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What Was So Special About Greta Garbo?



What Was So Special About Greta Garbo?

Fame is so powerful that renouncing it can seem like the supreme power move. Celebrities who retreat from the public eye (Howard Hughes, J. D. Salinger, Prince) will always be legends, no matter what else they may be. Rumored comebacks tantalize. Paparazzi circle. The mystery deepens. In 1941, at the age of thirty-six, Greta Garbo, one of the biggest box-office draws in the world, stopped acting and, though she lived for half a century more, never made another film. For a star who, more than any other, “invaded the subconscious of the audience,” as Robert Gottlieb writes in his new biography, “Garbo” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), this was an abdication, a privilege of monarchical proportions. But it was also a decision made by one particular, peculiar person who had never been temperamentally suited to celebrity in the first place. There was a reason, beyond the exertions of the Hollywood publicity machine, that a single line she uttered in one movie—“I want to be alone”—became so fused with her image. What can look like a strategy for keeping the public interested can also be a sincere and committed desire to keep it at bay.

Few other performers have ascended as quickly to mononymic status as Garbo did—she started off the way most of us do, with a first and last name, but the first soon fell away, like a spent rocket booster, in the ballyhoo surrounding her. When she appeared in her first sound picture, “Anna Christie,” the ads proclaimed, “Garbo talks!”; for her first sound comedy, “Ninotchka,” it was “Garbo laughs!” Quite why she became such a phenomenon is a puzzle to which film critics and biographers keep returning. Garbo made only twenty-eight movies in her lifetime. (By comparison, Bette Davis made close to ninety, and Meryl Streep has made nearly seventy and still counting.) That slender output could be part of the mystique, compounded by her disappearing act. But Garbo had acquired an enigmatic mythos even before she ended her career—the Hollywood colony treated her like royalty. Nor has it seemed to matter that only a handful of her movies are much watched or admired today.

What Garbo had to offer, above all, was her extraordinary face, at a time when the closeup, with its supercharged intimacy, its unprecedented boon to the emotional and erotic imagination, was still relatively new. Many of the shots credited as the first closeups were unlikely to have set hearts aflame, since they were often of objects—a shoe, a wrench. But filmmakers soon grasped the centripetal seductions of the human face in tight focus. The screenwriter and director Paul Schrader picks as a turning point the moment in a D. W. Griffith film from 1912, “Friends,” in which the camera comes in tight on Mary Pickford’s face, revealing her ambivalence about which of two suitors she should choose. “A real close-up of an actor is about going in for an emotional reason that you can’t get any other way,” Schrader writes. “When filmmakers realized that they could use a close-up to achieve this kind of emotional effect, cameras started coming in closer. And characters became more complex.”

A face as beautiful as Garbo’s—the enormous eyes and deep-set lids, the way love or tenderness or some private, unspoken amusement unknit her brows in an instant, melting her austerity—was almost overwhelming when it filled the screen. She belonged, as Roland Barthes wrote, “to that moment in cinema when the apprehension of the human countenance plunged crowds into the greatest perturbation, where people literally lost themselves in the human image.” This is not to diminish her craft as an actress. But her acting was perhaps most effective in her silent films or in nonverbal scenes in talking pictures in which her face is the canvas for emotion. In the famous last shots of “Queen Christina” (1933), Garbo’s androgynous Swedish ruler stands at the prow of a ship bearing her away from her country; the body of her lover, killed in a duel over her, is laid out on the deck. Garbo stares into the distance, her face a kind of mask but no less eloquent for it. The film’s director, Rouben Mamoulian, had told her that she must “make her mind and heart a complete blank,” empty her face of expression, so that the audience could impose whatever emotions they wanted on it. The scene would then be one of those “marvelous spots,” he said, where “a film could turn every spectator into a creator.”

She was skilled at inciting such projection. More than one contemporary in Hollywood noted that her magic truly showed up only on celluloid, like a ghostly luminescence undetectable until the film was developed. Clarence Brown, who directed Garbo in seven films, recalled shooting a scene with her, thinking it was fine, nothing special, then playing it back and seeing “something that it just didn’t have on the set.” On her face, he said, “You could see thought. If she had to look at one person with jealousy, and another with love, she didn’t have to change her expression. You could see it in her eyes as she looked from one to the other.” Garbo herself, with a kind of arch, adolescent indifference, never wanted to look at the rushes. According to Brown, she’d watch only when sound pictures were played in reverse: “That’s what Garbo enjoyed. She would sit there shaking with laughter, watching the film running backward and the sound going yakablomyakablom. But as soon as we ran it forward, she wouldn’t watch it.”

Much has been written about Garbo over the years, but Gottlieb, a former editor of this magazine, has produced a particularly charming, companionable, and clear-eyed guide to her life and work—he has no axe to grind, no urgent need to make a counterintuitive case for her lesser movies, and he’s generous with his predecessors. By the end of the biography, I felt I understood Garbo better as a person, without the aura of mystery around her having been entirely dispelled—and, at this point, who would want it to be?

The actress who came to embody a kind of unattainable elegance, who would someday wear sumptuous period costumes with a grace so offhand that they might have been rumpled p.j.’s, grew up in a cramped apartment with no indoor plumbing, in one of Stockholm’s most impoverished neighborhoods. She was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson on September 18, 1905, to parents from rural stock. Her mother was, in Gottlieb’s description, “practical, sensible, undemonstrative”; her father, an unskilled laborer, was handsome, musical, and fun, and Greta adored him. But he was stricken by kidney disease, and Greta, the youngest of three children, made the rounds of the charity hospitals with him. “She never forgot the humiliations they endured as poor people in search of live-or-die attention,” Gottlieb writes. She was fourteen when he died, and she dropped out of school, leaving her with a lasting embarrassment about her lack of formal education. She went to work to help support the family, first at a barbershop, where she applied shaving soap to men’s faces, then at a department store, where she sold and modelled hats. She said later that she was “always sad as a child for as long as I can think back. . . . I did some skating and played with snowballs, but most of all I wanted to be alone with myself.”

Alongside her shyness and her penchant for solitude, Greta harbored a passionate desire to be an actress. As a kid, she’d roam the city by herself, looking for theatres where she could stand at the stage door and watch the performers come and go. The first time Garbo was in front of the camera was at age fifteen, in an advertising film for the department store that employed her. Sweden had a thriving film industry, and she soon quit her day job to appear in a couple of movies. At Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre, to which she was accepted at seventeen, the young actors were instructed in a system that “scientifically” analyzed the semiotics of movement and gesture. Remarkably, some of her lecture notes from that time survive—she jotted down that “the head bent forward equals a mild concession” or a “condescending attitude,” and that “the throwing back of the head” conveys “a violent feeling such as love.” Barry Paris, an earlier biographer whom Gottlieb cites approvingly, notes that “Garbo in silent films would employ that system of gestural meaning to a high degree.” She did so in her sound pictures as well. When she plays the Russian ballerina in “Grand Hotel” (1932), her body language is jittery, neurotic. Depressed, she lets her head droop as if it were simply too heavy to hold up; surprised by delight at the prospect of a romance with John Barrymore’s gentleman jewel thief, she tosses her head back at giddy angles. It might have been laughable, but instead it’s riveting.

In the spring of 1923, the gifted film director Mauritz Stiller approached the Stockholm theatre looking for actresses to cast in his new movie, an epic based on a Swedish novel, “The Story of Gösta Berling.” Stiller came from a Jewish family in Finland; orphaned young, he had fled to Sweden to avoid being conscripted into the tsar’s Army. Garbo and he were never lovers—Stiller preferred men—but their relationship was perhaps the most important in both of their lives. With his commanding height, his taste for luxury (full-length fur coats, a canary-yellow sports car), and his domineering style with actors, he had more than a touch of the Svengali. But Stiller believed in Garbo at a time when, as one veteran actress put it, Greta was “this little nobody . . . an awkward, mediocre novice,” and he loved her. (He also seems to have been the one who suggested replacing “Gustafsson” with “Garbo.”)

When Hollywood came calling—in the form of Louis B. Mayer scouting European talent for M-G-M—it wasn’t clear whether Stiller was the lure or Garbo; the director was certainly better known. In any case, Stiller made sure that they were a package deal (and, Gottlieb adds, later upped Garbo’s pay to four hundred dollars a week, an “unheard of” salary for an untested starlet). The two sailed for the United States in 1925, arriving in the pungent heat of midsummer New York. (Garbo’s favorite part of the visit seems to have been the roller coaster at Coney Island.) Then it was on to Hollywood by train.

The studio moguls gave an unknown such as Garbo a very short runway. M-G-M signed up the Swedish girl for two pictures, “Torrent” and “The Temptress,” and, as the film historian Robert Dance writes in his smart new book, “The Savvy Sphinx: How Garbo Conquered Hollywood” (Mississippi), “if those first two films were unsuccessful financially M-G-M would not renew her contract for a second year.” As it happened, both were hits. Motion Picture was among the industry outlets declaring her début “a complete success.” (“She is not so much an actress as she is endowed with individuality and magnetism,” it said.) Garbo became a fan favorite, even though she was almost uniquely averse to the kind of goofy stunts and mildly salacious photo shoots that other stars put up with. When she got to be as famous as Lillian Gish, she told one interviewer early on, “I will no longer . . . shake hands with prize-fighters and egg-and-milk men so they will have pictures to put in the papers.” Instead, she worked with consummate portrait photographers who lit her gloriously. Eventually, her films were earning enough that she was able to negotiate an unusual contract, one that gave her the right to veto scripts, co-stars, and directors. And she shunned interviews so consistently that in the end her privacy became its own form of publicity.

“Looks like the kids have gone off to college. Let’s grab a few years alone in the house before they decide to return.”
Cartoon by Paul Karasik

Despite such badassery, she never really adjusted to her new country or her new destiny, at least beyond the movie set. What looked like carefully cultivated hauteur was partly the product of awkwardness, disorientation, and grief. She hardly spoke English when she first arrived, and, within a year, she learned that her beloved sister, an aspiring actress herself, had died back home. Stiller did not make a smooth adjustment to Hollywood and, in a blow to them both, he was not chosen to direct Garbo’s first American picture. Garbo wrote to a friend in Sweden about how miserable she was: “This ugly, ugly America, all machine, it is excruciating.” The only thing that made her happy, she claimed, was sending money to her family. At a young age, Gottlieb writes, she found herself “trapped in a spotlight extreme even by Hollywood standards,” and with no psychological preparation for grappling with the kind of fame—movie stardom—that was new not just to her but to the world.


Twin Cities Issue Vaccine Mandates for Restaurants, Bars, and Entertainment Venues



Twin Cities Issue Vaccine Mandates for Restaurants, Bars, and Entertainment Venues

On January 12, 2022, just one week after issuing mask mandates, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter issued executive orders mandating that places of public accommodation serving food and drinks indoors require persons to furnish proof of vaccination or negative PCR or antigen tests. Then, on January 13, 2022, and January 14, 2022, respectively, Mayor Carter and Mayor Frey each issued additional emergency regulations amending their January 12, 2022, orders.

Similar to the mask mandates, the Twin Cities’ respective vaccine mandates describe the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as the reason for the new measures. The key provisions of the cities’ vaccine mandates are summarized below.

Minneapolis Emergency Regulations No. 2022-4 and No. 2022-5

The Minneapolis vaccine mandate provides, in relevant part, the following:

[A]ny space of public accommodation in the City of Minneapolis where food and/or drink is sold or served indoors for consumption onsite shall admit only those persons who furnish proof of a Completed Vaccination Series against COVID-19 occurring at least two weeks prior to entry, or proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test conducted by a medical professional from a sample that was collected from such person within three calendar days prior to the person’s entry.

The regulations also reaffirm the previous mask mandate by stating that “[a]ll individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a Medical-Grade Mask or Cloth Face Covering while not actively engaged in eating and/or drinking onsite.” The regulations also reiterate the requirement that employers operating businesses subject to the regulations must require their employees to wear masks “whenever such employees have face-to-face contact with the public,” regardless of an employee’s vaccination status.

Interestingly, the regulatory framework also previously included language regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which was stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States on January 13, 2022. That language was rescinded by way of Minneapolis Emergency Regulation 2022-5 on January 14, 2022. The language previously stated the following:

All employers of businesses that are spaces [of] public accommodation subject to this Regulation shall comply with OSHA standards OSHA standards 1910.501(e) and (g), as existing on the date of issuance of this Emergency Regulation, relating to employee vaccination status and testing at covered locations, regardless of the number of their employees. (Emphasis added.)

OSHA Standard 1910.501(e) concerns a vaccine mandate for employees, while 1910.501(g) concerns a testing mandate (if an employee is not vaccinated). Previously, it was unknown whether this language would remain in effect after the Supreme Court’s decision, but that question was answered strongly in Minneapolis’s new emergency regulation. Nevertheless, employers may want to keep their eyes on this because the language may be back depending on the ultimate resolution of the OSHA ETS litigation.

The emergency regulations define “space of public accommodation” as “a business, or an educational, refreshment, entertainment, or recreation facility, or an institution of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” The regulations also provide various examples of spaces of public accommodation subject to the proof of vaccination or negative test requirement, including:

  • “indoor restaurant spaces or coffee shops;

  • cafes within larger spaces (e.g., museum cafes);

  • bars;

  • sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption;

  • movie theaters;

  • bowling alleys;

  • other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption;

  • conventions (if food is being served);

  • catering halls; and

  • food court seating areas, if exclusive to specific establishments.”

Places and establishments expressly excluded from the regulation’s vaccine mandate include:

  • “K-12 and early childcare settings;

  • hospitals;

  • congregate care facilities or other residential or healthcare facilities;

  • shared consumption areas not exclusive to an individual space of public accommodation;

  • establishments and/or food service locations that provide take out only for off-site consumption;

  • any location where food or drink is consumed as part of a religious practice;

  • any portion of a location that is outdoors, meaning the area is fully open to the outside on two or more sides;

  • grocery stores, convenience stores, bookstores or other establishments that primarily sell packaged food and other articles for offsite use, except in seated dining areas within those stores; and

  • soup kitchens or other similar sites serving vulnerable populations.”

The regulations identify what “completed vaccination series” means, which is defined as two weeks “after an individual has received the second dose in a two-dose series of an Approved COVID-19 Vaccine or a single dose in a one-dose Approved COVID-19 Vaccine.” In addition, “approved COVID-19 vaccine” is defined as “a vaccine that has been authorized or approved by either the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization to prevent COVID-19, whether for emergency use or otherwise.”

the new regulation issued on January 14, 2022, further described what proof of vaccination may consist of, including: “presentation of a [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]-provided card, [a] photograph of [the] card, other government-approved record of vaccination, or an application approved by a governmental entity (e.g. Docket) to hold immunization information. A photo identification is not required unless otherwise required by law or by policy of the space of public accommodation.”

Finally, the new regulation also sheds light on what a negative COVID-19 test means. The regulation states that the following is sufficient: “an email, printout or screen shot with the name of the individual and the test result showing the date of the test. A photo identification is not required unless otherwise required by law or by policy of the space of public accommodation.”

The window for employers to comply is longer than the one-day period the mask mandate provided, with the regulation taking effect on January 19, 2022, at 8:00 a.m., and remaining in effect for 40 days following, “or at the end of the declared local public health emergency to which it relates, whichever occurs first.”

Emergency Executive Orders 2022-4 and 2022-5

The St. Paul vaccine mandate is similar in many respects to the Minneapolis one. The emergency executive order provides the following:

[A]ny licensed business that is a space of public accommodation in the City of Saint Paul during any time that food and/or drink is sold or served indoors for consumption onsite shall limit admission of patrons to the area of the licensed premises where food and/or drink is being consumed, to only those persons who furnish proof of a completed vaccination series against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test obtained within seventy-two (72) hours of entry.

Not all restaurants will be subject to this requirement because they are not licensed by the City of St. Paul—only restaurants specifically licensed will be subject to the requirement. This typically means only those places with alcohol licenses.

In addition, the St. Paul mandate also requires that:

any licensed business, during any time that a ticketed event is being held, that is a space of public accommodation in the City of Saint Paul during any time that food and/or drink is sold or served indoors for consumption onsite shall limit admission of patrons to the area of the licensed premises where food and/or drink is being consumed, to only those persons who furnish proof of a completed vaccination series against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test obtained within seventy-two (72) hours of entry.

Like the Minneapolis mandate, the St. Paul mandate includes language regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS setting forth a vaccination and testing mandate that was stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States on January 13, 2022. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, St. Paul revised the executive order to remove the implicated language. Previously, the executive order provided as follows:

All employers of businesses that are spaces public accommodation subject to this Regulation shall comply with OSHA standards 1910.501(e) and (g), as existing on the date of issuance of this Emergency Regulation, relating to employee vaccination status and testing at covered locations, regardless of the number of their employees. (Emphasis added.)

As stated above, this language largely resembles the Minneapolis regulation.

Employers may want to keep their eyes on this because the language may be back depending on the resolution of the OSHA ETS litigation.

The executive order defines “a licensed business that is a space of public accommodation” as “an entity that holds a City license that is a business, or an educational, refreshment, entertainment, or recreation facility, or an institution of any kind, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” A “ticketed event” is defined as “an event where all patrons must obtain a ticket to attend the event and tickets were available for purchase at least 14 days in advance of the event.”

With respect to terms specific to vaccination, the executive order defines “proof of a completed vaccination series against COVID-19” as “presentation of a CDC-provided card, photograph of card, other government-approved record of vaccination, or an application approved by a governmental entity (e.g. Docket) to hold immunization information in conjunction with any photo identification that includes a photograph and name of the individual. A photo identification is not required for individuals under the age of 18.” A “completed vaccination series” is defined by the executive order as “two weeks following completion of any CDC-approved vaccination series, including: a 2-dose series of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine).”

The St. Paul order also specifies what constitutes a “negative COVID-19 test,” defining it as “an email, printout or screen shot with the name of the individual and the test result showing the date of the test in conjunction with any photo identification that includes a photograph and name of the individual.” (The executive order states that “photo identification is not required for individuals under the age of 18.”) Similar to the Minneapolis mandate, the St. Paul one also does not allow at home tests as proof of a negative COVID-19 text.

The executive order provides an exemption for certain St. Paul businesses; the Minneapolis mandate does not include a comparable exemption. Namely, the executive order provides that “any facility hosting an event or activity (on a one-time or ongoing basis) that holds a license issued by the City of Saint Paul is not subject to these requirements for a specific event if no food or beverages will be consumed at the event and the facility follows all supplemental COVID-19 safety measures” is exempt from implementing the required vaccine and testing requirements. As defined by the executive order, such supplemental COVID-19 safety measures include:

  • “requiring face coverings be worn by all individuals, regardless of vaccine status, except young children at risk of suffocation and persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering.

  • mak[ing] masks available for staff and attendees.

  • providing sufficient hand sanitizer and hand washing facilities.

  • following CDC-recommended cleaning protocols.

  • maintaining as much social distancing as possible.

  • maximiz[ing] indoor air ventilation.”

Like the Minneapolis window of compliance, the St. Paul compliance window remains open a relatively long time. The executive order will take effect on January 19, 2022 (generally) and on January 26, 2022 (for ticketed events). While the window of compliance is longer than the mask mandate, businesses may want to begin preparations immediately.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 16

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Omicron options: Chronicle critics share their picks for entertainment if you’re stuck at home



Omicron options: Chronicle critics share their picks for entertainment if you're stuck at home
Watching television is a good way to kill time when under the weather or trying to avoid getting people sick. Photo: Nico De Pasquale Photography / Getty Images

With the omicron variant on the rise, many people are finding themselves back behind closed doors, isolating in an attempt to keep the coronavirus from spreading. And they’re going to need something to while away the long, lonesome hours.

With that in mind, The Chronicle offers this list of recommendations of entertaining ways to stay occupied in isolation.

The Chronicle’s top 10 movies of 2021

6 exciting offerings coming to Netflix, Hulu and more in January 2022

‘Search Party’

If the thrill of solving a mystery is strong enough to get you out of the COVID funk, “Search Party” delivers that thrill in excess, while adding gripping humor into the mix.

The Comedy Central/HBO Max comedy series stars Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development”) as Dory Sief, a Millennial woman living in New York City who steps out of the monotony of her life to investigate the sudden disappearance of her college acquaintance Chantal Witherbottom. With the help of her boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds) and best friends Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner), Dory solves the initial puzzle and finds herself at the center of its bombastic aftermath, taking viewers through police investigations, media frenzies, courtroom drama and the horrors of captivity, among other surprising plot developments.

With the show’s fifth and final season set to premiere Friday, Jan. 7, now’s the time to sit back and catch up on this hidden gem of a show before it unveils its final chapter.

Stream it: Available on HBO Max. Season five premieres Friday, Jan. 7.

— Jose Alejandro Bastidas


There’s something satisfying about watching stories of survival when faced with a difficult personal moment. As I hunkered down for my own COVID-19 isolation, catching up on Showtime’s new mystery thriller “Yellowjackets” proved to be an entrancing pastime.

Many shows have tried to mimic the pop-culture sensation of ABC’s “Lost,” which followed the survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island. More than a decade after the end of that iconic series, Showtime’s new drama elevates the premise with two alternating timelines and a focus on the female gaze.

“Yellowjackets” follows the members of a high school girls soccer team after a plane crash leaves them fighting to survive in the wilderness in 1996, with little to no hope of being rescued. Then in 2021, the series catches up with four of the surviving members as their seemingly ordinary lives are plagued by the trauma they lived through, and a looming threat that may bring the secrets of their survival to the surface.

With a few episodes left to premiere in season one, “Yellowjackets” may inspire the conspiracy theorist in you long after your quarantine period ends.

Stream it: Available on Showtime. New episodes released Sundays through Jan. 16.

— Jose Alejandro Bastidas

​​’Yellowstone’ and ‘1883’

Stuck at home and can’t travel? Sometimes the best remedy is to watch a show that brings the great outdoors right to your living room. But, to be clear, this is no “Planet Earth.”

“Yellowstone” stars Kevin Costner as the Dutton family patriarch in the Paramount+ drama series, which just wrapped up its fourth season, created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson. It’s an intense, modern-day cowboy tale that ropes you into the story of the Duttons’ Montana cattle ranch and all the dirty work it takes to protect its borders, including conflicts with neighboring Native American reservations and land developers.

If you were a fan of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” or BBC’s “Peaky Blinders,” this is a must-watch.

And once you’re done bingeing “Yellowstone,” check out the series’ spin-off “1883,” which premiered last month. Starring Sam Elliott, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, it’s the origin story of the Dutton family and it brings audiences along on their journey from Texas to a better life in Montana.

Stream it: Available to stream on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video.

— Mariecar Mendoza


This is a miniseries from Denmark, which I’d heard about for years but never had the time to watch until the pandemic. It’s the story of a Danish prime minister (Sidse Babett Knudsen), with a very shaky majority in Parliament, doing her best to do good and stay in power. The show follows the press, the political strategists and the jockeying among the politicians. Who ever thought that Danish politics could be so fascinating?

Knudsen, one of the best actresses in Scandinavia, is just terrific, and the series is brilliantly written — with the first two seasons off the charts. And here’s the amazingly good news: The fourth season, the first in nine years, premieres on Feb. 22.

Stream it: Available on Netflix.

— Mick LaSalle

‘Money Heist’

If you’re a devotee of crime caper movies, you already know the pleasures of the genre — in particular, watching a meticulous plan unfold with clockwork precision, or adapting to meet unexpected obstacles. But you also know the drawbacks. There’s a limit to how many plot twists can be compressed into a couple of hours of screen time. There’s rarely room for character development. They’re male-dominated. Most of all, there’s a tension between filling viewers in on the heist plans ahead of time and letting us watch them unfold in action, a tension that almost no caper films get quite right. (Looking at you, “Ocean’s Eleven”!)

“Money Heist,” the magnificent Spanish miniseries that became an unexpected global sensation, nimbly solves all those problems. It’s stylish, sexy, funny, elaborate and tender. The characters are fully rounded, making space for emotional plotlines along with the caper mechanics, and the female characters are central. The heist unfolds with plenty of surprises, but the audience always has enough information. And at 41 hour-long episodes, there’s enough material to keep you happily bingeing as long as you want.

— Joshua Kosman

‘The Great British Baking Show’

You don’t have to be interested in baking to get lost in this British series. What’s appealing here is the human drama of people, from every possible background in Great Britain, competing against each other for the approval of two celebrity judges.

Paul Hollywood has been one of the judges from the beginning. For the first seven seasons, his partner in judging was Mary Berry. Now it’s Prue Leith. There are also comedian presenters, the latest of whom are the best, in my GFN — Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas.

It’s a lovely, warmhearted show, and the beauty of it is that there are 12 seasons, so you’re not likely to completely exhaust it before the pandemic is officially over. Let’s hope.

Stream it: Available on Netflix.

— Mick LaSalle 

‘Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Film’

This is one of the greatest documentary series about movies ever made, and it couldn’t be made today. It’s a 13-part BBC documentary, narrated by James Mason and directed by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, about the entire silent film era. And because they made it in the 1970s, they were able to interview the actual stars and directors from that era, who were all in their late 70s, 80s or 90s.

It’s incredibly entertaining, as well as poignant, featuring a brilliant score by Carl Davis, the world’s premier composer for silent film. It’s the best education about silent movies you will ever receive. There’s no source, either in film or print, that gives you such an overview of the period, as well as a sampling of what you might want to investigate further. I’ve rewatched this series, from beginning to end, at least 10 times.

Stream it: Available on Amazon Prime.

— Mick LaSalle

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Olivia Colman stars in “The Lost Daughter.” Photo: Netflix

‘The Lost Daughter’

If Maggie Gyllenhaal and Olivia Colman’s partnership on the Netflix adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel has left you thirsting for more, the source material, first published in 2006 and translated into English in 2008, might conjure a strange state in your mind. It’s almost unbearably painful, and yet you can’t stop reading.

Leda, an academic, is supposed to be escaping her daily life for a seaside town, but she makes a couple of dark, impulsive decisions that deeply entangle her with a chaotic Neapolitan family.

Fans of Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet might recall the profound significance the author gives to dolls; here the toy becomes not just totem or charm or avatar but something grotesque, a receptacle for our most inexplicable urges.

The Lost Daughter
By Elena Ferrante
(Europa Editions, 125 pages, $16)

Stream it: The film adaptation is available now on Netflix.

— Lily Janiak

The podcast “You Must Remember This” recently charted the careers of Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, pictured here flanking fellow Rat Packer Frank Sinatra in “Robin and the 7 Hoods.” Photo: Warner Bros. 1964

‘You Must Remember This’

Karina Longworth’s classic Hollywood podcast has been a delight since its debut in 2014, tackling subjects as varied as movie stars’ experiences during World War II, the racist legacy of the Disney film “Song of the South,” the overlooked filmmaker Polly Platt and Charles Manson’s ties to show business.

The podcast’s most recent season, “Sammy and Dino,” explores Rat Pack performers Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin with a unique central thesis. At the beginning of their careers in the 1930s and ’40s, Davis, who was Black, and Martin, who was Italian American, were both members of communities marginalized by the dominant white, Protestant culture of the time. But as the 20th century progressed, Italian Americans gained wider societal acceptance much faster than Black Americans, making their journeys to the Las Vegas stages of the 1950s and ’60s very different. As Longworth charts Davis and Martin’s careers, the specter of Rat Pack “Chairman of the Board” Frank Sinatra is ever-present, as are booze, drugs and a steady stream of sexual partners.

With almost 200 episodes from its various seasons, there’s a Hollywood story for almost every taste narrated in Longworth’s crisply enunciated yet slightly cooing voice.

Stream it: Available to stream on podcast apps or via

— Tony Bravo

This combination photo shows cover art for “Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of An American Dynasty,” left, and co-author Anderson Cooper at the 13th annual “GFN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” in New York on Dec. 8, 2019. Photo: Harper / Associated Press

‘Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty’

Television newsman Anderson Cooper has spent much of his life and career downplaying his famous Gilded Age ancestors, but in his third book (written with novelist Katherine Howe) he confronts the Vanderbilt history with few reservations.

Cooper’s maternal great-great-great grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt, known as “The Commodore,” built the family fortune in the New York ferry business and railroad industry. His statue stands at Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal to this day, which led Cooper to believe as a child that all grandparents turned into statues when they died. Since then, various descendants have been, in Cooper’s words, more interested in spending money than making it, depleting the fortune in most branches.

The book is not an exhaustive encyclopedia of the family, but rather highlights members and events in a way that places the Vanderbilts and their privilege in the context of their times. Chapters dedicated to the complicated Alva Vanderbilt, who was both a pioneering suffragette and a Southern-born racist, and to the last Vanderbilt descendants to live in the mansion-turned-museum the Breakers in Newport, R.I., are entertaining and enlightening beyond previous reporting on the family. But it is the final chapters of the book, dedicated to Cooper’s mother, celebrity denim designer and artist Gloria Vanderbilt, that are the most affecting. Cooper chronicles not only the 1930s custody case that made “Little Gloria” tabloid famous but also her role as a muse to author Truman Capote. The book also shares honest appraisals about how the Vanderbilt wealth and tragedies colored her life, as well as his own.

Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty
By Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe
(Harper, 336 pages, $18)

— Tony Bravo

“Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney Photo: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’

Millennial readers will likely feel seen in a new way by this blockbuster novel by Irish author Sally Rooney. She acknowledges and takes seriously the tics of contemporary life, from scrolling to swiping to anxiously waiting for a pulsating ellipsis to morph into text. Gently tracing the will-they-or-won’t-they exploits of two very different young couples, she makes sex suspenseful and erotic, dialogue barbed yet fragile.

Discursive epistles, fully transcribed, on everything from religion to aesthetics to the Bronze Age might look indulgent or pedantic elsewhere, but here they’re refreshingly deep dives into character and voice.

Beautiful World, Where Are You
By Sally Rooney
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 368 pages, $28)

— Lily Janiak

“Cloud Cuckoo Land,” by Anthony Doerr Photo: Scribner

‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’

The phantasmagorical new novel by Anthony Doerr is both a celebration of the art of storytelling and an irresistibly virtuosic example of it. Across expanses of space and time, Doerr weaves together seemingly disparate yarns of vividly drawn characters — an Anatolian herder at the fall of Constantinople, a curious teenager aboard a spaceship in flight from a dying Earth, a lonely American POW during the Korean War — only to fuse it all together in a final narrative coup.

Lovers of Doerr’s previous masterpiece, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “All the Light We Cannot See,” will recognize his signature style, a dreamy present-tense voice that infuses even the most mundane scenes with a seductive shimmer. The difference is that this time around, the plotting is firmer and more precise, the characters more lifelike, the themes more crisply drawn.

Cloud Cuckoo Land
By Anthony Doerr
(Simon and Schuster, 640 pages, $30)

— Joshua Kosman

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New TV Shows And Movies In January 2022 For UK Screens



New TV Shows And Movies In January 2022 For UK Screens

Including Sing 2, Scream, and a new season of Too Hot To Handle.

Looking for a new TV show to binge or a movie to watch for a film night? Well, you’ve come to right place! Here are 33 of the best TV shows and movies coming to the UK this month.


Note: these release dates and streaming platforms only apply to viewers based in the UK, Ireland, and some European territories.

James Pardon/BBC Studios

Sarah and Nick always cross paths every year on New Year’s Eve, but their standard NYE goes left when the Doctor, Dan, and Yaz show up to battle the Daleks.

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, John Bishop.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: BBC One/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you likeBlack Mirror, Stranger ThingsSherlock.


The Tourist

BBC/Stan/HBO Max & ZDF/Ian Routledge

A man wakes up in the glowing red heart of the Australian bush with no idea who he is and why he’s there. With merciless figures from his past pursuing him, his search for answers propels him through the vast and unforgiving outback.

Starring: Jamie Dornan, Danielle Macdonald, Alex Dimitriades.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: BBC One/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Baptiste, The Missing, Fleabag.


The Masked Singer – season three

Kieron Mccarron/ITV/Bandicoot TV

Another season of the ridiculous yet watchable celebrity singing competition is here, with 12 celebs donning costumes such as bagpipes and snow leopard in order to sing in disguise and stump the panel and viewers alike.

Starring: Davina McCall, Jonathan Ross, Mo Gilligan.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: ITV One/ITV Hub.

Watch if you likeThe X-Factor, The Voice, Britain’s Got Talent.


Gossip Girl (part two of season one)

Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images / Via Getty Images

Queen bee Julien clashes with her long lost sister Zoya when she enrols at the same prestigious Manhattan high school as her.

Starring: Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Thomas Doherty.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: BBC One/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: OG Gossip GirlGirlsThe O.C


Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts


I guess inspired by the Friends reunion special, this similar retrospective takes a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time.

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: Friends: The Reunion, Harry Potter: Behind the Magic, the Harry Potter movies.


The Apprentice – season 16

BBC/Boundless/Ray Burmiston

The legendary business-based reality series returns with 16 candidates hoping to nab an investment from mogul Alan Sugar.

Starring: Alan Sugar, Karen Brady, Tim Campbell.

Release date: 6th January.

Where to watch: BBC one/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Dragon’s Den, The Apprentice USBeat The Boss.


A Discovery of Witches – season three


In this final series, Matthew and Diana return from their trip to 1590 to find tragedy at Sept-Tours. They must find the missing pages from the Book of Life and the Book itself before it’s too late.

Starring: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Alex Kingston.

Release date: 7th January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: His Dark Materials, Britannia, Doctor Who.


Twenties – season two

BBC/B.E.T/Viacom International Inc.

Wannabe screenwriter Hattie is an unapologetic, queer, African-American woman. Hollywood isn’t ready for her. Is she ready for Hollywood?

Starring: Jonica T. Gibbs, Christina Elmore, Gabrielle Graham.

Release date: 9th January.

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Master of None, Fleabag, Harlem.


Euphoria – season two


17 year old Rue must continue to find hope while balancing the pressures of love, loss, and addiction.

Starring: Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi.

Release date: 10th January.

Where to watch: Sky Atlantic/NOW.

Watch if you likeOn My BlockSkinsGenera+ion.


Rules of the Game

BBC/The Forge/Matt Squire

A COO clashes with a newly hired HR Director who makes it her mission to unpick the toxic culture of the workplace they share.

Starring: Maxine Peake, Rakhee Thakrar, Susan Wokoma.

Release date: 11th January.

Where to watch: BBC One/ BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Behind Her Eyes, Bombshell, The Morning Show.


Cheer – season two


Follows the ups and downs of Navarro College’s competitive cheer squad as they work hard to win a coveted title at the NCA College Nationals.

Starring: Lexi Brumback, Gabi Butler, Morgan Simianer.

Release date: 12th January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you like: Dance Moms, The Next Step, Bring It On.


Too Hot To Handle – season three

Tom Dymond/Netflix

The no-dating-dating-show returns as several sexy singles are dumped in a luxury with the promise of a huge money jackpot to share – the only catch is absolutely NO hooking up.

Starring: Desiree Burch, various contestants.

Release date: 19th January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you like: Love Island, Love Is Blind, Married At First Sight.



Apple TV+

A Philadelphia couple in mourning after an unspeakable tragedy create a rift in their marriage and open the door for a mysterious force to enter their home.

Starring: Rupert Grint, Lauren Ambrose, Sunita Mani.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: Apple TV+.

Watch if you likeBefore I WakeThe BoxThe Visit.


Ozark – season four


A financial adviser drags his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks, where he must launder $500 million in five years to appease a drug boss.

Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you like: Breaking BadNarcos, Good Girls.


The Gilded Age


A young woman moves from rural Pennsylvania to New York City to live with her thoroughly old money aunts. There, she inadvertently becomes enmeshed in a social war between her aunts and their stupendously rich neighbours.

Starring: Cynthia Nixon, Taissa Farmiga, Christine Baranski.

Release date: 25th January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: Downton Abbey, Belgravia, Sanditon.


The Afterparty

Apple TV+

After someone is murdered at a high school reunion, a group of friends give their individual accounts of what happened through the lens of popular film genres and unique visuals to match the storyteller’s perspective.

Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Dave Franco.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: Apple TV+.

Watch if you like: Community, Broad City, Parks and Recreation.


The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Amazon Studios

A brilliant yet troubled artist’s fascination with the mysteries of the world is both complicated and deepened when he meets the love of his life.

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: in cinemas.

Watch if you likeMr. Turner, Frida, Mrs Lowry & Son.


Liquorice Pizza

Universal Pictures

Two friends grow up, run around, and fall in love in California’s San Fernando Valley in the 1970s.

Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Bradley Cooper.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Almost Famous, Call Me By Your Name, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.


Naked Singularity


A promising young public defender begins to lose faith in his work and the system. Soon he is pulled into a dangerous high-stakes drug heist by an unpredictable former client.

Starring: John Boyega, Olivia Cooke, Ed Skrein.

Release date: 2nd January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you likeGambitAmerican HustlePlastic.


The 355

Robert Viglasky/Universal Pictures

A CIA agent pulls together a crack team of spies from different national agencies in order to recover a top-secret weapon.

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz.

Release date: 7th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Ocean’s 8, Red Notice, Like a Boss.


Save The Cinema


A tenacious hairdresser rallies against the closure of her local movie theatre in the sleepy town of Carmarthen, Wales.

Starring: Samantha Morton, Tom Felton, Jonathan Pryce.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: Made in DagenhamCalendar Girls, The Full Monty.



Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures

A self-effacing officer and poet devises a way to convey his affection for a friend by enlisting the help of a handsome soldier.

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison, Jr.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeMoulin Rouge!, Vanity Fair, Poldark.



Neon/Kick the Machine Films/Burning/Anna Sanders Films/ Match Factory Productions/ZDF-Arte and Piano

Whilst visiting Bogota, Colombia, a woman is awoken by a loud bang audible only to her. As she searches for an explanation for the mysterious sound, she soon begins to confront unsettling sights and sounds that call her identity into question.

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Juan Pablo Urrego, Elkin Diaz.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeAnnette, Interstellar, Cemetery of Splendor.


Scream 5

Paramount Pictures/Brownie Harris

25 years on from the original series of murders, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and is targeting a group of teens in a spree that will resurrect a town’s long forgotten secrets.

Starring: Neve Campbell, Melissa Barrera, Courteney Cox.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: The Fear Street trilogy, I Know What You Did Last SummerHalloween.


Nightmare Alley

Kerry Hayes/Searchlight Pictures

A down-on-his-luck showman becomes involved with a psychic act at a carnival. Once he has mastered the tricks himself, he starts using his newly acquired knowledge to grift the wealthy elite of 1940s New York society.

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeAmerican Horror StoryThe Greatest Showman, The Prestige.


A Journal for Jordan

Sony Pictures Releasing

A soldier begins to keep a journal of love and advice for his infant son; back at home, his fiancée reflects on her romantic relationship by sharing the journal with her son.

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Chanté Adams, Jalon Christian.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Dear JohnThe Pursuit of HappynessAmerican Sniper.


The Souvenir: Part II

Sandro Kopp/A24

In the aftermath of a tumultuous relationship with a charismatic and manipulative older man, Julie begins to untangle her fraught love for him in making her graduation film, sorting fact from his elaborately constructed fiction.

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Honor Swinton Byrne, Robert Pattinson.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeThe Souvenir, Tiny Furniture, Exhibition.



The Factory/No Reservations Entertainment/Film Estonia

A troubled young private’s life is turned upside down when a daring fighter pilot arrives at his base. Driven by curiosity, a dangerous love triangle forms between them and the secretary to the base Commander.

Starring: Tom Prior, Oleg Zagordnii, Diana Pozharskaya.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeFreier Fall, Snails in the Rain, Brokeback Mountain.


Sing 2

Universal Pictures

Buster Moon has turned the New Moon Theatre into a local hit, but now he wants to take his all-star cast of animal performers on the road. Not content with anything but the best, Buster sets out to persuade the world’s most reclusive rock star to join them.

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Bono.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Zootropolis, The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls.


Parallel Mothers

Sony Pictures Entertainment Iberia

Two women about to give birth meet in a hospital. Both are single and have become pregnant accidentally – one exultant and one is repentant. The few words they exchange in these hours will change their lives forever.

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit, Rossy de Palma.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Julieta, Volver, Women on GFN of a Nervous Breakdown.

Sony Pictures Releasing

A biochemist attempts to cure his rare blood disease but the experiment goes wrong and he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism.

Starring: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: FrankensteinVan Helsing, Venom.


The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window

Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix

A heartbroken agoraphobic watches the world go by from her living room window and sets her sights on a handsome stranger, until she witnesses a gruesome murder.

Starring: Kristen Bell, Michael Ealy, Tom Riley.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you likeGone GirlThe Girl on the Train, The Woman in the Window.


The Amazing Maurice

Sky Cinema/STX Entertainment

A streetwise cat develops a money-making scheme involving a horde of talking rats and a boy who plays the pipe. However, when they reach the town of Bad Blintz, their little con soon goes down the drain.

Starring: Hugh Laurie, Emilia Clarke, Gemma Arterton.

Release date: Sky/NOW.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video.

Watch if you like: RatatouilleWinnie The PoohThe Gruffalo.

Which of these are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!

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