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.

New Movie Trailers (November 2019)

 

Birds of Prey 

Well, I like the trailer for this, but then again I liked the trailer for Suicide Squad, and everyone hated that movie, (while I happen to like Suicide Squad, one of only five human beings to ever make such an outrageous claim). I have developed an appreciation for Margot Robbie, one of only a very small handful of White actresses whose work I actually seek out, and whose career I’m following. I really liked her in I, Tonya, and Mary Queen of Scots.

 

 

Call of the Wild

I read this book a lot when I was a teenager, and can probably credit it for sparking my strange fascination with the Arctic. I also think it was because I just loved dogs, and always imagined Buck  as my dog. I will not go see this in the theater, but I hope it does well, so that Hollywood will get the idea that classic stories, done well, can still do well at the box office.

 

 

Bloodshot

I’m kind of fond of the books on which this movie is based because, for some reason, I’m fascinated with nanotechnology going bad. I blame Greg Bear’s Blood Music. I’m not sure about this movie’s lackluster plot, or the fact that it stars Vin diesel. I don’t hate Vin Diesel. I actually like the guy, but he’s not an especially good actor, and I don’t know if  I want to watch him try to emote for two hours. I really have to be in a certain mood for that kind of thing, since one only needs a little bit of Vin Diesel, at any given time.

On the other hand, the books are great, if you’re a fan of adventure science fiction books, which are really just thinly veiled cover stories of superhero novels.

 

 

 

Fantasy Island

I liked the TV show this is based on, which aired from 1977 to 1984,  and if you have not watched those, I’m sure they can be streamed somewhere. Its a sappy, and sometimes very cheesy show, which rarely got above a level three on the fright-o-meter, but I remember watching it a lot with my mom, who had a crush on Ricardo Montalban. This looks interesting, despite the fact that it heavily reminds me of that failed revival, that happened in the late 90’s.

 

 

 

 

Invisible Man

Yeah, I’m not gonna go see this. I think I’ve had enough Invisible Man horror movies to last a few lifetimes. I think invisibility is probably a fairly useless superpower anyway, since one can only really get up to mischief with it.

 

 

The Irishman

I plan to watch this. I don’t normally watch gangster movies, but it has an all star cast, and marks Scorcese’s first foray into made for TV movies. Despite what Scorcese said about superhero movies, and the fact that he seems ot have staked out this gangster drama genre, I still love his work, and I don’t have to pay extra to see it in a theater, which is cool. We’ll see how good it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baddest Bad-Ass Females In Horror

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

Annie Wilkes –  Misery

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

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

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Samara –  The Ring

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

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

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Carrie White – Carrie

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

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

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Eli  –  Let the Right One In

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

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

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

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Katrina –  Vamp

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Alien Queen – Aliens

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

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

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

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Satanico Pandemonium – From Dusk Til Dawn

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

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

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

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

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Akasha – Queen of the Damned

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

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

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

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

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Sue – Jurassic Park

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

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

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

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 Ellen Ripley – Alien/Aliens

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

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

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

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

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Addendum: 

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

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

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

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

 

Horror Movie Themes: Women Directors And Monster Women

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s talk about Jennifer’s Body.

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

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

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

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

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2018/08/206237/jennifers-body-review-defense-female-revenge-movie

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

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

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

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

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

10 Terrifying Books For Halloween

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

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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

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

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The Institute – Stephen King

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

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

Warning for torture of children.

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Mystery Walk – Robert McCammon

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

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

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God’s Demon – Wayne D. Barlowe

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

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FantasticLand

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

This book was not funny.

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

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

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

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

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

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Nocturnes –  John Connolly

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

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

 —Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia)

 

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

 

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We Are Where The Nightmares Go – C. Robert Cargill

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

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The Haunted forest Tour – Jeff Strand

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

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

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The Wide Carnivorous Sky – John Langan

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

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

You will be scaredt!

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The Scarlet Gospels – Clive Barker

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

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

Warning for torture and rape scenes.

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Exploring Horror Movie Themes

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

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

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

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

 

Grant Grant: Slither

Loss of Bodily Autonomy

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

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Zombies: Train to Busan

Being Eaten

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

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

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The Xenomorph: Alien

Women

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

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

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

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

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The Pods: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers

Losing Yourself

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

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

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Jack: The Shining

Family

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Seth Brundle: The Fly

Sickness

 

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

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

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

 

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 The Grey Widower: The Mist

Arachnophobia

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Monster: It Follows

Growing Old

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

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

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

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He Who Kills: Trilogy of Terror

Being Hunted

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

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

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Non Western Film

The H-Man: The H-Men

The Unexpected

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What I Watched In September

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

 

Carnival Row

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Titans

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

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

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

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

 

 

American Horror Story 1984

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Prodigal Son

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

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

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

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

 

 

Treadstone (Preview)

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

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

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

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

 

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

My 2019 Fall Lineup

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

Playing Now

Carnival Row (Amazon Prime)

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

 

Wu Assassins (Netflix)

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

 

The Dark Crystal (NETFLIX)

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

 

The Terror: Infamy (AMC)

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

 

Two Sentence Horror (CW)

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

 

Cannon Busters (NETFLIX)

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

 

 

September

6: Travels with My Father (NETFLIX)

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

 

6: Titans (DC)

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

 

10: Mr. Mercedes (AUDIENCE)

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

 

18: American Horror Story:1984 (FX)

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

 

26: Creepshow (Shudder)

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

October

*4: Raising Dion (NETFLIX)

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

I’m here for it!

 

6: Batwoman (CW)

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

 

10: Supernatural (CW)

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

 

11: Charmed (CW)

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

 

15: Treadstone (USA)

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

 

21: Black Lightning (CW)

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

 

TBD: The Watchmen (HBO)

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

November

12: Disney +/ Available At Launch

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

Movies

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

 

The Mandolorian

This looks like so much fun.

 

The World According to Jeff Goldblum

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

TBD

The Witcher (Netflix)

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

 

 

Yep! I Saw It On YouTube

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

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

 

The Mighty Grand Piton

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Look Behind You

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

 

 

Doctor Sleep

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

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

 

 

Itsy Bitsy

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

 

 

Carnival Row

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

 

 

Undone

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

 

 

Ready or Not

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

 

 

Knives Out

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

 

 

Jacob’s Ladder

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

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

 

Nope!

Charlie’s Angels 

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

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