The Baddest Bad-Ass Females In Horror

Here are ten of my favorite horror movie females, and why:

Annie Wilkes –  Misery

I read this book when I was a teenager, and I was mostly unimpressed by it, but Kathy Bates knocked this character out of the park, in the movie. Think of Annie as a rather unhinged version of Dolores Umbridge long before Harry Potter existed. I love characters that have these sweet temperaments on the surface, but are willing to commit to horrific acts of violence when they don’t get their way. There are a lot of male characters like that all over film, (usually serial killers), but female characters who do that are kind of rare, and worth noting.

I had a choice between Sue Ann from Ma, and this character, but I chose this one because she came first, and that leg hammering scene was the most hardcore shit I’ve ever seen a female character commit on a movie screen. She is the poster child for keeping your fanship in fucking perspective, and never letting it get out of hand. You define what your fandom is going to be. You don’t let your fandom define you.

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Samara –  The Ring

What I like, (for lack of a better word), about this character is she is just evil to be fucking evil. Yes, she was drowned by her mother or something, in a well, but what’s bad ass about her is there is no appeasing of this character. You can’t find her body and lay her to rest. She’s not angry because her murderers got away, or any of the usual reasons for ghostly activity. She ‘s just bad, to be bad. There’s just shit all you can do to save yourself from her, and that’s simply terrifying.

The lead character does everything she can to avert Samaras wrath, and the deaths of her loved ones, by investigating Samara’s crimes, and trying to find her, and get justice for her, but to no avail. You can’t do anything to make her happy. She is just bad. Samara is an example of how we should sometimes just “Let it go, already!”

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Carrie White – Carrie

Although the story is tragic, I still see Carrie as a revenge fantasy for teenage girls. I can’t think of a single teenage girl who didn’t like this character, or have her resonate with them, somehow. Stephen King says she was based on a young woman he knew in high school, who was something of an underdog. She tried to get out from under it, to be more popular, dress better, or be more fun, but ultimately she couldn’t, and King saw that and wondered about what her life was like, and her story just stuck with him.

Despite that there have been several movies made about this character, two in the theater, and one on TV, her story, from the book, has still not been adequately captured. Carrie is the ultimate bad-ass of feminine vengeance. In the book, she destroys thousands of lives and burns down an entire town. I think there’d be an audience for this,  if it were made with an actual budget, because the full scope of Carrie’s abilities has never actually been shown.

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Eli  –  Let the Right One In

Eli is one of the few child vampires in cinema, and I would argue its a fairly accurate depiction of the life, in that she seems entirely plausible. A child vampire would need a caretaker, someone to act as a parent. They wouldn’t be able to go to school really, since they don’t age, and even if they did, they couldn’t remain in one place for more than a couple of years at a time.

In the novel, Eli simply says she’s been twelve for a very long time, so she is not a grownup in child’s body. Her brain simply never develops into adulthood at all, which sounds absolutely horrifying. She simply remembers being a child for a very long time, and never develops mature thinking, at all.

Eli is also a total bad ass. At the end of the movie, she comes to the defense of her child friend, when he is being tormented by bullies. What happens to them occurs off screen, but its still an incredibly effective scene. She has all of a child’s terrifying rage and intensity in a fight, coupled with the speed and strength of a vampire.

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Katrina –  Vamp

Katrina was the first Black vampire I’d ever seen. I’d read about a couple of them, but I can’t think of anyone more likely to play a vampire,  than Grace Jones, who was my idol at the time she played this character, waaay back in the eighties, who says not one word throughout the entire movie, and still manages to get the last word right before she dies!

Grace Jones was important to me not just because I happened to be the right age for it, but she was of my time. Not someone my mother, or aunts, or grandmother admired. I chose her. She was an example of the kind of woman I wanted to be at sixteen, laughing, and beautiful, and fearless, in a way I just wasn’t. She was a dark skinned supermodel at a time when there were none who looked like her. She was an action star when there were no black female action stars. And she dated some of the hottest men of that era including Adam Ant, and Dolph Lundgren.

Later, the great Aaliyah, and Eddie Murphy himself, would follow in Jones footsteps, proving , yet again, that African vampires could put their shit down, and compete with any European Vampire. Katrina rips out throats and hearts, and still manages to find time for her night job, dancing in, and running, a vampire strip club. She was the highlight of the movie, and really the only reason anyone remembers this, still rather obscure, 80s vampire comedy.

 

 

 

The Alien Queen – Aliens

Normally The Queen would qualify as the baddest of the bad, except she was defeated by Ripley. I mean, she had a good thing going there, with lots of warm bodies for her eggs, obedient kids, and plenty of food, and it was all ruined. She is every bit as bad as she believes she is, when going  toe to toe with the power loader wearing human, who destroyed her nest. Normally, this sort of thing gets copied over and over in any movies that get released in its wake, like what happened after The Matrix, but nobody even tried to duplicate her.

She is, and always will be, one of a kind!

I remember the first time I saw this in the theater. The audience let out a collective gasp. Everyone was in awe of her. Cameron had delivered an excellent, thrill ride of a movie up to that point. He didn’t need to impress us any more, so really, our first glimpse of this thing, that had only been theorized about earlier in the movie, was like the icing on a chocolate fudge cake. And then to follow that up with a “Final Girl” battle…just WOW!!!

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Satanico Pandemonium – From Dusk Til Dawn

This is only the third woman of color I’ve ever seen as a vampire. This is interesting because, even though vampire mythology can be found across every culture in the world, from Asia, to Africa, and South America, the only vampires we almost ever see in films and books, are White. Vampirism is not a White European tradition. There is a bunch of different types of vampires in the South American tradition, because of the interaction of so many cultures in the region. The vampires in From Dusk til Dawn most closely resemble the Cihuateteo of Aztec folklore.

In the TV series,  Satanica tells about how she was sacrificed to an Aztec god when she was a child, and that she was given certain powers and curses by that god, and at the end of the movie version, we find that the nightclub, the Titty Twister, is situated at the top of an ancient temple.

I find the trope of the centuries old vampire, living a  quiet, and discreet lifestyle, as the owner of a nightclub, to be pretty interesting. I guess it makes sense, as vampires can’t come out in the daytime, and as was explained in the movie Vamp, you get a ready supply of itinerant victims, many of whom won’t be missed. What I find equally interesting is that female vampires eventually become sex workers, club dancers, in the modern era. The male vamps who own nightclubs never have to dance, apparently.

If there is anyone who was going to play this character in a movie, I can think of no one else than the beautiful, and  bodacious, Salma Hayek. She is definitely a rival for Akasha, as the world’s sexiest, baddest vampire.

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Akasha – Queen of the Damned

Guys! When an ancient one walks up in the club, it’s time to get the fuck out!

By any measure of cinema, Queen of the Damned is probably a horrible movie, but it joins the list of horrible movies I’m not ashamed to love, solely on the strength of Aaliyah’s performance, as the titular character. She is a queen by every definition of the word and she knows it. I think I hated every other character in the film, (except Marius), but Aaliyah rocked the shit out of this role. She was simply outstanding!

The scene, where she burns down an entire nightclub full of vampires, is one of the highlights of vampire cinema, and is right up there with the shootout from Near Dark, and the power loader scene from Aliens. She then saunters away from the flames, with not a care in the world. Her ass is completely unbothered, and unburnt. The walk! The Attitude! The music!

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve seen a whole new generation of young black women, including my niece, The Potato, who have fallen in love with Aaliyah. I don’t know if it’s because of her movie roles or her music, though. How about both!

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Sue – Jurassic Park

I don’t actually know the Name of the Rex from this movie. I don’t think she has a name in the film. I call her Sue because the T. Rex skeleton, from the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, is named Sue, and I’m a fan. (Actually, Sue  is from South Dakota.) The real life Sue was a bigger, and heavier animal than her animatronic counterpart.

I loved this character, and not  because she ate a lawyer. As the movie’s heavyweight (she is fully  acknowledged by the director, Spielberg, as being the film’s star), Sue is iconic, and the special effects still stand up, twenty five years later. According to her Wiki, (yes, she has her own page), she stood 17 feet tall, weighed 17,000+ pounds, and was 20 feet long. The T. Rex was truly a force of nature:

Its roar is a baby elephant mixed with a tiger and an alligator, and its breath is a whale‘s blow.[58] A dog attacking a rope toy was used for the sounds of the T. rex tearing a Gallimimus apart,[12] while cut sequoias crashing to the ground became the sound of the dinosaur’s footsteps.

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 Ellen Ripley – Alien/Aliens

This list would not be complete if I didn’t add Ellen Ripley. She doesn’t just make this list just because she’s the baddest of the bad, or because I’m a huge fan of the actress, Sigourney Weaver. I think of the character as an icon and role model. (I have a couple of others, Grace Jones, and Nichelle Nichols, for example.) Ripley is the only fictitious role model I’ve ever adopted. I just happened to be at the right age, and the right stage of emotional development, when I first saw her.

I remember watching the first film, Alien, when I was  around eleven or twelve, and no Ripley did not impress me in her first outing. (It would be Parker, played by  Yaphet Kotto, who did that.)  I distinctly remember being scared and intrigued by the ads for that movie, but I was too young to see it in the theater, at just nine years old, when it was released. By the time I saw Aliens, I was sixteen, and by that time my family had a VCR. I’d already been  impressed by Cameron’s The Terminator, but for some reason, Sarah Connor, although she was pretty tough, did not make the list to role model, Ripley did.

I think the thing that most impressed me about this character was the scene at the beginning of the movie, Aliens, when her voice breaks as she is describing the murders of the crew of the Nostromo, because its that scene, (and the cut scene where she cries about the daughter she left behind), that informs all her decisions for the rest of the movie.

Ripley cries a lot, actually. She cries, screams, shakes, her voice trembles. This is a woman who has nightmares, and trauma, and is deeply terrified, but nevertheless, she keeps moving forward, and this was an attitude I would adopt as I moved through a life filled with anxieties, nightmares, mental illness, and suicide. I didn’t so much ask myself what she would do, (I knew what she would do), so much as adopt her attitude. Ellen Ripley taught how  me to pass through fear like a cloud of dust, and  that whatever terrors I have are irrelevant, if my goal is important enough.

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Addendum: 

One of the reasons I didn’t add Vasquez from Aliens, is because I wanted to highlight one of the non-human characters in the film, which I thought was awesome, and I had already included Ripley. Because I added the Xenomorph,  I decided to take out the Latina Bad Ass I admired so much when I first saw the film. I had never seen any character like Vasquez in a movie, especially in 1986. Latina character simply were not regulalrly seen in Science Fiction movies, which sort of makes her character as groundbreaking as she is problematic. (The actress who plays her is not Latina, and is Jewish American. Her cultural markers are a bit stereotypical.)

I like all of the women in this movie, to tell the truth, including the brave and resourceful Newt, and the no nonsense Cpl. Ferro (whose very name is totally metal). I’d end up highlighting the entire film if I did that.

I  specifically referenced the Aliens version of Ripley, because of her link to the first film, which is classified as a Horror movie, and while Ripley was an admirable character in that film, she was not yet a full on Bad Ass yet. That didn’t happen until the second movie which is why I referenced that one instead.

Another character I would have liked to include, for the same reason, is Sarah Connor. The first movie classifies as SciFi Horror, but she doesn’t become a true Bad Ass until the sequel. She too is one of the few White female characters, I truly admire, and one of the few White actresses whose career I followed very closely. But once again, I wanted to highlight non-human characters that impressed me, like Sue.

 

Horror Movie Themes: Women Directors And Monster Women

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Women who direct horror movies are few and far between. They are simply not telling stories in significant numbers in the genre for critics to say there’s an overwhelming theme being tackled, but there are enough of them that a pattern is beginning to emerge.

 

Ostensibly, the stories women tell cover the same subjects as male directors,  but there are sometimes subtle differences, and most of that has to do with women’s perspective on the same topics. There is plenty of vengeance, serial killers, and  ultra violence, but where movies with male directors often focus on the spectacle of violence  against women, without questioning it, female directors often make women the total focus of the plot, as both victims and perpetrators. There are also  fewer otherworldly monsters in female directed movies. Often, in such films, the monsters are very  human, and sometimes those monsters are, in fact, the women.

There are exceptionally few horror movies directed by women of color, and the bare handful of movies that were, like Beloved, fall into the category of personal hauntings, that tackle issues that resonate with other women of color. The majority of women horror filmmakers, are White women, and they tend to focus on issues that are of importance to them, and one starts to notice a pattern in the themes of the movies they make.

If White men work out their personal anxieties through the types of horror they create, then so do White women. It is not that women of color cannot relate to these themes, it’s just that for them, such themes may not be a priority, and tend to carry less resonance for them.

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In movies like Carrie by Kimberly Pierce, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, by Ana Lily Amirpour,  and Jennifer’s Body by Karyn Kusama, the theme is not just the Monstrous Feminine, but femaleness itself as monster. There is no coding of femininity as  horrific in these movies. It is a  woman who is a horrible monster, who feeds on men, or  destroys the human body, with a thought, and she is like this, because she is female, as that is an integral part of the horror in the film.

Carrie and Jennifer’s Body  also tackle issues that are of specific relevance to women, like puberty, menstruation,  friendship, and sexual trauma. In female directed films, there is less emphasis on the disruption and restoration of order, or the status quo. Often, their films don’t actually have any resolution, or the emphasis is on the disruption, and restoration, of relationships, or cathartic punishments, instead.

Themes about monstrosity, in such movies, often revolve around body horror, and consumption, as dieting, and the non/consumption of food, and women’s relationships to food, make up the bulk of the personal anxieties in the privileged classes of women who sometimes make these films. In Julia Decournau’s Raw (2016),  a vegetarian girl develops a craving for meat after she undergoes a hazing ritual involving the eating of raw animals. In the 1999 Ravenous,  by the late Antonia Bird, Guy Pierce develops a taste for raw meat after he is nearly killed during the Mexican – American War, and in Jennifer’s Body, a young woman has to save her high school friend, after she realizes her friend has become a flesh eating demon. (There is a lot to unpack, in the movie Jennifer’s Body, which we will discuss later.) Many middle-class, White, Western women have a love/hate , and a fear/disgust, relationship with food, dieting, and  consumption, and we see that play out in these films, as eating, (usually blood and meat), becomes the primary focus of the horror.

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Female directed movies often tend to be more intimate, focusing on the horror of relationships, or the topic of motherhood. What mothers are willing to do for, or sometimes to, their families is the subject of the 2014 movie, The Babadook, where a mother fears she may kill her son, when she is haunted,  and then possessed, after reading about the titular character.

In the anthology XX, many of the stories revolve around the horrific circumstances that can occur when a mother loves her family. Motherhood, already a source of real world anxiety, is a frequent topic in films made by women. In The Box, the themes are also loss, helplessness, and non/consumption, as a woman loses her entire family, when they starve themselves, after her son views the contents of a mysterious box. It is a secret that kills them, and which they refuse to share with her, so that when they are gone, she spends the rest of her life riding the subway, hoping to encounter the man with the box again. The story, Her only Living Son, directly tackles sacrificial motherhood, as a woman sacrifices her life to save her son from his Satanic destiny.

Sex is a huge component of female directed horror movies, but unlike films directed by men, that mostly just feature the spectacle of  women having sex,  or being raped, the focus from women directors is on the danger, and vulnerability of intimacy, and often based on a young woman’s fear of sexual activity, and fear of the loss of innocence, that may be the result. In the film, A Girl Walks Home Alone, a nameless female, Iraqi  vampire hunts men. This movie is groundbreaking, not just because of its setting, and plot, but character. The sexual forwardness of Iraqi women isn’t often featured in film, let alone as a night-stalking blood drinker. The director, Amirpour, is not White, but the themes of consumption, and blood as a euphemism for sex, still find a way into the story.

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Blood plays a huge part in a lot of the stories told by women, from Carrie, to Raw, to Jennifer’s Body, with the theme being  linked to  femininity, fertility, and/or sex. The movie, Carrie, begins and ends with blood. Based on the novel by Stephen King, it chronicles a young woman’s perilous navigation through high school. At the beginning of the story, the onset of her menses signals her introduction to adulthood, and heightens her telekinetic abilities. The story ends with the killing of her entire graduating class, after a bucket of pig’s blood is dumped over her during the school prom, an act which was informed by the opening events of the story, when she has her first period in front of her bullying classmates.

Blood and flesh are especially popular topics of these films, in that many of them contain cannibalism and/or vampirism. In the movie Raw, relationships, and adulthood rites take center stage, as a young woman, who has a contentious relationship with her sister, gets turned into a cannibal after an initial hazing at her sister’s college, that turns out to be an initiation, not just into a sorority, but also adulthood. In Blood and Donuts (1995), a vampire who has just awakened from a long sleep, is introduced to the modern world, via the night shift worker at a local bakery. Over the course of the evening, the young lady figures out who and what he is, and the two of them engage in a push and pull attraction, as he decides whether or not he should prey on her.

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In the 1987 movie, Near dark, a young man is inducted into a nightmare lifestyle, where he has to kill to live, when he meets a pretty blonde girl, at a bar one night. Vampires, since they, like blood, are often a euphemism for sex and adulthood, are the focus of women’s stories, such as Fran Rubel Kazui’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Buffy went on to answer deeper questions about girlhood and monsters, in the TV series, which lasted from 1997 to 2003. In fact, these themes are so prevalent, that they often seem to be having a dialogue with each other, or with movies of the same genre, made by men.

There is a lot of narrative overlap, for example, between Near Dark, Ravenous, and the movie, Afflicted, which cover not just the same themes, but sometimes the same talking points, of the male protagonist’s empathy making them unfit to live the kind of lifestyle that requires killing others. There is also a great deal of narrative overlap in the movies Carrie, Raw, and Ginger Snaps, more films in which menstruation, and flesh eating, are the signals that a young woman has reached full adulthood.

Now let’s talk about Jennifer’s Body.

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Jennifer’s body is a great encapsulation of some of the themes and topics that women address through horror. The themes of friendship, female ally-ship and support, revenge, sexuality,  and patriarchy are part of this narrative.

Jennifer’s Body was released in 2009, written by Diablo Cody, and directed by Karen Kusama. Jennifer Check, as played by Megan Fox, is the high school hot girl. She is the sassy, beautiful, popular, cheerleader, that all the  high school boys lust after. Amanda Seyfried plays Amanda “Needy” Lesnicki,  her quiet, bookish,  best friend, since elementary school. Jennifer gets possessed by a demon, after she is sacrificed to Satan by a local rock band, in exchange for fame.

Already there are themes of the sexuality of women being exploited for male gain. The band, called Low Shoulder, thinks she is a virgin, and their sacrifice was successful, but since she was not actually a virgin, she became possessed instead. After she has killed two young men, Amanda figures out that she is a succubus that is impervious to harm after feeding on her victims. Jennifer attacks Amanda’s boyfriend, who then attacks and eventually kills her. However, bitten by Jennifer, Amanda has now developed some of the Demon Jennifer’s abilities. At the end of the movie, she hunts down  the band Low Shoulder, and kills them.

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Throughout the movie, we are  privy to some of the more interesting conversations that women have when men are not present, and this is something that will only happen in a movie that is written and controlled by women. Not only will there often be more than one woman in a movie, but their relationships and conversations often have more depth. The film is informed by two women in front of the camera as well as the two women behind it. It is the relationship between Amanda and Jennifer that is integral to the plot of the film. If we don’t buy their friendship, we cannot become emotionally invested in their plight, most especially in Amanda’s dilemma at having to kill her best friend.

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Amanda isn’t just killing Jennifer to save the lives of the young men she might feed on, but to save Jennifer. too. I talked in an earlier post about how Horror is basically the disruption of the status quo by the unknown, often the paranormal, and yes, Jennifer as a demon is a disruption of the status quo,  but the status quo, does not necessarily mean “good”. The status quo is Jennifer’s humanity being disregarded  by  men who were willing to  sacrifice her life for their own gain. That Jennifer, and then Amanda, become demons is a necessary disruption, especially as part of the revenge narratives that are also prominent in women’s horror. Not only are revenge narratives common for women directors, they are often very cathartic for the creators and audiences.

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https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/03/carrie-stephen-king-brian-de-palma-horror-films-feminism

Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie, from 2011, is another movie that appears to be having a dialogue with Jennifer’s Body, as it covers many of the same themes, of women’s relationships, both supportive and toxic, and the revenge narrative. Although the story was originally written by Stephen King, and the original movie was directed Brian De Palma, I talked at length about how the mood and emphasis of the film is changed, as Pierce  focuses more on the women’s tangled relationships with each other, rather than on spectacle.

So for female horror directors, there seems to be less emphasis on spectacle (although that’s definitively present becasue these are horror movies), and more focus on symbolism, and the relationships between the characters. For me, this supports my supposition that the type of moves that get made are a reflection of the types of people who make them. If this is true of the Japanese, or British, then its equally true for the White men who run Hollywood, and are the primary creators in the horror genre. So, yes, I think that the types of films being made by White women (as these directors are primarily White) are a reflection of the things that are important to them.

There have not been enough Black and Asian-American filmmakers, in the horror genre, for certain patterns to emerge, but I’m going to give it a try in a follow-up post.

10 Terrifying Books For Halloween

Here’s a really good collection of unconventional books to read for Halloween. So pick one up, (or all of them), and prepare to be frightened. Best time to read them? Halloween night of course.

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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

You might remember these books from your childhood. I remember reading the first of these in elementary school and being scared out of what wits I’d managed to scrape together at age eight. The other two books in the series are less scary, but Gammell’s drawings  were always deliciously disturbing, and I loved them. Is this series just as effective when reading it as an adult? Yes!

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The Institute – Stephen King

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This is a horror novel for people who don’t like horror novels. I just finished this about a couple of weeks ago. While it started off kind of slow, and King really needs to stop writing any Black people into any of his books, until he can write us to sound like regular fucking people, I ultimately found it very satisfying. This is a story for people who think the Harry Potter universe wasn’t dark enough. In fact, this book slaps that universe in the face, kicks it a few times, and then electrocutes its gonads.  In other words, its got a lot of unpalatable stuff in it, including the (bloodless) torture of children. I listened to the audio-book version of this and some parts were hard to get through, and had I been reading it instead of listening to it, I probably would have put the book down and not finished it. What I can say, in King’s favor, is that the torture isn’t  gratuitous, and does serve the plot.

I don’t usually like the endings of King’s books, although I’m okay with the journey to get there, (I prefer his shorter stuff), but this had a nicely bittersweet ending, that made everything that came before it worth crawling through, and I appreciated it. The kids really did come across sounding and acting  like kids, too. Despite his complete inability to make Black people sound like, ya know, people, he really is pretty good at writing White people who are not men. The lead character is compassionate, smart as fuck, and brave, so that helped, too.

Warning for torture of children.

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Mystery Walk – Robert McCammon

This book is from waaay back in the 80s, and is a great Halloween read, as its one of the few pantshittingly scary books I remember fondly. McCammon writes dark Historical mysteries now, so a lot of people aren’t as aware of his Horror past, as perhaps they should be. He didn’t ever quite rise to the level of King, but his grand novel, Swan Song, is right at the top of apocalyptic fiction along with The Stand, as it should be.

Mystery Walk is about a young man’s journey to adulthood, after he finds out that he has inherited the ability to not only see and speak to ghosts, but he can lay them to rest by consuming their pain. There’s also another character with the same ability that is a dark reflection of him. The book builds up to their eventual confrontation, with one using his abilities for evil and gain, and being manipulated by a demon, while the other, having resisted the demon’s temptations, tries to save him.

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God’s Demon – Wayne D. Barlowe

This is another one of those journeys through Hell books. I have a whole collection of these. I love strong imagery in a book, and Wayne Barlowe, being an artist (who has done at least two illustrated books on this subject) is a master craftsmen. But its not just the images that grab you here, its the characters too, from the  repentant Lilith, to the foot soldiers of the demons major, Hell isn’t just made up of damned souls, and the unredeemable, as Sargatanas, one of Hell’s most powerful Fallen, fights a war to prove that he actually belongs back at God’s side, again.

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FantasticLand

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Okay, I got this book from NetGalley because the plot sounded like it might be funny. I thought it was going to be a satire about Disneyland or something.

This book was not funny.

This book was harrowing, but in a good way. I felt like I had been on a serious journey after I read this. Its not like the other books on this list, in that all the monsters here, are entirely human.

You might get the same idea that its a comedy or satire, as the basic plot is a  bunch of  young people get trapped in an amusement park called FantasticLand, during a hurricane, and over the next couple of weeks, all civility breaks down, as they start to hoard food, break into different tribes, and factions, and begin  warring against each other. In the meantime, they are still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, and the resultant flooding.

This is told in reports and interviews after the event. with the people who were involved, various rescue workers, and the media. So its an excellent use of the World War Z format, and unlike the Lord of the Flies book, there are plenty of women, there’s a lot more death, and some very clear reasons behind why everyone starts behaving the way they do, that’s beyond people just being stupid or bad. The book has a lot more depth than I expected, and is a more realistic depiction of how something like it could occur. What’s interesting is that even though the reason why the events happened were pretty clear, the public is still massively puzzled about why it happened.

I can;t praise this book enough, even though it was really hard to get through.

Warning for off-screen rape, and lots of ultra-violence.

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Nocturnes –  John Connolly

This is an excellent collection for Halloween, and one of my favorite anthologies. All of the stories here are straight up horror, ,and very well done. From Mr. Pettinger’s Demon, to the Inkpot Monkey,  with many of the stories consisting of people dealing with different types of demons, both real and imaginary. There are also a couple of really good monster stories, The Wakeford Abyss, and The Man From the Second Fifteen. It also includes a less horrific, but still pretty dark Charlie Parker story, The Reflecting Eye.

“Children go missing, lovers are lost, creatures emerge from below the ground and demons lurk in the shadows as Connolly, clearly having the time of his life, does his best to scare the wits out of his readers.”

 —Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia)

 

I also want to rec the sequel, Nocturnes II, Night Music, with its long form short stories, The Caxton Library, which is not horror, but still lots of fun, and The Fractured Atlas, which is deeply disturbing in a Lovecraftian sort of way. There’s also a fun Sherlockian story, where he meets the man who authored him. The sequel has fewer stories, but The Fractured Atlas more than makes up for the lack of scare in the other stories. Other stories of note are The Lamia, which is not about a vampire at all, and The Children of Dr. Lyall, where two men break into a house, and get trapped in alternate dimensions.

 

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We Are Where The Nightmares Go – C. Robert Cargill

The first story in this collection is one of the most unique zombie stories I’ve ever read. Cargill has this thing, where he can take a well worn trope, like zombies or ghosts, or even Indigenous mythology, and pull out some truly interesting stories, that are not like any other types of those stories. In The Town That Wasn’t Anymore, an entire town is so haunted, that most of its citizens are  afraid to go out at night. There’s a Sin Eater and a Soul Thief’s Son, and the title story is an Anti- Alice in Wonderland tale, as a  little girl goes through a doorway under her bed, and finds herself in a very dark world.

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The Haunted forest Tour – Jeff Strand

If a horror novel can be classified as Pulp, than this is it. I thought it was great, horrific, trashy fun, as a magical forest takes over several acres in America, when it pops out of thin air. The forest just happens to be haunted by every sort of monster that has ever inhabited a horror novel. The whole thing has a very Cabin in the Woods feel to it, right down to its  premise.

This is a story that’s best listened to rather than read. I did both, and the narrator for the audio-book does an excellent job of capturing the incredulity of the characters, and  the horribleness of the monsters.

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The Wide Carnivorous Sky – John Langan

Most of the stories in this collection would best be described as haunting. The first two stories are zombie stories but there is less of a focus on gore, and like any good zombie story, more of a focus on how the end of the world affects the survivors. The title story is, very probably, one of the scariest vampire stories I’ve ever read, not because the vampire is so frightening, although yes it is scary as fuck, but because of the mood. There is a feeling of dread in it that heavily reminds me of The Thing ,as a bunch of afghan vets deal, not just with the aftermath of the war, but the PTSD from encountering the vampire.

The Wide Carnivorous Sky is an excellent story to read on Halloween night.

You will be scaredt!

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The Scarlet Gospels – Clive Barker

If you’re a fan of Hellraiser, this chronicles what happened after the events of the second film, Pinhead’s journey across Cenobite Hell, and  his attempts to gain more power.  This is also good book for  fans of Harry D’amour from Barker’s The Last Illusion, as he travels to Hell to rescue a friend who gets caught up in Pinhead’s machinations, and their eventual confrontation.

This was a deeply satisfying book, but then Barker has always been able to capture me through the vivid imagery he presents, and the depth of his characters. I don’t remember many of the plot details but that is one of the dangers of reading a Barker book.

Warning for torture and rape scenes.

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Exploring Horror Movie Themes

Earlier, I talked about how, since most of the American Horror genre is run by White men, what we’re really getting is a glimpse into the minds of what scares straight, middle class, White men, and the themes they like to visit , and re-visit, over and over. These large scale patterns give us some idea what they consider to be important to have, or even to lose, and their close felt anxieties. Its not that other people don’t feel these anxieties, but these are movies told from a particular Western  male framework, while movies in other cultures  have a different set of tropes and patterns, that are reflective of the anxieties of those people.

Western style Horror movies are often about the loss of control, stability, and/or order, in that a status quo  is established at the beginning of the story, then some “thing” comes along to disrupt that status quo, a loss of control, and/or disorder soon follows, after which control and order is re-established, with the defeat of the disruption. The disruption could be anything from a comet (Night of the Comet) , to the return of a long lost brother, (Hellraiser), to malevolent frogs (Frogs), or zombies (Night of the Living Dead). This is white western men’s greatest fear: the disruption of the natural order from a malevolent other.

There are   few movies in which disorder wins, (The Mist), the status quo is not re-instated, (Dawn of the Dead), or there is the threat of more disorder at some point in the future, (Slither), but that too becomes part of the horror. Disorder often takes the form of “the Other”, usually a  monster, which is really just another version of death, something which is relentless, inevitable, and just like in the real world, deeply personal,  but usually the monster is just representative of change ,and a loss of order.

Here are some of the most common versions and themes about change, death, and disorder, found in Horror movies.

 

Grant Grant: Slither

Loss of Bodily Autonomy

Most of these films fall into the Body Horror category, where a person literally loses control of their body, and/or cannot stop what’s happening to it. In the movie Slither, a town is terrorized by an alien consciousness that proceeds to take over people’s bodies, using them for reproduction, food, and to grow itself. The top three horrors: extraterrestrial rape, being eaten, and the loss of bodily autonomy, are all covered in this movie, which encompasses every body horror film, from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers to The Thing

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Zombies: Train to Busan

Being Eaten

Being eaten is always a popular topic, and is a classic “status quo does not get restored” type of film. In such films, the world has been so horribly overturned, that nothing will ever be normal again, and even those who don’t become flesh eating zombies,  are forever changed. These types of movies are often not about the zombies themselves, but how regular citizens cope with the disruption of civilization.

There’s more to this type of movie than zombies, though, which always includes elements of  “being hunted”,  such as any film where people get eaten by animals (Jaws), aliens (Under the Skin), and yes,  non-zombie people, (Ravenous).

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The Xenomorph: Alien

Women

We can conclude, with the success of this entire series of movies, that men are deeply afraid of women.  The Alien films are an example of what psychologist,  Barbara Creed, called The Monstrous Feminine. One aspect of the Alien films which is not addressed in other monstrous feminine films, like Teeth, and Ginger Snaps, is the treatment of the male characters as non-consenting incubators, by the alien.

http://fourteeneastmag.com/index.php/2019/05/31/celebrating-the-monstrous-feminine-the-legacy-of-alien/

https://www.swantower.com/essays/craft/the-monstrous-feminine/

This type of film, where female bodies are coded as sinful, painful,  and symbols of death, and/or castration for men, are fairly numerous, and include movies like The Exorcist, Hereditary, The Brood, Teeth, Jennifer’s Body, and Ginger Snaps.

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The Pods: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers

Losing Yourself

I wrote about this in an earlier post about Invasion of the Body snatchers, about how the movie isn’t just about conformity, but the loss of one’s unique sense of self. All of the Invasion movie remakes have subtle themes outside of this, but it’s a thread that can be seen throughout all of them. This theme includes any number of movies where a person’s mind is taken over, or controlled, by some outside force, which includes movies like Upgrade, Get Out, Scanners, A Clockwork Orange, and The Manchurian Candidate.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/invasion-of-the-bodysnatchers-1978-the-loss-of-self/

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Jack: The Shining

Family

That your home could become a source of pain and harm for you is also a very real fear illustrated in countless home invasion films, like Breaking In, Straw Dogs, Don’t Breathe, and The Strangers. But what if the danger doesn’t come from the outside, but is already living with you. What if the call is coming from inside the house?

Two of the biggest family themes in Horror is danger to the family, and danger from the family. The Shining is an example of both. Family is supposed to be the one group of people who  protect and nurture you. The fear that a family member might deliberately seek to cause you harm is what permeates The Shining. Jack engaged in domestic abuse (drinking and violence) long before he encountered the malevolent beings of the Overlook Hotel. The danger was always present. The  family’s isolated conditions, and the spirits in the hotel, just exacerbated it.

The danger from the family has been a common theme since The Shining’s release in 1980, in movies like Hereditary, The Amityville Horror, Hellraiser, and The Babadook.

https://www.playbuzz.com/roreyomalley10/21-things-people-get-completely-wrong-about-domestic-abuse

 

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What if the person who’s supposed to look after you became a threat, one that slowly isolates, intimidates, harms, and ultimately kills you? 

http://msenscene.com/2017/12/19/merry-scary-shining/

 

Seth Brundle: The Fly

Sickness

 

This fear is also closely tied to the fear of loss of bodily autonomy, as these are both fears that what is happening to one’s body is outside of one’s control. In the case of loss of autonomy, the fear is that an outside force controls your body, and is making it do disgusting, or abnormal things, like changing shape, or harming the people you love. In the fear of sickness, the fear is of one’s body going horribly wrong, or the body attacking itself from within, or just changing for some unknown reason.

That is a kind of fear that is seemingly universal. There’s not one person alive whose body has not undergone some change that they couldn’t understand, or which frightened them, starting with puberty, and this is especially true for women, becasue even when you know some change is going to occur, is occurring, the symptoms can still produce a great deal of anxiety.

In The Fly, Seth Brundle’s body starts to undergo changes he doesn’t understand, after an experiment in transporting objects goes horribly wrong. At first its a gift, and he feels wonderful, but we get the full immersion treatment of his emotions as his body begins to deteriorate. We experience his fear when he believes he has some form of cancer or leprosy, sadness when he realizes he is too far gone to ever be saved, the mordant humor of having his body parts drop off, and even that feeling of relief, when he discovers what’s happening to him. Anyone who has ever had a chronic/serious illness can resonate with Seth’s journey. His illness may be fictional, but the emotions evoked are all very real.

 

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 The Grey Widower: The Mist

Arachnophobia

I think this is a special category all its own, and I put this here becasue it happens to be one of my personal phobias. I don’t know what the cause of this particular phobia is, but I have experienced recurrent reinforcement of it over the years. Once when I was in college, I had a spider egg hatch in my bedroom, and I totally freaked the fuck out for three days. Luckily, I had friends who didn’t simply make fun of me, but took great efforts to calm my fears. Its been over twenty five years, and I still don’t think I ever fully recovered from that, judging by the number of times per year I have   bug bombed my house, in order to prevent just such a re-occurence.

Nevertheless, I will still watch movies about this particular phobia, and some of them have even become favorites, like The Mist,  Eight Legged Freaks, and my personal favorite, Big Ass Spider! And yeah, my all-time favorite superhero is indeed Spiderman. Obviously spiders and I have a complicated love/hate relationship.

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A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to experience extreme, irrational fear about a situation, living creature, place, or object.

When a person has a phobia, they will often shape their lives to avoid what they consider to be dangerous. The imagined threat is greater than any actual threat posed by the cause of terror.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249347.php

Phobias are a really easy theme to make a horror movie from because the fear is already built into the movie. All you have to do is put your audience in a place where the phobia can have free reign. From clowns (Killer Klowns from Outer Space), to enclosed spaces (Buried), to snakes (Anaconda), all the film maker has to do is introduce the situation with the phobia, and you’ve got a scary movie.

 

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The Monster: It Follows

Growing Old

I talked about this movie’s monster at some length, discussing why the movies theme was about aging, and not necessarily the surface level theme of sexually transmitted disease.

This movie is not just about sexuality and STDs. That’s just a surface-level description, and the one most easily accessed by the viewer. Those  two subjects are merely the vehicles through which the meaning of the story is being imparted. The movie is actually about the existential fear of growing up, growing old, and death.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/it-follows-2014-more-thoughts/

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He Who Kills: Trilogy of Terror

Being Hunted

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This is a theme closely related to being eaten, although being eaten is not always the result of a “hunt” movie. Most of these types of movies involve humans hunting other humans (Race with the Devil), or animals, (Jaws), but this nasty little short from the movie Trilogy of Terror has an altogether different goal, and involves a woman being chased through her home, by an avatar of the hunt, a killer doll called He Who Hunts.

This is also  another example of how some films can have multiple themes, as this is also a  home invasion movie, and we’re not about to get into the racial connotations behind the images of a pretty, urban, White woman being chased by a savage, nonsense chattering, black doll, who eventually possesses her.

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Non Western Film

The H-Man: The H-Men

The Unexpected

One of the other easy themes  featured in Horror movies is when people encounter the unexpected. Trilogy of Terror’s Prey is an example of this, as are movies like, Friday the 13th, Us, and Annihilation.

I debated whether or not to add this movie, for a long time, because this movie still scares the absolute chittering bejeezus out of me. I made the mistake of watching this late one night, a few years ago, and I kept on my room light for at least a week. That should have been a lesson to me, but I tried to watch this movie again, in broad daylight, and couldn’t even get past the opening credits. There is an enduring and deep level of  creepiness about this movie that isn’t like The Blob, where everybody knows something horrible is happening and then they all take steps to remedy the issue.

This is a Japanese horror movie, and it’s a perfect example of what I meant about foreign horror movies having very different goals in their themes beyond the disruption of the natural order. Order and stability are not restored at the end of this movie by the killing of the monster. The goal here seems to be understanding what happened.  In fact, it is posited in the film that what has happened is part of the natural evolution of humanity, which gives it a close thematic resemblance to the 1988 movie Akira.

. In this movie, none of the characters are at all aware that anything untoward is happening until its far too late. I think the creepiness  factor is that the characters are all engaged in their rather sordid, but  mundane, criminal activities, until they unexpectedly encounter one of these blob men, walking around in a room, or office,  which promptly eats them. In some cases, the victims are unaware of its presence, or can see it, but don’t know what it is. And what’s even worse, these creatures are not entirely unaware of what they are, as they actively strategize to kill some, while deliberately skipping others, and may not actually be malevolent.

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The H-Man rates as one of the most genuinely frightening Japanese horror films of the 1950s. When a minor-league drug runner completely vanishes, leaving only his clothes behind, detective Tominaga (Akihiko Hirata) investigates. Along the way, Tominaga makes the acquaintance of scientist Masada (Kenji Sahara), who theorizes that the missing doper was melted into a liquid “H-Man” as a result of being exposed to nuclear radiation. Sure enough, the H-Man soon resurfaces, seeking out victims to “dissolve” so that he can continue to survive. 
 https://www.allmovie.com/movie/the-h-man-v21230#OYzMaYBVpgL7kGcx.99

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Oh hey! Its October, AKA Halloween Month, so expect lots more scary essays and posts for the rest of this month!

 

What I Watched In September

I haven’t been very diligent in my television viewing the past few weeks. These shows are what I was able to get through in September. What with the glut of  genre programming, I’ve gotten a lot pickier about what I watch the past few years. There are some shows, I thought I’d be interested in, but after watching a bit,, I lost interest. There are a few I barely got thirty minutes into, before getting tired of the premise, like The Dark Crystal. This was a show I was initially excited about, but once it came time to sit down and watch it, I just didn’t fee like making the emotional investment, no matter how shallow. Of the shows below, I at least managed to get through an entire episode.

 

Carnival Row

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Well, first  of all, the show is gorgeous, but ultimately, I probably will not finish the show because I got really tired of looking at the lead actress’ face looking all sad. She just glowers through the entire show, and we spend far too much time looking at the same facial expression, sometimes for minutes at a time. You know what would be radical? If she smiled. But I don’t believe that actress knows how to do that, because I have never seen her do it. Ever!

On the other hand , it’s fascinating to watch Legolas be a human detective. He glowers a lot too, but he looks more handsome doing it, and he has the exxcuse of looking at mangled bodies all the time. The show does have some other bothersome shit in it, like the fact that there is one, light skinned, woman of color in the show, and she is a one of the Fae, and a sex worker. There is one Black man in the show, and he is a rich,  aristocratic, Fae, who has decided to woo a regular human/White woman, who is a kind of fairy bigot.

Its’ obvious that the Fae are stand-ins for people of color, and the situation on the show is an echo of our current immigration system. For the record, this show takes place in an alternate universe, where certain things in history didn’t happen, like slavery (I think), and magic works, and multiverse travel is a thing. The Fae in the show are all from a parallel universe, which is at war with  some human looking invaders. They are flooding into the current universe as refugees, along with some type of monster, that’s preying on Fae homeless and streetwalkers, while Detective Legolas is on the case.

There’s also a frustrated romance,  which I wasn’t too interested in, between Legolas and the lead character, but I will tolerate it, I guess, but just wasn’t buying the relationship. The two actors have no chemistry at all, and all their drama was unconvincing, but then I haven’t seen anyone that that particular actress (I think her name is Carla Delevigne) has ever had chemistry with. Maybe she’s just a bad actress? I don’t know. I want to like her ,and she is very pretty, but I’ve never liked her in anything I’ve watched her in. What she does have is intensity, and gravity ,and I wish she would choose the kind of roles that better highlight those qualities.

There are parts of the show which are fascinating, like the worldbuilding. I’ve also been told by a friend of mine, that I trust, that the show does get better as the season moves forward. And let me say it again, the show is absolutely gorgeous, to look at. I want to dislike the show, but I can’t, because I’m a ‘ho for a pretty show. I don;t know. Maybe I will finish it.

 

 

Titans

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I started the first episode of season two, and it took a minute for me to be impressed. The last episode, Raven brought her father, the demon Trigon, to Earth and asked him to resurrect Garth, in exchange for her soul or something. Outside her house, the rest of the team were trying to figure out a way to get inside and save her, and they do manage to get inside, but one by one, they all succumb to the worst part of their egos, and Trigon takes over their bodies, or something, and they turn all black-eyed and evil. Trigon gets defeated by Raven, and she absorbs his powers or something, and that frees the others from his influence. Or something. Honestly, I really don’t care about the plot,  which is pretty pedestrian for these types of shows.

But I am interested in the individual characters, and their  relationships to one another, because I find them fascinating, for different reasons. This is one of the reasons behind my love of ensemble shows and movies. Last season, it was the relationships I saw developing between Garth and Raven, and Dick and Kory, that captured my attention. Donna Troy, also known as Wonder Girl (Wonder Woman’s little sister) was introduced at the tail end of the season, and I like the relationship I see developing between her and Kory/ Both of them are close friends of Dick Grayson, and I  wonder how that works. There’s still never enough Garth, who turned out to be my absolute favorite of last season. I’m still indifferent to Raven, even though I loved her in the comic books.

I’m still not a fan of Hawk and Dove. I just think they are the two least interesting characters in the entire show, and I wish so much time was not devoted to them. On the other hand, I would love to see more of Jason Todd’s bratty Robin, and his conflict with the elder Robin, now Nightwing. Bruce Wayne makes a cameo too, but I don’t know that actor, and I found it difficult to wrap my head around the idea that that was Batman.

I plan to finish up the rest of the season, in time, because there will be lots of nice cameos, including Cyborg, who is now starring in Doom Patrol. New shows air on Thursdays, on the DCEU streaming app.

 

 

American Horror Story 1984

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This season is built on a number of slasher movie tropes, all of which should be instantly familiar to anyone who watches Horror movies. A lot of slasher movies get referenced, like Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Cabin in the Woods. It contains the usual cast of characters that make up such movies, where the basic plot is introducing a group of unlikable people to an environment they can’t escape, and dropping a monster into it. But the show also interposes real life serial killer Richard Ramirez into the plot in a big way.

Brooke is the virginal/ good girl, who meets the slut archetype, named Montana or Monique, or something, in aerobics class, along with the handsome pretty boy, the dumb and angry jock, and the token negro, named, naturally, Ray. Those were the only names I got out of this episode. I will be watching more of this show because it does seem like the season will be fun, and since this is Ryan Murphy, I know that its going to get more and more batshit as the season progresses. It certainly seems like more fun then the rather gloomy last season. Perhaps I will actually remember some names by the third episode.

This group of barely likable/unlikable people (I have decided that I like Brook) decide to become camp counselors for the Summer, to get away from  Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, who went on a house invasion/killing spree of  the women in LA at that time, for …Satan. I guess.

The night before they are set to leave, Brooke is actually attacked by him, and survives, although he threatens to get her later. On their way to the camp they hit a traveler on the road, and take the severely injured man to the camp with them. I do have an objection to the addition of Ramirez to the show because I think it glorifies, real life killers, and his deeds, which were truly atrocious. He shot, bludgeoned, and  even macheted his victims. I feel like the show will run into the same problems, with this character, that Netflix did when it showcased Ted Bundy, in a couple of dramatic documentaries. But then that seems to be the risk anytime television references serial killers. There will be a contingent of people who glorify and empathize with the killers.

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Once they get there, the camp owner turns out to be a deeply religious evangelistic woman, who expects them all to abstain from sex. It turns out, like Brooke, she is the survivor of a serial killer massacre, at the camp, when she was a child. Her survival is the reason behind her religious fervor. The guy who killed her camp mates, (named Mr. Jingles), escapes from the asylum, where he was kept, and hheads to the camp too. So you’ve got a head on collision of various killers, an injured stranger, religious extremism, and horny young people.

I know I was a little dubious about watching this because the fashions and music are every bit as annoying as I remember, (even though I generally like 80s Pop culture). However, it was nice to hear Salt N Pepa, or some Whitney Houston, because usually, when White people remember any pop culture after the 70s. they never seem to remember the existence of Black culture, and/or music of that time. I mean how the hell do you forget the existence of Prince? At least I think I heard this music, and if I did, then its a bit anachronistic, since neither one of them produced albums until 1988, and 1985, and I thought the show was only referencing music from 1984.

Anyway, the second episode has already aired, and it looks like fun. I’m not necessarily a fan of serial killer movies, but I have watched my share of them, and I do have at least a couple of favorites, so I’m looking forward to seeing references to them, at some point in the season. Also, I remember studying Ramirez in college. (By studying, I mean that I read a lot of books about serial killers and profiling, because apparently, that’s a phase that a lot of autodidacts go through.)

 

 

Prodigal Son

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Speaking of serial killers, there’s this thing. I’m not exactly sure what to call it, since it wants to be a whole lot of different shows. I want to like this  because  of the vibes I’m getting off the actors, but its hard, because everyone acts like they are all in a different show, and there is an unusual comedy aspect that keeps cropping up at odd moments. The show cannot seem to make up its mind if it wants to be a comedy, a drama, a detective show, or a buddy cop show, but is only doing one of those things well. Guess which one.

The show stars Michael Sheen (Woohoo!!!!) as a serial killer who has been caught and jailed. He has a strong relationship with his son, played by Tom Payne, who looks vaguely familiar (He played Jesus in The Walking Dead. I’m glad to see hie’s still working.) and yeah, he’s kinda cute. The lead character’s family was torn apart when his father was discovered to be a serial killer, after which he decided to study serial killers as an agent of the FBI, while using his father as a resource. The two of them eventually have a falling out (which we don’t get to see in this episode) and he doesn’t see his father for ten years. After being fired from the FBI, for being reckless, he becomes  a New York city detective, and he has to see his father, to solve a case where the killer is copying his father’s crimes.

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Now, I really want to like the show for the characters, but like I said, they all act like they are in different shows. The lead character has a mother and a sister. His mother is essentially useless, as a character who thinks she is in a soap opera, while his sister thinks she’s in a teen dramedy, even though she is not a teenager. The coroner, a cute, and  tiny, older Asian woman, acts like she is in a completely different, yet zanier, comedy, and she is obviously attracted to the lead character. There’s a very young Black woman detective, who is obviously supposed to be a future love interest, and who acts like she is in a police procedural, and Lou Diamond Phillips is also present, but thinks he is in a buddy cop movie.  You know what the show could do to change things up a bit, have a romance develop between the older woman coroner, and the lead character. I happen to like that pairing, and they  actually seem to  have chemistry. It could also tone down some of the comedic aspects too. Michael Sheen should be the only funny person on the show.

This show caught me by surprise. It wasn’t on my list and I caught it by accident. I was  intrigued because of the dynamic of a father who is a serial killer, who intensely loves his son. Michael Sheen is superb in the role of course, appearing to be warm and genial, while giving off just enough off-kilter vibes, to seem menacing. Plus there are  the Hannibal the series vibes I’m getting, as both shows are about the intense relationships that develop between a serial killer, and another man, close to him, whose trying not to get roped into madness. I think I’m gonna stick around for a little bit and see where this goes. I generally don’t watch cop shows, or network broadcast television, but it is Michael Sheen, and Tom Payne is just really, really, cute.

 

 

Treadstone (Preview)

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One of the creators of this show is Tim Kring, and I trust him with this show because he at least has some experience working with an ensemble cast, on a global scale, having been one of the creators on the series, Heroes. This show is based on the Bourne franchise, which is based on the Bourne books, and is about the clandestine organization that created Jason.

In the first episode, we ‘re mostly just meeting the primary characters, three sleeper assassins, called Cicadas in the show, who awaken to their special skills with no knowledge of their former selves. Some White guy in Alaska, another White man, being held hostage by the Russians, and a Korean piano teacher. We also meet a Black woman journalist, who is set on uncovering the  purpose behind Treadstone and the Cicadas, by a Korean defector.

I really enjoyed the action scenes, which are smart and well shot. These are people who know how to shoot acceptable action scenes. The show follows the protocol of the movies, by respecting the female characters, and giving them plenty to do. They are smart, capable, and know how to kick ass as well as any of the men, giving as good as they get. One of the major set pieces of the episode is the Korean piano teacher, duking it out with the Korean defector. It’s not simply a good action scene, it has a story in it, with suspenseful moments. There are a few things that seem farfetched but I’m willing to let those things slide because the Bourne franchise has moments like that too.

I think I’ll stick around for this show, which doesn’t actually air until October 15th, because this was a free preview. It’s not too emotionally heavy, and it has just enough intrigue and action to be interesting.

 

PS: Sunday Night was the final episode for the Preacher series. I’ve been watching this crazy-as-shit show, off and on, for about three seasons, so I’ll be reviewing the finale sometime in October.

My 2019 Fall Lineup

Here’s a quick rundown of the shows I’m most interested in for Fall. Some of these are already playing. Some, I’m less excited by the idea of the show, than the potential for it to be good, but of course, I always hope they’re good shows, whether I stick around for them or not.

Playing Now

Carnival Row (Amazon Prime)

I watched a couple of episodes of this, and  just wasn’t feeling it. I felt really distant from the characters, and I think its because of the acting. In a lot of ways this is  a typical historical romance film, but with an overlay of politics, as the different races of The Fae are displaced by violent colonization, to another world (not this one), where they are refugees and immigrants. There’s a lot going on with politics, some heavy enemies to friends romance, some tragic romance, and a police procedural. I’ll get into more details in a later post. I think some elements of the plot are intriguing, and some of it is just exasperating, but at all times, I definitely think it’s a more well thought out world than that Will Smith’s Bright,  which aired on Netflix, and  featured a lot of the same themes.

 

Wu Assassins (Netflix)

I watched a few episodes of this, as well, and I liked the plot, and a couple of the characters. The fight scenes are very well done, but there’s a slight tongue in cheek element to the show that kept pulling me out of the story, because some of it is a little ridiculous, and the writers seem to know that, on some level. Ironically, I would have been more intrigued without any of the supernatural elements. I’m going to watch a few more episodes, and see where it goes, but I’m not especially invested, although its not a bad show, and its nice to see Asian characters headlining TV series. I kept wanting to compare this series to Warrior, which was excellent, and Into the Badlands, which got three seasons, and this show came up wanting, mostly because of the acting.

 

The Dark Crystal (NETFLIX)

I haven’t watched this yet, but I fondly remember the movie from the 80s, and when I finally watch, it I’ll let you know what I think.

 

The Terror: Infamy (AMC)

Okay, I did watch a couple of episodes of this. I know a lot about Japanese history, and Japan  as a society, (basically I have a head full of trivia), but I am not Japanese, and just like the series Warrior, this show throws you right into the deep end, and you have to  understand what’s happening, and try to keep up. Since I’m not Japanese, or an immigrant, I understand what’s going on, on a surface level, while suspecting that there are deeper meanings behind what I’m watching, because there’s a lot of Japanese mythology involved. Is it scary? Yeah, sure, but its mostly scary to me, because I have no clue what the fuck is happening beyond some malignant  spirits,  tormenting people at a Japanese internment camp.

 

Two Sentence Horror (CW)

I watched a couple of episodes of this, and I’m lucky I found it, because there’s no promotion of this show at all. It’s  an anthology series, with each episode focusing on one story, for thirty minutes. I enjoyed the first story I watched, which involved a murderous vlogger, and it was interesting because the vlogger was a Black, female, serial killer, who made makeup products out of her victims. I am going to check out a few more episodes too, because I like the idea of the two sentence story, and it seems to have taken a page from the new Twilight Zone, by casting PoC in unusual roles. The second story I watched was about a Japanese family with an abusive ghost, that ended with me all up in my feels. So far, its not delivering what I expect, and I like that.

 

Cannon Busters (NETFLIX)

I haven’t watched any of this yet, and I’m eager to get started. It’s an anime by a Black team, with a Black cast, which is kind of cool. It heavily reminds me of Afro Samurai, and really looks like fun.

 

 

September

6: Travels with My Father (NETFLIX)

I’m really enjoying Jack Whitehall’s travels with his father. I watched the first two seasons, and really liked the dynamic between Jack, and his rather staid, and conservative, British father, who is annoying, but still manages somehow to still  be hilarious. The first season was Jack trying to get his father to loosen up by visiting some of his favorite places around the world. The second season was about his father giving him the same treatment on the continent. I’m looking forward to their adventures in the new season, when they visit some of the crassest places in America, thanks to Jack’s ideas about what American life is actually like.

 

6: Titans (DC)

I was a little disappointed at the ending of the first season, but I like the trailer for the second season, and it looks like fun because of the addition of Krypto and Superboy!. I’m going to check it out and see what other new cameos show up.

 

10: Mr. Mercedes (AUDIENCE)

I didn’t get into the last season too much, but this is the third season, and its  loosely (kinda) following the events of the second and third books, and its okay. I’m not a stan or anything, but its the kind of show you watch on a lazy Sunday night, when not much else is on TV.

 

18: American Horror Story:1984 (FX)

So, I know I’m going to watch this, although I am not in the mood to relive any of those 80s hair, clothes, and musical numbers. On the other hand, it does feature an 80s style serial killer, and the writers are all batshit, so I expect this to be halfway enjoyable, to the point where I just might stan, and geek out, since I lost interest halfway through the last season.

 

26: Creepshow (Shudder)

I haven’t seen much of this beyond the first trailer. I probably won’t see much of it because I refuse to sign up for yet another app just to watch one show.

October

*4: Raising Dion (NETFLIX)

This one I’m really excited about, as I saw the trailer for it over a year ago, about a young Black boy with superpowers, who is on the run from the government.This trailer really got me in my feels, because it isn’t so much about Dion and his powers, as it is about his mom, and her ability to cope with raising a super, and I like her already, just from the little snippets I’ve seen.

I’m here for it!

 

6: Batwoman (CW)

A lot of people hate this show based on the trailer, but I’m actually intrigued. I first saw Batwoman, cameoing on another show, and I’ve read all the comic books about her. Yes, the dialogue needs some serious help, but I like the actress, and the action scenes look like fun. Kate Kane is not the only gay character in the DCEU, but she is the only one with her own show, so I’ll check it out.

 

10: Supernatural (CW)

I’m looking forward to the fifteenth and final season of this show. I told ya’ll I was in it to the end, and I meant it. The last couple of seasons aren’t as exciting as they used to be, but at least two or three times a season, the show airs a real gem, that reminds  me why I stan. As problematic as this show is, I still love The Winchesters, and I’m sticking with them.

 

11: Charmed (CW)

This is one of the few fantasy shows with women of color as the cast, including an Afro-Latina, and also several lesbian characters of color. Its also not a bad show, either. I didn’t catch all of the last season, but I’m gonna be right there for the first episode of this new one, so I can see what’s what.

 

15: Treadstone (USA)

This is intriguing. Its a show based on the  brainwashed sleeper agent idea behind The Bourne series. Treadstone was the program that created Jason Bourne, and this show is about the aftermath of that third movie, after Jason put a stop to it. I’m gonna check it out, because that world was interesting, and the fight scenes look really good.

 

21: Black Lightning (CW)

When the last season ended the family of Black Lightning was about to go global, to fight some kind of intergalactic menace, and I’m here for it. I am more than a little tired of the Tobias Whale storyline,  and wish they would move away from it. Also I’m deeply intrigued by what’s going on  in the ThunderGrace relationship, and I’m looking forward to some answers.

 

TBD: The Watchmen (HBO)

I no longer have access to HBO, so I probably won’t see this. I’m not especially intrigued  because, while I liked the movie okay, I’m really not much of a fan.  On the other hand, it’s Regina King, and I love her, and watching her play a vigilante is gonna be the shit, and this trailer slaps!

November

12: Disney +/ Available At Launch

So the Disney network starts on the 12th, and I’m looking forward to it for a number of reasons. There will be plenty of content, so I’m getting a good deal on my money, and I’m looking forward to watching several of these movies, like Fantasia, and Bao.

Movies

“101 Dalmatians”
*“A Bug’s Life”
“A Goofy Movie”
“An Extremely Goofy Movie”
“Bambi”
*“Bao”
“Big Hero 6″
“Born in China”
“Cars”
*“Fantasia”
*“Finding Dory”
*“Finding Nemo”
“Free Solo”
“Frozen”
“Fun and Fancy Free”
*“Hercules”
“High School Musical”
“Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”
“Inside Out”
“Iron Man”
“Lady and the Tramp”
“Lilo & Stitch”
“Mary Poppins”
“Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers”
“Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas”
*“Moana”
“Monsters University”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”
*“Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1″
“Ratatouille”
“Remember the Titans”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“Sleeping Beauty”
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
“Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace”
“Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
“Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”
“Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope”
“Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
“Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”
*“Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”
“Steamboat Willie”
“The Good Dinosaur”
*“The Incredibles”
*“The Little Mermaid”
“The Parent Trap” (1961)
“The Prince & the Pauper” (1990)
“The Princess Diaries”
“The Rocketeer”
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (short)
“The Sword in the Stone”
“The Three Caballeros”
“Thor: The Dark World”
“Toy Story”
“Tron” (1982)
“Up”
“Wall-E”
“Zootopia”

 

The Mandolorian

This looks like so much fun.

 

The World According to Jeff Goldblum

So does this! Also, who doesn’t love Jeff Goldblum.

TBD

The Witcher (Netflix)

I talked about this in an earlier post. I’m not as enthused about it as some people.  Ironically, I’m really not into High Fantasy shows that have elves and orcs and shit,  because of the simplistic messaging and overwhelming Whiteness. Game of Throes only caught my attention because of the addition of Ice Zombies.

 

 

Yep! I Saw It On YouTube

I’ve kept my posting light this week, because its too hot to concentrate on stuff, and I’d been prepping to do some cooking and grilling for the fam this week. Mom and I have got this thing down, where she does the prep work and I do the grilling and checking.

So here are a bunch of videos that gave me a happy this week, and one that didn’t!

 

The Mighty Grand Piton

I can’t wait to see what this is about! Do you know how many Giant Robo cartoons there are out there featuring little Black girls, set in the Caribbean?

That’s right! None! Plus I just like saying the name Mighty Grand Piton!

So right now, I think this show is only in the pilot or planning stages.

https://www.thelineanimation.com/work/the-mighty-grand-piton

 

 

Eugene Lee Yang (From Youtube’s The Try Guys):Coming Out 

Last week, Eugene Yang came out. I mean we all sorta guessed, but its my understanding that coming out isn’t about our feelings, its about the feeling of the person doing the outing. So this was his big public coming out, and he had some things he wanted to get off his chest about that, so he directed and produced this video, and its just beautiful.

In the following video, he talks about the process of choreographing and designing it.

 

Look Behind You

I’m not gonna say this made me happy, but it was deliciously scary, and I highly recommend Brian Coldrick’s book, on which these images are based. Its called Behind You, and is a great Halloween gift, if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

 

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is based on the Stephen King book, of course, and is a sequel to The Shining. Here Danny Torrance, (ewan McGregor) is all grown up, but is still trying to master his psychic visions, while working in a nursing home. He gets  drawn into a psychic battle between a little girl named Abra, and a group of psychic vampires called The True Knot.

I did enjoy the book on this, although I wouldn’t classify it as one of my favorite King novels. The movie looks promising, and the director looks as if he’s taken some care with the adaptation, but I don’t know if I’ll be seeing it in the theater.

 

 

Itsy Bitsy

See, its movies like this that give spiders a bad name. Its just straight up spider bigotry is what it is (said by someone with who does not have even a healthy amount of arachnophobia.)

 

 

Carnival Row

I love the visuals in this, and I will probably watch it. I know nothing about this except its airing on Amazon Prime, sometime this year. I love “Urban” Urban Fantasy, and this looks gorgeous, and intriguing, and, as far as I know, is an original story, starring Carla Delevingne, and Orlando Bloom ( who is looking gritty and unrecognizable). Its a serial killer/detective story, with mythological creatures immigrating to America, to escape some type of war, and looks like its set in the early 20th century.

 

 

Undone

Amazon is getting all interesting and shit this year. I don’t know if the same guys are behind this TV series, but it heavily reminds me of A Scanner Darkly, which was an animated movie about philosophy, which starred Keanu Reeves, and looked a lot like this. Here, Rosa Salazar, from Battle Angel Alita, experiences  some trippy, “timey-wimey”, visions, after a car accident. I will defintiely check out the first episode but I wont guarantee I’ll keep watching it. When TV shows start to get too trippy, , like Legion, I have a hard time mentally processing them.

 

 

Ready or Not

For some reason, I’ve already fallen in love with this movie. The idea that you need to audition to get married into this family, by surviving them trying to kill you, is hilarious. It also has a Cabin in the Woods type feel, in that I think the family members are on a schedule, where they have to kill you, or something really bad happens to them. Also, I just find the idea of killer brides, to be deeply funny.

 

 

Knives Out

This movie has the same flavor as Ready or Not, but with the feel of an Agatha Christie novel, starring all my favorite actors. I once mentioned to a friend of mine that  all horror movies could be boiled down to the plot of Ten Little Indians, which is basically, put a bunch of people in a space they can’t escape from, and start killing them. This looks more like a traditional whodunnit, with humor added, and check out Chris Evans being an asshole, Post-Captain America!

 

 

Jacob’s Ladder

The original Jacob’s ladder ttotally freaked me out, but only because of its novelty. I dont think you can reproduce that feeling here for people who saw the first movie, but the idea of a Black version of it never occurred to me. I guess this is the age of Balck people as the stars of horror movies now, thanks to Jordan Peele. Everyone wants to try to capture that magic of seeing us in new and different roles, and not all of these movies are going to be successful. This doesn’t look as scary as the original. but it does look intriguing. Incidentally, there is a whole thing where movies starring White casts, got remade with all Black casts, so this isn’t a new thing.

The movie does have two things going for it: Michael Ealy, and Nichole Beharrie, who both come with their own, but different, built in, fanbases.

 

Nope!

Charlie’s Angels 

I’m so disappointed I’m not even gonna subject you to this trailer. If you wanna see it, you’re gonna have to punish yourself. I really did expect better.

Instead, why don’t we do a refreshing throwback to some  90s, R&B, with one of my favorite videos from TLC:

Mini Reviews: Swamp Thing; Good Omens; NOS4A2; and “Ma”

Swamp Thing

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I read these comic books like they were religious texts, way back in the eighties, when they were being drawn by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, when it was called Saga of the Swamp Thing. The books existed before these two artists worked on them (since 1972) but I only read a few of them, sporadically. I had a general idea of the history of the character when I started reading the books, and from the beginning, Swamp Thing has always been heavily based on body horror, with occasional excursions into mystery, dream logic, humor, and  psychedelia, especially during Alan Moore’s run in the mid-80s.

The original story is a scientist, Alec Holland, working on a sort of bio-restorative formula involving plants, for  Arcane Industries. The CEO’s niece is Abigail Arcane, and she develops a relationship with Alec after he becomes the Swamp Thing, which occurs after he falls into the swamp during a murder attempt. Alec spends most of his early years trying to find a cure for what happened to him, and running from the Arcane corporation. Arcane himself is eventually killed, after turning himself into a hybrid insect like creature, in an attempt to reproduce the Swamp Thing effect.

I started reading the books in earnest when Alan Moore started writing the story and his approach changed the entire plot and nature of the story. He crafted a story that was beautiful, majestic, and terrifying in brand new ways. If you’re going to read any of the Swamp Thing books, start a few issues before Moore’s run, (when Len Wein was the writer) so you can get an idea of what the main character was like before that big change. Alan Moore’s run starts with the story The Anatomy Lesson.

That said, the TV show contains little of these qualities. It moves too fast and paradoxically moves too slow, in that we keep waiting for events to happen on screen. Why? Because these are some of the least interesting characters in a TV show. Abby is an earnest, but essentially boring young woman, and a lot of it has to do with the actress who was chosen, I suspect, more for her looks, than any kind of gravity she may have as an actress. The man playing Alec Holland is both unlikable and boring. There a a handful of exciting moments when the plant life in the movie gets a bit rambunctious, and attacks everybody, but those moments are not scary. There is a little bit of the body horror element from the comic books. Why the plant life in the swamp is acting a fool, I don’t know. I must have missed the explanation when I tuned out for a moment.

Image result for swamp thing tv series gifs

I simply could not get into these characters, which is important if I expect to care about a show. I didn’t care about either of these people. I realized this when Abby experiences some pointless drama in the form of a mother figure who hates her for accidentally killing her other daughter, and makes a scene at a party. I tried to care, but this dramatic moment, this pathos, happens too soon, and I don’t know this character enough to give a flying hot damn who does, or doesn’t, like her in the show. Alec likes her, and the two of them flirt a little bit, but since I didn’t like him, and she doesn’t have enough of a personality, I didn’t buy their budding romance. It doesn’t help that the two of them have all the chemistry, and  romantic passion, of a pair of titmice. Nor did I care when Alec gets killed later in the episode and gets turned into the Swamp Thing. I should have cared. I wanted to care. I didn’t.

I feel like the show’s creators put in too many pointless action scenes that don’t actually help the story, or build Abby and Alec’s relationship, or give them much character. We start the episode off with the plants attacking a boat of strangers in the middle of the swamp. The show immediately gets on my bad side, when the only Black man I’ve seen in the entire episode, gets killed in the first ten minutes of the show, and it serves no purpose other than to introduce us to the plants, the only creatures that have a strong personality. I’m hoping that’s the point, and that its a callback to the most famous Swamp Thing story ever written, The Anatomy Lesson. Alec gets turned into the Swamp Thing at the end. I felt that was too soon, and also  that the show had just been vamping to reach that particular moment, because things happened to these characters, and we’re meant to care, but we haven’t spent enough time with either of  them to care about anything that has happened, or will happen to them,  and we wouldn’t want to spend more time with them anyway, because they are  boring. There’s just no spark to these people at all.

I cannot recommend this show. I’m going to persevere  because there’s the possibility of improvement, and the rest of the season may have better tone and pacing than the premiere. The show has since been canceled, so I have all the time in the world to  get around to watching these episodes. I don’t think it was canceled because it was bad. There was some kind of internal fight going on between the creators, the networks, and the producers.

 

+

Good Omens

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This is the total opposite of Swamp Thing. It helps that I’m a fan of David Tennant, who always plays somewhat the same character in everything, but since he’s so charming, and funny, he can get away with it. I even like Michael Sheen, although I’m not as familiar with his career as I am with Tennant’s. The two of them star as an angel and a demon who are trying to prevent the apocalypse because they love living on Earth.

The show is heavily based in Christian mythology, but you don’t need to know all of that to like the show, since a lot of things get explained to you, even as you get thrown in the deep end. There’s a lot of information that gets thrown at you, in voiceovers, and characters speaking their thoughts, but it never feels overwhelming, because the imagery is so much fun. This show doesn’t take any of itself seriously.

Keep in mind that although I’m familiar with the book, I haven’t ever read it. I’m a Neil Gaiman fan, and I’ve read a little bit of Terry Pratchett, and I can’t think  of two more interesting people to write a biblical mythology story together. I like to think of this as a love letter to Christian mythology, sort of like the biblical version of Galaxy Quest. None of this story is done from a place of hate or disrespect. Its an irreverent show, naturally, but its not mean-spirited.

The two celestial entities were both responsible for trying to bring about the End Times, but end up botching the whole thing by losing track of where they put the Anti-Christ. The two celestial entities eventually find the Anti-Christ a week before the apocalypse is set to begin, having been working with the wrong boy who was suspected to be the Anti-Christ, but wasn’t. Just the whole lead up to the two of them losing the Lucifer’s son is hilarious, involving various dim witted and jealous demons, a sect of Satanic nuns, and the pregnant wife of some nobody from a small town in England.

God is portrayed by a woman (Frances McDormand), Adam and Eve is played by a Black couple, and Benedict Cumberbatch is Satan, (but we already knew that). I loved all the colorblind casting going on in the show. The demons are played by every race of humanity, including an Asian woman, and a Black man with a tiny lizard living on top of his head. I’m still unsure if the lizard is the demon controlling the man, or if he is just wearing the lizard for decoration. We get the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse on motorcycles, some of which are women, and the gateways to Heaven and Hell are the escalators in  the local mall. I love the dialogue, and the acting here. The show is just fun to listen to, and watch, and its utterly ridiculous.

But the highlight of the show is the relationship between the demon and the angel. The two of them are meant to work together to bring about the end of the world, and have known each other for centuries, having developed a great deal of affection for one another. Neil Gaiman himself says that its a Romance. Since both of them are asexual beings, they have to express their love and affection for one another in different ways, and they often do. The actors have such great chemistry and its a joy to watch them interact.

I have not finished watching all the episodes, but I don’t think you need me to say that as wild as that first episode was it just gets zanier. Good Omens airs on Amazon Prime.

 

NOS4A2

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Yeah, I was gonna write this long thing about how I loved the book, but was disappointed in this show, but Imma be frank. I fell asleep on it. Zachary Quinto is his usual creepy, yet excellent self, but the lead actress is bOOOOOring! And it is definitely the actress. On the other hand, the show looks great!

NOS4A2 is written, not by Stephen King, although I can see where people might get that idea.  It was  written by his son, Joe Hill, who I’m a big fan of. Charlie is a young lady with the ability to find any object. She discovers this power by riding her bicycle through a magical covered bridge. This draws the attention of a vampire like creature named Charlie Manx, who for decades has been abducting children, and feeding on their innocence, which  turns the child into  a cannibalistic vampire-like creature not unlike himself. All of these feral children live in what Manx calls Christmasland, a perpetually wintry land decorated like Christmas.

Now, I do like to give shows the benefit of the doubt, when the premiere does not inspire enthusiasm, and give the rest of the season a cursory glance at least, but I really don’t want  to sit through that actresses’ lackluster acting for the rest of the season. There’s also the possibility that the show is just too complicated to be written for TV. So, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna try again, and see if it gets any better, because I want to like the show as much as I liked the book.

*

I have watched a couple more episodes of the series, and I’m starting to actually like it. The acting is better, I like the lead actress more than I did in the pilot, there isn’t any less of the family drama that I cared so little about in the pilot, but I understand a little more of the family dynamics in the show, and the villain is suitably creepy. Zachary Quinto is his usual elegant self. I could really do without the Magical Negro though.

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

The Magical Negro is a trope created by white people: the character is typically, but not always, “in some way outwardly or inwardly disabled, either by discrimination, disability or social constraint”. The Negro is often a janitor or prisoner.[7] The character often has no past but simply appears one day to help the white protagonist.[8][9]He or she usually has some sort of magical power, “rather vaguely defined but not the sort of thing one typically encounters.”[8] The character is patient and wise, often dispensing various words of wisdom, and is “closer to the earth”.[6] The character will also do almost anything, including sacrificing him or herself, to save the white protagonist, 

This character definitely fits that trope. We know nothing about her personally, and she shows up right when the lead character needs her,  so she can talk her into fighting the villain, which she knows all about, but seems unable to fight herself.  This actually is a character from the book, although I don’t remember that she was a Black woman. I wouldn’t be surprised because Stephen King has always had this problem of adding Magical Black people to his stories, and Joe seems set to follow his father in that regard. It ‘s also very distracting that she looks like one of my favorite YouTube,  makeup tutorial, personalities, and that’s all I can think about when I see her.

In one of the season previews there’s a scene of that character, being beaten up, and I’m not here for that, because I’m just fucking tired of watching Black pain on TV right right now, no matter how necessary the writers think it is. On the other hand, I suppose I should be grateful that at least her story doesn’t involve police brutality.

I don’t know that I want to watch the rest of the season. The show has gotten better, since that first episode, but my enthusiasm still isn’t up there yet.

 

 

Ma

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I had no plans to go see this movie. It wasn’t even on my radar, but my Mom managed to talk me into watching this with her after I abruptly lost interest in watching Godzilla. I’m a Godzilla fan, but I was just too tired to sit through two hours of Kaiju fighting. I thought Ma would be a bit more relaxing, in the excitement department, and it kind of was, but it was also kind of emotionally wrenching. Ma is a very sad movie. There’s also a few moments of graphic violence, and one full frontal scene of Luke Evans, but I can guarantee you will not enjoy it.

Octavia Spencer plays a woman named Sue Ann, who works at a veterinary clinic, in a Podunk little town, that people desperately want to escape from. She is a lonely, and put upon woman, and one of the few Black people who live in the town. The movie doesn’t have an obvious racial message, but as I’ve said before, there is a racial component, simply because they cast  Octavia, rather than the White actress the role was written for. So, because Tate Taylor cast a Black actress, there’s an element of racism in how she is treated by all these White people in the story, and there is a tiny bit of awareness of this when Sue Anne attacks the only Black man in the movie by slathering his face with white paint. She is condemning his “go along, to get along”, attitude with his White friends, by  whitewashing him. I think that particular moment was added by Spencer, because it is so specifically a Black condemnation. In the Black community, one of the worst insults you can give someone is to say they’re a “Wannabe White”, or that they are “acting White”, and that is her way of showing contempt for him.

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Sixteen year old  Maggie is moving back to the little town with her mother, Erica, played by Juliette Lewis, after her parents divorce. Luke Evans plays the town’s local hottie, Ben Hawkins, who all the girls lusted after back in high school, and who owns a small fleet of vans for his small security company. They all have children, and Sue Ann runs into them while they are trying to buy beer at the market. She get them the beer, but the makes them promise to only drink at her house. After a while, all the local teens are partying at Sue Anne’s house, and Sue Anne is getting to experience what its like to be liked and popular in a way she didn’t get in high school. The original teenagers, sensing her neediness, start trying to avoid her, which pisses her off. driving.

This is one of those little towns where everyone grew up together, and everybody knows everyone, because they all went to the same school.  A lot of what happens in the movie arises out of events that happened when Erica, Ben, and Sue Ann were kids. Sue Ann and Erica were supposedly friends, and both of them had crushes on Ben. Ben thought nothing of Sue Ann, who became emotionally disturbed after he orchestrated her sexual humiliation in front of the whole school. Sue Ann has a host of issues, and yes, she is mean, and she is a killer, and while her  long standing need for revenge against Luke, and the others,  is completely out of proportion,  you get why.

You’ll probably hear a lot about how insane this movie was and there are elements of crazy in the movie, but its really not all that wild. Its been advertised as a Horror/serial killer type of movie, and while  there are some horrible elements, its mostly a Thriller, a campy movie with moments of uncomfortable laughter, because a couple of the characters are a little over the top in their performances, and there’s just a tiny hint of subversive humor. This movie doesn’t take itself completely seriously.

I have to take a moment to  scream about the performances. Octavia Spencer tears it up wonderfully. You can tell she was having sooo much fun making this, but just manages to miss chewing the scenery. Its a fine line, which she just manages to skirt. Her performance is phenomenal, and scary, and surprisingly sympathetic. There’s one scene where she is in a rage, sitting in her car, and some teens drive past and throw a can of beer at her, and she breaks down and cries. She has been mistreated by lots of people up to that moment, but apparently that was just one time too many, and she just loses it. She very cold-bloodedly kills at least three people in this movie.

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It’s rare to see a movie villain in a vulnerable moment, though, and its not until a little later that you understand why she’s like that. Sue Ann is a sad, angry, little woman, desperately seeking the love and attention she was denied as a teenager, and after you see her back story, you have some idea why the town folk treat her the way they do. She just wanted what any ordinary teenager wanted, which was to be the  popular girl, and get the popular guy, and that guy betrayed her trust. By hosting the teen’s parties at her home, she gets to relive her teenage years, the way they should have been, and she gets addicted to that.

Make no mistake, she is a villain and what she is doing is absolutely wrong, but like Eric Killmonger, you feel for her, and her story resonates with you, although you can’t agree with any of her tactics. Now, this is what I mean about what happens when you change a single component of the story. You end up with some deeper moments than you thought you would, because in the hands of a White actress, this would have become your run of the mill, crazy, killer woman story, but changing the race of the lead character only, adds an uncomfortable racial component, that wouldn’t otherwise be there. This same thing happened with the movie Alien, whose principal role was written for a man. At the last moment they cast Sigourney Weaver, and inadvertently made her a Feminist icon in doing so, without being an overtly Feminist film. Ma isn’t in that league, but it is a more interesting movie than it would have been, because of Octavia’s casting.

The second best actress in the movie is Juliette Lewis as Erica. I really feel that Lewis is one of the finest actresses in Hollywood, but because of the kinds of characters she plays, she really doesn’t get enough love and/or recognition. She is one of the few White actresses I stan, but because she always seems to play working class, and poor women, people tend to equate her with her characters, and think of her as not being especially bright. I would love to see a movie with just her and Spencer,, because together, the two of them are awesome.

Here, Lewis plays a newly single Mom, who is feeling some amount of guilt for leaving Maggie’s father, and moving them back to her home town, which  she was so desperate to leave. There’s an element of shame in her return, as well. None of these things are explicitly stated. Its all in her performance, and her interaction with the other characters, and their thinly veiled contempt of her. There’s also a certain amount of guilt in her seeing Sue Ann again. You can see the tension between the two of them, when Sue Ann visits Erica at home, and Erica acts relieved, as if she’s glad Sue Anne doesn’t hold a grudge against her. Erica never came to her aid, or did anything to help, after Sue Anne’s humiliation.

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Later in the movie, Erica drops the civility mask  between her and Maggie, who she has been coddling since the divorce, even though you can sometimes see her disapproval  at Maggie’s decisions. She puts her foot down, and gets her daughter in line, to try to save her life, and my Mom loved the moment she stopped trying to be Maggie’s friend. One of the rawest moments in the movie is when Sue Ann is threatening Maggie, and Erica pleads for Sue Ann’e  forgiveness, in an attempt to save her daughter’s life. Lewis really sells it, and you feel for both these women, who still feel as if they’re paying for mistakes they made decades ago, but nobody will allow them to forget.

I’m still not sure how how I feel about this movie two weeks later. I should say I liked it. I can’t say that. I didn’t hate it though, and its not a bad movie, and the performances make it worth watching.

New And Exciting Trailers (May 23rd)

Terminator: Dark Fate

This movie actually looks very exciting, although I don’t know how it fits in with the rest of the franchise. I think Miles Dyson’s son Danny is in this one, there are several different timelines, of which this is but one of them, and Sarah Connor survived in this one. Remember, she didn’t survive in Terminator 3, and the World War happened in that one. The “terminators” look pretty cool too. I guess we have to keep upgrading in every film.  James Cameron is a complete, whole ass, but the man does know how to make an action movie, and the Terminator films (that he actually worked on), are some of his best work.

It’s nice to see Linda Hamilton kicking ass again, even if she is looking a little worn. Saving the world, time and again, will do that to a person, I guess.. I’ve never  been a really huge Schwarzeneggar fan, although I like him okay. I’m still I’m not greatly impressed by his presence here, (although he has been doing some  superb dramatic work in the last ten years. Check out the movie, Maggie. Its awesome, and he’s great in it.) I have had a huge crush on  Gabriel Luna, ever since Agents of Shield,  and I hope one day we get to see that Ghost Rider movie, with him as the star, although I just heard there will definitely be a TV show, on Hulu,  about Ghost Rider and Damon Hellstrom, starring Luna as The Rider. I like him as a terminator. He’s not as pantsshittingly scary as Robert Patrick, but he’s alright.

 

 

Star Trek: Picard: (CBS)

I’m cautiously excited about this show. I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I liked Picard, although I thought sometimes that he was a bit of a stick.But I am a big Patrick Stewart fan,and he always brings his Shakespearean A- game to everything he does.

This show takes place in the 18 years after Star Trek Nemesis, after Picard has seemingly retired from Starfleet, and is said to be less action oriented, with more drama. The trailer looks a little melancholy, though. I wonder if it will tackle some of the themes from the movie Logan, and how much diversity there will be, because the new Trek Discovery is tearing it up in that department.

I also like the idea of the individual stories of different characters in Star Trek. I’d watch a show about Worf’s early life, or Data’s life before he joined Starfleet. Picard will be airing on CBS All Access sometime later this year, and I will consider signing up for it again.

 

 

Downton Abbey

My best friend at work is a huge Downton Abbey fan. I’m a fan too, but I don’t know if I wanna watch a two hour movie about it. Anyway, she’s trying to get me to see it at the theater with her, and I’m considering it. She and I rarely get to watch movies together because we have such widely different tastes in what we consider entertaining. I’ve told her  many times that if no one is being horribly killed, eaten, or having their ass thoroughly kicked in the movie, I’m probably not going ot see it in the theater.

But I really do like the show, the trailer is alright, and it’ll be one of the few opportunities for the two of us to hang out at the movies together.

 

 

Crawl

This is the movie my Mom is trying to get us to go see next. I have no objection to watching this in the theater. This is what I call a safe scare, in that its fairly predictable. People gonna do stupid shit, and die, and some of ’em gon’ get ate. Those are the kinds of things that happens\ in giant killer animal movies ,and I’m cool with that. Its a nice, easy, popcorn movie, that’s not too intellectually taxing.

 

 

IT: Chapter II

I have no particular investment in this movie, but I know some of you guys are big fans. I was unimpressed by the book, and the original made for television movie ,and I wasn’t too keen on the first Chapter of this remake, which kind of bored me. But, this is a Stephen King movie, so I hope it does really well. I always hope his movies do well in the theater, because that means we’ll get more Stephen King movies.

 

 

Judy

Wow! I don’t think you guys understand just how much this movie means to so many people. I’ve loved Judy Garland since I was a little girl, when I first saw her in The Wizard of Oz. Over the years, I’ve watched her in a lot of movies (most of them starring Mickey Rooney), with one of my favorites being Easter Parade. 

This is a grand trifecta of “I’m gonna need a box of tissues-itis”, because I love the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow,  I’m a big fan of movie musicals, and ITS RENEE ZELLWEGER AS JUDY- FUCKING-GARLAND!!!

 

 

Batwoman (CW)

Batwoman is probably one of the worst trailers ever released by the CW, but I’m gonna give most people’s opinions on this show the side eye because Youtube says this about every single trailer about any show with a woman at its helm, and comic book fanboys, who have never read any of the books, are known to be complete hysterics. This is the CW. Its not a show aimed at guys (not that they can’t enjoy it) but squarely aimed at the kind of women who watch Supergirl, a show I find deeply annoying.

That said, I’m also giving the trailer the side eye, not just because it is distinctly cringeworthy, (Yeah, it stinks), but  unlike a lot of people, I understand that most trailers are not created by the same people who created the source material, and quite a number of them have been designed to make a person not want to see the film or show. I’m long used to parsing what bits and pieces I can from trailers, to determine whether or not I want to watch a thing, and I’m actually excited about this show. I’ve loved a lot of shows, and movies, that had shitty trailers, so a shitty trailer doesn’t necessarily mean anything to me. This trailer is just the latest thing for people to be outraged about. All I know is that I have every intention of seeing the show and will probably like it. Maybe.

I actually have read the comic books though,  and I really enjoyed them. I got no problem with the feminism angle, as the feminism shown on the CW has always been very White, ham-fisted, and more than a little cringey. For me, this trailer is just more of the same. I also really, really, like that actress, and this show is groundbreaking in ways the MCU has not even tried to be. It is the only superhero show on TV where the title character is gay! There are other gay characters in superhero shows, but none of them are the  leads, so this is a first, and I suspect a lot of people (especially the ones who are unsatisfied with gay representation in the MCU) are going to tune in for the  premiere, just for that reason.

Also this character isn’t new to me. I’ve seen her in Legends of Tomorrow, which is another cheeesy superhero show, that I happen to actually like, and I was impressed by the character.

 

 

His Dark Materials (HBO)

I’ve not been a big fan of the series this is based on,  by Richard Pullman. I can’t say much about it, other than it looks faithful to the movie, The Golden Compass, which came out a few years ago, so if you remember that, then this is a TV series based on that movie, and you may like it. In this universe, people have familiar-like companions that accompany them everywhere and look like different animals. This is HBO hoping to hit it out of the park again, with a follow-up to Game of Thrones. Hopefully, there will be fewer rape scenes, in this show.

I had not the intention of watching this, because I’m really not a fanatic about Fantasy series and movies, although one might get the impression that I was, based on the things I’ve reviewed on this blog. In fact, my taste in Fantasy shows is entirely arbitrary, depending on a number of unexplainable factors. What is more likely to happen is that I’ll skip the first couple of years, pick it up somewhere in its third or fourth year, and then really enjoy it.

But who knows?

 

 

The Dark Crystal

I saw the original movie when I was a kid, and I remember being terrified of the Skeksis, and enchanted by all the other creatures in the movie. If you haven’t watched the original film, please find a way to stream it, or get the DVD. It really should be as much of a classic as Labyrinth. In fact, if you liked Labyrinth, you will probably like this too.

 

 

Border

I started watching this on Hulu, and will probably not finish it any time soon, but I thought I’d mention it here, because its a very odd and beautiful movie, which  heavily reminded me of  Thelma, which I also watched on Hulu. I like odd and melancholy romances, and this one has been classified as one of the weirdest movies of the year.

Daenerys Was Always Bad

In the past few days since the last episode of Game of Thrones there has been much discussion/fighting by fans of the show about Daenerys Targaryen. I’m not going to go over that entire character’s history here because her history is explained in the articles I’m going to link to, but suffice to say, I do agree with them.

game-of-thrones-season-8-episode-5

Daenerys has always been a bad actor, and I have never trusted the things that came out of her mouth about what she was trying to do. Then again, unlike some people who were set on her being the good guy in this show, I’ve been looking at her actions, and not listening to her spoken intentions. Daenerys has always been a tyrant, who rules through fear and punishment. The only difference between her and Cersei was Cersei was upfront abut what she was, and never hid it. Technically, Dany was upfront about herself too, but her fans, who are claiming that her actions this past episode came out of left field, and are a complete turn of personality for her, just didn’t want to see it.

Now, there is an argument to be made for the sloppiness of the writing this season, as the show runners rushed through the making of this season so fast, that they left all manner of incongruities all over the set, like modern day coffee cups,  in one scene with Dany. The writing of Dany this season was definitely  hamfisted, and over the top, but its still consistent with her character.

I speculated on Tumblr about how so many of her fans dismissed Dany’s evil  because they were taken in by her being a conventionally pretty White woman, with long blonde hair. There is precedent for such attitudes about her, since pretty White women have always gotten the benefit of the doubt in American culture. The people who follow her, want, and need, to believe in her goodness and innocence. I used the example of the actress from the movie Get Out. She says she still has people who approach her who want to make excuses for her character being complicit in her family’s evil activities. She has to  tell them that her character was not innocent, and was in fact, evil the entire time, but they don’t want to hear that, wishing instead to believe that character was coerced somehow, thereby maintaining her innocence.

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https://afropunk.com/2017/04/how-the-narrative-around-white-womens-innocence-taught-me-to-let-them-get-away-with-violence/

Dany was bad the entire time. Her actions are NOT new and were unsurprising to me, and a lot of other people. Her actions were only a surprise to people who had been as delusional as she was, about her innocence.

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game-of-thrones-season-8-episode-5-tyrion-in-wreckage

https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-reviews/game-of-thrones-review-bells-sepinwall-834528/

Dany’s descent into genocidal madness didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Throughout her travels across Essos, her preferred solution to problems was to burn them and all the people associated with them. She’s impetuous, narcissistic and one of the last members of a bloodline with a history of doing things exactly like what she did to King’s Landing. 

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40 Times ‘Game of Thrones’ Foreshadowed Daenerys’ Mad Queen Transformation

https://www.inverse.com/article/55831-why-did-daenerys-burn-kings-landing-game-of-thrones-season-8-dany-mad-queen-foreshadowing-40-examples

38) In Season 2 Episode 4, Dany decrees, “When my dragons are grown… we will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground.”

Sounds about right.

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And from Medium.Com:

Daenerys Targaryen Acts In Character

There are a lot of complaints about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, titled “The Bells.” The primary complaint seems to be that Daenerys suddenly becomes the “Mad Queen” when she torches everyone — citizen and soldier alike — in King’s Landing. Practically everyone has come to believe that Dany was going to be a benevolent dictator, an enlightened despot — but what I saw last night was completely consistent with what Dany has done for all eight seasons.

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The Breaker of Chains Is a Narcissist, Not a Hero

Mark Ptak

It’s notable that for all her talk about “breaking the wheel”, there was never any subsequent talk about what that would mean. Many believed the show would end with self rule for the people, and that they might play a part in an uprising against Cersei — that, like in our world, feudal monarchy and god-given birthrights would be supplanted with democracy. Never was that even considered for the former slaves she freed. And as far as we can tell, Dany’s idea of breaking the wheel in Westeros simply means the same thing it did in Essos — that she’ll be the one to control which way it turns. A benevolent dictator is, after all, still a dictator.

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This post is about how viewers have always given Dany a pass on her behavior because the people she was killing were seen as bad people who deserved to be brutally murdered by her. They were able to make excuses for her brutality because her killing them  was framed as ridding the world of evil. And where before have we heard that kind of rhetoric?

A (probably) unpopular Game of Thrones opinion …

When Daenerys Targaryen rose from nothing to be a queen in the East, many people cheered. We saw the character suffer brutally at the hands of men, including her own brother. When we saw her exact revenge, over and over, on people who wronged and betrayed her, it was easy to root for her. She had good intentions, she was a decent young girl who suffered, and the people she fought against were evil. They were rapists, they were slave masters, they were murderers. When her evil brother, who had threatened to stab her in the belly, was brutally murdered in front of her eyes, we understood why she was so cold in that moment. Viserys deserved it. We agreed with her.

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game-of-thrones-season-8-episode-4-drogondany

This post speaks specifically about how Game of Thrones is not a happy ending type of show and never has been. That is has almost always been about the Stark family family attempting to survive theirs and others worst impulses. It also explains in detail why Daenerys made the decisions she made in the penultimate episode.

The Trauma of Daenerys Targaryen

As the show crashes towards its tragic conclusion, I notice more and more outrage about where the story is going. The notion that characters are making bad decisions, or that their hallowed “character development” has somehow been betrayed. And if this were a Marvel superhero movie following the trope of heroism, I might agree. But it’s not.

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Here’s the problem in believing that Dany was a good person after freeing the slaves. Dany rules them now. They simply  live under one tyrannical leader, instead of many masters, and are not any  different from the population of King’s Landing in that way. Dany never actually freed them.

Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Torcher of Innocents

 

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game-of-thrones-season-8-episode-4-dany-on-dragon

I often wonder if some people are watching the same show as everybody else. A lot of people are “big mad” over Dany’s characterization in the last episode, and I do ask why are they so surprised, and is it really just that they’re just so horrified by what she’s done. This was never the “Dany the Hero” show, with a happy ending, where she gets to sit on the Iron Throne.

The Mad Queen Was Always Inevitable

These fans are, simply put, wrong. Daenerys’s character arc has landed right where you should have expected it to if you spent the last decade watching the show. To quote by far the worst character ever on the show — “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”. 

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But Then There Is This

I actually have seen a bit of this on Tumblr. people who heavily identified with Dany’s  character feeling betrayed because, for their own deeply personal reasons, they needed her to be The One, as trauma victims themselves, they were watching this show through a very different lens than a more casual viewer, like me.

Game of Thrones Daenerys fan fury, explained by a clinical psychologist

https://www.cnet.com/news/game-of-thrones-episode-5-daenerys-fan-fury-explained-by-psychologist-janina-scarlet/

Clinical psychologist Janina Scarlet says Game of Thrones has functioned as a kind of refuge for trauma survivors who were able to feel and establish a sense of connection with characters who endured suffering from physical disfigurement to the loss of multiple loved ones. 

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And Finally:

game-of-thrones-season-8-episode-5-arya-horse

Whats going to happen in the next episode, and is Arya going be the one to destroy Dany? I don’t know if that will happen, but there is a lot of foreshadowing that points to it.

Has Arya Added a New Name to Her List?

https://www.theringer.com/game-of-thrones/2019/5/13/18617922/game-of-thrones-arya-daenerys-kill-list

Melisandre did portend that Arya would shut brown eyes, blue eyes, and green eyes. Walder Frey and the Night King fill the first two categories of that prophecy. Some fans previously believed the green eyes Melisandre spoke about belonged to Littlefinger, who has green eyes in the books, but it now seems more likely that she was referring to Dany. 

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I’m probably one of the few people who is not angry about what happened in episode five. I’m horrified at what I watched, but not angry, probably because I’m not as emotionally invested in the show, in the same way, as a lot of other people. I like the show, despite its many, many, issues, and I really liked quite a few of the characters, and it had zombies! but I’m not super-invested in who is going to sit on the Iron Throne, and since I didn’t particularly care about that, I was able  to sit back and see Dany’s weaknesses, the same way I saw the weaknesses of all the other characters. I’ve always been horrified by her behavior, she was never my “hero”, and she never endeared herself to me. In my mind, she was always a delusional narcissist, and last weeks episode was just confirmation of that fact.

Oh, and while we’ve all been paying close attention to Dany, it may turn out that the person we were supposed to be watching, the entire time, was Arya, who has experienced just as much trauma as any other woman on the show, and the entire show may turn out to be about Arya’s journey.

Since next week is the series finale, I’m going to talk about it , because everyone else will, and I will probably have some thoughts about it, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Gods Season Two: Finale

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This season simply wasn’t as strong In its narrative as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of a single creator with a vision. This season there are two or more creators, so the fact that we had some kind of narrative cohesion is pretty good. It wasn’t a bad season though. I liked the character development, and the visuals are always strong, although, once again, this wasn’t as strong as the last season, which had the benefit of novelty. It also seemed like the writers didn’t know what to do with some character, like Bilquis and Anansi, but their presence was not undesired either..

I’m not going to talk about the plot as much as I’m going to discuss characters and their development. We lost two of the gods, or four, depending on how one sees it. The first god to die was the eldest Zoraya sister. Her brother explained that there is a resurrection ritual for her, but without any believers, the ritual wouldn’t work, so currently there are only two sisters left. i’m a big fan of Cloris Leachman, and I hope she makes her way back to the show. She as great as the eldest sister.

We also lost Old Media and the old version of Technical Boy (whose origin we also got to see). Media, which was first played by Gillian Anderson, was resurrected and is now played by Kahyun Kim. I have tried really hard to like New Media, but I don’t, and I think that’s a very interesting point. She exists as a form of Media that I’m mostly bored and exasperated by.. Her general  demeanor is annoying, and after I gave it some thought, I figured out why. She is every bit as annoying to me as actual new media. She prances around as a sexy anime chanteuse, squeaking, and breathless, in that way that I hate in actual  anime, so I think she’s meant to be annoying to people like me. I’m usually cringing when I see her on screen for any length of time, it also doesn’t help that she is hypersexualized and kind of useless, exactly like actual new media.

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Mr. World was starting to get a little bit frustrated because his gods (Argus, Technical Boy, and New Media) were not coming through in the pinch, and getting him the results he wants, which is to find, and kill, Shadow Moon, and capture Wednesday. However, in the season finale we see the final iteration of New Media, who has truly just come into her power, and it is scary as Hell.  I certainly fucking respect her now!

The old Technical Boy was destroyed this season, but he was resurrected by his original creator as a kind of God of Surveillance, taking the place of the Argus Array, and working once again, in tandem with New Media. The original  God of Surveillance was killed by Laura, and the new Technical Boy has much to do  with computer hacking, surveillance, and spying and also has a brand new, sleeker, look, and attitude. (Incidentally, the first God of Surveillance was an old god, named Argus, that had made a deal with Mr. World.)

Needless to say, almost none of the things that happened this season, took place in the book. There’s a broad correlation, but otherwise…Shadow gets kidnapped, gets free, meets Sam Black Crow, makes his way to Cairo, works at a funeral home, and then Mad Sweeney dies. Everything else in the season was an add on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the add ons. I especially liked the episode where we got to see Shadow Moon’s and  Mad Sweeney’s real backstories, which I’ll get to soon enough. One of the side effects of this is that the series contrasts badly with the book. Gaiman may just be adding stuff to this show that he’d always wanted to add to the original story. There are a lot of things in the series that should have been in the original story, like Bilquis, and Mad Sweeney, and Laura’s activities.

I do want to talk about more of the mythology presented this season, and a few of my favorite character interactions, something with which this season excelled. From the beginning we met a lot of new /old gods, and caught up with Shadow’s backstory, and a little bit more of Wednesday’s past.

 

We get to see Shadow’s backstory, which answers a few questions about why he is the way he is, but also opens up more questions about exactly who his mother was. Was she the spirit of America, and did she die of cancer because of 9-1-1? We’re getting closer and closer to Shadow finding out he is Shadow Odinson, and we also met Odin’s other son, Thor, and saw their falling out with each other. Thor eventually commits suicide, and it becomes apparent, through his statements to Shadow, that Odin was devastated by that and still misses him. He often refers to Shadow as “Son”, or “My Boy” and at one point said Shadow reminded him of his son. Now in the mythology Odin has a lot of children but another of his most famous children was Baldur,

He’s loved by all the gods, goddesses, and beings of a more physical nature. So handsome, gracious, and cheerful is he that he actually gives off light.[1]

https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/baldur/

…and there are a few things about Shadow that echo Baldur’s story,

https://norse-mythology.org/tales/the-death-of-baldur/

…right down to Baldur’s prophetic dreams about his death, as mentioned in the Prose Edda, and that he is seen as a being of light by everyone who encounters him. It is his death that precedes Ragnarok, the war of the gods. Shadow Moon is also another name for an eclipse, and he radiates light, which is how Laura sees him. In the book, Laura refers to him as a beacon of light in a dark world. In the series, his mother mentions that he is a being of light, too. Its my theory that Shadow is what was once mentioned by Wednesday, although he did it in jest, as The King of America. In the book, two of the powers, that Shadow possessed, was knowledge, and the ability to see truth.

We’ve been watching Wednesday’s machinations all season, but we have  also been witnessing Shadow’s journey to self. We watched his journey to knowledge of the gods in season one, and in this second season, we are witnessing Shadow’s journey to realizing who and what he may be.

If he believes.

In season one, he was constantly chided to Believe, because if he didn’t, he would not survive what was to come, his imminent death at Wednesdays machinations. Next season, his task is to believe in himself. There is a reason that Shadow was allowed to join in the congregation of the gods, at the beginning of the season, because he is a potential god himself, and a relatively new one that has been raised in ignorance of that life.

Image result for american gods season 2 gifs/shadow
Yes, Shadow!

The end of the season also leaves a lot of questions. We got to see the full unleashing of New Media who is kinda terrifying. She starts a fake news siege against Shadow, so that Mr. World not only doesn’t have to look for Shadow, but so that in all likelihood Shadow will be killed when he is found, since New Media tells several lies about him being a heavily armed terrorist, who has killed several cops. Shadow manages to elude capture at the end of the episode,which opens another mystery. Did that event happen, and Shadow removed the police from the premises in the same way he created snow in the first season? Or was it something he saw before it happened and he just moved out of its way?

Shadow gets snagged by the miniature Yggdrasil tree growing in Mr. Ibis greenhouse and pulled into it s branches, where he begins to have visions. During the entire raiding scene he has flashbacks of Shadow as a young boy playing with police action figures, and overhearing snippets of  conversations between him,  Wednesday,  and others. At one point the child sweeps his arm across the action figures, knocking them all down, and removing them as obstacles. At the same time, the police outside the funeral home all vanish, and so does the tree, taking Shadow with it. We then see Wednesday in a diner, smiling about how his boy is going to be okay.

The ending is quite surreal with Shadow having visions of being back in the Bone Orchard at the beginning of the series, because it always comes back to that initial vision. Its hard to say if these were prophetic visions , or actual events, as the rest of the gods on the premises seem unperturbed, and Anansi seems actually happy. Once again, Anansi seems to be the one character who know more than anyone what’s going on, including who Shadow is, Wednesday’s motivations, and even the final outcome.

People don’t understand why Anansi keeps being so mean to Shadow, but part of being a Trickster god is pushing on people, so as to engage them  into committing  some kind of action. His bullying of Shadow is meant to goad Shadow into doing something he is supposed to do, instead of being so passive about his circumstances. Notice how he is constantly attacking shadow’s intelligence. This is meant to anger Shadow, and goad his ego into trying to prove that he is not stupid. It will prompt Shadow to ACT, because Angry get shit done, and it is one of the few vulnerabilities Shadow has, because in  the other areas of his life, he is very competent. I think he is cheering for Shadow to be the Wild Card in Odin’s plans for the war, because Trickster’s love that kind of thing.

My one regret with Anansi is that we still have not gotten the story from him of The Tiger’s Balls, which is one of the best short stories in the main book, but otherwise this character has been good, but not great, this season.

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The reason why Anansi gets all of the best speeches on the show is because its part of his mythology. Almost all of his stories are part of the oral tradition in Africa, and he is the god of storytelling. When we first meet him he is goading a ship’s hold full of captured slaves into angrily rebelling against their captors. Anansi does not like passivity, which is why all his speeches are so incendiary. He is a fire being that prefers action, and that’s what almost all his speechifying is geared toward, because, “Angry gets shit done!”. And in his speeches to Ibis and Bilquis he tries to get them angry enough, about the plight of African Americans, to join in Wednesday’s war, but is unsuccessful. Ibis and Bilquis continue to keep their distance from Wednesday’s plans, and what’s interesting is that Anansi seems okay with that.

… Anansi was often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival, because Anansi is able to turn the tables on his powerful oppressors by using his cunning and trickery, a model of behaviour utilised by slaves to gain the upper hand within the confines of the plantation power structure. Anansi is also believed to have played a multifunctional role in the slaves’ lives; as well as inspiring strategies of resistance, the tales enabled enslaved Africans to establish a sense of continuity with their African past and offered them the means to transform and assert their identity within the boundaries of captivity.

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Bilquis has been something of a mystery this season She too is in the process of upgrading and adapting to  the modern world, by seeking worship from human beings, in some other manner besides sex, and I think she hopes to rid herself of her reliance on Technical Boy’s aid in the recovery of her godhood. If she becomes her own woman, she no longer needs to abide by any agreement she  with him, and can then do as she pleases. She attends one of the funeral services, where she gets the congregation all hot and bothered,  even though she says nothing that’s overtly sexual. At this point, she is just testing her new role and how to receive worship of some kind.

Bilquis is also playing both ends against the middle, but we don’t know if she’s there for Mr. World, there for herself, there to prevent the war, or there to serve Odin, who she also seems to hate as much as she does Mr. World. She approaches Shadow and gives him an apple, (I think it came from Yggdrasil), which is a callback to the story of Adam and Eve, but really it just represents the idea of  temptation, and knowledge. She is essentially offering him the temptation of knowledge, but of what is unclear. She tells Shadow that their futures and destinies are entwined. We do know that at the end of the episode, Shadow is sitting on  the knowledge that he is Wednesday’ s son. How clear on that he is, is a matter of some debate.

Laura’s actions are also another mystery. Sweeney died in the last episode, in his final fight with Shadow, echoing the very first fight the two of them had in the first season, but that was when  Sweeney had his gold coin, which he lost to Shadow. In their last fight, Shadow loses Gungnir, (Odin’s war spear), which he had been tasked to protect by Wednesday, to Sweeney who, with his dying breath, transfers Gungnir to the golden hoard, where his phantom coins come from. Laura finds Sweeney’s body laid out in the funeral home and steals it. What her plans are, are unclear, but its speculated that she is taking him to Louisiana to be resurrected, so he can help her kill Wednesday. She asked Bilquis for aid, but she turned Laura down, and Laura still has that vial of blood that was given to her by Baron Samedi, who told her that it can be activated to resurrect her full humanity, with an act of love.

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This is a callback to a conversation, earlier in the season, that Laura has with Mama Ji, who she tried to strong-arm her into helping her. Mama Ji will have none of her sass, and gently reminds Laura that she is also the Lord of War, as well as the Divine Mother, and she  is unimpressed by Laura’s zombie strength. Laura also receives advice from Bilquis, when she goes to her to request her aid in killing Wednesday. Bilquis denies her, but does admit to hating Wednesday.

The most charming character in the series is Salim, because he represents the every-man in this scenario. I’m glad he’s still around, and that he is still committed to his relationship with the Djinn, and what’s more, the Djinn is just as committed to him, although he has been questioned by the other gods about having a relationship with a mortal. As we get closer to the idea that Shadow is himself a god, we need a regular person, through whose eyes we can see the other characters, the one normal human being who can express the audience’s feelings about what’s happening, and with whom the audience can identify, now that we are moving to a place where we cannot identify with Shadow, the way we did in the first season.

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This is groundbreaking because not only is our every-man of Middle Eastern descent, and a devout Muslim, he is also a  gay man. Salim is essentially taking the space that I argued about Shadow, in the first season, before he became totally entrenched in Wednesday’s plans, and his scenes are utterly hilarious. His reaction to what’s happening, especially after he gets named as an enemy of the state by New Media is priceless, actually questioning whether or not he committed the crimes he’s been accused of, and being blandly reassured by Mr. Ibis that he’s been in the house watching television the entire time. I’m happy to see that nothing happens to either of them and the two of them manage to walk away unscathed.

At the end of the episode, we get some idea of the next chapter in Shadow’s life. When his bus is stopped by the police, as they are searching for him, he escapes their notice because the name on his ID card has been changed.  In season three, he will get a chance to ruminate on everything that just happened to him as he spends a quiet  interlude in the small town of Lakeview, where he’ll encounter a creature called a Kobold(?), that is feeding on the town’s young women. In the book, this is part of a long period where Shadow is hiding out at the behest of Wednesday. In the show it has been orchestrated that he is hiding out from the authorities.

It will be some time before we see a third season of the show, possibly as long as a year. In that time, I expect to have re-read the book, and probably will have some new insights into the characters by then. Until next time:

TTFN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exciting Trailers For April/May

Gemini Man

I am really excited about this movie. I am a huge Will Smith fan. I have been since Fresh Prince, and will watch any movie he stars in, or any album he releases. This is non-negotiable, and I am unanimous in this! Plus I like the premise of this movie, of a government assassin fighting a younger version of himself…c’mon! that is John Wick levels of awesome!

 

See You Yesterday

I love the premise of this movie, but ultimately I probably am not going to see this in theater. Some movies I just can’t watch because I would have serious problems controlling my anxiety, and shootings of unarmed people is one of those topics. But don’t get me wrong, I hope it does really well, and I urge people to go see it for its novelty, if nothing else. Groundhog Day-like stories, with Black people in, them rarely get seen. I can always support a movie about little Black nerds, I just don’t want to see any more fictional stories involving unarmed Black people getting shot by the police, (or real ones either, for that matter).

I  do think the fact that Black writers are capable of telling these types stories, at this time, in their own words, is kinda awesome and groundbreaking, though.

 

 

Final Godzilla Trailer

I’m really excited to see this movie, and I hope I can talk my Mom into going to see it with me, even though she claims to hate Godzilla. She says that, but she does like that Michael Bay movie that I hate, so maybe I can get her to see this one.

 

 

Child’s Play

My Mom is  a Chucky fan, but she has emphatically stated that she does not want to see this movie, and that its going to be crap. I, however, am not a Chucky fan, beyond the first film, and this  looks interesting to me, and I’m already trying to figure out how to manipulate her into going to see this movie with me, (which may or may not work).

 

 

 

Addams Family

We goin’ waaay back, to the original Addams cartoons for this …well, cartoon! This is how they were originally drawn by their creator Charles Addams. I remember reading these in some collection when I was a kid, and I do remember loving the TV show which was  toned down from the comics, in that there was less of them actually trying to kill each other. I am looking forward to seeing Lion on screen, though. This seems to be getting back to the Addams’s darker aspects.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I’m not sure what to think about this trailer. It looks pretty good, and I hope they do right by Finn in this episode. I was a little disappointed in Finn’s character arc in the last movie, although I loved his fight scenes, and his chemistry with Rose Tico. I think the movie got bogged down with too much emphasis on Kylo Ren’s backstory, which I like to skip over, when I’m watching it on Netflix.

But this trailer looks good, and I’m looking forward to seeing Lando Calrissian again.

 

 

Swamp Thing

I’m a big Swamp Thing fan, especially the 80’s version, which was much more Horror than superhero type story. In fact, Swamp Thing wasn’t a heroic character, really. He had his own personal battles he was fighting, and then there was the introduction of The Green, which really made the books deeply surreal. There was also some pretty deep philosophies  about man and nature ,and man vs. nature, and self identity. I don’t know if the Arcane arc will be covered in the series, but I’ll check it out when it airs.Well anyway this new show is airing on the DC Universe streaming service, along with Titans, and Doom Patrol.

 

 

The Boys

I never read the comic so I can’t say how accurate this is to the written material. This trailer looks insane though. I’m not sure I’m going to watch it, just for that reason. I don’t know if I’m ever ready for intensely crazy imagery like what’s happening here. It also doesn’t look especially deep, seeming to be more spectacle than thought, and it probably needs more PoC in it.

 

 

Like a lot of fans, I am going to see Avengers Endgame, and will probably have some thoughts about it. Hell, I have thoughts about it now because of been doing some reading on Malthusian ethics, (for lack of a better word), and I had some thoughts about Thanos and White Nationalists, and Swift’s A Modest Proposal.

In Defense of After Earth (2013)

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

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

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

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

After Earth (2013)

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

No!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitai Raige No, sir.

Cypher Raige This is Earth.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fred Harris touched on some of my suspicions, here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you shouldn’t either.

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

Own your feelings!

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

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

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

‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

New Trailers In April

Joker

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

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

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Dead Don’t Die

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

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

 

Dora the Explorer

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

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

Avengers :Endgame

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

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

John Wick 3

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

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

 

Hellboy

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

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

Godzilla

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

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

 

Next week, lets review some TV shows!