Dolly, Belushi, Mystery: Seriously Good Film and TV

Film critic Bill Newcott offers his entertainment picks for mature audiences.

Courtesy Land Grant Films
(Photo by Shawn Miller; Courtesy Land Grant Films)

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The Library That Dolly Built (September 21)

There’s a smattering of classic songs in this documentary about country icon Dolly Parton, but the focus is on the star’s offstage work for the past 25 years: her Imagination Library. Summoning a powerful cocktail of charm, determination, and shrewd business sense, Dolly mounts a small program to put more than 100 million free books into the hands of children, first in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, but soon marshaling an army of allies to expand far into the English-speaking world. Yes, it’s an adoring portrait. But doggone it, the lady’s just plain adorable.

Belushi (Showtime, November 22)

John Belushi
(Judy Belushi Pisano/Courtesy Showtime)

Nearly 40 years after John Belushi’s death of a drug overdose in an L.A. hotel, documentarian R.J. Cutler (The September Issue) collaborated with the Saturday Night Live star’s widow, Judith Belushi Pisano, to mount this definitive look at the tragic star’s meteoric career. Through previously unreleased interviews, voice recordings, and archival footage, the film not only explores Belushi’s uncommon success (he simultaneously had a top-rated TV show, a No.1 music record, and the nation’s top box-office film) but also his enduring impact on comedy and music. (Note: The film’s premiere shifted from September to November as we were going to press.)

Mystery Road (Acorn TV, September)

Scene from Mystery Road
(Courtesy Acorn TV)

No Country for Old Men meets True Detective in the second six-episode series of this dust-choked, death-soaked drama set on the craggy coast of western Australia. It starts with a decapitated body floating among the mangroves and ends with an epic shootout, and in between, Aaron Pederson mesmerizes as a brooding indigenous cop. Directors Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair, themselves indigenous Australians, pause to contemplate Australia’s complex social structure — fractured in ways that often echo the American experience.

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This article is featured in the September/October 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Courtesy Land Grant Films

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  1. Dolly Parton is such a wonderful person on so many levels it’s hard to keep track. I’m definitely a fan of her music and Dolly herself. Still I but would like to learn more about all the good she’s doing offstage, such as this book program for children she’s founded and is expanding.

    ‘Mystery Road’ I’d have to see how I’d feel about it after the first episode. With Belushi, he died young from a heroin/ cocaine ‘cocktail’ on a self-imposed downward spiral. Was his impact on comedy and music good, Bill? Or would he be basically forgotten today like Dan Akroyd, who had a much wider range of talent. I’m just not saying here.


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