Girls, sixth season: get used to the end

“I’m Hannah forever.
No matter what I do, no matter whether I start a new nuclear missile crisis with my emotions, or I sit back and chill and give someone a fruit basket, I can only control the mayhem that I create around me.
But the crazy thing is, when I showed up, I heard screaming and I heard my name and I heard madness.
And I knew that I was free. At least for tonight.
That’s all. Thank you.”

I was sure that Lena Dunham has reached her very best in writing by the fifth season’s finale of Girls. But the sixth season’s premiere was eventually aired (and it was 40 minutes long!).
All I Ever Wanted is flawless and so well balanced it has been the very first episode of Girls to leave me with just love for Hannah Horvarth. It comes after six years of love and hate toward this uneasy character.
Aversion at first (on screen) look is gone. Goosebumps are already there during the first minute and an half of the episode, while all the series’ main characters are seen one after the other reading Hannah’s story. Losing My Best Friend To My Ex-Boyfriend has been published by the New York Times, and I could not be happier about it. I was smiling, and Hannah’s typical glancing into the camera didn’t bother me anymore.
It may well be because we have to part forever in a few weeks, and I am conscious I am going to miss her. Still I support Hannah all the way, while I follow her to the Hamptons where she is heading to to report about a surf camp for wealthy ladies. That monologue, the unforgettable monologue by the end of the fifth season, changed everything.
Jessa and Adam, the whimsical Marnie, after all of that Hannah is Hannah, period. It does not matter her being psychotic, flawed and vicious. I just felt pure joy by watching her hanging with her surf instructor (the great Riz Ahmed already seen in The Night Of) in search for some happiness and optimism. Even Hannah Hovarth can quit hating everyone and everything, why shouldn’t we?

 It’s so much easier to love something than to hate it, don’t you think?
Love’s the easiest thing in the world”

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Lena Dunham and Riz Ahmed on the beach in Girls

 

Hannah has gradually changed. The character gained control, moved toward introspection and found a brighter smile. Is it to last? Hard to say.
Besides the feelings, facts are that a writing quality like the one achieved on this episode will grant to Leena Dunham a excellent closure for one of the most discussed series of the last years. She is witty, cynical, but also sensible and truthful: her writing echoes her nature. Has she been outrageous or excessive? Let’s be honest: what many find to be footling, it is what they would very well say after a few glasses of wine. Lena says it loud and clear.
Lena shoves her imperfect body right into our face all along Girls, or while she models for fashion magazines: cellulite has got to a fashion cover. That body should be perceived as a it is, a human body that hasn’t been fiddled by Photoshop. As similar to the body of many of us, it should not be welcomed with displeasure. Not everyone is obsessed with workout, diets, beauty products and healthy food.
Lena does not feel ashamed of her fears or imperfections, she lives her sexuality genuinely, in that being a role model, and making me kinda jealous.
I will not shun the topic: I wish I was brave enough to wear a dress that does not fit my body according to the common opinion, or to be with others leaving out the constant struggle for a perfect pose, the effort to hide those little flaws I fight every day.
I do prefer the chubby Hannah, her frayed tattoos, her ruffled hair, her large clothes, to Marine and to Jessa in their perfect shapes and shiny hair-does.
Hard as it can be, it is time to get used to the end. This last season will pass quickly, while a struggle lasted five years between love and (way more) hate winds up to loving harmony for me and Hannah.
Today I would love to watch her on and on finally without contempt, instead of getting ready for a farewell. We needed time, Hannah, but it has been very well spent.

“She’s blood, flesh and bone
No tucks or silicone
She’s touch, smell, sight, taste and sound […]
‘Cause she’s so high
High above me, she’s so lovely
She’s so high, like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Aphrodite
She’s so high, high above me”

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Lena Dunham and Riz Ahmed in Girls 6×01

Eyewitness: the series all the web is talking about

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“I don’t want to be that guy.

My father doesn’t want me to be that guy.

No one wants me to be that guy.”

Lukas is a teenager born and raised in Tivoli, a small town in the outback a few miles away from New York City. He lost his mother when he was just six years old and grew up with his father, a rigid uncommunicative man who doesn’t get along with modern times.

Lukas is passionated about motocross and lingers a lot on social networks. He also occasionally spends time with his girlfriend Rose, the prettiest girl of his school. The major part of his free time is actually dedicated to Philip, a same aged boy who just came in town. Philip comes from a difficult familiar context and he is fostered by the Tivoli sheriff’s family. Philip’s natural mother is drug addicted and never really coming to a rehab success. She is moved from a rehab center to another, and despite a solid and deep relationship with her son, she has never been able to care for him.

The two boys are nothing but dissimilar: Lukas is spoiled, a selfish narcissist, conversely Philip is introvert, shy and very sensitive. But what really makes them different is how they cope with their homosexuality. Philip has already accepted his feeling and lives them in harmony, both he’s foster family and his mother know, in that he came out. Lukas turns his feelings toward Philip down, he is bemused by people and society judgement. The boy begins a slow self-acceptance process while facing all the adversities of a small and retrograde community. Chats and gossip in his school bother him, while his love feelings float up and down. Under the social mask he wears, behind the beating of Philip he performs in fronts of his crew to pretend he his a dull homophobic bully, Lukas knows that he could hardly escape his feelings. Even trying to make love with Rose won’t help, while he let Philip record the act (the video is later shared around the school to confirm Luka’s sexuality and silence the gossip about the two boys close friendship).

Lukas won’t succeed in strenuously denying his nature, what he feels is a first true love, passion and deep affection. All of this will eventually explode.
The self-acceptance process of a teenager like many others has to face an unusual problematic environment when a row of horrible and unexpected homicides upsets the peaceful town of Tivoli. The reason behind this events seems to be a showdown between two gangs fighting for the control of local drug dealing business. The very first of these crimes falls close to Lukas father’s chalet. The two boys are there: they are not only eyewitnesses, but also involved in the assault of one of the two assassins during the flight. The crimes are investigated by FBI and by the local sheriff, Philip’s foster mother.
Eyewitness is a remake of a 2015 Norwegian anthological series, namely Øyevitne, created by Jarl Emsell Larsen. Along with the showrunner Adi Hasak (Shades of Blue) he followed the works for this remake as executive producer. Aired on USA Network, the series is directed and co-produced by Catherine Hardwicke, the woman behind Twilight. The vampire’s saga is just one of her successes, we may as well spot her signature on the series recalling other successful works like Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown. Everything is about troubled teenagers and their affairs that are hard to live and to be told. Recurrent close-ups highlight deep looks to instantly reveal powerful feelings, oblique dolly shots come often as well for capturing details in action and movements, the photography is crystal clear and dark and it captures a melancholic setting.

Eyewitness takes all of this to a pinnacle, especially what regards tones: colors are cold, dull and dark as to recall the Nordic origins of the series. The fall is never-ending and it covers the environment, the clothes and the feelings of te characters. Tivoli is ruled by melancholy.

Eyewitness is a unusual drama that endeavors to make something new of the crime genre, a long time sluggish genre. The unconventional love story between Lukas and Philip comes as useful resource to avoid the boring feelings that lately linger around crime stories. The homosexual romance takes the place of a common heterosexual one that usually stars in such TV productions.

The crime plot is developed with dedication throughout the 10 episodes, while the intricate case of corruption and local underworld businesses is solved. Nevertheless the love story is firmly held as the focal subject of the plot, the audience is always kept in front of the human face of the events and the related characters’ feelings. There is indeed a mystery that has to be unrevealed, but the relationship between Lucas and Philip is the real reason behind this story.
Crime and relationship drama are seamless mixed, the screenplay is bolder and braver than the original series and gazes to contemporary society. Above all the series indulges over teenagers scared of people’s judgment, bullied or shattered by the means of social networks, and the resulting violence that runs across the school.
The series didn’t perform well, around 0.17 (18-49 rating), counting something more than 600K viewers a week. Instead it caused an impressive buzz all over the Internet, namely on the most prominent social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. The series’ stars themselves are very alive on the social environment. Talented Tyler Young (Philip) and James Paxton (Lukas) are keeping an active conversation with their fans and have joined audience fueled campaign to give the series a second season, despite the low performance.
This is an interesting series under many aspects, that bravely tries to take something new in a monotonous genre and that affirms once more, if necessary, the homosexual themes.

 

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Top 5 series of 2016

A few days ago the Golden Globes Nomination were announced, and they basically confirmed what many of us already believed: Stranger Things, Westworld, The Crown and This is Us are the best TV series of 2016. According to audience and critics, three more limited series have to be listed as well among honorable mentions. First, ioho, The Night Of, a masterpiece starring the flamboyant John Turturro. Then, The Night Manager, a British spy story inspired by John Le Carré’s novel, and Atlanta, a rap themed series created by and starring Donald Glover (rapper, actor and screenwriter) are also absolutely worth seeing.

The best novelties of 2016 aren’t finished though, and a few more series shall be recommended for good storyline, screenplay and/or direction. The approaching end of the year is a very convenient occasion for a top list, thus we would like to present to you our very own Top 5 starring what we consider the best lesser-known series of 2016. They may be lacking of notoriety but not of great quality. Without much more ado here we present the series best top 5 according to TV Tips.

 

Fleabag

We already covered this dark comedy a week ago. Once again we would like to recommend it to you. Fleabag is written by and starring the actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British version of Lena Dunham as many defined her. She plays an antihero of questionable moral behavior, torn apart by regret and pain because of an irremediable mistake. Something she did in the past and that took away the only person she needed and cared about. Fleabag is a sadcom miles away from the thirty-somethings’ dramedies aired during the last years. It is more adult, consistent and deep, and it tells us about much more than cheating adventures, one night stands on Tinder, or late growing-up dilemmas that are so common among thirty-somethings of today.

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Dirk Gently

Action, mystery, comedy and a bit of sci-fi are the ingredients of this curious series produced by BBC America. It has been written by Max Landis, and developed by The Walking Dead’s studios AMC Studios. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is the adaptation of a Douglas Adams’ series of books written starting from 1987.

Todd (Elijah Wood) is a shy and penniless concierge, who takes care of his ill sister. Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) is a whimsical holistic detective who decides to hire Todd as his assistant, basically upsetting his life. The two main characters will face homicides, kidnappings, incredible lottery winnings and pointless mysteries. Dirk, with his holistic method of investigation, sees the universe as an unique entity where everything is connected and claims that every case may be solved only by chance events generated from countless and random actions. A strange and eccentric practice that works very well with the whimsical characters of both books and series.

 

Dirk Gently 101 & 102, "Horizons" & "Lost & Found", Day 21 of 23, June 21, 2016, Burnaby, BC, Canada

3%

A Brazilian TV series for aficionados of Black Mirror and similar dystopian dramas, 3% takes place in a close and catastrophic future dominated by technology and in a state of social collapse. Brazilian society is devastated and largely living in poverty in the outback. Only a small and selected group of citizens  lives in the (apparently) happy Offshore. Citizens may access the territories of the Offshore only through a complex selection Process, supervised by a team of experts guaranteeing meritocracy criteria. Reality seems to be quite different, and a few rebels from a group called the Case will reveal the dark secrets of the Offshore world and their own mysterious past.

Created by Pedro Aguilera and produced by Chesar Charlone (director of photography in City of God and Blindness), 3% is written and acted with style. It will make you indulge in deep reflection and demand your dedication to grasp the uncountable details and intrigues of the Process.

If you are looking for a relaxing show, this is not the series for you.

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Quarry

Another great series that won’t have you relaxing on the couch. Quarry is surely one of the best productions of 2016. It’s based on Max Allan Collins’s novel, and the author himself took part to the screenwriting of some episodes together with Jennifer Schuur.

Quarry is an intricate drama, but similarly full of quality. Its distinctive signs are intense themes and characters, and a slowed down narrative where details and nuances have primary role.

The series is created by Michel D. Fuller and Graham Gordy (also creators of the small masterpiece Rectify) and aired by Cinemax (home of The Knick and Banshee, two other series to watch). The main characters are Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green), a Vietnam veteran marine, and his sidekick Arthur (Jody Balfour), coming back home after an year-long deployment. They return to a society that is closed and hostile to them, where coming back from the front line earns you noting but rejection. The local boss Buddy (Damon Herrimanx) harasses them, and then wants to hire them in his dirty (but remunerative) business.

In 1972, in the hostile and furious southern USA, veterans have a lot to tell.Mac’s suffering is pivotal in this story: an intense climax to moral collapse.

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StartUp

This series is aired on Crakle, Sony’s online streaming platform that gave us Chosen (not that bad, but lacking of fortune). StartUp is set in Miami (but shot in Puerto Rico) and tells of the birth and rise of a cryptocurrency (much like Bitcoin) in crime and finance. This new currency is created by Izzie (Otmara Marrero), a young hacker and mastermind of the group, the finance expert Nick Talman (Adam Brody), and the Haitian outlaw Roland (Edi Gathegi). Their aim is nothing less than undermining the colossal banking system in favor of a more equal and fair market for everyone. Everything starts from a couple dirty millions that Nick receives from his father, a minor criminal connected to Puerto Rican and Haitian gangs that prosper in Miami. Wanting to launder the big sum, Nick comes to Izzie in company of Roland,  the incidental owner of 300K of the two millions. The group has an FBI officer on their heels (Martin Freeman), a man of questionable methods that has spent years trying to get his hands on Nick’s father.

This series, created by Ben Ketai (Chosen), may not be mentionable for originality, but its cast has both great acting skill and audience acclaim (Brody and Freeman on top). Look for shootings, unexpected twists and adrenaline.

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Fleabag, the British answer to Lena Dunham

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“Fleabag” is a thirty-something girl from London, single and quite lonesome. She struggles to keep her own cafe alive (a cafe dedicated to Guinea pigs).

She’s selfish, cynical, greedy and nasty, and surrounded by a true dysfunctional family. Her mother has died of cancer, her sister is a frigid control maniac. Her father is incapable of showing any affection and is succubus to his new partner, a snobish, nymphomaniac artist.

Fleabag is a so-called antihero with a questionable moral behaviour, who fights her loneliness through sex, often unsatisfying or catastrophic sex (from premature ejaculation to impotence). She collects flirts with mediocre men, believing she is having them at her disposal, while she is the one being used and dismissed. She tries to fill her inner emptiness with several one-night stands, while she finds satisfaction only in masturbating to President Obama’s speeches on YouTube.

There is something we don’t know though, and that we will discover throughout the episodes: the psychological wounds of this girl are much deeper than expected. There is something she can’t confess at first, something about her sexual addiction, a mistake that can’t be fixed anymore. Something that took her best friend away forever, the only person she needed and she cared about.

Fleabag is a powerful story of a life broken by an irremediable mistake, that terribly hurts and brings taunting regrets. A life broken into pieces that nothing could bring together again. Fleabag has a pressing and desperate need for someone listening to her, someone who understands her. She looks for that someone right into the camera while she comments her life in real time, so energetically breaking the fourth wall, more than Frank Underwood himself. She looks toward the camera, at the audience, repeatedly commenting with words or even with nods and gestures only. They are always meaningful communication, even when made of silences and understatements.

Fleabag is a sadcom that brings the audience on the thin line between comedy and tragedy. You laugh, you think, and you reach the end of every episode with a bitter feeling that won’t easily go away.

The series is written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag herself, born in 1985 and graduated by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She co-leads a small theatrical troupe and, at the same time, she writes screenplays. After being part of the cast of Broadchurch, beside David Tennant, she wrote two sitcome: Chrashing for Channel 4 and Fleabag for BBC Three.

A comparison between Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Lena Dunham’s Girls is inevitable, in that both of the writers are witnesses of a generation. They are both superbly able to honestly tell about weaknesses and flaws of their own generation. Within their works they face the typical idiosyncratic relationship with the world, the struggle caused by the acceptance of social roles imposed to those who want to avoid isolation.

Lately Phoebe defined herself an “imperfect feminist”, something similar to what many would use defining Lena Dunham. Nevertheless the differences between the two writers and actresses exist, as well as those between their characters. They are both outright and savage, but while Girl’s Hannah lives in a continuous anxious condition that makes a control maniac of her, desperately believing she will finally get control of her own life, conversely Fleabag goes with the flow of life events, hiding and avoiding real decisions. And again, Hannah is spoiled and whimsical, exhausting melodramatic for small or trivial problems compared to what is faced by the messy Fleabag.

Should Phoebe Waller-Bridge being the British Lena Dunham, she has to be consider much more mature in her writing (despite her younger age), less blatant and patent than the American counterpart. Fleabag is much more akin to today’s thirty-something women and men, frightened by an uncertain future, helpless because of their own mistakes, but aware of their weaknesses and ready to recoup. Because to err is human, we all know it, so says Fleabag to us by the season finale: “People make mistakes. That’s why they put rubbers on the end of pencils.”.

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