Jaws (1975): The Danger From Outside

In an earlier post, I talked about setting horror movies in suburban towns, and how the foundation of the horror stems from the setting being invaded from outside, or possessed of horror from within. I used Halloween as an example of the horror coming from outside the town of Haddonfield, in the form of Michael Myers, (actually this is a little more complicated, because Michael was born in Haddonfield, and is essentially haunting, and hunting, his birthplace), but Jaws is also a good example of this. Jaws also makes the interesting point, that the town of Amity, in which the film is set, is so  inert, that its salvation can’t come from any of its own inhabitants, but must also, like the threat, come from Outside.

Jaws movie GIF on GIFER - by Kekasa

The very first thing we learn when watching the movie is that the waters surrounding the island of Amity are are invaded by an external force, the shark, who takes its first victim, a young woman named Chrissie. The shark is not evil, but it doesn’t have to be, to be the focus of the horror. In fact, that the shark is indifferent to humanity is what gives the horror so much depth. The shark only has to upset the status quo, and the status quo, is that nothing happens in Amity that is worthy of note. The mayor of the town makes this point several times, and the new Sheriff has a short monologue in which he makes this point as well. Nothing exciting happens in Amity.

The next thing we learn is that there’s a new Sheriff in town, Sheriff Martin Brody. We learn, in the first real dialogue of the film, that he and his wife just moved to Amity a few months ago, Brody is often  reminded ,by the citizens, or the mayor,  that he is new at the job, that he is an outsider, or that he doesn’t belong, and Spielberg often shoots scenes with Brody separate from, or in isolation, against the other characters on screen.

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Both Brody and the shark are framed as dangerous to the inhabitants of the island. The shark is a physical danger, but Brody represents a more direct danger to the livelihoods of the islanders, as he attempts do his job of protecting them from the shark. He wants to close the beaches, something which the citizens don’t want, as that would directly impact their ability to make a living off the Summer tourists. The citizens of Amity have to choose between two external threats, but the shark is a danger the islanders do not wish to acknowledge, and Brody is something they can control.

Throughout the movie, Brody is constantly reminded, by the town’s mayor, that he is an outsider who doesn’t understand the needs of the people of Amity. Later, Brody calls in another outsider, Matt Hooper of the Oceanographic Institute, and the two of them team up with a resident of Amity named Quinn, but it is on Brody to save the town. Only another outside force for good can restore the order to which Amity had become accustomed. 

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Quint is a fisherman who lives in Amity, but he cannot save the town, as he is one of those anti-social town residents that doesn’t like his neighbors, and who probably don’t much like him. Quint is first introduced by one of the most annoying sounds in the world, as he drags his fingernails along a blackboard during the town meeting to discuss the shark attacks. That one moment, that sound, is all you need to know about Quint’s character, and how the people of the town view him. Like the town itself, (as represented by the Mayor), he is too beset by his weaknesses of character. He has inner demons of his own, that motivate his hunt for the shark, many of them stemming from his short stint on the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which is actually a true story.

                                  *******

https://www.history.com/news/uss-indianapolis-sinking-survivor-stories-sharks

“There were a lot of sharks,” he says, his voice nearly a whisper. “So many. I’d see them swimming below me.”

Quint’s reason for wanting to hunt the shark are mercenary. He wants to get paid, and wants the glory of being seen as the town’s hero, so all his motivations are entirely self-serving.  Although its his home, Quint feels no real responsibility to the town of Amity, and is willing to exploit his neighbors fear of the shark, or monetary disaster by closing the beaches, for his own ends.

Jaws' is a prescient fable for the coronavirus era

Mayor Larry Vaughn is ineligible, because he is a deeply fearful man, who is too scared of the townsfolk’s anger, and his fears of re-election, to go against their desires. Several times he reminds Brody that he is not from Amity, and that he doesn’t know what the town needs,  citing himself as the only person who knows what’s best for the town. He constantly undermines Brody’s authority, refuses to take the shark attacks seriously, and even encourages beachgoers to get in the water, despite the danger of shark attack. He saddles Brody with the impossible task of protecting the town, within the parameters that he sets, where Brody is not allowed to make the townspeople angry, but cannot protect them by closing the beaches. The only time he makes a correct decision is when he orders the beaches closed, after yet another shark attack, and only because his children were on the beach, too. He only makes the correct decision out of fear, after it hits too close to him.

jaws gifs | WiffleGif

Hooper is also ineligible for destroying the shark, as he has no interest in Amity, at all. He doesn’t live there, and can also be seen as sympathetic to the shark. He is interested in the shark for science. He is not interested in killing it, but he comes along on the hunt, because he empathizes with Martin Brody, with whom he has formed a close attachment.  Hooper is also the polar opposite of Quint, who both hates and fears  the shark, and whose agenda is to kill it to assuage his inner demons.

Of the three shark hunters, Brody is the only one who doesn’t approach the hunt from a selfish perspective. What Brody wants is to do his job and protect the town, with tremendous guilt as a secondary motivating factor. His failure to save the lives of several inhabitants of the town, including a young boy, who died because he was not firm enough in putting his foot down about closing the beaches, weighs heavily on him. Earlier in the film, while talking with Hooper, he mentions why he left New York, saying that he felt helpless there, and that in Amity he could make a difference and save lives. Except, he didn’t, and he accepts the full blame for the deaths that occurred under his watch.

10 Horror Movies That Had the Balls to Kill a Kid - Bloody Disgusting

In the end, it makes perfect sense that Brody would be the one to kill the shark, and to do so alone. From the beginning of the film, Brody and the shark are set up as parallels, and  adversaries. We are reminded, so often, that Brody is not from Amity, that it takes on a level of importance.The opening scene is the arrival of the shark to Amity’s waters, and its subsequent attack on a female swimmer. The scene just after the shark’s attack on her, is between Brody and his wife, about moving to Amity from New York, and the second conversation that Brody has, about not being an islander, is on the beach with the young man who reported the shark’s first victim as missing. In most of his conversations with Mayor Vaughn, Brody is reminded that he is new in town, and doesn’t know how things work there.

 

 

Jaws is an example of the Man vs. Nature conflict narrative, in which some of the tension is provided by the main protagonist having to overcome challenges to achieve his goals. The primary conflict is between Brody and the shark, and Brody’s goal is to destroy the shark, thereby saving the town. Three of the challenges he must overcome, before he can accomplish this goal, are external, the Mayor who undermines his authority ,and ability to do his job, and the townsfolk who look to him to save them from the shark, without it affecting their livelihoods, and one internal challenge,  his fear of water.

Jaws GIF | Jaws movie, Shark, Horror lovers

Several times, Brody’s fear of the water is referenced by the other characters in the film.  One of the beachgoers mentions that everyone in town has noticed his fear of the water, and his wife discusses it with Hooper, when they’re having dinner. 

 The thing that makes Jaws an  immensely satisfying movie, is that most of Brody’s challenges get resolved by the end. He has stood up to Mayor Vaughn, forcing him to take his side in closing the beaches, and defying the will of the townspeople. He has destroyed the shark, protecting the citizens of Amity, and done so by overcoming his fear of water.

jaws 1 | Tumblr

It is made clear to the audience, several times in the movie, that Brody is an Outsider, which is the one challenge left unresolved. In an earlier beach scene, Brody’s wife is told that she and her husband will never be considered islanders, because they weren’t born on Amity. They will never belong, no matter what they do, or how long they live there, and that will not change by the end of the movie. This is also one of the primary themes, and the shark’s arrival is narratively equated with Brody’s earlier move to the island.

After Hooper is believed to have been killed by the shark, and Quint is eaten, it is down to Brody, alone, using equipment brought aboard the boat by Hooper, to dispatch this external menace.

Killing the shark, and protecting the town, doesn’t make Brody an islander, but by eliminating the threat to the town, Brody, who was treated as an Outside threat by the town, as much as the shark, will be seen as less of one. By killing the shark,  he proves he can be trusted with Amity’s welfare, and  eliminates, in one action, both of the town’s perceived external threats

 

Starring the Landscape: Horror On Ice

 

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There aren’t a lot of movies set in snowy climates, and even fewer set in the Arctic, so I had to loosen my definition, to include films that take place in any locations that existed above the snow line, or  movies that were set during Winter. 

An interesting aspect of these movies, isn’t just the setting’s effect on the plot, but the time period in which the movies occur. In wintry settings, most  scenes are set at night, as in Let The Right One In, or specific times of the year, such as 30 Days of Night, when the sun doesn’t rise for a prolonged period of time. Night time scenes are always more effective in horror movies, because having the story take place in the dark, does at least half the work of inducing fear in the audience, and icy, snowy settings already produce a feeling of existential dread, and isolation.

Three of the most basic types of plots for most horror movies, is something I briefly discussed in one of my other posts about landscapes and settings. There is the horror that comes from Inside, from within, (i.e. possession movies, which also include alien possession, body snatching, body horror. This includes psychological, emotional, drug and  hallucinatory horror), the horror that comes from Outside the self, (monster movies, slasher films, alien invasions, disease pandemics, and the apocalypse),  and the horror of Place, which is the environment, the landscape, itself.

Frozen Movie Facts | Horror Amino

The majority of movies set in snowy, cold, and/or wintry, climates are monster movies, the kind of horror that springs from an Outside source. Most of these movies involve at least two of the elements of horror; that of Place, and  from Outside. The horror from Outside involves monsters, or creatures, sometimes native to the environment, sometimes not, but often asleep, or in hiding, deep in the snow and ice. They are accidentally awakened by the presence, or activity, of human beings. This includes movies like The Thaw from 2009, in which ancient bugs are  awakened by archaeological activity, and Blood Glacier, a horror comedy from 2013, in which a strange red liquid is released from a melting glacier in the Alps, and begins mutating the local wildlife.

Blood Glacier (2013) - IMDb

Much of the horror of such films, comes from the harsh, and unforgiving, nature of the setting itself.  Survival in such an environment is more precarious than in almost any other environment. The cold, the scarcity of sustenance and water, and even the wildlife, can all work against human life, and sometimes characters not only have to withstand the environment, they may have to fight any Outside forces that have either  dropped into the environment with them, was hidden within it, or came along with them, like their companions, or their own weaknesses of character.

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Two movies that are about the horror of Place, is the 2010 horror movie, Frozen, and 2012’s, The Grey, which stars Liam Neeson. In Frozen, a group of skiing friends get trapped on a ski lift, during a holiday weekend, and need to fight, not just against the terror of their isolation, and the freezing temperatures, but against a pack of hungry dogs circling beneath the ski lift, as they get picked off one by one. In both movies, the characters have to survive multiple dangers, none of which are paranormal or supernatural. The Horror comes entirely from being trapped in an environment from which it is almost impossible to escape alive.

The Grey [2011] - GIF on Imgur

In The Grey, a team of oil drillers get stranded in Alaska after a plane crash. Liam Neeson’s character, Ottway, has made a living killing the wolves that threaten the drillers, and is contemplating suicide, before surviving the crash, with several companions, and who now realize, they are in the territory of a large wolfpack, and being hunted. Ottway and his companions must try to survive frozen rivers, hypothermia, hunger, and the wolves, in their attempt to reach civilization. In a final irony, only the previously suicidal Ottway is left alive to battle the pack for his survival, the outcome of which is not certain. 

Icy, snowy, landscapes are often used as a stand in to provoke questions about humanity and civilization, that don’t normally get asked in  more temperate landscapes. Since everything is about survival, the characters find out what kind of people they are, when all bets are off. What kind of people are we, who do we become, what will we do, and how far will we go, when we have to fight every second to stay alive?  Will we remain cooperative with the other human beings around us, or will we turn on them, to ensure our own survival? This makes wintry, snowy, settings perfect for tales about cannibalism,  as in the movies Ravenous (1999), and The Donner Party, (a 2009 film based on a true story) where people turn on one another as a means to survive.

The Thing--Wilford Brimley Goes Nuts GIF | Gfycat

This betrayal of civilization is also what happens in the classic  film, The Thing, from 1982, when a group of researchers  accidentally thaw the frozen body of an alien, that begins killing and mimicking them, so that it can survive. Unlike the first films listed here, whose plots involve the horror of Place, combined with the horror from Inside, The Thing is a movie that combines all three types of horror. Everything in this environment is working against the characters, as they’re trapped in an extreme landscape, with a  hostile Other, that was hidden within it,  which has taken up residence in at least one of them, causing them to all turn on each other to survive.  Both the men, and the alien, are fighting to  survive the environment, and each other.

The fear, dread, and paranoia, of the characters is echoed in the bleakness of the landscape, which is as cold and dark as the outer reaches of space,  from which the alien intruder fell. Over time, any fellow feeling they shared is lost, as the team spirals down into a paroxysm of violence, vandalism, threats, and murder, while they try to find out who is  possessed by the alien, and who isn’t. The Thing is complex, in its plot and themes, but  that wasn’t always the case.

Ray Harryhausen The Beast From 20000 Fathoms GIF by Warner Archive ...

In earlier horror films, the horror of Place was mostly paired with some horror from Outside, in the form of a monster, as in the original 1954 film, The Thing From Another World, starring James Arness, which was based on John. W. Campbell’s science fiction story, Who Goes There? Or the  1953 movie, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, where scientists, in the Arctic, accidentally dig up a dinosaur, which proceeds to rampage its way back to its ancient spawning grounds, conveniently located in New York city. In both movies, the monsters are an external force, awakened by hubris, or carelessness. The interior lives of the characters is given minimal attention, and have little effect on the plot Often their characters can be defined by how they respond to the monster.

Movies set during Winter seem especially appropriate for hauntings and ghost stories, as such bleak landscapes are used as a metaphor for death. In the 1981 movie, Ghost Story, starring Fred Astaire, based on the novel by Peter Straub, a group of elderly men gather in a  New England town, one Winter’s night, to discuss the murder of a young woman they were involved with, several decades ago, and the idea that her ghost may be haunting one of them. It is their weakness of character that sets the entire plot in motion, and determines the outcome. Ghost Story is an example of the horror of Place,  used as a backdrop for the conflict between the horror of the Self (Inside), and the horror of a malignant external force (Outside). Its the kind of story that could be told in any setting, but here,  adds to the atmosphere of mourning, and despair. These are men at the twilight of their lives, haunted, literally, by the ghosts of their past misdeeds.

The most famous movie, that tackles the themes of both external and internal forces of horror, is The Shining. Released in 1980, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, it is based on the original Stephen King novel, about a haunted hotel,  set in the middle of a wintry Colorado. Jack Torrance is hired by the manager of the Overlook, to maintain the premises, but Jack, a former alcoholic, domestic abuser, (and latent psychic), is easily goaded by its murderous ghosts, into killing his fragile-seeming wife, Wendy, and his powerfully psychic son, Danny.

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The horror comes from the combination of environmental isolation, the malignancy of the paranormal entities, and Jack’s emotional weaknesses. Occasionally, a wintry landscape is an obvious stand in for a character’s emotions, indicating coldness, or a lack of love or warmth. Jack’s personal insecurities are turned against his family, by the ghosts in the hotel. He becomes as emotionally barren as the landscape which isolates them. In the end, it is the environment which kills Jack, after he chases his wife and son into the hotel’s snow covered hedge maze.

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The colors most associated with this type of landscape are cool dark blues, neutral whites, grays, and blacks,  which emphasize the use of primary colors, red, and yellow, in the forms of blood and fire, which is especially appropriate imagery in movies like, 30 Days of Night (2007), based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles, in which a pack of vampires take over the town of Barrow Alaska, in the middle of a thirty day cycle, where the sun never rises, and Let The Right One In, a 2008 movie about a little boy who befriends a child vampire. The movie takes place in Sweden, a place known for its especially long and  frigid winters, and is an especially appropriate residence for an avatar of death.

Dark snowy, landscapes make for some of the most classic and/or notable films in the horror genre. The setting lends itself well to stories involving ghosts, death, human depravity,  survival,  and of course, monsters, as the setting doesn’t just play an integral part in the plot, but often becomes the plot, for stories that can be told in no other place.

Fall Series and Films 2020

Okay, I was initially just going to post only those shows I was invested in watching, but decided to add at least a couple of shows that, while I might not be especially enthused about them, I’m sure someone reading this, is.

So, here’s a thoroughly incomplete list of new Fall shows that someone, who is not necessarily me, might be interested in watching in October.

 

Walking Dead: World Beyond

This is one of the shows I’m not terribly enthused about, because I’m not really in much of a mood for apocalyptic fiction, right now, it’s based off The Walking Dead series, which is now in its 1,000th season, and I refuse to get attached to any of the characters I see here, just in case they die horribly in the first two episodes.

Pretty much the only thing I got out of The Walking Dead, was not to care about any of the characters, because they’re  all just gonna be horribly killed at some point, and since characters are how I get invested in a show, well…

On the other hand, it does look intriguing, because it answers some questions about those helicopter people who approached Rick that one time, and what happened to Rick after his supposed death.

One theme in zombie fiction, that I am seriously tired of, is the travelogue narrative ,where, as soon as the world goes into lockdown mode, someone decides to take a road trip to find some lost loved ones, sometimes with neighbors, or a dog in tow, and they have harrowing adventures, and this seems like more of that. *Sigh*

 

Utopia

I want to like this but I’m just not feeling it. I will look at the pilot though, and maybe I will want to see more of it. yeah, I have no idea what it’s actually about ,and I don’t even care, which is how I know I probably won’t be jumping on this.

 

 

Lovecraft Country 

I have mixed feelings about this show. On the one hand it is directed by a Black woman, and I’m just now coming off The Old Guard, which was also directed by a Black woman, and I’m feeling confident. Its also produced by Jordan Peele, and the original story was written by Matt Ruff, and I read and liked the book okay. It also has monsters in it, and I like to think the racistly racist Lovecraft is rolling over in his grave at having his universe adapted to serve Black characters. Its about a Black family that take a road trip and encounter a mystery and some Lovecraft style monsters.

But…I’m not at all in the mood to watch any more oppression narratives that are rooted in Black pain and trauma. I don’t want to watch any more shows, or movies, set in the Slave era, or Jim Crow South, where we get to watch the characters suffer, and I’m strongly inclined to pretend this doesn’t exist, and will not exist any time in the future.

 

 

Project Power 

Unlike a lot of other whiners on Youtube (and other media), I’m not yet tired of the superhero genre, especially if they keep putting interesting versions of it onscreen, but then, I’m a person who much more carefully chooses these movies and shows, rather than rushing to watch every single thing with a superhero in it, and I also tend to like non-superhero, superhero movies like Unbreakable, The Old Guard, and this vehicle here.

I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jamie Foxx ,and I’ve never seen the two of them in a movie together, and it looks like fun, I guess. I think I read a book that had something of the same premise waaay back in the 90s, and I think there’s been a least a couple of comic book stories, where gaining superpowers through drugs, was an idea.

 

Truth Seekers

I really like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Ive seen most of their movies together, and I loathe the paranormal investigation reality show genre, so I’m actually looking forward to this parody.

 

 

The Good Lord Bird

That thing I said about Slave era narratives is still true, but I find myself greatly intrigued by this movie, because its a comedy that stars Orlando Jones, an actor I love, and Ethan Hawke, who, as John Brown, looks unrecognizable in this movie, and who was great in The Magnificent Seven remake, and Daveed Diggs, who plays Frederick Douglas. I also like it because it is a comedy where the plot isn’t rooted in the consumption of Black trauma.

It actually looks really, really, funny ,and the young girl we see in the trailer is actually a young boy who has  disguised himself as a young girl because he found his life easier that way, and he sort of accidentally falls under Brown’s care.

You guys have got to read the book on which this movie is based, because Brown is a real hoot. Brown himself is a trigger happy abolitionist, who guns down any slave owners, and slave patrols he happens to encounter, making no effort to protect himself from harm, because he believes he is doing God’s will and that he is already protected.

 

 

Star Trek: Lower Decks

I’m not sure this is the best use of the money we gave these people for those last couple of Star Trek movies, so I’m just gonna leave this here.

I mean, I’m not opposed to an animated version of Star Trek, but I am opposed to an animated version of Star Trek. Heck, I didn’t even watch the original animated Trek, from the 70s. But you know what, I’m not gonna act like one of those fanboy purists who refuse to watch something just because its radically different from whatever came before, and I loved that Spiderverse movie. Not that this is, in any way, Spiderverse level entertainment, but I might be surprised.

 

An American Pickle

At first glance, this doesn’t seem much like something I’d watch, but I Seth Rogan okay, I like time travel movies, it looks funny, and I like the initial setting of Victorian New York.

 

Coming Soon!

I don’t know when I’ll ever feel safe sitting in any enclosed space ever again. If I do, I definitely will not be inviting my mother with me as she is severely immuno-compromised. Technically, so am I, but beyond that, I wouldn’t want to bring anything back home to her. In all likelihood, Dune and Tenet may be movies I’ll have to admire from afar. I hope not because I’m really excited to see them in a theater. If there’s a way t do so safely, while observing social distancing rules…

 

 

Tenet

This is the only movie that would possibly get my ass into a theater seat (which is never gonna happen, btw.) Nevertheless, I am very excited for this. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s work anyway, so that was gonna happen. This is the second trailer for the movie, which is aiming for a Fall release. This trailer strongly implies that its about superpowers and time travel.

 

 

 

The Old Guard

I always enjoy watching Charlize Theron kicking ass, and I like the idea of this young black female apprentice, to a kind of immortal being. I’m always for black female characters being shown as beloved, and delicate, flowers in need of being saved, we first need to get our feet in the door, and one way to do that is playing to our strengths in action films.

So far, the Hollywood idea of a strong black woman is measuring how much pain and anguish we can endure, how much abuse we can take and still keep ticking. We need to begin showcasing other versions of black women’s strength. Fortunately we are getting movies and shows like this.

I am told this is based on a comic book, and though I like the authors of the book, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before, so I’m going to be looking out for it. The Old Guard airs on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

 

Da Five Bloods

I always say I’m not into certain types of movies. What I actually mean is I’m not normally attracted to such films, not that I don’t watch them, or have never seen, or liked them. Like War movies. I do have a couple of favorites, (Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket), but most of them I dislike for their reliance on spectacle with no message beyond glorifying life in the military.

I will watch this one because I like the director, the actors, (Delroy Lindo, who I’ve been in love with since Romeo Must Die), and because it’s basic premise, of a close group of Black men returning to Vietnam, so they can find the body of their commanding officer, just sounds appealing to me. I like remembrance stories, or more accurately, anti-nostalgia stories, and there aren’t a whole bunch of war movies which prominently feature men of color, telling what it was like for them.

This is also airing on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

Gundala

Here’s a superhero story, I’m moderately excited about, set in Southeast Asia, which I’m going to check out soon. I saw the trailer for this months ago, but only recently got the opportunity to see it. This very much reminds me of the Black Lightning TV series, because it’s basic premise, a man of color, with electricity powers , who trains himself to protect his little piece of the world from corrupt government forces, is appealing to me.

 

 

Code 8

This is another one of those gritty superhero stories that sort of chronicle what life would be like if superpowers existed. I kind of like these downbeat superhero movies like Unbreakable, Chronicle, and yes, I include the Carrie movies. I am, however, not always in the mood for such downbeat material, so whether or not I see this ,depends entirely on how I feel that day. I may decide to watch another John Mulaney stand up instead.

 

This one is based on a short film, I saw last year, with the same name. I didn’t care for the Short that much, but the actual movie looks a little better.

 

 

Dune 2020

I’ve been a Dune fan since I was a teenager, and used to the read the first book in the series about every couple of years. It’s one of my few favorite SciFi stories. Yes, I did see the 1984 movie starring Sting. It’s okay, and I really liked it, but it’s not my favorite, and I’m going to pretend the TV version doesn’t exist.

Next year we’re supposed to be getting a remake of this movie by one of my favorite SciFi directors, Denis Villaneuve. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his movies, including the Bladerunner sequel, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this, as this too is one of the few films that would actually get me into a theater.

The director has been sending out pictures of the cast and crew, and whooo yeah, I’m definitely excited for this version, which looks a lot more like I imagined it from the book. I hope it does well, but I still think y’all should be prepared for a lot of hate because there are PoC working in this movie, and y’all know how white fandom behaves when they think an entertainment product is the exclusive province of white people. There’s also the fact that it is a very loved book. I do plan to stay away from any Youtube videos talking about this movie because already there are a wave of people who are ready to ream it a new asshole before the movie has even been released.

That said, there have been some changes that some people will lose their shit over, and one of the bigger changes is that Liet Kynes is being portrayed by a Black actress. If you remember from the book, Liet is the father of Chani, but is not actually one of the Fremen, and Villaneuve says he changed the role because he wanted to portray a mother /daughter relationship, and the movie was getting very male-centric. Now, if you’ve read the book, you know what role Liet plays in the story and what happens to him ,but I’m still very excited to see what this actress is going to do, and how she will interact with the other characters. In the original film, Liet Kynes was played by Max von Sydow. Jason Momoa is playing Duncan Idaho, who is not one of my favorite characters from the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this role.

Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
2248x2248 Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes 2248x2248 ...
Sharon Duncan Brewster as Liet-Kynes
Dune photos give fans their first look at Jason Momoa and Zendaya ...
Zendaya as Chani
Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
timothee chalamet dune | Tumblr
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
HEAT WAVE          Timothe Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Jordan. Filming in the landscape was really surreal says...
Timothy Chalumet is Paul Atreides, and Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica
pThe House Atreides Left to Right Timothe Chalamet as Paul Atreides Stephen Mckinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat Oscar...
 House Atreides
Behold Dune: An Exclusive Look at Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya ...
Javier Bardem as Stilgar

Favorite Songs About Vampires

I’m feeling a bit of Pop Culture nostalgia this week, so here, have some of the vampire songs that are always on MY playlist!

 

Gordon Walker - Super-wiki

Black Vampires Through the Years | Black vampire, Eddie murphy ...

 

Bite Me! Top 10 Hottest Black Vampires | Vibe

I was on Tumblr, and I noticed a trend of people recommending vampire songs that 1. I didn’t recognize, and 2. Were all by white people and groups, as if PoC had never had any interest in vampires, and never made any songs about them. I really hate lists of music on there anyway. I have pretty wide ranging tastes, but these lists always seem to have the most obscure musical groups these people can find. Why these people can’t ever seem to listen to just regular songs, that maybe more than five people have heard, is a mystery! At any rate, there was one list I found, I listened to a couple of the songs and I think that person just has bad taste in music, because they were fairly bland. I mean if you’re gonna go through the trouble of making music about vampires, the least you can do is be EXTRA, like all the artists on this list.

But I’m often exasperated by the rather “twee” musical tastes of Tumblr patrons, who can be somewhat limited in their musical tastes, and helluva lot younger than me. Vampires are a global mythology, in that nearly every continent has one, so I’m also pretty sure other parts of the world have songs about them, but I’m Black, and American, so this is my focus. Maybe, at some point, I’ll do some research to find songs from other countries.

 

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus ( The Hunger 1983)

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This is the classic Gothic vampire song, used in countless movies, and shows, that feature vampires. The first time I heard it was in the 1988 movie, The Hunger, which starred Catherine Deneuve, and David Bowie, as modern day vampires. If you haven’t seen that movie than check it out, as it’s an interesting snapshot of a very specific musical period (Goth) in the early 80s. The music, fashion, cinematography, and acting are all artifacts of that particular time, and the movie was groundbreaking, in that it was a mainstream movie, that featured an openly lesbian relationship, as Deneuve’s character puts the moves on Susan Sarandon.

Remember, that in 1983, this movie was the coolest shit we’d ever seen, because American culture hadn’t yet been saturated with Gothic imagery. In fact, I blame this movie for it!

 

 

Love Song For A Vampire – Annie Lennox (Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992)

This is one of my favorite songs, and I believe it was specifically written for the movie, in which it was featured during the end credits. I was a huge Annie Lennox fan in the 80s, otherwise I’d probably have never paid any attention to it. It helps that Annie Lennox always looked suitably vampiric since the beginning of her career, which had been going for ten years strong, by the time she made this song. It fits the film perfectly, in that it has this deep throbbing heartbeat sound, just underneath the listeners perception, the instrumentation, and singing is lushly romantic and overdone, just like the movie, and still gives me chills so many years later.

You really need to hear this with headphones to get the full effect.

 

 

Moon Over Bourbon Street – Sting (Interview With The Vampire 1994)

This song was also written in the late 80s by the newly solo lead of the British rock band, The Police. Sting wrote this after reading Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, so I was expecting this song to be in the movie that was made in the 90s, but no luck. It wasn’t in it. But this isn’t my favorite version of this song, I prefer the Wozniak Club version, which I liked to jam to in the car, on my way to work. Of course, this is exactly the type pf song that would be played in the vampire club!

 

 

No One Believes me – Kid Cudi (Fright Night 2011)

https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/African+American+Vampires

Vampires have made only infrequent appearances in African American folklore, and, similarly, African Americans have been largely absent from vampire movies and novels through the twentieth century. 

When people recommend vampire songs, everyone seems to forget that Black artists make songs about vampires, too! I came across quite a few of them when researching this. This was the feature song for the Fright Night remake made a few years ago. The remake was not especially successful, and didn’t feature this song anywhere in it, which may account for why so few people know about it, but this video was, and remains, one of my absolute favorites.

 

 

After Dark – Tito and the Tarantulas (From Dusk Til Dawn 1996)

This is the song that plays when Satanica Pandemonium does her dance, for the two brothers, at the Titty Twister bar, featured in the movie. It’s not my favorite, but I like Tito and the Tarantulas other songs, and just want to recognize that Mexican people got vampire songs.

 

 

Seduction/Surrender – Grace Jones (Vamp 1987)

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For some reason, all vampire movies must have a Club scene. We got vampires walking up in there, vampires owning clubs, dancing in clubs, hunting for a meal in the club, or all of the above. In 1987, Grace Jones owned, danced, and hunted, in the Club featured in this nearly forgotten movie. This song was specifically adapted for her strip scene.

The Hunger opens with a club scene, Interview with a Vampire has a club with actors, From Dusk til Dawn is set in a bar, Near Dark gets a bar scene, so do both Fright Nights, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, most TV shows feature clubs owned by vampires, and yes, the Blade movies have nearly famous club scenes!

 

 

Fatal – RZA (Blade 3)

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As far as I’m concerned, despite the groundbreaking first film, it’s the second film, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, that’s the best of the Blade movies. This is Blade’s song, from the third, thoroughly awful, film. The song is every bit as badass as he is, and featured in the end credits, and it’s by the f*cking RZA, from Wu Tang! C’mon! How does anybody miss listing this song in any recommendations of vampire songs? On the other hand, the third film sucked, so that might have been the reason people simpy don’t remember that the RZA made a vampire song.

 

 

 

 

Cry Little Sister –  Gerard McMahon (The Lost Boys 1987)

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I’m putting this here because this is my favorite song from this movie. If you haven’t heard the soundtrack, it still holds up after some thirty years, and has a lot of great songs, including the title song.

 

 

System – Linkin Park (Queen of the Damned 2002)

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This is the song from the movie, where Alaska walks up in the club, and literally sets the roof on fire.

 

 

Confusion Dance Theme Remix –  New Order (Blade 1998)

This is the song from the film’s iconic opening scene, called the Blood Rave, where we’re introduced to the Blade character, and what he does for a living: killing vampires! This is very probably one of the most famous intros in vampire filmdom (is that a word?) The song itself doesn’t actually have anything to do with vampires, but every time I listen to it, this scene is what plays in my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teeny Tiny Reviews From April

Here’s a incomplete list of movies and shows  I watched in April. For the most part, I liked all of these. I can tell I liked them because I finished watching them. I’m one of those people that feels absolutely no obligation, whatsoever, to finish consuming something I can’t stand. That’s a “young person whose got a lot more years ahead of them” type of thing! I’m also not one of those people who think you can’t have an opinion on something you didn’t finish. I mean, I won’t finish a cup of sour milk, but I can still know I didn’t like it. I feel like it’s the same for books, movies, and shows. I mean, you ain’t got to suffer your way through some shit, to know you’re wading through a pile of shit. You know what you like.

I have been watching tv shows, but most of it’s stuff that already aired, since there’s no new stuff being released right about now.

 

Unnamed Korean Drama

(Close-Knit 2017)

You may notice a trend of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese movies. Yeah, I’ve been watching a lot of those since I can now access Japanese Netflix, thanx to my IPVanish app.

Wel, this one didn’t have the  title in English, so I had to research it. A lot of the shows don’t have English titles, or translations, but I’m really used to figuring out what’s happening in Asian movies, after decades of watching this kind of thing. This one did have translations in English though, so I didn’t have to figure it out too much, otherwise I would have been deeply, and I mean, deeply, confused about this movie.

This is about a little girl who goes to live with her uncle, and his common law wife, after her mother temporarily deserts her. She is often bullied at school, but there’s a little boy, often bullied himself, who keeps trying to reach out to be her friend. Her uncle lives with his transgender girlfriend, and after some initial confusion, she and the little girl start to bond, to the point where the girlfriend considers suing the mother for custody. This movie is the game Japanese director’s attempt to tackle a controversial lgbtq issue in Japan, so it’s a little heavy handed in some places, frustrating in others, and sometimes, it’s just vague, but I’m a sucker for found family stories.

It’s a beautiful story, though,  and I really liked it. The little girl is unwilling to get close to people because she keeps experiencing the instability of being abandoned by her mother, every time her mom gets a new boyfriend. She is also reluctant to get close to her uncles gf, but it isn’t until the two of them bond over knitting, and the gf’s transgender status (she is pre-op) that the girl allows herself to open up to the little boy who’s trying to be her friend. Unfortunately, her friendship with him doesn’t work out, because his mother is deeply transphobic, and makes the girls living arrangements her personal business, to the misfortune of this lovely found  family.

Without the translation, the most confusing part of the movie, are the knitting scenes. We get a backstory on the gf, from when she came out to her mother. Her mother, while initially confused, became deeply supportive of her daughter, going so far as to knit her a pair of tiny breasts. I mention that she is pre-op, because part of the plot is that the gf spends a lot of time knitting penises. When she finishes making exactly 108 of them, she will burn them in effigy, and that will be when she is ready to have her bottom surgery.

She teaches the little girl to knit by making these penises, and that’s how the two of them bond. At one point the gf allows the little girl to squeeze her breasts, because of her intense curiosity about her gender status. She becomes less confused, but the girlfriend’s breasts are still a focal point of their relationship, because the little girl begins associating them with the warmth, comfort, and motherhood she wasn’t getting from her own mother, especially since the gf is the one who cuddles her against those same breasts, when she gets afraid in the middle of the night. The girlfriend becomes a figure of maternal love and stability for her, but even though they have chosen each other, they cannot be together, as mother and daughter, because society will not allow it.

I though this was a beautiful little story, not too emotionally taxing, with an open ending, that was somewhat bittersweet.

 

 

Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Life of Harley Quinn (2020)

I had so much fun watching this movie. Sometimes you really can tell the difference between a movie directed by a man, and one directed by a woman, and that seems to be the case with this movie. The story itself isn’t all that different from what would appear in a film made by a man, but it is definitely a comedy, and the emphasis is on different parts of the story, over others, and the story beats, and pacing, are different, and the tiny details can mean a lot to a female audience. Still, you can sort of tell a woman did this movie, because it feels like most of the kinds of art made by women, in which the relationships between the characters are what’s  of primary importance, and that’s what’s going on in this film.

You’ll hear from a lot of male critics that the movie was bad, but really it’s that the movie is simply made with a different audience in mind, and so there’s an emphasis on different things in the movie, the kinds of things that might not appeal to male viewers. Since personal relationships are of deep importance to women in the real world, movies that emphasize that can be greatly appealing to a female audience, and we don’t consider such movies to be a failure. As women, we may be looking at the film through a different lens.

Another appeal for women is how the women interact, and I think that was this movie’s greatest appeal. The women in the movie aren’t at loggerheads just to have drama. They’re at odds with each other for real reasons, based on the plot, and they’re brought together through the plot, and learn to get along to survive the plot. The biggest problem I had was that the movie isn’t pretty. I’m not used to comic book movies looking like this, expecting a much more anti-septic, and polished, look. It looks kind of dirty and grungy, and the cinematography looks really different than a Christopher Nolan film, or anything in the MCU. Harley definitely lives in Gotham’s armpit, as do all these characters, and it shows.

Funnily enough, my favorite character turned out not to be Dinah Lance, but The Huntress. She was such an delightfully odd character, and showed some aspects of Spectrum behavior, although her uncertainty about her social skills might have had something to do with either her unconventional upbringing, or that she’s a loner, who has never had any friends. I liked Harley, but Huntress turned out to be an unexpected fave.

I really enjoyed this movie, though. It’s the complete opposite of everything in the movie Joker, so if you are any of the many women who hated that movie, then try this one, because it’s a helluva lot more fun. It’s hilarious to point at both these films and even say they are about comic book characters, let alone set in the same DC universe. The story arrangement is a little different than I’m used to, since it’s told from Harley’s point of view. There’s a lot of pausing, and back and forthing, and a couple of side issues, because Harley is a somewhat disjointed storyteller, who is mildly unreliable as a narrator, but she is zany and energetic, and a likable anti-hero, and we can see the faint seeds of the real hero she will eventually become. The movie isn’t deep, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, and I want to talk about it later in more depth, because there are a lot of fun and interesting things to be said about it.

 

 

Joker (2019)

Despite all the controversy surrounding this film, I genuinely liked this movie, as an interesting piece of filmmaking. It’s true, that it’s not an especially deep film, but that isn’t always required to like a film, and so I let that pass. I also didn’t care much for its message about yet another white guy feeling disgruntled about his life, and going on a killing spree. There are far, far, too many of these types of shows, and movies, in pop culture, and this is another one that presents the same theme, and yet, asks no questions about it.

On the other hand, it is a gorgeous looking movie, although I did think it was much too derivative of Martin Scorcese’s early works, Taxi Driver, and King of Comedy. Joachin Phoenix turns in a splendid performance though, and there were moments where I was greatly moved by the pathos and beauty of his character, his acting, and the cinematography. I’m tired of this sort of plot,  but  the director did a superb job of evoking sympathy for this character. Was this an Oscar worthy film, I don’t know, but in my opinion, it was worth watching. And I will probably watch it again, at some point, for the acting, and aesthetics.

 

 

Memories (1995)

This is a 90s animated anthology, from the maker of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo. It consists of three stories about technology gone wrong, and people’s interactions with it, but I’m only interested in the middles story in particular, Stink Bomb. I thought it was hilarious, and kind of sad. There’s a message in it, but I’m not quite sure what that message is. Nevertheless,I really enjoyed it.

The Big Stink is the middle story, about a down on his luck office worker, who gets infected with a kind of biological warfare gas, that kills anyone within a certain mile radius of him. He, of course, doesn’t know this. All he knows is that people keep dropping dead around him, as at first, he tries to make his way home, and then attempts to outrun whatever is killing the people in his vicinity. For some reason, I found  this part, deeply funny, although if you think about it too long, it’s pretty horrifying. The attempts by the police, and the military, just get more and more outrageous, as they escalate from guns, to tanks, and then to missile strikes, in an effort to stop him from reaching the city. The ending of this one was very satisfying, though.

 

 

Roujin Z

This is one of my favorite little known Katsuhiro Otomo movies. I love the premise of it, which just thoroughly tickles me. It’s got a good strong story, and like his segment in Memories, Stink Bomb, there’s a deeply hilarious idea gliding just underneath the surface story of a rogue robot destroying a large city.

This was the movie that made me think about the different attitudes towards AI between the East and the West, which I am really going to have to have a deeper discussion about. I think I mentioned before that Japanese culture doesn’t have the same type of fears about automata that the US does. If you go by the types of books we write, the movies we make, and the types of discussions we have surrounding technology, then Westerners have some kind of deep atavistic fear of dolls, and robots. We are forever making stories about rebellious, or angry, simulacra that want to destroy their makers, and I want to examine this further.

Roujin Z is about a newly invented, healthcare,  AI robot, that is given custody of an old man with dementia, who thinks the robot is his long dead wife. The robot, which is a kind of mobile care vehicle and bed, begins to take on the persona with which he treats it, and decides  to care for him in the way his wife would have. He expresses an interest in visiting the beach, which is several miles away, and the robot decides that’s a good idea, and sets out. This causes complete chaos, as officials try to stop the robot, without hurting the old man, and the robot knocks down anything and everything in her path, to accomplish her goal, like houses, street posts, and cars. It wasn’t built to be so powerful, but it was built to modify itself to the needs of its patients, and that’s where the problem lies. Remember, the officials have no idea why the robot bed has gone rogue, and keep speculating that it is abducting the old man (which it is, but with good intentions). This is the case of  an AI that isn’t actually malevolent, but as in a lot of Japanese films, creates havoc while doing its job too well, which is an attitude not often seen in American made movies of the same type.

 

Ajin

This is another one of those Manga movies I never read, but I enjoyed this live action version, about a private war between these two immortal mutants, one of whom wants to destroy humanity for experimenting on his kind, and the other trying to protect humanity from him. Or that’s what I got out of the plot, because I watched a version of this that had no English translation. It’s got a lot of the old ultra violence in it though, which I appreciated.

Since there were no subtitles, I didn’t catch any deeper themes in the movie, but I loved the special effects, where their bodies reconstituted after their deaths, and they produce these ghostlike creatures (which look like they’re made of ashes) which battle each other kind of like Pokémon, which was fun.

 

 

Monstrum

If you are a fan of the Kingdom series, and Train to Busan, than you should check this movie out, if you can find it. It’s very much in the same sort of vein as Kingdom, in that it’s an historical monster movie, with gorgeous costumes, clever swordplay, and elements of class warfare. Where Kingdom and it’s cinematic counterpart (Rampart) contain zombies, this one just has a random giant monster.

The movie it most reminded me of was Alien 3, actually, but with more likable characters, and a more streamlined plot.  The king receives some sort of dog like pet, which soon grows to tremendous size and becomes untrainable. The king keeps it locked up in his dungeon, where it’s gone more than a little feral, but some bright soul sets it  free, presumably to destroy their enemies, the creature goes on a rampage through the capitol, and must be stopped by a hero with a bad reputation. It’s not an especially deep film, but it was a really good, straight up, horror movie, with lots of suspense. If you liked Bong Joon Ho’s The Host, then you’ll like this one, too, which is like an historical version of that film. 

 

 

Tokyo Ghoul

This was another movie I watched without subtitles. What I got out of it was this young man who discovers he’s a creature called a ghoul, which feeds on human beings, and he spends most of the movie having tentacle battles with the other ghouls. There are a lot of tentacles in this movie. That’s mostly what I remember. That, and I thought the movie had some truly disgusting scenes, which were, well, mostly just disgusting. It wasn’t particularly scary, or even fun, but it was fascinating in a “The Thing”, kind of way.

There’s a sequel to this movie which I’m debating whether or not I should watch since I didn’t get much out of the first movie beyond “ewwww”.

 

Kipo and the WonderBeasts

I’ve also been watching a lot more stuff that’s fun, stress free, and animated. Kipo definitely fits those criteria. This cartoon was sooo much fun! All the characters, outside of the Wonderbeasts are PoC, one of which is gay, it’s funny, has a lot of adventure, is reasonably intelligent for kids. I’d also like to add just one more thing to make you watch this:

‘ Drum & Bass’ Bees

or Giant Disco Bees, as I like to refer to them.

The story takes place far into some Earthlike future, where most humans are living in underground cities. After a horrible incident, Kipo gets separated from her father, and the rest of her community, and stranded on the surface, where she has to make friends and allies, to help her find her way back underground. It’s also a found family story as we watch these very different characters, with different attitudes and agendas bond, and have adventures.

if like me, things are just too stressful to watch horror movies, or thrillers right now, then series and movies like Kipo are well worth the watch. 

Also Watched:

Penny Dreadful (New show)

What We Do in the Shadows (Second Season is off to a hilarious start.)

Brooklyn 99 Finale (This was a great season! Jake and Amy’s baby is born in the final episode. Holt’s arch-nemesis, Munch, dies. We get a Halloween Heist episode, and we get an episode focusing on Cheddar, and Kevin.)

Schitt’s Creek Final Season (This was such a great show. It’s deeply funny, really sweet, it has great characters and character arcs, and moments of real pathos. It had a beautiful finale, culminating in the wedding of one of the lead characters, to his husband, after two years. It’s not too emotionally taxing, and a lot of fun. One of the most underrated shows on Netflix.)

Thangs I Looked At: Movie Mini Reviews

Here are three films I watched in February. For the record, although I had some mild criticisms, I generally liked them, and  I especially enjoyed the Terminator film, which I wasn’t entirely certain I would, since no one was talking about it.

Terminator: Dark Fate

Image result for terminaotr dark fate gifs

I was initially very excited when I saw the trailer for this movie, but ultimately didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters. After that, I didn’t hear much about it. I dont normally get too worked up about films, that I think are going to be popular, bombing at the box office, because there are at least half a dozen reasons I won’t   see it, no mater how excited I am about it. I figured that’s probably much the case with a lot of films that bomb. In other words, films bomb for a whole variety of reasons, that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the film’s quality.

And the quality of this latest entry in the Terminator franchise is very excellent. You should really check it out when you get a chance. I liked it every bit as much as I thought I would, ,and you will remember I was very excited about the trailer. It even did a couple of things I wasn’t expecting as far as plot and characters.

The basic plot sort of parallels the Sarah Connor plot from the first movie, but is much more personal. Dani isn’t the savior of the world, she is the savior of one person in particular, and Sarah comes along for the ride. The Terminator is very interesting, combining both elements of the original T-800, and the Liquid version from T2.

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What was surprising about the movie is how female-centric it was, while touching on a lot of themes. Nearly all the characters are women, and they control the plot points in this movie. Sarah’s character reminded me  of Laurie Strode, from the most recent Halloween movie, in that she is a broken and horribly traumatized woman. I always find it interesting when female characters are deliberately written to be unlikable, and that is  the case here. Sarah is kind of an asshole, who butts heads with everyone. She is mean, and bitter, the sneer never leaves her face, and this is acceptable to the viewer, because she is  definitely hurting, and broken, because of an event that happened after she and John saved the world’s future. The movie is as much about her trauma as it is about saving Dani. It is a heavy movie, with the only comic relief provided by an old school Terminator, played by Schwarzeneggar, as a drapery salesman named Carl, who is married to a woman he doesn’t have sex with, and doesn’t know what he is! Once you  wrap your head around all that, the movie is an action fest every bit as good as Fury Road, only  less zany.

The movie takes place largely in Mexico, and at one point, Dani, and the others must sneak into the US, but get locked up in one of the Border camps, so the movie went there, which was interesting, because I didn’t think it would. While no one says anything outright, the framing of those scenes show strong disapproval of what’s happening there, as the Terminator bursts in and slaughters half the border guards, and steals a helicopter.

The Terminator is played by one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Luna, who I got a kick out of watching in the SHIELD series, as the Ghost Rider. His technology isn’t just a blend of the two styles of Terminator we’ve seen, but so is his demeanor, which is especially chilling, because he seems very, innocuous, normal, and friendly, right up until you die.

Image result for terminaotr dark fate gifs

The stand out character for me though was Grace, who is awesome. I’m saving a special place in my personal pantheon for Grace, (as not too many white women, Ellen Ripley and Furiosa being the only two,  manage to get into it), who can definitely carry an action scene. The last time I saw that particular actress, she was playing a replicant, in Bladerunner 2049, and here she is playing another half human character. Grace is much like her name, moving and fighting in exactly the manner you’d expect of a technologically enhanced human being, and some of the most exhilarating scenes, are watching her go toe to toe with the Terminator, and matching him hit for hit. She doesn’t actually defeat him, but she is his equal.

The ending of the movie is bittersweet, but I liked it. I liked the entire film. There are no slow moments. Nothing is wasted, and I liked the love/hate dynamics between the female characters, which felt organic, and not just thrown in for drama’s sake. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should check it out, just to watch Schwarzeneggar’s role as Carl, and here him complain about people’s bad taste in draperies, in his usual  monotone.

 

 

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Image result for spiderman far from home gifs

Despite a couple of hiccups, I genuinely liked this movie. I don’t think it’s as good as the first film, but that one had some  novelty behind it in being Tom Hollands first full length term as Spiderman. This one is okay. Its not great. I wouldn’t put it anywhere near Maguire’s Spiderman 2, but its fun and watchable. The teenagers act like teens ,and the love story between Pete and MJ is really cute. This is funnier than the first film, and a  genuine comedy, until it gets near the end, when things get a bit more serious. As with most comedies your mileage may vary. I thought a few of the jokes landed badly, but mostly of them hit their mark, at least for me.

The most annoying part of the movie however,  is the continuing attachment of Tony Stark to Peter’s storyline. He’s still cleaning up Stark’s messes, even after he’s dead. I suspect that will be going on in the MCU for some time, since one of Tony’s major superpowers was  pissing off powerful creatures and/or people. Probably half the villains in the MCU can be traced back to something Tony said or did to some hapless supplicant, and that is the origin story behind Mysterio.

I also found it annoying that everyone assumes Peter wants to take up Tony Stark’s mantle, and do what he did, only as Spiderman. Just let the child be himself ffs! Why does anyone have to step into Tony’s shoes? On the other hand, the movie does mention (rather roughly) some of the issues that happened in the aftermath of  the Snap and the Return, (in this movie its called the Blip), and how much society was upheaved by both those events. I thought it was an intriguing idea  that the world was just as upset by everyone’s return, after five years, as it was by the trauma of their disappearance.

Well, anyway the movie is still fun, and full of lots of humorous moments, regardless of Tony’s ghost hanging around this movie, and I have watched it a couple of times, since its release. Like the first movie, it doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, until the end, when Peter directly goes up against Mysterio.

I liked this just fine. Its not great. Its not even as good as Homecoming, but it’s a well spent Saturday afternoon or evening.

 

 

 

John Wick 3: Parabellum

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Wow! This movie was a wild ride from start to finish. I don’t even know where to begin, I want to call this a hot ass mess, but that would imply I didn’t like it. In fact, I loved it! But yes, it is a hot ass, but very enjoyable, cray-cray mess. its like a Jason Statham, Fast and Furious movie, only with a real budget, if you catch my meaning.

Like the last movie, it picks up where it left off, with Wick being hunted by the Assassin’s guild which he used to be a member of. He’s got to find some old colleagues to help him stay alive, and they of curse come immediately into danger. One of those old friends, Sofia,  is played by Halle Berry, who owns a couple of  Belgian Mallinois, that she has specifically trained to kick ass, on her command, and that part of the movie is lots of fun to watch. I don’t get to watch Halle kick ass too often, so watching this fifty plus year old Black woman throwing  hands was a real treat.

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Another treat was watching Mark Dacascos chew the scenery, and get some genuinely funny lines, as a major villain who just wants to take John down, and supplant him as the boogeyman of assassins. I hadn’t seen Mark in a while, so it was fun to watch this professional ass-kicker throw down, even if the bald head was kind of jarring.

In the meantime, while John is trying to get his shit together there’s an actual assassins cabal, that oversees the assassin’s guild. Since John was “excommunicated”, he’s gotten help from a few friends, including Lawrence Fishburne, as the King of New York, and all their lives are put in danger, because one of the rules is that if you are a member of the guild in good standing, you have to turn in those who are excommunicated.

So the plot becomes a lot more complex, along with all the stuntwork. The John Wick movies are not especially deep, but they are great fun, even though they’re incredibly violent. Part of the reason people don’t mind the violence, quite so much, is that it’s de-mystified by the extras and behind the scenes videos, that show how are the stuntwork gets done, and watching the behind the scenes videos are just as much fun as watching

Things I looked At: Mini Streaming Reviews (February)

Here’s a short list of things I watched on Netflix and other streaming services, mostly at random. I just clicked on or rented stuff that had pretty promo pictures,  happened to be a subject I’m interested in, or was recommended to me by some algorithm. Not all of these are TV series, however. A few are movies, but I decided to include them, because watching them on a streaming service was really the only way I was ever going to watch them.

 

Rurouni Kenshin

These movies are based on the Samurai X manga. I don’t know if this is like the anime, because I have never watched that, and  have only a passing familiarity with the Manga, which I read many years ago, but remember liking. These movies (there are three of them so far, with more to come later this year), heavily remind me of Blade of the Immortal, which was brutal, bloody, fun, only these have a slightly, “relatively”, more positive message, and a sense of humor. Well, I laughed at it, but y’all know I’m weird.

In the first movie, the lead character, named Kenshin, is a former assassin, who decided to give up killing, and wander the countryside helping people. This appears to be a very popular theme, because its basically the same plot of Blade of the Immortal, and a bunch of other samurai movies. A young woman who runs a martial arts school of some kind, stumbles across the protagonist, and he decides to help her with a problem she’s having with a rival school, that wants to take over hers.

A plot by some minor government official to take over the government in some drug related scheme, and a couple of Kenshin’s old enemies coming back to get revenge, give plenty of opportunities for fight scenes ,which are also interesting, because although Kenshin has decided to give up killing, he still carries a sword, but its a a reverse katana, with the killing edge on the wrong side. He can swing it expertly, but it takes a conscious effort to use it to kill, which he has promised his love interest he would never do again, and opens up some interesting dialogues about pacifism, and to what purpose  violence is used.

But mostly, its just a lot of really exhilarating sword fights. I loved watching the fight scenes, especially Kenshin’s fighting style, which is fast, and inventive. Because he’s not actually trying to kill many of his opponents, but they have no problem taking his life, the fights never get boring, and if that’s what you’re looking for in a martial arts film, then check out the entire trilogy.

At least two of these movies are available on YouTube, and there wasn’t any English translation for the one I watched. So not having it be dubbed or subbed, made me deeply curious about the conversations the characters are having with each other, during the fight scenes, where they often pause in their sword swinging, to exchange words. When I finally got to see the translated versions, it turned out that those conversations were completely unimportant, and that most of the deeper philosophical discussions, take place during character monologues.

 

 

 

Attack on Titan

Wow! These movies were awesome, emotionally draining, and  very energetic. There are few slow moments in them, and not much of either movie’s time is wasted.

Once again, I’ve only read a couple of the books, one of which was an anthology. I’ve never watched any of the anime, and I have only a passing idea what all this is  about, from watching some of the most terrifying trailers I’ve ever seen, and people talking about it on Tumblr. I don’t know how close the plot of  this movie, and its direct sequel, is to the original manga. The basic plotline is the same though.

Humanity lives in walled cities, to protect themselves from massive, (once human), beings, that have a nasty habit of eating the smaller versions. The movie is pretty graphic about this. There’s a lot of body horror, as people are grabbed, eaten, squeezed, pulled apart, stepped on, and otherwise massacred, by these giant gluttonous monsters. There’s also a certain amount of body horror with the monsters too. They are humanoid creatures with disfigured faces, and bodies, who are always eagerly smiling.

It’s interesting that one of the tropes of Japanese Horror films is the grinning monster, with probably the only American equivalent to this being evil clowns, and Japan does not have that trope. I personally find grinning, (non-human), monsters pretty horrible too, but I don’t see as much of that in American horror, but then Americans tend to be much more emotionally open in public, too. I suppose, in a society where privacy, reserve, (and melancholy), is encouraged, someone walking around with a massive cheerful grin would immediately mark themselves as other than normal, possibly even monstrous, and certainly untrustworthy. Its not that Japanese people can’t be zany, or don’t have emotions, its just that in the interest of personal privacy, they try to keep it themselves, a close circle of friends, or on TV shows.

There’s also a group of soldiers, and volunteers who create a new method for killing the Titans, that requires them to engage in a little too up close and personal manner, as the Titans are nearly impossible to kill, in any normal fashion. There is a lot of dismemberment, and eating, of the brave soldiers. We follow their adventures, and  interactions, although I did find myself not caring too deeply about them,  because I don’t feel that the focus here was on character development. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything for the characters, so much as their relationships with each other were sort of underwhelmng, next to the horror of what was happening to them. I was also irritated with them, as there are a lot of images of them just standing about and staring, as the Titans do stuff. I kept yelling at my TV because the humans simply were not taking adequate precautions to save their own lives, like dodging, or running away. On the other hand, I do live in Tornado Alley, so I’m guessing that watching giant things move slowly across a landscape, is something that is universally hypnotic.

In the first movie, the humans are living  peacefully, the idea of the Titans  is long ago and far away, until a brand new Titan shows up, that is significantly larger and stronger than any Titan seen before it. It turns out that the Titans do have some residual intelligence, as they have deployed this new guy to break down the walls, so they can just walk in and feast, and the humans are just not ready for any of it. In the second film, the people rally, and with the help of a half human/half Titan, and even a little bit of martial arts, (because that is a requirement for all Asian action movies), they manage to defeat them, or at least make them go back  wherever they came from.

There’s a lot of nudity, because naturally the Titans don’t wear clothes, and lots of bloody and disgusting things happen to the human body, so be warned. You kind of have to be in a certain mood to watch it.

 

 

Inuyashiki

What I was expecting when I saw the trailer for this was a wacky, Japanese romp with superpowers,. To be fair, the trailer I saw didn’t have captions, and I might not have been paying as close attention as I should have been, but the trailer does mostly focus on all the action scenes. This movie is not a comedy. While its message was a bit heavy handed, and there were definitely some tears, I actually did enjoy this. It wasn’t what I expected, but I’ve learned, over the years, not to be angry at getting the unexpected in a story. I only get angry when I get LESS than what I expect, and I got a lovely and moving story of  family dynamics, reparation of father /daughter relationships, and loneliness. Keep in mind that I hadn’t even read any of the Manga, if such exists, let alone seen any anime. I walked into this movie completely blind, except  for having watched the trailer.

Inuyashiki is the story of an old man, (the title character), who is having a very bad day. He is a deeply lonely, and isolated man, who, one day, finds out that he is in the end stages of cancer, gets  bullied at work, and then loses his job. He is emotionally distant from his wife, son, and daughter, and finds it impossible to tell them not just about his impending death, but his real feelings for them. His daughter is especially angry, because he has never shown her how much he cares about them, although this is stated as a lack of protection, since he kept telling them that the reason he worked so hard, and was never home, was to protect their future. I was starting to get really annoyed with how much of an asshole she was, until I realized there was a point to it.

Inuyashiki goes to the park one night, gets kidnapped by aliens, and in their efforts to cure him, (at least that’s what I think they may have been doing, because its never stated in the movie why the aliens did this), they turn him into a machine/cyborg, who is able to manifest machine parts, weapons, and even fly, possibly done through nanites. The very first thing he does with his powers, is heal a little boy, who is dying of cancer, at his hospital. This outlines the type of man he is, that the first thing he does after getting superpowers, is to save another life. These superpowers are yet another thing he cannot tell his family, but he does confide in one of his daughter’s classmates, who coaches him in how to use his new superpowers.

At the same time, another student, the close friend of Inuyashiki’s coach, whose name is Shishigami, is also kidnapped at the park, and turned into a robot of some kind. Both he and Inuyashiki were both in the same place emotionally. They were alone and depressed, and dealing with highly volatile issues. In Shishigami’s case, it is school bullying, and the death of his mother, from cancer. Shishigami does share knowledge of his new abilities with his best friend, but it says a lot about his character that he demonstrates his abilities by killing an innocent creature. Shishigami of course meant to go on as he started. he becomes first a murderer, and then a mass killer, with his superpowers allowing him to kill people through their phones and other video screens.

We have these two men, both of them undergoing uniquely personal tragedies, but their reactions are completely different. Inuyahsiki dedicates himself to saving lives, and Shishigami decides to do the opposite. Inuyahshiki  is an old man, at the end of his life, so  finds life more precious than Shishigami, who is young and angry at having been mistreated by his classmates, and can only think of revenge. Shishigami is unable to think of life as precious, viewing people as disposable, and this is how he treats most of his victims. The first time he kills people, its just a random family whose home he invaded. He is brutal, without mercy, and unnecessarily cruel. When he finds out his mother has cancer, he saves her life, but in his rage at the unfairness of it, he decides to kill more people. For Inuyashiki, all life is  beautiful however, and he works hard not to kill Shishigami, understanding his pain, and viewing even his cruel existence as precious, and salvageable.

Needless to say, the two of them are on a collision course ,as Inuyashiki sets out to stop Shishigami from killing people, and the last third of the movie is taken up with their furious, and energetic, battling through the skies of the city of Tokyo, which is what you see in the trailer. Ultimately. during all this fighting, Inuyahsiki’s daughter’s life ends up in danger, and he gets plenty of opportunities to protect her from his nemesis. This results in her discovering her father’s superpowers, of course, and a reconciliation between them, as they both share this new thing that mom doesn’t  know about.

I found the whole thing very touching, even if it was, as I said, a little heavy handed in its messaging. One of the interesting things about a lot of Japanese genre movies is that characters rarely exchange important information with each other. The dialogue between characters is often kept very simple and unremarkable, while most of the important things get said in monologues, with characters appearing to just talk to themselves in the middle of some important event. That’s something that, once you notice it, takes a little getting used to, but over all, I liked the movie,   its message, and it was worth the time I spent watching it.

 

 

Wellington Paranormal

Ever since Barney Miller, I’ve had this thing about cop comedies, and I don’t know what that’s about. I won’t watch dramatic cop shows, and generally spurn mystery thriller cop shows, unless Black actors are the stars. From shows like Barney Miller, Reno 911, Brooklyn 99, and Monk, to movies like Beverly Hills Cop, Hot Fuzz, and Mall Cop,  to The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, I’m noticing a trend. I’m attracted to laughing at, and with, cops. So Wellington Paranormal is right up my alley ,as it contains three of my favorite topics, the paranormal, and cops who are deeply funny.

Wellington Paranormal is  a loose spinoff of the movie What We Do In The Shadows, about the adventures of four vampires living as flatmates in New Zealand. Its also the second spinoff from the movie, as the first one, a series with the same name, and basic setup,  is set in America. In the movie, there’s a scene where the police get called to the vampire’s house, because the neighbors were concerned, when the vampires were engaging in some general domestic violence.

Wackily, this show is about the two cops who get called to the house, Officers Minoghe, and O’Leary (their actual real life names). If you have seen the movie, (and if you haven’t, you need to, even if you never watch either of the spinoffs), then the blithe obviousness of the two cops is the basic attitude of the show, as the two of them get conscripted by their boss, (Sgt. Maaka Pohatu), to deal with paranormal events and situations in the city of Wellington.

In the first season, they deal with such silliness as  a body swapping demon (shoutout to The Exorcist), zombies, and werewolves, while giving each one of these issues about the same amount of portentous gravity, which means none at all. O’Leary and Minogue are the anti-Scully and Mulder of the detection world, and that is never not funny to me. The two of them find a way to make even the wildest, most batshit of circumstances, appear utterly mundane, which is where most of the humor comes from, but at least 20% of the humor comes from their interactions with each other, and their boss, who takes things way too seriously.

In the second season, they tackle a town full of alien clones of themselves, in a direct callback to  The X-Files, a possessed car, a group of high school witches, in a shoutout to the Midwich Cuckoos, and some possessed cell phones. So yeah, the creator’s reference game is on point, and another nice gesture is that their boss gets a lot more airtime in the series. The closest comparison for some people will probably be Brooklyn 99, but its really not much like that. Its more of an X-Files parody, so if you liked that show, and would like to see it treated  it with the level of  silliness it deserved, then you will probably have to pirate it, as its not available in the US.

Talking About Stuff On The Interwebz

On Watchmen

I had so much love for this show! Too bad its not going to get a second season, at least not according to the showrunner, which makes me only mildly upset, because really, its better to go out on top, then to dribble off in shame. Lindhelof says that what we saw is all of the story, and he doesn’t have any ideas for a second season, although he has given HBO his blessing to continue the show without him. I would prefer that the show simply end now, to  introducing a new and mediocre showrunner, for the second season anyway, which is the problem that American Gods has run into.

American Gods  should have just stopped at season one, with Bryan Fuller who, no matter which shows he works on, is just really hard to top. The same thing happened with ST:Discovery. On the other hand, if HBO  wanted to bring in Fuller, for a second season of Watchmen, I would be totally on board with that. The show is so rich, I just know he’d do some awesome work with it, but as it stands HBO isn’t looking at a second season right now, and the show has not been renewed.

Related image

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/12/09/the-incendiary-aims-of-hbos-watchmen

 

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/hbo-watchmen-hooded-justice-costume/

https://www.slashfilm.com/watchmen-and-race/

https://themuse.jezebel.com/god-is-black-and-nobody-batted-an-eye-1840460304

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On Black Film

The first link is a list of 84 films that starred or were directed by women of color.

The second link is an article about why Black art and film criticism requires diversity. Because really the only people who can cogently discuss aspects of the culture that are represented in art, are Black people. Its not that white people don’t have opinions, its just their opinions carry less weight because most of them just don’t know enough about Black culture, to be able to speak on it, with any clarity.

And finally, a video on why we need to make more movies about Black people just being happy, and living our lives, without some criminal or racial crisis involved.

Image result for black joy

https://www.indiewire.com/t/directors/

https://wearyourvoicemag.com/entertainment-culture/all-black-art-deserves-valid-critique

 

http://blackyouthproject.com/waiting-wakanda-black-joy-film-epic-resistance/

 

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On Horror

Here are a number of opinion posts from The Artifice, on the subject of Horror and its themes. I’m going to urge everyone to visit the site, as it contains some of the best film writing and criticism on the internet. There’s not a lot of diversity, the people there pretty much stay in their lane, and are not professional writers for the most part, but its far better than a lot of the Bro’tube videos about pop culture.

https://the-artifice.com/wrong-turn-2003/

 

https://the-artifice.com/maternal-horror-films-dysfunctional-mother/

 

https://the-artifice.com/silence-horror/

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And from Medium.com

I can’t link to Medium articles here ,but here are some titles and authors to look for, should you give the place a visit. And be sure to check out my last post about Horror movies set in the suburbs.

Recently, Stephen King weighed in on the issue of diversity at the Oscars. (There isn’t any.) Considering that this is the same man who insisted on putting at least one magical negro in every single one of his earlier novels, (and a couple of his more recent ones, too), he really should have just kept his opinion to himself. In all fairness though, after he had the situation explained to him, he did backtrack a little bit on his statement.

Stephen King Needs More Black Friends

As decades of his Black characters show, one tone-deaf tweet is the least of his problems
Also:
One thing that is deeply funny about this topic, at least for me, is that I actually have met, what I like to call, “Magical Negroes” in my own life. Several times, Black people have shown up to help me with some issue, and then afterwards they disappeared for me to never see or hear from them ever again.
I was practicing for my driving test one day, in an empty parking lot near my house, and some guy (who was, as King would probably say, “four sheets to the wind”) came along to teach me how to parallel park, and how to back into a parking space. This went on for a while, and he was incredibly helpful, for someone who was very probably drunk. I went home afterward, but I never saw that man in my neighborhood again, although to be honest, I’d never seen him before the event either, and I’m reasonably familiar with the people in my neighborhood. This has happened to me several times in my life. Strangers who show up, help me do something, and then disappear, and well… I have questions!

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On this subject, I said in another post, that this is what fandom has devolved to, at this point, where media consumers have become so toxic, that they think they can just harass the actors they don’t like, off social media, since it worked in a few cases. But I have to ask, what do any of these campaigns gain from  this? Although such people are incredibly loud, there simply aren’t enough of them, in population size, to affect the bottom lines of any of the corporations these actors work for. Their fleeting victories, sending actors off social media, and downvoting movies on Rotten Tomatoes, and Netflix, are just that. Fleeting, and ultimately unimportant.
Not only have they engaged in harassing movie actors, they have harassed other fans who simply don’t agree with them, (which is separate from the racism and misogyny that normally goes on in fandom). The vast majority of people (and this is just the ones who watch these movies), know nothing about what’s going on, what these people have been doing (beyond what’s been reported in mainstream media), or even why its being done.
These “fans” have accomplished nothing, but have become so used to bullying actors off the internet, that they were really surprised that Boyega didn’t leave, and they most certainly believe they are more influential than they actually are. In fact, like the strong Black man he claimed to be, he stood his ground, took no shit, and clapped right back at them, so that now the White women who started this beef with him, by personally @ing him, on his Twitter account, are  now whining that he is hurting them, somehow! It’s all perfectly batshit, and also completely useless. He still has a career. He’s still going to be working, and now that he no longer under contract with Disney, he can say what he wants on social media, with a freedom he didn’t have before.
I asked Nicole (the writer) if I could have her permission to post an excerpt from her Tumblr blog here, and she kindly gave consent. If you’re not familiar with the complete White Feminism Racefail of 2020,  here’s a decent rundown of those events.

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John Boyega and the Racism of Fandom

A look into the harassment John Boyega has faced at the hands of rabid Star Wars fans

Everything came to a head not just with John’s post about how he felt about Reylo, but he posted a video on his Instagram. In the video, it shows Boyega responding to his harassment by attacking the responses. Instead of realizing they were wrong, many Reylos started to accuse him of bullying them. It didn’t matter if they were the ones who replied to John with racist, degrading comments and it also didn’t matter that the comments they made were public: they couldn’t be held responsible. it’s John’s fault for not taking abuse silently. Some people are so upset about this, they’re already planning smear campaigns for his upcoming movies.

Back Down Memory Lane…Again

Cleopatra 2525 (2000-2001)

Even though I watched this show for its entire two season run,  I don’t actually remember a whole lot about this show, except that it was cheesy, cheap, and starred the modern Goddess, Gina Torres, She of the Divine Facial Features. Perhaps that’s all one actually needs to know about this show to be intrigued.

This was girl-power before such a phrase existed, or rather, somewhere around the same time that it came into being. The term girl-power has been around for a very, very, long time. I remember it being mentioned on The Powerpuff Girls, when I watched that show with my baby sisters, when they were, in fact, actual babies!

Anyway, the basic plot is that the young blonde girl, whose name is actually Cleo, although she’s not important while standing next to Gina,  was an exotic dancer, who got put in a Futurama type situation, where she wakes up so far into the future, that the world has become completely unrecognizable to her. She joins these two young women who are fighting against some type of totalitarian authority that likes to use drones, cameras, and an evil clown type guy to oppress them. Its really is kind of like Tank Girl meets Futurama meets Charlie’s Angels, as there were at least some good action scenes.

Once again YouTube has full episodes of this show, so check them out and let me know what you think, unless of course, you are going to argue against the beauteous divinity of Gina Torres, in which case you can keep that shit to yourself!

 

 

Special Unit 2 (2001-2002)

Not to be confused with Special Unit, which was your standard police procedural, this is Special Unit 2, a standard police procedural starring paranormal creatures. I remember eagerly looking forward to this becasue Buffy the Vampire Slayer was airing around the same time ,and this was a cheap, funny knockoff blend of that and a cop show.

The show really didn’t take itself at all seriously, it was zany and cheesy, and actually pretty funny. Or rather, it fit my idea of deeply funny, at the time I watched it, since I was just a kitten then. I don’t know that my humor has changed all that much, but I’m about to find out, as I plan to watch it again, since a lot of the episodes are available for free, on YouTube.

The show is about Nick and Kate, two seemingly regular cops who are part of a special unit of the Chicago PD, who deal with things like dragons, unicorns, elves, and gnomes, while trying to keep these creatures a secret from the rest of society. Needless to say, a lot of lying is involved. The show really did try to mine the Buffy and X-Files shows for some of its plots, and occasionally got a little serious too, although there was a lot of it that was played for laughs, including a gnome type character who worked in the office, and specialized in being a thief. I remember really enjoying the acting on this show, which was played very tongue in cheek by both Nick and Kate, with surprisingly little of the “will they-won’t they” dynamic that seemed required of such shows.

In fact, of all the characters Kate was probably my favorite, next to the, highly irreverent Carl, the Office Gnome. The show was interesting because Kate was the show’s regular everyperson, who stumbles onto some grand secret of the world, and is the audience’s stand-in, as we learn about this world at the same time, and this was probably why I liked her, since female, audience stand-ins, are kind of rare in this genre.

 

 

Haunted

I remember really liking this show, at the time, because there really wasn’t anything else like on the air at the time, except maybe Millennium, and the X-Files, and Angel, and even those shows attempted some occasional lightheartedness. This show did none of that. It remained horribly gloomy right up until the end of its seven episode run, and the dark gloominess of it was probably why.  There was almost no color in this show, except for the presence of that one Black guy these shows had to hire, to reach compliance for diversity back then. The show starred Matthew Fox, before he became famous for starring in the show Lost. I did not understand his appeal in that show but I did get the whole brooding loner thing in Haunted.

Matt Fox is a private detective, named Frank, who once got killed by a serial killer of young boys,  who now hunts for missing people. Oh, and because he died that one time, he can now see ghosts. Specifically he is haunted by the spirit of his own missing son, whose disappearance caused the collapse of his marriage, and he can also see the spirit of  the serial killer, Simon, whose accidental  death he caused, which also cost him his job. I loved the show, and it was largely because of the presence of Matthew Fox’s acting skills, and the cinematography, because the show was gorgeous, with lots of black, grey, and rain.

I managed to find a couple of episodes on Youtube, which is where dead shows go, apparently, and I’ve actually re-enjoyed the couple I watched.

 

 

Reaper

This was another show that I remember was a lot of fun. Not so much for its first season, but in the second season the show made a  u-turn, and kicked the plot into high gear. The writing got better, and the characters were energetic and fun, unlike the first season where the actors tried to take things a little too seriously for the silliness of the plot.

It starred that guy from Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, Tyler Labine ,who was the sidekick of the lead character, Sam, a slacker who had  somehow been  coerced into collecting souls for Satan. I don’t remember liking Sam very much in the first season, but in the second season things got better when he found out the reason why he’d been chosen to be a Reaper was because he was Satan’s son, with Satan being played by the most excellent Ray Wise, who for some reason, was named Jerry. I remember thinking Wise was waaay out of league for this show, becasue he made what was otherwise simply a “meh” show, a very good one.

Despite Sam being the son of Satan, he continued to be whiny and incompetent at his job, and was most often saved by his accomplices, an ex-girlfriend from school, and Tyler’s character. Strangely, it’s often Satan who comes off looking sympathetic in this show, even while committing what are clearly evil acts, or acts that are at least deeply annoying ones for Sam. He and Sam used to have interesting discussions about the nature of Heaven and Hell, and why Satan can’t eat ice cream.

 

Witchblade

This was a very short lived series based on the comic books. I had actually been reading the comics right before the series was announced so I was very excited to see what they were going to do with the show. The trailers were intriguing and I liked the actress Yancey Butler, who I had last seen in the movie, Hard Target, years before. The show proved to be not as exciting as the trailers lead me to believe. The actng was fine, but the plot didn’t actually seem to go anywhere, and some of  had nothing to do with what I read in the comics. On the other hand, there were some hot guys in it, so there…

I feel like I need to explain what the Witchblade is to people who have never even heard of it, since this show has been off the air for almost twenty years, and has largely been forgotten except by its die-hard fans. Its a mystical gauntlet, suit of armor, that’s intelligent, chooses its wearer, and forms a partnership with them. They can hear it speaking, although I saw no evidence of this ability in the show. It was an extremely powerful McGuffin, that all of the other characters seemed to want, even though those who werent worthy of wearing it could potentially lose their arm.

Now we need to talk about the actress Yancey Butler. This is complicated because for the past twenty years, she’s had some substance abuse issues. At one point, getting arrested for passing out, and crashing her car, after which she was ordered to enter a rehabilitation program. I had to read about that on her IMDB page. She has started acting again (and is as beautiful as she ever was despite all her troubles), and is active on Twitter now, which is how I heard about her newest movie. At any rate, her problems didn’t start with the show, and I distinctly  remember reading about some of the problems she had  on set because of them.

Yancey,  like  countless women before her is a beautiful woman who developed substance abuse issues while working in Hollywood. I don’t know for sure if this was a problem before she started work as an actress, but I do know that Hollywood is a toxic place, that regularly chews up young actors, and then spits them out, severely damaged. And after #MeToo brought this knowledge into the mainstream, in a different way than before, its very difficult for me to believe that sexual assault and sexual exploitation doesn’t have at least some role to play in the massive amounts of substance abuse that we see in its participants. I sincerely hope that was not the case with Yancey, that she has gotten the help she needed, and worked past her demons.

 

 

 

 

Kindred: The Embraced

This show was loosely based on the role playing game, Vampire The Masquerade, which I never actually played, although I did read a few of the guide books, so I knew a lil’ sumthin-sumthin’ about that universe. So when I say it was loosely based on it, I mean exactly that. The show was pretty damn loose. So loose,  that all it seemed to have in common with the game, was its vocabulary. It was like someone read the books, but then  decided to base the show on a school book report about those, instead.

That said, I actually, sorta, liked the show. It was bad, yes, but it also had some really intriguing shit in it that kept me watching. Since the show only lasted 8 episodes, I guess other people felt the same way. Its not that the show was awful. It had some great characters in it, but it did have some terrible acting, and the plot became more convoluted with each episode. I guess the closest I can get to describing it is a Vampire Godfather, as it involved clashes between the various vampire clans in a city, along with their rulers, followers, and hangers-on. All of which has something to do with a renegade cop, named Frank, who stumbles across their existence when he falls in love with a female vamp.

The lead character was Julian Luna, played by Mark Frankel, who I thought was Latino, then later believed to be Italian, but turned out to actually be English. I found him interesting mostly because I thought he was pretty, and had a very nice voice. The best character was a member of Clan Nosferatu ,who are very old, deformed, and look somewhat batlike, with talons, long teeth, and pointed ears. Daedalus, as he was called, was played by one of my favorite actors, whose name I forget now, but that actor performed like he was in a Shakespearean play, while Luna acted like he was in the movie The Godfather III, and Frank the cop’s girlfriend, busily being extra, acted like she was in a Gothic soap opera. So the acting and dialogue was all over the place, but it best written for Luna and Daedalus.  I do remember the two had frequent conversations with one another, and that I looked forward to the times when they were onscreen together.

Whenever anyone else was onscreen, the dialogue and acting were cringeworthy at best. There were a couple of star struck young lovers from different clans, who were abysmal in their acting, especially, and I had to look this name up, Brigid Walsh, who played the human descendant of Julian, named Sasha Luna. Dear Jeebus! she was awful, which was not helped by her horrid dialogue. She played that role, as  someone who had perhaps heard of “acting”, by rough description, like she was playing the role of a  “professional angry-face” Model!

I would also like to offer my  apologies in advance for subjecting y’all to these images. Trigger Warning for: music video bad attitude, smirking, sniping, sarcasm, general batshittery, and horrible acting.

 

But the cancellation of this show seemed inevitable,  as soon after, or just before, that happened, Mark Frankel died in a traffic accident, while riding his motorcycle. I distinctly remember the reporting of this on the news,and  feeling some type of way about it.

Hi! Have Some New Movie Trailers!

Hi! Here is a small list of movies that I’m interested in this year. Okay, partially interested in. Some of them I’m not exactly too keen on, but decided to add them here, in the interests of fake fairness.

 

*Quiet Place II 

I kinda like apocalypse movies, so I’m looking forward to this sequel. I may as well put it on my watch list for Summer, because I’m pretty sure my Mom (my movie buddy) is going to mess up my whole movie watching schedule for the Summer, by requesting to see Horror movies. A couple of times, I had to put my foot down and tell her that no we were not going to see the Annabelle movies!

I’m generally not real big on seeing Horror movies in the theater, because its easier to walk out on them when you’re at home, but I kinda know what type of scares to expect, having seen the first movie, so we will probably go see this one.

 

 

New Mutants

I started reading  the New Mutants during its first run waaay back in the 80s, and the primary story was about an Indigenous girl, named Danielle Moonstar, who was haunted by a  demonic bear. She had the ability to create realistic illusions in the minds of the people around her, and the bear had the ability to turn anyone it touched into a kind of demon minion.

I haven’t read that particular comic in decades, but I still vividly remember the images drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz (Sink-o-wits), who  became one of my all-time favorite comic book artists. I also thought the story was pretty scary too, so The New Mutants movie comes by its horror trappings very honestly.

The team consists of Illyana Rasputin, who is the sister of Colossus (from Deadpool) in the comic books. She is a kind of  half demon, who wields a soul sword. Rayne is a werewolf from Ireland. Sam is known as Cannonball, and is capable of flight, and Sunspot is ,well he’s complicated, and scary as f*ck, when you think about his powers. This trailer looks a lot more interesting than that first one we saw which really didn’t excite me very much. This new trailer makes the movie look as if it were worth paying money to see.

All that said, I’m not too keen on seeing this movie because of its overwhelming whiteness. Not a single one of these characters look anything like they have in the comic books for the past thirty years, and I just find that deeply annoying, along with not wanting to watch a bunch of teenagers, and their merely adequate acting skills. But hey, the trailer is cool.

 

 

 

John Henry

I’m really excited to see this one, (even though I still have issues about Black people constantly being associated with criminal activity in movies.) John Henry is one of those folk tales I heard when I was a little girl. I’m not clear if he was a real person or not, (I suspect he was), but he is basically an African American Folk Hero, like our version of Superman.

When Superman died in the comic books, back in the 90′, ,a bunch of different people tried to fill his shoes, and one of them was Steel, (who carries a giant hammer) who was based on John Henry.

Henry even has his own song, which I also learned as a kid. It’s basically a superhero story about a man who raced a steam drill, to tear a hole in a mountain. This was animated by Disney a few years ago, for the movie Legends. (This is not the original music for this short.)

 

This is the first live action version I’ve ever heard of, set in the modern day, and I cannot think of a better person to play this character than Terry Crews.

 

 

Tenet

Yes, yes, yes!!! I am very excited about this. i don’t know that I’ll get chance to see it in the theater, as I did The Dark Knight, but I am eagerly looking forward to Christopher Nolan’s latest thriller, which stars the son of Denzel Washington. Look for the little “time loops” in the trailer! There are several.

Tenet, described as “an action epic evolving from the world of international espionage,” seems to exist in the same complex cinematic conversation as Inception (if not the same universe) — in terms of how it dabbles in both the sci-fi and spy genre, and in regard to its futuristic-yet-grounded world filled with futuristic-yet-grounded technology.

The sequence centers around a terror crisis, and both the law enforcement members and a group of spies who respond to it, with seemingly different motivations. This plays into the specifics of the film’s spy world, as John David Washington’s character even sounds as though he’s speaking in code at one point.

It also contains a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that seemingly showcases the film’s time-warping technology in action, which helps to communicate the sci-fi twist. After the sequence wraps up, the prologue dives into a trailer-like montage, which contains the reversed car flip from the online trailer.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/tenet-imax-prologue-shows-a-time-bending-mission-1264421

https://youtu.be/-BplPeKclvw

 

 

 

Black Widow

Some movies, I’m instantly excited about, whether or not I see a trailer. Black Widow was not one of those movies. I heard they were gonna make it, and my mood was pretty, “Meh, I’m over her.”(It does not help matters that  Scarlett Johannson insists on walking around with her foot firmly planted in her mouth, and its hard to act that way.)

But most people don’t know about her social media gaffes, and, this trailer actually looks like a helluva lot of fun, and this trailer does make me want to see it. A little dose of humor goes a long way with me, because that first trailer was horrible. This one is a lot better, so I predict this is gonna be pretty big, and more than enough to tide people over, until Wonder Woman is released (another movie I don’t particularly care to see, not because I hate the movie, but because I just can’t dredge up enough energy to care about it.)

I really only have one question: When are they gonna make that Kamala Khan movie?

 

 

Free Guy

I like Ryan Reynolds and this just looks like goofy fun. I will not be seeing this in the theater however, because i generally avoid films that involved video games, and while Ryan and his wife have great onscreen presences, their personal life decisions are for shit. I really need to stop reading anything about celebrities. A lot of them suck as people.

 

 

Bloodshot

I probably will not see this in the theater, although I am a fan of the comic books, which it seems there’s like a thousand of them. The action scenes look cool as f*ck though, (I’m cussing, so you know I’m excited about this!), and despite Vin Diesel’s questionable acting skills, and the mediocre plot of having his wife get fridged as a motivator for vengeance, I kinda want to see this. I’ve been spoiled by some really good, smart action films for the past ten years, and while this looks like it has a nice mental twist, it doesn’t look as if it will captivate me, in a theater, for two hours. We’ll see!

 

 

 

The King’s Man

I like this one but probably won’t see this in the theater because I wont be able to get anyone else interested in going to see it with me. Now this movie is a prequel to The Kingsman franchise, is set in a different time period, and boasts a much weightier cast. I don’t know. This movie is giving me Indiana Jones feels, and that’s a good thing, since I like those movies.

 

Honorable Mentions

*Birds of Prey – A Harley Quinn movies, which looks interesting.

Mulan – A live action movie based on the original Chinese story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place in the military.

*The Lovebirds – This one stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, whose good-natured humor has built them a large fan base, so I expect this movie to do well.

*Candyman – A remake of the original 90s movie by Jordan peel, and featuring cameos from the original cast.

*Morbius – I like a good vampire movie, and this is from the same people who made Venom, which I also liked. Morbius is part of the Spiderman universe, and is one of his deadliest villains. He basically eats spider-people. I would have preferred an animated version of this in the style of Into the Spiderverse, but we got Jared Leto instead. Whaddya gonna do?

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – I just really like this stupid title.

Last Night in Soho – I got two words for ya’. Edgar Wright!

*Snakeeyes – This is one of my favorite characters from the G I Joe universe, so I’m looking forward to seeing this. I guess its gonna be an action movie year.

*Halloween Kills – I was one of the few people who seemed to actually enjoy the previous Halloween movie, so I guess I’ll be sitting all alone in the theater, for this sequel.

Eternals – I don’t know what to think about this yet. Its part of the newest phase of the MCU universe. I’m withholding my opinion until i see a trailer.

*Dune – I  like this director, Denis Villenueve, and liked his interpretation of Bladerunner, so I’m looking forward to his version of Dune. I’ve read Dune every couple of years, or so, and I actually enjoy the original film, despite its inaccuracies.

One drawback though is that he doesn’t feature any Black people in his movies that either aren’t criminals, or getting horribly killed. I looked at the casting for this movie, and there is only one Black man in the entire cast (on what is supposedly a desert planet where everyone appears to be lily-White). He plays the character of Jamis, one of the first people killed by Paul when he joins the Fremen. Even though the Fremen are canonically based on Middle eastern tribes, there’s not one MENA person in the cast. Zendaya is in the cast, and I like her a lot, but she is light-skinned, so she is one of those people a director casts, when they want someone of ambiguous ancestry.

I’m starting to give Villenueve a heavy side-eye on his depictions of characters of color. I’m not saying Villenueve is a racist. What I’m saying is that like a lot of White directors,he has never thought about race at all, and so continues to reproduce the same tired, worn, stereotypes of Black and Brown criminals, who need to be punished in the story.

Geeking out About: The Watchmen TV Series

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Last Sunday was the season finale of the nine episode Watchmen TV series, on HBO,  and I’ve been having all kinds of thoughts. From the first episode, to the finale, my thoughts have just been all over the place. This show took me on a journey, but it was satisfying, and I’m not as angry with Lindhelof as I was when the series began. This makes up for some of his past transgressions, like Prometheus, and the ending of Lost. I was exasperated by some of it, some of it galvanized me, and some of it made me feel really, deeply, some type of way. The plot is a little too intricate to get into here, but I have provided plenty of links, for those who are curious.

First off, the series is a direct sequel to the comic book, and not the much maligned movie from a few years ago. This story (most of it) takes place thirty years after the events in the book, with flashbacks to some periods in between. I talked about the setting  in a  mini review.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/october-viewing-list-ii/

 

Review

https://tv.avclub.com/life-on-earth-gets-a-lot-weirder-but-watchmen-continue-1840145375

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And People’s Thinky Thoughts:

 

https://www.vulture.com/article/watchmen-hbo-easter-eggs-references-episode-guide.html

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https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a29592776/watchmen-redfordations-racial-injustice-act-explained/

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a29565670/watchmen-hbo-backlash-controversy-white-supremacy/

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https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/10/20/20919750/watchmen-hbo-regina-king-review-damon-lindelof-race-policing

https://www.thedailybeast.com/hbos-watchmen-pisses-off-comics-fanboys-its-woke-propaganda

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https://www.motherjones.com/media/2019/12/the-best-tv-show-about-racism-was-a-comic-book-fantasia-heres-how-watchmen-did-it/

Most Beautiful Horror Movies

October is long over, but I’m never going to get tired of discussing Horror movies, so you’ll  just have to bear with me.

As a visual artist, movies are very important to me.  It’s part of the reason I love most of the movies I love regardless of their other qualities. I especially love movies that dazzle my  eyes. I chose Horror movies for this post. Horror, and Scifi are the two  genres that are most free to imagine, while breaking the rules of costuming, and makeup, and people really don’t give them enough credit for their beauty.

 

Bride of Frankenstein – The Bride (1935)

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The Monster’s Bride’s makeup and hair are iconic. Anytime its referenced in another movie, and everyone who sees the costume, who knows movies at all, knows where this look is from, the name of it, and the actress who wore it, Elsa Lanchester. The Bride is one of the first female monsters to ever appear on film, with the exception of the 1932 Vampyr, (which featured the first onscreen female vampire, Carmilla).

Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale, and this movie is heavily referenced in the 1998 movie, Gods and Monsters, where we see Whale, (played by  Ian McKellen), get reunited with his monsters, Karloff and Lanchester.

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Us – The Tethered (2019)

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The costumes in this movie are not especially beautiful, but they do have a lot of wealth of meaning, as related to the plot. Here, the costumer, Kym Barrett, and the director, Jordan Peele,  discuss the meaning of the costumes from Us.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/03/us-meaning-costumes-kym-barrett-interview-red-jumpsuit/585793/

https://fashionista.com/2019/03/jordan-peele-us-movie-costumes

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It- Pennywise (2019)

Pennywise’s costume is just a tiny bit uncommon because it  is loosely based on Pedrolino, a sort of generic, French clown from the  Italian commedia dell’arte. At any rate, clowns being scary has a very loooong history. The 2019 version of Pennywise (Skarsgaard), in his white costume and distinct, Pagliacci style,  makeup, is very different in looks, from the television mini-series version, played by Tim Curry, who looked much more traditionally American. The costume designer, Luis Sequeira, is also known for his work on The Shape of Water, (which got him nominated for an Oscar in 2017.)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/warner-home-video/why-is-pennywise-so-scary/

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https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-and-psychology-of-clowns-being-scary-20394516/

You aren’t alone in your fear of makeup-clad entertainers; people have been frightened by clowns for centuries

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Legend- Darkness (1985

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This movie is known for Tim Curry’s portrayal of a Satanic figure, Darkness, who tempts an innocent young virgin to be her worst self. Mia Sara and Tom Cruise star as a pair of star crossed lovers, who run afoul of Curry’s Demon King after Sara’s encounter with a unicorn gets it killed. He uses her guilt at having lured the unicorn to its death to try to turn her into a demon as well. This is  the most underrated straight  Fantasy movie of the 80s, and probably because of the presence of Tom Cruise, that people dismiss it.

This was Ridley Scott’s next big film after Bladerunner, and it has all of his usual markers, in that it is gorgeous, lush, surprisingly sexy, and has a point to make, about good vs. evil, and fate vs. choice. The standout visuals, and the best lines, all belong to Tim Curry. The makeup was designed by Rob Bottin, fresh off his stints on The Howling, and The Thing. The  soundtrack was composed by Tangerine Dream and the costume designer was Charles Knode, who was also responsible for the costumes for Bladerunner.

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Queen of the Damned – Akasha (2002)

i already talked about Akasha, the Egyptian adjacent Queen of the vampires, from Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned.

https://wordpress.com/post/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/80911

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Beetlejuice- Lydia Deetz (1988)

Lydia Deetz, is one of Tim Burton’s most iconic characters, and is also the most well dressed emo, Goth-girl in cinema. Wynona Ryder is  probably the only teenager in America that could pull off wearing a black veil, when not in actual mourning. She remains true to her style, and her nature, even after her parents decide to forgo civilization, and movie to the boonies. It only makes sense that their new house would be haunted by the ghosts of the gentle couple that lived there before them, (along with that rascally scoundrel, and  ne’er do-well, Beetlejuice.)

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The Cell (2000)

The Cell is one of the most beautiful horror movies ever made. A psychologist played by Jenifer Lopez, goes into the dreaming mind of a serial killer, to find the whereabouts of his latest victim, before her time runs out.  Tarsem, the director, who got his start in music videos, was heavily influenced by the some of the more  avante-garde artists who came before him. The costumes for this movie were also designed by Eiko Ishioka, the costumer for 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Artistic Influences

Some of the scenes in The Cell are inspired by works of art. A scene in which a horse is split into sections by falling glass panels was inspired by the works of British artist Damien Hirst. The film also includes scenes based on the work of other late 20th century artists, including Odd NerdrumH. R. Giger and the Brothers Quay.[3] Tarsem—who began his career directing music videos such as En Vogue‘s “Hold On” and R.E.M.‘s “Losing My Religion“—drew upon such imagery for Stargher’s dream sequences. In particular, he was influenced by videos directed by Mark Romanek, such as “Closer” and “The Perfect Drug” by Nine Inch Nails, “Bedtime Story” by Madonna,[4] and the many videos that Floria Sigismondi directed for Marilyn Manson. During a scene, Jennifer Lopez falls asleep watching a film; the film is Fantastic Planet.

In the scene where Catherine talks with Carl while he is “cleaning” his first victim, the scenery resembles the music video “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.. The scene where Peter Novak first enters the mind of Carl Stargher, and is confronted by three women with open mouths to the sky is based on the painting Dawn by Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum. The scene when Catherine Deane is chasing Carl through a stone hallway, right before she enters the room with the horse, is based on a painting by H. R. Giger called “Schacht”.

                      —– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cell#Artistic_influences

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Hellraiser- Pinhead (1988)

Pinhead, as played by the origianl, Doug Bradley,  (although no name was given for the character in either the book or movie), is an iconic horror figure. Even people who have never seen Hellraiser know him. Inspired by Dante, Faust, and  BDSM gear, the silhouette, the headgear, the “its just business” attitude, has itself inspired a line of streetwear.

 

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Bran Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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Although Francis Ford Coppola was confident enough in his interpretation of this classic story to put Bram Stoker’s name on it, there are some significant differences from the original source material, and one of  them is  Dracula is shown as a much more romantic figure. The movie is essentially a love story, whereas in the book, Dracula is much more a figure of horror, and the emphasis is more on his symbolism as a  disease, since at that time, England was very much concerned with the influx of European immigrants. At the time, Eastern Europeans were not considered White, and were said to be of impure blood, and polluting England’s shores.

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Dracula is shown here to be a studly studmuffin in the form of Gary Oldman, who is not normally considered very hawt, but manages to pull it off very well. This movie has some of the most beautiful costuming I’ve ever seen in a horror movie, and it put the designer, Eiko Ishioka, on the map, as the go-to person for freaky/sexy, historical dress.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/eiko-ishioka-japanese-costume-designer-google-doodle-bram-stokers-dracula-gary-oldman-winona-ryder-a7836536.html

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

This movie is a beautiful mashup of historical inaccuracy,  Kung Fu, and steampunk  Monsters!

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The Birds

Tipi Hedren is the epitome of a hip, urban, fashionista of the 60s.

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The Hunger

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as modern day, urban, vampires.

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The Company of Wolves

This classic fairy tale got the 1980s makeover treatment with high fashion and werewolves, courtesy of Neil Jordan, the director of 1992’s Interview with the Vampire.

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Viewing List – November Edition

These are the reviews from things I watched in October and November. I will try to make these as short as possible, but y’all know I’m good at blabbing about TV shows, so wish me luck with that.

 

Dolemite is My Name

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I was kinda excited about seeing this, nevertheless i was surprised by how much I liked this movie, and I can think of no better actor to play Rudy Ray Moore than Eddie Murphy, a comedian I have  always had tremendous respect for, and who really doesn’t get enough credit for all the work he’s done, in the past 30 years.

Now, I have to give a little bit of background here. I grew up in the time period in which this movie is set. I would have been 2 maybe three years old at the beginning of the movie, but I have very distinct memories of grownups being really excited about Moore, and Yes, I did encounter a couple of those racy album covers in my mom’s collection, but I don’t think she knows I remember she was a Rudy Ray Moore fan.

I have a very clear memory of mom, and her then boyfriend, taking us to the Drive-in to watch The Human Tornado, which came out in 1975, and was a sequel to Dolemite.  I would have been five, and my brothers would have been 3 and 4. She would have had the assurance that, since we were babies, we would all be asleep by the opening credits. I don’t think she knows I was wide awake No, I wasn’t scarred for life or anything, but I definitely  remember parts of  the movie, and even some  it’s theme song. I know this is a genuine memory because I have never seen the movie as an adult.

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Anyway, all this to say that this definitely brought back some memories. There are some things about Black culture that only Black people know. I’m gonna let y’all in on a little secret.

Black people have our own stories, which seem to parallel stories from other cultures. Most of them you’ve probably never heard of,  unless you grew up in the culture, or have parents of a certain age, like my Mom. My mom used to tell us stories about the Signifyin’ Monkey, the lion, and the elephant, (only without all the cursing, and never the whole story, since its fairly raunchy.) Probably not the sort of things one would tell one’s kids today, but things were different back, then, and my Mom was kinda weird. It has a pretty long history, too. If you have ever  read American Gods, Anansi tells a story that is directly based on the folklore tale , titled How the Monkey Got the Tiger’s Balls:

Numerous songs and narratives concern the signifying monkey and his interactions with his friends, the Lion and the Elephant. In general, the stories depict the signifying monkey insulting the Lion, but claiming that he is only repeating the Elephant’s words. The Lion then confronts the Elephant, who physically assaults the Lion. The Lion later realizes that the Monkey has been signifyin(g) and has duped him and returns angrily to castrate the monkey, rendering him unable to reproduce.[3]

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

http://mogley.tripod.com/monkey.html  

The Signifyin’ Monkey is part of the Dolemite theme song. Since this is a Rudy Ray Moore biopic, there’s a lot of cursin’, and some mild nudity. Its not half as raunchy as the actual Moore, but I think he’d be satisfied with what was shown in this movie.

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I also enjoyed it outside of the nostalgia factor. There’s a scene, in the early part of the movie, where Rudy encounters a plus size woman whom he recruits into his comedy troupe. This woman later  became known as  Queen Bee, who was every bit as raunchy in her style of comedy as Rudy. The story is arranged in such a way that you’re meant to cheer Rudy as a driven, hard working man, who triumphs against the small minds of others. Needless to say, most comedians probably couldn’t get away with most of the comedy routines, in this movie. The seventies featured a lot of new culture, that we take for granted now, and one of those things was raunchy Black comedians.

There were plenty of Black comedians before Rudy, who said some fairly racy stuff, but they mostly worked what was known then as The Chitlin’ Circuit, which were a collection of venues where only only Blacks could perform, since they still, even in the seventies,  considered too raunchy to play in the mainstream (i.e. White ) circuits. Rudy was one of the first of these type of comedians to go (sort of) mainstream, in that even White people heard about him, although he still would never have been invited on The Johnny Carson Show. So, the movie is one of those low key inspirational films, about overcoming racism in Hollywood. The first half of the movie is very caught up in people telling Rudy “no” , telling him what he can’t do, or making fun of him for wanting certain things, and Rudy going off to do those things anyway.

I have since learned that Eddie Murphy has received a Golden Globe nomination for this role. but I don’t think he will win. He does some great work here, but its not the best work he’s done, and really, I thought it was a walk in the park for him. He can play this type of role in his sleep. But I did enjoy watching him, because his charm makes the occasionally cringey plot, very watchable.

 

The Mandolorian

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I am loving The Mandolorian, and not just for the Baby Yoda scenes. (No, that isn’t actually Yoda, but some distant descendant, since this series is set after Return of the Jedi.) This series is full of some of the classic themes we expect from Star Wars. George Lucas has said the original Star Wars was based on the works of Japanese film Director Akira Kurosawa, most specifically, Seven Smaurai, and you can see some of the influence here.

In fact the series heavily reminds me of the Japanese Manga called Lone Wolf and Cub, in which an itinerant samurai, a ronin, wanders the Japanese landscape, with his tiny son, searching for vengeance, and  getting into various adventures. The only differences between that, and The Mandolorian, is the son doesn’t have force powers, isn’t on anybody’s wanted list, and isn’t half as cute as Baby Yoda. The show takes care to focus on the relationship between Mando and Baby Yoda, too. There are a lot of really cute moments between them, and the public seem to have really taken a shine to the little guy, much the same as his adoptive Dad.

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Its also a classic story about a character’s personal growth.  Mando starts out as a bounty hunter, who is just there for the work, so he can buy some new armor, but makes the decision to take the baby and run, rather than deliver him/her to his clients. There are larger mysteries which haven’t been answered yet, like who exactly is the Mandolorian, why does everyone want the baby, and where did this baby come from.

The production values, the costumes, acting, and special effects, are all top notch. It really does have the look and  feel of one of the movies, which makes it very easy to watch, although this luxury comes at the expense of the episode running times, which never get beyond 45 minutes. I can live with that, especially since the action scenes are the highlight of the series. In one of the earlier episodes, there is a full on fight between a team of Mandolorians and the various ne’er do wells, and criminals, on the planet on which they’ve all been hiding out. When CG is used, its mostly for the creatures, and action scenes, and is largely invisible, as its supposed to be.

 

 

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War of the Worlds – BBC Version

 

There have been umpteen different versions of this show. A book, a radio program that, as it is rumored, gave some people the shits back in the thirties, as they thought it was real, several movies from the fifties to the nineties, one of which starred Tom Cruise, another TV show, and now this.

Its a three part miniseries from the BBC, and so far I’m really liking it. Its got some nice production values. You can see where the money went in this one. The special effects are well done, and not that usual cheap TV stuff you sometimes get in big idea shows, and the show, quite frankly, looks gorgeous. The acting is acceptable,  although the only actor I truly recognize is Robert Carlisle.

And this show is not fucking around with its theme. H.G.Wells wrote the novel as a reaction to the British annexation of the Congo, and the atrocities that were being committed during the colonization of India. He wrote a book about the violent colonization of England by a superior technological force, as a condemnation of the British Empire’s activities, and the show makes this connection loud and clear, right in the opening credits. In the first fifteen minutes of the show, you hear characters having conversations about the might of the British Empire, and how wonderful it is to live in such a powerful country. By the end of the first episode though, the Martians have shut that talk down.

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There’s also some melodrama involving the two stars of the show, Rafe Spall, the brother of Timothy Spall, as a fellow named George, and Eleanor Tomlinson as his paramour, Amy. The two  are madly in love, but cannot be together, because George’s  wife refuses to divorce him, She hates him, and wants to remain married to him just to spite him. The family is scandalized, his older brother,  is outraged, and the  the rest of the community don’t know how to think of this thing, where the two of them are living together, unmarried. Plus Amy is pregnant.

I was not initially interested in the melodramatic aspect of the show, but the show does this thing, where it flashes back and forth to the future, after the alien invasion has been conquered, but the Earth is a literal hot mess, because the aliens weren’t just there to invade, they were terrraforming. Amy is wandering through the red deserts of what used to be England, with her young son. She has been separated from George for a long time, but still holds out hope of finding him. I didn’t care, at first, but I decided that I liked the characters. At least, I liked Amy, and that seems to be enough for me to start to care the rest of it.

The show opens with her and George witnessing the launch of the ships from Mars. Its a little different from the movies, because the ships look like meteors as they land, and that’s hat people think they are. They look like black globes that float off the ground, and are capable of setting people on fire from a distance. The tripods break out of the ground after the globes explode, and start their rampage, although the tripods aren’t so much interested in annihilating people, as they seem to be in seeding the planet with various gasses and chemicals. Like I said, this is not an invasion, exactly. They are transforming Earth into another version of Mars, and if you look at the flash forwards, their mission seems successful.

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I did have some criticism about characters doing stupid things, but this is only because this is one of those situations where the audience knows more about what’s going to happen than the characters do, so there were a lot of instances where people are standing around looking at things, while I yell things like ,” Get the fuck out of there!!!!’, and, “Run!” There are  various government officials who act like the mayor from Jaws, and simply bluster uselessly at the reports they’re getting from other parts of the country, about the annihilation of entire towns, even though the city is filling up with refugees from those areas. The British are so full of themselves about the initial events, that I have to admit, it was a bit satisfying watching them get their asses handed to them by the Martians, which point the show is trying to make. Basically, the show is saying that the British “ain’t all that!”

There are lots of closeups of boiling ant colonies, along with images of English people living their best lives, not unlike the ants, walking the streets of their mighty London, and looking quite busy, and the tripods themselves look very insect like, such that there is a connection being made between the idea of  invasive species, and the colonizing aliens, and that what is being done to England by the Martians, England is currently  doing to other countries, and been quite proud of themselves for it. We know the English are proud of their activities, but we don’t get any idea how the aliens feel, though. There are scenes where people touch the black globes that have dropped to Earth, and see smeary lingering images of their hands and faces, in the glossy sheen of the alien device, in a very,  “We have met the alien, and they is us.” type moment. So yeah, the show ain’t being  coy regarding its critique of British empiricism.

The setting for the various iterations is England, at the height of the British Empire, when it was engaged in the violent colonization of different countries. The English were largely brought low after WW2, (look up London Blitz), so its interesting that the first American version showed up in the fifties, (1953), when America, having won some victories during the war, (and starting to feel itself to be the shit) began engaging in its own world dominance behavior. (Before the War, America pursued an isolationist stance.) The 1953 version, (and subsequent invasion movies, like Strange Invaders, and Independence Day), were not about the humbling of America, so much as they were  America conquering some  great enemy, against all odds.. The 2005 version is a response to 9/11, where its made clear that the alien invasion is a stand-in for the terrorists, and America doesn’t triumph, so much as get lucky.

Not all alien invasion movies are violent. Some of them are enlightening, like 2001, and/or  hopeful, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This series is in the truest spirit of the book, however, which was a rebuke to British hubris.

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* https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/movies/2012/06/13/Behind-the-fiction-lie-factual-themes-in-alien-movies/stories/201206130200

Once they were analogies of the Cold War or Vietnam. Sometimes the underlying theme is corporate greed, environmental destruction or fears of technology supplanting humans. The movies feed on public fear of enemies from abroad, which in today’s world, he said, could even include mortgage bankers.

The Irishman (Netflix)

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*****Here Be Spoilers****

 

Let’s  get something out of the way first.

Yes, I’m aware of what Scorsese has said about the current crop of superhero movies, and yes, I was offended, until he clarified his statements in a recent Vanity Fair article. I’m glad he did, because I was prepared to stay mad at one of my all-time, favorite directors. Well, I’m not as angry, but he is not wrong. He’s not right though, mostly because I don’t think its fair to compare the two types of movies. They serve very different purposes for their audiences in that one type of film consists of exciting power fantasies (like the first half of the movie Goodfellas), and righting wrongs, and Scorsese’s films seem to be about the consequences of that amount of unchecked power,  and what it actually gets you. Superhero movies make no claims of depth.  They are not dramas, although movies like The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier, and Logan come very close.

The Irishman had a brief theatrical run, of about a week or two, before it settled on Netflix, which is where I viewed it, with a great deal of anticipation. There’s a lot of backstory about why the movie is airing on Netflix, but I’m not covering that here. Like a lot of people, I went into this expecting something similar to Goodfellas, and Casino, since Scorsese seems to have some sort of lock on the depiction of  White men in the mafia life. The movie is definitely about gangsters, and appears to be having some kind of dialogue with the other two films. It would be interesting to watch all three of these movies back to back, to see what they are saying to, and about, each other.

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I loved this movie, and I wasn’t expecting that. Everyone involved is at the top of their game. I didn’t think Scorsese had a lot more to say about the mafia life, that he hadn’t already said, but he does.

Like the other two films in this trilogy, it’s a meditation on crime and regret. I think a lot of people have had a  very wrong takeaway from Scorsese’s movies. Although he seems both fascinated with , and terrified of, this lifestyle, he definitely does not approve. These are the kinds of people he knew growing up, and he seemed to have kept, in the forefront of his mind, that they were not good people, no matter what their claims of nobility, or  how fascinating their lives were.

These films are not a glorification of their lifestyle.  Henry Hill, in the last third of Goodfellas, just flat out states this. Scorsese has never sugarcoated who and what these people are. The violence in these films is always  sudden, and brutal.  Hill spoke on the topic in Goodfellas, but here its just shown. Scorsese always  has  his characters realize, by the end, the horror of the decisions they’ve made. Every participant ends up  dead, or regretful, and there is a an onscreen commentary, on the fate of each one of the character’s introduced, in the film. The bottom line is, if you choose the mobster life, because you have romanticized notions about it, it will end badly.

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I knew a young Italian man, in college, who told me that his father met some people in the life, but he also told me that one of the key things is never to invite them into your life. Don’t ask them for favors, don’t hang out with them in their places, don’t befriend them. They’re like vampires. You have to let them in.

A classic example, is the restaurant owner from Goodfellas, who allows Tommy, and his friends, to frequent his restaurant. Just like Henry did as a child, he thinks its exciting to be associated with these men. He admires the life, and believes he is friends with them, until the time comes for Tommy to pay the massive bill he’s run up on his tab. These guys are just taking advantage of him, but he is still too enamored of their life to see that. In an effort to get Tommy to pay his bill, the restaurant owner goes to Paulie, (Tommy’s boss), and makes Paulie a partner, in exchange for taking care of Tommy’s bill. Paulie takes advantage of him too, until he  goes out of business, as they steal  him blind, eventually the restaurant gets burned down for the insurance. The owner romanticized their lifestyle. He failed to see them as the unprincipled thieves they were. He invited them in, and he lost everything. The same thing goes for the character of Spider, a mirror of the young Henry, who romanticizes their lifestyle, and gets killed by Tommy, for standing up for himself, with not a single tear shed by any of the witnesses.

The Irishman  follows another low grade member of a mafia crew, a hitman named Frank Sheeran, (Robert DeNiro), as he befriends various mobsters, and paints houses (carries out mob hits). Most of the movie is about his friendship with Jimmy Hoffa, (Al Pacino), and his confession that he killed him, after being assigned to do so by his then bosses, one of which is also a close friend, Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. The movie is based on a book by Charles Brandt titled “I Heard You Paint Houses?”, which is the line in the movie said by Pacino, when he and Frank first meet over the phone. So once again, you have someone who invites these people into his life. Hoffa knows who, and what, these people are, but he romanticizes the life, and has an outsized sense of his worth to them.

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Right away, the mood and setting are very different than the other two movies, (Goodfellas and Casino), which open with exciting scenes of violence, (and interestingly, with men in cars). This movie is reflective and melancholy. The opening scene is a quiet shot of Frank, in a senior citizen’s home, reminiscing about his past, to his lawyers. The movie is a flashback, but unlike Henry Hill”s story, Frank has no misty-eyed remembrances for the things he’s done. He joined the mob because he was a soldier who needed to do something with his life, after he came back from the war. He didn’t join because he loved the life, or glorified its denizens, and this is probably why he survived, although that’s no consolation, either. He is an old man filled with regret, and we come to have some amount of sympathy for him, although Scorsese never lets us think, for a moment, that he is a good guy. Nor does he show Frank as vicious or evil, for its own sake, although the things he does, are indeed,  vicious, and evil. Scorsese presents him as just a guy, who made the best choices he could, in the circumstances presented to him.

Deniro definitely deserves some form of recognition for his role here, but the two major highlights of the movie, for me, was Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Pesci’s much quieter turn, as Russell Bufalino. You want to be reminded of his role as Tommy in Goodfellas, but this character is wholly unlike him. Bufalino is smarter, and more calculating, with a cool menace that the hotheaded, showboating, Tommy lacked. He and Frank become friends, and get to be quite close, but Frank, (and hence the audience), never forgets the power dynamic between them. Russell is his boss, and should Frank prove to be a threat, or an inconvenience, Russell could have him killed, and it would be just business.

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This was the most interesting part of the movie for me. Y’all know me. I love to watch different types of  characters interact. It’s interesting because movie audiences don’t often get to watch the  process of two grown men, who have been steeped in pride and machismo, their entire lives, put themselves in the vulnerable position of trusting a stranger, while navigating the power and violence of their positions,  to  become friends. You can see them feeling the other out, trying to reach a place of comfort. I found myself totally caught up in the moment. The faint distrust, and the questions they ask of each other, without actually asking them: What do you want from me? Are you a stand up guy? Will you give me straight answers? Can you be trusted?

Frank’s relationship with Hoffa is covered just as deeply. The most  fascinating part, is comparing how trust is shown between Frank and Hoffa, and Frank and Russell. Scorsese doesn’t fall into the trap of having the characters make grand declarations of how much they love and trust each other. There are scenes with Frank and Russell hanging out with each other’s families, or having dinner together. Some scenes with Frank and Hoffa are just them talking in Hoffa’s bedroom, before he goes to sleep. At one point, Hoffa nods off while talking to Frank, he trusts Frank so completely, and Frank just quietly sits there for a while, watching him sleep, and glancing out the window, and that scene is unexpectedly moving. It’s hard to know what Frank is thinking during that scene. The specter of violence hangs over everything he does, and that scene is even more tragic, when you know what happens between them later.

There are not a lot of women in this movie, and none of the men have any moral standing. The moral center of this film is Frank’s daughter, Peggy, (Anna Paquin) who sees her father beat a man on her behalf, when she is a child, and this impacts her relationship with him, for the rest of their lives. She gets probably three lines in the entire movie, but Scorsese sets her up, by giving us long closeups of her face, and her disapproval, and fear, of her father, (and by association, Russell), is apparent. We don’t need a loud, dramatic shouting match between them, to know that she has seen what kind of man he is, and  will never love him. Frank tries to reconcile with her before his death, but she will have none of him.

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Frank doesn’t just regret the things he did when he was younger, but all the familial relationships he let fall by the wayside, while prioritizing his relationships with the men he worked for, all of whom are now dead. He has to pay for his own funeral, buying his own tombstone. There’s no one alive, who would come to his funeral, anyway. The movie ends with Frank, alone in his room. He is the last one left of that old life, and he has nothing to show for it. Once again, Scorsese presents the mobster lifestyle as empty and meaningless. If you don’t die horribly, at the hands of someone you trusted, then you die alone, with no one to care.

There’s a lot of the movie I didn’t talk about, like the cinematography, and music, which are pretty standard for a Scorsese film, with some upbeat sixties songs, the most prominent song being, In the Still of the Night, by The Five Satins, which bookends the movie. There are two opening scenes, one with Frank beginning his story in the nursing home, and the other, the beginning of the story, which features him and Russell, taking a road trip, with their wives. The movie starts out really cute, with the wives fussing with their husbands in the car. Everyone is very comfortable with each other, at first, but as the trip continues, the tension begins to mount, as we overhear increasingly nervous phone calls between Russell, Frank, and Hoffa, finally culminating, in the last third of the movie, in Russell’s order to Frank.

The cinematography is superb ,as usual, but there are a few uncanny valley moments in the film as Deniro, Pesci, and Pacino had to be de-aged in a few of the scenes. The de-aged faces aren’t as emotive as their actual faces, so I kept getting jarred out of the story, by wondering every now and then, how the actors got de-aged for their roles, but this doesn’t happen a lot, and is easily ignored. If you’re not a fan of Scorsese’s mobster films, this still may be worth a look for you, because its very different in tone, but I do have to warn you,  that just like in the other movies, the violence is flat, graphic, and unforgiving. When it comes to acts of violence, Scorsese does not fuck around, or wince. People get beaten and shot, and there’s a harrowing scene where Frank shoots up a restaurant full of people. I have become a lot more squeamish, as I’ve gotten older, and these scenes were hard for even me to watch.

Despite its three hour run time, the movie didn’t make me feel restless at all. I sat through the entire three hours, and never missed them, or a moment of dialogue. The movie simply pulled me right in. It was moving, with moments of sheer horror, and is a testament to Scorsese’s skill as a director, as nothing is explicitly stated by any of the characters, yet its message is loud, and clear. I don’t know if this movie will be nominated for an Oscar. It, and everyone involved, should.

The Irishman is the best movie I’ve seen this year.