Hulu review: FX and Audience Network’s “Damages” (2007-2012)

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 relationship between Patty and Ellen mirrors that of Jesse Pinkman and Walter White, or Christopher Moltisanti and Tony Soprano, or Don Draper and Peggy Olson.

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.

“The Guardian” runs a retrospective for Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” (1963)

Pamela Hutchinson, writing for The Guardian, reviewed Federico Fellini’s (1963) after seeing it for the first time. According to Hutchinson, Fellini’s surrealist comedy-drama about a creatively blocked filmmaker named Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is inspired by the director’s own… well… lack of inspiration and it is “an easy film to admire from the off… fluid and dreamlike.” However, Hutchinson takes issue with the film’s representation of Guido’s mistress, wife, and star, “mostly buxom and/or bothersome,” who appear in one of his fantasies as a harem of women who bathe him like an infant until he attacks them with a whip.

A piano crashing to the ground 120 years ago this month inspires a Laurel and Hardy movie

James Parrott’s The Music Box (1932), a half-hour Laurel and Hardy short, premiered April 16, 1932, according to The Post-Standard. In the slapstick duo’s masterpiece, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel play a couple of bumbling furniture movers who deliver a player-piano to a wealthy man’s house (Professor Theodore von Schwartzenhoffen, M.D., A.D., D.D.S., F.L.D., F-F-F-and-F (Billy Gilbert)). The film earned Stan and Ollie their first Academy Award, and it debuted almost thirty-two years to the day when a pair of Syracuse deliverymen brought down a chimney with the weight of their pulleys while delivering a piano on April 22, 1900.

Is online pitching the future of the film industry?

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BFI Doc Society fund executive Lisa Marie Russo says it is key for both the producer and director to join the video pitch to cover all facets of the project. (Image Courtesy: Screen Daily).

With most of the world on lockdown due to coronavirus, filmmakers are finding themselves forced to pitch electronically for industry events such as Visions du Reel, Frontieres, as well as Sheffield Doc/Fest, which have all moved online, according to Screen Daily. United Kingdom-based script consultant and screenwriter David Pope says the COVID-19 pandemic will be an opportunity for more industry insiders to connect internationally. However, Annick Mahnert, the newly appointed market director at the Montreal-based genre forum Frontieres, says in-face meetings will still be crucial to collaboration, but online pitches will allow professionals to forge new relationships and discuss new content.

Amazon Prime review: Netflix’s “House of Cards” (2013-2018)

Perhaps because of Donald Trump’s years in Hollywood, Beau Willimon anticipated his presidency with Netflix’s House of Cards (2013-2018).

He shares so many traits with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Hale Underwood (Robin Wright), it’s barely even hyperbolic anymore.

Or maybe it takes a specific cluster of narcissistic, antisocial personalities to chase power over others.

Either way, it makes for good TV.

If you don’t know what to watch next, House of Cards is available on Amazon Prime. The political thriller is a remake of BBC’s House of Cards (1990), which, in turn, is an adaptation of the 1989 Michael Dobbs novel of the same name.

It is the first original online-only web television series to be nominated for major Primetime Emmy Awards.

Set in Washington, D.C., President Garrett Walker (Michael Gill) and White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey) renege on a promise to appoint Democratic Congressman and House Majority Whip Frank Underwood of South Carolina to Secretary of State.

Together with his equally power-hungry wife, Claire, and right-hand henchman, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), an incensed Frank blackmails Democratic Congressman Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) of Pennsylvania and seduces ambitious young reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara).

Through manipulation, betrayal, and murder, Frank and Claire climb all the way up to the White House.

Frank and Claire Underwood are two of the greatest antiheroes in the Golden Age of TV, and the way they hijack our democracy predicts what the current administration is up to today.

The inevitable parallels can be drawn between the Underwoods and Bill and Hillary Clinton, what with Frank’s Southern Democratic charm and Claire’s haircut.

But this only underscores the brokenness not of a political party, but an entire system where public figures like Donald Trump and Frank Underwood can scheme their way to the top, not because it’s what the American people want, but because it’s what they want.

What begins as a deceptively dry (though realistically written) dispute over an education bill slow-burns its way into the Underwood political machine threatening a proxy nuclear war against Russia in the Middle East.

The metamorphosis from the world in House of Cards to our own world is a psychological rollercoaster ride.

And Frank may be the star, but it’s Claire who steals the show. Lady Macbeth reborn, Claire’s aloof, Hitchcock blonde persona is her own proverbial house of cards behind which slithers a reptile even more apocalyptically cold-blooded than her husband.

She is a femme fatale, a conqueror, a usurper who waits for her husband to lose the games men play so she can inherit the oligarchy to which Frank auctioned off America to the highest bidder.

Except for this thematic turn of events is purely accidental. The accusations to come to light against Spacey as part of the #MeToo movement, (some of which were made by crewmembers on the House of Cards set), forced Willimon to write Frank out between the fifth and sixth seasons.

The penultimate cliffhanger, therefore, amounts to nothing, and the unplanned loss of the series lead could be alienating to some – the finale feels like something out of another show altogether.

But they call it “movie magic” for a reason, because Spacey’s firing was divine intervention. It was the best thing to happen to this series, since it casts Spacey as a Hitchcockian false protagonist for Claire.

If an antihero has to get his comeuppance for his character arc to be ethically written, then Frank deserves to know his story was Claire’s story all along.

Darren Aronofsky’s “Batman” movie canceled because he wanted to cast Joaquin Phoenix

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The outbreak of COVID-19 has halted production for Matt Reeves’s The Batman. (Image Courtesy: New Music Express).

In an interview with Empire, Darren Aronofsky said Warner Bros. dismissed him from directing a Batman film in the early 2000s because he would have cast Joaquin Phoenix as Bruce Wayne whereas the studio wanted Freddie Prinze, Junior, according to New Music Express. Christopher Nolan ended up being hired to reboot the DC Comics franchise, while Phoenix would later go on to play the Caped Crusader’s archnemesis in Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019). Meanwhile, Matt Reeves’s The Batman (2021), starring Robert Pattinson, is currently in the works, with a release date scheduled for next summer (unless impacted by the coronavirus pandemic).

TCM Classic Film Festival will broadcast a “Special Home Edition” on Turner Classic Movies

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Clips of interviews between TCM on-air host Ben Mankiewicz, the late Robert Osborne, and Eva Marie Saint, Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds, as well as the cast and director of John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972), will play during the festival. (Image Courtesy: The Los Angeles Times).

The eleventh annual TCM Classic Film Festival, a multi-venue Hollywood fan event, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Turner Classic Movies will broadcast a “Special Home Edition” of the festival from Thursday to Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Lead programmer Charlie Tabesh says it would not have been possible to exhibit all the titles they had planned for the live festival over the same four days the festival was originally scheduled, so the “Special Home Edition,” with its highlight reels, will be a unique experience. Fans can win swag through Twitter giveaways under the hashtag #TCMFF.