Netflix’s ‘Godless’ Is The Best Western Of 2017 [Bingeworthy™ Breakdown]

After “The Punisher,” and “Stranger Things” “Alias Grace,” and “Mindhunter,” Netflix is on a serious roll of quality programming and therefore the Bingeworthy™ Breakdown is back and busier than ever.

This week, we’re looking at Scott Frank’swestern “Godless.” Scott Frank is known for writing “Minority Report,” “Logan,” ‘Get Shorty” and for directing “The Lookout” and “A Walk Among The Tombstones.” The self-contained, seven episode mini-series stars Jeff Daniels, Jack O’Connell (“Starred Up”), Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”) and Scoot McNairy (“Halt And Catch Fire”). Set in the American West of the 1880s, “Godless,” centers on the storm of revenge that’s about to rain down on a small town. Let’s jump into it.

Look, I’m not a huge fan of Westerns.

Your loss. You could just leave right now, but you’d be missing out on one of the best Netflix series of the year, and one of the best narratives on TV, period.

Why are you saying “narratives” like that? Call it a TV show.

But that would be a misnomer. “Godless” is a mini-series, and I hate to even call it that cause series suggests something that continues. It’s a one shot deal.

So, it’s like a seven hour movie?

Yes, and shut up for a second. I have a monologue. There’s this haughty disdain that comes out of TV critics for some reason anytime when a filmmaker says, “Actually, it’s an X hour long movie.” I’m not really sure why that is to be honest. It’s some insular, Twitter TV writer’s joke, but I’ll admit it irks me to no end. Mostly because I think the mini-series or the expanded movie is far greater than most TV series. The very nature of TV is to continue telling a story on and on and on again and to quote, “The Girlfriend Experience” director Lodge Kerrigan, “Ultimately if [a] shows continue to continue, they die a slow death.” I couldn’t agree more. So, for me, leveraging the long-form nature of television to tell in an expanded movie is a great way tell a story that demands more than two and a half hours, but doesn’t need to go forever. I like a beginning, middle and end; ellipsis storytelling annoys me, though of course there’s lots of great exceptions.

Godless

We’ve heard this rant before. Get on with telling us what the show is about.

On the surface it’s a story of betrayal, revenge, and redemption. And it sounds so cliché, but you know when a story uses all those fundamental ideas of the dark side of human nature, but serves it up in a totally classic and dramatically compelling way? “Godless” does that. It’s a Western set in the 1880s and the show is structured like the hellish black storm to end all storms that’s going to roll into down and rain down with a bloody retribution. It’s also told like a tributary of streams, the brook of which pools together in the town of La Belle which is nearly exclusively inhabited by women, after all the men died in a mining accident.

Linearly, the show is about Frank Griffin (a fantastic Jeff Daniels), an outlaw terrorizing the American West who is out for revenge against his adopted son Roy Goode (rising star Jack O’Connell). There are several points of view and co-starring lead characters, but the show is ultimately told from the perspective of Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery), a mysterious woman who owns a nearby farm and is the sole female that refuses to live inside La Belle. She’s an outsider and a widow, and lives with her timid, half-Indian son Truckee (Samuel Marty) and his crusty, mistrustful grandmother.

A wounded Roy Goode takes shelter in Fletcher’s barn and after some suspicion, is taken in by Alice and her family, but they soon understand they are harboring… not a fugitive, but a wanted man. Roy essentially abandoned his father for reasons that are much more emotionally complicated that you can sum up in a sentence other than to say fathers and sons often have irrevocable conflicts with one another. So, Frank and his men are terrorizing everyone and asking if they know about the whereabouts of Roy Goode. Frank and his gang basically put out a death warrant on any town hiding Roy and when they find out he’s in La Belle — which he’s not really, no one wants to safeguard him other than Alice — they take their slow trek across New Mexico to kill him and wipe out the whole town.

So, it’s Alice and Roy against a vicious gang?

Absolutely not, and I’ll flesh that out in a minute. Also part of the mix is Scoot McNairy as Bill McNue, the aging sheriff of La Belle. He’s sweet on Alice, but hasn’t really gotten anywhere with her. He’s also known as a coward in La Belle, a sheriff who carries no respect, but he’s actually going blind and McNue would rather keep that to himself, so it informs his approach to lawmaking.

Is that it? Just a gang of black riders coming for revenge?

That’s the plot of this long-form movie. The story is the tale of all these characters, who they are and how they came to be, and how their lives collide in the middle of the slow train of death a comin’ to town. There’s a lot of the Roy Goode/Frank Griffith story told in flashback and while I normally hate character history relayed in this format — it’s often used to stretch out story, simply because you can — Frank, who wrote and directed “Godless,” is very economical in its use and the technique is actually leveraged to great effect.

  • Knight Rider

    What other westerns were there in 2017?

    • timmy t

      Damnation and The Son? Not a high bar to clear…

    • Hostiles for example.

  • Interesting… we’ve been using Bingeworthy for some time now. https://sludgefeed.com/recommended/

    Including our last website, which was actually called BingeWorthy.

‘Transparent’ Writers Considering Season 5 Without Jeffrey Tambor Following Sexual Harassment Allegations

Netflix and Media Rights Capital are currently trying to figure out a way forward with “House Of Cards,” without including Kevin Spacey, who is facing serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Meanwhile, Louis C.K. has seen the entire industry take a strong step back after he admitted to sexually harassing women in light of allegations published in the New York Times. Now, another television figure out also been facing serious repercussions for his behavior.

Last week, “Transparent” star Jeffrey Tambor‘s former assistant Van Barnes accused him of making lewd comments, groping her and threatening to sue her if she spoke up. The actor strongly denied those claims, releasing the following statement to Deadline:

READ MORE: Gal Gadot Addresses Brett Ratner & ‘Wonder Woman 2’ Rumors: “Everyone Knew What Was The Right Thing To Do”

I am aware that a former disgruntled assistant of mine has made a private post implying that I had acted in an improper manner toward her. I adamantly and vehemently reject and deny any and all implication and allegation that I have ever engaged in any improper behavior toward this person or any other person I have ever worked with. I am appalled and distressed by this baseless allegation.

Nevertheless, the accusation has prompted an investigation at Amazon. There’s no word when there might be an outcome, but according to the trade, the writers of “Transparent” are already considering a fifth season without Tambor’s celebrated character, Maura Pfefferman. It would require a major narrative shift — she’s the lead character on the show — but with Hollywood now awake to the serious issue that has plagued this industry for decades, all options are being looked when talent involved with programming are facing career altering accusations.

It doesn’t appear any hard decisions have been made, but it’s another high profile show facing an uncertain future.

‘The Chi’ Trailer: Showtime Takes You To Chicago’s South Side

In Netflix‘s “Easy,” Joe Swanberg presented his comedic look at Chicago, but Showtime goes for something more authentic with “The Chi.” The show comes from Lena Waithe, who y0u likely know from her role as Denise on “Master of None” (and for co-writing the episode “Thanksgiving,” which earned her an Emmy award). But “The Chi” promises something far different.

Starring Steven Williams, Sonja Sohn, Jason Mitchell, Jacob Latimore, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Alex Hibbert, Yolonda Ross, Armando Riesco and Tiffany Boone, the series takes audiences to Chicago’s south side, dropping them into the lives of neighborhood residents, ranging from kids going to school, to the elderly watching the world go by. Here’s the official synopsis:

On Chicago’s south side, an average day finds kids prepping for school as their parents head off to work, young adults trying to make a living, and the elders keeping an eye on things from their front porches. But in this tough neighborhood, real dangers threaten daily to squelch dreams, and the simplest decisions can have life or death consequences. The Chi is a powerful coming-of-age drama series about an interconnected group of working-class African-Americans who remind us that no matter what, the human spirit is strong and hope never dies.

“The Chi” debuts on Showtime on January 7, 2018.

‘Easy’ Season 2 Trailer: Same City, New Positions

One of today’s foremost purveyors of “mumblecore” cinema – a derisive pigeonholing label for low budget indies which often involve the Duplass Brothers and sonorous dialogue – Joe Swanberg has managed to carve out a special niche for himself with his low-key hangout films, usually made in collaboration with “New Girl” actor Jake Johnson, such as the charming “Drinking Buddies” and “Digging for Fire.” Swanberg and Johnson scored their biggest mainstream success to date with this year’s Netflix original feature “Win It All” starring Johnson as a raffish gambling addict, and Swanberg is carrying on the momentum of his newfound recognition with a second season of his Netflix anthology series “Easy.”

Set in Swanberg’s beloved native Chicago, the first season of “Easy” adhered to a loose template following the sex lives of a disparate collection of couples and singles, with the episodes usually depicting a self-contained misadventure, such as Orlando Bloom and Malin Akerman’s frisky couple trying and failing to organise a threesome with their babysitter Kate Micucci, but some characters also recurred across episodes including Dave Franco and Evan Jonigkeit’s garage brewers.

There are no signs of Swanberg tampering with that template too much in the second season, which will depict a new collection of Chicagoites falling in and out of love, alongside several familiar faces from the first season, including podcast king Marc Maron who starred alongside Emily Ratajkowski in the standout episode “Art and Life.”

Maron illuminated the improvisational aspect of “Easy” on a recent episode of the Kernels” podcast, disclosing that, “The thing about working with Swanberg is you don’t know what’s going to happen in those scenes coz he really gives you very little, it’s barely an outline in terms of what’s going to happen in the scene […] So the emotions that happen on the takes – of which you don’t do many – are fairly genuine as long as you’re present.”

Returning from the first season as well are Micucci, Franco, Jonigkeit, Jane Adams, Zazie Beetz, Michael Chernus, Aya Cash and Kiersey Clemons, while new additions to the cast include Aubrey Plaza, Kate Berlant, Joe Lo Truglio, Michaela Watkins and Judy Greer. “Easy” will launch on Netflix on December 1st.

‘Gunpowder’ Trailer: Kit Harington & Liv Tyler Bring The Revolution

Game Of Thrones” fans may be waiting until 2019 to see where the story of Jon Snow winds up. However, Kit Harington will return to HBO in some different clothes and facial hair for the miniseries “Gunpowder.”

Also starring Liv Tyler, Mark Gatiss, and Peter Mullan, and directed by J Blakeson (“The Disappearance of Alice Creed”), “Gunpowder” will the tell the story of Gunpowder Plot, in which a group of provincial English Catholics planned to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I. Here’s the synopsis:

Originally commissioned by BBC One in the U.K., GUNPOWDER stars Kit Harington as Robert Catesby, who was the driving force behind the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 London. A committed Catholic at a time when Protestant England persecutes Catholics relentlessly, Catesby’s refusal to abandon his religion brings him to the edge of financial, social and psychological ruin. Mark Gatiss plays Robert Cecil, King James’ spymaster, who directs efforts to hunt down, torture and kill priests, while rank-and-file Catholics are subject to oppression and the loss of their property.

Peter Mullan portrays head Jesuit Father Garnet, whose peaceful protestations have little effect on Catesby. Liv Tyler plays Catesby’s astute and capable cousin, Anne Vaux, who becomes suspicious about his activities and fears the consequences will be the exact opposite of what Catesby intends.

GUNPOWDER chronicles the evolution of the plot, the selection of collaborators to carry it out, the gathering of resources and the obstacles to its execution, even as Catesby’s team plays a deadly cat and mouse game with Cecil’s ruthless spy network.

“Gunpowder” debuts on HBO on December 18th.

George Clooney Returns To TV With ‘Catch-22’

It was just last week that George Clooney was saying that, following some lucrative business deals, he could afford to be choosy about his work. “Look, I acted for a long time and, you know, I’m 56. I’m not the guy that gets the girl anymore,” he told The Sunday Times. “Well, yeah, I shouldn’t be the guy that gets the girl. But, look, if somebody’s got Paul Newman in ‘The Verdict,’ I’d jump. But there aren’t that many like that. Acting used to be how I paid the rent, but I sold a tequila company for a billion fucking dollars. I don’t need money.”

Well, Clooney may not need the money, but clearly doesn’t want to just be sitting around the house.

Even though he’s coming of the critical and commercial bomb “Suburbicon,” Hollywood still has plenty of faith in Clooney, as he’s set to direct and star in limited series adaptation of Joseph Heller‘s classic “Catch-22.” The project is set up over at Paramount TV and Anonymous Content, and intriguingly, Luke Davies (“Lion“) and David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom,” “The Rover,” “War Machine“) have written the episodes for the six-part series. Here’s the book synopsis:

Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

Mike Nichols previously adapted the novel for his 1970 film starring Alan Arkin, but a series arguably lets everyone go a bit deeper with the material. Clooney will be taking the role of Captain Cathcart (previously played by Martin Balsam), and production will get underway in early 2018. No word yet on which network will scoop this up, but you probably be certain all the major players are taking a look. [Variety]

  • Daniel Thron

    I love the book, love the Nichols movie, and look forward to the Clooney version. Also, the commentary on the dvd with Nichols and Soderbergh is awesome.

Former ‘Mad Men’ Producer Marti Noxon Calls Matthew Weiner An “Emotional Terrorist”

Last week, Kater Gordon, an Emmy winning former writer on “Mad Men,” alleged that the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, “said she owed it to him to let him see her naked” while they were working together one night. Gordon was fired a year later, and she said the experience left her feeling “threatened and devalued.” Weiner denied the allegations, and touted the fact the series had “a predominantly female driven writers room.” However, now another voice has called out Weiner for the toxic work environment he created on the show.

Martin Noxon, who was a consulting producer on “Mad Men,” and wrote the episodes “The Inheritance” and “The Gypsy and the Hobo,” has penned a powerful statement, posted by THR, about what she witnessed during her time on the show. She says that Weiner was called an “emotional terrorist” by his colleagues, one “who will badger, seduce and even tantrum in an attempt to get his needs met.” In that kind of atmosphere, Noxon has no doubt in believing what Gordon went through; she says it’s an unsurprising outcome in an environment which catered to Weiner’s ego. Here’s the full statement:

About a week ago Kater Gordon, a young female writer who worked on Mad Men bravely came forward with her account of being sexual harassed by Matt Weiner. While sharing writing duties with him, she recalls that he causally mentioned something to the effect of “you owe it to me to show me your naked body.” I believe her. I was at work with her the day after what she described transpired. I remember clearly how shaken and subdued Kater was — and continued to be from that day on.

Responding to her statement, Matt claimed he would never make that kind of comment to a colleague. But anyone with an even cursory knowledge of the show Mad Men could imagine that very line coming from the mouth of Pete Campbell. Matt, Pete’s creator, is many things. He is devilishly clever and witty, but he is also, in the words of one of his colleagues, an “emotional terrorist” who will badger, seduce and even tantrum in an attempt to get his needs met. This personality type can not help but create an atmosphere where everyone is constantly off guard and unsure where they stand. It is the kind of atmosphere where a comment like “you owe it to me to show me your naked body” may — or may not — be a joke. And it may — or may not — lead to a demotion or even the end of a career.

Everyone at Mad Men, regardless of gender or position, was affected by this atmosphere. Why did we not confront him more or report him to our parent companies? Well, for one, we were grateful to him for the work and truly in awe of his talents. For another, it was hard to know what was real when moods and needs shifted so frequently. Self-advocacy is important and I agree we all need to do it more and rely on less on faulty institutions to do it for us. But it is very difficult when the cost is, at best, fear and uncertainty — and at worst the loss of a job and ruined reputation.

Taking that action is one thing to contemplate if you have money in the bank and family to fall back on — but quite another for people from all walks of life without a safety net. And when sexual favors are lightly added to the bag of tools one might use to stay employed and valued, it can be destabilizing or even devastating. It may not be illegal, but it is oppressive. I witnessed it and, despite the fact that that I was a senior consultant on the show, I also experienced it in my own way in my days at Mad Men. I believe Kater Gordon.

Weiner has not responded to this latest allegation.

  • Daniel Strange

    First, thanks to Marti Noxon for sharing her thoughts. Second, this is such a fascinating moment, because now we’re really getting down to the nitty-gritty of examining our attitudes and behavior. It’s easy with someone like Weinstein to point at their actions and say “He’s a monster,” it’s harder in a situation like this that Noxon describes, where it it may or may not be a joke. The reality of this creative industry is that sometimes showrunners and key creatives aren’t ‘normal’ because ‘normal’ people simply aren’t able to think or behave in the ways that make them creatively brilliant. I’m trying to avoid the cliche here that being a prick makes you a genius artist, but rather say that sometimes when you have a unique view of the world as a creative person, it’s inevitable that some people won’t be able to relate to your behavior. So I’m sympathetic to Noxon’s POV here that the people who worked on the show were in thrall to their boss’s strange behavior to some degree. In my experience it comes down to: the higher the stakes, the more shit you have to eat. It’s such a tricky space to navigate and the boundaries are hard to read sometimes. But hopefully with each story like this that comes out we redraw those boundaries a little more clearly.

‘I, Tonya,’ ‘Shape of Water’ And ‘Molly’s Game’ Added To 2017 AFI Fest Slate

If you live in Los Angeles and haven’t caught up with most of this year’s awards season titles you can breathe easy. No, screeners aren’t arriving early, but AFI Fest has added some unexpected starpower and prestige to its 2017 slate.

Joining previously announced galas “Mudbound” (opening night), “All The Money In The World” (closing night), “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Disaster Artist” and “Hostiles” are seven films that hope to make a dent in the Oscars race in various categories. These special presentations include Paul McGuigan’s “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool,” Craig Gillespie’s “I, Tonya,” Chris Smith‘s documentary “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton,” Paolo Virzi’s “The Leisure Seeker,” Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game,” Sam Pollard’s “Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me” and Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.”

Unlike its galas, the festival did not announce when these new selections would be screening during the event. It’s also worth noting “Darkest Hour” will have a Los Angeles premiere the Wednesday before AFI Fest begins at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

AFI will also be bring back some classic films in their “Cinematic Legacy” slate including “Barefoot in the Park,” “Blow-Up,” “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” and “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.”

The 2017 AFI Fest runs from Nov. 9-16 in the heart of Hollywood.

‘Batman Forever’ Honest Trailer: Return To The Ecstasy Soaked Fever Dream

While the world waits for the “Justice League” reviews (and the Rotten Tomatoes score….later), let’s not forget that getting Batman right isn’t always easy. In fact, during the ’90s, Warner Bros. missed the mark a couple times, with “Batman Forever” starting the character on a downward spiral.

Screen Junkies takes a look at “Batman Forever,” the movie that fumbled at picking up where Tim Burton left off following “Batman” and “Batman Returns.” There were a lot of things that didn’t work, starting with leaning hard into ’90s aesthetics (glowsticks!) but having two co-stars who couldn’t get along — Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones — probably didn’t help. As Carrey explained on “Norm Macdonald Live,” running into Jones before filming at a restaurant did not go smoothly….

“The maitre said, ‘Oh, I hear you’re working with Tommy Lee Jones. He’s over in the corner having dinner.’ I went over and I said, ‘Hey Tommy, how are you doing?’ and the blood just drained from his face,” Carrey said (via THR). “And he got up shaking — he must have been in mid kill me fantasy or something like that. And he went to hug me and he said, ‘I hate you. I really don’t like you.’ And I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn’t smart. And he said, ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery.’”

Well, Bat-fans didn’t like the buffonery too much either….

‘Maddman’ Succumbs To The Cult Of Personality Of Steve Madden [DOC NYC Review]

The name Steve Madden is an interesting one. For those who came of age in the ‘90s, Madden’s shoes, with their ridiculous, disproportionate advertisements, their high-fashion style, and their affordable cost were defining and, pretty quickly, ubiquitous. But, in the last two decades, the shoe mogul has been most associated with Wall Street and his notorious transgression: Early in his company’s growth, Madden hitched his wagon to Jordan Belfort — of “Wolf Of Wall Street” fame — and became embroiled in an insider trading scheme. In 2004 Madden was charged, convicted and sent to prison. But, as the new documentary “Madden: The Steve Madden Story” makes clear early on, people don’t exactly know who Madden is, even though he’s the mastermind behind one of the most successful shoe companies in history. It’s exactly what Ben Patterson’s film sets out to correct.

Madden’s story is undeniably ripe for the telling. Born in Queens, Madden grew up a notorious troublemaker. He was, he says in the film, undiagnosed with ADHD and his wild, manic energy was impossible to reign in. After dropping out of college, he began to self-medicate. It was, by all accounts, a rambunctious time for Madden and his friends, at once shaded by addiction, but colored by the relatively glamours way Patterson presents the era. The stories, mostly, are recounted by a laugh and an equivocation about how wild everyone used to be. Though, Madden himself is refreshingly candid about his errs — never though is there mention of anyone who might have suffered during such a tumultuous period, as is so often the case for those stuck in the orbit of an addict.

Soon, though, Madden was clean and working in a shoe store, learning everything about the craft, from designing to cobbling to selling. And once his skills matched his ambitions, Madden jumped ship with just over a thousand dollars and began cobbling shoes and selling them from the trunk of his car. Things then happened quickly. Madden managed to get his finger on the pulse of the market, found an untapped consumer base, and build a formidable company that has since become a billion-dollar empire. His model was genius — he could design a shoe and begin selling it in his Manhattan store on the same day to see if it proved popular before ever deciding to mass produce it. But it was all of his unorthodox business style — his outsider position in the market, his give-no-fucks attitude, his demand for more — that led him to Stratton Oakmont and Belfort in the ‘90s and to his eventual downfall.

At the heart of ‘Maddman,’ and what makes it work in the enjoyable way that it does, is Steve Madden. He doesn’t seem interested in pulling any punches. His candor is refreshing and his magnetism irrefutable. It’s easy to see why the same people that helped him start his company are the same ones that still surround him today — even after a relapse into addiction and a prison sentence. What’s less refreshing, though, is ‘Maddman’ itself and the inescapable sense that the movie is some sort of puff piece. Not only does the film start with the obvious (though unstated) aim to profile the real Steve Madden, but the rest of the picture is built entirely from perspectives of those directly involved with Madden’s company. It’s endearing to see that Madden has hired his childhood friends, his doorman and his former prison cellmates (as a part of an ambitious and admittedly well-intentioned program to aid those recently released from prison), but held together they make up the cult of Steve. They are people who owe something to Steve, and whether or not they truly do love and admire him (and it seems that they all really do), there is the unavoidable fact that they are indebted to him somehow.

As the film unfolds, it becomes impossible to ignore the lack of dissenting voices, the lack of perspectives from outside his inner circle. Certainly, Madden and those close to him are willing to condemn his demanding, work-centric lifestyle and his struggles with addiction, but it’s all treated as a few minor speed bumps along the road to redemption and success. And, admittedly, Madden is an indomitable figure who is hard to dislike. But that’s what makes it all the more unfortunate, that we couldn’t be shown a rounded, fair picture that would still leave us rooting for him in the end.

For all these conceptual missteps, Patterson’s film is lean (it clocks in at just 77 minutes), well-paced, and mostly engaging throughout. And Madden is hard not to like: a passionate, rabble-rousing outsider, who, through his own redemption, has become an advocate of redemption for others. It’s just a shame that ‘Maddman’ couldn’t transcend the cult of personality to truly capture the sort of man who attracts such affection. [C+]