10+ Favorite Samurai Movies

I love Samurai movies. I didn’t love them when I was a kid, when I was busy watching Chinese Martial Arts films. I didn’t fall in love with them until I was an Adult, and finally saw Seven Samurai, at a friends house, where I fell asleep in front of her parent’s fireplace. Well, after I woke up, I watched the movie all the way through the next day, and it became one of a number of movies that just hit me at the right time in my emotional development, to make a huge impact. I also learned that George Lucas was heavily influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s movies, so that was a plus.

Seven Samurai isn’t on this list, because there have been a number of Samurai movies made since 1954, also Kurosawa’s movies would otherwise take up the entire list. So, I decided to focus on movies made in the last ten years, (except for the two at the end).

Blade of the Immortal (2016)

This is a live action version of one of my favorite manga from the late 90s. The plot and characters, like so much Samurai manga, is wild, but I greatly enjoyed the movie, which is pretty faithful to the books. I give a mini-review of this movie a year or so ago. Manji has been cursed by an ancient witch, to immortality, after he caused the deaths of 100 men. In order to lose his immortality, he has made a vow to kill 1,000 evil men, and is aided in this quest by a young woman, named Rin, who is seeking revenge against a cadre of swordsmen, from a rival school, who killed her parents. The fighting is fast and brutal, and very gory with lots of chopping of limbs, and blood spray, so be warned, if you’re squeamish.

Rurouni Kenshin 1-3 (2014-2017)

The live action Rurouni Kenshin movies are definitely some of my favorite current Samurai movies. I’ve watched the trilogy multiple times, although I’ve never read the Manga, or seen the anime, though. I don’t feel like correcting that oversight, although the anime looks intriguing. There were meant to be two new movies last year, that won’t be released until June of this year. Himura Kenshin is a Samurai who makes a vow to never kill anyone again, after he killed so many men in a past war, that he became famous for it, being nicknamed The Manslayer. To live according to his vow, he carries a reverse blade sword, that can only hurt himself, if he uses it incorrectly. Unfortunately, his past deeds, and enemies, keep coming back to haunt him and his found family, which includes his love interest Kaoru, and his best friend, a streetfighter named Sanosuki The Brawler. The swordfights are fast, and stunning, even if the plot is a bit convoluted, between the three films.

Crazy Samurai Musashi400 v. 1 (2020)

I really liked this movie, which has almost no plot to speak of. Its just an hour or so of the legendary swordfighter, Musashi Miyamoto fighting wave after wave of enemy Samurai, all of this done in one take. This isn’t a movie for everyone. There’s a kind of sameness to the fighting style, that gets numbing, after a while. I watched this movie, and yeah, it’s exhausting. Musashi was a real person, (he wrote The Book of Five Rings), but this particular battle, against the rival Yoshioka Clan, was more fable than reality.

Twilight Samurai (2011)

This movie is one of my close favorites, and is more bittersweet than action packed. We tend to think of Samurai as fairly wealthy characters, and some of them were, as they did pursue riches, and reputation, but this movie is about a poor, simple, Samurai named Seibei, who just wants to stay home, and take care of his two daughters, after the death of his wife. He is challenged by an old friend to take up arms, and against his will, gains a reputation as a great swordsman, who begins to attract the attention of other swordsmen. All he wants is to marry the sister of his old friend, as he has had a crush on Tomoe since they were children, but he has to first survive his many challengers. This movie isn’t as bombastic as the first two on this list. Its quieter, with a nostalgic, and melancholy feel.

13 Assassins (2010)

At first this movie sounds something like Seven Samurai, but its not a whole lot like that movie, beyond having Samurai in it. 13 Samurai gather to assassinate an evil, but powerful, warlord, who has the Shogun’s favor. To that end, they set a series of traps and ambushes, in a small town that he must travel through, to reach the Shogun’s castle, to claim a reward. This was directed by none other than one of my favorite directors, Takashi Miike, famous for the movies, Hara Kiri, and the iconic, Ichi The Killer. Miike is known for the amount of gore in even his most innocent looking films, so if you’re watching this, be warned for rape, gallons of blood, child killing, exploding bodies, decapitations, and dismemberment. Miike’s movies are not for the delicate, and the last thirty minutes never lets up, and will leave you gasping for air.

Samurai Marathon (2019)

This was a really fun movie, full of lots of action, tension, and drama. When the Daimyo of a minor plot of land, discovers that the Black Ships are coming to Japan, he decides to test his Samurai’s fitness, and readiness, by having them run a marathon. The Shogun, mistaking his intent, thinks he is fomenting an insurrection, and sends assassins to kill the runners. Unknown to the Daimyo, his daughter, Princess Yuki, who is dissatisfied with her life and doesn’t want to be forced in to marriage, has decided to join the marathon, and this puts her life in immediate danger. She has to survive the marathon, without giving away her real identity. The movie is surprisingly funny, with beautiful cinematography, great fight scenes, beautiful settings, and lots of running.

Zatoichi (2011)

Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman is an iconic figure in Japanese cinema. There are literally dozens of movies and TV shows about him, so I was really eager to see Zatoichi played by one of my favorite actors, Beat Takeshi. The movie is a little surreal, and doesnt quite hit the story beats the way one expects, which is in keeping with Takeshi’s oddball character, with several musical interludes, some cross dressing, vengeful geisha, a little bit of slapstick, and some clog dancing, at the end, involving the entire cast. Why? Probably because Takeshi likes musicals! This makes for a somber, but surprisingly upbeat movie.

Gohatto/Taboo (1999)

Gohatto is a soft, quiet, and haunting movie. It’s an emotional film, with not a lot of action scenes, and once again, stars Beat Takeshi, as a teacher, at a training school for young men auditioning to become guardsmen for the Shogun, called the Shinsengumi. When a beautiful, and highly skilled young man joins the school, it upsets the delicate balance of relationships among the students and teachers, setting them all against each other. Yes, this is a gay Samurai film! The outcome is somewhat ambivalent, in that the film simply presents ideas, and doesn’t tell the viewer how or what to think. The action and dialogue are written in a way that makes the movie hard to get into, but you still get invested in the character’s relationships.

Unforgiven (2013)

This is a very faithful remake of the 1992 Clint Eastwood film, only set in Meiji Era Japan, and starring Ken Watanabe, from Inception. Just as in the original, a retired fighter is approached by an old friend, who asks him to accompany him on a mission for hire, to claim the bounty on two outlaws, who harmed a prostitute. But just because you’ve seen the original doesn’t mean that this version isn’t worth watching.

Samurai Fiction (1998)

I saw this movie around the time it was released at some type of Art House showing, and it is quite possibly the funniest Samurai movie I’ve ever seen.This movie is just ridiculous, with a serious plot, aided and abetted by a great deal of silly dialogue, and slapstick. After his Father’s prize sword is stolen, Heishiro vows to get it back. With no faith in his son, the father sends a couple of Ninja along with Heishiro, to make sure he doesn’t muck things up too badly, but he does, and ends up being cared for in the home of a famous swordsman, named Mizoguchi, and falling in love with his daughter Koharu. Eventually, Heishiro confronts the thief, Kazumatsuri, played by Tomoyasu Hotei, (who is the composer of the soundtrack for Kill Bill), retrieves his father’s sword, gets the girl, and everyone’s fortunes are made. I knew I wanted to see this movie the first time I saw the trailer, and I was not disappointed. It was a lot of fun.

Honorable Mentions:

When The Last Sword Is Drawn (2002)

This is a movie that would have ended up higher on this list, except that its so melancholy, (you can tell by its title), you really need to be in a certain type of mood to watch it. In it, two old Samurai reminisce about the days when they were young and full of fire. One of them was a heartless killer, and the other was greedy and over-emotional. The story takes place in the form of flashbacks to the Tokugawa Era, as the two of them discuss the regrets, and relationships, of their younger years. This is a beuatiful film that will probably have you in tears by the end.

Sword of the Stranger (2007)

There aren’t too many anime movies on this list. That doesn’t mean that there are no good ones, just that I haven’t watched a lot of them. The fight scenes in this movie are extraordinary, and it was a lot of fun to watch, although not without some huge moments of suspense, and frustration. Nanashi, Kotaru, and his little doggy, form a bond, after Nanashi saves Kotaru from a group of Ming (Chinese) warriors, who are trying to assassinate him. There’s a corrupt Daimyo, and some warrior monks involved, which makes for a convoluted plot, but exciting viewing.

Samurai Seven

This story takes place in some kind of dystopian future with robots, but the basic story is still the same as the original. As has been done in a number of remakes since the original Seven Samurai, from A Bug’s Life, to The Magnificent Seven, to The Three Amigos ,a small town of helpless peasants hires a group of mercenaries, gunslingers or even robotic and Samurai, to help them fight the giant robot bandits plaguing their town. The series then has the Samurai who survived the village battle, defeat the corrupt Emperor. There’s a lot of great action, the animation is well done, and the Samurai warriors have their own charms, that make the whole thing worth binging. I think this series is available on Hulu, btw.

Of Note:

Here’s a couple of Samurai Anime worth checking out. I haven’t seen all of them, but the ones I have seen aren’t too bad, they just didn’t make my favorites list.

Afro Samurai

This is another one of those vengeance plots, and the distinction here is that Samuel L Jackson voices the lead character.

House of Five Leaves

If you’re interested in philosophical discussions about the Martial Arts, then this movie is a more somber version of the typical Samurai film, with enough action scenes to make it interesting.

The Swordsman

I just watched this one a few days ago, and its a blind swordsman/vengeance/rescue type of story.

Introducing… Fan Service @ Teen Vogue — Stitch’s Media Mix

In exciting news… I now have an ongoing column in Teen Vogue on fandom! Here’s the blurb for Fan Service that’s front and center in the first installment “Who Actually Gets to “Escape” Into Fandom?“ Fan Service is a column by pop culture and fandom writer Stitch that looks at the highs and lows of fandom, and […]

Introducing… Fan Service @ Teen Vogue — Stitch’s Media Mix

Top Ten Joke SCPs

Hi,

Here, have some light reading this week, (because I know things are feeling rather tense), as I type up some SCP posts, while I work on a few long form articles for y’all to read, later. I don’t know if these are the funniest, they’re just the ones I thought of as the silliest, outside of the Dial A Llama one. Joke SCPs are often designated by a dash J after its number, and generally designed to lighten up some of the doom, and gloom, and global destruction proceedings, on the SCP website.

SCP 007 Unidentified Muffin Creature

Wild Blueberry Muffins Recipe: How to Make It | Taste of Home

This is not a description of the blueberry muffin itself, but a description of the anomalous events surrounding its vanishing, as some unseen being ate a researcher’s muffin, after he set it on his desk, when he went to answer a call. All that was left behind was some muffin residue on the desk, and around his office partner’s lips, yet no one witnessed the mysterious disappearance of the actual muffin. To date the case has not been solved, or contained.

SCP 810 A Dog In Need Of Funds

2020 Dog License and Renewal Due Jan. 31 - Fairfax County Government  NewsCenter

This is a male German Shepherd dog that speaks English, but only does so when it is alone with its mark, and only to beg for money, for some unnamed cause. It usually asks for five thousand dollars, although it never explains why it needs the money, in the first place, and is willing to offer as collateral, either a small porcelain toadstool, that it can vomit up at will, or the affirmation that his dad, Mick Jagger, is good for the money. The dog is not allowed near any banks, and is mostly contained.

SCP 666 1/2 The Roaring Flames of Hell

Are Spicy Foods Bad For Your Stomach?

Okay, for this one I had to go directly to the SCP Wiki to describe it, but its best if you go to the audio version on Youtube. It is very probably the funniest video I have ever heard.

SCP-666½-J is a crab-stuffed mushroom entrée produced by the internal Foundation catering service Containment Cuisine for the 45th annual Site-19 Foundation Formal. Roughly 42% of the 1,500 attendees consumed SCP-666½-J and were subsequently affected by its anomalous properties. SCP-666½-J’s effects started to become apparent approximately one hour after the conclusion of the main course, at which time event goers began to complain of slight abdominal pain. By the second hour, many attendees were complaining of significant digestive distress and all restrooms in the immediate vicinity were filled to capacity with extended queues. By the third hour, medical, investigative, and plumbing personnel were being flown in from surrounding sites to aid in relief efforts.

The bottom line is that if you eat this stuffed mushroom entree, you will pay horribly for having done so, by experiencing extreme full body distress, and ot only will you wish to die, you will probably regret ever having lived.

SCP Procastinating Rock

Bee Silly | Rock painting patterns, Painted rocks, Rock painting designs

Its basically a small rock, that makes whoever is holding it, put off doing any work, about having it in their possession. To be honest, I don’t need any accessories to make me put off doing the things I’m supposed to be doing.

SCP 729 Pillow Peep

Peeps Yellow Bunny Shaped Plush Stuffed Toy Or Pillow Easter Large 17 Inch  Tall

SCP 079 is a large stuffy, in the form of a yellow marshmallow peep. For some reason, this object is the most terrifying SCP in containment, frightening even the most dangerous and horrific of SCPs. When not terrified of it ,some of them have nothing but abject hatred for it. Every SCP from the Hard to Destroy Reptile, to The Gate Guardian, to Cain and Abel, retreats in terror from its presence, or bows to it in worship.

I want one.

SCP 885 Researcher J’s Inability To Clean Up After Himself

Messiest Houses in Japan - Blog

This is fairly self explanatory. This Researcher’s complete inability to clean up after himself has been a source of great puzzlement, anger, and discussion, for some time. He has destroyed the breakroom of Site 13 multiple times, while fixing various meals, leaving piles of dishes, after fixing even the simplest meals, for his co-workers to wash up, after two to three days of willful neglect. Please do yourself a favor and don’t examine this picture too closely.

I know this probably sounds like an old roommates, but its probably not, as many people are afflicted with this disease, including one of my sisters.

SCP 2600 Bicycle Mafia

Performance Bicycle Closing - All Performance Bike Stores Expected to Close

This SCP consists, so far, of a single bicycle that continues to try to escape, unsuccessfully, by attacking and running down, or attempting to abduct, SCP personnel. However, it does have outside cohorts, who keep sending threatening ransom style letters to the SCP facility, photographs of bikes that have been roughly deconstructed, or videos of bikes spinning their wheels in a threatening manner. When these other bikes encounter SCP personnel outside the facilities, they also attempt to run them down, or abduct them, which sometimes requires personnel to go to and from work in disguise.

SCP WTF Try Not to Laugh

Ground Beef Tacos Recipe - Pillsbury.com

This is another one that’s better off being listened to, as it is very possibly, one of the most lengthy and ridiculous SCPs ever written, consisting almost entirely of a series of a couple dozen procedures to save the world, involving dildos, tacos, saltwater crocodiles, a group of 49 year old Italian men, cheeseburgers, pig intestines, a 19 year old woman of Chinese descent, a 42 year old woman of German descent, a freshly cloned dodo, an aborted fetus, an octopus, and this is very specific, a 29 year old man, whose middle name rhymes with “Rank”, who must first slather his ankles in unsalted butter, before amputating the ankles, and roasting them over the carcass of a stillborn calf, after which, he must eat his own roasted ankles, using only a spoon. Somehow, the Pope gets involved, there are cake baking skills, and at some point, Italy must revert to fascism, for exactly 23 nanoseconds….

Pretty sure that by the time its all done, you’ll have completely forgotten why…

SCP 666 Dr. Gerald’s Driving Skills

A scene from Tenet - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Dr. Gerald is never to be allowed to drive any vehicle, any time, anywhere.

To date, not a single human being has ever survived a Dr. Gerald driving experience. Should any passengers, or pedestrians, manage somehow to survive any accident he just caused, they will be sure to be run down by a passing motorist. When Dr. Gerald is behind the wheel of any vehicle the world becomes much more dangerous than it normally would be. Tankers, no matter what they’re carrying, essentially become mobile bombs, and cars will explode at the slightest tap. Not only is he not allowed to drive, he is not allowed to get close to, or travel in, dangerous environments, like for example, near a nuclear reactor, or chemical refinery. Anything that has even the potential to become explosive will do so if Dr. Gerald is driving a vehicle, in its vicinity.

Dr. Gerald, however, always manages to survive whatever destruction he causes.

Things Dr. Bright Are Not Allowed To Do

Before you watch the video, you first need some background on who is Dr. Jack Bright, because he’s …complicated!

Dr. Jack Bright,1 a Junior Staff researcher of good standing, was assigned the responsibility of researching SCP-963-1’s (a small ornate piece of jewelry thought to have anomalous properties),capabilities, and granted access. He subsequently died, but his consciousness was trapped in SCP-963-1.

After much experimentation, it has been discovered that when any living anthropoid comes into direct skin contact with SCP-963-1, the mind of the subject is wiped, and that of Dr. Bright is projected from 963-1 onto the subject. It is known that memories native to Dr. Bright transfer from host to host.

If a subject maintains contact for thirty (30) days, their brain functions become a duplicate of the late Dr. Bright’s. If 963-1 is removed after this time period, the subject retains an independent copy of the consciousness of Jack Bright. Sanctions were put in place to prevent multiple instances of Dr. Bright from being created to prevent Dr. Bright from collaborating with himself, however it was found this was not necessary, as Doctor Bright has proven thoroughly dedicated to the Foundation and its cause.

*SPOILER ALERT*: The Story Of America Does Not End Well

Ben Writes Whatever

AP Photo by Julio Cortez of flag bearing protester

“You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being.”

James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time)

How We Got Here
So, how did we get here? Short answer: White supremacy. The insurrection, the attempted coup by a terrorist mob of white Trump supporters on the Capitol in Washington on January 6 of this year only serves to punctuate a history of unchecked white supremacy in this country. The ease with which they gained access, believing that their cause is just, and the feeling of righteous indignation, entitlement, and impunity for their actions is on brand for a race of people whom history has inadvertently conditioned to believe that they are America’s perpetual ruling class. A false notion largely unchallenged for centuries.

This Is Not Who…

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Plans Within Plans

Actually, no I don’t have that many plans, but I’m still thinking hard about what I want to do, and where I want to go with this blog. I feel like I need to challenge myself, perhaps level up, even.

I have decided that I’m going for the podcast format, and I’m currently researching what equipment to buy, how to set up, and what programs, (if any), I need to get started. I’m also researching what my theme will be. I’m heavily into politics, and social issues, but I still love to talk about movies and other entertainment, and if I can combine the two, with some structure, I will.

For example, a lot of my long form posts, about movies and TV, contain more than a fair bit on politics and social issues, and I’m thinking about how to do that in a radio-style format, but one thing is clear, I will still need to outline these, to keep my focus. (One of the ways to keep focus, would be to make them relatively short, and focus on analyzing one movie at a time.)

Across the three social media platforms, I currently subscribe to, I have somewhere above 1,600 followers. Not a whole lot, in the scheme of things, but more than enough to attract, not just my regular followers, but hopefully some new ones as well, because I don’t see a whole lot of podcasts, (there are a few, like Feminist Frequency), that tackle the same subjects, in quite the same way.

This wouldn’t be for the purposes of making money, (although money is certainly welcome), because I already work full-time, so I think a once a week podcast, coupled with perhaps a once, (or twice), a week post here, (which is also linked to my Tumblr account), seems like something I can do, but can always be adjusted later. I’d also need to reopen my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and link to them.

I also feel, if I’m going to do a podcast, I’m going to need a Patreon account, which would be a good way for followers to contact me, and make suggestions for future topics.

This isn’t something that going to happen right away. In fact, this is just my plans for the year, which I hope to accomplish before its end.

If anyone has advice, or thoughts, let me know in the comments!

Racism In Fandom

Here’s MelinaPendulum speaking on how racism in fandom hurts Black people in the real world:

Addressing one of the points in her video, I left this comment:

It frustrates me to no end, that Black people making a statement about our lived experiences, is seen as an opportunity to fight about what was just said, rather than an opportunity to learn a new perspective.

Another point I wanted to make is that all of the harassment of these entertainers, and fans, serves no purpose, and in fact may actually be detrimental to fandom. This behavior doesn’t just hurt PoC. It hurts white fans too.

Movies and TV are a business. They cast PoC, not just because we’ve been begging them to do so for over a decade, but because these corporations make a hell of a lot of money from appealing to a wider segment of the population than just straight, cis-gender white people. These are businesses that know which side of the bread their butter is on, and where their future lies, and they’re going to continue down the road of diversity and inclusion, until it ceases to be profitable, (which is unlikely). White people throwing temper tantrums at the fans and/or actors/creators is not going to change the future of their business model.

Also, when a person of color walks away from fandom, because they had a racist experience, that’s one less person lending their energy and voice to the creation of more of whatever people are a fan of. When PoC stop being fans of something, you know what happens? Your favorite show that you didn’t want to see any Black people in, gets canceled, (Agent Carter), or that movie doesn’t make any money, so there’s not ever going to be a franchise.

The harassment of people like John Boyega, Candace Patton, Kelly Marie Tran, Ana Diop, or Leslie Jones, accomplishes absolutely nothing at all, either. It’s not going to cost them a job. They already got cast in the role. They already got paid. White people harassing them online, just means they’re no longer available, on social media, to talk to their real fans, who helped make their career possible. (Although I do realize, that for the people who engage in this kind of behavior, there are other, more nebulous, benefits for them, like causing emotional harm to strangers.)

it is ridiculous that this behavior has gone on as long as it has, (but white people always seem to find the energy for hating PoC), but its not surprising either, because for every step forward made by PoC, most especially Black people, we will experience a virulent and thoroughly nasty backlash from white people, (Yes, all white people!White women are not innocent of any of this!), who believe they’re protecting something they have sole ownership of, and that’s the entertainment we all consume, and the fandom that surrounds it.

Stuff I Geeked Out About In 2020

Here it is, the last post of the year. I don’t normally do end of year lists, but this was such an unusual year, I figured, “What the hell?” This list was a little bit larger but I toned it down a bit. I watched a lot of stuff because there was little else to do. Since I like to do things around the house that keep my hands free for knitting, I also managed to finish three hats, at least two scarves, got about 3/4 of the way through one sweater, and started another. These are just a few of the things I enjoyed watching and listening to while doing so.

Movies

Birds of Prey

Harley Quinn Film GIF by Birds Of Prey - Find & Share on GIPHY

This was one of my great joys this year. I love Harley Quinn, and I was excited for this movie when it was announced. I even liked her in Suicide Squad (she, and Will Smith, were the best characters in it!), although this version has a slightly different persona, and wears more clothes.

Although I’m one of only three people who actually enjoyed Suicide Squad, this is how you tell a story about superheroes with no powers, and this movie was just hella fun! These women are not trying to save the world. They’re just trying to save their little section of it, along with themselves, and one little girl. There is a lot to love about this movie. I really liked the fact that none of these women are saints. They are all, like Harley, fuck-ups of one kind or another, including the little babe they’re all trying to capture, or save, but they end up redeeming themselves through the connections they make with each other by the end of the movie. Its also really interesting how queer this movie is, in that half of the adult women are gay, or gay adjacent. Harley is in a canon relationship with Poison Ivy, and Renee Montoya is also a lesbian in the books. Black Canary I’m not sure about.

The setup is fairly typical, in that all of these women are at odds with each other, not because the movie wants to deal in the fake drama of women simply not liking each other, but because they all have different goals, and their goals all clash, up until they don’t. Harley wants to save herself from the people who are after her, now that she’s broken ties with the Joker, and his reputation no longer protects her. Renee Montoya wants to capture Harley for the crimes she committed while with the Joker. Huntress is an assassin who has killed a lot of very bad people and is now after Roman. Black Canary is an apathetic entertainer, who just wants to be left out of everyone’s drama, but gets roped in anyway, and little Cassandra Cain is a thief who runs afoul of Roman Sionis/Black Mask, the villain of the movie, when she steals the diamond he covets.

I’m going to talk later about how the violence in this movie feels different, as directed by a woman, how the characters look and act, and why some of the men who saw this movie couldn’t stand it, which I don’t think had anything to do with the film’s quality, (or even necessarily because they hate women), since this movie enjoys a very high rating on Rotten Tomatoes, something you would never know from the many, many, Youtube videos, which talk about how bad it was, solely because it didn’t break any monetary records.(It did just fine at the box office.) This was not a bad movie. It was, like the millions of movies that got made before it, made with a specific audience in mind, that just wasn’t for them, and we should probably talk about that.

Parasite

featurefilms — She never crossed the line. If there's one thing I...

I was just as surprised as everyone else when this movie won for Best Picture. Its a great film, with a message about Classism, that not only did Americans seem to get, but which seemed to resonate.The movie is good, but it’s also really hard to watch, as the director, Bong Joon-ho, pulls no punches about how the poorest live in South Korea, vs the wealthy, and what effect poverty and wealth have in their lives. Essentially, when hardships hit the poorest of citizens, it is nearly impossible for them to spring back from them, whereas money cushions the wealthy from any mistakes, accidents of nature, or bad choices. The most telling scene, for me, is when the impoverished family is sitting around the table, enjoying the luxuries of the “good life”, like beer and wifi, while the wealthy family is out of town.

The only way for the poor family to get ahead is to take advantage of the wealthy, so the poor family manages to con their way into their lives and home. But who are the parasites? The wealthy family would never be in the social and financial position they are in, if it wasn’t for the labor of those they look down on. The working classes and the wealthy are ineluctably entangled, and Joon-ho shows this by having the poor family move into their home, and become involved in the rich family’s daily affairs, to the eventual destruction of both families.

There’s also the issue of inter-class warfare, as well. When the poor family moves into the home, they find that the former housekeeper, and her disabled husband, are secretly living in the other family’s basement. There forms a rivalry between these two poor families, to be the ones to take advantage of the rich family, which also ends in tragedy. It never occurs to any of them to team up, or work together, to get what they want. Each family is only out for itself, and none of the characters are especially sympathetic. All of them are caught up in a dynamic that none of them created, but all of them want to take advantage of, to the detriment of everyone around them. None of the characters get out of the movie without trauma.

Outside of the challenging plot, the movie is beautiful to look at, and well worth the watch.

The Platform

I wouldn’t say that this was an enjoyable film, in the sense that Birds of Prey was, but it is an interesting thought experiment about human nature. This is interesting for me, as more as a thought exercise, and that sense of horror, that creeps up on you, as you begin to understand the sheer bleakness, and helplessness, that the characters are living with.

In The Platform, people are sentenced to a prison, with something like 60+ floors. On each floor, there are two prisoners, and they each stay there for one month. Once each day, a platform full of food makes its way down from the top floor, to the bottom floors, and people can take as much food from it as they want, but there are rules. There are certain things you can’t do, or you’ll end up on a much, much lower floor as a punishment, and you don’t want that. The people on the bottom floors basically end up starving to death, however, because not only is there never enough food to reach the bottom, the people above can take more than they actually need, and will sometimes adulterate what they have not eaten, with feces and urine.

One of the prisoners attempts to bring justice to the system by commandeering the platform to make sure there’s enough food for the people on the bottom floors, and some things go about as you would expect, but many things don’t, and that’s what makes up the core of the action here. Its a system in which one man is working against the worst of human nature, to ensure the survival of strangers. although he knows he more than likely will fail, and tries to do it anyway, because it’s worth doing.

This is a very difficult film to watch, not just because its disgusting, but because its also heartbreaking. The characters are mostly unlikable, and some questions remain unanswered, but it is worth the watch, because for every moment of despair, there is at least one moment of hope. I had the impression that some prisoners volunteered to be in this prison, for some sort of riches, if they survived, and others were sentenced to the place, as punishment for some unsaid crimes. There are even children there! More than a few times, I felt the very strong urge to strangle a couple of people, (which, of course, would land a person on one of the bottom tiers). The plot, in fact, sounds a lot like current events, with certain types of people unwilling to make sacrifices for others, and even sabotaging other people’s efforts to bring change.

The Old Guard

The Old Guard Kiki Layne GIF - TheOldGuard KikiLayne Action - Discover &  Share GIFs

This was one of my favorite action movies this year, but not just for the action, for the emotionality, instead. It’s based on the graphic novel, The Old Guard, about a group of immortal soldiers, lead by Charlize Theron, in what I consider one her sexier roles. This isn’t just about great action scenes, which you can tell the actors all worked very hard at, but about what it must be like to live so long, that one enters a place of despair, as the more the world changes, too much of the world remains exactly the same.

But, like The Platform, as much as the lead character suffers from hopelessness, light is also provided, in the form of a new immortal, Nile Freeman. Nile is the everyman through which the audience, and the oldest immortal, Andy, can see the world.There are also resonances in the plot, the characters, and even the action scenes, which, once again, illustrate a difference in how women directors approach violence in movies, vs. how male directors do the same. This doesn’t mean that one style is better than the other, just that women, and other marginalized people, have a different experience of violence than white men, and approach that depiction from a different perspective, than the more mainstream outlook we’ve been watching for several decades. There is a great focus here, not just on character, but how a lifetime of violence affects the characters, and the group dynamics. There is as much focus on the relationships between these characters, as there are on the action scenes.

The director of this movie is a Black woman, Gina Prince-Bythewood, a being so rare in the Action genre, as to almost be a singular thing. The differences are subtle, and one needs to have watched a ton of Action movies to be able to see a pattern. Unfortunately, however, there are not enough examples of Action films, directed by Women Color, to be able to see a clear pattern emerge. Black, female, (any women really), Action film directors are still a relatively new thing. Hopefully, there will be more of them in the future, and then a proper comparison can be made of directorial styles between the two groups (although I can already see some general differences). But, just think for a moment. There are so few female directors of Action movies, that the only examples of directing violence that they have to work from, are by white men!

I don’t make these kinds of observances as an indictment against white men. I’m just making what I think are relevant observances. The visual entertainment industry is almost entirely controlled by middle class white men, (many of them having gotten their start in film schools), who are standing in a very specific place, as regards the depiction of violence in movies and television, which is really the only perspective from which these types of entertainments have ever been seen. For most of Hollywood’s history, the vast majority of movies were made by white men, about white men, for white men, and women’s and PoC perspectives were rare, and are still relatively new (although there are a couple of genres that feature female directors more often, and a couple of eras of film that prominently featured directors of color).

Tenet

Tenet GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

I loved , loved, loved this movie. There is just so much to talk about here. I have had to watch this movie multiple times, to get all the facets of the plot, but it was a joy every single time, as I kept discovering new things. Christopher Nolan makes the kind of “Intellectual” Action movies, that I just adore. Yes, the plot is convoluted. Yes, there is a large cast to keep track of. I’ve heard from some people that there isn’t enough emotion in the film, and that the characters are hard to get attached to, but I had no problem doing that. As I’ve stated a few times, I get into a film through feeling deeply for the characters, and I was pretty invested in these. The intellectual challenge and Scifi elements are what I found attractive, but the characters are why I stayed, and I would not have watched this movie multiple times if I didn’t care about them.

John David Washington has all of the acting chops of his father (Denzel), and more than a dash of his father’s suave charm. If you want to know what a Black James Bond would like like, then this is your movie, without some of the nasty imperialist undertones. Robert Pattinson turns in a quiet, steady, lowkey, and touching (at least for me), performance, as the second lead. Washington’s character is the only one that has no name. He is simply called, by Nolan, The Protagonist, and that’s what I’m going to call him here. This is another one of those lowkey, groundbreaking, movies, where, if you’re not paying attention, you won’t notice what the director did here. He has basically created a Scifi action movie, where the primary, and most important character, the one that the audience is meant to sit and identify with, is a Black man, who is not only the hero of the film, but without whom the plot wouldn’t be set in motion.

Did I understand this movie? Yes, after about three viewings, I got the jist of it, then I went back, and watched it a couple more times, to tie up loose ends, and catch any smaller details I missed. It was fun to watch each time. Technically, this is not a time travel movie. None of the characters are moving back through time in the manner you think, and no one is from the future, technically. What they are doing is what the other characters are doing, in real time, only they’re doing it all backwards, and we understand what’s happened at the beginning of the movie, by the time we get to the end. This is called “Time Inversion”, where objects and people can be made to relive events backwards by being sent through a special machine. Since we’re seeing the plot from The Protagonist point of view, we learn what’s happening as he learns, including its satisfying conclusion.

This movie doesn’t stint on the action scenes either, because they are insane. Also, its okay if you don’t “get” the movie on first viewing. Nobody does. Nolan states that the movie is meant to be watched multiple times, to get the full effect, so don’t stop watching just because you didn’t understand it the first time. That’s okay, you’re not supposed to. If you love the action scenes, and the characters, that’s fine, and eventually, you will catch up to the plot. We’re going to talk about this some more though, because I have thoughts!

TV

The Mandolorian Season Two

I thought this season was much more entertaining than the first, and I really enjoyed it, along with three great cameos, by some of my favorite actors, Carl Weathers, Rosario Dawson, and Mark Hamill!

Lovecraft Country Season One

There is a lot to be said about this series, which has an all Black cast,in one of my favorite genres. This series is so full of depth, and density, and I hope it comes back for a second season. It made a lot of mis-steps along the way, especially on queer issues, and the issue of colorism, which I hope will be corrected, if the show gets a second chance.

Watchmen Season One

This is another Black lead show that I particularly enjoyed this year. I hope it gets a second season, but the show runner has decided he’s not coming back, so if the series does return, it will most likely be from a different character perspective, which I’m okay with, because it would be really hard to top what Regina King accomplished here.

Umbrella Academy Season Two

I really liked the first season, but the second season of this show was outstanding, in dealing with the issue of race, time travel, parental abuse, forgiveness, and redemption. It was, despite some of the heavy subject lifting, a lot funnier than the first, and ended on a really intriguing note. It has also become clear to me that my favorite character dynamic is Klaus and Ben, but hands down, the most bad ass member of the family is Number Five!

Star Trek Discovery Season Three

Music

This was the year of the Black Revolution Song. A hard year, with many tears, and frustrations, but Black people have always had the knack of capturing these negative emotions and encasing them in the beauty of song. Its one of the few ways we have to relieve the pressure of living here…But for every lament, there is also a celebration of Black Excellence, joy, and laughter.

Black Is King – Beyonce

This is the celebration of the roots of Blackness from one of the few Black female film directors, who is never acknowledged as such. This is Beyonce’s fourth film, and is as groundbreaking as Lemonade.

I Just Wanna Live – Keedron Bryant

This song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Keedron has an incredible voice, that I never get tired of listening to. This song is not begging. Its a lament to God. Its a cry of pain.

#BlackExcellence – Buddy

For every lament, there is a celebration!

Back Home – Trey Songz/Summer Walker

I just like this one because it reminds me of that 80’s love song from New edition, a boy band that I’d totally lost my shit over when I was a teen, although sometimes, you never really know why you like a particular song. This is a breakup song about two people who simply can’t stay away from each other.

A good song just happens to hit that sweet spot.

Rockstar – DaBab

This song doesn’t seem especially deep, but that’s okay, the video is deep enough. Although, sometimes, I just like the beat and rhythm. oh, and DaBaby, (who my mind insists on calling Dah Babbee) needs to be in some action movies.

Books

I left off a section on books. I spent most of my time re-listening to audiobooks I’d already read, and looking at illustration collections and graphic novels, so I didn’t list them here. he

Urban Fantasy 101: Cop Country

Stitch's Media Mix

The audio version of this was originally posted June 11, 2020 on Patreon. This version contains a reference to James Baldwin’s commentary in The Devil Finds Work that is not present in that one.


There are a lot of cops in urban fantasy.

In the biggest and most popular series, the main characters are either outright law enforcement – like my book bae Peter Grant in the Rivers of London series – or they’re like Anita Blake, characters who don’t actually have badges worth anything but are set up as The Law in their neck of the woods.

I’ve read dozens of urban fantasy books in my lifetime and many of the books hinge very closely on these main characters in law enforcement or who are adjacent to law enforcement or… who have very close relationships with cops.

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Ten Of The Most Bizarre SCPs

This is a list of SCP items that are simply weird. Most are considered safe in that they can be, or are, easily contained. Most of them are not actually harmful, although I wouldn’t necessarily consider these benign. They may cause you to harm yourself, or the people around you, however, and unlike a cognito-hazard, they may not cause a person mental distress. On the surface, they don’t seem quite as horrifying as some of the more nasty SCPs, like The Flesh That Hates, or The Indestructible Reptile, but at the same time, they are anamolous, and can’t be allowed to remain un-contained.

SCP 426: I Am A Toaster

This one seems safe enough, doesn’t it? Its not gory or particular violent. It is after all, only a toaster, but it’s a cognito-hazard that, once settled into a home, takes over the minds of its victims, leading all who come in contact with it, to believe they are a toaster. Yes, people have actually died while doing seemingly innocuous activities like trying to plug themselves into electrical outlets, or choking on bread.

SCP-426 "I am a Toaster" - YouTube

SCP 3300: The Rain

This one is confusing because , it’s not an actual object, or really an event, so to speak. Its told in the form of a long story, about a young woman and her friends, who get lost in a strange town, where all the people seem to be missing. Actually they have all been subsumed into a kind of hive-mind caused by the incessant rain, that exists only in that specific town. Getting caught in the rain dissolves a person’s body, only for that body to be reconstituted into a water-like form, that congregates near the uninfected. Its unknown if this is an alien invasion, or what, but the town has been cordoned off, and the town is considered Safe.

SCP-3300 │ The Rain │ Euclid │ Meteorological SCP - YouTube

SCP 1993 : Your Leg

This one is deeply weird. Its a cognito-hazard that takes over a person’s brain, making them believe that a disembodied leg they’ve stumbled across is actually their own leg. They become so obsessed with this idea, that they will attempt to re-attach a leg that is very obviously not their own, to the point where they will cut off their own leg to do so. After removing their own leg, they will try to attach the disembodied leg, which actually works! with the newly detached leg now becoming the cognito-hazard. Hey, I don’t make this up, I’m just reporting it.

SCP-1993 "Your Leg" - YouTube

SCP 2316: I Do Not Recognize The Bodies In The Water

When I say that these SCPs are strange, I mean it. This is a cognito-hazard that is very odd to describe and somewhat difficult to contain. Its a lake that produces wooden, or stone, simulacra of bodies that those who view them, might know. If they see someone they recognize, they will be compelled to enter the lake to rescue them. They will not return, and might even become one of the bodies someone else recognizes.

Steam Workshop::SCP-2316

SCP 3166: Gorefield

This SCP is only dangerous to about one person, the creator of the Garfield comics. This one is so weird, I can’t even accurately explain it, so Imma let someone else do this:

Thank you! The Rubber.

SCP 511: Basement Cat

This is another SCP that seems relatively harmless, but is deeply creepy and disgusting. It cannot be allowed to grow beyond its location. Its not actually a cat of any kind, but a mass of biological matter that appears to be a diseased and feral cat, except its made up of dead tissue, that consumes all the dead creatures around it, to add to its mass. Its growth can usually be controlled by making sure that it is fed the occasional cat, and making sure that the house under which it dwells is kept inhabited by an old lady with a lot of cats.

SCP-511 Basement Cat | euclid | Animal / hostile / swarm scp - YouTube in  2020 | Basement cat, Scp, Animals

SCP 956: The Child Breaker

When I first heard of this, I thought it was kinda funny, but after some long thought, it turns out to not actually be all that funny. In fact, its kind of mean. Its an anomaly that takes the form of a pinata. It was discovered at a children’s birthday party. Any child under the age of 12, after approaching within a certain range of it, becomes immobilized, and the pinata activates and attacks that child, and any other immobilized children within range, until the child’s body breaks open, and candy spills out of them. This anomaly is currently considered Safe.

Oversimplified SCP Chapter 44 - "SCP-956 The Child Breaker" - YouTube

SCP 3671: Box Of Cereal

This was a box of cereal that used to display encouraging messages on its label, while producing unending amounts of cereal, until one of the researchers investigating the anomaly, slightly damaged it ,after which the box began to display hostile messages towards the man it believed wronged it. After a seemingly calm period, the box started creating things in its interior, that were increasingly dangerous, like cornflakes laced with cyanide, thumb tacks, razor blades. and even explosives, often with a corresponding nasty message displayed on the label.

Write your own joke here!

SCP-3671 "A Very Angry Box of Cereal" // Safe Class | Sentient Food SCP 🥣  - YouTube

SCP 2598 : The Traveling Moth Salesman

This is just a regular sized moth who, using morse code by bumping against your head, wants to sell you a tiny moth helmet, for the low, low, price of three easy payments, of 19.99. Personally, I feel that sixty dollars is far too much to pay for a helmet that only fits moths, but then I don’t have any tiny moth friends I need to buy gifts for…

What If SCP 2598 Was Real? - YouTube

SCP 251: The Deceptive Snowglobe

This is another strange cognito-hazard, that isn’t actually dangerous by itself, but is very disturbing for people to be near it. It’s a small globe, filled with snow that never stops moving, despite not being handled by anyone. In the presence of people, it starts to display fantastical and strange snow scenes like the one below, or scenes of perpetual violence, with the accompanying noises of screams and gunshots. It drives the people near it to great emotional distress, or extreme violence..

SCP-251 | Snow globes, Walter martin, How to make snow

Honorable Mention:

SCP 1296: Dial A Llama

This one is pretty self explanatory. You call the special number and the dealer shows up, anytime, anywhere, with a llama.

SCP-1296 - Dial-a-Llama - Album on Imgur