Underrated Sci-Fi Movies Of The 1980s

    While the 1970s was known as a wild, bold, experimental time in modern cinema—which extended to all genres, including science fiction—the 1980s were best known for… well, we don’t know what, exactly. The rise of the erotic thriller, the action superstar, and cookie-cutter safe high-concept star vehicles, perhaps? As for sci-fi, the decade was marked […] The post Underrated Sci-Fi Movies Of The 1980s appeared first on Den of Geek. This article contains spoilers for all episodes of The Idol. The Idol was dead long before it ever even took the stage. On March 1, 2023, more than three months prior to The Idol‘s June 4 premiere, Rolling Stone published a sordid expose on the behind-the-scenes troubles of the HBO show. With a headline proclaiming “The Idol: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Became Twisted ‘Torture Porn,’” Cheyenne Roundtree’s excellent, thoroughly-researched feature reported how production on the show had gotten out of hand. After original co-showrunner Amy Seimetz left the project due to “creative differences” (which apparently included frustration with producer and star Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s limited availability), HBO had roughly 75-80% of a finished show that no one was happy with. So they essentially started from scratch with Tesfaye and co-producer/Euphoria creator Sam Levinson in expanded creative roles, ballooning the project’s budget and taking it sharply off track from its initial conception. Several sources within the Rolling Stone story claimed that in the original drafts of the show, Tesfaye’s character “Tedros” was more overtly a cult leader and less a second lead alongside Lily-Rose Depp’s troubled pop star Jocelyn. One anonymous production member said the show was intended to be “a dark satire of fame” but under Tesfaye and Levinson “it went from satire to the thing it was satirizing.” Other cast and crew members bemoaned the gratuitous influx of “disturbing sexual content and nudity.” By the time The Idol premiered its first two episodes at Cannes Film Festival in May, the “HBO’s The Idol is a Disaster” narrative was in full effect as the show received a bitterly negative reception, opening up its Rotten Tomatoes score at a dismal 27% (it now stands at 22% among critics and 41% among audiences). Regardless of whether The Idol was a disaster or not, that early reception all but doomed it to a lifetime of mockery and memery. Very few series can creatively flourish under such meta conditions – particularly a show that’s already targeted for the terminally online audience like The Idol. Why even bother watching the thing if we can skip right to the memes? In the interest of judging The Idol outside of the response to The Idol (or at least as best as one can, I’m not immune to the sublime joy of internet pile ons), I watched all five episodes of the show without reading any online reaction around it other than that initial Rolling Stone piece and this Tesfaye interview with Variety in which he intriguingly invokes the names of Brian de Palma and Paul Verhoeven. After five hours spent in Idol world, I’ve come to the conclusion that the show is not a disaster. But it is one hell of a mess. If someone were to watch The Idol finale and only The Idol finale, they might get the sense that it’s a fitting conclusion to a solid TV show. They’d be wrong, of course, but you couldn’t blame them for being wrong. The episode’s stakes are refreshingly clean. Much like the Little Rascals before them, all our colorful crew of creative misfits needs to do is to put on One Great Show and then everything will be ok. Pop star Jocelyn and her new band of backing players, including soulful Regina Spektor-esque crooner Chloe (Suzanna Son), Marvin Gaye reborn sex machine Izaak (Moses Sumner), Charli XCX hyperpop thrasher Ramsey (Ramsey), and old friend Xander (Troye Sivan), have to convince Jocelyn’s reps that they’re good enough to go on tour and save the day. It has all the energy of a high school sitcom talent show only with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. While the setup is satisfying, the execution is almost just as good. For the first time in five episodes, the viewer finally gets a sense of not only why Jocelyn was so popular a musician in the first place but why this new, frankly sexual direction is the right route to take. Jocelyn’s desperate, yet empowering performance of “One of the Girls” is legitimately good and convincingly sexy in a way that none of her previous collaborations with The Weeknd’s Tedros have been thus far. And blessedly, it has nothing to do with being penetrated by a hairbrush. Similarly, the rest of Tedros’ talent troupe is typically excellent as well. While the episode’s ultimate ending never quite reaches the emotional highs of singin’ and dancin’ in The Weeknd’s mansion (side note: it remains wild to me that the show ended up with an enormous budget despite having access to one of its stars’ homes as a primary filming location for free), you can still see how it might work. For all of the pre-release warnings of how exploitative and uncomfortable The Idol‘s approach to sex had become, Jocelyn’s treatment of Tedros in the end is unambiguously sexually empowering, albeit twisted. She publicly accepts and affirms a man who much of the world rightly believes to be both her abuser and a Charles Manson-esque cult leader and then sends him to the corner where he belongs so she herself can shine. Additionally, Tedros’ discovery that the telltale hairbrush was brand new and didn’t belong to Jocelyn’s mom suggests that it was really Jocelyn who manipulated him and wielded the power in their dynamic this whole time. Weird? Yes. Uncomfortable? Absolutely. But still, in theory, it’s a satisfyingly bittersweet ending to a complicated show. The problem, however, is that that nominally satisfying ending concludes a show that ultimately didn’t exist. The Idol episode 5 represents the show that Levinson and Tesfaye wanted to make, not the show that they did make. Jocelyn’s acceptance of herself as a woman and reversal of power between herself and Tedros should be emotionally satisfying. It should hit the viewer in the gut and leave them winded like a marathon. Instead it’s only vaguely logically satisfying in a “ah, I see what they were going for there” kind of way. And that’s because the show’s previous four episodes just don’t put the requisite amount of work in. The fact that The Idol was one show before becoming a very different kind of show should be readily apparent to audiences who didn’t even read the Rolling Stone article. Jocelyn is a strung out, broken innocent doe…but also not. Tedros is a scheming modern day cult leader…but also not. Their interactions and courtship represent textbook abuse tactics to trauma bond a victim with the victimizer…but they also don’t. A show about a Britney Spears-esque pop star getting her life back together following the death of her overbearing mother makes sense, as does a show about a Charles Manson-like figure operating in present day L.A. Hell, the idea that this Charles Manson is a legitimately great talent scout is even more compelling. It’s like having a show pose the question of whether the Tate-LaBianca Murders would have been worth it to still get “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be.” The answer is obviously “no” but it’s still an intriguing question to ask on a TV show about the creative process. But The Idol never really asks those questions because The Idol is constantly struggling to stay afloat under the weight of its two Frankenstein-together’ed visions. For the show’s first three episodes it’s not even apparent that Tedros’s crew are actually diamonds in the rough. We need Destiny (Da’Vine Randolph) to explain that in episode four. And by then there’s not enough time to delve into that interesting dynamic. Tedros goes from terrifying threat to weird goofball to terrifying goofball to weird threat over and over again. Watching The Idol, it’s often unclear whether it’s satirical, sincere, or just lost altogether. The answer is that it’s all of those things and often simultaneously. And based on the finale, it seems clear that the show knows it. The episode, written by Levinson based on a story by Levinson and Tesfaye, puts in a lot of work to retroactively make the whole thing makes sense. On more than one occasion it has background characters deliver extensive exposition as if this were the only episode produced. Upon first visiting Jocelyn’s mansion, her LiveNation rep Andrew Finkelstein (Eli Roth) basically runs down her life story for the audience. Later on, after the six week time jump before Jocelyn’s concert, Finkelstein, record label exec Nikki (Jane Adams), and manager Chaim (Hank Azaria) all discuss where Tedros came from, why he’s dangerous, and how the whole world knows it now. Again, if that’s the only scene one watched from the finale, one might assume the characters are summing up the events of the series. But they’re not, of course. They’re merely describing what the series should have been. In place of learning the intricacies of this L.A. noir Rasputin’s life, we got whatever this is. In hindsight, it seems so glaringly obvious that most, if not all, of The Idol‘s problems came down to that ill-fated production restart. Sometimes, we all like to think that art comes from the magical fairy dust that is creativity. That’s partially true. But when it comes to television production, art also comes from work. Imagine getting through 75-80% of a task at your job then handing it over to someone else to start from scratch. Next thing you know the budget is approaching $100 million and they’re reaching for the first thing on a nearby desk to serve as a tortured metaphor. Oh god damn it, it’s a hairbrush. Having not been there, we’re in no position to call the work conditions on The Idol “toxic.” In fact, many sources in Rolling Stone‘s reporting including star Lily-Rose Depp claim it was anything but. But based on the outcome of this season, it’s clear that the show’s creation was at least chaotic. Some TV shows and movies are able to overcome messy productions. Richard Donner shot roughly 75% of Superman II before being replaced by Richard Lester and that movie turned out mostly fine. Apocalypse Now was hell on Earth to shoot and now it’s a part of the all time film canon. That The Idol couldn’t overcome its troubled beginnings isn’t necessarily an indictment of any of the creative people involved. It’s just a confirmation that they probably shouldn’t have tried to in the first place. All five episodes of The Idol are available to stream on Max now. The post The Idol Wasn’t a Disaster … It Was a Mess appeared first on Den of Geek.

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