson by breaking into their homes just to unsettle them. But while The Edukators has sympathy for its underclass, Windfall is pitiless. It would’ve been easy for this film to slide into a morality play—poor schlub robs rich assholes, hurrah!—but it’s no triumph of the proles. If anything, it’s a testimony to the amorality of the universe, a Fargo with no Marge Gunderson in sight. Segel’s burglar isn’t a modern Robin Hood; he’s just a doofus who summoned up enough courage to commit a robbery and enough foolishness to get greedy and ask for more. Although its characters are presented as archetypes, there is no hero here.

For the first hour, Windfall plays like a dark comedy. The burglar’s ineptitude fuels some funny moments, like when he’s demanding more money and asks for $150,000 in cash. The wealthy people he’s extorting tell him he’ll need more than that if he’s trying to create a whole new identity. Nobody in the trio seems violent, and they’re all more annoyed than scared. Collins’ wife isn’t an innocent ensnared so much as a person slowly realizing that the terms of her deal with the devil weren’t really so favorable. Plemons’ billionaire, cocky and contemptuous, is technically a victim yet so viscerally unpleasant that it is hard to muster sympathy when he gets tied up and looted.

But hostage situations rarely end with everyone going off on their merry ways unscathed. I won’t say more about what unfolds, except that there is a scene about 70 minutes in that shocked me so much I leapt off my couch. (Gore-averse, be forewarned!) Jokes aside, this is a tart, nasty little thriller. Despite its modest scale, it leaves a powerfully astringent aftertaste.

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Yellowjackets Is the Internet’s Favorite Anti-Internet Show

Yellowjackets Is the Internet’s Favorite Anti-Internet Show

Nostalgia, they say, comes in waves, each one crashing as a new generation learns how their parents lived. In the 1990s, the narrator of Radiohead’s song “The Bends” proclaimed, albeit sardonically, “I wish it was the ’60s.” By the aughts, pop culture was awash in a yearning for the ’80s—an epoch that saw, perhaps, its final crescendo with the debut of Stranger Things in 2016. Now, in 2022, it seems as though many people—or at least the ones who make movies and TV—are longing for those days when Radiohead themselves first dominated the airwaves.

This churn, the phenomenon of people resuscitating the culture of the past every few years, is at best described as a nostalgia cycle. Problem is, there’s no real metric for the frequency with which these revolutions happen. The aughts, thanks to shows like Mad Men, also had an air of ’60s sentimentality, for example. Adam Gopnik, writing for The New Yorker, called this the “Golden 40-Year Rule,” but sometimes culture whips around much more quickly than that. All it takes is some kids on TikTok breathing new life into Twilight to bring the 2000s back. Or, in the case of Showtime’s mystery/horror/coming-of-age drama Yellowjackets, a deeply wistful appreciation of those flannel-clad days before social media and smartphones took over teens’ lives.

Let’s be clear: Yellowjackets is not a hazy, rose-colored view of youth. It’s about a New Jersey high school girls’ soccer team that gets stranded in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash on their way to a national championship in 1996. Some of them—the show is purposefully vague on how many—make it back to civilization. But there are hints, many of them, that Very Bad Things happened out in those woods, up to and including some sick ritualistic Lord of the Flies shenanigans and maybe-probably cannibalism. Like Lost, it time-jumps—cutting between the girls’ childhoods and the present day, sprinkling Reddit-thread-worthy unsolved mysteries everywhere. But unlike Lost, its appeal feels rooted in a desire to return to those halcyon days before the internet—while also serving as a reminder that they weren’t so halcyon at all. 

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It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when, but at some point in the last few weeks, Yellowjackets went from a low-key phenomenon to a cultural force. Case in point: There’s now a BuzzFeed quiz designed to tell you which member of the soccer team you are. A lot of the show’s popularity can be attributed to stellar reviews, excellent word-of-mouth, and the fact that viewers had extra time during the holiday season to catch up—plus Omicron has kept many home and watching.

But there’s something else, something even more base about its appeal: It’s a mystery full of the kinds of symbolism, clues, and Easter eggs that the internet loves to devour and hypothesize about. There are Reddit threads (lots), news articles, and more Twitter chatter than you can shake an Antler Queen at, and in this deep-winter Covid-19 surge moment, it’s hard not to go down an online rabbit hole trying to decode it all. Last night’s Season 1 finale only gave fans more cannibal catastrophe content to chew on.

This is all somewhat ironic because one of the things that’s appealing about Yellowjackets is that it’s so lo-fi. American teens in 1996 barely had AOL, and none of them had smartphones. They listened to Snow’s “Informer” because that’s what was on the radio and watched While You Were Sleeping on VHS because there was no Netflix. This isn’t to say that everyone who watches Yellowjackets wants to go back to a more primitive, pre-internet time, but there is something appealing about living in that world—for Gen Xers and millennials who grew up in it and for younger generations curious about its contours.

It’s also a story that almost has to take place in a previous decade. If the Yellowjackets were a big-deal high school girls’ soccer team now, they’d all probably be quasi-famous TikTokers or microinfluencers. Their disappearance would be the subject of hours of online sleuthing, much like the show itself is. The reason the survivors of the crash (that the audience knows of thus far)—Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Taissa (Tawny Cypress), Misty (Christina Ricci), and Natalie (Juliette Lewis)—were able to keep a somewhat low profile after their return to civilization is likely due to the fact that it happened before the era of Don’t F**k With Cats-style Facebook watchdogs, before Serial turned everyone into a wannabe detective. Not only does half the show take place in a wilderness with little to no technology, its modern segments feature heroines who largely eschew it, with the possible exception of Misty, who is now herself a true-crime junky. (Having Lewis, Ricci, and Lynskey—three ’90s indie-movie staples who built their careers just before the era of celebrity blog culture and managed to survive its wrath—play its adult leads remains the show’s best in-joke.)