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Making ‘Mother! the Year’s Most Divisive Film

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The dark lord materialized moments later. It’s not an ill-fitting nickname, at least cinematically. On screen Mr. Aronofsky has conjured up all manner of ghoulish misbehavior and grotesqueries in “Requiem for a Dream” and “Black Swan.” “Mother!,” an ambitious parable hidden in a horror flick, tops them easily. What starts as a home-invasion psychological thriller ends in flaming nightmare surrealism, stuffed with themes that divided, and mystified, critics.

“‘Mother!’ will likely be 2017’s most hated movie,” declared the Verge, while others called it “brilliant” and “an unparalleled achievement.” “It’s a hoot!” A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times.

With a reported $30 million budget and an artistic sensibility usually reserved for the indie crowd, it’s a wild gamble as a major release for its studio, Paramount, especially on the heels of “It,” Warner Bros.’s more traditional, and decipherable, horror blockbuster. Even with the benefit of two Oscar winners in a usually surefire genre, and the frisson of a romance between the director and the leading lady, “Mother!” underperformed its modest box office estimates after opening Sept. 15. But if it alienates mass audiences, it could also be the slow-burn conversation piece of the year, with high-profile defenders including Anthony Bourdain, the “Star Wars” director Rian Johnson and Chris Rock.

On the surface, it’s about a couple, Ms. Lawrence and Javier Bardem, in a rambling, secluded Victorian house. He’s a poet, with one major hit but troubled by writer’s block; she is renovating their home, forever tidying up. Their placid life is dismantled by hordes of uninvited guests who won’t leave. All the symbolism — packed like a Russian nesting doll, with religious iconography, celebrity culture and military-industrial-state overtones — is in service of one grander idea, the allegory that moved Mr. Aronofsky to write the script in an uncharacteristically prolific five-day stretch. “I just pounded through it, kind of like a fever dream,” he said.

But the allegory seems to have eluded many viewers, and Mr. Aronofsky and Ms. Lawrence disagreed about how much to reveal. “He wants people to go in blind,” she said, which she felt was a shame. “You’re going to miss all of the detail and all of the brilliance behind the whole movie,” she said. “My advice is to understand the allegory.”

Mr. Aronofsky favored an unsuspecting audience, the better to enable interpretations, or astonish. But, he said, looking at his girlfriend across the conference table, “She can do whatever she wants. She’s a genius marketer and clearly doesn’t need any career advice from anyone, and knows how to sell a movie.”

Ms. Lawrence: “Are you being sarcastic?”

He wasn’t, and so, let’s follow her lead. Thematic spoilers ahead, but rest assured that even if you absorb them, the movie will throw curveballs. “Mother!” is about Mother Earth (Ms. Lawrence) and God (Mr. Bardem), whose poetic hit has the weight of the Old Testament: hence all the visitors clamoring for a piece of Him, as his character is called. The house represents our planet. (Walking the wooden floorboards in bare feet is what finally got the part to click, Ms. Lawrence said.) The movie is about climate change, and humanity’s role in environmental destruction.

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Jennifer Lawrence said the audience needs to understand that it’s an allegory for climate change: “It’s a hard movie to watch. I’ve watched it and I was like, my brothers can’t see this.”

Credit
Markian Lozowchuk for The New York Times

The action takes place on the biblical sixth day (the film’s original title was “Day Six,” she said) and follows that timeline. “You have the creation of people, you have the creation of religion itself, people reading the same writing and arguing over its meaning, false idols,” Ms. Lawrence said. She got the religious references immediately. “I was a Bible nerd — Bible study every Sunday,” she said, adding an expletive.

Mr. Aronofsky, an environmentalist who’s active with the Sierra Club, pitched her the concept, which she liked, yet she was still taken aback by the full vision in the script, which wreaks unyielding, gruesome havoc on her character. “When I first read it,” she said, “I didn’t even want it in my house. I thought it was evil, almost.”

It drew her because she’d never encountered anything like it. “What I’ve always loved about Darren is, he’s unapologetic and he’s bold,” she said, adding: “I agreed with the film’s message wholeheartedly. It’s an assault, and it needs to be.”

Alternative interpretations abound, though, including Mr. Bardem’s. He acknowledged the environmental symbolism, but said that for him, the idea that resonated the most was what he called “the birth of a religion as a cult,” which divides more than it unites. Playing God was a stretch, he said. “I couldn’t relate, humanly speaking,” he said. “But every time I went back to that allegory, I found my wisdom.”

Other views lean on the relationship between the older, brilliant but narcissistic artist and his adoring, if unfulfilled, gorgeous young partner. Mr. Bardem is 48, the same as Mr. Aronofsky; Ms. Lawrence is 27. Mr. Aronofsky bristled at the suggestion that the screen dynamic might be perceived as mirroring that of auteur and megastar in real life. “How could it? Our relationship didn’t start until after the film happened,” he said. “You know, we just had a great time together, and that’s it.”

Ms. Lawrence laughed. “Can’t you tell from the movie?”

As a couple, they can seem mismatched, Mr. Aronofsky the buttoned-up cineaste to her expressive exuberance. It seems about right that he wanted to be tight-lipped about the movie and she didn’t: little is off-limits with Ms. Lawrence. Sitting in the anodyne conference room before he arrived, talk turned to motherhood. “My grandma went through early menopause, my mom went through early menopause,” she said. “I handle stress like a — like a hummingbird, maybe? I’ll be like, 35, by the time I start drying up. And that’s on the record. I want that to be a pull quote. I’m no Mother Earth! Drying up as we speak!”

Later, out of her earshot, Mr. Aronofsky said: “It’s always fun to be in a room with Jen. She’s hilarious and real and truthful.”

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New Movie News

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 premiere breaks massive ratings record

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Drogon and Rhaegal joined 17.4 million viewers in watching Dany and Jon get it on.

Image: hbo

If it felt like everyone and their mother (of dragons) was watching Game of Thrones onSunday night, it’s because they were.

According to HBO, a staggering 17.4 million viewers across cable, HBO Go, and HBO Now tuned into the Game of Thrones: Season 8 premiere on Sunday — surpassing Thrones‘ previous ratings record from the finale of Season 7, which brought in 16.9 million viewers in July 2017.

The debut of Thrones’ final season marked the largest night of streaming activity in HBO’s history, and that means great things for the service’s other series.

Barry, a tense dramedy starring Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader, followed Thrones and saw its best night ever with 2.2 million viewers.

Similarly, HBO’s long-running comedy VEEP, which followed Barry, experienced its best night since June 2016 with 1.5 million viewers.

And then Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which followed VEEP (which followed Barry, which followed Thrones), championed its best night since August 2016, bringing in an audience of 1.7 million.

As fans play catch up on Sunday’s Thrones premiere — and dive into the five remaining Thrones episodes in the coming weeks — viewership is likely to continue climbing for HBO programming across the board.

Ultimately, Game of Thrones: Season 7 averaged 32.8 million viewers per episode. Season 8 is sure to burn that record right up. (Er… sorry, little Ned.)

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/game-of-thrones-season-8-premiere-ratings-record/

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HBO finally sets a date for the return of ‘Deadwood’

Charmaine Blake

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“15 years after HBO’s acclaimed and award-winning series Deadwood premiered, the cable network has finally shared a teaser for its movie revival.

The two-hour film picks up 10 years after finale, which aired in 2006. It stars returning actors Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, Paula Malcolmson, Anna Gunn, Robin Weigert, and Gerald McRaney among others.

Deadwood will premiere on May 31, cutting it just in time for Emmy eligibility this year.”

Read more: https://mashable.com/video/deadwood-revival-teaser-date/

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Jordan Peele explains the significance of the Michael Jackson imagery in ‘Us’

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“It’s 1986 and a little girl wearing a Michael Jackson T-shirt is at a fun fair with her mum and dad. That’s the opening scene we’re met with in Jordan Peele’s new movie Us. 

The choice of T-shirt is a striking one given that the movie is being released just weeks after the airing of HBO’s documentary Leaving Neverland. In the documentary, Wade Robson and James Safechuck gave an account of the alleged sexual abuse they survived at the hands of Michael Jackson.

But this detail isn’t the only nod to Michael Jackson in Us. Subtle nods to Jackson can be found in the outfits worn by the nightmarish doppelgängers that appear in the movie — like the single glove that they wear, and their “Thriller”-red jumpsuits.

Creator and director Jordan Peele told Mashable that the inclusion of this imagery is no accident.

‘Everything in this movie was deliberate, that is one thing I can guarantee you. Unless you didn’t like something and that was a complete accident,’ he said.

Without giving away the entire plot, this movie’s central theme is duality and the danger that lies therein.

‘Michael Jackson is probably the patron saint of duality,” said Peele. “The movie starts in the ’80s — the duality with which I experienced him [Jackson] in that time was both as the guy that presented this outward positivity, but also the “Thriller” video which scared me to death.’

Jackson’s duality obviously extends beyond the horror-inspired ‘Thriller’ video, too……………………………………………………..”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/jordan-peele-michael-jackson-us-movie/

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