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We Still Can’t Stop Thinking About Palm Springs, So We Got Some Answers to Our Questions

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It’s been a few weeks now since Palm Springs hit Hulu, and we cannot stop thinking about it.

Right in the middle of the global time loop we all seem to have found ourselves in thanks to a massive pandemic, The Lonely Island gifted us with a movie about two wedding guests (Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti) stuck in a time loop with no clear way out. No one could have known what would happen when they were making the movie, and even in January, when Hulu and Neon bought the movie in the highest sale ever at Sundance (by a purposefully hilarious 69 cents), they could not have predicted that movie theaters would soon shut down. Streaming, alongside a stint in drive-in theaters, became the only option. But it all ended up working out perfectly.

“This pandemic combined with the rush of bringing it out to the world has definitely blurred time, but it’s just been super gratifying to see people engage with [the movie] in such a thoughtful and passionate way,” director Max Barbakow tells E! News. “We wanted to give people an opportunity to just laugh and think and feel with the movie, and it’s just resonating in a deeper way right now and people are getting that. And I will say, it’s just nice to see that it’s playing and being experienced in the way that we intended with everything that we put into it.”

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Upon its release, Palm Springs immediately broke all of Hulu’s original movie records, becoming the highest viewed movie on the platform its opening weekend. But it might have also broken our brains.

While Nyles (Samberg) has pretty much resigned himself to being stuck in the loop, Sarah (Milioti) spends pretty much the whole movie desperately trying to get out. She eventually learns a whole lot of physics and figures out a slightly terrifying plan, and she and Nyles do end up at least getting out of that particular November 9. But do they truly make it to November 10? That’s just one of the questions we haven’t been able to get out of our heads for the past three weeks as we’ve thought about, talked about, and even tried to emulate this perfect summer 2020 movie.

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We got Barbakow to answer some of our biggest burning questions about the movie, and while he had a few answers, he also gave us more questions to ask, including a question for us to ask about ourselves: Why are we so obsessed with whether and how Nyles and Sarah got out of the time loop when the point is that wherever they are, they’re there together?

There’s probably some sort of metaphor in there related to what’s happening in the world right now, but even if there is, let’s face it–we will never stop being obsessed with getting out of the loop.

So without further ado, here are director Max Barbakow’s answers to our many burning questions about the movie Palm Springs.

How long was Nyles stuck in the loop?There’s not an exact answer, but Barbakow says “between 40 years and 40 million years.” Long enough for Nyles to forget what his job was.
How long was Sarah stuck in the loop?”Between 27 months and 27 years.”
For both Nyles and Sarah, Barbakow says they “probably never calculated it, exactly” and left it up to interpretation, but “it’s a very, very long time.”
How good did Sarah actually get at physics?Very, very good. Barbakow says she was stuck in the loop long enough to get “the equivalent of two PHDs in physics and quantum theory.”
How real was the physics?Pretty real! While time loops aren’t real (yet…or are they?), all of the science is based on real science. Physicist Clifford V. Johnson, who also consults on Marvel movies, served as consultant on the movie and played himself in a cameo as Sarah video chatted with him.
“He advised us on what it would take to explain a time loop if it were real, and what elements would be needed to support that science. We were lucky in that, in his mind, there are some physical events in the universe that could cause a rupture in the space-time continuum, that would be represented in this world by something like an earthquake or a cave opening, which we already had written in the script.”
Did Nyles and Sarah really escape the loop?Once again, it’s up for interpretation. It appears that Nyles and Sarah made it to November 10 and got out of the loop, but the ending could be read in multiple ways. But either way, Barbakow says that what matters is that they’re together, and he agrees they “got outta something.”
What did they do next?”It depends on what you think happened, if they got out or if they didn’t get out, if they’re alive, if they’re in a different version of the multiverse,” Barbakow says. “I would definitely say they stayed together, and that’s the most important part. At that moment, they’re making a choice when they walk in the cave to take the plunge and be together regardless of what happens. But right then, I would say they stay in the pool even as the family yells at them…if there were, like, a volleyball net, they could set up a game of volleyball or something.”
What really happened to the goat?Sarah used a goat in her experiment. After she blew the goat up inside the cave, she says the goat didn’t return to the loop. But then at the end, Nyles was still in Roy’s loop. What really happened to the goat?
“The goat maybe didn’t disappear. It might be loose out in the desert,” Barbakow says. “But I will say that element there plays into the resolution of whether they got out or not.
Was Roy able to get out of the time loop after the movie or did he even want to?We last saw Roy (J.K. Simmons) joyfully discovering that Nyles and Sarah had escaped the loop, and he said Sarah left him instructions on what to do. So did he use them?
“I think he probably slept on it, maybe saw he felt the next day in Irvine, whether that was a good day. He says it’s always a good day there, so it’s kind of about weighing whether he wants to see his kids grow up, or if he wants to lean into the peace that he’s found.”
What’s up with the dinosaurs?”The dinosaurs in the campfire scene are definitely real,” Barbakow says. We have never once seen them in Palm Springs, but to be fair, we didn’t know to look for them.
What’s up with Nana? Is she also in the loop?Barbakow says we’d have to ask June Squibb, but he says she’s definitely being cagey on purpose about having been to many weddings. We are currently awaiting comment from June Squibb.
Does Groundhog Day exist in the world of this movie?If we were stuck in a time loop, Groundhog Day would be our very first reference. While Sarah thinks the trick to getting out is to learn to be selfless, as Bill Murray does in Groundhog Day, no one ever actually says the name of the movie. Barbakow says the movie definitely exists in this world, but the filmmakers were careful not to reference other movies on purpose.
“I think Groundhog Day [exists], I think Edge of Tomorrow does…it was just kind of a choice not to mention any specific pop culture that could potentially take us out of that universe. You want it to always feel kind of timeless in that sense.”
What’s the significance of the word “shukran”?”Shukran” is the Arabic word for gratitude, and both Gary and Nana use it throughout the movie. Gary is from Sudan, and he’s been adopted into the family by Nana, who also speaks the language.
“There was a moment that was cut out of the movie that explained that relationship,” Barbakow says.
Is there a significance to the beer they drink?Yes! Akupara is a brand of beer that was invented for the movie. In Sanskrit, the word means “unlimited, unbounded” and in Hinduism, it’s the name of a tortoise described as “one who is without death.”
“If you look close on that label, there’s a graphic that kind of explains the mythology of the world and the earthquake,” Barbakow says, recommending a google of Akupara that will take you down a “nice little wormhole, no pun intended, that explains some of the metaphysics behind the movie.”
He credits production designer Jason Kisvarday with creating the look of the beer.
What’s the significance of Palm Springs itself?If you’ve ever spent a weekend at a house in Palm Springs, floating in the pool for three days straight surrounded by palm trees and old Hollywood paradise vibes, you might understand how the whole place feels like time has stopped. (And if you haven’t, you should.)
“The movie is based on my experience at [screenwriter Andy Siara]’s wedding in Palm Springs,” Barbakov says. “We had both been going out there for weddings throughout our ’20s, and as Southern California boys, it’s always the first destination when you want to get out of town, go on vacation, party a little bit, get lost in the desert, feel the magic of the earth. It just felt right.”

Related: Necessary Realness: 2020 Celebrity Summer Vacays

Palm Springs is now streaming on Hulu.

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Netflix is developing a live action ‘Assassin’s Creed’ show

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Netflix announced this morning that it’s partnering with Ubisoft to adapt the game publisher’s “Assassin’s Creed” franchise into a live action series.

The franchise jumps around in history, telling the story of a secret society of assassins with “genetic memory” and their centuries-long battle the knights templar. It has sold 155 million games worldwide and was also turned into a nearly incomprehensible 2016 film starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, which underperformed at the box office.

The companies say that they’re currently looking for a showrunner. Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik of Ubisoft’s film and television division will serve as executive producers. (In addition to working on adaptations of Ubisoft’s intellectual property, the publisher is also involved in the Apple TV+ industry comedy “Mythic Quest.”)

“We’re excited to partner with Ubisoft and bring to life the rich, multilayered storytelling that Assassin’s Creed is beloved for,” said Netflix’s vice president of original series Peter Friedlander in a statement. “From its breathtaking historical worlds and massive global appeal as one of the best selling video game franchises of all time, we are committed to carefully crafting epic and thrilling entertainment based on this distinct IP and provide a deeper dive for fans and our members around the world to enjoy.”

It sounds like there could be follow-up shows as well, with the announcement saying that Netflix and Ubisoft will “tap into the iconic video game’s trove of dynamic stories with global mass appeal for adaptations of live action, animated, and anime series.”

Netflix recently placed an eight-episode order for “Resident Evil,” another video game franchise that was previously adapted for the big screen. And it also had a big hit with its adaptation of “The Witcher,” which is based on a fantasy book series that was popularized via video games.

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Original Content podcast: ‘Lovecraft Country’ is gloriously bonkers

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As we tried to recap the first season of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” one thing became clear: The show is pretty nuts.

The story begins by sending Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), his friend Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smolett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on a road trip across mid-’50s America in search of Tic’s missing father. You might assume that the search will occupy the entire season, or take even longer than that; instead, the initial storyline is wrapped up quickly.

And while there’s a story running through the whole season, most of the episodes are relatively self-contained, offering their own versions on various horror and science fiction tropes. There’s a haunted house episode, an Indiana Jones episode, a time travel episode and more.

The show isn’t perfect — the writing can be clunky, the special effects cheesy and cheap-looking. But at its best, it does an impressive job of mixing increasingly outlandish plots, creepy monsters (with plentiful gore) and a healthy dose of politics.

After all, “Lovecraft Country” (adapted form a book by Matt Ruff) is named after notoriously racist horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but it focuses almost entirely on Black characters, making the case that old genres can be reinvigorated with diverse casts and a rethinking of political assumptions.

In addition to reviewing the show, the latest episode of the Original Content podcast also includes a discussion of Netflix earnings, the new season of “The Bachelorette” and the end of Quibi.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:36 Netflix discussion
3:18 “The Bachelorette”
6:30 Quibi
14:35 “Lovecraft Country” review
31:32 “Lovecraft Country” spoiler discussion

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The short, strange life of Quibi

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“All that is left now is to offer a profound apology for disappointing you and, ultimately, for letting you down,” Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman wrote, closing out an open letter posted to Medium. “We cannot thank you enough for being there with us, and for us, every step of the way.”

With that, the founding executives confirmed the rumors and put Quibi to bed, a little more than six months after launching the service.

Starting a business is an impossibly difficult task under nearly any conditions, but even in a world that’s littered with high-profile failures, the streaming service’s swan song was remarkable for both its dramatically brief lifespan and the amount of money the company managed to raise (and spend) during that time.

A month ahead of its commercial launch, Quibi announced that it had raised another $750 million. That second round of funding brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

“We concluded a very successful second raise which will provide Quibi with a strong cash runway,” CFO Ambereen Toubassy told the press at the time. “This round of $750 million gives us tremendous flexibility and the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace.”

Quibi’s second funding round brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

From a financial perspective, Quibi had reason to be hopeful. Its fundraising ambitions were matched only by the aggressiveness with which it planned to spend that money. At the beginning of the year, Whitman touted the company’s plans to spend up to $100,000 per minute of programming — $6 million per hour. The executive proudly contrasted the jaw-dropping sum to the estimated $500 to $5,000 an hour spent by YouTube creators.

For Whitman and Katzenberg — best known for their respective reigns at HP and Disney — money was key to success in an already crowded marketplace. $1 billion was a drop in the bucket compared to the $17.3 billion Netflix was expected to spend on original content in 2020, but it was a start.

Following in the footsteps of Apple, who had also recently announced plans to spend $1 billion to launch its own fledgling streaming service, the company was enlisting A-List talent, from Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and Ridley Scott to Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and LeBron James. If your name carried any sort of clout in Hollywood boardrooms, Quibi would happily cut you a check, seemingly regardless of content specifics.

Quibi’s strategy primarily defined itself by itself by its constraints. In hopes of attracting younger millennial and Gen Z, the company’s content would be not just mobile-first, but mobile-only. There would be no smart TV app, no Chromecast or AirPlay compatibility. Pricing, while low compared to the competition, was similarly off-putting. After a 90-day free trial, $4.99 got you an ad-supported subscription. And boy howdy, were there ads. Ads upon ads. Ads all the way down. Paying another $3 a month would make them go away.

Technological constraints and Terms of Service fine print forbade screen shots — a fundamental understanding of how content goes viral in 2020 (though, to be fair, one shared with other competing streaming services). Amusingly, the inability to share content led to videos like this one of director Sam Raimi’s perplexingly earnest “The Golden Arm.”

It features a built-on laugh track from viewers as Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan lies in a hospital bed after refusing to remove a golden prosthetic. It’s an allegory, surely, but not one intentionally played for laughs. Many of the videos that did ultimately make the rounds on social media were regarded as a curiosity — strange artifacts from a nascent streaming service that made little sense on paper.

Most notable of all, however, were the “quick bites” that gave the service its confusingly pronounced name. Each program would be served in 5-10 minute chunks. The list included films acquired by the service, sliced up into “chapters.” Notably, the service didn’t actually purchase the content outright; instead, rights were set to revert to their creators after seven years. Meanwhile, after two years, content partners were able to “reassemble” the chunks back into a movie for distribution.

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