Fall Watch List 2018

There’s not really a lot of network TV that I’m looking forward to this Fall. There are some interesting shows on cable and streaming, though, and there’s some mid season releases I’m looking toward.

Sept. 4th

I have not watched the show that this one is a spinoff for, but I don’t care. I remember saying I couldn’t get into shows about Bikers because I know too much about actual Bikers, and the ones on TV are really just too damned pretty to be believable as a Biker Gang. The same is true here, but I’m gonna watch this anyway, even though I generally avoid watching shows that are about PoC committing crime.

The Mayans (FX)

 

Sept. 7th

I’m gon try this one mo’ agin! The trailer doesn’t look promising. In fact I’m expecting a certain level of racist wtf*ery anyway, but I’m gonna try to like it, if only because Colleen and Misty play such prominent roles. I’m probably never gonna like Danny Rand or the actor that plays him, but I can tolerate him, because I am a strong black woman!

Iron Fist (Netflix)

 

Sept. 12th

I skipped last season of this show because it was hitting too close to home, but I’ll try to watch this season, even though I skipped the very first season of AHS, too, which this is based on. It looks good though.

I’m moving away from in-depth episode reviews, unless it’s a show I’m super enthusiastic about, (like anything by Bryan Fuller). Some shows that are classed as being mildly interesting just won’t get that sort of treatment, but I will review as many season  premieres as I can.

American Horror Story (FX)

Sept. 21st 

I have no idea what this is about, and I am not a fan of either Emma Stone or Jonah Hill, considering them to be the blandest, most colorless actors that anyone could have chosen for these roles, but the premise looks mysterious, and mildly intriguing, in a science-fictiony kinda way, so I’m gonna watch it.

Maniac (Netflix)

Sept. 28th

This stars Jeffrey Wright traipsing through the wilderness, and some wolves, and that’s really all that’s needed to grab my attention, but the creators decided to add Alexander Skarsgard, who I’ve been in love with since True Blood, and now I’m committed. (It is possible after watching this I’ll  be committed, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Hold the Dark

 

 

 

Oct. 5th

I couldn’t find a trailer for this, but I know it’s out there. Somewhere. The synopsis sounded as interesting as the title, so…

Into the Dark (HULU)

 

 

Oct. 7

I’m kinda off zombie shows, but this may be the last season to see Michonne get her kill on, and watch her and Rick canoodling. I plan to skip any and every episode that features Negan. I’ve  had about quite enough of him. I’m not super enthused about this season considering how the last episode ended. I’m not a particularly enthusiastic Maggie fan. She’s okay, but I suspect she’s going to be the next person I get really tired of seeing.

Oh, and I also have to keep watching to determine if Jesus is, in fact, as gay as I suspect he may be!

(Sorry for all the unnecessary bolding  above, but I’m too tired, and lazy, to undo it on this iPad. You’ll just have to turn down the volume on your computer.)

The Walking Dead (FX)

Oct. 9th

I don’t know why people are waiting so long to give us a trailer for this new season. I haven’t seen one yet, but when I find it, I will post it, forthwith!

Black Lightning (CW)

 

 

Oct. 11th

Well yeah….

Supernatural (CW)

 

 

Oct. 14th

I don’t know what to think or feel about this show yet.  I hated the original, but this one doesn’t inspire a great deal of enthusiasm either. I will watch it because I want it to have the support, especially after the fans of the original showed their racist asses about this casting, and hey, Mermaids turned out to be okay, so why not give this a try. Hopefully the magic represented on the show will have some elements of the ethnic backgrounds of the characters, instead of the usual European, colored lights styles, seen all over most of TV.

Charmed (CW)

 

Oct. 22

I’m watching this new season because the trailer is ridiculous, and I think Constantine is still visiting the gang. I do have this vague fear that this trailer I put up may be for last season, though, as my punishment for skimming those episodes.

Legends of Tomorrow (CW)

Oct. 26th

Heres a quick 9 minute rundown of what to expect in Season 2 of  Charlaine Harris’ second show. I thought the first season was completely uneven as far as the plot, but I did manage to get into the characters. This show does not have HBOs budget, or acting chops, but I think the show needs to embrace its cheesiness a bit more, like True Blood.  After all, this takes place in the same universe as that show.

Midnight Texas (NBC)

Nov. 28th

I think this is the last season for this show. I’ve been watching since the beginning, and haven’t always liked it, but it has been interesting.

Vikings (History)

 

Mid-Season Series – TBD

Brooklyn 99

This show,  which had run for a good five years, had been canceled by FOX, but has been picked up by it’s original creators at NBC, and will air for 13 episodes, instead of the usual 22, in January.

 

The Orville

I still don’t know how to feel about this show. It tries really hard, but it’s uneven, and sometimes the characters are hard to like. I watched quite a lot of last season, and it does look promising. If it can figure out what it wants to be it might be a great show one day.

 

 

The Passage

I really loved the books this show is based on, and the trailer looks intriguing with a father/daughter relationship between a rogue FBI agent and the little Black girl who trusts him. I’ve already posted the trailer , so here are some interviews with the actors about what to expect on the show.

 

Roswell New Mexico

Yeah, I’m  not watching this because I’m allergic to schmacting, but you know what, somebody, somewhere, is gonna love the hell out of this show. It’s like a teenage soap opera about pretty aliens.

 

Titans (DC SubScription)

I’m not subscribing to this.

 

Star Trek Discovery/ Season II (CBS All Access – Subscription)

I might subscribe. I’m still thinking about that, or just getting a jailbroken Firestick instead.

 

*I won’t be watching any of the 80s reboot shows that are all the rage this season. I’m not interested. I lived through the 80s already, I don’t wanna relive it through a bunch of shows I wasn’t all that hot about when they first aired. I’ll  try to find a better listing of new Fall shows for cable and streaming networks.

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Weekend Reading: On History and Pop Culture

Appropriation of  History

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Discussions on the appropriation of Medievalist history by various pseudo- Nazi organizations throughout, and how historians are fighting back against their livelihoods being associated with it.

https://newrepublic.com/article/144320/racism-medievalism-white-supremacists-charlottesville

http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2017/08/teaching-medieval-studies-in-time-of.html

https://eidolon.pub/why-i-teach-about-race-and-ethnicity-in-the-classical-world-ade379722170

The Popularity of Vikings

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Discussions about the appropriation of Viking culture by neo Nazi groups, and how historians and the descendents of that culture  are fighting against it.

https://cjadrien.com/vikings-popular/

https://www.thelocal.se/20171006/we-cant-let-racists-re-define-viking-culture-far-right-runes-swedish

https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/column-white-supremacists-love-vikings-but-theyve-got-history-all-wrong/2325755

https://www.juancole.com/2017/10/supremacists-vikings-muslims.html

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ywqn3j/photos-of-modern-vikings-keeping-their-traditions-alive

Star Wars and Fandom

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I have a post coming soon about a version of gamergate, that happened in the seventies, against disco. Rock music, Gamergate, Star Wars, Ghostbusters…white straight men throwing this type of tantrum because of a changing media landscape is not new, and follows the same formula every time it happens.

This is often reactionary behavior. By the time White men (and it is almost always White men) start protesting something it’s too late to do anything about it.  When it happened in the past, especially when the internet didn’t exist,  whatever they were protesting against simply went underground and emerged in a new form. Gamergate didn’t stop companies from developing diverse games, The Disco Sucks movement did not destroy that particular musical style, protests against rap music didn’t stop it from mainstreaming, and these new ass showings around PoC in scifi/ fantasy movies, isnt going to stop movies from being diverse, and women and PoC are still on the internet. So far, all they’ve managed to accomplish is a handful of celebrities closing themselves off from their fans by limiting their social media accounts.  

So what really is the point of such things?

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/star-wars-last-jedi-gamergate/

The Beautiful, Ugly, and Possessive Hearts of Star Wars

Racism, Misogyny & Death Threats: How Star Wars Fans Turned to the Dark Side

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/star-wars-fandom-toxicity-problem

 

The latest victim of racist ass-showing is the star of the upcoming DC series Titans, Anna Diop, who closed down the comments on her Instagram page when they racist vitriol got to be a bit much. Of course she’d started to receive this commentary the moment her casting was announced, and issued this statement:

https://www.theroot.com/racist-comic-fans-run-titans-star-off-instagram-for-not-1827809010

 

https://www.themarysue.com/candice-patton-asleigh-murray-racist-backlash/

What is really upsetting to me about this is that both actresses were told to prepare themselves for this backlash, and when coming face-to-face with it, the advice they got was to ignore it. That they’re expected to just take it to lay down the foundation for other women of color, when there are so many women who have laid the down foundation for them already, is truly exhausting.

Thinking Critically

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This first article is about this writer’s long road to adjusting his attitude to current media, and learning how to feel and think about it critically, without engaging in racism, and homophobia, something I think a lot of people, who consider themselves fans, need to do.

https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/08/04/film-crit-hulk-smash-on-criticism-in-the-intersectional-age

 

For Huck magazine Anthony Lorenzo does not mince words about how Hollywood perpetuates racism both in front of and behind the camera:

https://www.huckmag.com/perspectives/need-talk-race-film-industry/

It isn’t difficult to imagine why white writers don’t want to tackle characters they probably wouldn’t get right and get flack for. How a character might talk, might walk, the music they’d listen to and where they’d head on a messy night out. There’s a subtlety to the art of creating a character that requires knowledge of a relevant culture to accurately depict their nuances. Getting this wrong forces characters into two dimensions, leaving the writer a failure. 

 

At some point, I need to do a post on how media audiences have changed over the decades. There was a time when the primary audience that most media aimed for was the family. Over time, that changed to teenagers with disposable income, which at some point, metastasized into White males, aged 18-34.

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/dear-straight-white-men-you-are-being-pandered-to-as-well-7652399

Random Movies

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Zombies, Race, and Gender

Dr Zuleyka Zevallos

I don’t entirely agree with this article, as it hasn’t been my experience of the fandom, who seem to all want to be Negan, but nevertheless, it was an interesting read.

https://www.wired.com/2013/06/world-war-z-zombie-messages/

That shift towards a lone-white-man-triumphing-against-the-hordes mentality goes against the dominant manifestations of zombie fandom, where often fans want to join zombie swarms rather than be lone-wolf heroes. As Lauro explains, the group mentality that has proven successful in the past is the one fans share.

 

Bladerunner 2049 and Race

The movie definitely has some racist and sexist issues:

http://colorwebmag.com/2018/03/27/the-racial-flaws-of-blade-runner-2049/

 

The Magnificent Seven: Racial History

On the erasure of PoC from the Western narrative:

<em>The Magnificent Seven</em> vs. The Historical Negationism of Westerns

 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One has several issues wrong with it but I think for me one of the biggest issues is outlined in the first article. In this movie there is almost no acknowledgment that Black culture is American culture:

http://www.okayplayer.com/originals/ready-player-one-black-culture-erasure-harmful-opinion.html

https://inews.co.uk/culture/film/ready-player-one-panders-to-a-lame-sexist-nerd-culture-that-needs-to-die/

 

Analyzing The Purge

An analysis of everything wrong with the plot of The Purge, and an analysis of how poverty would affect the outcome of such a plot.

http://www.plotpedant.com/the-purge/

https://filmschoolrejects.com/the-purge-and-politics-of-poverty-c23e94449e4/

The Purge — the event, not the film — is for white people, specifically rich white people. They are the beneficiaries, the ones who can afford the security systems to keep them safe, the ones wanting to thin the population for the sake of conserving resources, and the ones whose bloodlust is least in check. The victims are minorities, largely, and economically disadvantaged to the point some even resort to selling themselves to wealthy people on Purge Night in exchange for their surviving family’s financial security. That’s another idea that only a couple of weeks ago sounded like pure fiction, and now….well, not as much.

 

Snowpiercer and The White Savior

An analysis of the use of the White Savior trope in the movie Snowpiercer. This is one of my favorite movies. It has a lot of messages in it about the hierarchy of inequality, and stars Chris Evans. It also has an unconventional ending that makes the use of the trope a lot more complicated.

https://alanw2000.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/snowpiercer-analysis-bong-joon-hos-sci-fi-masterpiece-by-alan/

http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-decay-of-white-savior.html

 

Avatar: The White Savior Trope

https://io9.gizmodo.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar

 

Mad Max: Fury Road/Disability

https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2015/05/disability-in-the-dystopian-future-of-mad-max-fury-road/

https://www.inverse.com/article/15806-one-year-later-fury-road-resonates-on-disability-sexuality-and-the-end-of-days

 

Logan: On Violence, Death, and Dying

Logan: A Film Fighting With Itself

http://www.btchflcks.com/2017/03/logan-on-death-and-dying-and-mutants.html#.W1JVgjpKgnR

Straight Out The SDCC 2018

The San Diego Comic-Con started this weekend, and we already got a buttload of movie and TV trailers that I’m very excited about. (Picture me jitterbugging around my living room in my bunny slippers!) The Con lasts all week, so I’m going to publish some more trailers for Wednesday and even Friday if necessary. Later this month, or in August, its time to start my list of TV shows to watch for, and I’ll be working on that soon.

Let’s get started. First up:

Godzilla: King of All Monsters

I am so geeking out about this move, not because of Godzilla, mind you, although there is the iconic roar, but because of the presence of Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Dragon, and Mothra, basically a giant moth. I grew up watching Godzilla movies on those Saturday afternoons when my brothers and I couldn’t go outside. I watched Mothra a bunch of times when I was a kid, so I was excited to see something like it in the last movie, and now the full effect in this one. I’m probably not going to get Mom to see this, because she hates Godzilla, but I can introduce my nieces and nephew to it if nothing else.

 

 

Shazam

I’m not excited about this movie, but I’m not dismayed. I remember watching Shazam on TV as a kid. (I watched all the superhero TV shows.) In the TV series, Shazam was a teenager or probably an adult. I haven’t seen it in so long, I can barely remember it, beyond the iconic yelling of  “Shazam!” I don’t know what to think about this yet, probably because I wasn’t expecting it to be funny. And it did give me a few laughs. This trailer isn’t inspiring me to see it though, so I’ll wait until I see some more. Also, its DC and they’re not really good with funny.

 

Glass

Now this one, I’m really, really, excited about. (See, I used to “reallys”!) I’m a huge fan of Unbreakable. It’s just exciting to see David Dunn again. (I’m a little less a fan of the movie Split, although it has its merits, and The Beast is pants-shittingly frightening.) These are really just down to Earth versions of superhero movies, and I will always grok that.

 

 

Aquaman

This is another one I haven’t formulated an opinion on yet. I love that Momoa is Aquaman though, because it seems fitting that the King of the Oceans would be a Pacific Islander, and I never get tired of looking at him, and going, “It’s Kal Drogo! Under the sea!”. It also helps that he just looks fine as Hell!

 

 

Titans

Woo! The bitching and whining about what’s wrong with this trailer, and the miscasting of Ana Diop as Starfire, has already begun on Tumblr. I’m completely dismissing any criticism from ALL White men about her casting because here’s the thing: Starfire has always been nothing but wank material for them since she first starred in the comic books. Casting her as a Black woman seems to have put a crimp in their masturbatory fantasies for this show, I’m guessing, which is why so many of them are throwing nasty racist hissy fits.

Diop has already disabled the comments on her Instagram because of the vitriol she’s been receiving, and no! I’m not surprised by it. Sending racist messages to actors of color, and then claiming they’re doing it just to protect the show, or movie, or whatever,  is just White, male, fandom’s go-to move at this point. And it’s also all they have. They’re still gonna watch the show, they’re just gonna bitch about it the whole time, and I don’t really care at this point, as long as their eyeballs provide ratings.

What I have decided not to do is read any more whiny bullshit about TV shows before they air. I got my own whiny bullshit in mind, and ain’t adopting other people’s crap. I’ll wait to actually see the show before I form an opinion on whether it’s good or bad. Also, I’m a lot older than most of the complainers on Tumblr and have been reading Teen Titans since I was a child. I can decide for myself whether or not the show is any good.

For the record, I think the trailer looks okay, although most of it is too dark to see anything, and I’m satisfied with the depiction of Starfire, and Raven.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

I don’t know that I’ll see this in the theater because I got the same issues with it, that I had with the first. But I really enjoyed the first movie, I really liked all the characters a lot, and this is an incredibly gorgeous film, too. I’m less interested in the worldbuilding than I am with the people.

 

Patient Zero

This looks like an interesting take on vampire mythology and might turn out to be what the show The Strain should have been, so I’m gonna check into it. Plus, I’m always up for some vampire apocalypse stories.

 

 

The Passage

This series is based on one of my favorite books by Justin Cronin, a trilogy called The Passage. I’m very excited about this because they’ve changed the races of the characters, thereby giving the story a deeper subtext, especially when you remember that African Americans have been used before as subjects of medical experimentation.

http://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/henriettalacks/index.html

So you have scientists experimenting on Black convicts, and chasing after a little Black girl they want to use to save the human race, from an experiment they created, that went horribly wrong. This also closely parallels the events of the first  200 or so pages of the first book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was so well written, just without the racial angle. The series offers a changeup to the  “Black man bonding with and protecting,  a little White girl”, which we’ve seen more than enough of in the movies. There’s also Mark-paul Gosselaar , which is kinda neat.

 

Overlord

This looks a lot like Patient Zero, only set during WWI, and with a Black lead character, which is intriguing. It looks like it might be about medically created zombies. I dont have a lot of opinion on it yet.

 

The Walking Dead Season Nine

After the first few episodes, I skipped most of last season. I just lost interest. I still don’t care which is why I haven’t talked much about it. I’m going to watch season nine because I’m nosy, and there will be less of Negan chewing the scenery, which is something I got really, really, tired of. It’s rumored that this will be the last season for Rick. Personally, I would like to see the show headed by Michonne, but I don’t expect we will get that so I’m not getting too hopeful. At any rate, this season doesn’t look too bad, but then I thought that about last season’s trailer, too, and look what happened.

 

Star Trek Discovery Season Two

The second season for this show doesn’t air until January which I think is a horrible tease, but I can wait. It looks just as gorgeous as always. I’ve read that the series will be preceded by a series of character shorts in December, and that Spock will put in an appearance. I have been total trash for Spock since I was twelve years old, and will watch him in anything, so I’m very excited about the new season.

Can I also mention that the guy playing the tragic Captain Pike, is Anson Mount, the same guy who played Black Bolt in that deplorable Inhumans series, that only lasted a few episodes? (If you want to know what eventually happens to Captain Pike, in ten years, you need to watch the first episode of the original Star Trek, called The Menagerie.) He looks much better here than he did in the Inhumans. As a matter of fact, he is cocky, and foine as f***!

The show also looks like its adding a little more humor.  The showrunners say the focus for the new season will be “family”, so there’s going to be more character development of the bridge crew, I’m guessing. At the end of last season, Michael had gotten back her rank, and she looks a lot more comfortable in this trailer, and I’m looking forward to what she does in the role. Her character and storyline carried the entire first season, so I expect the writers to give her a little breathing room, and focus on some of the other characters this season, with Michael as the emotional center again.

 

Doctor Who Season 11

I’m not excited about this new Doctor, so much as deeply curious, about how the show will feel with a female Doctor. It looks intriguing and I’m definitely going to check it out. I have, in the past, claimed to not be a huge Doctor Who fan, but I’m enough of a fan to have favorite Doctors, Companions, villains, etc. I think this new one might become a favorite. We’ll see!

 

Westworld/Into the Badlands Season Reviews

I did give some light mid-season reviews for both of these shows, and I said I’d have something to say about each one of these seasons.

Hmmm…lets go with some statements about Into the Badlands, first.

Into the Badlands

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This season ended on another cliffhanger, which was not as intriguing for me as the last one. Sunny has spent the entire season trying to get help for Henry, who is sick because of his genetic heritage of Black Chi, from Sunny. It turns out that Sunny is a catalyst, who can induce it, in those with latent abilities. We find out what that really means when he finally makes his way to the Sanctuary run by Pilgrim.

Pilgrim insists on referring to  Sunny as his brother, (and I’m not sure if this is literal, or metaphorical), and says his real name is Sanzo, (and one of the earlier characters, in the season, mentioned he has a sister). So we are just beginning to find out tiny details of Sunny’s backstory. Sunny encounters an angry MK, who only wants to fight. Sunny tries to talk him down, and stave off the fight as long as possible. He’s not trying to hurt MK, and has far more pressing concerns.

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Pilgrim has started to show he’s not as much of a good guy as he wants the denizens of the Badlands to believe he is, as he kills Castor, tries to cover it up, lies to Nyx, and  attacks Cressida, when she confronts him. He’s not as stable as he seems. He and his followers unearth a massive machine, and when he and Sunny touch it, he is imbued with Henry’s  Black Chi. How this is going to help him rebuild Azra is anyone’s guess. Now he’s more powerful than any of the others in the Badlands, except for one Wild Card. And it is not The Widow.

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I like to call her The Abbess, but The Master of the Abbey, that MK escaped from last season, and played by the African-Chinese actress, Chipo Chung, has a role to play in this new dynamic. When The Widow finds herself trapped, and near death, after walking into a trap in Baron Chau’s home, the Abbess, freezes, then reverses Chau’s wweapons, and rescues Minerva. With this one act, the writers have officially added magic to the worldbuilding of the Badlands, (although it was always heavily implied that this world was magical).

I am interested to see what role the Abbess is going to play in the next season. Somehow, I don’t think she and Pilgrim are going to be on the same side, and we might find out the reason it appeared as if she were siphoning the Black Chi from the students at the Abbey.

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Some of the relationships were foreshadowed, as Lydia and Nathaniel Moon have renewed their old romance. The most interesting, (yet completely unsurprising), relationship is between Gaius Chau and The Widow. The Widow has really sort of lost everything, by the end, as her people turned against her, held her prisoner, and she was lead into a trap by some false information. She has seemingly teamed up with The Abbess, and it’ll be interesting to see what these two heavyweights will get into next season, as the Abbess has promised to return Minerva’s Chi powers to her.

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The Westworld Finale:

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Opening Credits/Themes

One of the most noticeable changes to the opening credits, for season two of Westworld,  is the addition of a woman, (it appears to be Maeve), holding a baby. This is not, (according to the show’s creators), meant to convey the idea that the Hosts can get pregnant, (as these are not organic beings), but an illustration of the concept of family. The major theme this season is the relationship between parent and child. This is examined, in the plot, as the idea of fidelity. This is a word Dolores says to Bernard when she is testing him for his authenticity to Arnold. William says it to the James Delos hybrid when he tests him, and The MIB’s daughter, Emily, says this to him, in the end credits. Remember, the linchpin of a Host’s sentience  is often based on the loss of family, and note that William, James, Bernard, and Maeve all have the memories of having killed, or lost, their children.

(Side note: One of the more implausible fan theories I saw floating about, was the idea that the mother and child image, meant that Dolores was pregnant with Teddy’s baby. The idea of two “non-organic” constructs having a child, is what’s known as “fan wank”. But outside of that, is the incredibly annoying act of applying that particular image to Dolores, rather than the Black star of the series, whose narrative is actually searching for her  “child”. That image is a direct reference to Maeve, so why would you take an image of a Black woman, with a  child, and apply it, in a fan-wank no less, to her White co-star? *Sigh* White fans stay trying my fucking patience!)

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The most obvious reference, for that image, is Maeve’s storyline, to find and rescue her daughter, but Maeve’s companions, Hector, Armistice, Felix, and even Lee have also, through their adventures, formed a family, of sorts, and this is a theme peppered throughout  Maeve’s entire arc, extending into the story of Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, and Akane’s parallel story of her daughter. The revelation of Akecheta’s nature, and the world, is through his connection to family, and the loss of his wife. Akane’s story is a parallel to Maeve’s relationship to Clementine, the adopted daughter she has to kill in the finale.

Dolores, as much as Ford,  has control issues, and her character  arc is to learn to let the other Hosts be themselves, and learn to rely on other’s strengths. Teddy’s strength ,after finding out what he was, was his compassion. He would have been able to temper Dolores, and help her accomplish her goals that way, had she trusted it.  Just as Maeve has learned to rely on the individual strengths of her companions, Dolores has not learned to appreciate these qualities in hers, and learns the hard way, by losing Teddy, who rebels against her manipulation of him by destroying himself.

I think, for Dolores to be more successful in her next goal, she needs to make the idea of family a personal one, rather than an abstract concept, that is less important than her objective. Her story arc is the reverse of the others though. She spends the first half of the season trying to rescue Peter Abernathy from the Delos Corporation.

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The theme of parents, destroying, or rescuing their children  is also illustrated through James Delos, and William (The Man in Black). The aim of the Delos corporation was to put human brains into Host bodies, and they semi-succeeded. Just like the Hosts, the Human/Host hybrids also have a linchpin memory, which is the key to their sentience. For the James Delos hybrid, it was the death of his son Logan, who he rejected just before Logan overdosed on drugs. The Host version of Delos seemingly cannot get past that incident, and is eventually destroyed. James and William both rejected (and thereby, killed) their children, and neither of them seems to be able to get past the memory of that.

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For The Man in Black, some parts of the season were scenes of him doubling back and forth in his loop, and attempting to make different decisions than we saw him make the first season, and some parts are of a different timeline ,where he is actually making the bad decisions. Basically if you see him making different choices than he made before, its probably the hybrid/Host version. The linchpin memory for him is when he shot his daughter, Emily. (This is what the end credits scene is about.) The scene where he kills her is an actual flashback, according to the writers.

(Side Note: I don’t pay attention to the idea of the different timelines, because that’s not especially fascinating to me. I keep a loose idea of when things happen, in my forethoughts, but  I refuse to get hung up on it, because when things happen, is essentially meaningless. In my mind, all of the decisions of the Hosts, humans, and Hybrids, are of a piece, and its not as important for me to understand when something happened, so much as why it happened. I think the writers feel this way, as well, which is why they jumbled up the timelines, in the first place. I don’t think they want viewers to get hung up on when something occurs. For me, Westworld is about the characters, personalities, and relationships, and how they all serve the primary theme. It is not about the minutiae of when, and I don’t spend a lot of time parsing that.)

It’s almost as if, for the Hosts to move forward, to move out of the stagnancy of their loop, they need to confront their greatest sins, realize that, and then undo them. Many of the mind concepts on this show are based in various psychotherapies and PTSD. Although, unlike humans, the Hosts don’t just hold on to  painful memories, they actually live them, over and over. One thing the show took pains to mention is the idea of humans remaining in their loops as well. (I mentioned this in one of my posts last season, about the idea of Karmic Debt.) The humans are less free than the Hosts. I think this is illustrated in William’s story and his inability to move past Emily’s death, and James Delos’ inability to move beyond Logan’s death.

https://www.recoveryranch.com/mental-health/why-do-people-with-ptsd-relive-traumatic-experiences/

The one person, who is able to move beyond the loss of their child, is Maeve.

Image result for westworld season 3/maeve

For Maeve, her emotional linchpin was her inability to save her daughter from the MIB, and she, just like him, had to circle back to the place and time where she lost her. To save her daughter, she had to respond  differently and, (to reach a kind of emotional equilibrium), she takes on and defeats The MIB, which gives her some small amount of closure, (even if she doesn’t kill him).  For her to keep moving forward, she needed to confront one of her greatest sins, and the demon that came with it.

More importantly, Maeve doesn’t do this alone. She accomplished her goal because of the coalition of humans, of different races, and Hosts, with different strengths and skills, (like Hector and Akecheta). She forms this “family’ through a combination of mercy and compassion, unlike Dolores, who coerces her accomplices, through brute force, sacrificing them when they are no longer needed, and remaking them to suit her needs, like she did with Teddy. There is a reason that Dolores is nicknamed The Deathbringer by Ghost Nation.

For Delores, her linchpin  was the killing of Arnold, her biological father. We know this because it’s the one memory she kept revisiting, again and again, in season one. In fact, Dolores could be said to have reached full sentience, when she circled back to her beginning and Arnold’s killing. She spends the first half of the season attempting to rescue and protect her Host father, Peter Abernathy, from Charlotte’s machinations, but Arnold is her linchpin memory, and she is responsible for his death. She can’t save him, but she can save Peter Abernathy, and Bernard, the replica of her biological father. Unlike the others, Dolore’s sentience is through the loss of a parent.

 

The Finale

*Maeve escapes the Mesa and reunites with her group, and they, Bernard, Dolores, Akecheta, William, and Delos all converge on the Valley Beyond. Dolores and Bernard enter first and find the Forge, a more advanced version of the Cradle. Dolores reads some of the guest data as the Forge opens “the Door” for Akecheta and his followers to upload their minds into “the Sublime”, a digital world cut off from the physical world. Bernard kills Dolores to prevent her from destroying the Forge and flees with Elsie back to the Mesa.

Maeve and her group sacrifice themselves holding off Delos forces to ensure Akecheta and Maeve’s daughter escape to the Sublime. Charlotte murders Elsie to keep her quiet, which convinces Bernard to build a host version of Charlotte with Dolores’ control unit. Dolores kills and replaces Charlotte while Bernard scrambles his own memories. In the present, Dolores kills Strand and Bernard while transferring the host minds in the Sublime to a safer location. She then escapes back to the mainland where she rebuilds Bernard, knowing that he will oppose her plan to destroy humanity and hoping their resulting conflict will ensure the survival of the hosts.

In a flash-forward, William enters the Forge to find it abandoned save for Emily, who tests him for “fidelity”, revealing that his consciousness has been implanted in a host body.

 

Overall Plot: The Cradle/The Forge/ The Valley Beyond

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This season was very very busy. There were multiple threads, timelines, motivations, and a lot of dying! I am ill equipped to explain all of the plot to you because I mostly watch to see how the characters are navigating the plot,  their emotions, and relationships. This can leave me ignorant of some of the finer  details. So, how about some links from people who are either marginally smarter than me, or just paid closer attention to the plot.

https://www.gq.com/story/westworld-finale-explained

Still trying to wrap your head around all those crazy twists? We’re here to help.

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*And from the creators themselves, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan:

https://mashable.com/2018/06/25/westworld-season-2-finale-explained-lisa-joy-jonathan-nolan/#VqdG.8m3.Oqg

Maeve:

Image result for westworld season 3/

One of my biggest pet peeves, for the first season, was how many critics slept on Maeve’s story. I knew that her story would be important, in comparison to Dolores’ story, and that there would be a payoff, for it.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/sorry-maeve-had-a-more-satisfying-story-than-dolores-i-1827122416

Maeve, unlike Delores gets to have a certain amount of  closure to her story. Her original objective was simply to break out of the Matrix Westworld, and she almost succeeded, but gave that up in favor of finding her “once” daughter, who has undergone her own awakening,  and still remembers the mother she once had. She accomplished this goal, aided by a group of Hosts,  Lee,  a couple of Westworld technicians, and the leader of the Ghost Tribe. In the finale, she safely escorted her daughter into a pocket digital universe, called The Valley Beyond, where humans can’t go. Maeve may never see her daughter again, but at least she knows that she is safe.

It was interesting watching Maeve’s character arc all season, as she not only grew in power, but in her compassion, and her ability to love and sacrifice. She started off as a much more selfish character, and though there are criticisms that could be made of her character within the narrative of Black female stereotypes, overall, I’m satisfied with her story and how it ended this season.

Image result for westworld season 3/maeve

That said, my favorite episode is Akane No Mai, as it was a showcase episode for her character, emphasizing her deep humanity and compassion. And I just love the sight of Black women wielding samurai swords, for some reason.

Since the Delos Corp. have no idea that what happened was the robots reaching sentience, they intend to start the various Parks up again, after wiping and fixing the Hosts. They  believe it was all some sort sabotage by Ford, to destroy the Park, because he was forced to relinquish control of it. The issue of the Hosts sentience has not been resolved, and Dolores and a handful of other Hosts are now out in the actual world, as well.

When we last see Maeve, she and her crew have all been decommissioned, but we know she will be one of the ones to be revived, as Felix is one of the technicians who has been tasked with reprogramming the Hosts. Unlike Dolores, Maeve isn’t trying to do what she does all alone. She has a team, and they work as a team. Maeve is the Mastermind, with each member of the group working to their strengths, with Hector,  Armistice, and her Japanese twin, often working as “the muscle”, and Felix and the other humans, acting as the technical specialists. And then there’s Lee.

Image result for westworld season 3/karma

Remember how I said I disliked Lee, who is the hack writer of most of the storylines of Westworld, and even Shogun World. Well, he proved himself to be redeemable, and much more complicated, than he was when we first met him. After Maeve’s shootout with The Man in Black, she gets taken back to the facility, where everyone tries to figure out how it was possible for her to control the other Hosts, after which they plan to decommission her. But it is Lee, who pleads with the technicians to save her life, and he seems to be so deeply affected by her imminent death, that he is in tears, and sits by her table, and talks to her, the entire time.

She so transcended the limited narrative that he wrote for her, that, like Hector, and Felix, he has fallen in love with her. (there’s a very neat parallel to her and Hector in Akane No Mai, when you realize Musashi might very well be in love with Akane.) This is very possibly one of my favorite moments in the season, because I love to be surprised by  changes in a character. Later, he actually sacrifices his life so she can rescue her daughter.

Once again,  the name Maeve means “to enchant”. And that is what she does, both literally, and figuratively.

 

Dolores:

Image result for westworld season 3/dolores

Dolores is on a different journey from Maeve. Her objective was to free the Hosts from the Park, and she mostly succeeded at this, having uploaded the minds of  many of the Hosts (at least the ones who went into the Valley) to an undisclosed location. She and Bernard leave the park and go out into the real world. Her new objective is, I think, to destroy the human world, or close all the parks, or something.

Dolores is learning how to work with others, which is to the good. Maybe she learned her lesson after Teddy decommissioned himself, but she seems willing to work with Bernard to accomplish her next goal, and she managed to rescue several of the mind pearls from the park.

I don’t have as much to say about Dolores, because her story wandered in some unexpected directions, and there’s a lot of mystery about her new goals. At any rate a lot has already been written about her, that’s much more in-depth than what I could provide:

https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/979084/Westworld-season-2-finale-explained-Is-Dolores-alive-S02E10-Charlotte-Hale

Overall, though I’ve seen some reviews bashing this season, (there’s always several of those, by people who probably shouldn’t be watching the series, if they’re not into, or even getting, the point), but I enjoyed it. I don’t think it was as good as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of novelty, and we are now well used to all these characters now. I’m looking forward to season three. I’m eager to see what kind of mischief Dolores can get up to in the real world, if there are other Hosts already walking about, will Maeve be back, and in what capacity, and will the Delos Corporation figure out that their problem is much, much, bigger than Ford?

 

 

 

 

Mini Reviews From Firestick TV

I got an Amazon FireStick for Christmas, and so far, I’m having good fun with it. I’ve been doing this thing, where I go to random apps, and try them, or just watch whatever movies or shows get recommended to me on Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu. I’ve watched movies on Terrarium TV, and and an app called Showbox, but I’m not gonna talk about those today. I’m sticking with Netflix, and Hulu, for now.

 

Kill Order

One of the  fun things to watching movies on the Firestick, is you get to watch low budget, never heard of, movies, and this is the case with Kill Order. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before watching it. Had never even heard of it. Although some elements of the plot are somewhat confusing (requiring you to pay close attention to some horrible acting), the plot is fairly straightforward.

The plot involves a superhuman teenager, David Lee, played by Chris  Mark, on the run from the shadowy scientific Organization that  experimented on him. David is prone to nightmares and anxiety attacks. When he’s attacked in his classroom and his home by assassins, and his adopted parent is killed, he has to outrun more of them,  sent after him by The Organization.

There’s shades of Logan in the plot, because David is an experiment, who was freed by one of the doctors working on the program. He’s been infused with some type of elemental energy from another  world, and when he becomes stressed, or concentrates hard enough, he can access this energy to be faster and stronger than human. Unfortunately, many of the assassins out to kill him are also successful experiments and can access this energy too.

I thought the acting was atrocious, but I loved the kinetic energy in this movie. I think it was worth watching, for the action scenes, although a couple of them lasted just a tad longer than they should have. The action is really fast, brutal, and bloody. My major complaint about that, was that so many of the fights took place in public spaces, well within view of spectators, who did not seem at all puzzled to see black garbed killers flailing swords around, at the park. I mean it is a fairly unusual sight in this world but I guess maybe not so much in David’s.

Kill Order is available on Hulu, and is not related to the Maze Runner series, by James Dashner, as far as I know.

 

Pose

I heard about this show on The Root, and thought I’d give it a try. It’s a new show, from the creator of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy, and is loosely based on the 1990 movie, Paris is Burning, about the gay Ballroom scene in 1980s New York. I enjoyed that movie, and have been fascinated with Ballroom culture ever since, and this show is an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle, that comes from a place of authenticity, as many of the actors are actually transgender.

I was a little put out by the opening of the movie, as I don’t particularly enjoy watching characters be mean and bitchy to one another, but apparently that was just  setting up the (loosely named) villains of the show, House Abundance, which is the rival to House Evangelista. There’s also a B plot involving the economic boom issues going on in NY at the time, involving the rise of  Donald Trump, (although he is not featured in the series).

House Abundance is run by Dominique, who was once the House mother for Blanca, who left her (becasue she wasn’t getting any respect), to start her own House, and we get to watch as the two Houses compete in various shows, how Blanca builds her own house, and the contrast between how the two houses are run. The show also tackles issues of teen/LGBTQ homelessness, as Blanca adopts a young man from the street, whose family abandoned him.

For those of you unfamiliar with all this, here’s are some  brief primers on  Ballroom culture and voguing. You’ll hear about the two Houses, La Beija, Xtravaganza, and Ninja, which were the focus of the movie, Paris is Burning, and some of the dance moves, like The Duck Walk, and the Death Drop. The New York Black and Latinx LGBTQ Ballroom culture is where the original meaning of “Shade” and “Reading” people came from. (None of this has anything to do with the dance form which was co-opted by Madonna in the 90s.)

I’ve only spent some time watching the various clips from this move, because it just hurts too much, to watch it, in its entirety, multiple times. The stories really move you. You start to root for certain characters, only to find out they were murdered in a hate crime, a few months later, or died of Aids. it can be hard to watch, but its worth it to glimpse a culture you may have never seen before. I try to be respectful, and keep in mind, that I’m not a part of this culture, and  a spectator to all it. I just admire it from afar.

 

Here is one of my favorite moments in Paris is Burning, about the philosophy behind voguing, realness, and authenticity:

 

I enjoyed the first episode a lot, and I made a promise to myself to catch some  more episodes, although I’m not yet devoted to it. But I do love the idea that this even managed to make its way to Primetime TV. I can actually see something like this being made in the 80s for  television, but not in the 90s, which was a lot more conservative. If you have been wishing for more LGBTQ content on TV then this is your show, this is your hour, this is you! The show discusses a lot of transgender issues, which makes this show absolutely groundbreaking!

This show wasn’t recommended to me from my Firestick, although I think you can watch it on Hulu, if you don’t have cable, or satellite TV.

 

The Outsider

I was prepared not to like this movie, which is newly available on Netflix. Netflix recommended I watch this, because I’d watched several Chinese Action movies (?), and put several more on my watchlist. So, even though I was dubious, because it starred Jared Leto, I took a chance, and gave it a try.

For the record,  I am, apparently,  one of the five people on the entire planet, who does not hate Jared Leto. I’m just occasionally wary of his presence in something, mostly  based on the stories I’ve heard about him, that I should, but I’ve always been contrary. I think he’s a perfectly okay actor, and I’ve liked him ever since he got his ass beat by Brad Pitt in Fight Club. I even liked him in this movie, although he turns in, what is for him, a rather subdued performance, which is also completely unnecessary to the plot of this movie.

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of historical movies, and books, about Westerners travelling, and living, in Japan. I will watch, or read, just about anything on that subject. That said, though, I have never understood Hollywood’s need to add White men to stories that do not actually require their presence. I don’t  object to  such things per se, but sometimes, I don’t feel like looking at White guys in Asian media. I’m told this is an economic choice, because White Americans are too stupid to watch movies without any White men in them. Personally, I think that’s a grave insult to the reasonably smart White people who actually watch foreign films, with nary a White guy in sight, (and if the American school system hadn’t spent so many decades turning its citizens brains into ignorant mush about the rest of the world, this would never have created a problem, that needed to be pandered to.)

This is an acceptable movie, and Jared Leto is fine in it, as an American criminal, imprisoned in Japan, just after WW2. While there, he meets, and saves the life of, a Yakuza member. When the two of them break out of prison, he goes to work for the man whose life he saved, the son of a Yakuza leader, and gets accepted as a low ranking member of the clan, despite the protestations of his friend’s brother, who is set to inherit the title of clan leader. He meets a girl, and gets involved in some drama, that results in the entire clan being killed, after which he’s exiled.

This story could just as easily have been told without him, because the politics and infighting of Yakuza clans is fascinating, all on its own. I don’t know if the director is Japanese, but I didn’t get much of a sense of Japan in this movie, beyond the usual surface signifiers, like Sumo scenes, neon city streets, and  dancing geisha. If you’re looking for some depth of setting, like a travelogue, this is not that movie. Leto looks distinctly out of place, but I guess that’s the point of putting him in this movie.

The setting felt more like the industrial wasteland of 80s Chicago, than 50s Japan, so there could’ve definitely been some more work done on the time setting. The trailer looks more Japanese than the actual movie, and I have no idea how a director manages to accomplish such a thing.  It’s a very dark film. It’s very gloomy. There’s a lot of sitting around in bars, gambling, and drinking, while giving people shifty looks, talking smack about the American, some macho grandstanding, and some short, brutal, fight scenes, which Leto performs satisfactorily, without ever seeming as if he is a dangerous person. I think it’s because he has this wide eyed innocent look, (he is exceptionally pretty), that works against what he’s trying to portray. He really needs to work on looking more shifty eyed, unless of course,  that was the point of his character.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a spectacular one either. I liked the visuals, but I like the visuals of any movie set in Japan, so that’s a very low bar. There’s nothing in it that stands out in particular, beyond the mood, and setting, and this one White guy, that the other characters keep saying doesn’t belong where he is. If you’ve got some time to spend on a Saturday evening, with nothing much to do, and you don’t mind watching Jared Leto, and some Japanese imagery, for 90 minutes or so, then it’s an engaging enough film, but if you choose not to watch it, don’t beat yourself up over that decision, too much.

 

 

Travels With My Dad

I have a pretty close relationship to my Mom, so I’m always fascinated by other peoples real life, adult, relationships with their parents. I actually really liked this show. It wasn’t recommended to me by Netflix, but eventually it would have, because I like travel shows, and I enjoyed watching the show, An Idiot Abroad.

Jack Whitehall is a British comedian that I know nothing about. I’ve never seen any of his performances, so I came into this completely clear of any expectations beyond the show’s premise. The show is about him taking his dad,Michael, along with him on a world tour. The two of them do some father/son bonding, and have some mildly amusing adventures, as Jack attempts to connect with his dad. I would say his objective is successful, and occasionally deeply amusing, as his dad is not the kind of man who minces words, makes it clear the things he will, and will not do, while still having a sense of whimsy, and being game enough to try new things.

In fact, I really loved the show, and I’m not sure what this says about me other than I’m older than Jack or American or a woman or something, but I kinda identified with Michael for most of the show. Like his dad, I was often exasperated at Jack’s attitudes about things. When they first get to somewhere in SE Asia, Jack wants to stay at a hostel, but Michael is having none of that shit, and I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t either. I would not travel halfway around the world, to live in a small room,with a bunch of strange White people, who look none too clean, or trustworthy. (Also, I have a phobia about falling asleep in the presence of White people, because apparently,  I’ve watched far too many bad comedies.) Like Jack’s dad, I’m gonna stay at a nice hotel, like a civilized human being. If I’m gonna be robbed, I want that shit done James Bond style, with class.

Michael and Jack visit a temple, and a house of dolls. Or is it the same thing? The idea behind the dollhouse is that people have these very realistic dolls made, that are supposed to House the souls of actual children. Well, they get a doll, and Michael carries this little doll around, for the rest of the show. The point is that you’re supposed to treat the doll like an actual child. I thought this was both creepy and cute. Jack just thought it was creepy. Michael named the doll, carried him openly everywhere, and doted on it, just like he was supposed to, but eventually lost the doll, when he gave it to another little boy to hold,when he went on a sort of train ride. That’s something you really have to see because it’s not actually a train, and is a deeply inefficient form of travel, that Michael absolutely hated.

But it was a very  fun show. I adored Jack’s parents. His mom has got a bit of salt in her too, which I liked. Michael would call her every evening, and they’d talk about what he’d done that day, and she would give him no nonsense advice on things to say and do with Jack. If you’ve got parents, (especially if you’re their primary caregiver), you should probably watch this show with them. I didn’t watch this with my mom, but I’m thinking about it.

 

New and Interesting Trailers 6/2018

HI!

Here, have some trailers! I thought these looked really good. I was already on the hook to see some of these movies and shows,  but a couple of them got me really interested in seeing something that was not necessarily on my radar. There are a couple that I’m cautiously excited about, but I’m going to approach them with an open mind.

 

Luke Cage Season 2

So Alfre Woodard appears to be tearing it up, in a season which is focusing a lot more on women. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are kicking ass, and then there’s Bushmaster. I don’t know a whole lot about Bushmaster (as he wasn’t in any of the Luke Cage books I read), so he will be something of a surprise for me, but I am really excited for this season.

From the interviews I’ve seen, Cheo Hodari Coker knows Ryan Coogler, and the two of them tend to work parallel to each other. This show wasn’t slacking in its representation of women of color last season, but the influence of Black Panther can be seen in how it allows the Black women to be heroes and villains, rather than merely eye candy. So, despite the presence of Danny Rand, (who I’m still not feeling too good about), I’m really looking forward to this season.

 

 

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

This is one of the funniest Marvel trailers I’ve seen in awhile. I’m really liking this, although it took me a minute to wrap my head around the animation, as I was expecting something a little more traditional. But I’m glad to see Spider- Gwen, and an adult Peter Parker. I think I posted this trailer here before, too, which shows my enthusiasm for this movie.

I’m a big fan of Peter Parker, (and I was one of the people who lobbied that he should be Asian in the new movie), but I’m also in love with Miles Morales, too, who is from the Ultimate Spiderman line of comic books.

 

Christopher Robin

I am so much in love with this trailer and with Winnie the Pooh. The adventures of Pooh, and his friends, were one of the primary literary staples of my girlhood. I remember my Mom used to read the adventure books to me, and we watched the cartoons on TV. I loved Pooh so much, I think I’m the reason that my youngest brother, (I was 3 when he was born), is named after him, (and if you can picture a 6 ft. tall, muscular, forty something, Black firefighter, named Pooh…)

This trailer got me all up in my feels, and I have no shame in admitting that I plan to see this, multiple times, if possible.

 

 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

I really enjoyed the original trilogy of Lisbeth Salander, and I’m excited for this new movie. I probably still won’t read the book though, although I did read the first two. I like this  new actor, although it’s hard to top the original.

 

 

Halloween

I’m not sure what I feel about this new version. I did like the Rob Zombie movies okay (the second less than the first). Apparently, this movie picks up exactly where the first movie left off, and Michael isn’t actually Laurie’s brother, and she has a granddaughter who thinks she’s insane, and all the other movies will be ignored, (with Carpenter’s blessing). But it looks pretty good, and I like Laurie’s “Born Again Hard” attitude, and gun.

 

 

The Predator

I had no idea there was a whole damn mythology behind The Predator movies, (even though I’ve seen all of them, and only been impressed by maybe a couple of them). I read a couple of the comic books, and watched the movies, and I really enjoyed both, but apparently  made no effort to put all this shit together. The Predators even have a special name, that I’ve never heard of! The first trailer didnt make me especially enthused about the movie, but I am highly enthused now that I’ve watched the mythology video, and seen this new trailer, which looks fucking awesome. (Yeah, if I’m cussing, I’m very excited.)

 

*Predator Mythology 

The Yautja (Predators Explained)

 

Bumblebee

While Bumblebee is one of my favorite Transformers characters, I’m not especially enthused about this movie for two reasons. The first is because the very first shot in this trailer is of a White woman’s ass, and I am thoroughly sick and damn tired of looking at White women’s asses (any women’s asses really) in movies, unless its actually a four legged animal. The second is because it is a Transformers movie.

A couple of things in its favor  is that there is a different director attached to this movie, and it’s about Bumblebee, and he’s a bit more kid oriented. Unfortunately, it does look like the same plot as the first Transformer film, and I even though I liked that film, I really don’t want to pay for the same movie twice.

Into The Badlands Season Two: So Far

Oh wow, I’m really late with this one, although not too late since the season hasn’t ended yet. I really should have begun this earlier, because there is a lot of ground to cover, and as is usual with this show, if you miss an episode, you’re up shit creek as far as understanding what’s going on, or what happened before. The plot does not slow down here. As the season moves forward the plot becomes more dense, the betrayals and alliances fly fast and furious, and of course, the action is literally kickin’! We’re gonna have to do this the old fashioned way: via character list.

 

Sunny

Sunny

Since the first episode, Sunny (whose actual name is indeed Sunshine) has been at pains to save Henry, since Henry became sick. It turns out that Henry is a baby Dark One. In his quest to save Henry from dying from his Dark Chi, Sunny teams up with Bajie, takes over a refugee camp, gets kidnapped by cannibals, and finally confronted by Nathaniel Moon, and finally reunited with the River King.

As usual, many of Sunny’s current problems spring from all the past shit he did as a Clipper, but there’s also a new wrinkle. Sunny happens to be a Dark One, only his abilities are latent. Sunny is a catalyst instead, capable of awakening the abilities of others. Should this information become public, and others find out he can create Dark Ones (possibly even control them), Sunny will become even more valuable to all the major Powers of the Badlands.

 

Bajie

Bajie

Bajie is one of those people who knows everybody, and  everybody’s everybody. The Widow used to be a former pupil of his, and one of his former masters from the abbey is a witch who can cure Henry’s illness. He and Sunny find their way to this woman. She manages to cure Henry’s fever, but she is also the person who figures out that it was Sunny who caused the flareup because  its hereditary.

Bajie is disappointed to think the signal he sent out, in first season, got no response, but the witch says it did. It attracted Pilgrim. And guess what? Bajie seems to know him too. So, at some point he and Pilgrim will be reunited.

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon tracks Sunny to the lair of the cannibals, where he gets taken prisoner, as well. In exchange for saving his life from the cannibals, Moon decides to spare Sunny’s life. Also, Moon is an honorable man, who does not wish to make Henry an orphan.

The writers have learned at least a few lessons from the past seasons. They have given Moon a backstory, and although he does questionable things (most of the people in the Badlands do questionable things), he manages to maintain his honor, and occasionally make some good choices, but I suspect sooner or later, just like Tilda and Waldo,  he will grow disillusioned with The Widow, and leave her.

He also has a sordid past with Lydia, who had an affair with him, when he was Quinn’s Clipper. I like this relationship and hope they get together because their chemistry is unmistakable.

The Widow

The Widow

The Widow’s war with Baron Chau continues, and its hard to say who is winning. They both use innocent lives to manipulate each other into action, so I can’t even say who is the better person. The Widow is still one of my favorite characters but I still got  problems with her methods.

After Pilgrim floods  her poppy fields with pamphlets, stealing away half her Cogs, she decides to get out in front of the problem, and goes to see him. Subsequently, she and Pilgrim reach an accord. He doesn’t steal away any more of her workers, and she will take his side against anyone who attacks him.and there won’t be any need for violence between them,

 

Lydia

Lydia

Lydia has been appointed to be the Widow’s governor,  taking over the poppy plantation, where she used to live. It turns out that she and Nathaniel Moon used to be lovers, and their reunion was …how do you say? “Fraught with tension!” Like I said, the twists, turns and connections on this show fly fast and furious, and you have got to pay close attention, or you’ll miss some new, and relevant, development.

 

M.K.

M.K.

When we last saw MK he was zonked on opium, and without his powers, but the opium caused some type pf revelation, and he now believes that it was Sunny who killed his mother. I’m inclined to believe this is a delusion on his part, except Sunny has met more than a few people he’s wronged in his time as a Clipper, so why not MK.

During MK’s mission to find and kill Sunny, he’s shot by Gaius Chau’s crew, and found by Pilgrim. Pilgrim knows what he is, and wants him to stay and work for him, as a kind of enforcer, since one of his enforcers is in the final stages of being a Dark One burnout, and he needs a replacement. I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m pretty sure this won’t end with MK killing Sunny.  They are set to be reunited, and I’m sure there’s gonna be some kung fu fightin’, but I think that will be the extent of it.

 

Tilda

Tilda

Tilda and her mother have reconciled, (sort of), and she is now a kind of liaison, between the war refugees and her mother, helping to run the  camp set up in a corner of the Widow’s district, by Lydia. Over the course of the season, this camp has been attacked by everyone in the Badlands, mostly in an attempt to steal the refugees and get them involved in the war. Tilda makes this  deal, with her mother, to protect them.

 

Baron Chau

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After her people are attacked by Pilgrim, Juliet Chau realizes she cannot fight a war on two fronts, and sends in her nuclear option, her brother, Gaius Chau, who she suborns into working for her, by threatening his friends. She and her brother have a history where he tried to be a nice guy, but his sister took over his position as head of the family because she was utterly ruthless. They were feuding, but she imprisoned her brother, after he tried to stage a coup. Needless to say, Juliet is a few rungs down the ladder of villainy than Minerva, as she seems to actually believe in, and support, the slavery of the Cogs.

She sends her brother out to find, and assassinate Pilgrim.

I’m not sure I like this version of the “dragon lady” stereotype, but I do like this character, who is every bit The Widow’s equal. Perhaps if the show had more Asian women in it, to offset her depiction, that might be better.

 

 

Gaius Chau

Gaius Chau

Fomented a rebellion against his sister when she became the head of hte clan. And guess who was at the bottom of this rebellion. A very young Minerva, of course! She seems to have ties to everyone in the Badlands.

We’ve already seen The Widow’s reunion with Bajie, last season, which did not go well, but after Gaius’ assassination attempt of Pilgrim is unsuccessful, he finds his way to the refugee camp led by Tilda, where he and Nathaniel team up to protect it from Baron Chau, after which he is reunited with The Widow, and now works for her.

Can I just say how happy I am to see Lewis Tan in this show.

 

Pilgrim/Cressida

PilgrimCressida

Pilgrim and his entourage, which include the two Dark Ones, Nix and Castor, (and now MK), have taken up residence in an abandoned castle/museum on an islet. Pilgrim certainly seems to be educated from somewhere as he knows a lot about the artifacts in the museum, and has been heard quoting The Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.

Pilgrim is turning into one of the top power players in the Badlands, mostly because he is able to offer hope and stability, from the war, to the Cogs  who flock to his banner. He’s certainly becoming someone who needs to be gotten rid of for becoming a hindrance, or parlayed with, instead. The Widow decides to make a deal (which she will renege on, at the first opportunity, of course). Baron Chau decides that getting rid of him is her best bet, and sends Gaius to do it.

Pilgrim and Cressida are engaged in some mysterious construction activities. Its kind of confusing because a lot of the people in the Badlands refer to Azra as  a place that is gone, a place that exists now, a place that will exist in the future, or sometimes, a person. At any rate, actual mystical abilities (magic) have been introduced to the mythology of the Badlands, as Cressida actually is a seer, and keeps seeing Sunny’s Clipper hash-marks in her visions, which is convenient becasue Sunny is on his way to Pilgrim’s place, in the last episode.

 

This season consists of sixteen episodes this time, so we’re about half through. Of course, by the end of the season, every individual situation will have changed, and I hope they all survive to the next season.

 

Black Mirror Review

The topic for this season of Black Mirror seems to be White Supremacy, and I guess somebody, (I won’t name names, but I will point in the general direction of my co-worker, Chad) feels some type of way about that.

“Racial issues” was the general theme of three key episodes of this season. The plot usually  involved some form of technology that had  gone horribly wrong, or gets badly misused because of the philosophy of a Toxic White person, and then some marginalized person catches some shit for it.

Yeah, I can see people feeling salty enough to give bad reviews, especially if the theme for this season seems to be  “White people fucking up, y’all!” If things were reversed, and the theme was “Them Colored folk is fucking up the future!”, I’d be inclined to dislike it, too.

I watched all of the episodes, except Hang the DJ, because I’m not particularly interested in shows about young people falling in love.

 

USS Callister

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My favorite episode was USS Callister. The story is blatantly feminist but that’s okay, because it was very entertaining, as a Star Trek parody that takes place entirely in one man’s head. At first I thought this was a straight up parody about the original Star Trek, and a critique of how the original got feminism wrong, but it turned out to be something very different.

An entitled and awkward game maker, who doesn’t feel appreciated enough in the real world, creates simulated versions of his co-workers in a virtual game, and I just thought it would be a comedy, but  what elevates this above a parody is that he is White,  he treats the other characters appallingly, and most of his simulated co-workers are women, and people of color, whose job it is to worship and praise him as the Captain of the USS Callister. Those who are not sufficiently worshipful are punished.

One of the few White male characters (his company partner in the real world) is punished, over and over again,  by having a simulation of his son murdered in front of him, and the lone Black woman gets transformed into an alien monster, as punishment for the rebellious activities of the white female lead, trying  to free them. The lone black male character is forced to speak in Af-Am vernacular and wear an Afro. The point of all of this is that all of these characters must live in stereotyped versions of themselves, and kowtow to the captain, while he uses the game to take out his real life racial and sexual resentments on these self aware, virtual, clones, who are  powerless. When you couple all that with the sexlessness of the clones (none of them possess genitalia), it all adds up to some very deeply unhealthy ideas about sex, as well.

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The simulations are not real people, but they are aware that they are trapped in a game called Infinity. They spend most of the episode trying to escape the simulation. The Captain also has access to their real world DNA, so they can never really die, as he can resurrect them anytime.

This particular episode is an indictment of  toxic White masculinity in the gaming industry. Its also a commentary on Incels, the Alt-right, and gamergate.

http://collider.com/black-mirror-uss-callister-explained/

What’s brilliant about “USS Callister” is how it serves up its headfake in the first act. We think we’re about to see a story of a mild mannered genius who gets no respect, and the episode uses our assumptions against us. We’ve seen that story time and again, where the quiet nice guy is the hero, but the story this episode tells is one that rings true to the world we live in today. 

 

Crocodile

Of all the episodes of Black Mirror, I think this one was the most hated, and I think it’s because a lot of critics didn’t understand what it was actually about. (Or maybe they did understand and it offended them.) There was also a certain contingent of people who simply couldn’t get past the deaths of the Muslim family in the episode, not quite understanding, that was the point, and  could not have been made otherwise.

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I’ve read several reviews of this episode, and when I speak on  ‘critical diversity’ issues, the fact that none of the reviews I’ve read mention race as a factor to this narrative, is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Most of the episode takes place in an Icelandic landscape, and is about a White woman, who goes on a killing spree, based on a killing she committed many years ago. Now she does kill another person in the narrative, but what many reviewers refuse to mention is that she also, coldbloodedly, murders a Muslim couple, and their baby.

Several years ago, Mia was present at the killing of a homeless man, via hit and run. Her boyfriend was the one who committed the deed, and years later, wracked with guilt,  he comes back to tell her he’s going to confess. She kills him. During this meeting another man is hit by a car outside the hotel where Mia and her old boyfriend have met, and Mia is called in as  witness by a young Muslim woman named Shazia. Shazia has a device that can probe a person’s recent memories ,and uses it on Mia, who cannot disguise the reason she was at the hotel, and that she killed her old boyfriend, at that time.

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Mia ties Shazia up, and using the memory device on Shazia, finds out that Shazia’s husband knew where she was going. She kills Shazia, and then goes to her home, and kills her husband, and their baby, just in case the device can be used on him. There is a guinea pig in the room, but Mia doesn’t kill it, and the device apparently works on animals, because Mia gets arrested while at her son’s recital that evening.

croc·o·dile tears
noun
 tears or expressions of sorrow that are insincere.
 
 https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/vbyp3b/in-black-mirror-white-mothers-are-the-coldest-villains

The title is a reference to the Crocodile Tears that Mia cries throughout the entire episode. Mia is always crying. She cries after she kills the homeless man. She cries after she kills her old boyfriend. She cries after killing Shazia, and her family. But all these tears do not stop her from being cold-bloooded (ie. reptilian) enough to kill a mother, her husband, and her baby to serve her own needs. Mia’s tears are meaningless, and are ultimately only about her own discomfort, and the possible loss of her lifestyle, with a new husband and career, and have nothing to do with the horrors she’s enacting. It is telling that Mia is cold enough to kill a baby, but cares enough not to kill the guinea pigs sitting on the table in the baby’s room.

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To me, a lot of these episodes are an indictment of White women who devalue the lives of women of color, and prioritize Whiteness. What Mia is doing, willingly taking the lives of marginalized others to save her own, while supposedly feeling sorry about it, is a definite reference to White feminism, the kind of feminism that is willing to throw other women (and even their children) under the bus to preserve itself, and can be directly attributed to the 53% of White female voters who put Donald Trump in the White House. I think this episode speaks directly to the hypocrisy of such women, as Mia considered the life of the family of guinea pigs to be worth more than the life of the human baby she murders, and next to The Black Museum, this is the second most powerful episode in the season.

Throughout the entire episode, Mia keeps telling herself she has no choice but to do these things, and what’s worst , she tries to convince Shazia of this as well. Of all the choices she doesn’t consider, giving up her privileged, upper class lifestyle by confessing to the police, is never one of them. At every step along the way, Mia could have stopped, but she is too cowardly, and self involved,  and cries because SHE is the one in pain, while she causes pain to others.  Mia is a monster in every sense of the term.

Its interesting to me that reviewers can easily see that the USS Callister episode was about male entitlement, and sexism, but when it comes to the events of Crocodile, reviewers conveniently fail to “get it”, never mentioning that three of the people Mia kills are a dark skinned Muslim family. In some cases, the critics walk right up to the issue, and then neatly sidestep as if the  subject of  White racism is the least important (or most banal) part of the episode ,and they simply cannot be bothered with such a topic.

Crocodile Tears: The Violence of White Womanhood in Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’ Episode “Crocodile”

by Talynn Kel (On Medium. Com/ for Members Only)

 

Black Museum

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I spoke about this particular episode in an earlier post on why we need more Black critics. of the three episodes I talk about here, this one was the stand out.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/black-mirror-and-critical-diversity/

 

*On the subject of the critical reception of this season, I want to list The Verge, for getting every single one of its hot takes of this season wrong. In every episode that approaches race, the critics of The Verge manage to totally not “get it”. (In one case, a critic ignores the message of Black Museum entirely, to focus their attention on the White male villain of the episode.) Now there isn’t anything wrong, in particular, with the individual critiques but when coupled with the all the others that never mention any of the blatantly racial aspects of  these episodes, I’m inclined to give the critics of The Verge (and The Vulture) a confirmed side eye.

 

That said:

http://feministing.com/2016/09/21/film-critics-talk-racism-in-the-movie-industry/

 

Crocodile Tears: The Violence of White Womanhood in Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’ Episode “Crocodile” — Part One (SPOILERS AHEAD FOLKS SO STRAP IN)

                                                                                    —– Medium.com

Weekend Reading List (The Pocket Files)

Guys! I’ve been horribly slack with the postings this week, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working on stuff. (Actually, I have not been doing anything, really.) I’ve been on a sort of vacay all week, but I’ll be back with more ramblings in June, starting Monday.

Here’s some of the lighter stuff that’s been sitting in my Pocket list for a while. Some of these are not new, but they’re new for me.

I loved this piece from BNP/Facebook writer, Stephanee Killen, about one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, The Enemy Within. I must have unknowingly taken the episode to heart because I’ve always thought of my less attractive qualities as useful, positive things. Or at the very least tried to turn them into useful things.

Like a lot of people I suffer from anxiety. I don’t take medication for this, but I manage it very well. One of the ways I manage it is by turning it into something useful, like the ability to plan ahead. Making plans within plans is one of the ways I manage anxiety about things other people would probably consider trivial, like driving to new locations. When I have anxiety about something specific, I usually research the hell out of it, and the knowledge helps to alleviate some of the problem. Turning anxiety into knowledge is one of my ways of using a negative quality for good.

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In this particular episode, Kirk gets split into halves, a  passive, lighter side, and a darker, more negative side. The argument, illustrated beautifully in the show, is that Kirk needs his darker half to function competently as a Commander. 

I think the philosophy I most disagree with in Star Wars is the concept that light and dark are two separate things, and that one of them is undesirable. Star Trek’s more nuanced argument is that both these qualities are needed to form a whole, and that taken singularly, they’re both useless.

McCoy tells him, we’re all brutal animals. We all have our dark side. It’s human. The dark side holds strength. The light side holds caring, love, and courage. Spock, who understands duality better than most, indicates that what enables him to survive the differences between his two often-contrary halves is his intellect. Scotty eventually fixes the transporter. Kirk 1 and 2 get put back together, and the question of whether half a man can live is answered: No, he cannot—but thankfully, that’s not required.

http://blacknerdproblems.com/nerd-lessons-star-trek-the-dark-side/

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I am loving this newest season of Into the Badlands, and will have some opinions about that  next week. What I’m finding a hell of a lot of fun is the character of Nathaniel Moon. He’s an important part of the show, with his own story-line, and agenda, and even a love interest. 

I’ve seen this actor there and about, from time to time, but never gave him much attention. I’m gonna fix that right now, cuz Lawd, is he foine!

And do it he has. Since his first film role in the movie Colors (1988), Sherman hasn’t stopped sharpening his craft. With a career spanning over thirty years, he says that the characters, themes, setting and coworkers on Into the Badlands continue to inspire and motivate him.

http://blacknerdproblems.com/sherman-augustus-badlands-talks-film-football-acting-black/

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Here! Have some more Donald Glover think-pieces. It seems that every couple of months there’s some new artistic piece from a Black artist. We just sat through Black Panther, and then came Beychella (which I watched online), and the release of Glover’s video was a nice addition, marking 2018 as one of the “Blackest” years ever.

Jim Crow began as mere pop culture entertainment at the expense of America’s freed slaves and became the means of their oppression. The term “Jim Crow” became so pejorative this country’s apartheid separating Africans and their descendants from white Americans its name. pic.twitter.com/IEwLwfB2i4

http://www.indiewire.com/2018/05/justin-simien-analyzes-donald-glover-this-is-america-1201961450/

http://www.thisisinsider.com/this-is-america-music-video-meaning-references-childish-gambino-donald-glover-2018-5

https://thegrio.com/2018/05/07/this-is-america-5-powerful-messages-that-will-stay-with-you-long-after-your-donald-glover-hangover/

http://time.com/5267890/childish-gambino-this-is-america-meaning/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/05/this-is-america-childish-gambino-donald-glover-kinesthetic-empathy-dance/559928/

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Here’s an incredible review of Kaufmann’s 1978 remake of  Albert Finney’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. This is one of my all time favorite alien invasion movies, and although I did a film comparison of all the Invasion movies, I have yet to do a complete analysis/review of this one. I got some thoughts, ya’know! 

Like the remake of The Thing, it is a near perfect example of Science Fiction Horror. There’s not one wrong note of dialogue in it, the acting is superb, and the setting is perfect for its message. 

In a more thrilling flourish, Kaufman channels Alfred Hitchcock by cutting back-and-forth between pod people following Matthew and Elizabeth on a city street; as the two speed up, their clacking exaggerated for effect, we see the feet of their pursuers speeding up in unison, until both reach a sprint. 

https://deepfocusreview.com/definitives/invasion-of-the-body-snatchers/

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This has been sitting in my Pocket page just waiting to be deployed. The whole thing just tickled the hell out of me.

Animals That Look Like They’re About To Drop The Hottest Albums Ever

Obviously this is Country music (The chicken, tho’!)

The Up-And-Coming Music Legends

 

He ’bout to drop that hot new Mixtape

 

 

I swear to gob, these two look like Hall &Oates

 

That hot new Norwegian Emo Band, or The Verve. Pick One!

 

This is that new Rock band with the twin guitarists

The Band With The Twin Guitarists

 

 

There’s a whole bunch of these gothic looking pet pictures all over the internet. I’m still finding these deeply hilarious…

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 I actually love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite all my bitching. It is an unquestionably visually stunning place to visit, and even the worse movies in the MCU look gorgeous. They also look all of a piece, as if they really all belonged in the same world.

I grew up reading Marvel Comics. In fact, those were the first comic books I read (starting with Conan and Red Sonja.) I wasn’t thrilled when Marvel started pumping out these movies, but only because I hadn’t read any of the individual character’s books, and wasn’t particularly interested in their standalone movies. I was not a Captain America, Iron man, Ant Man, or Black Widow fan. I knew all these characters because they were in The Avengers, and I read all of those books. I dutifully watched the first few movies, not especially enthused, but cautiously interested. I didn’t get excited until the first Captain America movie, which turned out to be surprisingly good, and The Avengers movie clinched it. 

I still haven’t watched all the movies. I skipped the first two Thor movies, and the first Iron Man. I never cared about Ant Man, and never will, I’m betting, although I am a big fan of  The Wasp (from the comic books), so I might see that movie.

Here are some of the better MCU music videos on Youtube. This was one of the first ones I saw. Not all of them are this good, but the editing on this one, was astounding.

 

I liked this one because it includes everything in the MCU, including all of The Defenders, all except Blade (which really should have been included, along with the X-Men and Wolverine films, even though they’re not part of the MCU. Yet!)

 

 

I skipped the first two Thor movies. I watched maybe the first thirty minutes of the second one before I fell asleep. I did enjoy this last one because I knew the director, Taika Waititi, from What We Do in the Shadows, and I trusted his film making skills.

 

 

This video was pretty good too. The editor of this one was nice enough to include  action parallels from the different films, something which helps to reinforce the idea that these movies all take place in the same cinematic world. I do object to the music of this one. I just dislike the song, and  would’ve chosen something more energetic.

Siren: Season One Review

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Siren is an interesting show, but its not necessarily a great one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about this show, and parts of it are very compelling, but it does have a couple of  issues, that become  obvious over time.

When I first saw the trailers for the show, I had the idea that it would be a typically cheesy series. Maybe a little darkness. A little horror. I wasn’t sure what the lead actress was trying to convey in the ads. Without any context, it just looks like bad acting. It turns out there’s a reason the actress looks the way she does, and a lot of that has to do with the attitude of the character she’s trying to depict, and can mostly only show through her body language, which is very distinctive. Rynn is a predator, and her behavior reflects  the catlike, prickly, attitude of a creature you don’t want to mess, with because it has no qualms about hurting you, as one poor human predator learns when he tries to molest Rynn, after picking her up on the road.

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Eline Powell plays Rynn, who comes to land in search of her sister Donna, who has been captured by the US military and is being experimented on, (for Gob knows what reasons), by a man named Decker. During Rynn’s  search for Donna, she meets Ben and Maddie,  oceanographic researchers at some small local institute.

Ben  is the eldest son of one of the founding families of the town, whose foundation was built on  the slaughter of some mermaids in the 1800s, something that will come back to haunt its inhabitants. Maddie is the girlfriend Ben’s mother disapproves of, and the adopted daughter of the town sheriff, Dale Bishop. Ben has three close friends (Xander, Calvin, Chris, and Xander’s father), who work on a fishing trawler, a goody- two- shoes brother, and  a mother who was hurt in some kind of accident, and uses a wheelchair.

One night, the trawler captures Donna but she is stolen away them by the Navy, along with Ben’s  friend and co-worker Chris, who was scratched or bitten by Donna. He and Donna eventually escape imprisonment but not before Donna is horribly traumatized, and has a chance to bespell Decker with her siren song.

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Rynn’s presence in the town of Bristol Cove opens up a history’s worth of secrets, most of these secrets are smugly alluded to by a local shop owner named Helen. She has secrets. The town has secrets. Everybody’s got secrets. Its just secrets all the way down. Later, we find out that Helen used to be one of the mermaids, but gave up her life in the sea, to become human.

Donna is understandably angry at being mistreated by humans, and wants to destroy as many of them as possible. She is eventually aided in this endeavor, not by Rynn, who is fascinated with humans, but by two other mermaids, who are angry at humans for over fishing their cove, while the mermaids starve. Eventually tensions reach a high, and a mini-war begins, between the mermaids who have been so traumatized by humans that they want them all dead, and the humans who are suffering losses because of the mermaid’s retaliations.

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The show has some well done action scenes, with some nice stunt work, and the cinematography is well done. There are times when people’s actions, and motivations are unclear, and as I said earlier, some of the acting is not the best, especially the actress who plays Maddie, but that might be because, in the first episodes, she isn’t given very much to do, beyond  looking  pleasant or worried.

We watch  Rynn’s English get better, and she starts to act more human, but still retains just enough of her natural mermaid behavior, to seem thoroughly alien. You can tell the creators put some real thought into how a water based, highly intelligent, predatory being would behave if it found itself in human culture. Pay close attention to the mermaid’s body language, not just when interacting with humans, but with each other as well.

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But this show may be  most well  known for its sheer diversity in front of the cameras. Almost every culture is represented by at least one character, along with several characters of mixed race, like Xander. Helen is played by Rena Owen who is of Maori descent. So it seems fitting she’d play a mermaid. There are Black mermaids, like Donna, which is a first in a network TV show, and the show’s creators manage to make her look thoroughly convincing.

It is not until you see Donna in her natural form that you remember that most fantasy creatures are depicted by White people, unless the plot calls for them to be villains, and despite the fact the Europe isn’t the only place in the world where the mythology of mermaids exist.  Donna does some questionable things (so does Rynn) but the writers are careful never to code her as bad or evil. She is traumatized, and justifiably angry, and the writers allow her to express this without apology, refusing to give in to the stereotype of making her an irrationally angry Black woman, and it is clear that the writers took some time to research the African legends of Mami-Wata, which is what they seemed to have based her character on.

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http://blog.swaliafrica.com/mami-wata-the-mermaids-in-african-mythology/

There’s an Asian mermaid, a Black merman, an Indigenous sheriff, and numerous individuals of various races randomly dropped into the background.

A lot of these actors are not well known, (Rena Owen is the only one  know) and a few of them are first timers, and it shows in the degree of their acting skills. Its not quite as bad as the “schmacting” in some of the  CW shows, but every now and then, you get taken out of the story by someone hitting a wrong note. But that’s okay because the show makes up for it, with its depiction of the mermaids and their culture. If you’re expecting Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid then this ain’t the show for you.

And yes, the mermaids do sing, but not in a recognizably human way. The creators seemed to have put some thought into that as well. The mermaid’s singing sounds like a low, deep-throated humming sound ,with no especially discernible melody, and no rhythm, and actually does  sound like something you’d hear under water. At any rate ,it seems very compelling to the characters who are subjected to it.

Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov

Despite all of the diversity on display, the characters don’t pay much attention to it. At first, I was concerned that Ben’s mother simply didn’t want Ben in a relationship with a Black girlfriend, but the real tension seems to  be something personal between her and Maddie, that Ben knows about, but has nothing to do with. We witness Maddie, and Ben’s mother, tiptoeing around each other, before reaching some type of accord.

The mermaids don’t pay any attention to the different skin tones, either. I’m mot inclined to refer to them as different races, because from my point of view, the mermaids are all one race, and have a very distinctive culture. I do occasionally cringe because the mermaids are coded as very animalistic, they sometimes get called animals by the humans around them (including Ben) and so many of them are portrayed by PoC. This cringiness is slightly offset by Rynn calling Ben out on his descriptions of her people, and shaming him for it.

The mermaids are the real intrigue on this show, although there is plenty of drama and mystery. They are shown as being  predators who will kill humans when given the opportunity to do so, (if you come into the water with them, for example). They are capable of coming out of the water, shedding their tails, and putting on a human disguise. The society they come from is matriarchal, and Rynn eventually becomes the alpha female of the particular group that resides in Bristol Cove.

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One of the more interesting things is Rynn’s relationship to Maddie. Because the mermaid’s talk more with their bodies, than their voices, we get a lot of scenes of Rynn standing unnervingly close to people, unexpectedly touching people in an intimate manner, and a general lack of boundaries from her, and this includes Maddie, as well. Ben is sort of compelled to be near her because of the singing, but not Maddie, who hasn’t heard her siren song, but seems just as gobsmacked by Rynn’s  presence as Ben does.

Rynn is starting to think of Ben and Maddie as a kind of family, (possibly as her mates, or something similar), and in her roundabout way, has told Maddie that she loves her (since English is not Rynn’s first language, I suspect something got lost in the translation). She clearly does not think of Maddie as a sister. She has a sister,  and doesn’t treat Maddie anything at all the way she treats Donna, to whom she is, at times, deferential, sisterly, angry, or devoted. To give you some idea: Rynn spends the night at Ben and Maddie’s apartment. They settle her on the sofa with a blanket, and go to their bed. Rynn, unhappy with this arrangement, gets in their bed, and contentedly falls asleep between the two of them.

It’s not a bad show. I’m going to give it a nice, solid, B/B+, but it does need just a bit more polish, and  I am cautiously intrigued by it, despite its  misses. I do wish the acting was a little bit  better, and I do hope we get to see other supernatural beings on the show, as has been hinted at by Maddie. I will be back for a second season if it gets renewed. And you should probably check it out, at least once,  for the novelty of seeing a Black merman.

Westworld Season Two: So Far

I’ve watched two more episodes of this show since the premiere, and I have not one damn clue, in what direction, things are going on this show, but I can tell you what I’ve observed so far.

We’ll start with the tiger.

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The tiger that was found on the bank of the lake in the first episode is from another Park. I don’t know what the name of that park was, but it consisted of British Raj India. Is this the mystery park everyone was speculating about? So far we know of several parks: Westworld and  Future world, from the movies. Shogun World, which I called Samurai World, when I saw it last season, Medieval World, and possibly, Roman World.

When the tiger is found by the paramilitary rescue team, called in by Charlotte, there’s speculation that the Parks are starting to bleed together, and that the same malfunction that has infected Westworld’s Hosts with consciousness, has infected the other Parks. But in the second episode, we learn that the malfunction, that caused the robots to become self aware, doesn’t extend to all of the robots. Some of them are still engaged in their loops, and have no idea what’s happening. But the “Consciousness Disease” has also extended into itself into at least one other Park as we find out how the tiger got from the one to the other. It involves woman named Grace. We later find that her presence is important.

Dolores has become the leader of a rebellion that is not entirely organized, as not all the robots are on board, including Teddy, who is still having trouble dealing with his sentience. . She is willing to sacrifice plenty of the others, to accomplish her goal, of infecting as many Parks as possible,with this new consciousness. How does she know there are other worlds? She’s seen them. When she and a number of other Hosts were brought online, they were used as examples to show to various investors, one of whom was the jerk we saw in season one, named Logan, and his father, the CEO of the infamous Delos Corporation. Arnold took her to what we like to think is the outside world (but probably isn’t), a cityscape, which might  be some other Park, for all we know. Dolores now has full access to the memories of that time before she woke up.

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We spend most of these two episodes watching her procure her army against the security teams which have come to rescue the Guests. There’s a small war but it is unclear who wins.Peter Abernathy, who was being sought after for the information that Charlotte planted in his programming, is successfully kidnapped from Dolores, who sets out to get him back, Teddy in tow.

So we now have two quests. Dolores is on a quest to save her father from Delos Corp., and Maeve is on a quest to save her child. This family connection, between parents and their children, is a callback to the new change in the opening credits that show a Host hugging a small Host child. Because of this change in the credits, it is speculated, by fandom, that it is possible,  that at least one of the Hosts has successfully produced a child. Either Maeve is an actual mother, or possibly that Dolores is pregnant. (I think that is unlikely, although there are new revelations that suggest this isn’t too far out of the show’s wheelhouse.) We have three quests, really, as the Man in Black is on a quest of self actualization set out for him by Ford. .

Meanwhile, in Maeve’s pursuit of her goal, she encounters Lee, the guy in charge of all the bullshit stories in Westworld. Lee is a coward and a hack, and what’s sad is he isn’t the most annoying character in the Park, even though he spends most of his time whining about how dangerous everywhere is. Maeve is also reunited with Armistice, now  with a mechanical arm, and a flamethrower, and with Felix and his co-worker, whose name I wont bother to remember. No, it’s Felix’s co-worker who is the most annoying character in the Park, and quite frankly I’m not happy to see his whining, bitching ass. I had hoped mightily that he was dead.

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During all of this, the Ghost Nation Tribe is moving, gathering up any humans they encounter, including the woman the tiger attacked. It turns out that Grace is the daughter of the man in Black (Old William).  What the Ghost Nation is doing to, or with, the captured humans, I don’t understand, (but I wouldn’t rule out just killing them). It’s also an interesting point  that Maeve’s voice can’t control any of the members of the Ghost Nation, even though she can verbally control the other robots of Westworld. Grace manages to escape and is reunited with her father.

In the last two episodes, we are given a lot of  nuggets to ponder. One of the packets of information that Delos is hiding, within Peter Abernathy’s programming, is the information they’ve been collecting about the Park’s guests, which not only includes their activities, but their DNA. What they are trying to do is create a fusion of human and robot, thereby creating immortal humans. This goal is illustrated in the backstory of Old William’s Father- in-law. The Delos Corporation’s CEO dies of cancer, but is resurrected as a Host. The resurrection appears unsuccessful, nevertheless, he is resurrected and destroyed hundreds of times over the next 35 years. His only regular visitor is William.

It is Bernard who finds Elsie alive, but she “aint fo’ none of his bullshit”, as he was the one who kidnapped her, and stashed her away, because she was getting too close to Robert Ford’s plans. She and Bernard team up, she fixes Bernard’s physical issues, (a cortical fluid problem), and the two of them find a secret lab, full of dead humans. They are dead because Ford found out about the lab, and sent Bernard in to destroy the lab, and procure one of the fusion devices, which looks like a tiny red brain. This tiny device possibly contains the consciousness of Robert Ford, or some other important person. Elsie and Bernard also  find the last robot incarnation of the Delos CEO, and destroy him.

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Dolores witnesses Teddy disobeying her orders, and freeing  some of the prisoners she meant to have killed, and she has decided she cannot complete her mission, because he is just too nice of a guy. At the end of the last episode, Akane No Mai, she has decided what she needs is a compliant bad ass, and has his programming changed to something a little more useful.  Teddy is the complete opposite personality from Dolores. Dolores is devoid of compassion and mercy, something entirely to do with her treatment in the Park, I suspect, and her memories of it. She is a merciless, and relentless, trauma victim.

The Man in Black is on another quest given to him by one of Ford’s Hosts. It is speculated that he too is a Host, and a clone of William. Its not that far fetched an idea. After all, William has been going through the motions of his own loop for decades, killing the same Hosts over and over again, regularly circling by the farm to rape Dolores, going into town to see her, hanging out in that little Mexican town, terrorizing the citizens there. He may have been seeking his own version of consciousness, rather than  that of the Hosts.

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In the last episode, titled Akane No Mai, Maeve makes her way to Shogun World, where Lee’s maps say her daughter is to be found. Now something really interesting happens with her and the others in Shogun World, and it s a side effect of Lee being a hack writer who plagiarizes his own material throughout all the Parks. Earlier, Dolores goes to another town and finds a version of the saloon that was once run by Maeve. We become aware of this when the Host, Clementine, encounters a Host that’s her double, who plays the same role, and spouts the same lines she did when she was in her loop. We also encounter a White female version of Maeve, but this Host has not awakened.

Just like with humans, the Hosts past encounters, and memories, inform how they are reacting now.  The Maeve clone has not had  the tragic past that spurred Maeve’s awakening, and has no memories of The Man in Black in her past. Hector and Armistice are warriors now, because that is what they’ve always been. I suspect Dolores is vengeful because of the trauma she remembers.

Lee calls the the Host clones “Doppel-Bots”, and says there can be some strange side-effects when doppel-bots meet. This is what happens in Maeve’s group. Each one of them meets a Host that resonates with the roles they played in Westworld, and their reactions are interesting.

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The first one they meet is Musashi (named after Japan’s most famous swordsman), who is a clone of Hector. Hector’s reaction to his clone is suspicion and hostility. Armistice meets her clone (a masterful Archer) and the two become unhealthily fascinated with one another. Maeve’s clone is the madame of a Geisha House, named Akane. None of these robots are infected with consciousness yet, although Maeve tries to awaken Akane, with no success. This particular  story is important because it is an echo of Maeve;s story,  and we are struck by the importance of her story to the overall narrative of Westward, through Akane’s ordeal in this episode.

Akane is emotionally attached to a young geisha, who is later kidnapped by the local Shogun. This young lady functions  as Akane’s daughter, and she also turns out to be Akane’s trigger, as she is awakened, after her charge is brutally murdered by the Shogun (who is suffering form some type of cortical fluid dementia), right in front of her. Because of his dementia the Shogun has gone “waaay off script”, according to Lee, and this prompts several of the other Hosts to go off script as well, including Akane who kills the Shogun as revenge for her daughter’s murder, sparking a war.

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Now we must remember that Akane’s story happened because the consciousness disease has left most of the robots in positions of having to fend for themselves too long. They need to have regular maintenance, and because the Shogun had not received his, in what is apparently several weeks, he started to malfunction. Couple that with the entrance into the Park of a Witch (Maeve) and their defiant actions against the Shogun’s orders, and the end result is the death of Akane’s daughter.

But there’s also a new wrinkle. Maeve has leveled up, and more importantly she has done this to herself. The robots of Shogun World have been forewarned about her Voice, and keep gagging her, as they have deemed her to be a witch. When this keeps endangering her life, she develops the ability to telepathically communicate her wishes to any Hosts around her. Basically she has  developed a kind of Bluetooth, through a kind of  mesh which connects all the Hosts together. This is what she uses when the Shogun’s warriors attempt to kill Akane for the murder of the Shogun. We end the episode with Maeve stepping up to protect Akane’s life with her power. This how women are supposed to ally!

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We have two competing stories. We have Dolores, who is willing to callously sacrifice the lives of the Hosts who are not with her program, for the ideological goal of freeing all of the Hosts from all the Parks. She has become like  the oppressor she seeks freedom from. We have Maeve, who is also willing to make sacrifices for a more immediate, and concrete goal, but  not just that. She is also willing to protect the lives of the Hosts she has emotionally attached herself to. Dolores is willing to  take away Teddy’s  agency, (while telling her she loves him), to reach her goal, and  she will kill any Hosts that don’t follow her, without a second thought. Ironically she has become less human, and more like a machine in pursuit of her goal. In contrast, Maeve is willing to show empathy, sympathy, compassion, and loyalty to the Hosts around her, and even a few humans, like Felix. Maeve seeks to become more human than humans.

I can’t help but notice, in all the reviews I keep reading, critics are all dismissing Maeve’s story in favor of talking about everything but her, even in those episodes where her story is front and center, like Akane No Mai. Most of them ignore what her story means in contrast to Dolores’, and the overarching narrative of the series. They seemingly have nothing to say about the importance of Maeve’s choices, and her new abilities, or her behavior in contrast to Dolores’. For example, no one has mentioned that both she and Dolores mention finding their Voice.

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In this instance Dolores and Maeve have both developed the Voice of God although, Dolores is obeyed through fear, and Maeve, as suits the meaning of her name, (to enchant), compels  others through charm. They both claim  to have found their Voice, and this is an important point, or it would not have been repeated several times by the Hosts. Once again, just like last season,  I’m getting frustrated by the critics prioritization of Dolores’ story over Maeve’s, as if Maeve’s story is not important to the overall narrative of the series. Some of the critics have even attempted to diminish Maeve’s story by theorizing that she is not fully awake, and is still under Ford’s orders. I would not entirely rule out such a thing, but to theorize that Maeve has no agency, while not theorizing the same of Dolores, is awfully suspicious. There are also critics who dismiss Maeve as being too perfect, and her storyline as boring, because her searching for her daughter is a cliche. They are simply not capable of seeing the parallels hers and Dolores’ stories.

I also think the critics spend far too much time trying to parse all of the show’s tricks, and twists. I like the twists, don’t get me wrong. Those are fun to winkle out, but they’re not my priority. I’m more interested in what the entire story means. What messages, waht philosophies, are the viewers meant to get out of this, and what do the events mean for the Hosts?

I’ve also seen the critics attempt to diminish the importance of Maeve’s new abilities, but how do her new abilities change who she is, or reflect on her character, in any significant way? That she cannot die, was already established in the first season. She’s a Queen, who can movie about the chessboard of Westworld with some impunity. But her companions (her pawns, rooks, knights, etc) can all die, and because of her emotional bonds  to them, I suspect Maeve is in for a world of emotional pain, later in the season. Dolores is in the same position, moving about with some impunity due to her sheer will, determination, and the force of her personality, but she has no problem sacrificing her pieces.

Do I even need to mention that every single one of these disappointing reviews were written by White men, who are  clueless about  how WoC characters have normally been written (or erased entirely) in SciFi? Historically Woc have been othered (dehumanized) in Scifi as being less than human. While the actress has been othered as a Host, the Host she portrays seeks to be a better human, than the humans who created her, and this is an unusual role for a Black woman in Scifi. Not one of the critics, who are  so busy trying to parse what timeline each scene takes place in, has bothered to notice this development. Instead, choosing to express discomfort at the idea of her having too much power for a Host.

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On the other hand, sometimes a critic does have an interesting insight:

Dolores seems bent on revenge, no matter the cost, and is eager to kill fellow hosts if it helps her achieve her ends. Maeve’s motivations have been much purer; she just wants to find her daughter. But when she forces fellow hosts to slaughter one another, she’s arguably no better than Logan Delos, or any of the other humans who have treated hosts like disposable objects. She’s acting in self-defense, but she’s consciously choosing violence instead of paralysis or forced cooperation. By manipulating other hosts, she’s robbing them of the agency she’s so intent on claiming for herself. It’s certainly no thematic coincidence that Dolores does something similar in “Akane No Mai,” reprogramming Teddy (James Marsden) against his will because she thinks he should be more aggressive.

From: https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/20/17367052/westworld-season-2-episode-5-akane-no-mai-recap

All of this matters, because  Maeve and Dolores are on philosophical quests that I feel may  clash with each other, at some point, although not necessarily so. Dolores quest is an  exploration of the Hosts  ethical  choices. We are watching two different forms of awakening. One of logic, and one of emotion.  Maeve’s quest is about the Hosts emotional journey, to compassion, empathy, and love. Can the Hosts move beyond their programming and feel love? Maeve insists that they can, and should. At one point, she castigates Lee, for being surprised when the Hosts display the emotional bonds they were programmed with.

Dolores has decided that emotional bonds are a hindrance. She is on a mission to free her people, and  has no time for the softer emotions like love and compassion, which is illustrated in her decision to excise these softer emotions from Teddy, as she believes they make him a liability to her goal. Maeve does the exact opposite, cultivating and encouraging the emotional connections of the Hosts around her, which is illustrated in her bond with Akane, as the two of them form a strong emotional bond to each other, through  the shared loss of their daughters. Maeve’s  behavior is in contrast to Dolores’, who takes away Teddy’s autonomy, while claiming she loves him. Arguably, Maeve does the same thing, but only ever in defense of her life and those she cares about. When given the opportunity to run and leave Akane to whatever fate befalls her, Maeve refuses.

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Maeve’s emotional journey is just as important to the future of the Hosts as Dolores’ fight for freedom, for what do they have to be free for, if they have no emotional bonds in the world they will inherit? This journey began when Maeve became so attached to her daughter that she was willing to destroy herself, when Ford attempted to excise her memories.

When you get to the foundation, what is happening to the Hosts is no different than when a human (usually a teenager) has an existential crisis. The decisions that both Maeve and Dolores make are the kinds of decisions that young people make about the world when this crisis happens. Their realization that the world is a cruel and indifferent place prompts two  separate attitudes. Dolores embraces the cruelty in order to reach her goals. Maeve fights against that cruelty, choosing to care because the world does not. (I feel like the writers are saying something here about how Black women are considered the caretakers of the world, too.) This is usually the time in a teen’s mental development where their logic skills, and their emotions, are both getting a serious workout, and we are viewing that crisis through two different characters.

 

Now for the Geekery!!!

I loved this episode. It was fucking awesome!!

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C’mon!!! It’s set in freaking Japan, and there are robots with swords. Did I mention that Rinko Kikuchi, as Madame Akane, looks terrific? And Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi is both hawt, and terrifying, as befits  the most renowned swordsmen in Japanese history. And there is the whole idea of naming  him Musashi. Lee is a hack, and I very much doubt he’s read Musashi’s book, and just thought it was a cool sounding name. Miyamoto Musashi is the author of The Book of Five Rings, and has numerous books, TV shows, and movies based on his life.

The Book of Five Rings is relevant here because it is a book of rules about martial conflict, and  overcoming one’s enemies.  Musashi talks about how the book can be used for every type of conflict, from the small and personal, to massive battles, and  Maeve and Akane use some of these rules in their reaction to the Shogun’s demands and attacks, for example, Maeve’s trickery, and  initiative, in taking the fight to the Shogun, rather than  running.

One of chapters in The Book of Five Rings discusses, Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, in The Void. We see a display of this when Maeve settles into herself, when she and Akane are about to be executed. She appears to be waiting for death, but like Akane, a moment before, she is simply preparing to strike.  After Akane witnesses the death of her daughter, she engages in what the book calls Tai No Sen, “Waiting for the Initiative”. She wants revenge but cannot attack the Shogun right away. So she abides, and waits for the proper moment to strike him, quickly, and without mercy.

I loved all the parallels between Westworld and Shogun World. Lee is so lazy that he simply replicated all the same dialogue, and activities, from one Park to the other, which I think is hilarious. (It took me a minute to recognize the bank heist from the first season, too). I think this might be some kind of statement on the part of the writers about  tropes and stereotypes, and how the same stories  get recycled, with different backgrounds. My favorite moments are when the Hosts meet their doppel-bots and have some interesting reactions, with Hector mirroring Musashi in attitude and posture, while Armistice and her double look as if they’re about to embark on a grand love affair.

I think Dolores storyline is starting to get a bit scary. I wasn’t sure at first what she was going to do to Teddy. Kill him maybe, but what she did do was much worse. I was with her, up to a point, but now she’s starting to engage in the exact kind of things she was angry about having been done to her. She tells herself its necessary but that’s how the fall begins. Maeve is only slightly better maybe. She just outright kills those who stand in her way. She does have some way to go, as she is still a very selfish being, although we can see a glimmer of what she is trying to become in her compassion for Akane.

I’m one of the few people who is not dismayed at Maeve’s level of power, I guess. Its not an accident on the part of the writers that the Voice of God was given to Maeve, and not Dolores. I’m going to have to think on it some more because there’s more here than Maeve simply being able to speak actions into being. There was some thought behind this.

I have several more reviews to get done between now and the end of the second season. Until then:

Same Bat Channel. Same Bat Sandbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning

The CW’s Black Lighting represents the split between Black respectability and radical politics in a singular figure.

via “Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning — The Middle Spaces

 

This is an absolutely gorgeous analysis of Black Lightning. I haven’t written much about the show, not because I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, but because  of the density of the text. This series is every bit as rich with meaning as Black Lightning and Luke Cage, and is pertinent to many of the discussions Black Americans are having about social justice, existing, as it does, in a space somewhere between those two sources.

The show isn’t perfect, of course. It certainly has its issues in pacing, dialogue, and occasionally the acting, but these problems are not consistent enough to make me dislike the show, and it gets more right, than it does wrong.  This review, and analysis, contains a lot of what I was thinking about, when it was on the air.

Later, after I’ve re-watched a few episodes i might do a post squeeing about everything I thought the show got right, and the handful of things that annoyed me.

Black Lightning is currently available on Netflix, and has already been renewed, for a second season on the CW, this Fall.

 

Bladerunner 2049 (Part II)

In this second post, I’ll discuss everything I didn’t get to tackle in the first, and that is mostly  the themes and technical stuff. This is going to be a long one, and I thought about breaking it into two parts, but I think you guys can handle it, (and it may keep you out of trouble for as long as a few minutes!)

Now that Bladerunner 2049  is on DVD, I have re-watched it many times. Despite the issues I have with it, I still love this film, and I have thinky-thoughts about every aspect of it. I’m not particularly interested in the opinions of those who disliked it, because people were wrong about disliking the first film, too, and its become a modern Scifi classic. I feel that twenty/thirty years from now, we’ll probably still  be talking about this movie. (And are you kidding? I’ve been waiting over thirty years for  this!)

Symbolism &Themes

The Soul

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The movies primary themes are embodied in Officer K, and as always, it starts with the eyes. As in the first thing we see is an eye, looking over the landscape, as K flies to his next assignment. There is the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and though this quote is not explicitly mentioned in the film, there is a lot of focus on K’s eyes. His baseline test as Bladerunner is established using his eyes. The Voight-Kampff Test, from the first film, used pupillary dilation to determine if someone was feeling the proper emotions during questioning. Since replicants, in the first film, didn’t have memories, that test was meant to determine the humanity of the subject by testing for  emotional incongruities to the questions.

 

Everyone already knows K is not human, so he is asked, instead, to establish a baseline emotional personality, against which he will be matched. He is not asked specific questions, but told to repeat a series of phrases, in quick succession, based on the novel Pale Fire, by Nabakov, a story in which a man mistakes a mountain for a fountain. This is the book in the apartment that K has been reading with Joi.  K is probably the one who chose his baseline phrases from this source.

http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/10/14/the-poetry-of-blade-runner-2049

“…blood-black nothingness began to spin / A system of cells interlinked within / Cells interlinked within cells interlinked / Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct / Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.” These lines from Blade Runner 2049’s post-traumatic baseline test come from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire. In Pale Fire, the fictional poet John Shade sees a tall white fountain during a near-death experience – the image’s “presence always would / Console [him] wonderfully.” Later Shade reads about a woman in a magazine who came close to death, who visited “the Land Beyond the Veil” and also glimpsed a “tall white fountain” there. Shade finds the woman to share this with her, only to discover it was a misprint – it was not a “fountain” but a “mountain” that she saw. But the error changes nothing: the image of the tall white fountain had meaning not because it had some objective significance, not because it was empirical proof of an afterlife, but because Shade ascribed meaning to it. The fictional scholar annotating John Shade’s poem, Dr. Charles Kinbote, writes: “We all are, in a sense, poets.”

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In the movie, K tells Joshi, his boss, that beings that are born have souls, and that he has never retired anything with a soul before.  K’s definition of what it means to be human involves the existence of the soul. Since he was never born of woman, he has accepted the idea that he does not have one. So why the focus on K’s eyes if he has no soul?

The post below discusses why there is something called “The Uncanny Valley Effect.” Human beings react to inanimate, human-like, objects like normal, until the object begins to look too human, after which we begin to feel distinctly disturbed.

https://theconversation.com/uncanny-valley-why-we-find-human-like-robots-and-dolls-so-creepy-50268

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From:

*Blade Runner 2049 – and why eyes are so important in this vision of the future

If the thought of a non-human consciousness glimpsed through the eye as a “window to the soul” is consistently unnerving, it is because instead of a human connection there is something else there entirely: the terror and wonder of the unknown.

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It’s interesting to note that there is also a good deal of emphasis on Joi’s eyes.  Joi is a simulated being that shows more love and compassion, than any of the human characters in the movie. We’ve seen K be spit at by his fellow officers, as he goes about his daily routine, and objectified by his boss, Joshi, who can also  order the killing of a possible replicant/human child, without blinking.

A lot of people want to get bogged down in a feminist interpretation of Joi and her role in the film, but you know me, I never go for the easy analysis. Not that they are wrong, but that’s an easy analysis to make. I noted the surface reading, that she was  a simulation of male desire, and then I moved on from that, because I feel her role is much more important than  feminist analysis credits her, which is often entirely negative.

I don’t think  people are really taking into account  Joi’s relationship to K, who, it could be argued, isn’t any more of a real  person than she is, with his simulated memories, and yet, he created Joi’s personality details. So what you have here is a simulated being, with false memories, detailing what he likes in the personality of another simulacrum. I think Joi’s personality tells you a lot about what K  values, and about who he is on the inside, beyond being a  determined and relentless killer. I think the existence of Joi (and his behavior towards her) is evidence that K has a soul. It can even be argued that Joi is K’s  soul, made apparent. How could he have helped to create a being as luminous as Joi, unless he has some within himself.

One of the proofs that K is more human than human, is his treatment of Joi. Joi is treated with dismissal and contempt by everyone in the story except K. She is just a simulacrum of a human being,and K can treat her however he wants, with no repercussions, yet he always treats her with kindness and courtesy.  He is thoughtful, polite, and treats her with respect.You can tell a lot about a human being by how they treat the powerless, and this says much about K. He  treats her as he would like to be treated,  and it is interesting to note that his behavior towards her is based on his ideas of how a human treats their lover.

Joi is also underestimated in the story by the viewer. Who is to say she doesn’t experience actual emotions for K? Yes, she aids and assists,as she is programmed to do, but she also makes decisions that go beyond her programming. Before she and K can go on the run, she asks him to download  her personality to  her mobile emitter, and erase her from the apartment files. She is well aware that should her mobile emitter be destroyed, so will she, forever, and yet she makes the decision to endanger her existence, to protect K.

That Joi is K’s soul is made explicit when Joi acts as K’s eyes, superimposing hers over his own, when he is researching online, and later, she acts as the soul of another replicant (Mariette) to whom K makes love in Joi’s place. Like the soul, Joi is incorporeal and intangible, but makes it possible for K to experience happiness (in her happiness), grief (at her demise), and anxiety (for her safety), and a conscience, (at the idea of killing a human child).

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Joi also functions as an external indicator of the emotions K does not  get to freely display. She speaks his  actual thoughts, when he believes he might be a real human, and it is only after her death that we see K  display any real human emotion, as he cries in anguish, or yells in rage. It is not until after her death that he discovers he’s not human, but then makes the decision to behave like a human anyway, one of the first true decisions he has ever made about himself.

If souls exist, I certainly think the replicants have them. The presence of a soul  allows the replicants to express emotions, and  deceive the humans around them. (This is also  another parallel to the real life situations of Black Americans, who have historically been censured, and punished, when they  expressed anything other than bland pleasantness in the presence of White people. Even today, Black people can be killed, with impunity, for not showing what is regarded as  proper deference to authority figures.)

Luv also hides her emotions from Wallace. (Notice that she only displays emotions when Niander Wallace is not around, or is not directly observing her.) There is the scene where Wallace kills a female replicant in front of her. He has his back to her and so cannot observe that she is nearly in tears. When his sight drones hover near her face,  she keeps her expression carefully neutral, but you can tell she is afraid she will give something  away, and I wonder how many other Luvs existed before her, who forgot to hide what they were feeling. Contrast that with her exasperated manner when ordering a drone strike on K’s behalf, or the rage on her face when killing Joshi. She lies frequently to the humans around her, to a technician in a lab, and to Joshi before she kills her. Later, when talking to Deckard, she expresses a degree of compassion for him that she has not shown towards any of the other humans, in the movie.

Luv also functions as an example of Ks foil. She is what he is not, or rather what he could have become but didn’t. K has a fundamental respect for human life, as indicated in his conversation with Joshi when she orders him to kill Deckards child. Luv entirely lacks this respect. I did wonder where K got his ideas of how to behave. He I said at all times deferential and respectful to Joshi, as well, even though she is his boss. He also seems to have no actual fear of human beings either, so I didn’t think his respect covered a mask of fear. Luv is informed by her hatred of Wallace and his disrespect for replicant life, but where does K’s respect for humans come from. He is often exasperated and/or impatient with humans , but he doesn’t actively hate them the way Luv does. Luv believes replicants are superior to humans, which is an idea she adopted from Wallace.

K also develops the ability to lie, moving beyond his programming, when he thinks he’s human. He lies to Joshi about killing the replicant/human child, and doesn’t tell her that he believes the child is himself. It is interesting that K can only act beyond his programming when he believes he’s human, but Luv has gone beyond her programming, while well aware that she is not.

The idea that humanity has created these technological, and organic, forms, and yet are completely unaware of the full capabilities of these beings, (preferring to underestimate them), and that these beings are also capable of deceiving humanity into believing such, is a persistent underlying  theme in both films.

Niander Wallace, the creator of the new replicants, lacks a soul, if the above truism  is to be applied to everyone. His eyes are a blind white, and his sight is supplemented by artificial means, in the form of hovering black stones. This is a person who pretends to have a soul , just like he pretends to be sighted.  He has “vision”, but it is severely limited. He only sees the world one way, with him at the top of it, as a god.  Wallace never refers to his creations as what they actually are, (slaves, products, commodities), preferring to call them Angels, instead. In this manner, he can “off-handedly” refer to himself as the god he believes himself to be.

Wallace thinks replicants that can reproduce themselves are the key, which  reminds me of a scene from the movie Eastern Promises. Viggo Mortensons’ character gets reprimanded about his memory of a young girl who died in childbirth. The young girl had been a human trafficking victim, and had been raped and impregnated by his boss. When he is asked how he feels about that, he yells in frustration, “Slaves give birth to slaves!” This is a horrifying idea, because essentially, Wallace would be reproducing actual slavery, in which the children of slaves were born into slavery. And of course rebellion is inevitable. He thinks he has taken into account the replicant’s desire to be free, but he underestimates their ability to go beyond their programming, as evidenced by the fact that Luv is capable of deceiving, him regarding her true nature.

 

Women as Commodity

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One of the biggest hurdles when watching this movie is the depiction of women. There is almost no woman in the movie who doesn’t serve the greater needs of a man, and I’m only taking Joshi out of that description because we don’t know who her bosses are, and she seems to be acting autonomously. Outside of Joshi and Luv, there are no female images that are  not depicted in a sexual manner, and sex as a commodity is still a thing. The street holograms are either naked, or dressed in  fetish clothing, to sell products, or be sold themselves,  Mariette is a replicant sex worker, Joi is a personal hologram designed to serve whoever buys her program, and even the statuary images of women, as seen in Las Vegas, are posed in a suggestively sexual manner. Joshi is the only human woman in the movie who remains non-sexualized, and in a very awkward moment, she obliquely references that K sleep with her, whether he wants to or not.

But what no feminist talks about (which is how I know they have only a surface understanding of the misogyny in the film) is how the women treat each other. How women in movies behave towards each other is as important as  their being present. There are five women in this film, and most of their relationships are needlessly adversarial. Luv destroys Joi seemingly on a whim, stomping her hologram generator which destroys her program. Luv also kills Joshi, after screaming at her in a rage about K’s whereabouts, and then callously flinging her body about afterwards.

The most pointlessly  antagonistic relationship, however, is between Joi and Mariette. Joi hires Mariette to be her corporeal stand-in when she makes love to K. After which Mariette expresses open contempt for her, telling her she’s nothing special. Why does she do this? Is it to illustrate that there is a hierarchy of contempt even among artificial beings? Does Joi regularly sneer at computers, or handheld devices in the house?

The only positive relationship is the one between Mariette, and the female leader of the rebellion, that she works for. They are not friends, but they are at least cooperative with each other, and not needlessly antagonistic. I would say it’s  because the two of them have shared goals, but Joi and Mariette  have a shared goal of pleasing K, yet afterwards, they  behave as if they are rivals for his affection. That’s just lazy, cliched writing  of women.

Deckard’s daughter lives in isolation, and doesn’t come into contact with anyone but K and Deckard.

 

Slavery

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The  theme of slavery is all well and good when discussing actual slavery, in a film like 12 Years a Slave, or Django Unchained, but finds itself in uncertain waters when the cast of a movie, that heavily references slavery and oppression, is almost entirely White. I have mentioned before why I find oppression allegories in science fiction movies distasteful. Scifi moves often do not include PoC in their possible futures, and when they are included, nothing different is predicted for us. We are still serving the same purposes in the narrative future that we serve now. It is as if the White writers  of these stories cannot imagine any other kind of future for us other than serving Whiteness.

None of the oppressed Replicants, in either movie, are PoC, which is a common casting choice in Science fiction films. Aliens and robots are almost always cast with White actors, (Brown and Black people are cast as “The Other” in Fantasy films.)

(https://www.publicmedievalist.com/race-fantasy-genre/)

*From Medium. com: 

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

Nicholas Podany

Of course, there are certainly other movies that have much much whiter casts (Moonlight. Sorry, I meant La La Land), but Blade Runner stands out because without a diverse cast, the movie is just selective white appropriation of systemic racial oppression. With Blade Runner, white audiences are never required to leave their comfort zones of white fragility to enjoy a compelling story about bigotry and persecution. Ryan Gosling is the new Chiwetel Ejiofor as he tries to escape the unjust fate he was given at birth.

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Environmentalism

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The theme of environmental decay continues in the sequel. From its opening shot, hovering over a bleak, gray landscape, to Sapper Morton’s dead tree, under which Rachel’s bones have been interred, to Mariette’s statement that she’d never seen a tree, to Deckard’s home in the middle of an irradiated, sand clogged, Las Vegas, we are led to believe that the environmental destruction, obliquely  referenced in the first film, has made Earth uninhabitable.

In this movie, the environmental destruction is made much more explicit when we visit areas outside of Las Angeles, like the massive garbage dump, where orphaned children are exploited for their labor, and the giant sea wall separating the rising  ocean from the rest of the city.

But it is the little things that remind the viewer of the environmental devastation of this world. One of the  characters is astonished that K owns a piece of genuine wood, and K takes a two second shower that consist of little more than a blast of water, that is only about 90% pure. Later, we see that K is fascinated by a beehive, and has no idea he probably shouldn’t stick his hand in it, but since he feels no pain, he doesn’t fully understand that bee stings are meant to curb that sort of inquisitiveness in a human. It is also meant to indicate to the viewer, that even though K believes himself to be human during this scene, he is not.

This movie has moved beyond the images of ceaselessly pouring rain from  the first film, to give us glimpses of nighttime fog in LA, dusty sun in Las Vegas, and even snow.

 

 

 

Wealth Inequality

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One of the sub-themes related to  environmentalism is the wealth inequality, which is illustrated by the  lack of clean water. There is plenty of water in the movie. There is a seawall separating the city of LA from the ocean, lest it be flooded, but most ofthe water is irradiated, or otherwise polluted. In an early scene K takes a two second blast of shower water that is “mostly” clean.

Now contrast that scene with Niander Wallace living in watery splendor. This is a man who is so wealthy, he can afford to devote entire rooms of his home, to just holding water, solely for decorative purposes. Like Eldon Tyrell, he lives in a skyscraper above the literally unwashed masses below. Wallace lives in  quiet, vast, clean, minimalist, apartments, which contrast with K’s cozy, uncluttered apartment, with the loud chaos right outside his door. Their  apartments serve the same purpose, as a sanctuary against the noise, reek, and dirt outside.

 

Memory & Self

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In the first film we are told that the replicants are more controllable when given memories to ground them in their personality. Rachel was an experimental replicant created by Gordon Tyrell,   implanted with the memories of Tyrell”s niece, and Deckard himself said that the replicants needed memories. The replicants themselves collect photos,  essentially still moments of the lives they’ve experienced, and Roy’s last words to Deckard were remembrances of his life experiences.

This is the one of the primary themes of the sequel, only unlike Rachel all the replicants we see know they are replicants, and know that their memories are unreliable indicators of who they are. Nevertheless, even though their memories are not real, and they know it, many of them have developed very  distinct personalities on their own. Science is still unclear if  personality affects the memory, or if its memories that create personalities. Who would you be if you could remember nothing of your past self? Or, just like in the movie The Matrix, you found out that none of the things you experienced ever happened?

Later, we find that one of K’s most  cherished memories is a real memory from a human, that’s been implanted in many replicants, (even though giving replicants real memories is illegal.) K is hopeful that he’s a real human, who was born, who had a mother and father. Note how his behavior changes when he believes this about himself. When he goes for his baseline personality test, he no longer registers as who he was to his superiors, and he is openly assertive to Joshi in a way we hadn’t seen before. When K believes he is human is also the first time we see him lie, and even has the temerity to yell at another human being (Deckard). His belief that he has a soul (because of the presence of the false memory) changes his behavior.

It’s interesting that even though the replicants have a shared memory, they all possess distinctive selves, and  yet, have all still ended up in the same place, the underground rebellion. In Bladerunner, photos are the placeholders for the memories the replicants lack. Since they have no memories, the photos prove to them that their experiences, and acquaintances were real. K’s wooden horse doesn’t quite serve the same function, but its existence is proof that whatever  memories he has are real, and so, proof to him that he is human, and has a soul.

 

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Cinematography

Jordan Cronenweth was the cinematographer for the first Blade Runner movie. The incredible Roger Deakins is the cinematographer of this sequel, he is most famous for The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men, and  True Grit, and this is, of course, a gorgeous movie, for which Deakins has rightfully been awarded an Oscar. Deakins and Villanueva tried to remain faithful to the feel of the first film. many scenes have a sift dreamlike a soft, almost dreamlike tone.

The environment often echoes  K’s emotions, or frame of mind. As K moves further into the story, the scenes  of discovery (especially when he has a clear, and set goal) tend to be crisp and clear, like the opening scenes, where K is sure of who he is and his purpose, and his trip to the orphanage, when he is searching for his past. Those scenes where he is at his most confused, and most unsure of his goals , those tend to be foggy and unclear, and the scenery is obscured. The scenes where he is hunting for Deckard in Las Vegas have a misty ,yellowish tint, (K is, I think most afraid in these scenes. He is certainly anxious, and nervous.This is when he still believes he is human and that Deckard may be his father.) There’s a patina of dust overlaying everything giving these scenes the feel of  vintage daguerreotype images. Deckard is the past, suddenly become relevant.

 

There’s is lots of rainfall in this movie (though not as much as the first), but note that rain has often been used as a cliched indicator of male emotion in movies. It is raining when K kisses Joi at the beginning of the movie, and when he encounters the giant holographic ghost of Joi after her destruction.

Costumes

The costumes are not as loudly impressive here as they were in the original film, probably because the first film had the benefit of novelty. By the time of this film, we’ve seen thirty years of BladeRunner inspired clothing become mainstream. Since  keeping design continuity from the first movie was important, the effect is that the costumes look little different from our everyday wear. What was groundbreaking costume design in 1982 has become daily wear for the rest of us, and a lot of the costumes would not look out of place if seen in real world streets.

Some  of the costumes are callbacks to the previous film, and while some of the East Asian design aspects have been toned down in this movie, there is still a clear Japanese influence seen in some of the movie’s costumes,  most especially in  Niander Wallace’s daily wear. Officer K’s coat is a direct callback to the coat worn by Deckard in the original film, while Luv’s white dress is a reference to  the dress Rachel wore at her first meeting with Deckard. In the movie, Luv wears this dress when she first meets K. The replicant prostitute wears a jacket that echoes Rachel’s chinchilla coat in the first movie, but she is a street replicant, and her version of this outfit is ratty and worn.

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One of my biggest pet peeves, is when White people make Scifi movies, they routinely erase the contributions of PoC from the human cultures being depicted. Black people in America have had an outsized influence on American culture, but you would not know that to watch the Blade Runner films. The only pop culture, and fashion, influences depicted, in either film, are European (namely Punk and New Romantic), and occasionally East Asian. There’s no sign in the 1982 movie of the influence of Hip Hop (which was still in its infancy at the time) on fashion and music, and no indication that we exist as a culture that influences the landscape at all, in the current film.

The reason I find this so irritating is because I know full well the amount of influence Black Americans have had on American culture. It also shows a paucity of imagination of the creators of  these types of movies, who not only can’t imagine a future in which Black people are doing anything other than still serving the narrative needs of White characters, but we have made no contributions to the cultures being depicted, either. In most movies, Black people are almost never given any culture (beyond stereotypes.) So while the makers of Scifi movies can find time to add Elvis Presley  and Frank Sinatra musical interludes,there’s no indication that Hip Hop exists in this universe.

 

Music

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The composer of the original movie’s soundtrack was Vangelis. For Bladerunner 2049, Hanz Zimmer was hired, after Villanueva fired the original composer, Johanne Johnasson, because he wanted the music for the sequel to have more echoes of the original.

If you listen closely to the original film, Deckard has a specific ambient hum in his apartment, and that sound is referenced in the new movie, in Deckard’s new surroundings. (This is also the same ambient noise  heard in the movie Alien, throughout the ship Nostromo, and in  Aliens in the Medbay.) Niander Wallace’s ambient noise is an echo of the tonal sounds of Eldon Tyrell’s apartments in the first film.

One of the reason people keep speculating that Deckard is a replicant is because of the replicant’s interest in music. Deckard owns and plays a piano, which Rachel knows how to play because she was implanted with memories of lessons. K is fascinated by the piano he finds in Sapper Morton’s home, (which he must have owned because he knew Rachel liked to play), and fingers the keys. its his fascination with the piano, including being able to tell when keys are out of tune that lead K to the discovery of the wooden horse. Deckard still lowns a piano while living in Las Vegas, and K can’t seem to resist fingering the keys when he gets near it.

all of the songs used in the movie are a reflection of K’s moods and thoughts, and is keyed to the situations K finds himself in. In K’s apartment, he and Joi listen to Frank Sinatra’s love song, Summer Wind, about a man reminiscing about time spent in the company of his lover. Interestingly, K shares his love of Frank Sinatra with Deckard, who has a hologram of Sinatra in his apartment singing “One For My Baby (One More For the Road)”, a scene which occurs while K interrogates Deckard about his past, and which seems to be a song specifically written for for the two of them, as it is a song about a man preparing to make  an emotional confession to his bartender, (who is sworn to secrecy), as K prepares to confess to Deckard that he may be his son.

Earlier, when K and Deckard are fighting, during their first meeting, there is a hologram of Elvis Presley singing Suspicious Minds, echoing both their emotional states about each other. Later, when Deckard talks about about his relationship with Rachel, we hear Elvis’ sad  I Can’t Help Falling In Love (With You), representing Deckard’s grief for her.

Joi’s mobile theme is from the Russian fairy tale, by Prokofiev, called Peter and the Wolf. This too is an echo of K’s storyline, as it is about a little boy who wants to be heroic by hunting wolves. Accompanied by by a cat, a goose, and small bird, he sets off for the hunt, only to be stalked by the wolf himself. With the help of his little bird friend, he manages to trap the wolf by hanging it in a tree, but not before his little goose friend is eaten. At least this is the rather sanitized version I learned in elementary school. K wants to be a hero, and a real boy, and spends the movie hunting these two goals. When he discovers that he is not a real boy, he finds that he is okay with just being heroic, successfully defeating the wolf, and reuniting Deckard with his daughter.

 

 

 

Geeking Out Recommends:

Thelma

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I’d been looking forward to seeing this for some time, and it did not disappoint. Now, when I first heard the description of it, I had not yet seen the trailer, and I was expecting something like Carrie, but quieter. Then I saw the trailer, and found that it’s something wholly different from Carrie. This movie isn’t about vengeance, it’s about desire, and what happens to a person when that desire is repressed.

For one thing, this is a much quieter, and more subtle movie than Carrie. It’s so low-key, that the supernatural aspects of the story kind of sneak up on you. They sneak up on you because they’re  loosely covered by several other issues that you will find compelling enough to be distracting.

The film is based in Norway, and the lead character, Thelma, starts to experience epileptic seizures, except it’s not seizures. Her doctor says they are psychosomatic, and stem from emotional suppression. At the same time, she meets a young woman who comes to her rescue, after she has a seizure in the college’s public reading room, while that room’s giant picture window is battered by a flock of birds. Every time she resists her feelings for Anja, or tries to suppress her powers, she has a seizure.

Thelma and the young woman, Anja, start to get closer, but Thelma comes from a quietly strict Christian background, and she becomes very conflicted about her relationship with Anja, which starts to take a romantic turn. It turns out that Thelma isn’t necessarily conflicted because of the Christianity, but because she has the power to make things happen to people, when she strongly wants it. The Christian beliefs her parents espouse are what was used to keep her powers in check.

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When Thelma was a child, she became jealous of her baby brother, and wished him away several times. The last time she does it is emotionally devastating to her mother and father, but this isn’t something you find out until the middle of the film, and only in flashbacks, and explains why her parents treat her in the quietly aloof manner that they do.

As Thelma becomes overwhelmed about her relationship with Anja, (she keeps having sexual nightmares involving snakes, and dreams about drowning, which is classic symbolism of someone being overwhelmed by a subject), she wishes Anja away too, and it’s a testament to the low-key horror of the movie, that even at the end, you’re not entirely certain that what is happening is real. Did she bring Anja back? Is Anja even real? And then there’s the further question, brought up by her father, about whether or not Anja truly loves Thelma, or did she make Anja love her because she wants her to love her.

It’s not a straight horror movie, with jump scares, and frightening moments. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Anja disappears, and Thelma kills her father. But mostly it’s those nagging questions,that stay with you, as you start to realize Thelma is far more dangerous than you may at first have believed. Her mother and father were in a car accident a few years before she went to college, and though it’s not explicitly stated, you wonder if it was Thelma who caused it.

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After Anja disappears, Thelma leaves college to go back home, where her family welcomes her, but her father decides that she can’t leave. She takes control of her abilities, takes a horrific revenge on her father, and walks out of the house. She goes back to school, where she is greeted by a newly returned Anja, who passionately kisses her.  Her mother is disabled, and uses a wheelchair after the accident, but by the end of the film, Thelma has given her the ability to walk again.

Like several other movies I’ve seen in the past few years (It Follows, Annihilation, A Quiet Place), the horror comes not so much from what happens in the movie, but from its mood. The wintry landscape of Norway, and the remote location of Thelma’s home, is very effective. On the other hand, I can’t say that the movie was enjoyable, either. It’s too haunting for that, and I am still disturbed by the questions that arose, and the answers I came up with.

For those of you on the LGBTQ spectrum this movie is safe enough to watch There is a brief moment when you think there’s a Kill Your Gays Trope, but by the end of the movie, that has passed. Its a movie about overcoming repression, and acceptance of the self.

Thelma is available on Hulu.

 

Blade of the Immortal

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I wrote about this movie in another post when this was first released. Its based on the Manga of the same name, about  rival samurai schools, (dojos), and a lone samurai who gets cursed by a witch with immortality. In return for losing his immortality he must kill 100 evil men.

Manji’s  immortality takes the form of something called blood worms, which are semi-sentient, that can heal any injury, no matter how awful. This basically means we get to watch a lot of really disgusting scenes of various body parts getting lopped and chopped, and reintegrating with his body. He thinks his quest is over when he meets a young woman named Asano who is seeking revenge against the cadre of swordsmen who killed her parents.

Of course all this is just an excuse for lots and lots of gore. I loved it. If you liked Ninja Scoll, and think you can sit through something that is very like a live action version of that, you’ll probably like this movie. Another movie that  heavily resembles  this one, only its set in modern day US, is  Ninja Assassin.

Blade of the Immortal is also available on Hulu.

 

Harlots

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I watched the first couple of episodes of this show and was mostly impressed by the characters and the details. I love period movies and TV shows, especially if it chronicles some, usually forgotten, part of history. There’s never been a show about the influence of sex workers on politics during different eras. I think people often forget that sex workers have had a tremendous impact on history, and that there were times when prostitution wasn’t always a crime, but a legitimate business that certain types of women went into, not always by choice, (but sometimes they did), which was sometimes carefully regulated by the women who controlled the institutions.

This particular show is about two rival houses of prostitution, and the political machinations  of 1700s London. One madam, Margaret Wells, is trying to increase her political influence in London by moving her brothel to a more prestigious area of the city, while being countered by Lydia Quigley. At the same time they both have to deal with a new commitment to eliminating sin, from London’s religious community, who are aided in their endeavor by  brutal police  raids.

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To finance her increase in economic power Margaret plans to auctions off her youngest daughters virginity. She is also trying to influence her oldest daughter, who is being pressured to sign a Patron agreement with a member of the nobility, which means she would leave the brothel, and stay in a place of his keeping.

Lydia Quigley runs a higher class of brothel, in a prestigious area of London, and spends her time plotting against Well’s ambitions. Margaret used to work for Lydia. Essentially, the two are fighting over which one of them will get to influence the members of the nobility who enjoy their services.

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There’s also a B plot centered around the courtship of a young Black woman, who works in one of the brothels, and the various intrigues surrounding the Black man who is wooing her, and his employer.

One of the ways that you can tell the status of women in this particular time period, and illustrated in the show, is through their clothing. Women of lower status, but who had money, would wear brighter, gaudier clothes, often in primary colors, with more frippery around the necks, arms and petticoats to indicate their status as consorts. Women of high status would wear more subdued colors, in pastels and other light colors, and their frippery is usually contained  their elaborate wigs. The material of their dresses are,  visually, more expensive, and made from finer fabrics.

I thought the show was fascinating, but what I mostly enjoyed were the characters. The women are funny, full of sass, and intelligent, and it was just fun to watch them get into various shenanigans.  I have not done a lot of reading of that specific time period, I don’t know how accurate this show is. I was especially impressed with Samantha Morton, the set pieces around the city, and of course, the costuming.

The entire first season is available on Hulu, with the second season to premiere in a few weeks.

 

Batman Ninja

Not everything I watch has to be deep. Sometimes I love to watch things that are just pretty.

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I was really looking forward to this movie, especially after I saw the trailer, which made it look like a lot of pretty fun. and it is a fun movie, but the trailer doesn’t even begin to approach the zaniness of this movie. Doesn’t even hint at it. In fact, the trailer makes it seem like the movie will be a serious, rather sober affair, with deep themes and ideas.

It is nothing like that.

I loved the fuck out of this movie, though! Its totally batshit, and I mean that pun! I don’t often watch anime because a lot of it tends to be really shallow, with questionable depictions of women, and squeaky noises that give me a headache. And yeah, this movie is totally shallow, with questionable depictions of women, but I enjoyed it anyway, and it didn’t have a lot of squeaking.

I do like to see Asian versions of Batman because they always have an interesting interpretation of him. Here, he talks a lot more, and seems less grim, occasionally smiling, or joking with his companions. Unfortunately, the plot makes him look not too bright though, with events happening that I feel sure the American version would’ve been able to see coming a mile away. But the creators did capture the strong physicality of the character. (And it’s just hella fun seeing Batman dressed like a Samurai, and weilding a sword.)

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The movie begins with a bang ,with Batman being trapped in a time portal at Arkham Asylum, and getting transported  to 16th century Japan, where he discovers he has been preceded by Catwoman, the various Robins,  Alfred, and the rogues Gallery of the Asylum.

Gorilla Grodd, who created the time portal, so he could go back in time and take over the world with monkeys, sort of like The Planet of the Apes, The Joker, who has set himself up as a Shogun, along with his consort Harley Quinn. Two Face and The Penguin are also present, having established their own fiefdoms. Eventually, they all either team up with the Joker, or are conquered by Grodd.

Most of the story is taken up with Batman’s various battles against the Joker, They fight everyone, in a forest, in a house, on a boat, and the viewer is treated to some giant robot battles representing the different houses (literally) of the Rogues Gallery. And when I say “literally”, I mean that the houses they all live in stand up, and turn into giant robots. I was in tears. I can’t say if I was happy, or sad, cuz  I just don’t know.

I really didn’t think things in this movie could get any crazier during the robot battles,  until I was gifted with the sight of thousands of tiny monkeys swarming a giant,  feudal style, robot and then, Power Ranger-like, forming their own giant monkey figure to do battle, at Damien’s bidding, just because he’s friends with a tiny monkey god liaison.

If you are looking for some sense or some logic, forget it. This movie has not one ounce of it. This movie is like Harley Quinn,  here  to look beautiful and be crazy.

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I think the biggest treat for me was to have the Robins (Nightwing, Robin, Red Robin, and The Red Hood) all present in one story, at the same time.  I was disappointed that there was so little interaction between them, and no character development to speak of. On the other hand, this is a gorgeous looking movie. The costumes of the villains were Asian interpretations of their Western looks,  and the costumes reflecting the different Robins were totally awesome, (even if Damien’s hairstyle looked really, really stupid.)

And from I09:

https://io9.gizmodo.com/batman-ninja-is-ridiculously-fun-and-also-utterly-ridi-1825494769

 Practically every frame of the movie is a visual treat, both in terms of the style it offers and the action it frequently wields to tell its wild rollercoaster of a tale. The movie builds on the scale of its action, from one-on-one fights with Batman masterfully zipping through bamboo trees to full-on scraps between mechanized, moving castles, to battles even grander and larger than that. Everything breathlessly, ceaselessly escalates, as the movie darts from one awesome idea to another, to the point that almost nothing makes sense and you have to end up letting go, and simply basking in the visual splendor of watching all these imaginative, exhilarating events unfold. 

(And this review is not wrong. After a while, I just gave up trying to make any sense of whatever  the plot might have been, and just enjoyed the scenery.)

Batman Ninja is available on Apple Itunes, and if you have a Firestick, or FireTV, its available on the Showbox app.

 

Full Metal Alchemist

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I don’t know a damn thing about this show, outside of the blurbs on the side of the manga books, on which this movie is based. I’ve never read the books, or  watched the anime, but I’m familiar enough to know it involves a giant talking suit of armor, and some magic, and that was enough to get me to watch the trailer.

I keep saying I’m not a fan of anime, but I actually do like it. I’m just very picky about what I watch, and I have to be in a certain type of mood. That said, I will watch action versions of the  anime I won’t look at, and I actually enjoyed the hell outta this movie. Its got a lot of fun action, and was actually very emotional.

I don’t know how accurate this movie is to the animated version, but its about two young boys who lose their mother, and in an attempt to resurrect her through alchemy, one of them gets trapped in a suit of armor, and the other loses his arm. After this, they are recognized by the State, which heavily regulates such things, as being Alchemists (or as I like to call them, Wizards). The two of them spend the majority of their time in this movie having long discussions about how to get the one  brother’s body back, resurrecting their mom, and endless battling with other Wizards to procure the ingredients they need to do both these things.

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I’m not sure what the Asian writers ideas about alchemy are, but they don’t  match the Western notions of it. In the Western tradition, alchemy involves lots of chemicals, potions, poisons, and transmuting things into other things. In this movie, it just looks like the Wizardry from Lord of the Rings, with lots of transformations and explosions. I mostly paid attention to the action scenes, which are awesome, and didn’t pay any attention to character’s names. I could Google them, I suppose, but I like the mystery of watching random characters show up, and throw brick walls at each other.

This movie was a heckuva lot of fun. I  liked the devil-may-care attitude of the characters, and I especially enjoyed the close relationship between the two brothers, who seem to genuinely love and support each other. There’s a squeaky young love interest (as always) but I tried to ignore her as much as possible, and since I didn’t see her doing any magic, that was easy. This is  definitely one of those Saturday afternoon type shows, that you watch in an idle moment.

Full Metal Alchemist (Live Action) is available on Netflix.

The Ritual

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This movie most closely resembles the movie The Descent, because of its plot of several friends,  one of whom holds a shameful secret, who go to a secluded place in the woods, and encounter malevolent creatures ,and a fight for survival. I initially thought this would be one of those “cabin in the woods” movies, and involve maybe some redneck cannibals. It does feature a cabin in some woods but the monsters in this movie are far stranger than what I came up with.

The movie begins with one of the men, named Luke,  dreaming about the death of one of his closest friends in a liquor store robbery, a year ago. He blames himself for his friend’s death, through his own inaction, especially since he was the one who made them stop there.

A year later, and all the friends he ditched that night, to go get drunk, are back together and hiking in the woods, as a sort of reunion, since the death of their friend. They get lost in the woods and encounter strange animal sacrifices, and symbols on the trees. Luke wakes up one morning with weird marks on his chest, while the others remain unscathed. They come upon a seemingly abandoned cabin and spend the night. They all have nightmares and wake up in various states of undress, and emotionally unhinged.

Eventually, his friends stop pretending, and throw his guilt and shame, about the death of their friend, back in his face, blaming him for it. This event is something that haunts Luke for the entire movie, and his inability to move past that night is what attracts the monster to him.

It turns out that the cabin is not abandoned, but inhabited by a cult of  humans (some who are extremely old, and mummified) who worship a giant forest creature, which has chosen Luke to be the newest member. Luke was chosen because of the tremendous amount of pain and guilt he is carrying. He spends the rest of the night fighting the creature and he eventually escapes, becasue he lets go of the event that haunts him, but his friends don’t.

I think calling this movie enjoyable is a strong term. I thought it really was very scary. And though it heavily reminded me of other horror movies, I didn’t get the sense that it was at all predictable. I didn’t fully understand what was happening at first, because we encounter the events just as the characters do, everyone has  to figure what’s happening as they go, and nothing is clearly spelled out. You have to pay attention.

The standout, though, is the monster which is called a Jotun, a Northern European forest god of some kind. In Norway and Sweden, they’re called dwarves, or trolls, or giants, but here, the creature seems to consist of the bodies of random forest creatures, and human bodies, fused together, and and looks genuinely terrifying. It is not maliciously evil in the sense that it enjoys hurting people, but more the way nature often is, in an uncaring of your life sort of way. It will consume you and keep it moving, and just wants to be worshipped. In return for sacrifices, it gives long life, although that is not necessarily something you might want, as some of its followers were so old they could barely movie, and looked like desiccated corpses.

The movie doesn’t have a typical ending either. The monster doesn’t get destroyed or discovered. It foes have a satisfying ending for its lead character, as he overcomes his pain and guilt long enough to make himself unappealing to the Jotun, but its still out n the woods, waiting to prey on the next set of people to get lost there.

The Ritual is available on Netflix.

Hey! I Watched Infinity War!

This Review Contains Many Spoilers!!!

This Review Contains All The Spoils!!!

I’m About To Spoil This Movie For You!!!

So…

My mom and I have started this thing where we either go to lunch, or a movie, on Sundays. This is our version of going to church, only without having to dress up. We just went to see Infinity War, and we had some feelings about it.

I’m going to talk about this, again, through the lens of my 67 year old mom, because you need some background on the experience of the two of us seeing this movie.

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I am a Marvel Fan. My mom is  a DC fan. She has never read a superhero comic book in her life, though. I, on the other hand, have read a lot of Marvel comics. Mostly X-Men, The Avengers, and the occasional solo book. I’ve seen most of the MCU films and am familiar with the characters backstories. My mom…not so much. She hasn’t watched any of the MCU movies, outside of Black Panther, (although she did recognize Hulk, and Spider-Man.) I just started getting her to watch DC characters like Black Lightning and The Flash. She does like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, though, mostly from TV shows. I did get her to watch Logan one day. I consider that a win.

She was very confused by this movie. I did warn her that it would be confusing, and she might get bored, because she doesn’t know any of the characters, and so won’t understand why things are important. She thought it was exciting though, and loved seeing Wakanda (and Okoye) onscreen again. She was very upset about people dying in the movie, but I think I sufficiently explained that this is only the first half of the movie, and that Black Panther will return.

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I remain unphased by this movie because I’ve read enough comic books, (ie. Infinity Gauntlet, on which this movie’s storyline is loosely based), and have enough actor background that I’m reasonably sure about whose gonna return and whose gonna stay dead in the second film. Also, characters from the comic books are forever being resurrected, so I’m not all that upset. It’s not that I didn’t feel things. I didn’t like watching the characters go, but I also paid close attention to things that were said by characters like Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man.

Let’s get the ending out of the way first.

Yes, most of our heroes are dead at the end, with the most heart wrenching ending being Spider-Man’s. He’s just a child, he didn’t want to die, and he went out apologizing for being an inconvenience to his mentor, which is what Parker always does, (apologizing for being a burden to everyone.) The theater, which had been making its usual cracklings and rustling noises through a lot of the movie, was dead silent during this scene.

Unlike the hysterics on Tumblr, I’m not crying about this because I got reasons, and also I’m an optimist when it comes to movie narratives. The movie isn’t actually over yet. Its like that Lord of the Rings trilogy, which isn’t really a trilogy at all, but one long twelve hour movie. I consider this to be only half a movie.

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One of the reasons I’m not too upset is that a lot of these characters stories aren’t finished, and some of them have franchises. I know they’re gonna be back at some point because those actors signed contracts.

Also: We don’t know that these characters are dead. They’re gone, and we have no fucking idea what gone means in this universe. Some are definitely dead, like Loki, Heimdall, and possibly Gamora, because we watched them actually get killed, and those actors might decide to not come back for later movies.  Gamora’s death is  up in the air, because that actress is contracted to star in the new Avatar franchise, and she’s already in Star Trek, so, she’s got a lot on her plate. She may not want to come back. Black Panther and Spiderman just made several hundred people their house payments, so I don’t see them staying dead. I think the heroes who got “dusted” are  coming back. (They kind of have to if they expect to make a third Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which ended on something like a cliffhanger.)

Also: Characters are forever being resurrected in the comic books. Just because you think a character is dead, doesn’t mean that they are. Hell, Phoenix has died every time she got her own comic book, and Lord knows how many times Wolverine has been resurrected. And there is precedent for it in the return of The Red Skull, who resides in the world of the Soul Stone featured in the movie. For those of you who are confused, anyone who touches the Soul Stone, which is what the Red Skull did in that First Captain America movie, gets sent to SoulWorld, this is where Gamora currently lives, (which is why Thanos was able to visit with her later in the movie.)

Also: Dr. Strange claimed to have reviewed every possible future, and in all of them The Avengers lost their fight with Thanos. Of the fourteen million plus futures he claimed to have surveyed, he saw only one in which they won, and Strange being the kind of man he is, would immediately have aimed himself at creating that particular future, which is why he gave Thanos his stone. Apparently, for Thanos to be defeated, all of the Infinity Stones need to be in his possession.

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If you’re looking for character development and depth, you’re gonna have to wait until Avengers: ????? is released next year.  Unlike some people, I’m not gonna beat this movie up for not giving me something it never promised me. The trailers told me the movie would be exciting, there’d be some angst, a lot of great fight scenes, certain people will meet who have never met before, and there will be some jokes, and that’s exactly why I went, and it’s exactly what I got. I do not understand shitting on a movie for not giving you something it never promised to give you in the first place. (Although, I do understand if the movie promised you something, and then didn’t give it to you. I’m looking at you Star Wars!)

 

Things that made me happy. 

I have always trusted the Russo Brothers when it comes to action scenes and they did not disappoint. They are so good at crafting a coherent story from all these different bits and pieces, and I was impressed. I am extremely glad that Joss Whedon was involved in none of it.

I got a kick out of characters meeting each other that I always wished would meet. I’m a big fan of crossover comic books, so that part was a lot of fun for me. I also liked a lot of the humor.

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I loved the fight scenes especially the ones featuring Spiderman. I just love how he thinks in a fight, and I also  got a special kick out of the new suit, which is right out of the comic books, btw. I really did enjoy the visuals, and  the fight scenes are all just different enough that I didn’t get bored with them, although sometimes, I’m sure my mom did.

The Guardians continue to  be some of the funniest characters in that universe. One of my favorite scenes is a romantic interlude between Peter Quill and Gamora, that’s interrupted by Drax eating some chips, and claiming to be invisible. He is not.

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And when Captain America is introduced to a small talking tree, he merely takes that in stride, and introduces himself. He remains unflapped, and this is why I love that character. This is the same guy who, when told that Thor and Loki were gods, just said, “Nope!” and kept it moving.

I lived long enough in this world to see Okoye team up with the Scarlet Witch, and the Black Widow, and watch the three of them kick some alien ass, which was fucking awesome! I had no idea I needed to see that shit until it happened. Now, I want an all female version of The Avengers, featuring the Dora Milaje, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Valkyrie, The Wasp, and Captain Marvel. I want! I want it! I want it!

I was getting really sick of Loki. I hope he’s actually gone, so I can enjoy Tom Hiddleston in some other franchise. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate the guy, but I reached Peak-Loki, several sequels ago.

I was left with several questions like: How the hell is Tony Stark gonna get home with no ship or suit? Assuming she’s still alive, who is gonna explain what happened to Peter, to Aunt May? Will we get to see Captain Marvel in the next Avengers movie?

I loved the conversation I had with my mom after the movie, where I tried to explain to her that the people she liked are not actually gone forever, and she explained that what happened in that movie would not have been an issue if The Flash and/or Superman had been involved, which ticked the hell out of me, because I never expected to be having a conversation with her about the merits of various superheroes.

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Later that day, I found some of my favorite pastries at the local Walmart and  got to watch two of my favorite shows.

It was a good day.