In Defense of After Earth (2013)

Only straight, White men have the luxury of being lazy about watching a movie. The rest of us always seem to have to be on guard, just in case whatever White guy who wrote the movie, fucks up and traumatizes us with surprise images he didn’t give any thought to showing. Sometimes, when watching films, we have to constantly be wary of either being freshly traumatized by something on the screen,  or desperately clinging to whatever tiny nuggets are in the film, that we can apply to our lived experiences, in order for us to like it.

Not that White male reviewers are all particularly lazy, but there’s a very shallow sort of film critique that a lot of them engage in, that’s only about whether the movie is objectively good or bad, or the technical details. (And ranking movies seems to be really popular with such people, too.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with those kinds of reviews, but often people from marginalized groups require reviews that are a little more in-depth.

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White men don’t get a lot of  practice of thinking about movies through different lenses, the way marginalized people often have to do. Many of them only have one lens, because most movies are made with them in mind as the audience, so they don’t NEED to look further into a movie, in order to like or dislike it. I’m not particularly interested in  a shallow review, or in ranking things from best to worst. If the word “suck” is mentioned anywhere in their critique, I  automatically dismiss anything else they might have to say about the movie. I want more from a critique than “It sucked!”

Yes. This is yet another essay on how White male film geeks review movies which star people of color!

After Earth (2013)

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I have a real issue with how badly this movie was treated by everyone. The critics made it very clear that this was an awful film. It was not. And when this movie was released, Black people were not in the social position we’re in right now, where we could see how groundbreaking this was, (it was released just before BLM), and we were not in a position to provide pushback to the narrative that this was the worst film ever made.

No!

What it was, was a  film that was attacked with the agenda of demonizing  M. Night Shyamalan and Scientology. Will  and Jaden Smith were simply caught in the crossfire. This movie, while not a masterpiece, was vilified entirely out of proportion to its effect on the landscape. At any other time, especially any time after 2014, it would have been recognized as a middle-of-the-road, Summer blockbuster.

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After Earth can be seen through both a thematic and racial lens, as  an example of Afrofuturism. Seeing this movie through a racial lens means that I need to put on my Black filmgoers glasses, and view the movie through the historical depictions of Black people in film, and whether or not the film has any messages in it that are about racial stereotyping, or agency, for example. This movie contains these things, not because it contains overt messages about race, but because it stars Black characters, and  our mere presence in the source material is enough to make whatever we say and do a political issue.

 

In After Earth, which stars Will Smith and his son Jaden, a father and son reconcile their feelings about each other, as the son comes of age, while set against the backdrop of planetary survival. A thousand years after Earth has been abandoned, their ship crashes, and  an alien predator the ship was carrying, called the Ursa, is set loose. Will and Jaden Smith are both Black men. The movie has no White characters in it. There are spaceships, alien/human cityscapes, and futuristic weaponry. This is as much Afrofuturism as Black Panther, and there is definitely some sort of dialogue occuring between the two films, though they were released several years apart, because they both involve sons dealing with the emotional legacies of  powerful fathers.

https://drmillerjr.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/after-earth-is-afrofuturism/

Traditionally, Black people have been erased from futuristic narratives, and Afrofuturism is an attempt to center us, and our cultures, and priorities, in those narratives. Will Smith, in particular, has a long history of starring in Science fiction films like Men in Black, Enemy of the State, and I Am Legend, movies that tackle the subjects of alien immigration, dystopian state surveillance, and the apocalypse, all features of what is, traditionally, White futurism.

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After Earth has much to say about the relationships between fathers and sons, how sons want to live up (or down) their father’s legacies, and how father’s must reach out and connect with their children. Cypher Raige is a man who is cut off from his emotions because that is what has helped him to survive. In our world, it would be said that he suffers from a toxic form of masculinity, but Cypher’s ability to cut himself off from his feelings has made him one of Earth’s greatest soldiers against an alien race  that uses human fear to hunt and kill human beings. Cypher has gotten rid of fear, but in the process he’s also gotten rid of some of the  more positive emotions. He is a controlling, authoritative, and grim father figure, without much humor or warmth.

This lack of fear has made him a great Ranger, but it has made him an indifferent father to his son, Kitai, (a name which means “Hope” or “Prince of the Air”). Kitai wants not just to be like his father, follow in his footsteps, and become a great soldier, but to emotionally connect with his father. He wants desperately to know his father loves and supports him, especially after he fails his last exam to become a Ranger. He believes his father thinks he’s a failure because its what he himself believes. He is also suffering from the trauma of the death of his sister, who sacrificed her life to protect him from one of the Ursas, his guilt at being unable to save her, and his father for not being there when it happened. These are the motivations behind many of the decisions Kitai makes after he and his father crash on a long abandoned Earth, and Cypher is too injured to walk.

This set up puts the two of them in a position where they are required to rely on each other, not just physically, but emotionally. Kitai’s character arc involves learning that he is as capable a soldier as his father, and does not need to carry all these emotional burdens,  and Cypher’s character arc means having to open up to his son emotionally, and expressing how he really feels, and that that will be the only way his son can save both their lives. And all of this is an allegory about the emotional connections between Black men,  living in a White supremacist society, that is intrinsically dangerous to them, and requires that they be  hypermasculine, and emotionally cut off in order to survive it.

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Cypher Raige Everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans. Do you know where we are?

Kitai Raige No, sir.

Cypher Raige This is Earth.

Viewing a movie through a racial lens requires that I provide some historical context to my opinions. I could discuss how the American version of the performance of toxic masculinity is based on a White supremacist dominance hierarchy, that requires violent domination and oppression of non-Whites, and that to survive this oppression, Black men have have felt the need to “out man” their oppressors. To essentially be more dominant, and more manly, than the White men who established this hierarchy to keep them in their place, and that their emotional disconnect with each other is not only what is ultimately desired by this dynamic, but leads to worse oppression, because attempting to compete with White men, to be more manly, dehumanizes them, and doesn’t allow them to unite against a system created just for that purpose.

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https://oliviaacole.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/black-children-and-after-earth/

This movie had messages, moments, and dialogue,  that greatly resonated with me. The scene in which Cypher believes he has lost his son, in the same manner in which he lost his daughter, (both of them trying to win their emotionally distant, father’s approval),  was deep for me, as I suspect it was for many of  the Black men who watched it, and  who considered  their relationships with their own fathers, or their sons.

I watched After Earth several times, and it’s one of my favorite movies, which is why I was interested in why so many critics hated this movie,

 

(https://news.usc.edu/144379/usc-study-finds-film-critics-like-filmmakers-are-largely-white-and-male/)

and while there are a few legitimate criticisms that can be made about this movie, most of the criticism I saw wasn’t any different than the criticism I could lob at films with White stars. There is nothing wrong with the acting in this movie that is wrong in any of the other movies Will Smith has made, nor is there anything wrong with Will Smith making a movie with his son as the star, as he did in The Pursuit of Happyness, nor is this movie Scientology propaganda, any more than the other movies in which Smith was the star. (Will and Jada Smith have clearly, and emphatically, stated that they are not Scientologists, only sympathizers.)

I believe a lot of non-professional critics didn’t approach criticism of this movie in good faith, and I believe more than a few of them used the flaws in this movie as an excuse to express their racial resentment about the fact that there were no White men centered in this movie. There are also plenty of White people who felt some type of discomfort at not being centered, or even depicted, in the movie at all, and unwilling to attribute their discomfort to their narcissism, attributed their discomfort to the film being bad. The message of the movie, the relationship between young men and their fathers, is a universal one, (and I’m certain that many White men understood and enjoyed it, but then they’re not film critics), and it is well documented that  White audiences have always had trouble identifying with Black characters on screen.

https://www.salon.com/2016/10/05/luke-cage-and-the-racial-empathy-gap-why-do-they-talk-about-being-black-all-the-time/

https://www.indiewire.com/2014/01/why-white-people-dont-like-black-movies-162548/

https://mic.com/articles/74291/why-white-people-won-t-see-black-movies#.J55x1mpgF

 

Will Smith is an especially beloved actor, so many critics would not attack him directly, but they can get away with tossing insults at Shyamalan, and questioning his motivations for making the movie. One of the major criticisms I encountered were White critics who said the movie was a thinly veiled attempt to recruit viewers to Scientology. Why? Because Will Smith and Shyamalan are Scientologists. This is suspicious to me since none of these critics have ever given one thought to Smith being a follower of Scientology in any of his other Scifi movies.

And sometimes people will express racial resentment towards individual people that they don’t feel they can express against an entire group of people. So rather than saying “All ____ are ______.” , what they will do is vehemently call out the mistakes of individuals from those groups, in order to disguise their loathing for the entire group. The individual becomes a stand-in for racial sentiments they are reluctant, for whatever reasons, to express out loud. (And since they only ever attack individuals of that group, they never have to admit whatever phobia or -ism there is, to themselves.)

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For example, witness some of the more  interesting criticism that White male film critics have said about Captain Marvel being military propaganda, when the same could be said of nearly every other movie in the MCU, at which none of them lobbed this complaint. And one can witnesses the same dynamic play out in the Jussie Smollett case, where people tried to hide their homophobia by expressing deeply vehement criticism of him, and his circumstances.

This type of criticism is dishonest, and disingenuous, and serves to protect the critic from backlash if they state their actual reasons for not liking some film, which is really ,  “I didn’t like this movie because there were no White men in it for me to identify with.” (This is not a hard and fast rule, all the time,  because plenty of White people liked Get Out, Black Panther, and other Afro-centered movies, but it is far too common, and there are too many, who  think they’re not being racist because they liked two or three highly popular movies that starred Black actors. It’s  basically, the critical equivalent of, “I have Black friends!”

I’m not the only person to notice this type of bullshittery either:

https://heraldiccriticism.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/when-criticism-becomes-agenda-setting-in-defense-of-after-earth/

 …but when you’re trashing a film based on its star’s belief system, you’ve ceased to criticize. You’re now spearheading an agenda.

Fred Harris touched on some of my suspicions, here:

Did a perception that this is somehow a “Black film” have anything to do with its poor opening? I know that this is a question that Hollywood producers (black and white) must be asking as they prepare for a summer of Black films.

https://newsone.com/2530136/after-earth-movie-review-racism/

And if you are wondering why I haven’t brought up “The Pursuit of Happyness” just yet, which was given 4 out of 5 stars by IMDB, it’s because Jaden was cute and fuzzy back then — and it was his debut. But the moment it seems that the Smiths are actually on to something, meaning leaving a life-long legacy for their children, now all bets are off.

Now we will call Jaden’s acting with his blockbuster dad an exercise in “vanity,” now we are disgusted with the apparent nepotism that this type of pairing suggests.

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This movie was nominated for a Razzie, and was panned by almost every White male critic with a pen and an ax to grind. All of them questioned whether or not Will Smith had lost his Star power, and what that would mean for his future films. Even Bright, a film I intensely hated, wasn’t panned as badly as this movie.

Outside of my usual critical ranting, I also want to shine a light on why my opinions on a lot of movies can sometimes diverge from that of critics, what criteria I  use, what lenses  through which I can,and will, see a movie,  and how I approach watching and critiquing movies and TV shows, vs how White film critics might view movies I happen to love, and how these two ways of seeing a movie are sometimes not compatible.

This is a mindset I have had no choice but to develop though, because, as a Black woman,  I am generally not the audience  that a lot of these movies of are made for. I have had to look beyond surface issues, like whether or not it was better than some other film in a franchise, to find reasons to like movies that White people love, and sometimes I’m successful, but sometimes, I also get tired of making the effort to care, and skip the movie altogether, as I did with Ready Player One, and Back to the Future.

White men have never had to look deeper than the technical aspects of cinematography, plot, pacing, or whether or not the hero of the movie looked like them, and what that might mean if he did. For them, the movies they love don’t even need to have any meaning. When you hear them complaining about entertainment being political this is what mean. For such men, movies and TV really are not political, because they don’t need to have any deeper meaning to enjoy a movie. They can just be flatly judgmental about whether or not a movie is just “good” or “bad”, because traditionally, the movies, which are aimed at them as the audience, are supposedly universal, and  appealing  to everyone. Too many critics never go beyond the mindset of ,”I liked this movie, so naturally, everyone else must like it, and here’s why it’s so great.” I can  critique a movie from that angle but its shallow, and  “unsatisfying” for me.

It has always been my rule since I was a teenager, really, to only rely on myself to determine whether or not a movie is any good, but after examining this for some time,  I have come to the conclusion that I most definitely cannot rely on  the opinions of White men to determine if a movie is bad or good for me, or indeed, anyone, other than themselves.

I have always tried to be honest about why I did or didn’t like something. Even if I don’t know why  I feel the way I do, I’m willing to say that too, and state that, where I found nothing in the movie to intrigue me, the movie may be of interest to someone else. I will flat out state, I’m not interested in a movie because it lacks racial nuance, or because its not feminist enough, the way I did for Wonder Woman.

This is not a mindset I’ve seen, from some critics, that a movie simply might not be made for them. One of the key warning signs that you are with a bad critic, is their insistence that a movie is objectively bad or good, and that if you disagree with them, then something is wrong with you. I’ve seen far too many critics assert that, because they liked a movie, it was good, and that a movie was bad, because they didn’t like it, and then, on top of that, say that that they gave an objective review. I have hated plenty of movies that are, in fact, very good and cohesive films. But I’ve also loved plenty of movies that just aren’t great movies. Just like After Earth.

No! There’s nothing wrong with you. You are simply looking at the film through a different lens, and using different criteria than them. and you must be confident that YOU know what you like in a film.

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Side note: I do not believe in “guilty pleasures”. I am never ashamed of loving or liking  a movie, or television show. I have my reasons for why I like something, I have actually thought it through, and I’m secure enough in my tastes that I know what my reasons are, even if the only reason is that it makes me feel happy, or that it looks pretty! I may occasionally be ashamed that I didn’t catch something seriously wrong with a movie, in my zeal to praise it, but I  am generally not ashamed when I like something, or to admit that I do, nor will I feel guilty about it.

And you shouldn’t either.

As a corollary to that general rule, I refuse to shame people for their own tastes, even if I find those tastes “puzzling”… If you can explain to me in a coherent manner why you love something (even if your only explanation is it makes you happy, or its just pretty), I can get with that. Your feelings about a movie are entirely valid, and you will never hear me describe anything on this blog as a “guilty” pleasure, and I would prefer that you don’t either.

Own your feelings!

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https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/after-earth-2013

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/in-defense-of-after-earth-the-m-night-shyamalan-movie-we-misunderstood

*Coming Soon: Why We Loved Suicide Squad and Venom, and Why They Didnt’

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Game of Thrones: What to expect in Season 8 — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

Season 8 of Game of Thrones is the beginning of the end, with only six episodes left in this sweeping series. Having given viewers some of the most impressive special effects, beautiful backdrops, and beloved characters ever seen on screen, Game of Thrones has created intense anticipation and speculation regarding the series end. Many of […]

via Game of Thrones: What to expect in Season 8 — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

I detest cathedrals and the nonsense behind them — Pharyngula

But I love history and craftsmanship and art. It is a great loss to humanity that Notre Dame is burning. A majestic work of art begun in 1160 — about 850 years of history — in flames and collapsing. No matter what else happens, 2019 sucks.

 Pharyngula

Who didn’t study this church in even the most basic Art History class. Its really heartbreaking to watch this happen. Notre Dame Cathedral is maybe the first church American kids learn about, having been made famous by the movies and cartoons titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

To any of the French reading this, we feel your pain, and are tremendously saddened by these images.

Note : (I do not share the author’s disdain for churches, even though I am an atheist. I appreciate them for their artistic value, if nothing else.)

What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Woke Points For What? — Stitch’s Media Mix

In and outside of fandom spaces, performative allyship is a thing to be wary of. In a piece for The Wooster Voice, writer Sharah Hutson describes performative allyship as, “when folks pretend to care about a cause but magically forget to keep the fight going outside of certain spaces”. We’re talking about people who only […]

via What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Woke Points For What? — Stitch’s Media Mix

In Defense of The Village

 

 

For the me, there’s more than a movie just being good or bad, whatever that means, because,  as a Black woman, I am not the audience for a lot of movies that get made, so I have to find different ways of connecting to a movie. In doing so, I  sometimes  find gems where others don’t, or end up liking  movies others are set on hating (and yeah, sometimes a movie just stinks.) On this blog, I’m not necessarily here to tell you what to like. That’s a reviewers job, and I’m not actually a reviewer, although I do reviews. I consider my job to provide a fresh perspective on a movie, a way you may not have thought of before, so that the next time you come across it on TV or Netflix, you’ll remember ,and give the movie a try, maybe see it with fresh eyes.

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I’m going to talk about two films that were hated by its critics, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, and (in the next post) Shyamalan’s After Earth. I see value in these films that other critics don’t because they are not looking at these films through the same lens that I’m using. (Caveat: Some of them don’t have the luxury. They are film reviewers and must go see movies I can happily reject. I can pick what I want to see, so I can remain positive about a lot of movies, in a way they may not be able to.

These movies resonated with me on an emotional level, and because of that, I am reluctant to say that they are “objectively” bad or good, which is a favorite word for armchair movie reviewers on Youtube. I’m not saying movies can’t be considered bad or good, but often that those words are sometimes wrongly used to describe movies that just did or didn’t emotionally resonate with the viewer, or did or didn’t do whatever the viewer wanted the movies to do. This doesn’t always mean the movie was bad. Sometimes it just means the viewer wasn’t the audience for that movie, or just didn’t get what they wanted out of it because of the critical lens through which they watched it. I have sometimes found that a movie isn’t actually  bad, but that the reviewer had very different criteria for liking it, or viewed it through a very different lens than I did.

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For that reason, I generally avoid hate- watching movies and shows. I want to like what I see, and if I dislike something, I try to have a concrete reason behind why I didn’t. But sometimes I don’t have a reason. Sometimes, I simply wasn’t in the mood to watch it at that time, and when I come back wearing a different emotional, or critical lenses, I may enjoy it, as was the case with  the movies Ravenous,  The Descent, and My Cousin Vinny.

Sometimes, I will develop an undying hatred of a movie, such that no amount of lens polishing will allow me to enjoy it, like the movie Prometheus. This doesn’t mean that Prometheus was a bad film. It just means it was exasperating for me to watch it, and someone else might get enjoyment out of it. If you like it that’s great. If you can clearly explain to me why you do, I’ll watch it again, with your lenses on, and try to see what you saw in it. On the other hand, and as I’ve said before, just because critics hate something doesn’t mean I’m not going to like it, such was the case with Suicide Squad, and just about any movie by Zack Snyder.

I have also seen  situations where public opinion on a movie changes over a length of time. Movies that were panned when released were, in time, lauded as being the best whatever of their genre, and I have found that I’m usually correct in having loved the film at that time. As a result, I’ve gotten pretty confident about my taste in movies, (and dismissive of critics ideas about movies I happened to enjoy), because I usually get proven right, at some later date. This happened with a number of eighties films, (The Thing, and  Bladerunner, for example), that were disliked at the time, only to be considered Classics of the genre, twenty and thirty years later. (No, I didn’t hate E. T. I was indifferent to it, at the time, and still mostly am.)

 

The Village

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I love stories and characters, and movies are just another way to tell stories. I  get into a movie through its characters. I have to like them. I’m also attracted to certain types of stories, but it’s not the minutiae of the story, like pacing and technical aspects, so much as what type of story, and if it’s an appealing story to me. I tend to love GRAND ROMANTIC stories. Not stories with romance in them , but stories with huge, grand, idealized philosophies, and if I see that in the story, chances are I will probably love the movie.

And this was the case with The Village. Yes, it does have a romance in it, but it also contained wider, broader themes about the human condition, that just appealed to me personally, (because ultimately, any movie experience is deeply personal). When this movie was released, it was panned by everyone, with some people jumping on that bandwagon because they hated the director, who started his career as a media darling, but public opinion  turned on him, after a series of failed films.

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When I’m watching a movie, I’m mostly concentrating on how the movie made me FEEL. When I’m reviewing a movie, I ask myself different questions that help me evaluate what the movie means to me, what did I like in the movie, what was it about the movie that resonated with me, and why did I feel that way. From the micro, to the macro.

What is the point of the story? What is the theme of the movie?

Things can get complicated, just at this one point. According to the trailers for The Village, most of the people walking into the film expected it to be a horror movie, and they focused on the idea of monsters because that’s what the trailer told them to focus on. But the movie was not about scary monsters, and a lot of the audience walked away disappointed. Rather than accepting what was given to them, they focused on what they were not given: monsters. I wanted monsters too, because that’s what I was told would be in the movie, but finding out there was no monster was a pleasant surprise for me.

The Village is not a horror movie, in the strictest sense of the word, and apparently,  I was one of the few people who were okay with that at the time. I didn’t leave the theater upset because  I didn’t get to see monsters. Would I have liked the monsters in the movie to be real? Sure. But The Village turned out to be deeper than I expected. It had a grand, overarching, theme that resonated with me. It’s a meditation on unrequited love, grief, and loss, and I was pleased that I got that instead. If one disregards the trailer, than the movie accomplishes exactly what it set out to accomplish.

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I  try to walk into a movie viewing experience with only loose expectations, like, “What type of story is it?” and “Will this be entertaining?” Based on what I think the movie may be about, I try to go in open to anything that may happen in it, without trying to place my agenda (what I want the story to do for me) onto the movie. But I do want to feel something, while I try to keep in the forefront of my mind, what is the creator trying to tell me, what do they want me to know, and what purpose might that serve.

What I  expect, on the most basic level, is to be emotionally moved by the characters, and entertained by the plot. I’m going to go wherever the movie wants to take me, and accept whatever scenery I’m given. I don’t worry about plot holes, or pacing, or musical cues, and stuff, (although, if I notice them and like them, that’s a huge plus, like with the movie Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse). Was the movie entertaining? Did I stay engaged the entire time? Was there a point to the story? Later, I can ask myself deeper questions like why was it entertaining for me, or what was it about the movie that made it fun for me, or scary, or funny.

What you should always ask yourself is: What did the story do for you?

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The story in a movie is like being on a driving tour. That tour has a theme,  sometimes several. The driver is the storyteller, and he/she directs the action, decides where we’re going to go, and what we’ll be seeing on the tour. The characters onscreen are the other passengers on the tour, or just some people on the scene.  I like the other passengers, and  I enjoy watching them do things I didn’t expect, and see things I wouldn’t have found on my own. Sometimes the other passengers are terrifying, but it’s okay because they can’t actually hurt me.

If I think it’s a Horror movie, (if the driver has told me I’m going to be scared on my trip), I expect the journey to scare me. If I wasn’t scared, then the driver lied to me, but if I was given more than  just a scare, I consider that a bonus. That was the case with The Village. I was told (although I was not told that by M. Night Shyamalan/The Driver, himself, but a third uninvolved party, the people who made the trailer and marketed the movie), that I would be scared, and I was a little bit, but at the same time, the journey was worthwhile because of the movie’s other elements. I got something deeper, and much more unexpected, than just a scare. As I said before, I like Horror movies to have something extra, whether its romance, or comedy, or intellectual depth.

If I have been lead to believe it’s an Action movie, then I expect to see thrills, and spills. If a movie delivers on its basic foundation, but adds something extra, I can and will overlook all manner of faults, like plot points, pacing,  bad characters,  timing, or even whether or not it delivered on what I expected.This was the case with Suicide Squad, a movie critics absolutely hated, but I (and a bunch of other people) really enjoyed. Why? Because I genuinely liked the characters, who did exciting and interesting things on screen. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, and I liked a lot of the action scenes, which were just plain fun. There are a lot of perfectly legitimate criticisms of this movie, but the reason I love it is because it was a really fun trip, and other people’s problems with the movie were not enough to keep me from enjoying it.

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What is the theme of the film? What is its message?

Understanding the message of a film often requires multiple viewings. There’s the initial impression, and based on whether or not I liked my initial impression, there will be multiple viewings, which will allow for greater insight. My mind is just really, really, good at recognizing patterns. That’s all it is, and anybody can develop that skill. I do it through lots of repetition.You cannot gain greater insight into a movie with only one viewing, because the insights  are often in the details you didn’t notice that first time. If there is something  I didn’t care for in my initial impression (like all the characters being unlikable), there are unlikely to be repeat viewings.

This also ties into how my mind works as a visual artist/illustrator.  When I first watch a movie, its from a kind of  overhead viewpoint. I get into the emotions of the movie, the characters, and the overall plot. Subsequent viewings allow me to focus on the finer details. Later, I will fit those tiny details into larger and larger patterns. It’s really like putting together a puzzle. You see the finished picture on the box,  and you like it. You sort the pieces and then  put them together to create that final picture, (sometimes that final picture may be part of an even larger picture, as well.)

The messages I got from The Village were about love, sacrifice, and grief. It’s  a story about LOVE, with parallel tracks chronicling different types of love, such as romantic,unrequited, sacrificial, and possessive.. There’s the romantic type of love between Lucius and Ivy, the tragic love between their parents, Walker and Alice, and the possessive love that Noah feels for Ivy.  Ivy and Walker are examples of sacrificial love, as they are both willing to sacrifice their peace to save Lucius’ life. Ivy endangers her life for Lucius, and Walker is willing to allow Ivy to leave (and possibly lose her) because he loves Alice, Lucius’ mother.

At the beginning of the movie, Ivy’s sister declares her love for Lucius, but is rebuffed because Lucius prefers Ivy. There is a contrast in how Ivy’s sister reacts to unrequited love, which is sacrifice and moving on vs. Noah’s reaction, which is possessive violence. And then there is the unspoken love between Ivy’s father, and Alice. This is unrealized love. The two are in love, and according to the rules of the society they created, can never  be together.

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There is familial love between Ivy and Walker, and  Lucius and Alice. This type of love is emphasized through the character’s reactions to loss and grief. There are also  all the missing family members that the other characters mention, the loss of family that spurred them to run away from the world, to form a “utopian” society where they believed grief could not touch them. The movie opens with a funeral, and the death of a child. Grief can still access their lives. The pain is still going to happen, for example, witness how many times we see  shots of empty chairs throughout the movie.

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An empty chair in a movie scene is often meant to represent a space where someone should be. In this movie, the empty chairs, usually situated on porches, (or at dinner tables), which are, traditionally the site of familial gatherings, are meant to represent  the absence of loved ones. The entire movie carries a mood of unspoken grief and melancholy, which is only alleviated by its hopeful ending. The Elders of the community fled to The Village because each one of them has experienced the tragic loss of a family member, and  the point of the movie is that they cannot run away from loss or pain. The scattered, empty chairs are a constant reminder of their loss.

Critics and audiences completely turned against Shyamalan and started denigrating all of his films for not being as good as his first film, The Sixth Sense. They went into his next movies expecting all of them to have  surprise twists, and they do have surprise twists, just not the kinds of twists that were expected. (To be absolutely fair, Shyamalan definitely made some questionable film choices, though.) In the case of The Village, audiences were expecting a Horror movie, but since the monsters turned out to be false, some people decided that the movie was no good, because the trailer fooled them into thinking the monsters should’ve been real.

Many of these people failed to realize that the surface levels of Shyamalan’s movies are often not the point of the film, anyway. What appears to be the primary plot is often simply a backdrop for the telling of a different story altogether. The point of this movie isn’t the monsters. The  basic plot is just a backdrop for the examination of love and grief, just as the point of the movie Signs, isn’t the alien invasion. The alien invasion is simply a backdrop against which is being told the story of Reverend Graham regaining his faith in God. The story of Unbreakable isn’t about superheroes, but  about the disbelief in the modern mythology of superheroes, and one man overcoming that disbelief to take a leap of faith, and believe in himself.

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Now, I also must discuss here, the disturbing racial angle of some people’s criticism. Shyamalan is one of the few men of color directing big budget Hollywood movies. True, they are not always successful movies,  but audiences and critics did not seem willing to give his movies any chances after The Sixth Sense. They kept wanting him to repeat that first film, and some of them seemed to look no deeper into the motivations behind his stories beyond “the twist”. The Twist seemed to be all they wanted from him, and when he stepped away from that, to make other types of films, they vilified him for it.

I bring this up because I see the same thing happening in real time to Jordan Peele, especially after his comments in which he voiced the idea, that being a filmmaker gave him a platform, by which he could showcase actors of color, as leads. Its as if having been successful twice, there are people waiting in the wings for him to make a mistake, any mistake, which they can use to vilify his character, and bring him down. When men and women of color are highly successful, there is a contingent of White people who wait for them to make even the most minor of miscues, so that they can attempt to humble them. I witnessed this with Barack Obama, Beyonce, and I’m seeing it now with Ocasio – Cortez, and Jordan Peele. And I believe this is what happened with Shyamalan.

White film directors are given numerous opportunities to make bad films, some of them, have entire careers that consist of little more than mediocre flops, and yet the filmmakers have never received the sheer levels of vitriol that was leveled at Shyamalan by film critics. Some of them still manage to have great careers, or be considered critical darlings. Yes, he still manages to have a career, (so somebody is going to see Shyamalan’s movies), but critics insist on tearing apart all of his films, on the most minor details, no matter their quality, while sometimes excusing  just as shoddy work from some White filmmakers. And as I said before, some people use the failures and mistakes of PoC as an excuse to openly express the racism they’ve been taught not to express against an entire group of people.

 

American Gods Season Two: The Ways of the Dead

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I just want to add this recap of this episode here by StoryDrive. He covers most of what I’m going to talk about, as I elaborate on his video because we’ve got to cover some stuff. This particular episode was very deep, very intense, and speaks directly to a part of my cultural past as a descendant of the South. I was uncomfortable with a lot of the imagery here, but not because its being addressed, but because I’m supposed to be uncomfortable. You’re not meant to watch this and feel okay about it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my family is from Mississippi, and one of the reason we became part of The Great Northern Migration (goodness! it sounds like a flock of birds, although its probably something more akin to  fleeing a forest fire), is my grandmother’s terror that her sons would never reach adulthood there. Mississippi had one of the highest rates of lynching after the Civil War, leading up to the Civil Rights Era. So, the specter of lynching is behind a lot of the Black families that live in the Northern US. If you didn’t move here for fear of your own, than you probably have a relative who was. This episode isn’t so much about the ways of the dead, but speaking with the dead. what do the dead want. This question is answered in the character of Will “Froggie” James.

https://www.naacp.org/history-of-lynchings/

 Mississippi had the highest lynchings from 1882-1968 with 581.  Georgia was second with 531, and Texas was third with 493.  79% of lynching happened in the South.

We are halfway through the season and meandering our way to some sort of conclusion. There are things Wednesday needs to do to bring about his War of  Ascension, which is what all of this activity is leading to, and there are constant references to Shadow, and his eventual fate, which you know, if you’ve read the book this show is based on. While Wednesday is running around collecting his artifacts, some of  the other gods are also in the maneuvering stages, trying to convince other gods to join them in the war, or distancing themselves from the war effort.

 

But first we need to briefly  go over what happened in the last couple of episodes. We’re at the stage in the book where Shadow is working with Bast and Ibis at the funeral home, after he escaped from the train car where he’d been held captive by one of Mr. World’s flunkies, The Beguiling Man. After Laura rescues him, he leaves her after witnessing her brutally kill a man. He gets picked up, on the side of the road, and driven to Cairo, by Sam Black Crow, a Native American woman who claims to be Two Spirit, with a tattoo of Coyote (The Trickster) on her shoulder.

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Two-Spirit (also two spirit or, occasionally, twospirited) is a modern, pan-Indianumbrella term used by some indigenous North Americans to describe certain people in their communities who fulfill a traditional third-gender (or other gender-variant) ceremonial role in their cultures.[1][2][3] While most people mistakenly associate the term with “LGBT Native”, the term and identity of two-spirit “does not make sense” unless it is contextualized within a Native American or First Nations framework and traditional cultural understanding

So, while Sam is not a god, or even demi-god, she does hold some spiritual status, and we’ll be seeing more of her later. When she lets Shadow out of the car at the funeral home, he is surrounded by fireflies, and she asks if they are friends of his. That’s significant because fireflies, in  Japanese folklore, and probably some Native folklore, represent the souls of the dead. They also represent “light in the darkness”, which is what Shadow Moon looks like to Laura. The fireflies also look like burning embers, floating on the wind, an image that is repeated when Shadow has a flashback to the local lynching, where  Willie James is burned alive.

Here, I.09 talks about the use of the lynching imagery in this episode, and despite that I did like the episode, I do agree with the article. I’m not sure what I was supposed to get out of those images, or why the audience had to be traumatized to tell it. I do get why they keep mentioning the subject though, because its a direct reference to Shadow’s horrible fate. For those who haven’t read the book, its just jarring and confusing. I don’t think we need more imagery of Black brutality to get the message.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/american-gods-has-a-lynching-problem-1833849755

“The Ways of the Dead” spends a great deal of time following Shadow as he figures out that Will James’ death inflicted a curse on Cairo that’s responsible for the town’s decades-long history of brutalizing and murdering black people—a kind of supernatural scar borne out of the terror and pain he felt in his dying moments.

 

In The Ways of the Dead, we go back into some of the history of the city of Cairo, (pronounced Kay-Ro), while Laura and Sweeney visit New Orleans, so she can appeal for a resurrection ritual by Baron Samedi, and Maman Brigette, while Wednesday, Salim, and the Jinn visit the King of the Dwarves, so he can sharpen Wednesday’s spear, Gungnir.

There are already a lot of people discussing the lynching imagery in the episode, so I won’t discuss that, but I do want to talk about  all the mythology referenced in the episode. So far this season, we’ve met a number of Black and African gods, and some of my readers may not know much about them. There’s also a wealth of Norse mythology referenced as well that has a direct bearing on Wednesday’s ultimate goal in having this war.

Gungnir:   https://norse-mythology.org/gungnir/

In the war between the two tribes of gods, Odin led the Aesir gods into battle against the Vanir. He began the battle by hurling his spear over the enemy host and crying, “Óðinn á yðr alla!” (“Odin owns all of you!”). The historical Norse repeated this paradigmatic gesture, giving the opposing army as a gift to Odin in hopes that the god would return the favor by granting them victory.[7]

You see how this works? Odin is re-staging  the battle between the Aesir and the Vanir, of Norse mythology, and probably means to sacrifice the opposing team to himself in order to gain power. For this to happen, as in the book, he has to die before the war, but hopes to be resurrected in Shadow, after Shadow dies during the Vigil he has agreed to have for Wednesday. Its part of the Compact Shadow made with him, and the ghost of the lynched man, Willie, tells Shadow as much when he haunts and possesses Shadow in this episode. The name of the Spear means The Swaying One, which is a reference to one of Odin’s other names he got for  sacrificing himself on, Yggdrasil, the Tree of Knowledge.

Now throughout the season, and even in this episode, we’ve heard Wednesday be referred to by many names, and he does indeed have a lot of them, more than a hundred. Wand Bearer, Spear Shaker, Gallows’ Burden, The One Who Rides Forth, Spear Charger, Spear Master, The Hanged One, God of Prisoners, God of Runes, Dangler, and Swinger, are all names that have some reference to Odin’s backstory, Shadow’s fate, or the coming battle.

In an earlier episode, we saw Odin receive a sprig of  leaf from one of the Indigenous gods, named Whiskey Jack. Odin planted that sprig, and peed on it. The next time we see the sprig, it has grown to the size of a bush, in only a couple of days. It’s believed that Wednesday is growing a new Yggdrasil, so that he can fashion a haft for the spear, from the wood of the tree. He may also be  preparing this tree for Shadow’s eventual Vigil on it. In the meantime, Wednesday needs to have the Runes, re-carved into the Spear, as they have faded over time, and needs to find  the Dwarf, Duvalin, who was responsible for carving them the first time. Needless to say, absolutely none of this is in the book, exactly. It’s implied by who Wednesday is, his backstory, (which is featured in the “Prose Edda”), and what happens at the end of the book.

Now let’s talk about the rest of the gods seen and mentioned in the show. Earlier, Bilquis, Nancy, and Ibis  got together  and yep! I called it! Bilquis and Nancy had an intimate relationship in the past. They argue for a bit, with Nancy trying to convince the other two to join in the war, but they’re not having it. Seeing these three gods interacting is one of the more fun aspects of this season, as none of these beings meet each other in the book. I talked about these three gods last season, but we meet some new gods never mentioned in the books.

Baron_Samedi.jpg

Well, technically the “gods’ in Voodoun are not actually gods. What we’re seeing in the show are aspects of Louisiana Voodoun, rather than the Haitian version which is called Voodou. They’re major spirits (or presences) that fall under the aegis of a kind of Death Spirit  named Guede Nibo. Baron Samedi is one of the Guede loa, who are very powerful spirits of death and fertility.

https://blood-and-bourbon.obsidianportal.com/wiki_pages/the-loa

 They are also referred to as Mystères and the Invisibles and are intermediaries between Bondye—the Supreme Creator, who is distant from the world—and humanity. Unlike saints or angels however, they are not simply prayed to, they are served. They are each distinct beings with their own personal likes and dislikes, distinct sacred rhythms, songs, dances, ritual symbols, and special modes of service. Contrary to popular belief, the loa are not deities in and of themselves; they are intermediaries for, and dependent on, a distant Bondye.

Maman Brigitte (English: Mother Brigitte) also written Gran Brigitte, Grann BrigitteManmanManman Brigit, and Maman Brijit, is a death loa and the consort of Baron Samedi in Haitian Vodou. She drinks rum infused with hot peppers and is symbolized by a black rooster. Like Samedi and the Ghede, she is foul-mouthed.[1] She is also the adoptive mother of Ghede Nibo.

Referenced, but also not referenced, is  Guede Nibo who is the spirit of the first murdered person. Although Nibo is not in the show, he is represented by Willie, the lynching victim, as Guede Nibo is the Patron of murder victims, or those killed by unnatural means. Since Willie’s final resting place is unknown, and his body unrecoverable,  (his death cursed the town of Cairo),  he falls under the power of Guede Nibo. When Shadow is possessed by  Wilie’s spirit, and speaks in his voice, this is also a manifestation of Guede Nibo who, when he rides his horse (aka his host), often speaks through them in the same manner. Guede Souffrant, and Samedi are also representative of Willie, as he wasn’t just murdered, he was burned and decapitated.

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Having Shadow be possessed by the spirit of a murdered man may have been the writers attempt to tie Shadow’s part of the episode to Sweeney’s and Laura’s meeting with the other loas, but if so, it was a very clumsy attempt, and would have worked better if the writers had been a little more clear about their intentions. As it stands, the viewer is left to wonder what  this connection is to the other characters. For viewers who don’t have a head full of useless trivia and horror novels, (like me), or don’t know to look up these types of questions, then the two lines of story appear unrelated, and they were subjected to the visual trauma of Willie’s story for no reason.

Baron Samedi is accompanied, in this episode. by his wife Maman Brigitte, who is also a death loa,  in charge of crosses, and tombstones. She is a often associated with the Celtic goddess,  Brigid, or Brigid of Ireland, which is how we get the connection to Mad Sweeney. If both of them were once members of the Tuatha de Dannan, before they were brought to America, this is how he would have known of her. The two loas are asked to perform rituals to make Laura alive again, so that she can give back Sweeney’s coin. Laura is given a potion to drink that will make her alive again, but she refuses to drink it. (I suspect we need to make note of that.) When Sweeney has a chance to get his lucky coin back,  he backs away again, because as much as he hates to admit it, he is in love with Laura, and taking back his coin would kill her, since she doesn’t drink the potion given to her by Baron Samedi.

We have an interlude with Salim and the Jinn as the two of them argue about faith. In the Jinn’s backstory is his rejection of Allah, and Islam, and he wonders how Salim can square his faith in Allah, with the existence of other gods. When Salim, the Jinn, and Wednesday visit the King of the Dwarves, he mistakes Salim for an entity named Manat, who is an ancient Arabic goddess, whose worship is all but extinct, as her last temple was destroyed centuries ago.

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I love what the writers are doing with the relationship between Salim and the Jinn, actually. They are together, there is a strong connection between them, and Salim is ready to wholeheartedly throw himself into a relationship with this being, but the Jinn is reluctant to have a relationship with a mortal, especially one who practices a religion he rejects, and despises.

So, although the flavor of the season is quite different than the last, I’m liking this one a lot, because the interactions between all these different characters, that do not happen at all in the book, btw, are a helluva lot more fun. I’m enjoying their conversations, which appear to be part of a larger conversation about a god’s responsibility to its human followers, left over from the first season. The show seems to work best when the gods speak for themselves, among themselves.

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I’m also glad that Shadow has been given something to do besides look angry or confused. When he is possessed by Willie is when Whittle does some of the best acting he’s done all season, but only because its the most acting he’s done all season. Since his revelation that gods are real, and Wednesday is actually Odin, he’s gone back to being a passive participant in these events, and this episode gives him something to do besides simply reacting. Its also probably  a good idea that he is spending a little less time with Wednesday, and meeting some of the other gods.

I can see why they are branching away from the book. There’s a long middle section which  Shadow spends mostly alone, hiding out from Mr. World, before the battle, at the funeral home with Ibis, and in some podunk town, where children have gone missing every few years, and hopefully we wont reach that stage of the book, or it will be shown is a very different way. I thought it was an interesting interlude because I liked Shadow, and the book is well written, but it doesn’t make for interesting viewing, so the writers creating new interactions is needed.

Overall, I actually enjoyed this episode, despite the lynching imagery, which I didn’t closely watch, anyway. I don’t often watch the show as it airs. Once I realized what they were showing, I sort of fast forwarded through that section of the show. I got the idea. (I would ask that that director probably not be allowed to do anymore episodes, though.)

‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/netflix-love-death-robots-review/

Short films can find it hard to attract a wider audience, so it’s cool to see Netflix promote a big, splashy showcase of animated sci-fi shorts. Sadly, Love, Death & Robots feels much less cool and boundary-pushing when you take a closer look. Curated by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and David Fincher (Fight Club), this anthology is full of gratuitous onscreen sexism—and blatant gender discrimination behind the camera.

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I did watch this on Netflix,  and I actually enjoyed a few of the shorts featured as they were written by one of my favorite authors, John Scalzi. John Scalzi is not known as an especially “edgy” type of writer. In fact, he’s very progressive, so those shorts seem incongruous next to some of the other, more violent, shorts in the anthology. But this article is correct in stating that in every short that featured violence, female sexuality and nudity was associated with it, and in every instance of female nudity or sexuality, there was an extreme amount of violence involved in that story. In some of the stories the two occur simultaneously.

In all fairness though, not all of the short films feature either topic, and some of them are actually worth watching. Most notable were:

The Day the Yogurt Took Over was written by Scalzi from his anthology titled Miniatures. It’s hilarious.

Ice Age was very interesting. I enjoyed it a lot.

Fish Night is a story I remember reading, in another anthology, a couple of decades ago, and the story just stuck with me.

Lucky 13 was one of the better Scifi stories, and has a Black woman as the lead character.

Three Robots was really cute and it has cats, so some of you will definitely like it, and Suits was frantic and suspenseful.

But the story that affected me the most was Zima Blue, which I consider one of the best stories in the entire anthology. It was emotional and though provoking.

 

The Wired is a lot more damning of the show than I am though:

Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots is sexist sci-fi at its most tedious

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/love-death-and-robots-review-netflix

It’s not just a male gaze that ruins Love, Death & Robots, it’s an adolescent male gaze. The sex scenes are so bad they’re funny. At times, the dialogue is borderline farcical. All too often the series leans precariously on visual tricks – and while the worlds created here are vast and vivid, the plots are often non-existent.

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting In The Twilight Zone

 

Sadly, this is the final season for Into the Badlands. It was not renewed for a fourth season on AMC, and surprisingly, I’m okay with that. Into the Badlands was groundbreaking in so many different ways, and I really did love the show, despite how it treated its one Black female character in season two, (and I explained in a previous post why that didn’t stop me from watching the show), but most especially in its representation. It had an Asian male lead, adequate representation of women and Black people, in an alternate future timeline, and the show has the distinction of having the only Black/Chinese- American woman, Chipo Chung,  kicking ass on this show.

I’m okay/ not okay with the cancellation, because it will be followed by a first class runner up: Warrior, which is airing on Cinemax. I gotta get my Martial Arts fix! Warrior is an homage to Bruce Lee, featuring a concept he came up with early in his career (and eventually became the show Kung Fu),  but was not allowed to implement, because Hollywood had no fucking idea what to do with Asian men back then, except mock them or erase them.  I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan, so I’m here for it. The representation is beautiful and accurate for the time period, and its just nice to see more Asian people in TV shows, (although now we probably need to see fewer of them doing something besides Martial Arts and Comedies. Hi, Sandra!)

Warrior

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Warrior is a complicated show, with a lot of depth and detail. Its based on an early idea Bruce Lee had for a story about a man from China, wandering  the  American old West. This was basically the premise of the show Kung Fu, which starred David Carradine, about a Shaolin Monk named Caine. Actually that idea was stolen from Lee,  it generally lacked Asians, and when they were present, it was only in supporting roles, in a show that was supposedly about Chinese immigrants. David Carradine is not Asian, btw.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_Fu_(TV_series)

This show is produced and directed by Justin Lin, of Fast and Furious and Star Trek fame, so I expect the most out of this, since I like Lin, and think he’s a good director, and he mostly does not disappoint, The show is very dense with meaning and action scenes. You don’t need to know anything about the history of San Francisco, Chinatown, or what was going on in China, to watch the show, but it helps if you have a little bit of grounding, and pay close attention to what the people say on the show, because they talk about things, even though all the ass kicking is distracting. It also helps if you’ve religiously watched any of Bruce Lee’s movies, because there are  more than a few very nice Easter Eggs. That outfit, for example, that Ah Sahm wears below is a callback to the outfit Lee wore in The Big Boss, (although in all his movies, Lee’s shirt gets artfully torn off. Later, Ah Sahm’s shirt gets artfully torn off, too.) I don’t know if that actor is deliberately channeling Lee’s  acting/ fighting stances, but he looks great doing it, and it made me smile.

 

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Check the stance!

The series is based on the real life events of the late 1880s, in Chinatown, when there were a series of Tong wars, mostly over the Opium Trade. At the time, in China there was the aftermath of the Opium Wars, and the beginning of the Boxer Rebellion (against the Qin dynasty). Into this stew of rivalries, steps Ah Sahm, a Martial Arts champion of some kind, who is in America looking for his sister. He finds her in the first episode, so that mystery is out of the way, but she wants nothing to do with him. She has a traumatic past,  and current secrets, like being married to the leader of a rival Tong than Ah Sahm works for, secretly working behind her husband’s back with an American, who wants to keep Chinatown destabilized, and going out at night as a vigilante to kill White men who harm Chinatown citizens. (At least I think this is her, or perhaps a character we haven’t met yet.) Her dance card is pretty full, and the last thing she needs is an appearance from her wayward brother, trying to save her. Plus, she hates him.

In fact, a lot of the women in this show live in complicated circumstances. The pretty blond wife of the town Mayor, (I think her name is Buckley), hates her husband, has compassion for the Chinese,  and is having a very open relationship with his secretary, or brother, or somebody , who lives in their house with them. It is unclear if he approves of their relationship, although he most certainly knows about it. Oh yeah, there are a lot of bare  titties in this show, so be aware of that, if you’re letting your kids watch this, although I suppose if you’re letting them watch all the hyper-violence and cussing, you should not have a problem with female presenting nipples. (There’s equity, too, as plenty of male presenting nipples are also on display. Okay, it’s mostly Ah Sahm.)

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The show starts off with everyone speaking Cantonese, and gradually, during one long take, they start speaking English. That was done so smoothly, that I  missed it the first time. The residents of Chinatown have their own English language terms, their own slang, and it can be hard to know what some things mean. You pretty much get thrown into the deep end on this show, and if you’re not of Chinese descent, it can be a little overwhelming. Even though I know a little  something something about Chinese history, I was still having trouble keeping up, having to watch the  episode multiple times.

https://www.geek.com/television/the-story-of-warrior-bruce-lees-long-delayed-tv-series-1781391/

The title of the epis. is called The Itchy Onion, and I’m not sure what Onion means, except it’s a slur that some Chinese people were calling one another in the show. I know a slur when I hear one, and that’s exactly what it is. An “itchy” one is the equivalent of the Black people version of the word “froggy”.  As in , “Do you feel froggy? Then you just jump!”. Its a call out to a fight. And conveniently, Ah Sahm kept getting called out by everyone he meets. Some challenges he backed down from, but others he just jumped right in with gusto. Most especially, the first fight of the show, when he first gets off the boat, as he totally thrashes a trio of bullying White bigots. I stood and I applauded, because that is such a Bruce Lee thing to do, he could have written that scene himself. If you’ve watched any of his movies, then you know he hated bullies, and always stood up for the underdog.

And what glorious fight scenes we get! I’m telling you, I was tired after watching this show. Ah Sahm has several fights, all of them well done, and very cinematic, rivaling any scene in Into the Badlands. He also kinda has a big mouth and is well aware of his skills.

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Where the show falls flat is in the depiction of its female characters ,and some of the White characters are less than compelling. One of the most interesting of that group is a White police officer, who emigrated from Georgia after the Civil War, named Richard Lee, and played with a very  genuine sounding Georgian accent, by the very British Tom Weston-Jones. What is is with English men and Southern American accents? Anyway, he volunteers to be amember of a Chinatown Detective Squad after several of the residents are murdered by angry Irishmen, who are concerned about losing their jobs to foreigners. He is the only cop on the force with integrity apparently, and he does have some ass kicking skills himself. I’m looking forward to watching him team up with or face off against Ah Sahm, cuz you know it’s coming. They will probably team up though, because while Bruce was angry about a lot of things people did, he also believed that cooperation and unity between the races was a good thing, and he championed that in several of his movies, (most notably, Enter the Dragon.)

There’s a wealth of information out there about Bruce Lee, and an 8 part video series about the making of  the show. Each video is only about five to ten minutes long, but if you want to know more about Bruce Lee’s ideas about life and the show, there are several documentaries floating about Youtube, so check those out:

 

Further Reading:

Tao of Jeet Kune Do by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living (Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee: Letters of the Dragon: An Anthology of Bruce Lee's Correspondence with Family, Friends, and Fans 1958-1973 (The Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

The Twilight Zone

Image result for twilight zone new

I mostly skipped the first episode of this season, which seemed to have a The Shining vibe to it, as a man, Kumail Nanjiani, sells his soul and life in a comedy club. Its creepy and haunting, but didn’t really hit me much, even though Tracy Morgan gives a great performance, 0009199119299

and I’m not particularly interested in shows about comedians. I did watch the second episode, and I really enjoyed it, although I think it went on a wee  bit longer than it needed to.

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/04/with-the-comedian-the-twilight-zone-addresses-some.html

The second episode of the Twilight Zone, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, is an homage to one of the every first episodes of the original series, and Jordan manages to pull this off very well, without me being able to predict what’s going to actually happen until a few minutes from the end, even though you’re told what’s going to happen at the end. The original story,  Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet was written by Richard Matheson and starred William Shatner, and I thought this episode would be a retread of that story. In the original story, one of the passengers sees a gremlin tearing apart the wing of the plane. He  has a panic attack, while trying to convince everyone on board that there is a monster on the  wing. This episode also managed to make its way into the Twilight Zone (one of my favorite) movie and starred John Lithgow.

In this remake, they change the story up a bit. Just as in the original, you  sort of travel around the cabin meeting various odd characters, as the lead character slowly loses his shit,  as he becomes aware that something is wrong with the plane.

Justin Sanderson tries to avoid Fate when he finds a listening device on the plane that is cued up to a podcast that discusses the loss/crash of the flight. He spends the rest of the episode trying to convince people that the flight is doomed, or trying to stop it, which, when you think about it, isn’t really his responsibility. This was more than a little frustrating to me, because I know the rules. In trying his best to stop it, he ends up causing the problem, and I could have told him that’s how Fate works.

Before this,  we get treated to some nice foreshadowing on the number 015, and he argues with his wife about the PTSD he’s been experiencing, after witnessing some shit go down in Tel Aviv. This gets the audience to question his sanity. So we learn a lot about him through dialogue, and he’s not an unlikable character, but there were times I wanted him to just sit his ass down, and stop trying to help, because I just knew HE was going to be the reason the plane crashed, and I also knew it would have something to do with that “extra” character on the plane, with speaking lines, who appears to have no actual purpose. But none of this weakened my enjoyment of the episode becasue it was just fun.

The character that does end up crashing the plane, a drunken ex-pilot named Bob, was someone who felt really off to me the moment I saw him. I was immediately suspicious of his presence on the plane, especially since he was so friendly with Justin, for no reason, and most especially after he said he was a pilot.

There’s a funny little moment when Justin confronts a couple of Sikhs, and tries to get them to stop speaking their language out loud,  or people would get suspicious. They just  roll their eyes at him and tell him they’re not Muslim, and to go away somewhere, which I thought was funny/but not funny. Jordan always makes sure to mention some social issue we’re currently dealing with in all his horror stories, and Muslims on airplanes is something (White) people are  still freaking out about in the US.

Jordan is very successful at upping the tension, especially in such a confined space, so in that sense, its as good as the original episodes, and well worth giving it a watch. And if you know little factoids about the original episode there’s some nice Easter Eggs in it.

10 Non-Spoiler Things We've Learned From Jordan Peele's 'Get Out'

But what stood out for me is Jordan’s summation at the end of these  episodes, in which he seems to be channeling the full spirit of Rod Serling. Standing there in a suit, holding either a glass of wine or champagne, with Serling’s vocal mannerisms intact,  this is more than a little creepy, and kind of funny. I’m so used to him being a comedian that I just expect him to burst into laughter at any second, as if he was just putting me on. I couldn’t help a nervous giggle.

For some reason people are so surprised at Peele’s turn towards Horror, and how he is so successful at it, but these must be people who didn’t watch Key and Peele. Peele has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Horror movies, and he was forever referencing them on the show.

In fact, a lot of the comedy on the show was clearly  horrific, with a punch line tacked onto them , like the episode, Das Negros,  where two Black men in whiteface pretend to be Nazis in order to hide from a Nazi officer looking for victims of the Reich. It’s a terrifying idea by itself, and it’s full of tension, but made hilarious by the idea that the officer is dumb enough to fall for their bad makeup jobs, and his silly stereotypes of Black people. Peele seemed to fully understand the idea that fear and laughter both spring from the same fountain, and can be turned towards one or the other by  the addition of the ridiculous. In the Twilight Zone remake, the tension and horror are still there, but the ridiculous has been removed, leaving a distinct unease.

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https://www.okayplayer.com/culture/jordan-peele-series-of-horror-films-get-out.html

I have four other social thrillers that I want to unveil in the next decade…The best and scariest monsters in the world are human beings and what we are capable of especially when we get together,” Peele said. “I’ve been working on these premises about these different social demons, these innately human monsters that are woven into the fabric of how we think and how we interact, and each one of my movies is going to be about a different one of these social demons.”

I’m so looking forward to Peele’s next work and the rest of his career. I’m also looking to the far future when he starts making those Dramas, that, like with  Cronenberg, I know live somewhere in his mind.

Knitting A Sweater!

I just want to share my progress on my first knitted sweater. I got the pattern, called Harvest,  and instructions, from the  Tin Can Knits blog here:

http://tincanknits.com/pattern-SC-harvest.html

They walk you through the entire process, step by step, of  knitting an easy  cardigan, according to how many stitches you’re supposed to have, when you’re supposed to have them, so that its easy to adjust the size. I’ve been knitting for a little bit now, and thought it was time to challenge myself by making a full article of clothing. Until now, I’ve pretty much stuck to making accessories like scarves, gloves, and hats.

Its a gradation from light Copper Orange, to dark Copper (with a touch of green) , to Black, so its just challenging enough, and I think its turning out well. You can almost see the gradation in the yarn from light to dark.

I chose a Raglan pattern that knits from the top down, because its easy to try it on as I go.  If you can knit, purl, and increase stitches in circular knitting, you can probably make this sweater. There are also video tutorials of all the skills used in making the sweater, including casting on in the middle, using waste yarn, and making left slanting or right slanting increases, (M1) If this is an especially daunting idea for you, then there are also instructions for   baby and children’s sweaters

 

This will also be one of the most expensive articles of clothing I will own, even if I did buy a lot of the yarn on sale. (I made sure to get the kind of yarn that didn’t come in dye lots, and only bought it on sale.) I used nine skeins of yarn for a size 2X sweater. (I’m a healthy girl!)

I used Bloomsbury DK Copper, and Malabrigo Rios Liquidamber, a light worsted weight yarn, Volcan, and  Black. Its meant to be a gradation from Orange to Red to Black like so:

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The finished sweater is supposed to look like this:

harvest cardigan

harvest cardigan

I’ll post more pictures of the finished piece, when I’m done, and after blocking.

No, this isn’t turning into a knitting blog, but knitting is one of the things I geek out about, and I’m very excited to be doing this you’re just gonna have to put up with my nattering on, for a bit..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips on writing about transgender people — Abagond

Transgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does not match their gender identity. Possibly because the brain, which develops much later than the genitals, is not always formed by the same hormones. They used to be called transsexuals. In general: Don’t hate: Trans people are people too, just like everyone else – except […]

via Tips on writing about transgender people — Abagond

Just FYI! The comments on this post are actually pretty benign (with the exception of that one gotdamn asshole, because there’s always at least one.)

Note: This will always be a space that’s safe for transgender people. I posted this here, because I’m still learning, and this was very helpful.

People of Color Knit Too

Here’s some reading for your weekend:

Photo Credit Corbis Images

The knitting, fiber ,and yarn communities are not normally ones you’d associate with racism, but I think of it this way: Are White people involved in the community in question? Then chances are there are probably a few racists in it. And the yarn community consists of millions of people, worldwide. So yeah, some of them are gonna show their asses as regards race, some of them are going to dismiss the issue because its not anything that directly affects them, and some of them are going to be rightfully appalled, which is something that happened in the past 4 months, in an incident that sent ripples through the entire community.

Now, I do have to admit to never giving this a whole lot of thought myself, although I had noticed the lack of PoC fiber artists, yarn dyers, and designers, and no representation of women of color as models in the many books and magazines I used for reference. For me, it  was just part of the everyday erasure of color from any other community. I made a note of those things, and kept it moving, because most of the online spaces I frequent are pretty diverse. Most of the fiber arts workers  I’ve met in real life tend to behave themselves. Most of them are Black women.

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*I missed a lot of this because it all went down on Instagram, and I’ve cut my social media consumption to Blogging and Tumblr, so I mostly got the aftermath.

So, what had happened was:

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/25/18234950/knitting-racism-instagram-stories

On January 7, she blogged excitedly about her upcoming trip to India. She wrote that 2019 would be her “year of color.” She said that as a child, India had fascinated her, and that when an Indian friend’s parents offered to take her with them on a trip, it was “like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars.” She spoke of her trip as if it were the biggest hurdle anyone could jump: “If I can go to India, I can do anything — I’m pretty sure.” Templer, it should be noted, is white.

As someone who is mixed-race Indian, to me, her post (though seemingly well-meaning) was like bingo for every conversation a white person has ever had with me about their “fascination” with my dad’s home country; it was just so colorful and complex and inspiring. It’s not that they were wrong, per se, just that the tone felt like they thought India only existed to be all those things for them.

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TL;DR: This woman said some rather clueless Eat Pray Love type shit about visiting India, and actual Indian people didn’t care much for that. I get that she wasn’t trying to offend. I get that her intention was not malignant. Nevertheless, I do not have a problem with people calling for her to think deeper about  what she said.

 

But her post triggered a wave of conversations  and responses from the entire community, about racism and prejudice in the fiber arts world, which thus far shows no signs of slowing down.

* From: u/coleo24:

Anyone care to explain the Tusken Knits business?

I have a few knitter friends and one posted something about diversity in knitting (which despite being the only black knitter I know I haven’t thought of too much) which led me down a rabbit hole. A few people mentioned some issues with a video posted by Tusken Knits. I’ve done some googling but can’t figure out exactly what it’s about. Anyone care to enlighten/discuss/share general thoughts about diversity in knitting?

From: SOEDragon

S*T*A*S*H

So, for the past 4 weeks, there has been a large conversation about racism in the knitting community which spans from lack of representation to outright hostility towards BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). It started from a Fringe Supply Co blog post about going to India. Since then, there has been an outcry, primarily on IG, about fixing this issue. The “white” response has been everything from “we need to do better” to “why are you being so mean to us”. TuskenKnit’s most recent youtube video falls into the latter category. It was also uncovered that she had connections to actual Neo-Nazis via social media. Her Youtube video was a whole lot of tone policing and white fragility and she made a lot of vague claims that many in the knitting community, especially business, have reached out to her and said they feel the same way. She is also moderating comments on all platforms so that negative comments are removed. @wenchlette, @su,krita, @burkehousecrafts, and @masteryarnsmith have excellent summaries in their stories/recent posts/saved highlights that have more information.

As for my personal involvement, I have been making a concerted effort to diversify my IG feed to include BIPOC designers/dyers/podcasters/etc. I have been listening and I mean *really listening* to what BIPOC individuals have to say about their experience. I have also been reading *a lot* about white privilege and all that comes with it. Lots of people are recommending Layla Saad’s “Me and My White Supremacy” workbook which is free to download which assists white and white-passing people to learn and engage their own involvement in a structured way. I found at the beginning of this conversation that my very privileged (white and otherwise) upbringing prevented me from really engaging in the conversation so a lot of what I’ve done has been listening and googling and reading so I feel that I have the knowledge and vocabulary to actually communicate. On a more fun note, there are some amazing yarn dyers/podcasters/designers I completely missed that I am IN LOVE with now.

 

 

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* https://knitting.craftgossip.com/on-racism-in-the-knitting-community/2019/01/16/

I haven’t written about this before because as a white person with little to no influence in the industry, I felt like it wasn’t my place to speak up about it, that it was more important to listen to those voices that have experienced racism in the industry and in their lives.

But of course I have this space and I can amplify their messages, and this is such an important topic for the knitting community and the craft community as a whole to confront.

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*http://www.woolyventures.com/knitting-and-white-fragility/

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*http://thewoolnest.blogspot.com/2019/01/inclusion-and-acceptance.html

I have always welcomed everyone and will continue to do so, here on my blog, on my website and my audio podcast. I will continue to feel proud to both engage with and teach people from all different communities, from any gender/ethnicity/race/religion/level of income and also including people with physical and mental disabilities. I will continue to grow and build upon my past experiences to help you all to learn and develop your knitting and crochet skills. 

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*The knitting community is still perceived as a White community, and we are having some amount of effort convincing people that there are indeed PoC who knit (although most of the ones I’ve met are crocheters.)

 

*https://ladydyeyarns.com/?p=955

As a knitter and African-American woman business owner in the yarn industry, I know many minorities that knit and I know some minority knitwear designers who I have met at shows – and I know there are more.  Yet I have yet to find a yarn company or indie dyer in addition to myself who has attended a local or national show. In fact, between my attendance at the The National NeedleArts Association trade show in 2014 and the recent Stitches Conference, I was the only African-American business owner at these two shows. Why is this? I am sure there are other minority business owners out there. And I am not just talking about African-Americans. Yes, I am black but I know Latinos, Asians, and Africans who knit or crochet. Why are we not represented well in the knitting community?

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

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https://sheeptoshawl.com/knit-diversity-knitting/

Hello! My name is Gaye Glasspie, most folks know me as GG from GGmadeit.com and I knit. I am the writer behind the blog Confessions of a YarnHo. I also happen to a POC (person of color) Did that statement make you gasp? Did it shock you? I pray your response was “no,” because in my opinion, one has nothing to do with the other.

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#knittinginblackhistory I promise I love you guys! This was sent to me by Bronwyn on the blog 😍 thank you 😘the facts: source -the Ohio guide collection. Time period 1930-1940 place -Toledo Ohio. The picture is titled “Sewing Class” but they are clearly knitting 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 the description says “unidentified women work on knitting and sewing during a Works Progress Administration sewing class in Toledo Ohio #weknittoo #ggmadeit #blackknittersofinstagram #blackgirlsknit #knittinginhistory

girl knitting, Where to keep my needles>>>

 

BIPOC Knitting Stories

Here are a few of the replies to the above events:

*https://plymagazine.com/2019/01/trying-harder-support-bipoc/

It’s up to us to help make the fiber community safe and welcoming for BIPOC. Not being actively racist is not enough. You’ve got to actively be inclusive. You’ve got to actively be anti-racist. You’ve got to actively seek out BIPOC as designers, as spinners, as dyers, as companions. And I hear you again, “But why? Isn’t it more fair if I just purchase their wares when and if they appeal to me? That seems less racist, just taking race out of it.” Except that’s not actually feasible in the world we live in. It’s not. You are far less likely to see their work, their designs, their dyed fiber, their spun yarn because of our current paradigms. For now, we’ve gotta do a little work to make the world a better and safer place.

 

View story at Medium.com

*Lisa SanCrom (on Medium. com)

I am a proud Puerto Rican woman. When not trying to save the world, I read, write, and create knitting patterns.

 

While I have met some amazing people of all colors, shapes and sizes in this community, I have also had to justify my existence no less here than anywhere else. Over the 40+ years that I have been primarily knitting (I also spin, weave, crochet, needlepoint, and embroider) I have had to ignore or respond to the following:

  • Steered towards less expensive fibers (Especially, when I am with my accented or darker family & friends. When my brother would go in with me, I was ignored in favor of the inherent munificence of a man in a yarn shop, but that’s a post for another day).
  • Followed/watched
  • Ignored
  • Admonished as not being “A woman of faith” after declining to participate in a particular knit along.

 

*https://www.woolfiend.com/blog

Although as a group they’re disadvantaged, many BIPOC want to be heard and represented. They get tired of having to explain to clueless white people the privilege that they have. They are tired of having to look harder to find a doll that looks like their daughter. They’re tired of Pantene commercials, and similar ads that are only ever targeted at white people and made by white people. They get tired of ads targeted at POC that are really stupidly and obviously made by white people (like people can’t tell). They get tired of having to deal with their lack of privilege and the pain that comes with that. They get tired of being the only ones who SEE the privilege and what it buys us (white people). They get tired of being lumped in as “white enough” or “light-skinned” or “acts white, looks black.” They JUST WANT TO EXIST.

 

New Trailers In April

Joker

Contrary to the many fanboys who are always bitchin’ and whining about the different depictions of the Joker, I didn’t have  a problem with Jared leto’s version of the Joker. I’ve seen several different versions already, and I grew up with the Cesar Romero  and Jack Nicholson versions, so for me, Jared Leto was just one more. And I don’t have problem with this one either. I think he’s intriguing because I’m heavily reminded of the Brian Azzarello, and Lee Bermejo versions from the comic books.

There are almost as many versions of the Joker as there are Batman,and Shakespeare’s plays, so I don’t actually understand what the problem is, since each actor for the character brings something different to the role. Some you like, and some you don’t, and I like this one okay. I probably won’t see it in the theater though because it looks tragic and I have a quota.

Image result for joker bermejo

Dead Don’t Die

I got no opinion on this movie other than it heavily reminds me of the movie Slice, which I never finished watching. I won’t see this in the theater because I’m not a Bill Murray fan. Sacrilege! I know. But the man has never really appealed to me outside of some very specific roles.

On the other hand, I’ve always liked Jim Jarmusch’s silly humor, and this does look pretty funny! It also has some of my favorite actors in it. You know we’ve reached the zenith of monsterdom when they start making parody movies, so: Go Zombies! 

 

Dora the Explorer

I grew up watching this with my two little sisters, so my knowledge about Dora comes from a genuine place of “Oh, God, I’m so tired of watching this show!!!”

On the other hand, the movie looks really cute, has an all Hispanic, Latinx cast, and seems kinda action-y. She’s like a tiny Latina Tomb Raider.

Avengers :Endgame

This is the last trailer before the release of the movie, and I just know there’s gonna be feels. One drawback I can see coming a mile away is there are three women in this movie, and I bet none of them say a word to each other.

I did see something on Tumblr about how someone was going to lose their shit watching their favorite characters die, and I’m like, “Dammit, I already watched all my favorite characters die. In this one I get to watch them come back. I don’t give a flying fuck how many of the original Avengers have to die to get them back either! Tony, Steve, and Natasha been around long enuff!”

John Wick 3

I will probably go see this one in the theater and I would love to drag my Mom along, since she’s making me  go see Pet Sematary, and messing up my Summer movie scheduling, with her unreasonable demands to see Horror movies I did not make plans for, especially when I planned to see Action films. So for every Horror or Comedy she makes me take her to, I’m picking an Action movie. (We already have Shaw and Hobbes on our radar after this one.)

This also has all of my favorite actors in it. No,really! All of them!

 

Hellboy

There was supposed to be a new Hellboy trailer in this spot, but I skipped over  it, as a sign of protest, because  I’m not going to see it in the theater, because the movie “Little” gets released at the same time, and because my niece and Mom have made it very clear that’s what we’ll be seeing next week, or I haven’t got long to live! So imagine the new Hellboy trailer in this spot (to the remixed version of Smoke on the Water.)

I don’t object to seeing Little, because it looks pretty funny, but I prefer monster movies to comedies, which is why I’m going to treat myself to:

Godzilla

No, it’s not sad that I can name all the monsters in this movie. I grew up watching all the Godzilla related movies, so I come by this knowledge organically. My Mom hates all the Godzilla movies, except for the 1990s version which, naturally, I would hate, because I enjoy being contrary.

I cannot wait to see all my favorite monsters (Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah) on the big screen, because this looks fucking awesome! Slow motion monsters always get to me…

 

Next week, lets review some TV shows!