Halloween Month Starts Saturday!

Okay, you guys all know I’m a huge fan of Horror movies, and that means I’m also a big fan of Halloween, which means the entire month of October gets to be Halloween month. Yep, I’m one of those people who celebrate Halloween all month long, culminating in a big movie blowout on Halloween night (if I don’t fall asleep first – I’m old yall. Whaddaya gonnado?). I have not watched a lot of Horror movies this year because I’ve mostly been unimpressed by what I’ve been offered this year, and I haven’t been in the mood to watch much of it, preferring comedies and anime, but I’m ready to start watching Horror again.

Anyway, I have some really exciting series and movies to look forward to next month and I want to share them with you. Now, some of these have already been released this month and I have trailers for the ones I plan to watch, and some aren’t released until next month, with a mix here of TV series and movies. I don’t know that any of these are any good, but they look interesting, and I’m going to check them out and then talk about them (except for the movies because I most likely will not get to see those in theaters). But hey, there are plenty of TV shows to take up any slack and it’s all Horror all month long.

There is a lot to look forward to. At the top of my list are:

Hellraiser (7 – Hulu)

Here is the first trailer for the new Hellraiser series. For those not in the know, the new Pinhead is being played by an actress, and since this is streaming the creators can get as gory and dreadful as they like. The new Cenobites look awesome and grotesque. Hopefully, this series will be better than Hellraiser 2 and the many mediocre sequels which didn’t seem to understand the point of Barker’s books. I also hope they can bring in elements of the last Hellraiser book The Scarlet Gospels with Harry D’amour.

Interview with the Vampire(2 – AMC)

I just watched an hour-long special on the making of this series which is free on YouTube, and the creators talk about the changes they made and why, and I’m glad they did because there has been a lot of discussion about how old Claudia is in this series. Claudia here is about 14, and there’s a reason why they did it that way.

Anne Rice had a hand in the choosing of this actress so I’m okay with it, and there is no way in hell you’re gonna be able to get any kind of permission to have a five or six-year-old girl (the age she is in the book) to do the things you can get an 11-year-old (the movie version played by Kirsten Dunst) or the older version to do. Due to the nature of the role, and what is required of the actress, she has got to be aged up out of sheer necessity, so I’m not quite sure why people think it’s a bad idea to have her be 14 unless it’s for the usual racist bullshit because the actress is biracial. I don’t think that’s the reason, because I haven’t seen a whole lot of white people acting like damn fools over the casting of these characters (but I no longer have any faith that white people on social media will act sane. At this point in time I expect there to be some assholery!)

But I love that the series is as lushly overdone and over the top as the original books (I expect a certian amount of cringe) and that the creators are going to be using information from all the books because what this is is a kind of forty-year-old sequel to the first book, where Daniel, the interviewer, comes back to question Louis in the present day.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (25 – Netflix)

This is going to be an anthology series of eight stories from famous directories of different Horror movies, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re going to come up with based on the museum-like items that Guillermo owns in his home. Remember he has a book out about all the different oddities he’s collected over the years so that’s worth checking out too.

Halloween Ends (14 – Theaters and Peacock)

Fortunately, this is airing on both streaming and in theaters and I’m ready to see how this all ends. The second movie simply wasn’t as good as the first (although it was a good effort and had some interesting moments). I was a little disappointed that Jamie didn’t have as much to do in the second mvoie which mostly focused on the different townspeople and their reaction to Michael coming back to town. This movie looks like it will focus once again on the matchup between her and Michael.

The Munsters (9/27 – Netflix)

I talked before about how while I am a big Addams Family fan, my first love was The Munsters and this is being released this week to Netflix! It looks like a whole lot of fun, which is the whole point. The focus is on the comedy, not the scares. Think of this as a less dark, more childlike version of The Addams Family. I’ll get back to you about what I think.

Queer for Fear (9/30 – Shudder)

So far, I am really enjoying quite a few of the documentaries about Horror movies that have aired on Shudder, and which seem to be their specialty. Docuseries like Horror Noire and The History of Folk Horror were really informative and well done so I’m eager to see what the Horror community has to say about Queerness in Horror films. This is narrated by Bryan Fuller an out gay creator who is the showrunner of the Hannibal series and the first season of Star Trek Discovery.

Second Tier: These are interesting and most likely will be watched.

Tales From the Walking Dead – I have yet to watch any of these. I’ll have time to do that in October, I hope.

Piggy – This looks really interesting. Its been playing at TIFF and has gotten a few accolades. It’s about a bullied, overweight girl who runs into a serial killer that taking out girls in her town who have been tormenting her and what she might decide to do or not do about that.

Teen Wolf Movie (Paramount) – I had no intention whatsoever of watching this but thought it might be of interest to other people who were really into it when it used to air on MTV.

Pearl – This looks interesting but I’m not spending money to see it. I think this is already out now.

Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey – I talked about this already. I still don’t know wtf to think about this movie!

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (5 – Netflix) – This movie is one of the creepier, but lighter weight stories from Stephen King’s anthology titled Let It Bleed, about a young man receiving phone calls from a dead friend.

Wendell And Wild (28 – Netflix) – This is from the same team that created The Nightmare Before Xmas so I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s about a couple of demons who have to fight a nun or something. I don’t care. It’s on Netflix, Imma watch it.

VHS/99 (20 – Shudder) – I watched all the other films in this series, and they are all hit or miss as far as the stories. I liked the last one okay, so I’ll give this one a try.

Let the Right One In (7 – Showtime) – This week was the first time I heard about this and I really liked the movies (there are two versions, Norwegian and USian). This is about a child who becomes a vampire and how her father deals with that. It appears to be expanded a lot from the movies so I’m interested in what they’ve done with the basic story.

Prey for the Devil (28) – Normally I don’t care for exorcism movies because they all feel like retreads of The Exorcist (which is also set to get another sequel). But this one looks interesting because it’s from the point of view of a woman, a nun who wants to perform the exorcism herself.

Old People (7 – Netflix) – This one reminds me of the movie Parents, where the parents all went insane or contracted a disease or something and tried to kill their kids. So I guess now it’s the parent’s parents trying to kill their grandchildren.

Grimcutty (10 – Hulu)

I got nothing. I didn’t even know this was a thing that was happening. I don’t even know if I will watch it.

Matriarch (21 – Hulu)

This doesn’t look especially interesting to me but might be of interest to others, so I put it in this group. I don’t know if I will watch it.

Everything Else: These mostly seem to involve a whole lot of killing, zombies, and spirits! Some of these are being released later this year.

Curse of Bridge Hollow (14 – Netflix)

Spirit Halloween (11 – VOD)

Werewolf By Night (7 – Disney+)

Reginald the Vampire

The Loneliest Boy in the World

Slayers

Project Legion

Among the Living

Forthcoming Scares

Fall

They Cloned Tyrone

This is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen and has three of my top favorite Black actors in it, Teyonah Paris from Wandavision, Jamie Foxx who just starred in Day Shift, and of course, John Boyega who I always wonder what he’s doing when I don’t see him for a while. I’m not into the conspiracy stuff that’s in this but these three appear to be having the time of their lives, and I’m glad to see them working together.

A Knock At the Cabin

This is based on the book by Paul Tremblay called The Cabin At the End of the World, and involves a home invasion that is kind of unique. Dave Bautista is killing it in this role (probably literally!) I don’t want to give away any spoilers but remember the plot from Cabin in the Woods? Think of this as a thematic sequel to that movie.

Bones and All

I got nothing. I never heard of this until I stumbled across the trailer.

Last Voyage of the Demeter

Okay! This is a thing.

2023

Renfield – Nicholas Cage is back at it again.

Evil Dead Rise – A sequel to the Evil Dead remake from a few years ago. I have not seen the remake, so I don’t know about this.

Salem’s Lot – This has been promised to us for a while but they keep moving the date back and we still don’t have a trailer.

The Exorcist (Sequel) – I’m not sure this is a good idea since the original was pretty much as perfectly made as it could be, and every exorcism movie since then has been nothing but tired retreads of it, but I’m going to look at this with an open mind. There have been other sequels, and I watched those, and this may have something to say about the original that wasn’t said in those.

A Quiet Place: Day One – Seems like a good idea I guess. I like the first two movies which are actualyl scary and well acted.

Hellboy (2008) Vs. Hellboy (2019)

Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy II was released in 2008, a mere ten years before the release of this new reboot, by Neil Marshall. The reboot bombed horribly, which kind of saddens me because I generally like Neil Marshall’s output. He’s the director of The Descent and Dog Soldiers, both of which are good, solid, action-horror movies, each with a deft emotional touch.

This newest version of Hellboy isn’t’ bad, but lord, it isn’t good. Well, let’s just say it’s worst than it should’ve been. I want to compare Del Toro’s and Marshall’s versions of the films, but in order to do that, I need to also talk about the comic book series the movies are based on, as both movies capture different aspects of the books.

The comic books are written by many different people, but Mike Mignola, as the initial creator, has had an enormous amount of control over his creation. Depending on what mood Mignola is in, you can get humor, or scares, or melancholy, which is something felt across the entire series.

Marshall’s remake is a grim and disjointed affair, that feels like a collection of unrelated action scenes, with too many flashbacks designed to illuminate who the various characters are, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, any one of which could be made into their own film, rather than the hodgepodge we got.

I believe Marshall’s first mistake was starting the film with the villain’s origin story. Nimue is some type of Witch Queen, who gets killed by King Arthur, and Merlin. Using Excalibur, they chop her into pieces, and send the pieces to different parts of the world. We then move to the present day, where the plot becomes unnecessarily convoluted, as a secret organization tries to kill Hellboy. This secret organization has no other role in the film other than getting Hellboy to visit England.

Meanwhile,  Baba Yaga (one of the coolest parts of the movie) is collecting the various pieces of the Witch Queen (with the help of a kind of troll, fairy/ pig creature, also cool).  Hellboy fights some giants, which has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and feels like filling time until we get to the real plot. He is then kidnapped by  Alice, who gets a flashback to when Hellboy saved her from the fairies, specifically the fairy pig thingie that took Alice’s place as a changeling, and who now bears a grudge against Hellboy for having exorcised him from Alice’s house.

Outside of that, Alice’s story is unrelated to the larger Nimue story and Baba Yaga. Hellboy fights with his adoptive father, who gets a flashback to his first meeting with Hellboy, and  Hellboy meets Ben Daimio, who also gets a flashback to his origin story as a were-jaguar, a story that is wholly unrelated to anything else in the movie, although  I liked seeing him because I have a crush on the actor, Daniel Dae Kim, who is also underused.

Actually, the very beginning of the movie is Hellboy traveling to Mexico to fight a friend who has been turned into a vampire Luchador, which sounds cool as fuck, comes directly from one of the stories in the comic books and could have been a movie in its own right. Hellboy kills his friend, goes into a drunken funk, and has to be taken back to headquarters by the agents of the BPRD. Nothing in this scene is even remotely related to anything else that happens in the movie and we don’t get to see any more Mexican bat-vampires for the duration of the film.

I liked many of the individual scenes in the movie, from the vampires to the giants to the Baba Yaga scene. I just wished all of these things had been tied together with a coherent story, and all the unnecessary stuff jettisoned to tighten up the plot. There’s also no big emotional payoff.  The remake is more of a horror movie that’s made up of side quests. There’s a warmth and whimsy in the original films, that’s very palpable, and you get a distinct impression that Del Toro truly loves these characters. It’s not that I didn’t find things to like about this newer version, there were just fewer things to enjoy, and those things weren’t thematically or even emotionally connected to any of the other things. At times, the movie felt very workmanlike. Hellboy needs to meet someone so he gets taken to them. He needs to be somewhere so he’s ordered to go there. I liked the visuals, which were great, especially the scene of Baba Yaga’s house with the chicken legs, which came right out of my childhood nightmares. There’s a lot of gore in this movie, but beyond a few snarky comments by some of the characters, (mostly Alice), I just wasn’t feeling it.

At no point during the film does Hellboy make the decision to fight the apocalypse of his own free will. He spends the majority of the movie being snatched, kidnapped, derailed, or ordered about by the other characters, and seems not particularly interested in being heroic, at one point complaining about having been turned into a weapon by his adoptive father.  In the middle of the movie, Hellboy has a very “emotional” fight with his father about this which comes across a bit ham-fisted, and seems to come out of nowhere. There’s no emotional buildup for this outburst nor is the subject ever revisited. This same subject is handled more deftly in Hellboy II, when Prince Nuada challenges Hellboy not to kill the last living Forest God, and accuses him of being nothing more than a weapon against his own kind if he does, and its a question that arises out of Hellboy’s wonderings about his life purpose.

A big part of my dissatisfaction is with the cast though. I wasn’t feeling any group cohesion, although I had no problem with David Harbour’s version of Hellboy, who seems as perfect for the role as Perlman, if somewhat more petulant but he is never given any room to shine since the plot constricts him. All of the relationships in this movie start out adversarial, and for no other reason than they were written that way, but at the end, the characters are suddenly working as a well-oiled team, and getting along with each other, except when they don’t. These were people who were together because the plot required them to be, not because they were friends or genuinely like each other.This is unlike the Del Toro movies, where the characters get on each other’s nerves, and are often exasperated by Hellboy’s behavior, but at least you get the sense that they like each other, and are long-term friends.

This movie tries and fails to create the dynamic seen between Hellboy and Abe in the original film, and fails at that too. Alice has something of the same powers as Abe (she’s a mystic) but never comes across as a fully realized character, with some kind of interior life. Abe, despite all the heavy makeup, is imbued by his actors body language with a deep interiority. Abe and the other characters are treated by the story as if they have a life when Hellboy isn’t around, especially in the second movie, where they are given their own storylines. We don’t know anything about Alice other than that she’s cranky.

As with the original movies, there are some impressive visuals, if not the sheer imagination of the first two films, but these visuals are not connected to anything in the rest of the plot. At the beginning of the movie Hellboy fights some giants. This fight has nothing to do with the overall plot with the Witch Queen, or the preceding plot, which had an organization that existed to kill him, in case he turns evil and destroys the world, according to the prophecy. The Witch Queen releases some demons that wreak havoc on the city of London, but Hellboy doesn’t get to fight those, which would have been fucking awesome to see, but he has no contact with them at all. The demons show up to terrorize the city and that’s what they do because it looks cool. Events in the movie are only connected because someone in the cast says they are, and not because of any actual connections. The movie is just made up of  setpieces that look really cool.

There are scenes that vaguely echo scenes from Helboy II, in this remake, but without any of the emotional payoff, because although we’ve been given backstories we still don’t know any of these characters. Everyone remembers the fight scene between Hellboy and the Forest God, in Hellboy 2, and the haunting and beautiful music and images when the creature dies. Here, the music is forgettable, action film noise.

Like I said, its not that the Hellboy reboot is a bad movie. I watched it, and liked the way it looked, but it is  a bad movie compared to the excellence of the first two films that came before it, and it’s too soon after those movies that this one was made. And people definitely compared them and found the remake wanting because no one went to see this movie. Hell, I didn’t even go see this movie. In all fairness though, it would have been really hard for any  film maker to follow in the footsteps of the mastery of  Del Toro, who  has a reason for every single thing you will see on the screen, right down to his use of colors, and it feels like Marshall either didn’t understand the assignment, or did not try as hard as he should have to make the movie his own, as he seemed to be aping bits and pieces from the original films, or in some scenes trying really hard not to ape those scenes.

I think this new film suffers from too much plot (We’ve got Merlin, Excalibur, witches, fairies, dragons, demons, were-animals, giants, spiritualists, and knights) and simply not enough character, since it’s the characters in the original films which drew us into the ridiculous idea of a giant red devil-man in a trench coat, running through the streets of New York City, chasing Cthulhu demons on subway trains, a telepathic fishman, and a woman who can control fire, all fighting an ancient Nazi wannabe, an Urban Elf King, or tiny winged creatures that eat teeth! Yes, it’s all utterly ridiculous! But we cared about the characters and believed their relationships, and so were willing to sit with the craziness of these stories.

This reboot was adapted from at least four different Hellboy comics by the actual writer, Mike Mignola, and none of those books are related either, which accounts for the disjointed plot here. It’s like Mignola saw a chance to throw a bunch scenes from his favorite comic books up on the screen, and then tried to flimsily make these plots stick to each other.

I tried. I really did. But I just didn’t care about Alice or even Hellboy because there’s simply nothing there to grasp. Ian McShane is wasted, swanning in from time to time to yell at Hellboy and then he’s gone. Daniel Dae Kim is also completely wasted as a were jaguar who is cranky for no reason, and doesn’t show up until near the end of the movie, and his disappointing special effects made me roll my eyes, which is not, I think, the effect the creators were looking for. These are empty characters who are going through the motions of the plot. I did like, of all the characters, Baba Yaga, who was absotively awesome, and quite frankly, I would’ve preferred the entire plot be just her and Hellboy playing a game of cat and mouse over whatever machinations she was getting up to.

I remember I was excited for this movie because of the trailer, but ultimately I walked away disappointed. Not because it’s so awful, because I’ve watched much worse films than this, but because I kept seeing what could have been, if there had been better editing, character development, and a leaner and meaner plot.

Warnings: lots of gore and violence.

Most Anticipated – New Trailers This Week

The Little Mermaid

I don’t think you guys understand just how fucking hype Black people are to see this film, how important this film is to marginalized communities, and how much we all love Ariel. We are definitely going to show up and show out for this movie. Not only is it one of the most important films from our youth (including mine) but it stars one of the hottest young singers in R&B today, Halle Bailey (not to be confused with Halle Berry), who is a member of the singing duo of Chloe and Halle. Watching this two-minute snippet gave me chills and I was already in tears by the end, the same effect the original has had on me for over thirty years.

The original Little Mermaid film was released at just the right moment for it to have an outsized influence on the trajectory of my life when I was young enough to be asking myself the kinds of questions Ariel asks in the film. (I was 19). I went to the theater with my best friend (who later came out to me as gay, so I wonder what effect the movie’s message had on him) and I was in the process of deciding to leave Design/Animation school and choose a different profession. Not only did the two of us bawl our eyes out in the theater but in every viewing I’ve ever had. So yeah, in the thirty years since I first saw this movie there’s never been a time when Ariel’s “I Want” song didn’t give me chills.

The I Want/I Wish song is a classic staple of American musical theater which is the background of the song’s writer Howard Ashman. Ashman, along with Alan Menken, wrote all the songs for the movie which was Disney’s first animated fairy tale in over thirty years. The I Want song must be sung by the film’s lead character, lay out the character’s motivation, or goals, and/or illuminate their character in some way. Ashman and Menken wrote the songs for Beauty and the Beast, The Little Shop of Horror, and Aladdin., and the I Want song has been included in every Disney/Pixar movie since.

Having a Black Little Mermaid is so groundbreaking and so important for so many little Black girls. Some parents posted pictures of their daughter’s reactions to the trailer. My favorite one of all of them is the little girl who screams “She’s Black!!!, at the top of her lungs.

It is impossible to look at this kind of pure joy and claim that representation doesn’t matter!

The Peripheral

This is a series that will be streaming on Amazon. I’m probably going to watch this for the trippy visuals and because I like Chloe G Moretz. I’m also a little bit tired of some of the fantasy stuff I’ve been watching and need a break with some scifi. This is from the writers of Westworld and I just started watching the last season that just aired. I like the writers for that series and I have high hopes for this one.

Glass Onion

I was not particularly impressed with Knives Out, although I do like these types of cozy murder mysteries in general. I did watch and enjoy The Orient Express and Death on the Nile, and I’m looking forward to this, Amsterdam, and See How They Run, movies that look a bit more comedic. I’ve heard that Janelle Monae turns in a spectacular performance in this and I’m ready for it. I hope it’s good, but then I always do.

I’ve been really spoiled for TV all year. I’m really loving a lot of the diversity I’ve been seeing in shows and movies to the point where I’ve gotten really picky and not bothering to watch any shows or movies that don’t have any PoC, or LGBTQ rep in them. First, because I really am kinda spoiled now, and I expect it, and second, I simply don’t have the time to watch much else. Hell, I don’t even have time to watch the many diverse series/movies that are out, and I’m only watching a series if it has a fantasy, SciFi, or horror element. I think the whitest thing I watched this year (as far as the cast), was The Northman.

Black Adam (Final Trailer)

I used to read the Justice Society books when I wasn’t reading the Justice League books, so I remember most of the characters here, but since I didn’t read the series with any kind of regularity (and after a while, I stopped reading superhero comics altogether) I completely missed any storylines that featured Black Adam. I know that he is a kind of anti-hero like Wolverine, who is a rival of Shazam/Billy Batson, and Superman.

This was another one of those situations in which I mostly read the series for individual characters like Doctor Fate and Hawkman. I don’t really know a lot about the other members of the Justice Society. I’m excited about this because The Rock/Dwayne Johnson looks incredible, I’ve been waiting to see him in a superhero movie for some time, and I was wondering who he would play. I would not have guessed this character but I’m not surprised. I don’t know how good this is going to be but I remain hopeful, and the trailer looks like a lot of fun, although not as much fun as the last Suicide Squad, or Harley Quinn movie.

Wendell and Wild

This movie is from the writer of Nightmare Before Xmas, which is one of my all-time favorite Holiday films, and Coraline, which is one of the most charmingly terrifying animated movies I’ve ever watched, so I’m really looking forward to this. Like I said, I’ve been getting a little bit spoiled when it comes to Black female representation in my three favorite genres this year. I mean, there isn’t and can never be enough Black female rep to make up for all the decades we’ve been horribly ignored in these types of films, but I’m okay with what I’ve gotten this year, which is kinda awesome, and I’m gonna talk about that soon.

The Mandolorian Season 3

The Mando is one of those shows I’ve been sort of quietly following the entire time. I don’t talk much about it because there’s so much stuff to talk about that a lot of what I watch is going to get lost in the shuffle, but this is a good, solid, adventure series, with characters and plots I can like and understand. It’s not too emotionally taxing or plot-dense and that makes it perfect for watching when I get home from work.

I have been a Boba Fett fan since I was a little girl, but oddly, I didn’t watch The Book of Boba Fett. I skipped that and felt no particular way about it, but I have never skipped an episode of this show, although when I first heard about it I was somewhat indifferent. The show is alright though, and who can resist Baby Yoda. (I know that’s not his name).

D23 Expo: New Marvel Studios Announcements & Reveals — Geeks Of Color

D23 took place this past weekend and we had a chance to attend the Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios and 20th Century Studios. This article will focus on the Marvel Studios portion! Kevin Feige said he’s been coming to D23 Expo for years—taking in all the performances the other studios in the Disney family bring to the…

D23 Expo: New Marvel Studios Announcements & Reveals — Geeks Of Color

10 Biopics On Black Musicians Because Elvis Presley Was A Culture Vulture — Geeks Of Color

Elvis arrived on HBO Max on September 2 for your streaming pleasure. However, if you’d like insight into some of the music the dubbed “King of Rock ’n Roll” gentrified and did not credit, here are ten biopics about Black musicians that you can stream or rent today. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)…

10 Biopics On Black Musicians Because Elvis Presley Was A Culture Vulture — Geeks Of Color

Some Brand New Trailers, Y’all!

Some new trailers (more or less) dropped last week and while I’m not going to see any of them in the theater (because some of them are on TV!), I am kinda excited about a couple of them. I know that sounds rather lukewarm but I’m anticipating some fun things in November and December and I don’t have energy to get too excited about some of these.

Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey

The Winnie The Pooh stories are now in the public realm, which means that the characters are up for grabs as far as telling other types of stories, and someone had the bright idea to craft a Horror movie based on Hundred Acre Wood. Now, I’m from the generation that grew up with Winnie the Pooh. I nicknamed my little brother Pooh when he was a baby. I grew up with the stories, saw all the movies, and read the books, so I have no f**king idea what to think about this!

Am I gonna watch it though? Sure but I’m not gonna pay more money to see it so it better be on streaming or something…

Alienoid

This is probably gonna go to one of the streaming services at some point, but I’m curious about it. It reminds me of a 90s movie called Returner, which starred one of my favorite Japanese actors Takeshi Kaneshiro. Returner was kind of a cheap sci-fi movie and this does not look as exciting or interesting, but I’m always curious about Asian sci-fi.

Wednesday

This is one of the few shows I’m excited to watch. It looks visually stunning, I like The Addams Family, and Wednesday is one of my favorite characters. I like that all of the characters are played by Latino actors and that Gomez is a lot more physically accurate to the cartoons.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

This movie will be released just in time for Halloween and is a Horror Comedy directed by Lily Amirpour, about a girl who escapes from an asylum and tries to live a regular life while being hunted by the police. And oh yeah, she also has super mental powers or something. I will not be seeing this in the theater.

Slumberland

This movie was totally not on my radar but it looks like a lot of fun, I like that little stuffed piggie, and Jason Momoa seems to be having the time of his life in it, so I’m going to keep an eye out for when this eventually makes it’s way to Netflix.

They Crawl Beneath

Okay, this straight-up looks like a cheap retread of Tremors. I will probably watch it because the lead actor is really cute, I like movies about sneaky little monsters, and this looks like it’s just in time for Halloween.

Creature of the Mist

This looks like a Korean version of The Mist but it isn’t. For one thing, there’s not a Horror movie I can think of that would not be improved with the addition of swords and Kung Fu! So whenever this reaches the US I’m probably gonna watch it.

Brahmastra

I don’t really watch Hindi movies because I am deeply afraid that everyone is going to break into a song and dance. The last time that happened to me was in the middle of what appeared to be a hardcore Action movie, and that was really jarring, and now I’m traumatized. I have tried really hard to like Hindi movies, and I sometimes get really excited to watch one now and again, but I guess they are an acquired taste, like pineapples on pizza. Normally, I don’t have a problem watching musicals! But apparently, I do not like musical numbers to show up in the middle of something else I’m watching without warning.

If someone can assure me that I will not be gangbustered with a dance routine in the middle of this movie, I will check it out because this looks awesome! (No, you cannot possibly reassure me that won’t happen because they look like they’re dancing right there in the trailer.)

Nope (Pt. 3.): Thoughts and Theories

So I have watched this a second time (on Amazon Prime streaming) and noticed a lot more stuff. Here are some of my notes from watching it, at home a third time. I also watched some reviews afterward. Normally, I don’t watch other people’s reviews or analyses, but I wanted to get an idea of what other viewers thought about the movie, and if my ideas about it were typical. It turns out that the thoughts and feelings I had were pretty typical of people who understood the movie. There was a huge contingent of people who simply didn’t understand the movie. Some of them were just people who are not especially practiced at reading movies, while some were so dazzled by the spectacle they couldn’t see a coherent point being made.

*In the biblical quote at the beginning of the movie is the line: “I will cast abominable filth upon thee.” Most people took this to be a reference to the bloody rain that the alien dumps on the Haywood Ranch at the midpoint of the movie, but I thought of this as a reference to Hollywood and the entertainment industry which regularly showers audiences with crude and dumbed-down media that is little more than intellectually inert spectacle.

*One thing that occurred to me again on another viewing was each character holds onto something that they feel is precious to them, but is also emblematic of their trauma, like Jupe and the little gray shoe. Oj holds onto the coin that Jean Jacket dropped from the sky which killed his father, and the orange hoodie that he wore to his first training job on the set of The Scorpion King 2. Em holds onto Otis Sr’s speech about Haywood Ranch which he used to give to prospective employers. She has memorized this speech down to the last detail and vocal inflection. For Antlers Holst it’s his vintage camera. I’m not sure what Angel’s token is because we only have his recent breakup with his girlfriend to associate with him.

*At every moment in the movie, we are told what the movie is about or given clues to its themes. When we first see Antlers Holst he is watching videos of closeups of different predators’ eyes. Later, we see him watching a video of a fight between two large predators. When he has dinner with the Haywoods he starts to sing the song called The Flying Purple People Eater, a one-hit wonder by Sheb Wooley, released in 1958. Otis talks with Oj about how predators cannot be tamed only bargained with. This is a callback to Gordy and a statement about Jean Jacket. Later, Oj recalls this conversation saying that one doesn’t tame a predator and you can only enter into an agreement with it. In response, Holst mentions Siegfried and Roy, this is a reference to a lion-taming duo that worked in Las Vegas. In 2003, a white tiger attacked and maimed one of the pair onstage. He survived the attack but both their careers as tamers was ended.

*I did enjoy this movie’s full use of the landscape. The images heavily reminded me of Dances with Wolves, because that’s another movie where the landscape is almost another character in the film. Peele does a superb job of making the viewer fear this wide-open panorama of mountains, blue skies, and oceans of grass, and like the characters in the movie, your eyes nervously search the fluffy white clouds for a hint that the alien is nearby. In 1975, Steven Spielberg made people afraid to go into the water, and Peele accomplishes much the same effect here, only you’ll be looking at the skies.

*Some of the imagery in the film is a callback to the mythology of ufo abductions and cattle mutilations in the Midwestern part of the US, so the link between the Western film genre and aliens has been well established. I was reminded of a documentary I watched on Hulu called Skinwalker Ranch, about a parcel of land in Utah that is infamous for paranormal events, like strange shape-shifting animals, cattle mutilations, and ufo sightings.

https://www.history.com/news/skinwalker-ranch-paranormal-ufos-mutilation

Last year, the US government declassified documents on sightings of what it now refers to as UAPs. Angel mentions the acronym but claims he doesn’t know what UAP stands for. It means Unexplained Ariel Phenomena, which I suppose is just as accurate a description of the monster in this movie as a ufo. (I watched this movie with my niece, The Potato, and she kept calling it a “you-foe” like it was all one word and I realized that I have never in my life thought of ufos as just one word!) It’s also interesting to note that Nope also stands for “Not Of Planet Earth”.

*In a blink and you’ll miss it moment a news report talks about a bunch of missing hikers in the valley, who it is assumed were eaten by the alien. If so, that would explain the falling objects at the beginning of the movie, the coin that kills Otis Sr., and the key we see embedded in Ghost’s backside. It would also explain the screaming he and Oj heard just before Otis is killed.

*Another great part of this movie are the sound effects because even if you’ve never given a single thought about such things before, you’ll notice it in this movie. After the alien has eaten (horses or people) it is preceded and trailed by the sound of its victims screaming as they are being digested, and quite frankly, that noise is probably one of the most horrifying things in the movie. If you listen hard at certain points, you can even hear individual voices. The alien itself is mostly silent except for an occasional growl (that sounds a little bit like the jets that fly over my house in the Fall). Another moment where you’ll pay close attention to sound is during Gordy’s rampage. Most of it takes place offscreen but what you can hear of it…well your imagination is gonna work a real number on you during those scenes, and you will not like it.

*There was one viewer who said the tornado effect the alien uses to slurp up prey reminded them of the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, but instead of going to some lost land, you end up somewhere much much worst.

*One of the most visually disturbing moments are the shots from within the creature’s gullet, as people and animals, alive and aware, are squeezed upwards towards its stomach. This isn’t a gory film. In fact, except for one scene, there’s almost no blood to speak of, but nevertheless, this is one of the most deeply disturbing horror movies I’ve ever watched, and that one scene apparently haunted a lot of viewers.

* I realized on my second viewing that the opening/title shots occurred at the opening of the creature’s digestive tract. There was one reviewer who said it reminded them of the old-style cameras that required the photographer to stand under linen cloths to take photos. Another reviewer said that the alien’s square mouth opening (with the green fringe) pulsed like the shutter of a camera, which is in keeping with the themes of cameras and spectacle.

*Part of the monster’s reaction to being looked at is the reaction of large predators who see eye contact as a dominance threat. Some predators (bears, spiders, birds) when they think they are being challenged by a rival will puff themselves up to look bigger and more menacing to any creature that challenges them with eye contact, which is, I think, what we’re seeing at the end of the film. The alien is indeed making a spectacle of itself to be more intimidating to Oj. I saw this and understood it, but didn’t put it together why it was doing this to Oj until I watched this a third time. A lot of people ask why it does this at the end of the movie and not at any other time. That’s because until then it has not been directly challenged by anyone but Oj, and I think it’s afraid of him, or at least wary of eating him. Every other time it chased Oj he gave ground. He averted his eyes, ran, or hid, but the last couple of times it chased him it was badly hurt, and it probably associated that pain with Oj’s orange hoodie and horse. It was chasing Oj and Lucky when it picked up the plastic horse that hurt it by getting stuck in its digestive tract. Later, Oj attracted it to him with the balloon on the end of the rainbow flag tether and the yellow spots on his hoodie, it then picked up Angel and got a mouthful of barbed wire. But now, Oj has stopped running, and is making direct eye contact, and standing his ground, so the creature probably sees Oj as another predator and puts on a threat display to make him run. Remember, to some animals, a rival stands its ground, and only food runs. Now, there were other incidents where people were staring at it and didn’t run and they got eaten, but none of them were associated with pain or harm. In fact, Jupe was probably associated with food, since he’d been feeding it for several months.

*This is also the reason I don’t think Oj dies at the end of the movie. There were some viewers who suggested that Oj standing under the Out Yonder sign meant that he was killed. First, we don’t hear anyone screaming inside the alien as it flies past Em, and second, when the creature explodes, no bodies fall out of it. I think it ignores Oj to chase the fleeing Em, and then it gets distracted by the giant balloon of Jupe, which is looking at it but also moving away. This is not a smart creature. I think it mostly runs on instinct, and throughout the movie, it mostly acts like an opportunistic predator that chases whatever is moving. An opportunistic predator changes its behavior (tactics) based on encountering prey that it wasn’t looking for. It will chase anything that runs.

*Another reason I don’t think Oj dies at the end is that the plot of this movie closely mirrors Jaws, and there’s the same fake-out death at the end of that movie when the audience believes that Hooper has been eaten by the shark. Hooper survived the shark by hiding in some rocks and reappears at the end of the movie after the shark is killed. So yes, I think Emerald is actually looking at her brother and not a ghost or hallucination. He is framed sitting on Lucky under a sign that says Out Yonder. The real-life phrase however is Over Yonder (which also means in the distance), so it’s easy to see how people got confused about it, but Oj is framed under that sign a couple of times in the movie, each framing appearing before or after he encounters the alien.

*One of my favorite moments in the movie is watching Oj’s horsemanship which is just astonishing, and I haven’t seen anyone talking about this. He is really good at training horses, and we get some idea of this when we see him after his leg is injured. He makes Lucky lay down so he can mount, a move we saw Otis Sr. practicing with Ghost at the beginning of the film. And then there’s the country western music playing as he and his trusty steed, Lucky, ride flat out across the plain as they are chased by the alien. It is a rousing classic western movie moment. (It’s also a sly reference to Oj Simpson’s white Ford Bronco slow chase in LA in 1994.)

*It took me a minute to understand the plastic horse thing. The plastic trailer from the horse is holding its aperture open (imagine if you swallowed some string and a piece of it was sticking out of your mouth) which is part of the reason it drops bloody “spoor” over the Haywood ranch. Normally when the alien drops items it can’t digest, those drops are clean and unaccompanied by other waste, but not this time because the plastic horse being lodged in it wouldn’t let its aperture close, and yes all of this sounds thoroughly disgusting and Imma stop now!

*It also took me a third viewing to figure out why the creature popped at the end because my memory of what happened was unclear. You think you remember stuff pretty clearly but…no.The alien was actually able to swallow the giant balloon of Jupe, which popped inside it. and yeah, that’s gross too…

*All-time favorite moment: Recognizing the “Akira Slide from one of my favorite SciFi movies. It says so much about Peele that he was giddily happy to add that scene and delighted that everyone recognized it!

*Agua Dulce is the name of the valley in the movie, which is actually a real place in California. The name translates as “sweet water”. Sweet Water is a very popular name in the US but it’s also a Horror movie from 2021, where a mother tracks the serial killer, who took her child, to the town of the same name, where she encounters a supernatural conspiracy.

*I also love the fact that ALL the characters of color survived to the end of the movie, and they survive by being smart and brave, and not sacrificing themselves to save a white character who did something stupid. They act the way we imagine we would in such circumstances. A running joke in the Black community is if Horror movies starred an all-Black cast, the movies would only be about thirty minutes long. There’s the scene where Angel thinks to wrap himself in barbed wire to make himself inedible when the alien comes after him, and the scene where Oj has a choice to get out of his truck and make a run for the house or stay in his truck. He decides to sleep in the truck! We didn’t have to waste precious energy yelling at him to stay in the truck.

*One of the reviewers I saw came up with a pretty intricate theory on the movie’s themes that I hadn’t heard from anyone else. He thought that the movie was about racism and white supremacy. The alien is white and acts like a plantation overseer, watching over its territory from on high, and swooping down to terrorize these PoC. But when the people of color (Angle, Em, Oj) banded together they were able to defeat the monster.

But these are not hard and fast things to believe. Just some stuff I was thinking while watching the movie. Peele himself says that the movie covers a lot of ground so any themes that people pick up on are probably correct (and probably say more about the viewer than the film).

Okay, now I’m done. I had to re-write this since the last time because after watching the movie a third time I picked up on a lot more stuff because I can pause things to write stuff down.

Next week: time for other stuff.

I Forgot These Songs Existed

(Admit It, You Did Too!)

I have to admit I had forgotten the existence of these songs until I stumbled across a video on Youtube chronicling a list of One Hit Wonders of the 80s, (there are soooo many of these.) I can’t even say I like most of these, in which case it’s okay I forgot them, but I am sad to think I didn’t remember the ones I remember liking, though. On the other hand, once I was again reminded of their existence I was able to remember most of the lyrics or at least the refrains of these songs, which means nothing more than that I have a brain that likes to hold on to useless flotsam from over thirty years ago. And no, I don’t know why my brain considers these things important enough to recall.

There were a lot more than these few songs. I just snipped out ten of the ones I most easily remembered, but there were at least a hundred on the list. You will understand why some of these were forgotten, not just by me but by people in general.

Obsession – Animotion

Iiii…I hated this song when it was released, and quite frankly, I’m not liking it too much right now.

What I Am – Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians

I remember the video for this song and how the lead singer looked like she was doing the peepee dance, and how there were several parodies of that and this song. There’s something about this song that is just very mockable. I still think Edie was high when she wrote it, sang it, and danced in the video. I don’t hate this song, but like quite a number of songs from the 80s, I don’t like remembering it.

I Just Died In Your Arms – Cutting Crew

There were a lot of one-hit songs in the 80s that were just, for lack of a better word, depressing. I thought this was one of the least depressing which isn’t saying much really. For some reason, there was something about 80s music that inspired singers to make cheezy hand gestures.

Break My Stride – Matthew Wilder

I remember this as one of those songs that I used to sing to myself whenever I was feeling coffee’d up. It’s the perfect song for when you have a little extra energy but are not doing anything in particular with it except striding from one room to another or puttering around on your front lawn. It’s one of those “I don’t sing this when I’m in the house” type of songs.

Mexican Radio – Wall of Voodoo

Something about this song just thoroughly tickled me when I was fourteen. I think it’s just the emphatic and somewhat aggressive manner with which the lead singer asserts that he is “onna Mexican radio”. I remember I would walk around the house singing this song, and while my Mom never told me to shut up, I could tell she was thinking, “What is wrong with that child?”

Voices Carry – Til Tuesday

This is yet another one of those hot on-the-charts, but depressing songs of the 80s. I never could figure out its meaning, but then that too was part of 80s music, in which people would actually get up on a stage and sing lyrics that sounded great, but made no sense. Do not watch this video if you don’t want to be infuriated by a total douche!

We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart

Yeah, that’s a good idea.

I actually like this song though. I loaded it to my phone recently.

The Rain – Oran “Juice” Jones

This song is everything that was wrong with 80s R&B, or Adult Contemporary, I guess. Synthetic instruments of unknown origin in the background, middle-of-the-road beats, and middle-of-the-road rhythm. This song is deeply mediocre. Trust me, you will instantly forget it right after watching this video, so go ahead.

19 – Paul Hardcastle

This is another in a line of depressing Pop songs of the 80s. For some reason, some singers felt a need to put important world information in Club songs. Paul Hardcastle is not a singer. He is an instrumentalist whose done some good work. The lyrics of this song are now sadly out of date though.

Party All The Time – Eddie Murphy

Not too many people remember that Eddie Murphy had a couple of albums under his name. This was dropped when he was riding high off his movie career in the 80s. I don’t think he wants many people to remember this but it’s not a bad song. It does have the usual 80s synth problems but it’s at least listenable.

Knitting Questions

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This questionnaire was featured on Tumblr, and I don’t usually make long posts there, so I decided to transfer it here and answer. This is an update for a post I did waay back in 2018. Things have changed a lot since then so it’s time for a revisit.

1. Do you knit or crochet or both?

Both. I started crocheting when I was a child and I was taught by a neighbor who was one of my Mom’s best friends. I got away from crocheting after I focused my artistic talents on drawing and painting, for a couple of decades. I picked it up again several years ago and a couple of years after that I taught myself to knit by watching Youtube videos.


2. What’s your favorite yarn brand?

My all-time favorite yarn brand is Malabrigo Worsted, closely followed by Madelinetosh Vintage and DK. There’s also Malabrigo Washted which is a real joy to work with.

3. What’s your favorite fiber?

I will work with almost any fiber, but I prefer pure wool. My second favorite would be some of the wool silk blends and the more affordable Alpaca yarns.


4. Do you prefer neutral tones, jewel tones, or earth tones?

I like earth tones but I am always first attracted to jewel tones. I’m partial to garnet reds, deep purples, and dark blues and will always buy those first. I only buy neutral tones for a specific project.


5. Describe/ show pictures of your favorite project?

I just learned how to do brioche knitting, so my favorite project is a cowl I knitted for a friend in dark blue wool and rainbow Crystal Palace Danube, which has since been discontinued. I must have frogged it about five or six times, but eventually, I got it. My friend loved it.

6. How many WIPs do you have?

I’m working on maybe five or six projects right now. At least three sweaters are on the needles, along with some baby booties and a poncho for my younger sister, a hat, and oddly, a dickey for myself, which I know I’m going to need for Fall.

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7. What’s your go-to needle/hook size(s)?

I prefer working with size 6, 7, and 8 knitting needles. I prefer circular needles to straight ones, but that doesn’t mean I’ve thrown out all my straight needles.

8. What’s your favorite yarn weight(s)?

I prefer worsted weights worked on size 7 needles. I’ve decided I’m not into smaller weights of yarn. Anything smaller than Sport yarn is just frustrating for me.

9. Favorite place to shop for yarn?

Online, usually at Loveknitting, but I’ve found quite a few good places to buy discounted yarns.

10. Do you like to knit/crochet in public?

I don’t like to do either in public, because curious people always want to talk to me, and while I love their curiosity, I’m not any good at talking to strangers.

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11. What’s the most outrageous thing someone’s asked you to make for them?

So far, I’ve not had any outrageous requests. Most people stick with scarves and hats and mittens. I will no longer make any of these things for my nieces and nephew because they keep losing the items and that’s a waste of yarn! I was recently asked by my nephew to make him a sweater though.

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12. Do you have an Etsy shop?

Nope. I have no plans to do so in the near future but that could change.

13. Do you like to watch TV while you craft? If so, what’s your favorite program?

I like to binge TV series on Netflix or Hulu while I knit. Sometimes, I’ll choose a fun but mindless Action or Horror movie that I’ve already seen a dozen times. I don’t pick something that requires too much mental involvement.

14. What type of music do you listen to when you craft?

I like listening to Chillhop, or ambient new age stuff. Unfortunately, there is a danger of falling asleep to that. I have better luck with audiobooks, especially if they are read by men with British accents.

15. Are you a fast or slow knitter/crocheter?

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I can crochet pretty fast and I’ve gotten a lot faster at knitting but I’m still not particularly fast at it.

16. How long have you been knitting/crocheting?

About maybe 7 or 8 years of crochet, and perhaps 4 or 5 years of knitting.

17. Do you do any other crafts?

I was a professional artist for nearly twenty years, (pencils, and watercolor fantasy illustration). I have a smattering of other skills like pottery and weaving, that I learned in the couple of schools I attended. I also grew up in a house where arts and crafts were highly encouraged.

18. What is on your knit/crochet wishlist?

I just have different types of yarns I want to work with, like cashmere blends and the highly expensive Qivut. I’ve heard a lot about it and would like to work with it sometime.

19. Do you prefer printed or PDF patterns?

I like to use both. When I’m studying a pattern, in the pre-stages, I like to refer to the print version, but when I’m actually working on a pattern, I prefer a PDF.

20. How do you work?

My ideal setup is to grab a cup of tea, (iced or hot), set up my iPad to play an audiobook, pull up a pdf, and get started. I prefer this setup, but I’ve also done a lot of knitting in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

23. How do you plan a project?

I usually buy the yarn first, and then find a project to match it. Like most knitters and crocheters I have a giant stash of yarn, some of which I have no particular plans for, but the yarn looked really pretty.

24. What’s in your future?

I want to spin and dye my own yarn.

http://www.jeanettesloandesign.com/black-people-do-knit.html

http://ggmadeit.com/blog/knitting/african-american-knitters/

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Nope (Pt.2): The Characters

The reason I rushed to get that last post published so quickly was that I had just watched the film, and wanted to get it all down while the images were still fresh. I’m probably going to mention things in this post that I forgot to mention in the last one or not mention some stuff I simply forgot. I’m still in something of a rush to write this all down before I forget my impressions of these characters, (I have seen the movie a second time since the first post). I didn’t walk into the movie thinking about things to look for. I walked into it remembering an interview I saw with Peele where he mentioned that his inspiration for this movie was Jaws.

There Are Going to Be Spoilers!!! There Are Going to Be Spoilers!!

To make a movie this ambitious (it is more than 2 hours long) and in an effort to save time, Peele has engaged in a certain amount of film shorthand, namely archetypal characters. Archetypes are typical examples of a certain type of person often seen in movies. Archetypes are characters that the audience is meant to immediately recognize (mostly on a subconscious level), understand who they are, what their purpose is, and sometimes a broad concept of what actions they’re going to commit. There’s nothing wrong with archetypes (unless they’re badly used or written), most films use them, and they’re meant to save storytelling time. Peele has used at least three different archetypes here, and they mostly seem to map very well to the archetypes from the movie Jaws, which is on Peele’s recommended watchlist as inspiration for this film.

The Archetypes

The Cowboy – Oj

Drawing on his depth of knowledge of genre films Peele has engaged the archetype of The Cowboy in the form of OJ. While the definition of the cowboy is a guy who rides a horse to herd cattle, the image of the cowboy in the US is anyone who exhibits the behavior and trappings of a cowboy, which Oj does. He’s heroic, strong, silent, and highly principled, and has mastered the understanding, training, and use of horses. But what he most reminds me of with his jeans and hoodie are the urban Black horseriders called the Compton Cowboys which tickles me to no end!

When it comes to comparisons to Jaws, Oj is the one most like Sheriff Brody. He is the person trying the hardest to hold things down, hold onto his father’s legacy, and he is dedicated to his job and devoted to his family. Like Brody, he has trouble making his voice heard even when he is right, and is the kind of man willing to make the sacrifice play to defend what he loves.

The Prodigal – Emerald Haywood

Em is the classic Prodigal Son archetype. The Prodigal in movies (this definition is outside the literary version) is often a younger brother who has left home because they couldn’t reconcile themselves with the wishes of their father and seek a better life for themselves. Em comes back home from Hollywood after her estrangement from her father, and reconciling her issues with her dad (and brother) achieves her final goal. There is no Prodigal character in the original Jaws so the addition of Emerald is wholly unique. Another wholly unique feature is that this Prodigal is a Black woman who, while working in tandem with her brother, turns out to be the hero of the movie and a Classic Final Girl.

The Wild Card – Jupe

Another archetypal character is the wild card. Jupe isn’t a wild card because he’s unpredictable to us. Like Quint in Jaws, he is a wild card to the other characters who don’t know enough about him to figure out what his goal is. The wild card character has their own agenda and their own motivations. As long as they can accomplish their goal they will work with anyone, on any side, they will switch sides, betray others, or form alliances based entirely on what they can get out of the arrangement. They are often arrogant and opportunistic. This perfectly describes both Ricky (Jupe) Park and Quint. I consider Jupe a wild card because his goals are not consistent with the goals of the other characters, although, on the surface, they may seem to be and he is willing to seem as if he is their ally. But his primary goal is to exploit the UFO and the circumstances for his own monetary gain and his motivation is based on the mistaken belief that he can.

The Common Man/Man in the Chair – Angel

The closest Jaws character to Angel is probably Hooper, who is there to study the shark, handles all the tech and equipment, and has no stake in the affair other than being friends with the protagonist. I talked before about how every genre story needs to have one character who can speak for or represent the members of the audience. This character’s job is to voice the audience’s concerns or do the things that audience members wish they could do like having a grand adventure, being friends with the primary characters, or just surviving the event. These characters are unlikely to be killed, because they have no real stake in the proceedings, so they are more like witnesses. Angel, like Hooper, isn’t someone who really furthers the plot in a big way, but he is the character that is most like us, finding himself in an incredible situation that he must now deal with in a way we hope we would.

The Characters

Ricky (Jupe) Park

Jupe is one of the deepest characters in the story and the one about whom we get the most in-depth backstory. Like the Mayor from Jaws, he is also the closest thing we get to a villain, or antagonist, as it is the choices he makes that set the plot in motion. One thing viewers may not have gotten is that the alien/ufo has taken up residence in the valley where the Haywood Ranch exists because Jupe has been feeding it the horses he’s been buying from Oj. Oj has been selling him horses as a way to pay for the Ranch’s upkeep, with the full expectation that he can buy them back. When Oj tries to discuss buying back his horses, Jupe distracts him with his famous backstory. Even though we can see the pain in his eyes and that he has not, in fact, moved on from the trauma, he tells Em the story anyway.

That scene is also an echo of Quint from Jaws in the scene where he is telling Em his story of what happened on the set of Gordy’s rampage and is a callback to Quint’s recitation of his own trauma aboard the USS Indianapolis, and something which informs his motivations for hunting the shark. You have these two characters who have not moved beyond their trauma, which has led to the delusional belief that they can control/capture these wild animals, which subsequently, gets them killed. Jupe’s scene doesn’t have the same level of gravity as Quint’s scene because it happens fairly early in the film before we’ve really spent much time with the character, but it serves the same purpose as a “pivotal moment” that each character has in their backstory. It is the moment that made them who they are in this one.

Jupe has the idea that because he survived Gordy’s rampage on the set as a child, and because Gordy, who was trained to give him a fist bump, was in the process of doing so before he was killed, that he has some special connection with animals. He has entered into a kind of devil’s bargain with the alien, where he feeds the creature horses every weekend, and as a result, the alien has taken up residence near his theme park, and specifically, near the Haywood ranch, where it steals the occasional horse and dumps its “spoor” on their land. Jupe’s mistaken belief that he has mastered this alien creature is one of the larger themes of the movie.

Jupe has not dealt properly with the trauma of what happened to him as a child. He continues to dwell in the headspace of that event, and coupled with his need to hold onto the fame of his youth, this makes for the disastrous outcome we see in the movie, where he presses his luck, and for his trouble, he and his audience get eaten.

If you look closely, you’ll see that each character holds onto some object from their past that is representative of their personal trauma. For Jupe its the little gray shoe which he keeps on display in his memorial room.

Emerald Haywood (Em)

The scene that most completely encapsulates the type of person Emerald Haywood is is the scene in the tech store where she’s laying out her plan to capture photos of the ufo to her brother, and she briefly interrupts her spiel to compliment some lady about her clothes. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment, but when I saw it I burst out laughing because that’s just so HER. She does things like that where she just randomly compliments people. Em is a person who is constantly giving and looking for approval, not just because it helps her accomplish her goal of being a Hollywood star, but because she seemed to always be trying to win her father’s approval.

Em’s “pivotal” backstory is when she was about nine years old her father promised to teach her to train her first horse, which she named Jean Jacket, but she never got the chance because her father chose Oj in her stead. She says after that their father never seemed to see her. He only had eyes for the heir to his legacy, Oj. Subsequently, she has spent the rest of her life trying to be seen, trying to gain somebody’s, anybody’s, attention. That’s what all the hustling and charming, self-referential patter is all about. She left home to go to Hollywood for fame and fortune and spends her time trying to convince other people she is special, not understanding that she was always looking in the wrong place because her brother already knew she was special (for being able to do the thing he could not do which was break free of his father’s shadow) and he has always been able to see her.

The one thing that Em holds close to her that exemplifies her trauma is her father’s speech which he used to introduce himself to his clients. In her attempt to be seen by her father she has memorized every word and inflection (even his stammer) of that speech.

There are a number of callbacks in the film, like the scene where she watches her brother being trained on her horse, Jean Jacket, and he looks up at her and points to his eyes, and then to her. This is recalled at the end of the movie when he does it again and she returns the gesture. One of the primary themes of this movie is seeing and being seen. Capturing the alien’s photogragh is her Jean Jacket moment. He is giving her this chance to put her shit down and show the world what he always knew she was capable of.

And for that, we anime fans are gifted the extreme pleasure of seeing her do The Akira Slide!!!

Otis Haywood Jr. (Oj)

Each of the primary characters has a pivotal story in their background that informs their character, motivation, and actions at the end of the movie. Oj’s pivotal story is that his father chose him to be his successor rather than Emerald who seemed to want it more. When they were kids, she was set to train a horse she named Jean Jacket and his father changed his mind and chose him for the training instead, which led to Oj being his legal heir. Subsequently, he got all the training (and hence his father’s attention) with Em’s horse. The first job he went to with his father was on the set of The Mummy spinoff movie, The Scorpion King 2, (which is where the orange hoodie comes from) but he was deprived of his chance to show his skills when the creators decided they didn’t need horses and would use camels instead, and has spent the years since then as his father’s assistant, never getting the chance to build the confidence that comes from working on his own.

The representative object that Oj holds close to him is the orange hoodie with the Scorpion King logo. It’s emblematic of the pivotal childhood event where he never got a chance to use his newly trained skills on his first job, and was relegated to being nothing more than his father’s assistant.

One of the reasons Oj is so reticent/standoffish on the set at the beginning of the film is that is actually his first job alone, after his father’s death. Before that, his father did all the talking and handling on the set including that little speech memorized by Em. Oj didn’t have to try to hold everything down or talk to anyone on set because Dad had everything under control. (Up until one’s parents are gone you always think you’re ready for whatever, and then when they’re gone, you have to actually find out if you are.) The orange hoodie represents him finally picking up the reins from his father, and the corralling of the alien (and the protection of his family and legacy by doing so) is really his first job.

Oj, because of his understanding and connection with animals, is the first to recognize not just that the ufo is actually a territorial predator that must be respected as the animal it is, but the significance of the actions he and Em are about to perform. It’s Em’s first training job too, only she will be corralling an alien predator. It is Oj who names the alien Jean Jacket as a tribute to that moment.

While we’re here, let’s talk about how Oj survives multiple attempts by the alien to consume him, something that Jupe doesn’t. Oj is a very different character from Jupe and his sister. He doesn’t seek fame or attention, and the special connection with animals that Jupe only thought he had, and Em wishes she had, is something that Oj actually possesses. Due to his training with animals, he is the first to discern what they are dealing with, and unlike Jupe, he never forgets that an animal is an animal, and no matter how much training that animal has, it has a mind of its own, and it can still be triggered into violence. Em may be jealous of his skills but she is willing to recognize his expertise, listen to him when he tells her about the alien, and follow his directions in dealing with it.

As for Oj’s demeanor, some of the primary markers of autism are avoiding eye contact with others, anxiety in social situations, finding it hard to make friends or being a loner, noticing small details that others don’t, and difficulty discussing feelings. Oj displays many of these traits which is why some audiences like to read him as being autistic, an idea I support because I happen to be autistic. The first time we see Oj at work he is almost painfully withdrawn. He refuses to make eye contact, looks nervous/disinterested about being in the presence of so many strangers, and shows a reluctance to speak or draw any attention to himself. When he feels pinched he calls for Em to do what she does, and we feel almost as uncomfortable as he seems to be. (I winced through that entire scene, and it’s my least favorite one, not because it’s badly written, but because it’s such a great depiction of social anxiety/being the center of attention.)

Em and OjRelationship

I really enjoyed this movie because yeah, I’m attracted to spectacle, and it has plenty of it, but it also has great characters and great relationships. Otis Jr and Emerald really resonated with me because their relationship isn’t all that different from me and my oldest little brother, and the personality dynamics aren’t too far off either, except I’m the one who left home and came back, and he’s the more garrulous one. I’m one of those people who say about twenty words a year, and only under duress!) I’m an artist and dreamer, he’s a talker and fixer-of-things who thinks his big sister is an absent-minded nerd who needs to be carefully looked after. This is not unlike how Oj thinks of his little sister as a dreamer who is smart, but flighty. He’s willing to listen to her ideas because he respects her intelligence, and because of the force of her personality, which is how I often have to convince my know-it-all little brother to do what I want.

If you watch the movie carefully you realize that the only person Oj physically engages with is his sister. It’s not that he doesn’t interact with other people but recall the scene where he and Em are celebrating a victory, and slapping hands. Oj acts that way with no one else in the movie. He is almost always monosyllabic and averts his eyes from everyone else, even Angel, who he only warms up to slowly. Palmer and Kaluuya have such great chemistry that you actually believe they’re brother and sister. They both have issues surrounding their father but don’t let that get in the way of their own relationship or ability to work together. Em listens to her brother and trusts his expertise, especially when it comes to what he’s been trained to do. Oj listens to what his sister has to say, and goes along with her plan, recognizing her drive and intelligence.

Angel Torres

I like to refer to Angel as the Common Man, or Everyman because, like Hooper from Jaws, he is an outsider, and of all the characters he seems most relatable to the average person. Like us, he doesn’t live, work, or have loved ones in danger at the Ranch, nor does he have any real stake in the proceedings other than being friends with Em and Oj. His life will not be greatly upheaved, outside of his interior sense of self, after this is all over. He is not there to save the Haywwod’s ranch or make any money off the alien.

Angel gets a tiny bit of backstory and I like him for that. Angel operates like the sibling’s “man in the chair”. He helps set up their equipment and then spies on their attempt to capture images of the ufo. He tells the siblings that he just broke up with his girlfriend and is searching for something greater than himself, and even though he doesn’t say it, he’s also looking for friends, and somewhere to be other than by himself. He meets Em and Oj at the tech store where he works and is immediately intrigued by them. Seeing their presence in his store as a call to adventure, he invites himself into their lives, and them into his, offering to let them stay at his home after an incident that causes them to flee their own (and offering them his clothes). Angel is that childlike part of us that seeks thrills and adventure (and new friends) with no consideration of the actual danger.

I’m a sucker for the Found Family trope, so Angel immediately endeared himself to me by inserting himself, totally uninvited, into an event that has nothing to do with him, and then holding his own, as if he totally belonged there. He is a quick and clever thinker and one of the few people actively pursued by the alien that saves himself by simply making himself taste bad – rolling himself in barbed wire! (He makes himself unattractive to the camera!) Although Angel spends most of the movie frightened out of his skin, he does make reasonably intelligent decisions, the kind we’d like to think we would make in such a situation. He’s out of his depth and he knows it, but he never backs down, or runs out on them, and manages to keep his sense of humor. His loyalty to Em and Oj is baffling to some people, but having been an introvert on the receiving end of being unexpectedly adopted by an extrovert, I get it.

One thing tied to my last post is about the scene where the mantis obscures the view of one of Angel’s cameras, and how in Christian mythology a praying mantis in the home is a sign that angels are watching over you. Some audience members pointed out that there actually is an “Angel” watching over the house during that scene.

*Okay, now this one is also getting a bit too long, and I can see that this is going to require a part 3 because I haven’t really talked about the monster, its significance, its depiction, what it represents, and one other character people always forget about when talking about a film, the landscape!

**Yeah, I did go back and see the movie a second time. I had not planned to do so, but when the opportunity presented itself for my sister to pay for it I jumped at the chance. There is a certain amount of glee involved in watching a Horror movie, with your easily frightened and already nervous sibling, that you have already seen and lording it over them just a little bit. That’s just one of several perks of being a sibling!

Nope: The Horror of Spectacle (Pt.1)

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE AND DON’T WANT SPOILERS.

I’m going to be talking about a lot of details, and give away a number of secrets about the movie that are crucial to its understanding and so cannot be avoided. Trust me, knowing these things before you see the movie will spoil your enjoyment of the film.

Jordan Peele’s Movie Watch List for his actors included two of Spielberg’s biggest films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws. Like Close Encounters, this movie has all the trappings of an alien invasion film, and the characters’ obsession with wanting to understand the alien is echoed in the first half of the movie, while the last half has the adventure feel of Jaws with the characters chasing and being chased by the alien. On the surface, this movie may seem like your typical Summer blockbuster where you have an intrepid team of people setting out to capture or destroy some kind of monster, but Peele has a lot more to say than that.

The Basic Plot

Oj (Otis Junior played by Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (aka Em played by Keke Palmer) are a brother and sister trying to save their father’s horse ranch after he is inadvertently killed by the alien. The Haywood Ranch specializes in training, wrangling, and renting horses for movies, and Oj’s first job was working on the set of The Scorpion King 2. Oj is his father’s direct successor while Em has gone off to Hollywood to make her fortune. She comes back home to help her brother raise money to save the ranch. Oj is the typically strong and silent cowboy type, (heavily coded as autistic to a lot of viewers – more on that later), and Em is his exact opposite, being funny, brash, and massively charming.

Ricky “Jupe” Park, played by Steven Yeun, is the former child star of a series called Gordy’s Home, where he experienced a horrible trauma, and who now owns a theme park next door, called Jupiter’s Claim. Oj has been selling his horses to Jupe to keep the ranch afloat, not knowing that Jupe has been sacrificing those horses to the alien visitor that has taken up residence in the valley for the past several months. After Jupe and his audience are consumed by the alien after his attempt to make money from the spectacle of its feeding, Em and Oj become convinced that the way to save the ranch is to capture the alien on film and sell the photos.

They meet an electronics store employee named Angel (Brandon Perea) who helps them set up cameras at the ranch, but since the ufo (now called UAPs by the US government) produces a field that deadens electrical equipment they are unsuccessful and so decide to call in the director they met on a film set they were fired from at the beginning of the movie named Antlers Holst, (Michael Wincott – he of the extraordinary voice). Antlers owns a crank camera that doesn’t require electricity. After several mishaps, chase scenes, and a few near deaths, Em is successful in capturing the alien on camera and destroying it.

Jean Jacket

This is the name given to the creature by Oj, named after a horse she was supposed to have received training for on her 9th birthday, and which Oj got chosen for instead. Oj names it Jean Jacket as a tribute to Em after she comes up with the plan to capture the alien on film. The alien represents Em’s first animal training exercise.

**Throughout this post, I’m going to use three terms interchangeably, ufo, alien, and the creature, because although we, the audience, still don’t know what it is, it is definitely a living being of some kind. When the movie begins it is shaped like the typical image of a disc-shaped flying saucer. By the middle of the movie, the characters have become aware that while what they are dealing with is still a ufo, it is also a predator that actively hunts other life forms, and by the end, it reveals its true physical form as that of a massive array of drapery with a green aperture-like mouth at its center that sucks up its prey like a vacuum.

The Themes

Spectacle

Let’s start with the film’s opening quote. In the first reference, Peele tells you right up front what the theme of the movie is (which is why I don’t understand some people’s confusion after watching this.) People should know by now that Peele’s movies are not the kind of movies you watch to let the images simply wash over you and hope you reach understanding. They are the kind you must think about and pay close attention to, or you simply won’t understand, and you have to prep yourself for watching the movie this way beforehand. One of the issues with Horror movies, and especially the point being made here, is that people get consumed by the “spectacle” of the horror, and fail to think of the greater themes and repercussions surrounding the absorbing images. The audience members who did this mental preparation walked out of the film with a better understanding and appreciation of what they’d just seen.

The opening quote at the beginning of the movie is from Nahum 3:6: I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle. This refers to two events in the movie, the scene where the alien hovers over the ranch and drops waste matter of blood and metallic trinkets from its victims onto the Haywood’s house, and the ending where it unfurls itself during its pursuit of the two siblings.

The movie’s overarching theme is about how both the viewer and those being viewed are affected by the camera, about how audiences can be (literally) consumed by spectacle even as we consume it, and about the interchangeable nature of seeing a spectacle and being a spectacle. Several times the alien and other animals react to being seen on camera, or by an audience, or by themselves in reflective surfaces, and are startled into violence.

The movie opens by introducing the young Jupe on the set of a TV series called Gordy’s Home. This flashback to Jupe’s tragic past is the key to understanding some of the meanings of the movie. This event is later shown in its entirety, as a chimpanzee named Gordy (which, in the show, had been adopted by a white suburban family) flies into a rage and massacres the cast (all except Jupe and a young girl named Mary Jo) when it is seemingly startled by the release of a bunch of metallic balloons. That Jupe survives this event is important to how he dealt with his survivor’s trauma and the reason for his death.

One aside: Jupe says Gordy’s rampage lasted 6 minutes and 13 seconds. The alien appears every day at 6:13 PM to acquire its sacrifice of flesh from Jupe. Viewers have theorized a number of biblical verses that this could be in reference to, and many of them involve the topic of predators, prey, sacrifice, and how to avoid being such.

The theme of animals that are assumed to be tame or easily controlled, becoming violent, and turning on people are referenced multiple times throughout the movie. In another introductory scene, Oj, while on a film set with one of his horses, keeps trying to warn the cast about how to behave with the animal, only to be ignored (because white people don’t listen to Black people’s warnings of danger), and someone ends up being kicked by it. Like Gordy, the horse is startled by its reflection in an orb-shaped object. The idea of animals rejecting being seen as spectacles continues from there, from Gordy, to the horse, to the alien itself, since the alien only consumes those who stare at it.

These reflections extend to some of the characters too, like Mary Jo, the young girl who, like Jupe, survived Gordy’s rampage on the film set, but with extensive damage to her face. She attends Jupe’s first showing off of the alien while wearing a veil covering her current face, but wearing a t-shirt with the image of her childhood face on it. Like the alien, she is a spectacle who both wants and doesn’t want to be seen by others, and yet she is also a spectator, there to see another creature that does not like being seen.

Oj because of his retiring nature and experience with horses, is one of the first to understand that the alien is like any other predator, that looking it in the “eye” is like a challenge to its dominance that will make it angry. He is one of the few people to survive multiple encounters with it by turning away from the camera-like hole in its underside. Basically, he (and later, Angel) resists being consumed by the spectacle of the thing.

In fact, Oj’s natural tendency to avoid the gaze of others, and not look animals or other people in the eyes, ends up serving him very well, and it is also one of the signifiers of autism, along with his reticence in speaking, and deep focus on his job. When we first meet Oj we see he has his head turned away from the camera and film crew. He has a pattern of rejecting the gaze of others and denying them his own, so it is significant that not only is he the first person to catch that staring at the alien makes it angry, but at the end of the film it is meaningful when he signals to his sister that he will grant the creature his attention. He signals to her both, that he sees her, and that he will see the alien in an effort to trap it with his gaze, buying her the time she needs to capture its image.

Animal Exploitation

Jupe has been sacrificing Oj’s horses to what he thinks is a ufo for at least six months and plans to make money from the creature’s existence by sacrificing a live animal in front of a paying audience. To his horror, Jupe has only moments to realize his hubris in believing that he had tamed it (because he survived Gordy’s massacre unscathed he thinks he has a special power over it) because rather than taking the horse, the alien (like Gordy) becomes enraged at being looked at and consumes Jupe and the audience instead. (They get consumed by the spectacle.)

Jupe dies horribly, in the belly of the monster, while trying to exploit the existence of this creature for entertainment purposes. Just as Gordy was taken from his natural habitat, separated from his species, and raised among humans for their entertainment needs, Jupe hopes to do the same to the alien, and this is tied to his personal trauma because, although he exploits that for monetary gain, you can tell by the look in his eyes that he is not as casual in his feelings about the event as he would have others believe. He is haunted by what happened to him on the set and it has informed his behavior, not just towards his trauma, but his interaction with the alien. He believes his survival of that one event gives him a special ability to tame this new creature. He thinks he has a special connection, like the one he had with Gordy, because he has bribed this thing with Oj’s horses for several months, but the creature has not been tamed, nor has it been trained to come to him because he feeds it. The alien is simply being opportunistic and Jupe’s interactions with the creature only involved him and the alien. When the alien sees there is now an audience it takes the entire group.

Child actor exploitation

That’s not the only connection between Jupe and Gordy. The movie also strongly references the exploitation of child actors. Hollywood has a long history of consuming both the lives of animals and actors and then spitting out whatever is no longer useful, or left over. After Jupe and his audience are consumed by the alien, having consumed too much, it then spits out what it can’t use, (mostly metallic objects like coins, keys, and jewelry), which is how Oj and Em’s father was killed, at the beginning of the movie, when the alien spit out a coin that embedded itself in Otis’ head.

There are also elements of racism in the exploitation of both Jupe and Gordy. One of the nastier stereotypes of Asian men throughout Hollywood’s history is equating Asian men with monkeys. In the sitcom, both Jupe and Gordy are adopted by a white family and both are seen as token comedy relief. The white family acts as if the adoption of a human boy and the adoption of a chimpanzee are equal acts and treat the adoption of Gordy as no different than Jupe’s adoption. The family (and the series) does not respect Gordy as a powerful animal with an animal’s thoughts, and this is part of what causes his rampage. This scene is also a callback to a similar real-life event:

https://allthatsinteresting.com/travis-the-chimp

Oj names the alien Jean Jacket, after a young horse that Em was supposed to be trained on (but didn’t get the chance when her father changed his mind). Jupe named the thing he first thought of as an alien craft, The Viewers. And yes, this is a reference to those of us who came to watch the spectacle of Nope, especially those of us who got so caught in the imagery that we couldn’t understand the meaning of the film, and the voraciousness of an audience that can never be appeased. Jupe spends several months thinking he has pleased The Viewers, and believes he has things well under control, only to find that The Viewers cannot be controlled or appeased.

Symbolism

Mirrors and Reflections

I spoke before in my Symbolism of Film post, that mirrored reflections indicate that a character (or in this case an animal) has a double nature, and reflective objects are a motif seen throughout this movie, from the reflective balloons released in front of Gordy that sends him into a rage, to the metallic SFX orb that is waved in front of the horse which startles it, and the motorcycle helmet of a nosy paparazzi who shows up at the Haywood Ranch and gets eaten because his reflective helmet enrages the alien into consuming him. The creatures in the movie are believed by people to have been “tamed” because they have been trained to interact peacefully with human beings, until they stop doing that, indicating their dual natures of wildness and domesticity. Just because something has been domesticated (the alien, the horses, Gordy) doesn’t mean it will not react if provoked, and this is something that Oj, with his many years of experience in horse training, understands. These animals must still be respected as animals, which is something the film crew on the Gordy’s Home TV set, and Jupe himself did not understand, and many people paid the price for that.

Veils: Obscuration, and Revelation

Outside of the mirrors and reflections, the film has many images of drapery and veiling. Mary Jo (Jupe’s old co-star) covers herself with a veil to keep from being seen by others, and a torn tablecloth hanging between the young Jupe and Gordy is probably what saved Jupe’s life, as it obscured direct eye contact between him and Gordy, and as a result, Gordy doesn’t kill him. The ufo is often obscured by clouds, making it difficult to track.

Angel, Em, and Oj come up with a complicated plan to capture the alien’s image using several cameras mounted around the ranch but when the alien shows up, the cameras all power down, and the one camera that doesn’t is obscured by the presence of a tiny creature resting on the camera’s lens: a praying mantis, an insect which is often accused of looking alien. The Praying Mantis is literally a stand-in for the ufo and is itself a predator known for its large eyes, direct gaze, and a source of both wonder and horror for both its beauty and brutality in hunting prey. In Christian symbolism, the praying mantis is a herald of good luck, and the placement of its “praying hands”, a sign of piety, which meant that angels were watching out for you. Some audience members have theorized that Jean Jacket is actually a biblically accurate Angel, but the Praying Mantis also foreshadows the creature’s final form with its giant translucent wings, that look like drapes.

The alien’s real image remains obscured until its final form which appears to be made out of veils of skin and air, a lot like a jellyfish, but really like nothing ever seen on Earth, although that does not necessarily mean it’s an extraterrestrial. A ufo is what it’s called because that’s what it looks like at first presentation but by the movie’s end it looks not unlike a cross between a Blanket Octopus and a Deepstaria Jellyfish! And it is interesting to note that this creature that flies into a rage when people look directly at it makes a huge spectacle of itself, which would naturally cause people to stare at it.

I mean I stared, so surely I would not have been able to resist looking at it, even knowing it would eat me for doing so, and maybe the point is that spectacle is impossible to resist. The image is literally all-consuming. After all, as the audience, we couldn’t resist being distracted by that little upright shoe, even in the middle of the greater spectacle of Gordy’s rampage.

The Shoe

We get a flashback to what actually occurred on the set when Jupe takes Em into a private room in his home to show her the objects he saved from the show. One of the objects in his collection is a small gray shoe, which can be seen during Gordy’s rampage in the unlikely position of standing, unaided, on its heel. The director wants us to see this shoe. It sits in the center of the action even though its presence is not important to the actual event. There is a lot of speculation about the meaning of the shoe because even during the spectacle of the massacre the shoe is distracting. Many people think it’s a symbol that for Jupe the other shoe has yet to “drop”, and that that other shoe is what Jupe has been waiting for his whole life.

I believe the shoe is a parallel to the scene at the end of the movie where the alien turns out not to be a ufo, so much as a massive alien creature whose final form is both awesome and wondrous yet terrible and terrifying to behold. That inexplicable shoe standing on its end and the final form of the alien are wonders in the midst of horror.

**Incidentally, the song heard in the movie’s trailer is Fingertips Pt. 1 by a young Stevie Wonder, who was renamed “Wonder” by his manager Berry Gordy and hailed as the blind child prodigy, who played a variety of instruments, including the piano and the harmonica.

***Okay, this post has gotten long enough. In the second part of this review let’s talk about the primary characters: Oj, Em, Jupe, and Angel.

Most Ridiculous Movie Tropes II

I’m pretty sure I wrote about these movie and television tropes before, but here goes anyway. These aren’t so much the most annoying tropes as the ones most people seem to notice. Films are full of tropes, or should I say cliches? Tropes are usually how an audience determines what kind of genre the film belongs to. So technically, there’s not actually anything wrong with tropes, except when the writers and directors get lazy and throw in things that are simply silly or over-use them to create a false sense of tension like “cat the jump-scare”, which is what turns a trope into a cliche, I guess.

Here is a loose list of tropes that I personally find the most annoying and/or silly

Movie people only ever run in straight lines. No one ever moves to the left or right when they’re running. The most egregious use of this trope was in the movies Christine and Prometheus where you have characters who can clearly either run to the left or the right but insist on running straight ahead, and consequently, dying.

If someone is running they will fall down. This is inevitable. This takes place in every horror movie ever made, and most every other type of movie too. Doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman, they will trip and fall, sometimes over nothing or just their own feet. I’m pretty clumsy and I can count the number of times I’ve fallen in public (3). How is it even possible that the only person capable of running in a movie is Tom Cruise?

The only time people don’t fall down is when they are walking away from an explosion because:

People never run from explosions, but calmly walk toward the viewer as if nothing were going on back there. They don’t seem to care about flying debris, explosive concussion, or the heat of the blast, and they always do this in slow motion. I guess this is understandable though, considering people’s tendency to fall down when running.

No man in a movie knows how to successfully change a diaper. Most men in movies don’t know how to successfully do any household chores actually, but babies are especially difficult for them.

Babies never just pee in their diapers like they do in the real world. Babies only pee on people. If you are a man they will pee on your shirt or your pants, but if you are a woman you will be squirted in the face, usually with an extraordinary amount of urine. Considering how often that occurs, I’m convinced that something very distasteful is going on in the heads of the male filmmakers who insist that’s funny.

In movies, men only dress like women to get something. No man dresses like a woman simply because he enjoys doing so. Any man in a movie who dresses like a woman is automatically considered either funny or dangerous. They don’t actually have to do or say anything funny or dangerous. They only need to be dressed like a woman to be perceived as either.

Any man who finds out that the woman he is interacting with (even if it’s not a romantic interaction but merely a casual one) is actually transgender must pretend to vomit. This happens in every single movie that has ever introduced a transgender woman who is interacting with a cisgender man who doesn’t know she is transgender. The message being sent by straight, cisgender, male filmmakers, in film, after film, after film, is that transgender women are disgusting.

Having dinner with the family is one of the hardest things to ever do in a movie. People can never just sit down, eat, and make conversation. Something, somewhere, will go horribly, sometimes embarrassingly, wrong. Sometimes it’s the food gets dropped or somebody says or does something overdramatic. I have been to multiple family reunions, and always had a pleasant time, nothing embarrassing or horrible ever occurred at any of them. If a group of people are having a dinner, shenanigans will ensue!

No one goes to the bathroom in a movie just to use the bathroom. There is always an ulterior motive like getting killed, kidnapped, having a fight, or meeting a spy. Sometimes all of the above.

All divorcees hate each other with the passion of a thousand suns. There is never an amicable divorce in a movie, especially if kids are involved, after which all their fights will be about the husband missing alimony payments and/or missing some kind of recital. This is a staple of cop films and shows.

People never ask who it is before opening any doors. They hear the doorbell or knocking and just spring to open it. They don’t look out a window to see who it is or ask any questions. The door is never, EVER locked. Whoever it is just runs to the door and pulls it open. Doors are never locked unless:

Locked doors only ever contribute to the suspense of being chased by somebody or something. The door hasn’t been locked for the entire first half of the movie, but once someone is being chased the locks click on automatically, I guess. The person never knows how to work any of the locks, or the locks are always stuck, which I guess makes sense for why the locks are never engaged otherwise.

People never say goodbye on the phone. They always just hang up. People almost never ask who it is either, and that is somewhat understandable, since the invention of caller ID, but they also never offer greetings either. Hello is all they’re going to say. Phone calls are never pleasant activities in the movies. They always mean something bad.

People being able to find convenient parking spaces and the cars that don’t work when the killer is coming has already been heavily discussed in a lot of places, so I won’t mention them here, but there are a host of car tropes used in movies, only a few of which I find deeply annoying.

People fly through the air when they get shot by a large caliber weapon. Okay! Whose idea was it that people should take flight when they get hit with bullets? The bullet’s momentum doesn’t transfer to the person whose been hit. That is not how physics works!

Autistic people are only ever white, straight, male, and a genius of some kind.

Bombs with digital countdowns. Once you see this you can never unsee it. There is absolutely no reason, at least most of the time, for there to be a digital readout on any remote-operated explosive, but movies love them and don’t seem to be stopping doing that anytime soon.

I think I talked about the “nagging wife” cliche, once before, where a woman is constantly bothering her action/adventure husband/boyfriend/significant other, about how much he’s already given to the world, the force, the city, or whoever and how he doesn’t need to go out and save any people right now because he’s going to be late for his daughter’s dance recital, son’s baseball game, or their dinner party. Pick one! If the two of them are divorced then the subject of alimony payments will also be included in this conversation.

And quite possibly one of the most annoying cliches for me personally, are drivers who don’t keep their eyes on the road ahead and talk to the passenger next to them instead. Watch the gotdamn road, you idjit!!!.

And last but not least, people who are supposed to be hikers, meaning they have been hiking before and supposedly know what the rules are, who go out into the woods and are completely unprepared. They have no survival gear, flashlights, a compass, warm-up blankets, sleeping bags, or sometimes even water bottles. I’ve never been hiking in my life (have no intention of ever doing so) and even I know to take a compass and something waterproof to start a fire with!

So yeah, I definitely mentioned at least a couple of these in my posts about Film Shorthand, but these aren’t so much about symbols in film as they are about lazy writers and cliches that simply need to be done away with because they really don’t contribute that much to the story.

SDCC Most Hotly Anticipated

(San Diego Comic-Con)

Very obviously the top dog on this list is going to be the next Black Panther film since it is the most hotly anticipated movie being released this fall. There are at least a couple of other movies releasing this Fall and Winter, but I either already posted their trailers, or I’ve not particularly enthused about them myself, although other people may be.

I know this is probably a little bit late but I had technical problems, but they’ve been fixed now, so here goes.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

I have a confession to make, and I’m probably not alone in this, but I haven’t watched the original Black Panther film since Chadwick passed. Like Robin Williams, I haven’t been able to watch anything he starred in since he died. I haven’t even watched any of my Mother’s favorite films because these films only remind me that they are gone. There is no future for them, and all I will never have is their legacy. It’s gonna take me a minute to get past it, but I plan to watch the original before I watch this new one, which is going to be doubly hard because not only do I know my mother was looking forward to seeing this, as she was a huge fan of Chadwick, but Black Panther was the first superhero movie I ever saw in the theater with her.

I’m gonna need tissues.

That said, I am really hyped for this movie and not just for the Wakandan stuff. I am absolutely loving the look of the Atlanteans for the South American Indigenous regalia and vibe. I think that’s really inspired, and it all looks very lovely. We finally gonna get to see Angela Bassett tear up the screen because she wasn’t given a whole lot to do in the first one. I do like how the women of Wakanda have had to hold everything down while T’Challa is gone, so it’s not outside the realm of belief to think that one of these women might wear the mask, with the most likely candidates being Nakia (who was offered the special herb in the last movie but declined it) and Shuri (who has been BP in the comic books in her brother’s absence).

One of my favorite actresses is also starring, Michaela Coel, from the hit series, Bubblegum. I thought I’d like her to play Storm, but she is playing a canon lesbian character named Aneka, who is the girlfriend/wife of Ayo, being played by Florence (“Move or you will be moved.”) Kasumba, and I’m excited for that because there is a TV series about the Dora coming up next year. And I also need to mention that Riri Williams, (the successor to Tony Stark’s legacy), as Ironheart, will also be making her debut before her own series release next year, but she is being overshadowed by:Tenoch Huerta.

And can I just say that, although I had my doubts about this new guy playing Namor, ( I was unsure if he would bring the fire, so to speak), Tenoch Huerta is looking pretty damn fire, indeed? He certainly seems to have the attitude, and when he stood on the stage at SDCC and staring speaking Spanish to the audience, I got chills, and I hope the Mexican people are as jazzed about seeing him onscreen as we were to see BP that first time! I was really hoping they would cast Gabriel Luna, but maybe they have some other role for him (like Ghost Rider again!) because I’m really looking forward to seeing more Latin and Indigenous representation in the MCU, and in Fantasy/SciFi in general. The MCU didn’t have to make Namor Mesoamerican, but they re-wrote his character to do just that, and I have to give them their props. They have made so many people happy.

There are so many cultures that would love to see themselves represented onscreen, that would love to see elements of their stories being shown to the rest of the world, and the Marvel Universe is big enough to do just that.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I am very much looking forward to this movie, although I don’t know if I’ll see it in the theater because that depends on what else gets released that month and if I have any money. But yeah, this looks like a lot more fun than LOTR, and House of Dragons, which are also cut from the same cloth.

This one stars one of the better Chrises, Chris Pine and he’s really cute so that’s cool. I could do without Michelle Rodriguez (mostly because she is not a likable person that I want to look at for two hours) but I do like that it has a diverse cast, because we never get to see Latinas in Fantasy stuff. I love all the sparkly magic scenes, and the movie looks like it doesn’t take itself seriously.

I like High Fantasy/Dungeons and Dragons type stuff on a TV or movie screen (and I’m still pretty damn picky about it), but I absolutely will not read any books like that. I’ve got plenty of enthusiasm when it comes to movies and shows but don’t recommend any books to me.

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power

I can count the number of High Fantasy books I’ve read and the first three Tolkien books were it. I loved all of the movies though, not because I revere the books but for the action scenes and the characters. So basically, I’m no Tolkien purist and people like that tend to annoy me no matter what the genre. That said, I have been told we will get to see women dwarves with their beards intact. I like that the creators added a lot of PoC to this story and that they are all members of all the different races of Middle Earth, and believe it or not, I find the story intriguing too, as it’s set several centuries before The Hobbit, when Galadriel was very young.

I don’t know that I will like this but I really like the trailer, and I’m going to give it a try.

House of the Dragon

This is a legacy spinoff from Game of Thrones. I had only a passing interest in the original series, but I’ll probably check out a few episodes of this one. I wasn’t particularly invested in the various plots of GoT, and I probably won’t be here either, but I am really glad to see more PoC in Fantasy films and series. I’m glad that so many creators are simply ignoring the loud fanboys who just want these genres to stay as white, straight, and male as possible because that’s what’s comfortable for them regardless of how everyone else may feel. I think adding PoC sometimes deepens the meaning of the stories in ways, that while not actually intended by the creators, still make these vehicles worth watching for the rest of us.

We told these creators for over ten years, that if they make it, we will pay for it. They did, and we’ve kept our part of the bargain when it’s done well. They don’t always get things right, but they are listening and learning. As I said when I first started this blog: We like to have adventures too!

That said, this series looks better than the last one, and I’m still very much into the whole dragon thing, although I wonder if there will be ice zombies in this one, (a lot of people are saying no) and how engaging some of the characters will be. I am still not a fan of Matt Smith because the man’s forehead is very distracting and I simply cannot get past it. Milly Alcock however is really cute and looks like a baby (a very dangerous baby, but still).

I am not as excited about this as some other people, but I will give it a try.

The Sandman

I mentioned here before that I didn’t follow the usual comic book routes when I started reading them. There were some things that didn’t show up in my library at all, and some things showed up later, and I just didn’t read them until I was well into adulthood. The Sandman is one of those things. I’d read a few Neil Gaiman books, and liked them more or less but I wasn’t a die-hard fan or anything. He was simply another British author I was passingly familiar with.

I picked up The Sandman books in my 20s, and am passing familiar with most of the characters, so not only am I no purist, I find such people largely intolerable. Yeah, I don’t care how you think something should have been depicted (as it’s usually some inconsequential nitpicky type stuff that has nothing to do with the ultimate story, but will somehow ruin their entire childhood! No, I haven’t forgotten people acting a whole-ass-fool over the organic webspinners!) People will act a damn fool over the casting of this film and in a few years, possibly even 6 months, they will have completely forgotten their assholery and moved on to their next great film outrage.

And yes, I am old enough to remember, before social media existed, when Tom Cruise got cast as Lestat in the movie, and some people lost their shit over it!

Unless the acting is super terrible, it looks cheap, or reminds people of what happened with the failed Inhumans series, the show is going to be just fine. Most of the people watching it won’t even know anything about the minute details that are so upsetting to the stans, anyway.

All that to say, I’m not so invested in the books that I cannot enjoy this. I hope I do, and there is enough enthusiasm for me to give it a try. I try to approach every production with the hope that I will enjoy it, although if there’s no enthusiasm for it, I’ll simply skip it. That said, I have ALWAYS, and I do mean ALWAYS wanted to see a version of Death that was a Black woman and how such an actor might approach that role. I’m also loving the female version of Lucifer (Don’t know if Lucifer is female in the show or not, but the actor identifies as such.)

I Am Groot

To date, Vin Diesel has played three of the most beloved characters, The Iron Giant, Dom Toretto, and now, Groot. I am looking forward to watching these little episodes, where it looks like he’s stranded or trapped on a planet by himself, and shenanigans ensue.

And yeah, I knew those cute little blobs were going to turn out to be dangerous. If you saw the recent Suicide Squad, by James Gunn, then he does something similar with some cute little blobs in that movie, and also some more cute but dangerous tiny critters in the series, Peacemaker, and that just seems like his type of humor.

And look at that face! He’s so cute. Who wouldn’t watch an entire series about Groot, although it will be fun if we get to see him play off Drax. The two of them just mix well.

Interview With the Vampire

I first read this book as a teenager, and it quickly became one of my favorites. The original movie of this was released in the early nineties and existed alongside several other movies like it at the time, with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and The Crow as the two movies that most often tend to mix up their images in my head. I like this trailer although I could have done without all the histrionics. And yeah, I’m glad they are not shying away from the gay angle. Louis and Lestat were a couple for almost a couple hundred years. They had a daughter. They were a little bit coy about that in the original film (but not too much) and here they’re just blatantly showing it.

Now naturally, there are going to be people who are purists who are upset at the changes that were made, but I feel like setting it later in the history of New Orleans (the late 1800s instead of in the late 1700s), and changing the race of Louis, is something that will enhance the story, making it deeper than it would have been otherwise, and allowing the current writers to address issues that maybe Rice should have thought of when she wrote the original story. They’ve also aged up Claudia a bit too. In the book, she’s like 8 or 9 years old. In the movie, she’s perhaps 12, and here she looks more like a teenager of 14-16, and they may have done this to avoid certain sensitive issues about having a child vampire, especially if there’s lots of sexuality surrounding the vampires onscreen. This ain’t a movie, where you can lightly “suggest” certain kinds of things, and have people overlook it. Aging her up might have been an attempt to not be “distasteful”, especially after what happened with the hoopla surrounding that movie with the French director and the little dancing girls.

I really enjoyed the film and I saw it a couple of times in the theater. It was directed by Neil Jordan who was most famous for having directed the genderbending The Crying Game. I distinctly remember when the cast was announced for the film. Brad Pitt got a pass, but the announcement of Tom Cruise as Lestat, had quite a number of people blow a gasket, including Oprah Winfrey! (Although I don’t know why she felt a need to chime in on the issue.) I think that Lestat is one of Cruises’ most interesting performances of his career.

Anyway, I hope this is good. In the novel, Louis de Pont Du Lac is a slaveowner, but here the writers have race-bent the character to be a member of the Black upper class, who were known as the Free People of Color, and I thought that was an inspired bit of casting. Rather than trying to redeem the slave-owning Louis, just write that out of the story altogether and then lean into the rest of the history of that area. The history of the Freedmen of New Orleans runs pretty deep and it will be interesting to see what they do with that here.

Carter

This looks like a great little actioner from Korea, that seems to have zombies or a plague or something happening in it. I always like action films from Korea because they always bring their A-game and this looks like the kind of movie where you turn your mind off for a while and just have fun with the action scenes.

This is a good movie to watch while you wait for John Wick 4.

John Wick 4

I and a lot of other fans are eagerly looking forward to this new episode in the franchise since I thought at least a few of these characters were dead! So I am glad to see that they are back and still scheming. I’m also a big fan of Keanu and will pretty much watch anything he’s in, even if it’s something I wouldn’t normally be interested in. But one of my other favorite actors is also here, Donnie Yen. And I absolutely cannot miss Keanu going up against such a consummate professional. I’m not particularly interested in the worldbuilding which is very intricate for an Action movie. I’ve paid close enough attention to have some idea of what’s going on, but I’m not too deep into it. The reason people see these movies aren’t necessarily for the plot, but for the action scenes, which are fast and inventive, and this appears to be more of the same.

Tales of the Walking Dead

I told myself I wasn’t going to watch any more of these after quitting the original Walking Dead series, but this looks intriguing enough to catch my interest. This series seems like what the movie World War Z should have been.

WWZ should have been a kind of anthology series covering the various stories about the zombie apocalypse from the book. The problem is that they hired such a huge name to star in the movie that now the entire movie has to revolve around Brad Pitt. I liked the movie more or less. It’s an alright movie on its own but, except for a couple of setpieces, it’s nothing like the book.

Honorable Mentions

Shazam 2: Fury of the Gods

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

She-Hulk

Next Up:

Most anticipated projects of MCU Phase 5 and 6!