May 12, 2021

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Inside Jennifer Lopez’s Chaotic Inauguration Week, From Sex Cannibals and Botox to Biden

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

  • Congrats, you’re old.
  • J. Lo’s beautifully chaotic week.
  • The movie performance I can’t stop thinking about.
  • Pour one out for “Melania.”
  • The Bernie memes, obviously.

It’s been an eventful week for Jennifer Lopez. Granted, this is J. Lo. I would venture that her typical week boasts more highlights for the bullet-point recap than most, but even by that standard, it was a big one for the Most Egregiously Snubbed Oscar Contender in Cinema History. (I am contractually obligated as a gay to bring up that Hustlers slight in a public forum at least once a month in perpetuity.)

To begin with, she narrowly escaped a harrowing encounter with an alleged sex cannibal. Heavens!

Production was just about to begin on Lopez’s action rom-com Shotgun Wedding when alleged leaked messages began circulating revealing that her co-star-to-be Armie Hammer counted cannibalism among his apparent sex fetishes. It’s a whole, complicated thing that is honestly too dark and demented—you can read more about it here—but the point is J. Lo said I will not be Jenny From the Butcher Block and got the hell out of that situation tout de suite. Josh Duhamel is now in talks to replace Hammer.

Later in the week when Lopez was promoting her new cosmetics line JLO Beauty, a foolish fan on an apparent kamikaze mission commented on one of Lopez’s Instagrams, saying that it’s hard to take the promotion for the products seriously when it looks like she’s clearly had Botox.

Well, Lopez promptly ended this woman’s life, essentially saying, “Fuck you, Shrek, I’m flawless,” denying having ever had Botox, and delivered the epic kiss-off line, “And here is another JLO Beauty secret: try spending your time being more positive, kind and uplifting of others don’t spend your time trying to bring others down that will keep you youthful and beautiful too!”

But thwarting cannibalism and murdering a troll was just the lead-up to Lopez’s performance at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. That’s a big deal, even when you are Jennifer Lopez!

She performed a patriotic mash-up of “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful”—Glee is shook—and inexplicably slipped in a sample of her own hit “Let’s Get Loud” in the middle, major “here’s a link to my SoundCloud” self-promotion energy. It was absurd and iconic, which is to say I loved every minute of it. (And while Lopez, a powerhouse performer, has never exactly been feted for her vocals, it is the best she’s ever sounded.)

In any case, this is a newsletter about the pop culture I am obsessed with, and obviously there was nothing that captured my attention this week more than the inauguration coverage. All jokes and snark aside, it was surreal in so many ways, from the unrecognizable starkness of it all in the pandemic to the triumphant return of exiled feelings like hope and comfort. Given the circumstances, it was all impressively produced. From an entertainment angle, the performances were great.

And after spending Wednesday watching it all unfold on television, we can move forward with the tasks at hand: rebuilding America, and deciding which of the 14 fancy long winter coats I put in various shopping carts after the swearing-in ceremony I’m going to buy.

I’m Still Thinking About One Night in Miami’s Ending

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Regina King’s stirring new film One Night in Miami on Amazon Prime, it’s one of those movies I like to consider a guarantee; there’s nothing about it I can imagine any viewer not finding perfectly enjoyable.

It takes an event that really happened—Malcolm X, Cassius Clay (just before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali), Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathering in a hotel room to celebrate after Clay became heavyweight champ—and spins fan-fiction about what they may have discussed, chiefly their respective roles in the race and civil rights movement.

The performances are all great, but it’s Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Leslie Odom Jr. as Cooke who are the standouts, the latter thanks especially to a last-act showcase in which Cooke performs “A Change Is Gonna Come” on TV for the first and only time.

The song became a civil-rights anthem and is a top contender for the finest American song ever written, but Cooke’s performance of it on The Tonight Show was his only televised performance before his death and, unfortunately, the footage no longer exists.

There’s something extra poignant, then, about King’s decision to stage it as a climax to her film and its message. Odom’s performance, which he filmed live, is sensational. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to hop on Amazon and check it out.

The Epic Melania Farewell She Probably Didn’t Deserve

The highest compliment anyone has ever paid Melania Trump is casting Laura Benanti to play her.

The Tony-winning actress and all-around delight has been a revelation playing the former first lady (that “former” felt good to type) on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert—this is literally what the guest acting Emmy category was created for; where is her trophy you heathens?—and this week she got a massive send-off befitting her hilarious work over the last four years.

A parody of the “Belle” opening number from Beauty and the Beast, it centered around “Melania” being deluded into believing that New York City would at all welcome her back. Benanti gets to sing and dance. It’s shot in an empty Times Square. It’s so great. You can watch it here.

Bernie Is Memed Again. Nature Is Healing.

The most poignant sign that things are starting to get back to normal is that we’ve allowed ourselves to stop worrying about the end of the world just long enough to start making Bernie Sanders memes again.

You have probably seen hundreds of Photoshops of Sanders looking cranky and cold on a folding chair at the inauguration at this point. These are my two favorites, plus one I can’t believe exists.

Not Sarah Jessica Parker even joking about replacing Kim Cattrall with 79-year-old Bernie Sanders!!!

Euphoria: The first quarantine special was PHENOMENAL. A high bar for this weekend’s second installment. (Sunday on HBO)

The White Tiger: India! Murder! Wit! Priyanka Chopra-Jonas! It’s a fun movie. (Friday on Netflix)

76 Days: An astonishing, must-see documentary about the first days of lockdown in Wuhan. (Saturday for a free virtual screening)

Walker: To have been at the CW pitch meeting where an exec said, “I know what the teens of today want: a reboot of Walker, Texas Ranger. (Thursday on The CW)

The Daily Beast’s Obsessed

Everything we can’t stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.