The Guardian critic Erik Morse was twelve years old when he saw a heavily edited version of Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980) for the first time on late-night television. According to Morse, in the decade before the film started appearing regularly on cable as well as video rentals, the Italian “giallo,” the genre from which De Palma borrows most heavily, had been followed up by low-budget slashers and erotic thrillers. Morse writes, “Dressed to Kill’s kaleidoscopic atmosphere – its watery, soft-focus lens, garish colour palette and flashy, optical tricks such as slow-motion, mirrored surfaces, split screens and dioptres – was a feast for my languorous, pre-teen senses.”
Let’s face it: the Golden Age of Television is a sausage fest. The antihero dances perilously close to making folk heroes out of the violent white male. Female sociopathy is largely uncharted territory.
Consider Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) the exception to the rule.
If you don’t know what to watch next, FX and Audience Network’s Damages (2007-2012) is available to stream on Hulu. The legal thriller won two Primetime Emmy Awards during its run for Close’s portrayal of Patty.
It has also been nominated twice for Outstanding Drama Series.
Fresh out of law school, Ellen Parsons (Outstanding Supporting Actress nominee Rose Byrne) is offered a job at Hewes & Associates, a competitive (but infamous) litigation firm.
Her boss, Patty, is something of a legal vigilante, taking the law into her own hands if it means cutting down to size men who abuse their power.
Each season focuses on a different lawsuit from both sides of the case, with nonlinear framing devices generating binge-worthy suspense through central mysteries.
The mentor is toxic and abusive, while the protégé is the moral foil, coloring the conflicts between them in shades of morally gray.
But the mother-daughter dynamic between Patty and Ellen is distinctly feminine across a writerly landscape where women written by men all too often sound like they’re written by men – Patty may be a study in antisocial personality disorder, but she is still a survivor of misogynistic oppression, just like Ellen.
Patty also echoes Walt, Tony, and Don as the boss from Hell. To become the self-made success story of the American Dream they all are, each one of these characters, in his or her own respective ways, was forced to become something inhuman.
Indeed, those in power around them are no less self-serving, manipulative, and corrupt, and Patty does what she must to survive.
Which brings us to our next comparison: Patty and Daenerys Targaryen. Like Daenerys, Patty faces off against antagonists even more unlikable than herself, and so we empathize with her by comparison.
But unlike Daenerys, Patty is an ethically written female antihero, in that she is never presented as a “fallen woman” too emotionally unstable to do the right thing with her own power, but, rather, she beats the men around her at their own game.
Even though Patty holds her own with the boys (unlike Daenerys), Damages would be one of the classics had been canceled after its third season.
The transition from the thirteen-episode seasons on FX to the ten-episode seasons on DirecTV marks a change in pace and tone like something out of a different (and lesser) show.
Even the greatest series are in the business of making money, and that means staying on the air until they are no longer profitable, no matter how slow and painful a death that may be.
But for the first three-fifths of its run, Damages is one of the all-time best, which is more than can be said for almost every other series out there. Like Close herself, it is not talked about enough. And its parallels to real-world cases makes it that much more watchable.
After meeting with a panel of five filmmakers yesterday, California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced he will issue guidelines Monday for film and television companies to resume production in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to The Mercury News. Among those sitting on the panel were director-producer Ava DuVernay, as well as Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. DuVernay, who lost a family member and a crew member to COVID-19, says the quarantine has had positive impacts on the filmmaking process, such as virtual writers rooms, in addition to fewer cast and crew crowding together on sets.
After more than two years of campaigning on social media under the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, fans of the DC Extended Universe will get to stream the director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2017) on HBO Max in 2021, according to Fox Business. During the production of the film – which stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne, uniting some of the world’s most famous characters to face an apocalyptic threat – Snyder’s daughter committed suicide, forcing him to leave the production while Joss Whedon reportedly reshot the movie. Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter today, “You probably saw one-fourth of what I did.”
Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) – written as well as produced by the filmmaker, and starring Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Lee himself – is one of the greatest films of all time, according to Far Out Magazine. Regardless, the racially charged release was only nominated in two categories at that year’s Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay), winning neither. Some critics said the movie could “incite black audiences to riot,” to which Lee responded, “I don’t remember people saying people were going to come out of theatres killing people after they watched Arnold Schwarzenegger films.”
In celebration of Alien Day in April, The Guardian critic Ben Child ranked the eight films in the classic science fiction series from worst to best. Beginning with Paul W. S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator (2004) as well as Colin and Greg Strause’s Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) tied for last, Child argues James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) surpasses Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) as the greatest installment in the saga. Child writes, “Final mention, however, goes to Scott’s original Alien… At the time, there had simply been no more terrifying movie ever made by Hollywood, while [Sigourney] Weaver delivered a career-making performance.”
If you don’t know what to watch next, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002) is available to stream on Netflix. The supernatural horror film stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, as well as Brian Cox.
Ehren Kruger’s screenplay is a remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998), which is an adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Koji Suzuki.
Set in Seattle, teenaged Katie Embry (Amber Tamblyn) dies seven days after watching a cursed videotape, and her friend, Becca Kotler (Rachael Bella) is institutionalized upon witnessing it. Katie’s aunt, Rachel Keller (Watts), an investigative journalist, looks into the death.
Once Rachel watches the tape, she receives a phone call telling her she’ll die in seven days.
The Ring popularized the American remake of the Asian horror flick, and for good reason. Eastern storytelling differs from Western storytelling enough to put off even the most literate fans of Hollywood horror.
With this zeitgeist commodifying the crosstalk between the United States and the Asian market in the 2000s, it has ushered in the “Asian New Wave” of the 2010s, culminating in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019) becoming the first non-English language film to win Best Picture.
Such is the power of The Ring. Like Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) before it, it is as mystifying as it is horrifying. Its cast of characters is written and performed as paranormal sleuths trying to outwit the evil force, not just warm bodies waiting to get killed.
That is what makes us care when the horrors befall them. As with James Wan, the horror maestro of our time whose jump scares are actually scary, every frightening image in the cursed videotape is meaningful.
They are not grotesque for the sake of itself – they three-dimensionalize the vengeful spirit until we are as afraid for her as we are afraid of her.
The resolution, however, is ambiguous to the point of being barely intelligible. While it works better than a storybook “happy ending” would have, it still leaves too many loose ends for comfort.
Even when opening up to the possibility of a franchise, though, a good ending will answer more questions than it asks, or, at least, it’ll raise questions we can answer for ourselves.
Like Katie, dare yourself to watch The Ring, and like Samara, it’ll crawl out of the screen at you.