5 powodów dla których pokochaliśmy Westworld / 5 reasons for which we fell in love with Westworld

Westworld szturmem wzięło widzów na całym świecie – jego twórcy udowodnili, że serial po raz kolejny dobił do brzegu jakości wielkich produkcji filmowych. Jednak co stanowi o sile produkcji HBO?

1. Inteligentnie wprowadzani bohaterowie 

Częstą wadą seriali jest złe sposób rozwiązania problemu wprowadzania kolejnych postaci do linii fabularnej – niektóre robiły to zbyt pospiesznie (np. Zakazane Imperium, a także poniekąd Breaking Bad), co wprowadza spory zamęt w głowach zatroskanych widzów. Twórcy Westworld znaleźli jednak złoty środek. Nawet pomimo tego, że postaci mnożą się na ekranie, zwielokrotniając przez to liczbę wątków, wszystko jest zadziwiająco klarowne. Struktura fabuły pozwala bowiem na jasny podział postaci na dwie grupy – tych, którzy świat Westworld tworzą z zewnątrz, np. role Anthony’ego Hopkinsa czy Jeffrey’a Wrighta – oraz całą gamę ludzkich robotów.

Ponadto, z uwagi na samą koncepcję serialu, niektóre postaci poznajemy wielokrotnie. I tu także zostaje to dobrze ograne – nawet, gdy dany bohater już zagościł wcześniej na ekranie, jego nowa prezentacja odkrywa przed widzem zupełnie inną część osobowości, a także rolę w tej ogromnej strukturze fabularnej.

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2. Aktorstwo trzyma bardzo wysoki poziom 

Obsada serialu jest efektem doskonale przeprowadzonego castingu. Anthony Hopkins w roli filozofującego twórcy przybiera postać kameleona w ludzkiej skórze – potrafi imponować stoicyzmem, ale gdy zachodzi potrzeba – staje się despotycznym, zwodniczym zagrożeniem. Numerem dwa jest znakomity Ed Harris – demoniczny, odziany w czarną skórę mistrz rewolweru – czarny charakter na jakiego zasługuje taki serial. Moją uwagę przykuła także Sidse Knudsen w roli Therese Cullen – z początku jednowymiarowa materialistka z każdym odcinkiem nabiera większej, bardziej intrygującej głębi.

Za najciekawszą trójką stoi peleton równie dopracowanych postaci. Oko przykuwają m.in. Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood czy wspomniany Jeffrey Wright. To jednak nie koniec, gdyż HBO zawsze dba o każdy detal – epizodyczne role nie tracą wyrazistości pomimo skąpej ilości scen. W efekcie, próżno szukać słabych punktów w obsadzie.

3. Tajemnica, która kusi, a nie nudzi  

Zrozumiałym zarzutem wobec swego czasu fenomenalnego serialu Zagubieni było to, że każdy kolejny sezon nie przynosił odpowiedzi na skrywaną tajemnicę, zaś dowoził jedynie obietnicę spektakularnego zaskoczenia. Jednak ileż można widza wodzić za nos? W Westworld unika się tego błędu – fabuła jest tak zaprojektowana, by podtrzymywać nasze zainteresowanie z różnych stron. Mamy oczywiście westernową miłość, saloony i kowbojów, ale za nimi stoi solidne sci-fi – całość zaś jest spojona tajemniczym wątkiem Eda Harrisa, który od początku jest nam podsunięty jako klucz do rozwiązania zagadki.

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4. Strona realizacyjna – balans między kameralnym sci-fi a spektakularnym widowiskiem

Westerny charakteryzują się nieskrępowaną przestrzenią obrazu – nie bez powodu Tarantino pragnął nakręcić Nienawistną ósemkę w szerokokątnej perspektywie. Widz musi przecież czuć oddech w niezmierzonych preriach, zaś konne gonitwy byłyby komiczne, gdyby zamknąć je na małej przestrzeni.

W Westworld lwią część klimatu buduje właśnie ta dychotomia sposobu kręcenia – westernowy klimat jest nasączony szerokimi kadrami, zaś praca kamery jest dynamiczna i dostosowana do przelewu krwi, który ma miejsce. Diametralnie odmienny ton nabiera zaś część “od kuchni” – przypomina bardziej Ex Machinę i Moon, aniżeli Odyseję kosmiczną czy Interstellar. Wnętrza są sterylne, relacje ludzkie spłaszczone i oficjalne, zaś wszechobecna technologia nadaje jej futurystycznego klimatu.

5. Czołówka! 

Czym HBO zaskarbiło sobie bezgraniczną miłość widzów w Detektywie już w pierwszej minucie odcinka pilotażowego?

Czołówką.

Producenci Westworld wyciągnęli wnioski z tej lekcji i poświecili sporo czasu, by ich czołówka także była godna zapamiętania. Artystycznie przedstawione za pomocą światła i cienia ujęcia robią wrażenie, ale to nie wszystko – symbolika tego intro jest równie bogata jak i całego serialu.

A Wam co najbardziej przypadło do gustu w Westworld? Podzielcie się w komentarzach swoimi wrażeniami!

Westworld has hit the audiences with its uniqueness all around the world. Its producers proved that, once again, TV series are gaining the same levels of quality as big-budget movies. Given that, what are the reasons behind Westworld‘s massive success?

1. The intelligent way that the characters are introduced

It is common for series that the creators struggle with introducing new characters. Sometimes it’s too hastily done (like Boardwalk Empire or Breaking Bad), which eventually causes chaos to creep in. However, the minds behind Westworld dealt with it brilliantly – even though there is a plethora of subplots and characters, the important pieces of the puzzle remain coherent. The structure of the plot allowed them to divide the characters into two groups: those, who create the Westworld from the outside and the whole bunch of robot humans, who create the real-time game.

What’s more, the starting concept causes some characters to be introduced more than once. However, it doesn’t seem to be a problem in case of Westworld – each of the “another intros” reveals a different part of these characters and what’s most important – various roles that they play in the big picture.

2. The acting is – at least – solid

The cast is always the consequence of well-prepared and thorough casting. Anthony Hopkins as the philosopher-creator is a chameleon in human skin – once stoic and calm, he easily transforms into a peremptory, specious embodiment of danger. There is Ed Harris, who plays the demonical, black-leather-wearing gunman – an alleged bad guy. Feminine factor is then brought by Sidse Knudsen as Therese Cullen – one-dimensional materialist in the beginning quickly begins more complex and more intriguing.

Right behind the leading three, there is the entire marathon of background-creating characters. Noticeable are, among others, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright. However, this isn’t the end, as HBO likes to cherish every detail in their work – hence, even the very small roles are sharp – don’t waste your time looking for holes in the cast.

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3. The mystery that is ever-tempting and never-boring

An understandable allegation towards Lost series was that the mysterious premise of the plot lacked the essence – it seemed that the creators never really knew where do they want to lead us. Westworld doesn’t copy that mistake – we are intrigued and tempted by its brainy structure, leveraging various characters as the story unveils. There is the western love, saloons and cowboys, but there’s the second layer of the extravagant sci-fi. Finally, the entire thing is linked to each other by Harris, who seems to be the key to the story from the beginning.

4. The visual aspect – division between spectacle and hectic drama

Western genre is all about the freedom of the image – there is a reason for which Quentin Tarantino desired the horizontal frame in The Hateful Eight. The viewer must need some space to breathe in the endless terrains and let’s be honest – the horse rides would look grotesquely if put within a small space.

An immense part of Westworld‘s success is such camera dychotomy – the western shots are spacious, breathtaking ones, whilst the camerawork is dynamic, accordingly to the pace of the film. However, it drastically changes as the tone switches to sci-fi – it’s more hectic, almost like Ex Machina or Moon, rather than Space Odyssey or Interstellar. The interiors are sterile, relationships flat and official and the ubiquitous technology imbues it with an almost futuristic spirit.

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5. Intro!

How did HBO win the love for True Detective in less than a minute of the first episode?

The intro.

The men behind Westworld has drawn some inspirations from that and cherished their intro to meet the expectations of the demanding audiences. The artistic play of light and darkness meets the flourishing symbolism, which is omnipresent in the universe of Westworld. I say yes to that. [check it out in the end of the Polish version of the article].

What were your thoughts on Westworld? Let me know in the comments section!

 

Innocent unless proven guilty – The Night Of Season 1

HBO’s drama focuses on how the fallible system forges criminals – another high point for television in 2016.

As many wise people stated before me, we DO live in the era of television. The modern shows are not the cheap and schlocky soap operas that accompanied families during suppers. While still some may possess those lower-class qualities, HBO’s The Night Of belongs to the most appealing series of 2016.

Naz Khan (Riz Ahmed) is an exemplary son from a Muslim family, who lives in New York. One night, he sneaks out of his parents’ house, gets in his father’s cab and plans to go to a party he’s been invited to. Yet, a series of bad decisions lead Naz to a crime scene, where he seems to be the only suspect. His only hope is then John Stone (John Turturro) – an eccentric lawyer with serious health problems.

First things first – The Night Of doesn’t follow a typical whodunit scheme as it may seem after the pilot. As we are introduced to the brutal murder, there is already a feeling of distinctiveness of the story – it’s not the crime that really matters here. The focus is transferred from the crime itself to the surroundings, everyone involved. There is more emphasis put on the character development – mainly Naz and John – that gives space to the actors to fully chew on their roles. As a consequence, the performances of Riz Ahmed and John Turturro are the essence of HBO’s show – especially the second one is the glowing star, who melts in the role entirely, with his final monologue being one of the most memorable scenes of the year.

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Nonetheless, there is beauty in this approach, this switch of the creator’s interest. Whilst Ahmed becomes the center of things in the pilot, the story reveals quickly that his wretched character progressively becomes a planet spiraling around bigger ones, never grasping as much attention as his representative in the face of the system – John Turturro – the covered-up protagonist of the show. Because at some point it becomes clear, that Naz is just a cog in the machine – sadly not that important, no matter what the verdict ends up being. The real main character is the juridical system and the racism present in it, which is contradicted and questioned by John. Thus, the crime is a platform to discuss, which is the most worrying of it all – the crime itself or how easily and hastily we wish to find the guilty one?

Even though it is a court drama in a vast part of the show, it’s far from 12 Angry Men or Witness For Prosecution, as it swiftly jumps from character to character, painting a broad image of the case, which also gives the freedom to mix genres. What’s more, the right chords are played thanks to the cinematography and soundtrack. The direction, the camerawork – all is in good shape, keeping the vibe of the various genres. The court scenes are portrayed with long, uncut shots, focusing our attention at the dialogues, whilst this manner changes as The Night Of transforms the tone to the social drama. This is also accompanied by the exquisiste  and elegant soundtrack by Jeff Russo, with a memorable main theme (and what an intro this series has!).

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Yet, HBO’s hot-shot is not free of drawbacks, with the main one being the number of plotholes. To fully enjoy the show, the viewer needs to accept some brachylogies. Undoubtedly, Naz’s transformation from a terrified boy to being a gangster’s right hand might be overly sketched and dramatic. However, it’s not as if it felt entirely artificial, as the point of the entire series is how the fallible system forges criminals. Nonetheless, it still feels exaggerated and could have been executed with more subtlety. Digging into some opinions regarding The Night Of, I also found that many viewers indicated a dissapointing ending – personally I found it one of the most satisfying endings in any TV show. No sugar-coating, no unncessary shocking – life. So you name it.

The plethora of notable shows that emerge each year proves, that some incredible changes took place in television. Whilst The Night Of certainly has its flaws, it’s a solid piece of work – well-crafted and thought-over series and another high-career peak for John Turturro. Even though it doesn’t leave a promising entry for a second season, I second that – not every remarkable show needs a follow-up of forced-out creations.

All the sins of Pablo Escobar

There are two sides of the same coin – two sides of the story of Pablo Escobar.

A plethora of viewers around the globe fell in love with the Netflix-produced series about the astonishing career of the king of cocaine – Pablo Escobar. The first season portrayed the story of Pablo as an example of from rags to riches, but the fans didn’t see the entire fall then – the second season took time to reveal step by step the drug empire turn into ashes. Did it work out?

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At the moment of becoming acquainted with Narcos, my knowledge regarding Pablo Escobar’s figure was rather dim. Scraps of the information has sketched a highly divisive silhouette – mustached moneybags taken from the Forbes magazine had his strong backup in the Colombian favelas, blinded by his fooling generosity and an army of ardent opponents, who wished to see his head on a plate. I’ve also heard about the barrels filled with money that Pablo has hid in the ground all around the Colombian terrains, as well as about the murders, kidnappings and all other atrocities he committed. Yet, it was Narcos that out of this chaotically gathered stories and hearsays, Pablo’s life became a full-bodied tale – a tale of a devil in human skin.

The Colombian druglord’s story took by storm numerous fans all around the world. According to the data referring to the second season of the show, Narcos constituted 17% of the global viewership of the series airing this year at Netflix. What comes next are the PR activities that helped to boost the series. A model Facebook site of Narcos could be referral to beginners in the business, as the promotional campaigns gathered a spectacular number of almost 3 million likes. Even this year revelation Stranger Things didn’t manage to gain more on its own fanpage. Thus, even though the Mephistophelian antagonist is not returning anymore, Netflix boldly signed up for season 3, green-lighting an opportunity for season 4. And to give it a required comparison, the same Netflix has recently cut the deal with the creators of Bloodline, announcing that the season 3 will be the last – the very same Bloodline, which gave 4 nominations totally to Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn, with one award to Mendelsohn included.

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Nonetheless, there are two sides of the popularity of Narcos, with the second one being more socially and psychologically backgrounded. Portraying criminals, thieves and all kinds of bad guys as the heroes of their own stories is a common sin of the cinema. But there should be some borders. And whilst I whole-heartedly loved the first season of Narcos, I found it disturbingly crossing those barriers. Pablo Escobar is represented as a cult figure – compellingly fascinating, temptingly brutal and imposing like Don Corleone. It’s a mixture of a charismatic brute, loving father and a crazy dreamer in one, but don’t expect that the number one is at any advantage here. His path to the glory was a gripping story to follow, during which Pablo’s arrogance and self-confidence was sometimes hard to be believed in. It is so mainly due to Wagner Moura’s poignant performance, who apart from learning Spanish essentially to play Escobar (which could be heard), did a truly tremendous job. But due to that, all of a sudden Pablo Escobar is no longer the disgusting terrorist he really was – he is the star of the show, that the viewers crave to see:

In this peculiar war over the audience’s sympathy for the devil, little help was brought by the duo of American agents. Neither Boyd Holdbrook as a bit withdrawn Murphy, nor Pedro Pascal as the rascally agent Pena couldn’t attract more attention and get round the audience. Supposedly it was all on purpose – to place the good guys in the shadow and let the viewers see the devil in Pablo in full moon. If so, they never managed to turn the tables and instead, the theory about the love for the bad guys was proven. Again.

So where do we find this worrying tendency to stand on the bad guys’ side? What if we called it an unhealthy symptom of a pathological urge to rebel against the system at all costs? Maybe we want to show that we put more interest in the story of a criminal than in the cops chasing him. Because, being honest with our consciousness, we would love to understand him, his surroundings, see as his last breath flies away, accompanied by pompous music. What’s more, in case of Escobar comes another dimension – power. This blinding reach for it has been somehow intriguing people for ages. Especially that only a sprinkling of us is given the chance to taste the taste of power – the ones that jostle the most. And what other person than Pablo Escobar represents a Machiavellian pursuit after power?

Some may find my concerns out of the blue, thus purely a speculation. It is obviously just a TV series, more or less loyal to the bare facts. Furthermore, no matter how fascinating Wagner Moura really was as Escobar, we still should bear in my mind the truth. And the truth is that hundreds if not thousands died accordingly to his orders, whilst his criminal activities resulted in America’s drug flood, opening of new markets to cocaine and thus creating new distribution lines. And it’s nothing to admire, right?

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Don’t get me wrong – I found the second season in many elements bedazzling, sketching a much more disturbing and horrifying picture of the Colombian druglord. Yet, the problem remains – Pablo is way too fascinating to many. A man confident about himself, manipulative, but mainly a man, who reached out for everything he wanted. And this always is impressive – just take a good look at equally self-centered and arrogant Donald Trump, who garnered numbers of followers too. Hence, whilst I admire Narcos, at the same time I am terrified by it. Especially in the world, where violence is no longer criticized and fought with, but often becomes something to pass to others on Youtube.

There are no miracles in Miracle – The Leftovers Season 2

A 10-episode long journey into humanity’s most primal feelings, packed in with soul-stirring cinematography, music and brilliant acting. An absolute must-see of 2016.

Brilliantly rich in symbols’ and complexities, poignantly human and deeply disturbing in a variety of manners – The Leftovers truly went artistically bonkers in the second season. It’s a tryumph of the golden age of television in every aspect. 

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The second season starts off some time after the end of the first. The Garveys moved out from Mapleton, leaving the darkness behind them to find happiness in a wondrous city of Miracle, Texas. It’s the only place where the sudden departures never happened, for that reason being a place of pilgrimages and a dream-like destination to live. Unfortunately, sooner than later, the truth about some of the city’s citizens unfolds, putting the others’ faith to a test.

Without slightest doubt, The Leftovers remained one of the most intelectually demanding TV series to my knowledge, reaching a whole new level in the second season. If the first season revolved around the nagging question regarding the not-departed ones – “why not us?”, the second season feels like an after-fire site – there is a bleak feeling of acceptance of the soul-crushing departure, but underneath it lies a penetrating fear of what to do next. The battle ashes are slowly dancing on the wind and those, who survived the calamitous events, seek for anything to hold onto. The Garveys try to start over, coglomerating an artificial family-like body out of Kevin, Nora, Jill and Lilly and moving to a cult city of Miracle. Yet, there’s hardly anything but deepening crisis of faith and humanity that awaits there.

What I found interesting, season 2 detached itself from the main plot elements known in the opening season – the white-shirted smokers from Guilty Remnants became the background, whilst the creators put their focus on new characters that they’ve introduced, using them as catalysts for Garveys’ arch. The new addition – Murphys, religious family, that became nieghbors of Garveys in the beginning of the season, keep their own shadowy secrets, which with each episode become more disturbing.

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Whilst the story remains compelling, it wouldn’t play the right tune if not for the acting – Kevin Carroll as John Murphy is a mezmerizing addition to the cast, as well as a bunch of other new characters (Regina King as John’s wife to mention one). Liv Tyler was given a whole new angle regarding her character too, which became grounds for one of the best female performances of the year and in line with her stands surprisingly convincing Chris Zylka – the only weak point from the first season. Notwithstanding all those bright performances, there was someone else, who stole the show.

Because what really made this season such a spectacular experience was the story of Kevin. Relegated from chief officer in the police forces, he’s lost, without a smoke screen to hide his fear. Fascinatingly portrayed by Justin Theroux, Garvey is a symbol of humanity reborn, which constitutes a coherent and genius link to the prologue of the first episode with a cavewoman protecting her child. His many deaths, fueled by the haunt of Patti (jaw-dropping performance by Ann Dowd), which eventually ends up in Garvey’s numerous ressurections, was the definite high point for the season. Paired up with exquisite soundtrack by Max Richter, this whole story of Kevin is a spur to appreciate the values that we like to forget about – may it sound cliche, but does it hit you hard.

Finally, kudos for Max Richter are more than a necessity. The soundtrack of The Leftovers is pure beauty, gently playing on the emotions of the audience with gratifying fluidity. And whilst some may claim that it vastly feels as varations around the score in season 1, wait until the episode 8. Most likely, nothing will touch this gem during this year in television.

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The second season of The Leftovers is undoubtedly one of the very few series, which episode by episode, sustain the tendency to become better. Despite how haunting and bleak the vision of the humanity may sometimes divulge from this season, the delivery of it is flawless. And the message behind it is soul-stirring too – judging by the twisted in-and-out journeys of Kevin Garvey and contrary to what John Murphy claims throughout the season – maybe there are miracles possible to happen – and not necessarily in Miracle?