Tuesday, December 01, 2020

TV: The end of the road?

 Endings?  We think about them more and more these days.

Hidden meanings and love's strange ways 

Keep me looking for more and more, 

But all I find is that behind 

Each new door is another door.

-- "Another Door," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her self-titled debut album.

The year 2020 is slowly winding down and the world collectively screams, "Good riddance."  But other things are ending as well.  

WARRIOR.  December 4th, the series airs its final new episode.  Shannon Lee and Justin Lee produce the show that's based on a planned project by Shannon's late father Bruce Lee.  Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) arrives in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century searching for his sister  Xiaojing (Dianne Doan) who now goes by Mai Ling and is married to mafia boss Long Zii (Henry Yuk). Olivia Cheng also stands out as the madame Ah Tov.  

It's a strong series with a unique look and one flaw.  The darkness utilized over and over often worked.  But sometimes?  It just kept you from seeing what you needed.  In fact, it reminded us of Steven Bauer in the video for The Pointer Sisters' "Dare Me."  He's a shirtless boxer but, every time the camera finally makes it over to him, it's as though there's some soapy film over the camera.  

While the story was tight and involving, the camera work often undermined scenes -- the camera work and the lighting.  But the show was two solid seasons of entertainment that was largely well executed.

So why is it coming to an end?

Because it was created by CINEMAX and it is their last original production.  

What will they offer now?  Movies.  Movies you can get on every other premium channel.  

Which is why we wonder if, in fact, CINEMAX is also coming to an end?

Both it and HBO are owned by the same corporate overlord/behemoth.  And, unlike CINEMAX now, HBO is still making original content -- films, series, specials.  HBO is also promoting HBO MAX.  It's their streaming service.  You might not know it, but CINEMAX had a streaming service, CINEMAX GO -- also known as MAX GO, which launched in 2010.  It ended last April because the corporate parents thought some might confuse it with HBO MAX. 

HBO MAX will release WONDER WOMAN 1984 on Christmas Day.  It will also be released in any theaters that might still be open around that time.  The pandemic has destroyed the film exhibition industry.  Debuting a film with a $200,000,000 budget on a streamer would seem insane at any other time.  But few theaters are open and few people are going to the ones that are.  It's thought that such a high profile film can draw attention to HBO MAX and have people see it as an alternative to NETFLIX and not just another HBO division.  

Drawing attention can be a good thing.  Or a bad one.  

SUPER INTELLIGENCE is Melissa McCarthy's new film that debuted on HBO MAX last week on Thanksgiving Day.  

The reviews for the film have been brutal.  We were expecting something unwatchable.  It's actually a funny film and we're wondering how much sexism factored into the reviews?  We're not talking GHOSTBUTERS ARE WOMEN NOW sexism.  We're talking the sexism no one ever wants to acknowledge -- the sexism we've been combatting here forever.  

In the 80s and early 90s, it was the sexism aimed at Goldie Hawn.  In the '00s, it was the sexism aimed at Meg Ryan.  In the 60s, it was aimed at Doris Day.  Movie stars play types.  That's how it always has been -- and one reason that neither Laurence Olivier nor Meryl Streep ever made it as a movie star.  Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Mae West, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Richard Pryor, etc.  They played a type.

And it's a sexist world where you get women called out for that after ten or fifteen years but never the men.  Critics made it their point to attack Doris Day for playing a type (a type that they usually didn't even get right) but they looked the other way on John Wayne.  They led an attack on Doris that never let up.  Then they started in on Goldie in the 80s.  Silent in the seventies?  Women were hardly working in films in the 70s.  It was big news, in the fall of 1977, when films starring two women -- JULIA with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave and THE TURNING POINT with Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft -- were released within weeks of each other.  While Goldie was being called out for playing characters that some saw as similar, Clint Eastwood was treated as a god despite also playing a type over and over.  There is a scorn that's heaped on a Meg Ryan, for example, that never is aimed at Tom Hanks.

So we think part of the problem some reviewers have with the film is that Melissa is playing a type.  It's not the same character -- nor were Judy Benjamin, Sunny Davis and Molly McGrath the same character.  But it is a type and, again, that's what movie stars do.  They sell tickets -- or did before the pandemic -- and do so by playing a type that the audience responds to.  

Melissa plays a floundering Carol Peters who has a habit of hitting the road when things get difficult -- work, a relationship, what have you.  A newly aware artificial intelligence contacts her and Carol has to guide it to try to prevent the end of the world.  

It has many brilliant moments -- including the job interview -- and certainly delivers on the laughs.  It may work even better, as a film where the fate of the world is at stake, during a pandemic.  

Regardless, it's a funny movie and will entertain you.  Now would be a good time for those people who supposedly care about sexism to say enough to the attacks on Melissa.  

Now would be a good time to stream the film.  But maybe not on your TV.

HBO MAX is still not available everywhere.  PEACOCK may have made peace, for example, with ROKU but HBO MAX has not.  Between ROKU TVs and ROKU sticks, that's a lot of streamers being left out of the potential viewing pool.  And though they may have been satisfied watching SUPERINTELLIGENCE on their phones or pads, are they going to be okay with doing the same when it comes to a film like WONDER WOMAN 1984 filled with fight scenes and 'big cinema'?

The year is winding down and a lot of questions remain.  One big one remains why one corporation would offer HBO and CINEMAX both when they offer the same content.  Excuse us, when CINEMAX now has less content than HBO because HBO continues to offer original programming.   Seems like one clear ending down the road is the shuttering of CINEMAX.


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