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Tag: Mark Harris (1-4 of 4)

'The Wolf of Wall Street': Greed is awesome. No, wait...awful!

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Money is a drug in The Wolf of Wall Street — the most powerful intoxicant “of all the drugs under God’s blue heaven,” the movie’s ­depraved protagonist, Jordan Belfort, blusters in the opening scene. There’s a lot of substance abuse in Martin ­Scorsese’s polarizing new movie — pills by the fistful, cocaine by the shovel, and women by the hour (they’re mostly treated as substances, and mostly abused). But it’s cash, pumped in via telephone, ticker, and wire transfer, that tops them all. In one of the film’s most entertaining scenes, Belfort, played with witty belligerence by Leonardo DiCaprio, tosses his favorite fix at a pair of federal agents, who walk away. He’s flummoxed: Why aren’t they junkies too?

The Wolf of Wall Street’s detractors have faulted the filmmakers for failing to maintain a critical distance from their repellent characters. In turn, some of its champions have belittled those critics as prigs who want a movie’s moral boundaries drawn in bold black lines and its judgments made reassuringly clear. The dispute has been noisy and nasty (turns out that cocaine really does make people angry!). My own take: The blazing and funny Wolf doesn’t lack moral per­spective, but it’s awfully self-serving about where it places its indignation. Treating money as a drug turns Belfort’s story from one of crime and (lack of) punishment into an allegory of ­addiction — of excess leading to downfall, recovery, and, possibly, relapse. It’s an unsustainable metaphor that, just as the system did, lets him off too easily.
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Mark Harris: TV's new antiheroes are anti-entertaining

How strange, and yet right, that the defining event of week 1 of the network-TV season happened on cable. Last Sunday, we bid Breaking Bad farewell after six years and 62 episodes of some of the best television ever made. Like The Sopranos, Mad Men, and other cable series that have defined the new golden age of TV drama, Breaking Bad distinguished itself with a large, grand arc of moral complexity and a protagonist inside of whom a man and a monster were at war. We were riveted, and so were the people who program network shows. They were also annoyed (about the media attention), envious (of the awards), and curious (about how to get in on the action). READ FULL STORY

TV pilot season: Now for something completely the same

We’ve reached pilot season, the time of year when the networks start looking at candidates for this fall’s schedules. Thus, it is also the time of year when armchair quarterbacks like me say “You’re doing it wrong!” to which network executives usually reply “You think you could do better?” My answer: I watched 666 Park Avenue and Animal Practice and The Mob Doctor and Made in Jersey, and I hope you think you can do better. Every year, networks look at their pilots and ask the same questions. And every year, they’re the wrong questions. Here are the three that do real damage:

• ARE THE CHARACTERS LIKABLE OR RELATABLE?
There is exactly one TV-viewing demographic that still cares about this: development executives laboring under the delusion that they’ll eventually find the next Cheers or Friends (both of which, by the way, were full of characters who often behaved terribly). You know who doesn’t care about likability? People who watch Game of Thrones, or Breaking Bad, or Mad Men, or Archer. READ FULL STORY

Mark Harris: TV's Diversity Dilemma

Network execs are making a halfhearted effort to cast more diverse characters — but too often those characters are exactly like the white ones. When will minorities get not just a presence but a voice?

Lena Dunham’s excellent HBO series Girls is only three weeks old, but the acutely observed tragicomedy about four overeducated, underachieving white women in their early 20s has already come under fire from its small but devoutly ambivalent audience. The charge: lack of diversity. Girls feels like an odd target for that complaint: Why not, for example, Game of Thrones, where, except for the random dude on horseback, “swarthy” is about as ethnic as things get? I assume that extensive historical research has shown that very few people of color resided in Fake Magical Dragonia (or, apparently, in the neighboring fantasylands of Grimm, American Horror Story, and Once Upon a Time). Then again, since the entire target audience for Girls is TV critics, high-volume tweeters, and people who like to argue about stuff like diversity, it’s not surprising that this has come up. And although Girls is getting a bad rap, that shouldn’t overshadow the issue’s importance. READ FULL STORY

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