Ep. 2 Hannibal Season Three: Primavera

In the last episode, we got caught up with Hannibal’s activities since the night of the Red Dinner. In this episode, we find out what Will Graham has been doing, as one of the survivors of that night.

All throughout season two, we’ve been getting strong “hints and allegations” that Hannibal and Will have an intense (and dangerous) attraction to each other. This season the subtext has definitely become text, as it’s flat-out stated by both of them, what feelings they have for each other, and exactly how far into the abyss Will Graham fell, in his efforts to bring Hannibal to justice. At the beginning of this season, Will sets out to find and re-engage with Hannibal again, seemingly not having learned his lesson from that night.

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We open almost immediately after the Red Dinner, with Will in the hospital recovering from his wounds, reliving the events of that night, and  imagining that Abigail has survived. Actually this imagining of her isn’t any different from his previous thoughts about Abigail. Will has an idealized view of Abigail, as the perfect daughter and companion, an image that Hannibal well knew, and used against him. In the real world,  he and Abigail weren’t  that close, and she certainly didn’t feel about him the way he felt about her, although since this Abigail argues with, and castigates him for his actions last season, this is probably a much truer version of her than we’ve seen from Will before.

This is something a lot of fans of the show forget. That Will and Abigail didn’t interact that much in the real world, beyond season one, and on those occasions when they were together, she was just as unforthcoming, duplicitous, and manipulative with Will, as she was with everyone else, so I was immediately suspect of this image of her. And the show  plays coy with the idea that she survived that night, until near the end of the episode.

One of the  clues, that maybe she didn’t survive, is that Abigail asks Will questions about things she couldn’t possibly know about, unless Hannibal discussed these things with her, and  I don’t believe he did. Also notice that Abigail wears the same hunting jacket that Will has imagined her wearing before, but in a dried blood color,  we’ve never seen. Her body language, and attitude, are the same as when he imagined talking with her, when he was in prison last season.

So keep in mind that Abigail did not survive that night, and Will’s discussions with her, are just Will castigating himself for being stupid.

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Will also has an image of the stag, for the last time, as it dies on Hannibal’s kitchen floor.  The Stag doesn’t represent Hannibal, (as he knows Hannibal isn’t dead), and when Will is hunting for Hannibal in Europe, the Stag  is reborn. There has been a lot of discussion about what the Stag means, but my theory is that this is an avatar of  Will. This isn’t the RavenStag, which is an avatar of Hannibal the Killer. This is just The Stag that Will imagines whenever the darker side of his nature begins to assert itself.

Will  has an image of himself, and Abigail, drowning in a lake of blood. I’ve written before, that images of drowning represent  someone’s belief that they have gotten in over the heads, or into a situation that has overwhelmed them, or that they can’t control. Bedelia has such dreams in the last episode. These dreams of drowning are Will’s though, and are tied to the knowledge that he totally underestimated Hannibal’s will to survive, and his spiteful nature.

Will’s hallucinations and images are jumbled with Hannibal’s images of the breaking teacup, that reverses itself, and becomes un-shattered. I think  this represents Will, and the reversal of its breakage represents the turning back of time, and the resurrection of their previous relationship, which is something Hannibal deeply misses, even in his anger at Will’s betrayal. It’s something that Will longs for too, as he deeply regrets the decisions he made leading up to the night Abigail died. So both men are in the same place emotionally, saddened. missing each other, and regretting what they did to each other.

Will sets out in his boat to look for Hannibal in Europe, based on conversations had during Will’s therapy sessions. On arrival, eight months later, still accompanied by the ghost of Abigail, he goes to the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy that Hannibal mentioned, and finds a murder investigation in progress.

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The Norman Chapel  is an actual place, which is also part of Hannibal’s Memory Palace. It’s  real, although, the skeleton on the floor isn’t actually there. That was placed in post-production by Fuller, and i think it indicates indicates Hannibal’s placation to Will. It is an image of Hannibal’s forgiveness, or perhaps, he is praying to Will for forgiveness..



One of the images of Hannibal’s forgiveness is the Vetruvian Man origami from the first episode, and the mutilation sculpture of Dimmond’s body by Hannibal. He folded Dimmond’s body into the shape of a heart, pierced it with upside down swords, and placed it in the Chapel’s foyer. Will doesn’t actually get to see the body, though. He is met at the Chapel by a Rinaldo Pazzi, a detective in the city, who has been reading of Will’s attempts to capture The Chesapeake Ripper. Pazzi shows WIll a photograph of the crime scene, and believes it is linked to Will’s arrival in the city.

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Pazzi believes that Dimmond was killed by a serial killer that he calls Il Mostro, who managed to escape capture many years ago, by framing another man for his murders. He believes Il mostro, and The Chesapeake Ripper, are one and  the same, and that Il Mostro left Dimmond’s body as a message for Will, which it is. After learning from Bedelia that Will is still alive, and has traveled to Italy to find him, Will is much on his mind. Even if Hannibal may not recognize his feelings as a form of love, Bedelia does. (I mentioned in season one, that every show needs a truth-teller, a person who sees things more clearly than the main character/s around whom the story revolves. Bedelia’s role is to say what the outsider (us, the viewer) has observed.)

https://www.keen.com/articles/tarot/3-of-swords-tarot-card

Pazzi recalls the case that set him against Il Mostro. He found the bodies of two people designed to emulate the 1482 painting, La Primavera by Boticelli, which hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Primavera or Allegory of Spring by Sandro Botticelli

http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/la-primavera-allegory-of-spring-by-sandro-botticelli/

Hannibal was obsessed with the painting. Sitting for hours, and drawing the painting over and over, and his last murder in Italy was a reenactment of Zephyrus chasing Flora (to the right in the painting). Pazzi recognizes Hannibal’s style in the killings of the Chesapeake Ripper and believes Hannibal has returned to Italy. He thinks Will may have some insight into Il Mostro’s nature.

https://hannibalfannibals.com/2015/06/17/hannibal-the-history-of-il-mostro-fact-vs-fiction/

But Will is not helpful, as he grapples with his darker self. Will is torn between wanting to join Hannibal, and wanting to capture him. Whenever he feels he is getting too emotionally involved, too close to Hannibal, he becomes afraid that he will lose himself, (hence his dreams about drowning), and feeling a need to reassert his better self (as an agent of the law), he  tries to capture him instead. He seems to go through this cycle of longing and destruction at least twice a season.

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Observe that while contemplating Hannibal’s crime scene, Will doesn’t use his pendulum system to ease into the killer’s mindset. He knows Hannibal so well that he doesn’t need it, and he seamlessly moves back and forth between his own mind, and Hannibal’s. He hallucinates (or dreams) of the Dimmond heart, and in one of this series most grotesque scenes, it comes to life, unfolds itself into the shape of the Stag, and stalks him across the chapel floor. My theory is that this is the rebirth of Will’s murderous avatar. Just being in a place Hannibal has been, has awakened the darker parts of his nature, a part of himself he thought was destroyed that night in Hannibal’s kitchen, when Abigail died.

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Will and Pazzi descend into the catacombs underneath the Chapel. Will is searching for Hannibal, believing he can feel him nearby. Will warns Pazzi to not be so trusting, because he may harm him. Will knows that his distress will attract Hannibal and killing Pazzi might bring draw him for sure. And Hannibal is there, so he hears Will’s quiet assertion that he is forgiven. But what is Will forgiving him for? Running away and leaving him? Trying to kill him? Killing Abigail? All three? Does it matter?

 

Of Note:

Will’s mention of the church ceiling falling in is something mentioned by Hannibal, in the movie Silence of the Lambs, where he says he likes to collect church collapses.

Abigail stares at one of the priests in the chapel, and he stares back as if he can see her, as if he can see this dark spectre following Will around.

 

Posts & Articles

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/10/the-moral-universe-of-hannibal

http://www.vulture.com/2013/06/seitz-on-hannibal-its-a-dream-and-it-hurts.html

http://www.vulture.com/2015/08/hannibal-redefined-how-we-tell-stories-on-tv.html

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Hi! Have Some Mini Reviews

Attack of the Killer Donuts

Yep! Its attack of the Killer Donuts. I was eager to watch this the moment I heard about it, but didn’t know where I’d be able watch it. I thought maybe it would take at least a year for it to reach the Syfy channel, maybe. Its actually on a library app called Hoopla. (If you have a library card, and your library subscribes to Hoopla, you should be able to access free books, movies, comic books and music.)

Yes, this movie is exactly as stupid as it sounds, carrying on in the grand tradition of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and stars our boy, Ponyboy,  I mean C. Thomas Howell, yucking it up, as a cop who naturally, loves donuts. I’d list the other actors in this movie, but you still wouldn’t know who they were. It’s an entire cast of nobodies, who will never be anybodies, because that’s just how atrocious their acting is.

It’s hard to make a parody of a parody, but this movie actually  manages to successfully spoof Killer Tomatoes. Johnny is a hapless loser, whose blonde bombshell girlfriend cheats on him, and who doesn’t recognize that  his childhood friend, Michelle, has been totally crushing on him. He lives with his Mom, while his uncle lives in the basement and does weird medical experiments on rats. Also, his Mom is secretly sleeping with his nerdy best friend, Howard. Johnny works in a local donut shop that’s been going out of business for years because the town is nearly dead.

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Michelle is a techinical genius, who fixes computers, in her spare time. Unfortunately, her shiftless, dumbbell brother takes all the credit, and refuses to pay her for it. Michelle has been crushing on Johnny since they were little kids, and I totally bought into their relationship. The actress is good  enough, and there’s just enough backstory, to be able to sell her friendship with Johnny. Why does she love him, especially since she’s the smartest person in town? Because it’s in the script.

When Johnny’s uncle’s weird resurrection experiment manages to contaminate some donuts, the infection soon spreads to the rest of the shop, where the donuts come alive, sprout giant teeth, and decide to chew their way through the town’s inhabitants. Do not stop to ask yourself pertinent questions like: Where did they grow those teeth from? How are they moving around without legs?  Where is all the flesh they’re eating going to if they don’t have stomachs? And do the donuts produce poop? Never mind all this! Just enjoy the sheer goofiness of watching crullers, twists, and creme filled long johns, flying through the air, and trying ot bite people.

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I got a real kick out of this movie, though. It’s not very deep and I got a few hearty laughs out of it. The characters are definitely meant to be mocked and ridiculed. The three smartest people in the cast are Michelle, Howard, and Johnny ,who manage to fight off the donuts, and prevent possible donut Armageddon, by beating back the donuts using a combination of bravery and batlike objects, and blowing up the donut shop. The body count is pretty  low, but only because the movie doesn’t have a large enough budget to star more than ten to twelve people anyway.

The characters who are meant to be liked are likable, and you root for them to survive. The characters who are meant to be hated, are hatefully over the top, and you gleefully hope the donuts will eat them, like Johnny’s asshole boss, who allows Michelle to be bullied and sexually harassed by some dudebro customers, and Johnny’s faux-girlfriend, who is only with him because he keeps giving her money. Michelle is waaay too pretty and smart for Johnny, but that’s also on purpose. Heroes in these movies are almost always outshone by their girlfriends.

The stars of the movie though, are the donuts who chase, bounce, jump, bite, and generally act like a pack of rabid weasels. Occasionally someone  eats one of the cursed donuts and they, in turn, become rabid, and attack people, too. These are some of the cheapest, funniest special effects, I’ve seen in a while and I loved it! You could do worse than spend a happy, mindless, 90 minutes with this movie.

 

Star Trek Discovery

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I re-subscribed to CBS All Access because they offered some kind of special to sign back up. Of course I’m sure they realize, that as soon as the first season of this show is over, I’m going to unsubscribe to this  channel, because there’s not a whole hell of a lot to offer on this network. I generally don’t watch CBS. (They don’t have especially interesting shows, there’s almost no diversity, and there’ aren’t a whole lot of movie choices, either.)

Well, I subscribed so I could watch the first half of the first season of Star Trek Discovery and I have to say. I’m hooked! It took about three days to get through the first 7 or 8 episodes and now I’m invested. Like a lot of shows that do so, it improved from the pilot episode, with the introduction of new characters and themes.

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The first two episodes don’t really give a lot of indication of what the show will be like the rest of the season, and by the 4th and 5th episodes the show has definitely developed its flavor, with a good balance of light heartedness, and seriousness. Michael Burnham’s character takes a real turn when her prison ship is diverted to the Discovery by Captain Lorca.

Michael isn’t well received on the ship. Most people either hate her or fear her, except for Lorca, and her roommate, Tilly, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. There’s also been the introduction of a love interest named Ash Tyler, played by the lovely Shazad Latif, who was rescued from a Klingon ship, suffers from PTSD, and may be a Klingon spy. I’m also really liking Anthony Rapp’s character, after I hated him in the first couple of episodes. Something happened to him that made him much more likable and approachable, without changing his essential nature.

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Each episode has a philosophical theme, that can get a little bit heavy. and I’ve gotten the impression that a lot of the kids on Tumblr aren’t used to Scifi shows being like that, I guess. But if you’re an OG Star Trek fan you should be well used to that sort of thing. The show definitely captures the spirit of Star Trek, if not the exact timeline and details. One of the things you may have the hardest time with is people cussing, and actual (not implied) sex scenes, because up til now, its mostly been a very PG type of show.

I’ll do a more in depth post on this later this month, after I’ve had some more time to think about the characters and plot.

 

Justice League

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Certain parts of this movie I really enjoyed, mostly any scene that didn’t involve Batman, or the villain. The end of the movie is a hot and colorful mess. The pacing is off, the music is annoying, just really, this could have been a  better movie.  But there are things to like about it. The most compelling story is Cyborg, and I wish I’d gotten to see more of The Flash, because all we got from him is quips. He still turned out to be my favorite character in the entire movie, which was a suprise because I thought it would be Aquaman. (Cyborg is too grim and tragic to be a favorite, although I really liked him, and I look forward to his solo film.)

It doesn’t help matters that every time I heard the villain’s name, I thought of the band Steppenwolf, (I did not know this was an actual character in DC comics.), and the funky remix of Magic Carpet Ride would play in my head.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

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This was a much better movie, even though I was trying really hard not to compare it to Justice League.  I really love Taika Waititi, and his brand of humor is stamped all over this movie, plus there’s a lowkey anti-colonialist message underneath all of the fun.

My favorite moment is Hela’s entrance into the story, and the introduction of Fenris. I didn’t know I needed to see a giant wolf  until I saw it. The Hulk turned out to be a lot funnier than I thought he would be, and of course, Jeff Goldblum was gold! Tessa Thompson was having waaay too much fun blowing shit up, and catwalking her way through the action scenes, and I loved it. Heimdall has a much larger role in this movie, and I’m eternally grateful at getting to watch Idris Elba kick some ass with a giant sword.

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Funny moment #213!

I had a great time!

 

Blade of the Immortal

I used to read this Manga back in the nineties, becasue that’s what I was doing back then, reading Samurai Manga, and binging YA novels. If you’re looking for a fairly faithful rendition of the manga, this will do.

Manji is about to die in battle when he’s approached by some type of immortal nun, who infects him with something called blodworms. The bloodworms heal any injuries he gets, no matter how severe or life threatening. In the books, he can only be killed after he kills 1000 men. Well, in the movie its been 50 something years, and he hasn’t killed 1000 men yet, when he’s contacted by a woman, Rin, who wants him to avenge her family’s deaths at the hands of the local sword fighting school.

I really love Samurai movies, ever since I first watched Seven Samurai, and will watch almost any one of them. I really liked this one, but not for the story, which I found not too remarkable. I liked it for the gore and sowrdfighting. I’m pretty sure Japanese viewers will get a lot more out of watching this movie than I did, but for me it was all just eye candy and some great fight scenes. And there are a lot of those, and naturally, there’s also a lot of blood. Blood and appendages are flying all over the place in this movie, re-attaching themselves, only to be lopped off later in the film. While this has the unintended side effect of muting any danger that Manji might be in, Rin is still in peril, and you’ll have to settle for a will she or won’t she survive type of thrill.

 

Valerian and the City of One Thousand Planets

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I was really hyped to see this movie because its got creatures, aliens, scifi costumes, and action and adventure, and I like Dane Dehaan. I ended up being disappointed, not because this is a bad movie, but because  it has so little substance to it, and I just expected more. Despite all the alien candy on display, the most fascinating thing, in the entire movie, was Cara Delevigne eyebrows. Talk about eyebrows “on fleek”. I kept staring at them, wondering when she had time to do her makeup, with all the shooting and running around she had to do.

I was also mildy excited because there was a big deal about the  singer Rihanna being is in this movie, as a shapeshifting character named Bubble, but she doesn’t appear until about 3/4 of the way in, and is killed off soon after, as she sacrifices her life for the two White protagonists, after one of them tortured her for information. Everything aobut this character is just bad, when looked at from the perspective of race. Everything!!! She’s toyalty of some kind, who was kidnapped and enslaved, and reduced to the level of a sex worker, (who is happy to be whatever you want). The worst part is that this tragic character is meant to be a form of comedy relief.

So let’s get this right:

Enslaved? Check!

Sex worker?Check!

Torture of yet another PoC? Check!

Comedy relief? Check!

Sacrifices herself to save the White protagonists? Check!

*Sigh!*

It’s like the writers went through a list of all the  Black film stereotypes they could find and wrote the character around every one of them. It wouldve been better if this character had never existed at all. (That would still have not improved this film however.) I know Rihanna is a huge scifi geek because she said so, but she really needs ot choose her nextproject with more care. I had no trouble with her performance of Bubble, however. She came across as funny and sweetly vulnerable.

There’s a lot of action in this movie. A lot of running around all so that everyone can end up in the same place, which has the side efect of making you think all the running around was to no purpose, a series of film vignettes, loosely based around the movie’s McGuffin. There is the same underlying theme of colonialism as in Thor Ragnarok, but it’s so nebulous you can barely see it.

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And so am I.

 

I Did A Thing!

I think I started knitting about a year and a half ago. I am a crocheter, so knitting wasn’t too far from my wheelhouse, if you catch my meaning. Since then, I’ve devoted a considerable amount of time to learning new stitches, because I wanted to produce the beautiful knitwear I saw online. I was so jealous that I couldn’t do that stuff.

Since then, I consider myself an intermediate knitter, having mastered a variety of different stitches, and a few I’m still working on, like the brioche.

I hadn’t given much thought to stranded knitting before, because I was too intimidated, although when I first started knitting I did try to make a stranded knitting style hat. Not knowing what I was doing, it came out a confusing mess, but not a complete one, so I wasn’t discouraged. I just assumed it was beyond my skill level at that time. I frogged it, and didn’t think about it again. Recently though, I saw some very nice fair isle hats, and I thought to myself, “I can do that.” Because none of the other things I’d tried to do were especially difficult, and the books I read kept telling me, “Hey! Give it try. It’s not hard!” So I took the bait, and the result is my first fair isle hat pattern, a baby hat from Purl Soho:

Its not perfect. It’s a tony bit bubbly, because I’m not in full command of all my floats in the back, but it’s my first one, so give me time. It’s also just a practice hat for my next one, which will be done in wool. This one is in acrylic, mostly. I used some donated fingering yarns, doubled up, in red-orange, green-blue tweed, lite pink, and white, and didn’t bother to check gauge. I didn’t feel the need to because the hat is for charity. Someone will find it and love it.

My goal is to knit a shawl this summer, and in 2019, I hope to knit an actual article of clothing to wear, like a sweater. (Oddly enough, I still haven’t done socks, because gussets are intimidating, no matter how much people try to explain them. Once I can fully visualize it, I feel confident enough to do it, and I’m not there yet.)

And while we’re at it let’s celebrate with some of my favorite knitting memes. And how hilarious is it that Ryan (Officer K) Gosling is in these.

The Mist Movie Review

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Normally this would be a comparison between The Mist film, and the TV show, but I didn’t watch the TV show beyond the first couple of episodes, because I got bored. Let’s just  say that the TV show ain’t got nothing on the movie, probably because Frank Darabont had nothing to do with it, and the two people who were involved with it had a very different vision of what the Mist was about.

The series was a hot mess, that was slow and mostly incoherent, and was finally canceled.  I was hopeful that it would be good, (I’m always hopeful that a show will be good), but I was a bit dubious when I heard there wouldn’t be any monsters in the show, and I think part of the reason for its failure, is  fans of the movie had one idea of how it should be, and the creators had a completely different, and incompatible, idea

And of course, it’s really hard to top the original movie that it was based on. Frank Darabont has proven to be something of a genius when it comes to adapting Stephen King’s stories, having directed not just The Mist, but The Shawshank Redemption (which I loved), and The Green Mile, (which I hated for  different reasons.)

Except for the controversial ending, The Mist is faithful to the novella on which it’s based, and that’s part of its success, because  the story is a very effective study of human nature under extreme conditions, and you can’t get more extreme than being trapped in an enclosed space, while being menaced by giant hungry monsters.

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The Grey Widower

I wrote an essay on how to write the apocalypse novel, and I used The Mist as the type of  framework that many writers could try to hang such a story on, but really I have to credit Agatha Christie with making the premise famous, (although its much, much older than her) of a small group of people, trapped in a  space they can’t leave, who start mysteriously dying. So many books and movies have been based on this idea that you can’t count them, and it’s an idea that seems to work especially well with horror movies, in everything from Alien (outer space), to Friday the 13th (the woods), to Night of the Living Dead (the apocalypse). The only thing that you can truly change about such stories is the size, and nature, of the space, (jungles, warehouses, summer camps, and spaceships) the type of people dying (probably White), and why (probably monsters). Along the way, the survivors have to navigate the very human monsters of greed, stupidity, callousness, cowardice, insanity…

In The Mist, David Drayton, his son Billy, and neighbor, Brent Norton get trapped inside a local grocery when a mysterious mist descends, a mist that contains some very hungry creatures. Also trapped with them is a small contingent of local people, along with Mrs. Carmody, a woman with the reputation of being a kind of hedge witch, who is also a  religious fanatic.The two standout performances are from Andre Braugher as Norton , and Marcia Gay Harden, as  Mrs. Carmody, with Melissa Mcbride (aka Carol from The Walking Dead) in her big film debut, making this a grand trifecta of awesome. Bringing up the rear, but never slouching, is Toby Jones, William Sadler, Sam Witwer, and Laurie Holden as Amanda Dunfrey, a woman David has an attraction to.

The Stephen King Multiverse

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The Leviathan

Near the small town of Bridgton Maine is a military facility that’s believed to be responsible for the descent of the Mist, after a huge thunderstorm knocks out  the power in the town. The book suggests it was some experimental physics event created by something called The Arrowhead Project, that triggered the Mist, and Stephen King (and many fans ) have made this story part of the Stephen King Universe by suggesting that the Project opened what’s known in other King books, as a “thinny”, a portal between the worlds.

My personal assumption was that the portal opened into what King calls “todash” space, the dark void between the different worlds, which is inhabited by different types of monsters, like Tak , from The Regulators, and the creatures in this story. Todash Space is also something heavily referenced in The Dark Tower books, and at the opening of the movie, we can see David Drayton painting a picture of Roland Deschain, from The Gunslinger.

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David Drayton

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Thomas Jane, as David Drayton, just manages to just hold his own in this movie, which is impressive, as I never credited him as a particularly fine actor, although he has had a long career in film. Here, he’s supposed to be our everyman character, with whom the audience is meant to identify, and through which we’re meant to get into the story. His most direct nemesis’ is not the mist, but Edward Norton, a representative of disbelief, and Mrs. Carmody, who represents too much belief.

David tries to navigate these two approaches to their extreme circumstances, without falling into either the camp of delusion and denial, called The Flat Earth Society, in the book, or hysterical religious ideation, like Mrs. Carmody. In the novel, David has an affair with Amanda Dunfrey, as a form of solace over the loss of his wife, but in the film, Darabont stated that the two of them having an affair would make David’s character less sympathetic, so that was removed from the script. It would also have had the unintended side effect of the audience supposing that David was being punished for his adultery with her, especially if that was coupled with Darabont’s ending.

The ending sparked some controversy, because it’s completely at odds from what happened in the book, and some viewers claim that it defeats the purpose of everything David Drayton survived beforehand. The story itself is open-ended, David and the others never find their way out of the mist, although it ends on a hopeful note. In the movie, David and his friends elect to kill themselves, rather than be eaten by the monsters,, when their car runs out of gas. This made some people angry because they felt he went through so much to survive Mrs. Carmody, only to give up at the end.

But I felt this was an entirely reasonable response, if looked at along a continuum  of the kinds of  behavior we’d seen from everyone caught in the mist. In the book, some of the characters retreat from their circumstances by getting drunk, and a number of people who David says “went over”, simply go insane. People commit suicide, and retreat into religious hysteria, and denial. But the bottom line is that most of these people (except for a handful) do not want to face their situation head on. In the movie, David does, but even he and his friends are eventually defeated by the mist, and take their own lives.

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Eventually, the only survivor is David, and he realizes the futility of what they’ve done after he steps out of his vehicle, intending to just give up and be eaten by whatever monster finds him first, only to encounter the retreat of the mist, and the American military destroying any monsters left over. That was something that infuriated a lot of people. David and the others having given up too soon. Had they waited just another hour or two, they would have all survived. But many people don’t understand that this is all an illustration of how hopelessness works. It’s immediate and intense, and must be taken care of right away. Hopelessness has no patience, and believes there is no time.

At any rate, staying in the store wouldn’t have saved them. They would have had to leave because of Mrs. Carmody anyway, as the military would never have arrived before she started killing more people.

Edward Norton

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Andre Braugher is incredible as Edward Norton. Heperfectly  captures Norton’s officious resentment, from the book, and even manages to add an uncomfortable racial component, to his discussion with David in the market. So watch that scene again where he insinuates that people are racist, wtihout actually saying people are racist towards him.. In the book, he becomes the leader of the Flat Earth Society ,a faction of people withing the store who simply refuse to believe that the mist is  dangerous., or that there are monsters.

It’s never made exactly clear what Norton does for a living, but I suspect he’s a lawyer. He approaches the entire event from an argumentative stance, as if his clinging to a rational approach to their circumstances should be enough to survive it. He and his crew represent just one approach to what has happened, and they (and the bagboy, who also didn’t believe the mist was dangerous.) are the first of the store’s customers to die. After those people are dead, we are left with the  those who believe their circumstances are real, and that the monsters exist.

In the book, David states that there are so many different ways that the mind can approach what’s happened, but really there aren’t that many. People can only respond in about three ways to extreme fear: flight (whether it’s  physical (suicide), mental (insanity)) from their circumstances, confrontating the situation head on, in an attempt to get around it, which is what David does, and negotiation, which is what Mrs. Carmody does. Edward Norton, and Norm the bagboy, tried disbelief and confrontation, and that promptly got them killed. In the novel, several people choose flight from their circumstances. They just mentally check out, (they go insane), still others use alcohol, or suicide to escape. This is somewhat less evident in the movie than in the story. We don’t see any of the characters getting drunk as a way of coping with the situation, for example.

And then  there’s Mrs. Carmody. I think, in the movie, she’s meant to represent insanity, but I don’t believe she is insane, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Mrs. Carmody

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In the book, Mrs. Carmody is  a caricature of religious insanity, screaming about the abominations in the mist, in a bright yellow pantsuit. She starts off the story as a joke, a figure of mockery. Over the years King has become better at writing radically religious people, but Mrs. Carmody is one of the weakest characters in the novel, as she is very one-note, and over the top. When we first meet her in the novel, she only has one setting and that is “crazy”, and she remains that way for the rest of the story. There’s no background or depth given to her. She’s little better than the monsters in the mist.

This is where Darabont’s talent for adapting King’s films comes into play. Under his creative control, Mrs. Carmody is considerably  deepened as a character. We don’t  learn anything new about her backstory, but we do learn that she is not as sure of herself as she would like everyone to believe. In the movie, she begins as a simple curmudgeon,  complaining about the smallest thing. Like Norton, she sees her response to what’s happening as entirely reasonable, calmly and quietly explaining to the imprisoned crowd what will happen to everyone, if they don’t do as she says,  which is one of the best changes from the book. As the movie progresses, you  get a much better grasp of her character, especially in the scene with Amanda.

Amanda Dunfrey comes across Carmody in the lady’s restroom, and finds her in tears, as she prays to God to give her the strength to commit to His will. Amanda offers her comfort, but Mrs. Carmody’s response lets you know that she is  aware of what contempt she is held in the town, and she rejects her. She speaks from  the perspective of someone who sees herself as an underdog, a figure of mockery and disdain. She doesn’t accept Amanda’s overture of friendship because she knows Amanda doesn’t care about her, and that none of the people in the market are worthy.

That scenes lends a new perspective to her actions in the market. She is not as certain of her strength as she seems, not as sure she’s doing the right thing but she forges ahead anyway, and since you get the subtle impression she has just as much contempt for the townsfolk ( they are all horrible sinners) as they do for her (as the town crazy), we have to question her motivations for calling for more and more extreme ends to deal with the  mist. Her way of dealing with the mist is to try to appease the deity, from whom she beleives the mist comes, but she goes about it the wrong way.

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Carmody’s belief, that she is doing God’s will, is abetted by surviving an attack by one of the mist creatures. A large dragonfly creature, with a venomous stinger lands on her, while she prays that it won’t kill her. When it doesn’t harm her, I think she sees that as a sign of God’s approval, that she is indeed doing the right thing, (after which she starts to show a certain degree of pride, and certainty, in knowing what God wants). She also shows pride in believing that she can save these people from certain damnation. But I don’t believe she is insane, as that’s too easy. (I think her motivations are a lot darker than insanity, and some of it may be revenge against the townspeople, she feels hate her, although that’s something that’s not immediately clear, and is just my supposition.) In other words, her motivations are not pure.

If Norton, and David, represent forms of confrontation, then Mrs. Carmody represents negotiation, which also doesn’t work in their circumstances either. Norton tries confrontation and dies, Carmody’s approach is appeasement and negotiation, and she dies, and this is why Darabont’s ending doesn’t upset me overmuch, as its entirely in keeping with the theme of the movie, that there’s only one response that saved anyone from the mist.

David’s confrontational approach doesn’t work because it is self-serving, and he  ends up losing everything, his wife, son, friends, and endangering his sanity. Everyone around David dies, every time he goes into the mist. But he miraculously  survives, because his reasons for going into the mist, while altruistic, are not completely pure. One can even make the argument that only the impure, the sinners, die, and that the reason David survives while others do not, is because, although he is tainted,  he is still never directly responsible for anyone’s death, and does make efforts to save people, like Norm the bagboy, and Edward Norton. But he is the one who talks the others into going to the pharmacy,  and talks them into escaping the market. And those actions could be considered a form of hubris, as Mrs. Carmody says.

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One can make a comparison between David and Mrs Carmody, in that it is their pride and hubris  that get other people killed, as they are both guilty of these things. Norton’s pride and disbelief got him killed, and David’s pride lets him believe he can somehow defeat the mist by confronting it head on. Carmody’s prideful belief that she knows God’s will results in her death, too.

It’s interesting to note that Ollie Weeks dies just after he kills Mrs Carmody. He is not a prideful character, and seemed to genuinely regret killing her, and even though he had a very good reason for doing so, murder is still a sin. In the novel, the soldiers commit suicide, but in the movie Carmody is directly responsible for the death of at least one of them, when she talks the crowd into sacrificing him to the mist, which is still murder. Their situation can be likened to a form of purgatory, in which there is nothing they can do to escape their fate,except for  the one character who actually does.

Melissa McBride’s character is one of the few people who actually survives walking out onto the mist, and I suspect it’s because she doesn’t  negotiate with it, or try to run from it. She surrenders to it with faith, and humility, that she will be safe to save her children. She is also one of the purest people to do so, as she has harmed no one,  unlike Mrs. Carmody. She believes the mist is dangerous, but leaves the market anyway, to save her kids, and hers is one of the few motivations which is pure and not entirely self serving, the love for her children. At the end of the movie, we see her riding with the soldiers, both her children with her. It is interesting that David survives only after he does what she did, which is knowingly surrender himself to the will of the mist, and simply walk out into it.

All that said, I don’t believe Darabont (or Stephen King) set out to tell a religious allegory, but the presence of Mr.s Carmody allows one to see it in that light.

Superstition & Stuff I’m Not Doing

Well apparently, I’m not reviewing any TV shows, which I probably should be doing. Actually, all it is is that I’ve been busy and tired to review the shows, and movies, I’ve been watching, and I’ve been watching a lot of stuff.

What have I been watching?  I have been watching The Walking Dead. So far I’m really liking this season. It’s very action packed, and full of feels, and I like that. All of my favorite characters are doing some next level shit as  the war between The Alexandrians, Hilltoppers, The  Kingdom, and The Saviors  heats up. I haven’t been feeling any urges to write about any of these episodes though, although I find  Morgan’s storyline the most compelling. I just learned that my precious tigress is dead. Shiva got taken out by a pack of zombies, while defending the life of her king. (RIP Shiva! You badass!)

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I’m so tired!

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Part of the reason I’m not reviewing so much is that I’m tired, but part of it is that I don’t actually know what to say about it yet.. There’s not a lot to be said about the plot, other than to recap it, and if you’re watching the show, you already know what happened. Morgan and Jesus came to “fisticuffs’ over the treatment of prisoners of war, and Carol got her kill on for a while, and Gregory kept it real by being an asshole. I do have thoughts about the characters, and major themes, but I think I’ll wait until after the first part of the season is done to comment on those. We’ve got three episodes left, so I think I’ll just do a summation of my thoughts at the end.

I always get fatigued in November and December, and not because I’m celebrating the  holidays. I’m not celebrating, or hosting or anything. It’s a combination of insomnia, sleep apnea, and finding human beings exhausting, even when they’re not jitterbugging with overexcitement  about the  holidays. (Also, some of it is just a change in the weather and age. Feeling cold all the time is just tiring. Y’all yunguns just don’t know!)

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And I don’t get any respite from the weather while at work. The PTB keep it freezing here, so all the women are wearing sweaters, and carrying around tiny electric heaters, while many of the  men walk around in shirtsleeves, and poke fun at us for being cold all the time. I can’t stand them!

 

Supernatural

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Where was I? Oh yeah, I’ve been watching episodes of Supernatural, but not reviewing those either. I have liked the episodes I’ve seen, but that one particular standout episode, that occurs every season, hasn’t happened yet. I’m waiting for that one. There’s only so many times I can say this episode deserves a B-. So far the show appears to be in a kind of holding pattern except for the return of Castiel from The Empty, but it’s still early in the season, so we have plenty of time to establish where the plot is going, but our theme is, as always, is family.

 

Ghost Wars

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I’ve been watching Ghost Wars, which is still chugging along on the Syfy channel. I’m liking this show, with one of my favorite characters being played by Meatloaf. He is doing an exemplary job on this show. I hadn’t paid too much attention to his acting before, but I love him in this show. He is tearing it up! The show is actually proving to be kinda scary. I’m not normally into ghosts. I don’t usually find them particularly scary, but the show is pretty good at establishing mood, and I find most of the characters likable. There’s a token Black woman,  a scientist from the local research center. No, I would not be surprised to find that some physics experiments were behind the influx and hostility of the ghosts.

 

The Exorcist

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The Exorcist has kicked it into high gear. The first few episodes were spent establishing the information about where, and who, the characters are going to be, and then trying to figure out who is possessed. So we’ve figured out  its John Cho’s character, who is possessed by a demon that’s masquerading as his late-wife, and this is really groundbreaking for American television because Asians don’t often get to be possessed by demons, and the show is actually proving to be compelling. There also an added gay subplot, as one of the priests is engaged in some flirtation with a local silver-fox, who looks like Anderson Cooper, (if he was a fisherman). There’s also a secondary plot about some type of holy order of assassins hunting down a cabal of demons, which is only of mild interest to me. I’ll have more to say about the treatment of the show’s traumatized children, and their disabilities, later.

I am working on some long form essays. I can still knock those out, it seems. And I have a bunch of ideas, that I’m not gonna tell you about, because I wanna surprise you. I’m going to  concentrate on those for a while, along with a few long form movie reviews, and eventually I’ll have something to say about The Walking Dead, and Supernatural.

 

Superstition

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What I have been enjoying is the show Superstition. I mentioned it before, and said I wasn’t greatly impressed with the acting,in the pilot,  and I thought the drama was a bit much, considering I didn’t know any of the characters, but I’ve kept up watching it, and it’s maturing into a compelling show.

Superstition has an all Black cast, about a family, The Hastings, who have a history of fighting monsters. It’s their calling, and their base of operations is a small-town funeral home in Georgia. It stars Mario Van Peebles, and while I was a bit dubious about the quality at first, I’m  glad  the show is here. Even if it doesn’t become a breakout hit, it’s still a good foot in the door, paving the way for other genre vehicles starring PoC casts, (so is The Exorcist).

That said, this show has greatly improved since the pilot. The acting has gotten much better, too. I’ve got a good bead on people’s relationships to each other, and the show can, and does sometimes surprise me, by overturning certain tropes, or not going in an expected direction, and it keeps me asking questions, on the basis of those relationships, which is proving to be the show’s strong point.

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Isaac Hastings & May, Chief of Police

The show stars Mario Van Peebles as Isaac Hastings, who taught his son Calvin the ins and outs of monster killing, and his wife Bea, who runs the day to day operations of the funeral home and, I think, is one of the keepers of the family lore, along with a woman of mixed parentage named Tilley. I’m not certain if Tilly is a member of the family or not, but she’s very smart and nerdy, and I like her. The local police chief is May (above), and she has a daughter by Calvin, named Garvey. Garvey is the least likable character on the show but only because, as is  typically written, she’s an obnoxious teenager. There’s nothing wrong with her acting. The character is just annoying.

The show has a lot of Black women, and all of them have complicated, and occasionally mysterious, relationships with each other, which Calvin has to try to navigate, along with getting to know the daughter he never knew he had, reacquainting himself with her mother, and his childhood sweetheart, May, who is now the Chief of Police. He has already been through a bout of people fighting, as he has returned from the Iraq war, after having left town many years ago, and not had any contact with his family, after a falling out with his father.

The show is notable for its depiction of a stable Black family, depictions of Black love and loyalty and Black women actually holding conversations with each other, instead of screaming at each other. Its also important for PoC to be shown being heroes, saving themselves and each other, and being total badasses, in general. Calvin is obviously meant to be the everyman hero of the show. I like how the writers allow him to be human, complex, tragic, and also have a sense of humor. I love the female friendships (and mild enmities) on the show. I like what I see between Garvey and her Mom, Bea and May, and them and Tilly, who seems to be some kind of archivist or researcher. She’s the one who most often explains whats going on to everyone else.

What’s interesting  for me is Calvin’s flirtation with his old girlfriend, May. He was taken aback at the idea of having a daughter he didn’t know about but he’s taken it in stride and wants to get to know her better (though Garvey is having none of it. She’s used to not having a Dad.) I like that May and Calvin are trying to get back together, and making some effort at getting to know each other again. The show could’ve taken the easy way out, and had the two of them hating on each other, and I’m glad it didn’t go in that direction.

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I made the mistake of reading the reviews on IMDb, which truly indeed was a mistake, because some of the reviews seriously pissed me off. The show is being roundly hated on , while being compared to Supernatural. Superstition is everything that Supernatural isn’t, and it really isn’t fair to compare the two. For one thing, Superstition has a cast of WoC, who are well written and treated better by the script. None of the Black characters are there to make White characters lives better or happy, or sacrifice themselves for them. (And I am unlikely to be subjected to the image of an innocent Black woman being held at gunpoint, by a deranged stalker, because the Black writers  have at least some sensitivity to their audience.)

Other than a family fighting monsters, I don’t see  much resemblance. Half the shows on TV have the same premise as Supernatural, so I don’t understand exactly why that’s the comparison being made, unless of course the reviewers are Supernatural stans who just hate any shows about the supernatural, or are too young to remember that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a thing. There’s also a third reason, but I don’t wanna get my blood pressure up by talking about the Klandom today.

 

The Hastings aren’t travelling the country, evading demons, fighting angels, and developing superpowers. Their base of operations is a funeral parlour,  which they’ve been at for a long time, and everybody in the family knows what it is they do, and appear to be on board with it, including Garvey. They also have a society or person (I’m not sure which) which rivals them, called The Drudge. There are other mythologies and belief systems being represented besides European ones. For example, one of my favorite actors, Jasmine Guy, is doing a great cameo as a representative of  Anansi, named, of course, Aunt Nancy, and I love her already, and all she had to do was show up, and be intriguing.

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Isaac and Calvin Hastings

 

For the Hastings this is all just a job. The show tries to make what they do seem as normal as possible, as just a family profession. This show doesn’t talk down to its audience, or browbeat a point, because that’s not Peebles style.  Superstition doesn’t give you a whole lot of setup, which I had a moment getting used to. It throws you right in the deep end with Calvin. You learn what he learns as he learns it. You get one explanation and then it’s  on you to keep up. If you don’t pay attention to the dialogue and you miss something, you betta rewind, because it probably won’t be mentioned again, but still may be an important plot point later.

The atmosphere is one of normalcy, with routine answers to supernatural  puzzles, like trying to retrieve May when she gets trapped in a “mirror world” by an evil witch. There’s no oohing and ahhing about the paranormal in this show. It’s the bizarreness of the situations people  are put in, and the relationships between the characters, that is the source of most of the drama. Supernatural started as a show for teenagers, and still has much of that flavor. This is a show about grownups for grownups. The audience is expected to pay attention and keep up. I reminded more of the show Leverage, crossed with the X-Files, more than anything else.

Not that the there aren’t legitimate criticisms of the show. The pacing needs some smoothing, some of the acting is  still a little dodgy, but not enough to make me stop watching. It could use some memorable music. I don’t care so much about the special effects, as I don’t think that’s what makes a good show, and some of the acting could be tightened up a bit, but its far from being the worst show on TV, and shows real promise of future greatness, and I’m here for it.

 

So, I’m off for the next couple of days, and will get back to you, for some weekend reading, later this week.

TTFN

Thangs I Been Looking At (Mini – Reviews)

Ghost Wars

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I’m  impressed with this show, ,not just for its good production, but because it’s actually scary. I don’t normally pay much attention to literary ghost stories, but movies and TV shows seem to work for me a bit, although I still prefer monster movies, where normalcy has been upheaved by something that’s blatantly malicious, and then order is restored after the creature is defeated. Ghost stories are too open ended for me to really get into them, and sometimes they’re just not very scary to me.

The ghost stories that actually scared me were The Sixth Sense, Ju-On, and, The Ring. In my mind, everything made since those movies have been nothing but ripoffs of the originals. But I actually like this show. There’s just enough uncanny shit happening to keep me off balance. I like the characters and their issues. The acting is better than I expected (because Vincent D’onofrio is present as a town preacher.) and there’s also just enough social subtext to make it compelling.

 

 

Roman Mercer is the town outcast because he can see ghosts, especially the ghosts of regular townspeople, so he has a reputation. In the pilot, he was attempting to leave town, but there was some type of explosive paranormal event that prevented that, and killed the bus full of people he’d been on. (His best friend is a young lady who is also a ghost, and she warned him about the bus crash in advance.)

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So now this remote Alaskan town is being overrun by ghosts, who are definitely malevolent. What event awakened them all, and what the ghosts want, is still a delicious mystery, that I’m here for. The ghosts can possess people, cause nasty hallucinations, like when the town preacher, while giving a wake in the town bar, sees blood pouring from his drinking glass, and they cause people to believe the town bridge  is still intact, when its been destroyed. The only thing that saves everyone is that Roman can see through the hallucination, and prevent people from trying to drive across.

There have also been some interesting character changes as the townsfolk who didn’t believe in Roman’s abilities, now have no choice but to believe, as they are being attacked by ghosts, and those who did believe in Roman’s powers, and hated him for it, have since realized his usefulness, and stopped bullying him.

 

Kim Coates and Meatloaf also star in the show. I’ve liked Coates ever since I first saw him in Waterworld, although he’s been around since the late 80s. In the show he plays either a lovable rogue, who is responsible for his little brother’s death, or the town ne’er do well. I wasn’t sure of Meatloaf’s acting abilities until I saw him in Fight Club, although I’d also seen him in other projects. He plays one of the town bullies.

I think I’m going to stick with this show for a while. The Syfy Channel is slowly starting to build back its reputation for interesting shows, and I’m glad. The Expanse, Dark Matters, Killjoys, Z Nation, Superstition, Ghost Wars. By focusing on character, paying close attention to diversity, (lots of women in these shows, lots of PoC, and most importantly lots of different WoC), and coupling these things with interesting  concepts, Syfy is slowly getting back its street cred as a network that geeks are not ashamed to admit to watching.

 

Superstition

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I really like the idea of this Black family that fights supernatural creatures in this small town, and I have tremendous respect for Van Peebles for breaking new ground, just by adding racial diversity to genre shows. He’s done Westerns (Posse), and werewolves, (Full Eclipse), and now he’s taking a crack at the Supernatural/Buffy style show, involving family dynamics with monster killing.  I don’t know how long this show is going to last because I haven’t seen many people talking about it anywhere, but I hope it at least finishes out one season.

The problem I have is with the execution of the ideas on the show. The acting could be better, (its a little dodgy) and the plot needs to be beefier. I feel like it should’ve lead with the demons/monster plot, and then worked in the soap opera aspects, once we got to really know the characters. I  think the plot leans a little too heavy on the drama, and we just met all these characters, so we have no incentive to care about their emotional issues.

The Hastings are basically a bunch of badasses who use deadly weapons and magic to battle the forces of evil. The eldest son was estranged from the family, but has come back home, and been welcomed back into the family business of monster killing, so we learn about what’s going on just as he does, as he needs to be taught the ropes.

Sadly, not much was known about this show before it aired and the only place I saw any promos was on the Syfy network itself. The network does not appear to be as invested in this show as it seems to be in other shows, like The Expanse, and Z Nation, and that’s why I don’t think this show is going to last very long. But I’m here for it while it airs.

 

Stranger Things Season Two

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I get why people like this show. There’s a definite nostalgia factor, and those kids are cute as all heck, but My feeling about the show was kinda meh. its not a bad show, and it has excellent production values, but I just wasn’t deeply invested. I wasn’t carried away, I guess.

Maybe part of the reason I didn’t find this especially compelling is because I didn’t watch the entire first season. I saw bits and pieces of it. Enough to get a general idea of what was happening, but not all the tiny details, like names. I liked all the little 80s callbacks, and I liked quite a few of the characters. Wynona Ryder plays Michael’s Mom, and she was her usual excellent self. Sean Astin plays her love interest, and he is a goofily cheerful character that I sort of liked. The most interesting two characters were Lucas, and his seeming love interest, a ginger haired skater- girl ,who just moved into town. Lucas’ friendship with her causes a minor riff between the four friends.

Eleven escapes from her overprotective adoptive father, but after the two of them have a falling out,  she finds herself having adventures in the city, where she falls in with a group of thieves led by another girl with tattoos, and the ability to cause illusions. She eventually leaves them when she receives a premonition that Mike is in danger. Eleven’s activities are the most interesting part of the show.

Michael, the boy who befriended Eleven in the first season keeps having visions of a massive creature that has infested (infected) the entire town. He develops a connection to it, and eventually becomes possessed by the creature. When the rest of his family and friends realize what’s happening they spring into action to prevent the creature’s release, into the town, from the local  medical facility, but its already too late, as one of Michael’s friends has befriended a small  frog-like creature that turns out to be a juvenile form of the monster.

I didn’t dislike the show, and I bingewatched all ten episodes, but I wasn’t wildly enthused either. I can recommend it if you don’t have anything more pressing to watch, or if you just really love 80s nostalgia. Really, the most compelling thing in the entire show was the monster, and I want to see season three because I’d like to know what’s going to happen to it, and Eleven.

 

Jeepers Creepers 3

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Don’t worry. I didn’t pay money to see this movie. At any rate I couldn’t have even if I wanted to. Sensing that people wouldn’t want to associate too much with the cinematic output of a convicted pedophile, the movie’s creators sought only a limited, one day, release, before sending it directly to video, or rather the Syfy Channel where I saw it the weekend before Halloween.

I did not care for this movie because it’s a confusing mess. It takes place between the first and second films, but that isn’t immediately apparent, as only two of the characters from the first film appear in it, and only one of the characters from the second. Ridiculous things happen in the movie that I couldn’t make sense of, and even though there’s a lot of exposition, (I mean a LOT! People talk and talk and talk.) all the talking didn’t make anything about this movie any clearer.

Most of that talking is is from a brand new character, a cop named Tashtego, who is constantly stressing to the other characters how evil The Creeper is and that he must be killed. There’s lots of shots of he Creeper being his usual weird and nasty self, terrorizing teenagers, eating people, etc. For some reason, someone thought it would be a grand idea to prominently feature the creature’s truck, which is tricked out with various booby traps, which is what the police find out when they try to investigate the dead bodies lying in it, and a pack of obnoxious teenagers find this out too before they’re promptly caught and killed by The Creeper. He still likes to hunt  pretty young men, but occasionally takes time out of his busy schedule to terrify a woman or two.

One ofthe most baffling scenes is the discovery of a disembodied hand of The Creeper that gives people visions when they touch it. This isn’t something that was even hinted at in the first movie, although in every film, there’s the one character who seems to mystically know shit about The Creeper, so as to give more exposition on him. Exposition that illuminates not at all.

Since The Creeper can’t actually be killed, and we saw him in the second movie that was released we pretty much know how this one ends. He doesn’t get caught. At any rate, it matters not one bit, because I don’t believe Salva will be making any more of these. I sense that the makers of this movie just wanted to release it quietly, and get it off their books, and get Salva out of their hair, so I don’t think he’ll be making another Creeper movie any time soon. It’s very possible that he won’t ever be making any more movies again, since no one wants to be associated with him, especially in this new climate of awareness involving past sex scandals.

 

Seoul Station

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I was really excited to get to see this, the moment I heard of it, especially after watching Train to Busan. Seoul Station is an animated pre-quel to the live action Train to Busan, and its every bit as harrowing, nerve wracking, and action packed as the movie, despite the medium. It takes its time getting started but like the live action movie, once it gets going it doesn’t let up, doesn’t let you have a rest, and you get attached to the primary character just as in the other film.

In Seoul Sta. we see the beginning of the zombie infestation, and how it managed to escape notice until it got out of hand. This happens the way it always does by affecting the poor and underclass first. We meet a young woman who just escaped prostitution with  an abusive pimp, but the man she’s currently  living with isn’t much better. He’s having money issues and keeps trying to convince her to sell herself so they can pay the rent. At one point he hits her, and she;s so used to being treated that way she doesn’t even fight back.. (I wasn’t expecting that scene and it kind of threw me for a bit, so here’s my warning in advance. If you have trouble watching such things,s know the movie contains scenes of stalking and domestic abuse.)

We follow this young woman for the rest of the movie, after she breaks up with her current boyfriend. She barely manages to stay one step ahead of the zombie infestation, running from one seemingly safe place to another, only for those places to be overrun by the dead. From a police station, to the subway, to an alley that’s been cordoned off by the police (who think its all some type of insurrection), she has to use all her strength, and wits to stay ahead of the zombies, while wearing nothing more than a little pink dress and bare feet. She’s not an entirely sympathetic character either, as one of her most annoying traits is a complete inability to close doors behind her, thereby exacerbating her zombie issues.

In the meantime she’s also being pursued by her current boyfriend and her former pimp, both of whom have try to make their way through the zombie infested streets of Seoul. I was a little confused at first, because I thought her former pimp was her father, but it turns out he’s just lying to enlist her boyfriend’s aid in finding her.

A funny observation  about this movie (and I don’t know if this is just something that’s done in the movie, or if people in Seoul actually behave this way) are the many people who are  willing to verbally harangue strangers in public. From her landlady screaming at her about her late rent, to when she screams at her boyfriend at a cyber cafe, to random disturbed people on the street, characters are forever running up to others and screaming at them. Needless to say you cannot do that shit in America, where you just run up on somebody and start yelling, especially during a Zombie apocalypse. (You will get your ass beat for that just on a regular Tuesday.) Sometimes they just scream gibberish, but sometimes the rants are very specific. At any rate, some of this behavior serves too illustrate the lives of the rather downtrodden, and in some cases, criminal individuals.

Unlike the live action film, none of the characters are your typical salaried workers, which is a refreshing change from American made films, in which we watch your standard  American family endure some kind of crisis. Some of them are not the least bit nice, or innocent, either. There are homeless people bullying each other, and salaried workers, who treat the homeless characters with disdain and contempt. I don’t know if the creator is trying to make some kind of social argument about life in Seoul, or not, though.

Seoul Station is available right now for free on Amazon Prime, (or for rent). This is an absolutely excellent double bill, with its sequel, but you’re going to have to rest between films, because neither will give you a moment.

The Mummy

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I was not impressed by this movie. In fact, I think I hated it. Tom Cruise looks worn and tired, the plot is rather lackluster, and I was not expecting Russell Crowe to be shamelessly overacting in this movie. Its not a bad film, in the sense that the people who cared about it, tried their best, to make it look good, but the movie is simply uninspired. The first Mummy movie in the last trilogy at least had a feeling of freshness in its lead female character, Evie. Here the only female character we are meant to pay attention to is boring and flat, and the other one is the villain.

Essentially, The Mummy tells the origin story of how a modern man gets chosen by an ancient priestess, Ahmanet, to be the avatar of the Egyptian god, Set. It would’ve been a much more interesting movie, if they had just stuck to the portion dealing with Ahmanet, but you know Hollywood hates WoC, because its unthinkable to them that one of them (namely Sofia Boutella, who is actually Egyptian) would ever be the head of her own franchise. Franchises must be led by your standard white guy named Chris, or Tom in this case. One of these days Miss Boutella will be treated with respect and won’t have to kiss tired looking men, twice her age, to be in a movie.

Tom should  stick with those Mission Impossible, and Jack Reacher movies, which I actually like. He looks as if he’s enjoying himself in those, and I like a Tom Cruise film in which he appears to at least be having some fun. Here, he  looks like he can’t wait for the movie to be over, and seems like he’s just going through the motions until it ends.

I was only mildly excited to see this in the theater, and I’m glad I didn’t waste my money. My advice is to skip this and watch the 1999 version again.

28 Days Later (2002): The Evolution of Selena

This was number four of the five Black Women in Horror reviews I wanted to do for October.

When I first saw this movie I had no idea who Naomie Harris was. I ‘d heard about the movie in a magazine and I was already a Cillian Murphy fan, having loved him in Kinky Boots, so I was pretty much just watching the movie for him. Naomie Harris came out of nowhere and just killed it. Literally!

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Now, I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent, and mention once again, that this is why we need diverse reviewers of Pop Culture. When I read the early reviews of this movie, all of the focus was on Murphy, which is understandable, because his star was definitely on the rise at the time, and people were enamored of him. (He is very pretty!) But Selena was barely mentioned, and I feel some type of way about that. I think if I had known there was  an awesome Black woman in this movie, I would’ve paid more attention to her.

And people really should pay attention to Selena. In fact, I would argue that though the film is from Jim’s point of view, the movie is really about Selena, and Jim, as they both grow and change, and adopt what the other thought of as each other’s worst traits to survive. Selena grows from someone who is cold and calloused, who disparages Jim’s compassion for others, into someone warm and compassionate, willing to love and let herself be loved. Jim grows from someone who is too trusting and idealistic, and saying he could never live the way Selena has been living, into someone willing to fight and kill for the people he loves.

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When we first meet Selena, she is essentially  the Sapphire stereotype, of a cold an unfeeling Black woman. She loves no one, isn’t capable of loving anyone, and is angry, cold, and bitter, saying she would cut Jim loose, in a hot second, the moment he jeopardized her survival. That her anger and bitterness is justified is not made specifically clear, but she has reason. Her entire world and life has been destroyed. She believes the only thing worth doing is surviving, for survival’s sake. She is unlikable at first, (and Jim says as much), but she grows into a  more sympathetic character as the plot moves forward. Selena is the co-protagonist of this movie. She has a definite character arc, and her decisions  help to carry the plot.

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Jim wakes up alone in a hospital and discovers that the entire city of London has been evacuated because of a disease called Rage, which makes the infected viciously attack anyone they encounter. When he meets Selena, she really isn’t all that different from the infected herself, violent and quite vicious. She is travelling with another young man, who is accidentally infected, and Jim witnesses the brutal manner with which the uninfected, like Selena, have had to deal with the situation. She is cold, and incompassionate, and does not want to get attached to him. Nevertheless, she agrees to travel with him because she doesn’t want to be alone. Being alone is not good for survival either, it seems.

Over the course of the movie, she does get attached to him, and the young daughter of a family they meet in their travels., named Hannah. When they encounter an AWOL military company, who threaten to imprison and rape her and the girl, and execute Jim, they both have to use all their wits and bravery to save themselves, but ultimately it’s Selena’s attachment to her new family, and his love for her, that’s saves all of them. One of the most poignant moments in the movie is when Selena, unable to prevent their degradation from the soldiers, offers Hannah drugs to survive what’s about to happen. Not because she’s trying to hurt her, but so Hannah won’t care what’s happening. The woman who was willing to cut anyone loose, who impinged on her survival, offers to do this from a place of compassion.

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I initially didn’t like Selena, and it took some time for me to understand that that was the point. The things she says to Jim when they first meet are mean and callous. She is a hardened woman, and he rightfully chides her for it, telling her he can’t live that way. Ironically, he has to become  hardened, and more than a little brutal himself, if he wants to save the woman he’s fallen in love with. He brutally slaughters all the soldiers he meets in an effort to find and rescue the two women. Selena, in turn, has to adopt the qualities she hated in Jim, when they first met, if she wants to save Hannah, and herself.

In the end, Selena and Jim declare their love for each other when he walks through a nightmarish landscape of screaming zombies, and military men, to rescue her and Hannah, and I am totally here for it, as it echoes the plot of Django Unchained, which was based on Siegfried’s Story from the German opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Siegfried, who rides through a ring of fire, in a locked tower, to save the Shieldmaiden Brunhilde, and make her his wife. Selena could be classified as a Shieldmaiden like Brunhilde. She is a warrior, who at first only fought for her own survival , but later fights for those she loves, Jim and Hannah.

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If Selena were White, it would be insulting to see her dameseled in such a fashion, but since we so rarely get to see Black women be vulnerable and loved, but still brave and smart, it overturns the stereotypical narrative of the strong Black woman, who don’t need no man. At the beginning of the movie she declares she doesn’t need anyone, but she is wrong. Hannah tells her midway through the movie, that they all need each other, and by that point Selena is willing to accept that.

The movie has three different endings. In the first ending, which was not filmed,  everyone arrived at a research medical center, and gets trapped there. The second involved Jim dying in the hospital, with Hannah and Selena continuing their journey without him. The third ending involved Jim waking up in the hospital to discover it was all nothing more than a dream. The director decided to go with the more positive ending we eventually got, of Hannah, Jim, and Selena  being rescued.

28 Days Later was the best zombie movie released that year, so it got a lot of attention, not just for Murphy’s presence, and its fast zombies, but because of the multiple endings. If you have no quarrel with zombies that are not strictly zombies, then this is an excellent film to add to your zombie film collection.

It won’t be October, but I’m still going to do that last review, which is Gugu M’Batha-Raw From Blade. Stay tuned!

Alien Vs. Predator & Demon Knight

Who Saves the World

(We do!)

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Here’s the second set of reviews for 31 Days of Black Women in Horror Movies for the website Graveyard Shift Sisters.

You may not think these two movies have much in common, but you’d be wrong. They have at least two things in common, Black female heroes, and Black female heroes who live to the end of the movie.

 

http://www.blackhorrormovies.com/scary-sistas-a-brief-history-of-black-women-in-horror-films/

 

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If you’re not aware of the old movie trope, “The Black Guy Dies First”, then you don’t know how groundbreaking it is for a movie to not only have a Black hero, but for that Black hero to live all the way to the end of the movie ,while saving the world. This was famously spoofed by the Black slayer named Rona, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with her snide remark to Buffy, “The Black girl gets it…”

Thanks to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, horror movies have always tried to have progressive representation. This certainly isn’t true of all such movies, but Horror and Scifi movies are at least willing to break with the tradition of a White male hero and cast women, and PoC, as the stars of the movies. From The Afflicted with its Asian male lead, to Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis, and Sigourney Weaver in Alien,  from Danny Glover in Predator II, and Wesley Snipes in Blade, many of these movies have become iconic films by overturning the tradition of having a White guy be the hero.

Predator, the franchise ,was itself willing to break with tradition, after casting Arnold Schwarzeneggar as the hero of the first movie, by casting Danny Glover as the hero of the second. That movie is also unique in casting a Latina, Maria Conchita Alonso, as one of that movie’s good guys, who also gets to live to the end.

 

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Alien Vs Predator is just continuing this habit by casting Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods,  the guide for a team of archaeologists, who are exploring the Antarctic for alien artifacts, along with Charles Bishop Weyland, the CEO of Weyland Industries, and the prototype for Bishop, the android from Aliens. Suffice to say,, she is the only  survivor, after the team gets caught in the crossfire between the Aliens, and the Predators who came to Earth to hunt them.

Alexa is as tough as they come. She’s brave and determined, and finally rewarded for her fortitude with the proper facial scars of a successful Predator, by the other Predators, who have been watching the events from on-high. I haven’t watched this movie in a few years. I have to admit, I failed to appreciate its novelty when it was released. It’s only on later viewings that I realized the film’s uniqueness. It, and the fearless Alexa Woods, have since become a favorite. (I find it especially interesting that most of the reviews of this movie seem to ignore her presence in it, although fans of the movie seem to really like her, and Danny Glover.)

This movie is also notable because Alexa is also a scientist, an environmental technician. As depictions of Black women in science are really hard to come by at the movies, its important to take note, its the Blerdgirl who saves the world.

http://www.btchflcks.com/2016/07/when-will-black-women-play-leading-scientists-more-often.html#.WfDwM1tSxD4

 

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Irene goes out like a Boss!

Demon Knight is notable not just for Jada Pinkett as Jeryline, the hero of the movie, but for also starring CCH Pounder as Irene, her bullying work release employer, who is every bit as badass as she thinks she is. I did not fail to appreciate the release of this movie. Mom and I were already Jada Pinkett fans after her work in A Lowdown Dirty Shame and we were looking forward to seeing her work it in our favorite genre, Horror. We were not disappointed. Jeryline is smart as fuck, and fearless too. From the moment you meet her character, she is sympathetic, and you start to root for her to survive this movie, because you just know, somebody’s gonna die!

William Sadler (another favorite of mine) plays Frank Brayker, as a Knight of the Cross, attempting to keep a Holy artifact out of the hands of Billy Zane’s Collector, to keep the world safe from demons. The artifact is meant to hold the blood of Christ, but over the centuries, the Keepers of the “The Key” began to fill it with their own blood. The blood in The Key is sanctified  to create protective barriers, or to kill demons directly, and when the last of the blood is used, the Keeper, who is immortal as long as he/she carries it,  dies.

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When Brayker finally sacrifices his life, he passes The Key to Jeryline. The person who carries The Key must be a thief,  in homage to the first carrier of The Key, a thief who stole Christ’s blood at God’s command. Jeryline fits the bill because it was the reason for her prison conviction. In the end, Jeryline defeats The Collector, in a novel way that would never have occurred to Frank, and sets herself on the road, followed by a new Collector, a Black man carrying a suspicious looking guitar case. (My mom and I applauded.)

I was disappointed to learn there would be no sequel to this movie. I would’ve loved to have  seen this take place in Georgia or Louisiana, with an all Black cast.

Hollywood is still somewhat stuck in the rut of pandering to the White male demographic, but that is slowly beginning to change, especially after the success of Get Out, and the forthcoming release of Proud Mary in January, and Black Panther during Black History Month, next year. Hollywood could use Indie and genre films as an example of how to craft movies that appeal to other than White men.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT, Jada Pinkett, 1995. (c) MCA/Universal Pictures
Jeryline – Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight 
In this cult classic, Jerlyline is the definition of survivor. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind nor kick a serious amount of ass, both of which she did!

 

 

http://wickedhorror.com/top-horror-lists/7-fierce-black-women-in-horror/

Yes, Black women want to have onscreen adventures. We like to see representations of us in movies, and TV shows, being heroes, being brave, and fearless, and saving the world, just like White women, (and I’ll wager that Asian women, and Latinas want to see this too.) There have been so many demographics Hollywood has been ignoring for decades. Horror movies, by their nature, seem willing to be different, to overturn tropes, and even mock its own stereotypes.

These aren’t the only Horror movies featuring Women of Color, they just happen to be two of my favorites. Its about time for me to watch them again.

*     *     *   *   *     *       *      *    *       *

https://blackgirlnerds.com/black-women-and-feminism-in-horror-films/

In all these films, these women used their brains, brawn, and instincts to survive amidst a mostly white, male cast. They weren’t treated as servants or sex slaves except for that cringe worthy scene in 28 Days Later.

All three women fought just as hard or harder than their white, male counterparts; proving that they could and did survive regardless of their gender or race.

Bladerunner 2049 Review (Part I)

Last  weekend I did go see  Bladerunner 2049 because Mum changed her mind about going to see The Mt. Between Us. I went to see this alone, which is what I prefer when I go see such movies, so I don’t feel a burden to socialize with the person next to me, or talk about the movie afterwards. I can take my time and get my thoughts and feelings in order.

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I had a lot of feels about this movie, but wonderfully, I also got a bit of intellectual stimulation too, as I tried to puzzle out what the plot meant,  and what the characters symbolize. Also, the movie is just great eye candy. Let me start from the very beginning with a primer on the two movies and how they’re related to the book on which they are both based. This is going to be a long one, with lots of spoilers, so I’m going to need to break into two parts. Forgive me if I get some things wrong because I’m writing this from memory.

 

Warning For Spoilers

 

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There really isn’t any direct need to watch the short films,  but watching them will enhance your Bladerunner 2049 viewing experience because there are some things in the movie which are not made explicitly clear, or if you blink, you’ll miss it.

https://www.inverse.com/article/35997-blade-runner-shorts-2049-prequels-connections-canon


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The Plot:

Foundation

I cannot talk about Bladeruner 2049, without discussing the plot of the first film, because so much of that film is the foundation of this one, and I can’t discuss that movie without talking about the book on which all of this is based. So much of the new movie is built from the original that it’s difficult to understand the full scope of what Villanueve has done without looking at his sources.

In the original novel, by Philip K. Dick, titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the primary themes of Self, Identity, and the meaning of Humanity are still present. One of the major changes from the book is that the replicants in the book are different from the ones in the movies. In the book they’re definitely robots/androids. In the movies, they are genetic constructs, that are alive, need to breathe, can be drowned,  bleed out, and die just like humans. Except for being stronger, faster, and largely immune to pain, ( or indifferent to it, as illustrated in the first movie, when Pris sticks her hand in a vat of boiling water), they are indistinguishable in appearance from human beings.

In the new movie, all replicants after the Nexus Six are distinguished by having lit tattoos of their serial number in their right eye, as we saw in the film short, Nexus Dawn. This is something that figures into the plot of the short film Blackout 2022.

For all intents and purposes, just as in the book, all replicants were indistinguishable from humans, which is why the Voight-Kampff test was created. The Voight-Kampff Test is what you see happening at the beginning of the first Bladerunner movie, and it detects emotional responses in human beings, specifically pupillary response to emotion. Replicants, specifically the Nexus 6, built by the Tyrell Corporation, (from the first movie), don’t have normal human emotional responses because they only had a four-year life span, which doesn’t give them time to develop such things. This, and Eldon Tyrell’s conversation with Roy Batty in that movie, is important to remember, because it directly pertains to Rachael (Deckard’s lover), and the replicants of the current movie. Rachael was Tyrell’s experimental success, in that she had an unlimited lifespan. This must have been a successful line because all Nexus 8 replicants have unlimited lifespans.

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The new replicants in the current film are built by a different creator than was featured in the first, Niander Wallace, here played by Jared Leto. The Tyrell Corporation went bankrupt after the Blackout of 2022, I think, which occurs after the creation of the Nexus 8. The Wallace Corporation stepped in to build on Tyrell’s foundation. Just as in the first movie, all the replicants, the current ones built by Niander Wallace, and the Nexus 8s built by Tyrell, know what they are, and  don’t seem to like it any more than the Nexus 6s. The major difference between Wallace’s replicants and Tyrell’s is that the new replicants  are programmed tonever question their submission to humans, to always obey.

In Nexus Dawn, Wallace has a meeting with some of the city’s governing bodies about removing the replicant ban on Earth. If you will remember from the first film, replicants were banned from Earth after a bloody rebellion shortly before 2019. Replicants are only allowed in the off world colonies. Keeping them off Earth is the reason the Bladerunners were created. The current Bladerunner’s job is to “retire” the Nexus 8s. (There’s a list.)  Niander’s argument is that the ban needs to be lifted because humanity is dying, just like most of the Earth, and he thinks the replicants could replace them.

In Blackout 2022, the Nexus 8s cause a massive blackout over the city, destroying all the city’s digital information. In conjunction with the removal of their right eyes, they hoped to erase the knowledge of any Nexus 8s left on Earth, and remain undetected. The Blackout  also plays a major part in the plot of the sequel.

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Niander’s theories are related to another theme from the original book and movie, ecological destruction. In the book, one of the major ways that humanity differentiates itself from replicants is by caring for animals. Showing care for animals is a way of proving you have human feelings. Deckard owns an android sheep that lives on the roof of his building, and other characters own other types of robot animals, because they are too poor to own real ones.  This world  is so damaged, that most of its animals are extinct, or specially protected, and no city dweller, unless they’re extremely wealthy, has ever seen a real animal. The movies remains faithful to this idea, so all the animals you see in the first movie, are all replications of animals, made by humans.

The world is so ravaged, that  Officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, marvels at small plants (Sapper Morton’s window garden) and bees, because he doesn’t know what they are. One of the standout images in this movie is when he sticks his hand into a beehive without flinching. He not only doesn’t know that they sting, he doesn’t  register it when they do.

The Earth is dying, humanity has killed off most of its plant and animal life, and the ones left behind are dying too, from various abnormalities and illnesses. It is implied that humans without illnesses, or afflictions, are highly encouraged and incentivized to move off-world, and Wallace claims that humans have colonized some nine different worlds. But he thinks this is not enough to ensure mankind’s survival, and believes humans should colonize all the known universe.

 

Now

Officer K is a replicant programmed to retire other replicants, namely any Nexus 8s left on the planet after the blackout of 2022. The first replicant we see him retire is Sapper Morton, the replicant from the third short film, as a direct result of Sapper’s actions there. Afterwards, K discovers the bones of a woman interred beneath a dead tree, located on Sapper’s protein farm. These are the bones of Rachael, Deckard’s lover from the first movie. It  is discovered, under examination, that she gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl, which is considered impossible, because replicant women are infertile. And if Deckard is a replicant, as was theorized in the first movie, this is doubly impossible.

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Officer K is tasked by his boss, Lt. Joshi, played by an unrecognizable Robin Wright, with finding these now adult children, and retiring them, lest word gets out that replicants can now reproduce. It would make it that much harder to tell the difference between manufactured beings and naturally born human beings. K is aided in his investigation by his, implanted childhood memories, and his holographic lover named Joi, and thwarted by Niander Wallace’s personal replicant assistant, Luv, who has also been given the task of finding Rachael’s children.

K follows the trail of his memories all the way to a children’s workhouse, where he discovers there was only one child, and it was a girl, but her records were obscured during the Blackout. He makes his way to a devastated Las Vegas, where Deckard lives in exile. K  believes himself to be the lost child of Rachael because of the memory that was planted in his programming by Rachael’s daughter, Ana, until he encounters a group of replicants who all were implanted with that same memory. Ana is alive and well, but living in isolation because of an immunity disease. She creates replicant memories for the Wallace Corporation, and the memory in K’s mind, and in all the others minds, is actually hers, even though giving repplicants real memories is illegal.. She seeded this memory in all the replicants she worked on, in the hope that one day one of them would find her father.

K finds and loses Deckard in a fight with Luv, who destroys Joi, and kidnaps Deckard. He defeats Niander Wallace’s plans to torture Deckard for information on Rachael’s pregnancy, kills Luv, then reunites Deckard with his daughter. Fatally injured in his fight with Luv, K lies down to die in the snow.

 

 

The Characters:

Officer K

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When we first meet K he is as cool as they come, and  completely unperturbed by the thought of the  danger in his job, at which he is extremely good. The only character who can get anywhere beneath this placid exterior is Joi. He is a replicant who kills other replicants, but by the end of the movie, he is willing to sacrifice his life for the  cause of  reuniting Deckard with his child. For love.

K does have a character arc, but its a quiet one, that’s not as obvious as Deckard’s, although it parallels that one. It requires some effort to see, as it is not neatly or clearly spelled out. His  arc is the opposite of Deckard’s. Deckard goes from being a cold and unfeeling human being who disregards the lives of the replicants enough to kill them, to rediscovering his humanity by realizing it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re human. By falling in love with Rachael. K goes from being a replicant that is callous enough to kill his own kind, to sacrificing his life for Deckard’s goal, because it’s the closest he will ever be to being human.

Lt. Joshi, his superior makes a point of stating that replicants, at least the newer models like K, can’t lie but he does actually lie to her about finding and retiring Deckard’s child, which I find interesting. After every mission, K is subjected to a post-trauma debriefing that establishes his emotional base parameters, and determines whether or not he should be retired. By the time he’s lying to Joshi, his programming has become so compromised (he has become so human in hs responses) that he can no longer pass it. Joshi, as a grace, gives him the opportunity to run, which is ironic after what he said to Sapper earlier in the movie. His kind don’t run.

Incidentally, the test K undergoes is a series of keywords that he must repeat in sequence. Those words are based on a poem Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire.

 *Decode the test, and you realize that the computer is quoting verse:

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

 

There is a Pinocchio element to K’s character, as he comes to believe that he may be Rachael’s special child and you can see the heartbreak in his eyes when he discovers that those childhood memories are not his, and he is not the one. For a brief moment in time he was truly special.  In the original film, the unicorn is associated with Deckard, as being special, as being unique. K thinks he is a unicorn for a fleeting moment and  when it passes, it is devastating to him, and Gosling conveys all of this with just his eyes.

Ryan Gosling carries the bulk of this movie as Officer K. I have to admit, I’d paid not an ounce of attention to this actor except to note that White women seemed to be crazy about him, while I was simply unimpressed. Now I am impressed. He’s phenomenal as K. I have to admit I had some doubts he could pull off this role because the trailers lead you to believe that all he does is look stoic for the entirety of the film. It’s a  lowkey performance as befits the character. The majority of what Gosling does is in his eyes, which is appropriate,  as the eyes being the windows to the soul, is one of the primary themes of both movies.

As an often despised minority, I identified with him on a certain level. K lives in a world  where he is disdained for who, and what, he is. Chillingly, as he is walking down a crowded corridor, one of his co-workers spits the word “skinjob” at him, and I am heavily reminded of  the narration from the first movie which equates that word with the N word. People just sort of casually say this word to him, or around him, and I’m reminded that there was a time when the N word was so casually said, in the presence of Black people, that nobody raised the slightest eyebrow at its use. And no one blinks at the use of the word “skinjob” in this movie.

Sapper Morton 

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Sapper is played by Dave Bautista, who you may remember as Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s the replicant we met in the short film set in 2048. He works as a protein farmer in one of Earth’s dead zones. When K comes to retire him, just after the events in the short film, he claims to have witnessed a miracle and, it is heavily implied, was present at the birth of Rachael’s child. After Rachael’s death, he buried her bones beneath the tree on his property.

I just want to commend Bautista. He is killing it in the serious acting category, and is hilarious as Drax. I never expected this level of acting quality from a Championship wrestler, which is something I just found out about as I only know Bautista through his acting career, in Spectre and Bushwick. He is definitely one to watch.

 

Rick Deckard

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Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard. If you’re hoping to find out if he’s a human or a replicant, you’re not going to find out in this movie. It’s heavily implied by Wallace and Luv that he is a replicant. But he has clearly aged, and every replicant he’s ever fought has thoroughly kicked his ass. So he’s not fast, or especially strong, and unlike K, he definitely seems to feel pain.

According to Ridley Scott, Deckard is a replicant, but Harrison Ford doesn’t believe he is. After watching the first film, I was convinced he was, but now I’m not so sure. Also, I just like the idea that he’s human, as it sets up a thematic parallel to K’s journey of finding his humanity. Both of them end up finding their humanity through the love of women the rest of the world disregards as unimprtant and disposable.

When K finds Deckard,  he is living in what’s left of an irradiated Las Vegas, and has reached a point in his life where he simply doesn’t care what’s real or synthetic. When K asks if his dog is real, he says he doesn’t know. He has long since ceased to care about such things because his love for Rachael was as real to him as K’s love for Joi.

Its important to remember that part of the reason for the dynamic  seen between Deckard and K, is that K, at this point in the narrative, falsely believes he is Deckard’s son, and tells him the name Joi provided him. Joe.

We do not get to see Deckard’s reunion with his daughter, and I feel some type of way about that.

 

Joi

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Joi is K’s holographic girlfriend, played by actress Ana De Armis. I actually liked Joi, although she doesn’t really have a huge role to play in the film’s plot. She is, rather, emotional support for K. She serves as the embodiment of joy for K.  Like many “real” women, she grounds K, giving him a homebase. She is his refuge in a loud, and untidy world, and later in the movie, she accompanies him on his quest to find Deckard. This feeling of safety is as ephemeral as her body, though. She cannot really save K.

K can’t physically touch her, although there is a scene where Joi takes it on herself to hire a local sex worker that she can possess so that K can imagine having  sex with her. She is tied to the emitter in his apartment until K buys her a mobile version. He tells her she can go anywhere, but naturally her first request is to go outside, where she experiences rain for the first time. Despite all this, Joi is capable of making decisions for herself, or for K. She is capable of delight, and wonder, and who is to say that how she experiences the world isn’t real. That she isn’t real.

After the apartment emitter is destroyed, she is confined only to her mobile emitter until Luv destroys it, and her, in her fight with K. Dejected and bereft, having lost both Deckard and Joi, K wanders the streets of LA until he encounters a giant nude hologram which looks like Joi. When she refers to him as Joe, he realizes that what he had with Joi was always meant to be fleeting and was probably never real. Earlier in the movie,  when he believed himself to be human, Joi had re-named him Joe. In the background of this scene can be seen the shadow of a small horse, possibly a unicorn. Joe thought he was special, and unique. He thought Joi was special.

 

Luv

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Luv is Niander Wallace’s personal assassin/henchman. She appears to be as calm and callous in her treatment of humans as K is with replicants. Where K develops a soft spot for humanity, Luv has nothing but contempt for them. This is best illustrated in the scene where she kills Lt. Joshi, after referring to her as a small thing. She makes the deliberate choice to destroy Joi’s emitter, after Joi pleads for K’s life.

There’s not a lot of character development with her. She remains as hard and cold at the end of the movie, as she does in the beginning, except for one slight surprise.When Wallace kills replicants in front of her you can see her shocked reaction.  Later she kills a fake version of Rachael, not because she wants to do it, but because she is designed to obey Wallace without question. And in another surprising moment, she shows a certain amount of compassion towards Deckard.  Luv takes out her hatred of Wallace on  people he sends her  to kill. She seems to have no trouble killing humans. Her more softened approach to Deckard is puzzling, if you believe Deckard is human.

Luv is deeply affected by Wallace’s treament of his supposed children, and I believe she hates him. She is also deeply afraid of him as he could decide to kill her on a whim like so many of the other replicants we watch him abuse. She’s not capable of expressing that hatred to him because he is too powerful. He controls her. But she can  express that rage towards humans less powerful than she is, like Lt. Joshi, as she screams in rage while she kills her. (We’ll talk more about this movie’s treatment of women in Part Two.) I do wonder about her past. I know she can’t be the first version of Luv to exist, and if not, was she forced to kill her predecessor?

Luv also knows how to lie, which is something else Wallace has not seemed to notice, probably becasue they don’t lie to him. But K blatantly lies to Joshi, and so does Luv. Most people think that replicants can’t, which might be true of the older models, but apparently Wallace’s can.   I don’t think Zhora and Sapper outright lie when others ask them questons. I think they sort of derail or sidestep the questions. SoTyrell’s replicants couldnt lie, maybe, but they made up for that by being openly rebellious. Wallace’s replicants are extremely obedient, but their programs can be just as corrupted from being around humans, or K’s baseline wouldn’t need to be checked so often.

 

Niander Wallace

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Niander is an egomaniac who likens himself to god. He often refers to the replicants as angels, or his children, but that doesn’t stop him from casually ending their lives on a whim. In the film short, he orders the replicant to take its own life, but in the movie he’s a bit more hands on, disemboweling a female replicant, to prove a minor point, and ordering Luv to shoot the Rachael replicant he was using to torture Deckard.

Wallace is as incompassionate, in his behavior towards the replicants, as Deckard was in the first movie. In Bladerunner, Deckard had a conscience, and bemoaned having feelings about what he did, especially after killing Zhora. When we see K kill Sapper, he is emotionless. It’s just work, although later we see his warmth and regard for Joi, buying her presents, and bantering with her. We can see that he is visibly touched by her willingness to endanger her existence to aid him, and his grief at her destruction. Later, he kills Luv with his bare hands, with all the rage and grief at his disposal. He hates her for killing Joi.

So here we have (potentially) a human who lost and regained his humanity, a replicant searching for his, and another human who is so out of touch with his humanity that he thinks he’s God. Wallace is more than just physically blind. He doesnt see what is right under his nose (or he does but disregards it.) He doesn,t, for example, see that Luv hates him. He says he has built his replicants to always obey and never run, but K is a perfect example of never saying never. Wallace’s replicants can be compromised and are highly emotional creatures. We can see this in K, and in Luv as well. Niander also doesn’t see something else directly under his nose, that the child he is looking for, Ana Stelline, has been working for him for years.

Tyrell’s attempt to make the replicants tractable by giving them memories, did not work to make them less violent, and Wallace’s ability to make them obedient doesn’t seem to have worked either. Luv is just as violent as Batty from the original, and K’s programming becomes so corrupted that he rebels. Wallace doesn’t see that his goal is doomed to failure, as there is no way to make replicants happily accept being the slaves of  lesser beings.

 

Dr. Ana Stelline

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Ana is the woman who implanted the memory that leads K to her. She is subcontracted by the Wallace Corporation to create false memories for replicants. It’s illegal to plant real memories, nevertheless, she has seeded her childhood memory, of a small wooden horse, into the minds of dozens (possibly hundreds) of replicants, in the hope that one day, one of them would find her, or her parents.

As the daughter of a replicant, is she one as well? If Deckard is human, does it make her human? It has been theorized by fans that the immunity disease she claims to have is merely a false front to keep her isolated, and away from the suspicion of being Rachael’s daughter. It also has the added benefit of protecting her unique DNA from further scrutiny. Its  just another layer of false information, like the memories, the obscuring of her gender, and where and when she was born.

She has a deep well of compassion for the replicants. She tells K she can’t make their lives easier but she can give them happy memories.

 

Hannibal Kills

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I was asked recently, by one of my readers, (The Laughable Cheese) to elaborate on my thoughts  about the whys and wherefores of Hannibal’s murderous motivations on the show. Now, I’m no psychologist, so what I’m about to write is sheer speculation on my part, based mainly on my thoughts about the series version of Hannibal.

Throughout the series we’ve seen him kill to aid Will Graham, out of spite and anger, to satisfy his curiosity, out of a sense of whimsy, to protect himself from being captured, or manipulate others, but it is not until season two that we get any deeper reason for his murders.

Acc­ording to Holmes typology, serial killers can be act-focused (who kill quickly), or process-focused (who kill slowly). For act-focused killers, killing is simply about the act itself. Within this group, there are two different types: the visionary and the missionary. The visionary murders because he hears voices or has visions that direct him to do so. The missionary murders because he believes that he is meant to get rid of a particular group of people.

Process-focused serial killers get enjoyment from torture and the slow death of their victims. These include three different types of hedonists — lust, thrill and gain — and power-seeking killers. Lust killers derive sexual pleasure from killing. Thrill killers get a “kick” from it. Gain killers murder because they believe they will profit in some way. Power killers wish to “play God” or be in charge of life and death.

— http://people.howstuffworks.com/serial-killer1.htm

I think Hannibal kills for a multitude of reasons, but seems to fit the model of being a process killer. The act is drawn often a long drawn out event, which has a lot of meaning for him. We can see that in his killing and eating of Abel Gideon, in season two and three.

A lot of fans speculate that Hannibal kills because he can, and that’s as good a reason as any other, but I don’t feel that goes deep enough. Hannibal’s reasons are complex. Why does he feel he can? Because Hannibal likens himself to God. Why does he want to assert himself as God’s equal? For the same reason that many others seek to assert their power. Because, on some level,  he knows how it feels to be powerless.

In season one, Hannibal mostly kills the rude (for food), or to protect his identity. He kills Georgia Madchen because he believes she saw him killing Will’s doctor. He killed Will’s doctor because that man knew too much about his unethical manipulations of Will Graham, and could blackmail him for it.

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The first time we encounter one of Hannibal’s kills,  is when the body of Cassie Boyle is found in an open field. Hannibal has impaled her on a rack of antlers, (and removed her lungs, so that he can eat them.) Crawford and his forensic team discover her body after Will is confounded  about  the murder  of another young woman, named Elise.

Hannibal kills Cassie to provide what Will calls “a negative” to the body of Elise. Will thinks Cassie Boyle was killed to aid him in his search for Elise’s killer, and he’s not wrong. That is one of Hannibal’s motivations for killing the young woman, but another motivation, and this is just my speculation, is that he was also inspired by Elise’s killer, to create a more elaborate death. The way Cassie Boyle was killed was simply a way he hadn’t tried before.

In fact, no mention is made of how the Chesapeake Ripper (also Hannibal) killed or displayed his victims prior to the show’s opening, although the Chesapeake Ripper is mentioned as someone Jack has been hunting for many years. His killing and display of Cassie Boyle is the first mention of what Will calls “Field Kabuki”, which stands in direct contrast to how Elise was killed by Garret Jacob Hobbes. That contrast is what helps Will develop a picture of Hobbes, but also has the side effect of  bringing Hannibal to Will’s attention.

Now remember at this point, Hannibal has only  just met Will, after being given the task by Jack Crawford, of being the caretaker of Will’s sanity, while Will helps the FBI catch serial killers. Already we can see that he is fascinated by Will, and wants to get closer to him. He wants to be friends. So he was willing to take that risk to aid Will. He would get to see how Will’s mind works and better understand him. So one could argue that Cassie’s death was an overture of friendship to Will (although Will does not know that.).

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The very first meal that Will and Hannibal eat together is Cassie’s breakfast scramble. Prior to that we are shown Hannibal eating this alone in his house. He doesn’t appear to have any friends until he meets Will. After feeding Cassie to Will, he seems to have developed a sense of satisfaction from feeding the remains of his victims to his acquaintances, because he continues to do this throughout the entire series run, feeding his victims to Jack, Will, Alana Bloom, and various dinner guests. In the movies, Hannibal is shown feeding his victims to dinner guests, so there is precedent for it, but that’s  only shown in the TV show once, and only after he meets Will Graham. After that he mostly feeds his victims to his “friends”.

Hannibal kills for multiple reasons in season two. He also manipulates people into attempting to kill others. He manipulates Abel Gideon into  killing Alana Bloom, so that Will Graham will be forced to kill Abel to protect her. He does the same to Miriam Lass, using her PTSD against her, to get her to kill Frederick Chilton, who he has framed as the Chesapeake Ripper. He and Will attempt to orchestrate the killing of Mason Verger, and Lecter  successfully manipulates Will Graham into killing Randall Tier, by sending Tier after him at his home.

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Hannibal kills others for  a dinner party. One is a doctor who was rude to him, and Sheldon Isley, a land dealer who opposed the salvage of some wetlands. Lecter kills him out of spite and plants his body within a tree. It is the clues from Sheldon’s body that lead to the discovery that Miriam Lass, (a detective whose disappearance had been attributed to The Chesapeake Ripper), is actually alive.

However, his most notable and memorable killing, in season two, is the judge in Will’s case. Having framed Will as The Chesapeake Ripper in season one, Lecter now regrets his actions, and misses Will. The judge dismissed the testimony he gave in his attempt to free Will. In a fit of spite, Lecter simply removes the judge, which has the added side benefit of freeing Will, as his case gets thrown out.

Most of his reasons for killing in season three are pragmatic.  In season three he kills to protect his identity, as when he kills Reynaldo Pazzi, a detective who recognizes him from a previous case, and Anthony Dimmond, a man who tried to blackmail him. He kills to establish a new identity when he kills and eats Roman Fell and his wife.

But the most notable killing in season three are the flashbacks to the  killing and eating of Abel Gideon, the man who tried to steal his name and reputation as the Chespaeake Ripper, and knew too much about his manipulations of Will Graham. It’s especially horrifying as he spends most of that time talking with Gideon about what he’s doing to him, and forcing Gideon to partake of his own flesh.

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Note that what Hannibal does with his victims bodies afterwards is not the reason he kills them. He is not necessarily killing them to help Will, or send messages, or be artistic. He is making art out of something he already feels compelled to do. For example, he didn’t kill Dimmond to make the origami heart for Will. He just took advantage of a death he caused to leave Will a message. He killed Dimmond to protect his identity as Norman Fell.

Lecter has also talked, at length, about ethical killing, claiming to Bella Crawford that he employs an ethical butcher, who doesn’t make the food suffer before killing and eating it, and in season two he chides Will for terrifying Freddie Lounds too much before killing her, saying that it makes her flesh taste acidic. What he is saying is that the method (the process) by which he kills is important to him.

Miriam Lass, in her testimony to the FBI, also claimed that the Ripper never tried to cause unnecessary pain, informed her of his actions beforehand, and taking care to see that she didn’t experience undo anguish. So one could make the argument that Hannibal is definitely a “Process” type killer.

One of the theories for why Hannibal kills goes back to his childhood and the loss of his little sister Mischa. In the book version of his back story, (Hannibal Rising) he lost his sister during the war, when a group of enemy soldiers took his family prisoner, killed his family, and ate his sister, which he witnessed. Subsequently he hunted, killed,  and ate each of  them in turn, and this is a habit he simply developed and continued. Killing and eating people he thinks were rude to him.

In the show, this has been changed to;  witnessing his sister’s death, and then eating her himself, after he had pledged to always protect her. But Hannibal’s motivations on the show parallels his motivations from the books. He says to both Will Graham, and Margot Verger, that killing bad people feels good. Of course Hannibal’s criteria for “bad” is fairly loose, in that almost everyone can meet it. Hannibal likens their behavior to disrespecting God (himself).

Of course Will is allowed to be as rude to Hannibal as he likes. His motivation for trying to kill and eat Will, in season three, is not because Will is rude, but because Bedelia suggested it to him, as the only way to relieve his heartache over Will.

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Because Hannibal doesn’t see his victims as people, he sees them as creatures far beneath him (a theme that will more heavily come into play late in the second season, after Mason Verger is introduced). A much truer version of his thoughts is heard in season two when he says that God kills with impunity, and so should he. When killing the “Eye of God” killer, he explains that he is God’s equal and uses that argument to persuade the Eye of God killer to sacrifice himself for his art.

This thirst for power over people, to be godlike in his killing of them, may have derived from the vigilante killing of his sister’s killers. Having helplessly stood by and watched her be killed would be excellent motivation for taking back his power by killing her killers. In a sense, Hannibal is a kind of vigilante killer, only killing and eating those people who his cellkeeper Barney, in the movie Hannibal, referred to as  “Free Range Rude”. And what may have started as a form of vigilantism, to avenge his sister’s death, or to right the wrongs of the world, has simply evolved into a lust for power. Put all these reasons together and Hannibal definitely comes across as a Power type of Killer.

 

The Problem with White Critics

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I think I began several different iterations of this post, but finally settled on making this as positive as possible, rather than making it just a rant, because what I want to do is encourage people to do something that’s helpful to everyone, including themselves.

We don’t have enough critics of popular media who are people of color ,and we desperately need more.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/does-racism-impact-the-way-reviewers-rate-tv-shows/

The  problem I have with so many white critics is that they don’t see color. No really, they just don’t see it. We’re experiencing a time where PoC are being increasingly cast in roles, or sometimes have their own vehicles, and most white critics either don’t know enough about other cultures to adequately critique that media, or who have such a deep seated discomfort with acknowledging other cultures, that they simply ignore characters of color in the media. They really just don’t see them, they erase them, forget they’re there, diminish their importance in the narrative, and there are some cases where I would consider certain reviews to be overt micro-aggressions, themselves, like the review of Hidden Figures, and Moonlight, by the racially tone-deaf, British critic, Camilla Long.

“The received wisdom on Moonlight, a film about gay love in the black ghetto, is that it is ‘necessary’ and ‘important’. It is an ‘urgent’ and ‘relevant’ examination of forbidden attraction in a world, ‘the streets’, that is largely hostile to gay men.

Only, relevant to whom? Certainly not the audience. Most will be straight, white, middle class. Nor is it particularly ‘urgent’: the story has been told countless times, against countless backdrops.”

https://www.themarysue.com/tone-deaf-moonlight-hidden-figures-reviews/

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In Westworld, there are two major threads of robot cognition occurring on the show, between Dolores, a White coded woman , and Maeve, a Black coded character. I found it impossible to find critiques of Maeve’s storyline, especially from an intersectional feminist perspective. Most White critics ignored her entirely, focusing all of their attention on the character they felt was the show’s star, Dolores.

Critics  of color, have long pointed out White Prioritization in media narratives, but this prioritization also extends to fandom and critics as well, where, if there is a single White person in narratives that involve PoC, fans and critics will focus entirely on that character, neglecting, erasing, and sometimes  even re-writing the contributions of the characters of color in the story.

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We’ve directly witnessed fandom engaging in this with Finn from Star Wars, and  Nick Fury from the MCU, with fans often re-writing the narrative to villainize or  erase their contribution to the story. But this was notably illustrated on the show Sleepy Hollow, when, during the second and third seasons, the show’s Black female lead, Abbie Mills, was often sidelined in favor of the more marginal, White character’s storylines.

Maeve had nearly the same character arc as  Dolores, but no one was writing about her, and the people who did write about her didn’t take her race into consideration for how she was treated as a character, or how her race impacted her storyline vs. Dolores. Either White critics just didn’t see it, or they just didn’t care. Pick one!

I couldn’t find any posts on the topic of White female stereotypes vs Black female stereotypes in media, so I had to research it, and make my own. Ten minutes after that post was published, I was contacted by a young woman who said she’d just been searching the Internet, looking for exactly that type of post for her intersectional feminism paper, and citing that post  on a similar topic. Since then, that post has become one of my most popular, getting at least a couple of hits every day. (For the record, I’m not an  academic. I work in the Social Science and Research Dept. of a major library.)

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When Luke Cage, and Beyonce’s Lemonade were released, I stated that I was specifically seeking critiques from Black critic perspectives, because no white critique would have been able to capture the nuances of either. Not being a part of Black American  culture, White critics would be unlikely to catch all of the Easter eggs, and details that made this media so important to us. Some things you just have to be a part of the culture to understand.

I’ve watched many, many, movies from other cultures and critiqued many of them, but have always kept in the back of my thoughts, that I’m not a member of that culture, and I’m unlikely to understand many details, so am able only to speak to a certain depth on films with primarily Latinx, or Asian casts. I would entirely understand if people from any of those cultures dismissed my reviews.

http://splinternews.com/theres-a-huge-divide-between-how-black-and-white-critic-1797478105

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This is the same problem that’s found in the movies of White directors of Black culture. Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit suffers from a lack of nuance. It’s two hours of Black pain, with no  depiction of the regular everyday life of the Black people in the city of Detroit. Their personal lives are lacking or given short shrift, and it lacks any depictions of the roles Black women played in the resistance to their oppression. I’m not arguing that Bigelow is a racist, but she is recreating a Black story through a White woman’s lens, so no matter how awake she may be as a person, her perspective on the issue is going to be limited, as she does not come from the environment she is portraying. I don’t object to Bigelow directing the film as she’s an excellent filmmaker. I’m just wondering if the film would’ve been better served by having a director from the same culture as depicted in the film.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/detroit-and-the-problem-with-watching-black-pain-through-a-white-lens_us_597f8907e4b08e143004bbf1

One of my favorite genres is the martial arts film. Jet Li is one of my favorite actors, and one of his early movies is Once Upon a Time in China. I watched this film in the nineties when my brother gifted me with the entire boxed set for Christmas. I really enjoyed them. They also came with a commentary from famed martial arts writer Bey Logan, who taught me exactly what I was missing when I was watching those films, many of which also have Easter eggs, like the names of streets signs, character names, and character fighting styles. Bey Logan is not Asian, but he does know more about the topic than I ever will, so I defer to him. (Ideally, I would read Asian writers writing about movies depicting them, which is what I did for Ghost in the Shell.)

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Logan gave backstory on  characters that it didn’t occur  to me to ask, and answered a few questions that had been bubbling in the back of my mind regarding cultural issues, such as why you almost never see Chinese couples kissing in movies. These are all things I would never have known (or sometimes noticed) because I’m not Chinese, or a member of that diaspora.  I can enjoy the films only to a certain depth, but Bey Logan did teach me a lot about what to look for, and what to critique in such films.

I’m not saying White people can’t critique movies and TV shows that are primarily about people of color, just that their perspective isn’t going to carry the same weight as that of a person who is from the culture being depicted, and there are some critics, like Ms. Long mentioned above, who seem actively hostile.

My aim is to follow in Bey Logan’s footsteps, and  deepen understanding of characters and culture, by critiquing the media from my perspective, through my own lens, as a Black woman. I don’t just want to point out what White owned media, and fandom gets wrong about their depictions of characters of color, but to point out how, and why, it’s wrong, and teach viewers what to look for when watching events like Luke Cage, Lemonade, and Jessica Jones,  and movies like Detroit, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures. So from now on, when I write reviews on these types of productions, I intend to add more cultural and historical information, as I did when reviewing American Gods.

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I’m standing in a very different spot than White men (and women) when viewing pop culture, and when it comes to media involving Black American culture specifically, my perspective is that of someone fully immersed in that culture. White male is certainly one perspective, and it has its merits but, once again, a lot of  nuance and history will probably be missed.

Right now, I’m following a White critic who regularly dismisses or erases Black characters, (he simply doesn’t mention them, and when he does, is often clueless as to their impact and importance in the narrative) although he is otherwise a perfectly decent reviewer. I don’t think he knows he’s doing it, but the cumulative effect of forgetting to mention certain characters, or not remembering their names, is one of dismissal of characters of color. He is a perfectly acceptable reviewer though, and we agree on a great many issues, but he is simply unwilling (or what is much more likely), incapable of seeing what I see in even the shows and movies we both like.

He’s standing where he’s standing, and I’m standing where I’m standing, and he can’t imagine what I’m seeing from over here. I don’t really expect of him, to be honest.

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Before Iron Fist, and Ghost in the Shell were  released, I deferred to the opinions of Asian Americans, and boosted their voices on topics of concern, as much as possible. I can’t speak for them, although I do try to notice if they’re being treated fairly in a narrative. They are the only ones who really KNOW the issues that are of paramount concern to them, as part of the culture being shown onscreen, and whenever possible I prefer to let people of their own culture speak for themselves.

So here’s my encouragement and a challenge: If you’re a person of color, who is interested in TV and film, and you know anything about history, or social justice,  or just care about those issues, you can be a reviewer. It’s easiest to start with television shows since those are much more accessible, but there’s no academic credentials, or specialized knowledge required to blog about it. All you have to do is be a person of color, who loves movies and TV, and have something to say about it.

Pick one show you especially enjoy, and write an essay on how it makes you feel (this is an example of Meta). Pick a movie you liked and talk about its themes or ideas that captured you. Pick a character that speaks to you, with whom you identify and talk about that. It doesn’t have to be like the newspaper reviews. It doesn’t have to be an academic treatise. It also doesn’t have to be negative. Saying how much you love something, and why, is still a review.

Is it a rant? Is it something you hate that movies keep doing? Is it something you love and want to encourage? Go for it! Do you actually have some specialized knowledge on a topic movies keep getting wrong? Let us know!

Trust me, you will find an audience. Its slow going, at first, but I promise to signal boost you. I will give you a platform. If you are a person of color with a movie and TV review blog, let me know, and I’ll reblog your stuff.  Got some meta on Tumblr? Just send me a link and I’ll post it.

We need more critics of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://howlround.com/the-need-for-cultivating-theatre-critics-of-color

 

 

 

Favorite Movies of My Life Pt. 5 (2011 – 2017)

Here it is! This is the final part of the movies of my life series, where I list my favorite movies for each year I’ve been on Earth. This has been an eye opener for me too, as some of these I hadn’t really thought of in quite this way before, and the realization that so much of my earliest movie watching experiences are the product of Mom, and nostalgia.

My tastes really started to branch away from hers in my teens, which I suppose is normal. I’m still a lot more adventurous than her, when it comes to choosing movies. I’ll go anywhere I think is interesting, while she likes to stay in her comfort zone, although I can occasionally talk her into watching new things.

 

2011: Attack The Block 

I did a review of this movie here:

 https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/why-we-love-attack-the-block-2011/

This movie is mostly notable for starring my precious cinnamon bun, John Boyega, in one of his first movie roles.

I had two other movies to choose from,The Tree of Life, and The Road. I would have chosen one of these but The Tree is such a complicated film to describe, it would take an entire post just to parse its meaning. The movie has no straight plot, and is really nothing more than a series of images and vignettes with voiceovers loosely strung together with a theme. I love it, not  for its philosophy, but for its mood. The imagery, and music are beautiful, and it has a lot of quiet moments where scenes simply play out to their conclusion, with no explanation.

http://www.scholardarity.com/?p=1361

I love The Road but I was never going to chose it as my top film for this year becasue while it has a hopeful ending, it’s really just  too bleak and depressing a movie to ever be considered enjoyable. I really like Viggo Mortensen though, and think this is very possibly one of his best films.

https://reelrundown.com/movies/The-Road-Movie

 

2012: SkyFall

This year saw the release of The Avengers movie, which was a lot of fun for me; the movie Chronicle, with Michael B Jordan, which I’ll be discussing in another post; The Amazing Spiderman, which I absolutely did not hate, but didn’t love enough to make it my choice for my best movie this year, and finally Django Unchained, which I defended in an earlier post.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/in-defense-of-django-unchained/

But my choice for this year is Skyfall. I wasn’t a big fan of the first two Bond movies but I like this one. I think it perfectly captures Bond’s  washed up nature, fighting for a corrupt  political system,  that sees him as expendable. I think David Craig does some of his best acting here. For me, the film was most enjoyable for the introduction of Ms. Moneypenny, played by one of my favorite actresses, Naomie Harris, and its development of M’s character, who does not come off looking too good.

 

 

2013: Snowpiercer/Afflicted

This movie was a tie between SnowPiercer and the movie Afflicted. I reviewed Afflicted here. I think it’s one of the best vampire movies I’d seen in a long time.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/geeking-out-about-afflicted-2013/

As for Snowpiercer, what can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said by better writers than me.:

https://no-award.net/2014/08/01/snowpiercer-the-revolution-cannot-be-trusted-if-its-white/

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

http://aldianews.com/articles/culture/film-television/snowpiercer-and-one-white-dude-rule-them-all/34908

 

 

2014: Captain America The Winter Soldier

I had a really hard time choosing between Captain America: The Winter Soldier, It Follows, and What We Do in the Shadows. Ultimately, I chose Captain America because  I really enjoyed all three movies in the franchise, and What We Do in the Shadows is such a lightweight, silly thing next to these other two movies. There’s nothing wrong with lightweight, but it just didn’t win out against these two heavyweight message movies.

I’ve done two reviews of It Follows, that’s how intrigued I was by this movie:

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

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/the-monster-it-follows-2014/

I’ve also done a review of What We Do in the Shadows, which cemented Taika Waititi as one of my favorite film directors, forever, and one of the main reasons why Thor: Ragnarok might make my favorites list for this year:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/geeking-out-about-what-we-do-in-the-shadows-2014/

I am working on yet another post about Captain America right now, but I have done an entire series of posts on its characters, Sam Wilson, Steve Rogers, and Black Widow. i love it for its message,its characters,  the action scenes are top of the line, and its sentimental moments, which callback to the first movie.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/07/19/on-the-right-captain-america-and-iron-man/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/black-widow-lying-liar-who-lies/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/sam-wilson-to-be-rescued/

 

 

2015: Mad Max Fury Road

Most people think I would have chosen Star Wars Force Awakens because of my love for John Boyega/Finn, but really the characters were my only real reason to love it, and I’m also mad because Han Solo was killed, and I haven’t gotten over that yet.

No, the movie that did it for me, this year, was Mad Max Fury Road. I’m a total George Miller stan. His Mad Max movies were so influential,during the 80s, that every post-apocalypse movie since, has tried to ape his style…and failed! They simply could not capture the essential something in his movies, which were  combinations of intelligent writing and ferocious action, and Fury Road is no different. An action movie with a message that every post-apoc movie will try to ape in the future…and fail! For me, Fury Road was my Wonder Woman, (which is another reason why I wasn’t too impressed with that film.) One of the few woman-led actioners against which all others will be compared.

 

2016: Train to Busan

This was one of the best zombie movies in the past few years in my opinion. This is me, squeeing about this movie:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/train-to-busan-2016-2/

I have another post on its comparison to World War Z later this year.

 

 

2017: Logan, Get Out, Spiderman Homecoming, and ?

I haven’t yet chosen a film for this year yet, but the three films in the running for my favorite so far, are: Logan, Spiderman Homecoming, and Get Out. I’m also greatly looking forward to the yet to be released films, Thor Ragnarok,  Justice League, and Bladerunner 2049. I might choose one of them. We don’t know! What do you think, I’ll choose?

 

Unbreakable, Sleight, Spiderman, Chronicle: Shout Out to the Lowkey Superhero

 

In 1981, I watched the pilot for a show, starring William Katt (from  the 1976 movie, Carrie). In it, a Special Education teacher receives a Supersuit from some aliens and decides he wants to fight crime, even though he hates wearing the suit, and has lost the instruction manual. (Why won’t someone remake this show?) Aided by Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell, played by Robert Culp, he spends most of his time trying to figure out what his superpowers are, and how to use them, with comical results.

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In 1976, Carrie White discovers she had the power to move objects with her mind. Bullied and humiliated at her high school, she unleashes all of her rage on her classmates at the Senior Prom.

In 2000, Bruce Willis portrays David Dunn, a man who discovers that his body is essentially unbreakable, (just like Luke Cage), and has to figure out who and what he is, and what he wants to do with this power, aided by Samuel L Jackson, who also plays the movie’s  archvillain, Mr. Glass.

In 2012’s  Chronicle, Dane DeHaan plays Andrew Detmar who, along with his cousin Matt, and his friend Steve,  stumble across a strange rock in a cave, and receive the power to move objects with their thoughts. After bearing the brunt of schoolyard bullying, physical and emotional abuse from his father, and the death of his mother, Andrew nearly kills his father, and destroys a good portion of Seattle, before being killed by Matt.

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In 2017’s Sleight, a young Black genius named Bo, creates the the ability to move metallic objects with his mind, while he clashes with the local drug dealer, Angelo.

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In Spiderman Homecoming, Peter Parker is a newbie Super, dealing with such mundane things as schoolwork, bicycle thieves, and helping out the local Churro  Lady. He longs to save the world, while using nothing more than some superstrength, a fast wit, and some silkwebbing. He doesn’t have the social cache of Captain America, nor does he have Batman’s budget.

Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist. They’ve got one major power each, the ability to punch things really hard, lift a car, skin that won’t break, and the ability to see sounds. These are not gods. They can’t destroy a city block with the touch of a finger. They don’t own supersuits. They can’t even fly.  Even all-together they ain’t ever gonna be on the level of the Justice League.

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http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/superhero-movies/39560/real-life-superhero-movies-a-closer-look

None of these characters are villains, but many of them are too beset by the weaknesses of their character, or the challenges of their environment, to ever do the world any  real good. They live in the real world of car payments, drug dealers, homework, high school bullies, and 9 to 5 jobs they don’t like, dealing with people who seriously test their ability not to abuse whatever powers they possess, and sometimes that can’t even avoid doing that.

They’re not goddesses created by Zeus. They’re not millionaires who never have to worry about paying for anything. They’re not exiled  aliens. These are not the types of heroes you call to go into outer space to destroy the intergalactic menace. They’re just trying to survive their tiny part of the universe.

And sometimes they don’t manage to do that either.

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In Chronicle, Andrew wants to be special and important to the rest of the world, but that’s not gonna happen. Andrew could have been a true benefit to the world,  but he is bullied at school, abused by his father at home, his mother is dying, and they’re running out of money to pay for her medicine.  Andrew uses his abilities to rob a local drug dealer for the money, but how are his powers going to save his mother? How are those powers going to stop making him the brunt of his father’s anger at his wife’s death? Or make him charming, witty, or popular at school?

Sadly, Andrew gets a brief taste of these things, fending off his father’s abuse in one scene, participating in a talent show where he can secretly show off his abilities (and getting the accolades that he not only feels he richly deserves, but desperately needs), and losing it all when one of his friends, Steve, (who shared the same abilities as he did), dies , possibly as a result of Andrew’s actions.

Eventually, Andrew loses everything, including his mother,  and then eventually his life, at the hands of his cousin, Matt,  (who also shared the same superpowers), as he spirals down into a vortex of shame, hatred, grief, and anger. His powers couldn’t save him from himself.

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None of these superpowers help Matt save his best friend Steve, or solve his cousin’s extreme trauma, or even alleviate his own  emotional trauma, at having to take his cousin’s life, when Andrew goes on an anger fueled rampage. We witness how useless Matt’s abilities are, during his fight with his cousin, when he can’t talk him down, can’t convince him that he is loved, and can only mitigate the damage he causes, with his only option being to kill him.

This is the horrific outcome of actual superpowers in a real world setting that is full of horribly damaged people, and people happy to inflict pain on others for fun. This is something not shown in the Avengers, and Iron Man movies. The villains in those always have lofty goals, and self-serving excuses for why they’re bad. They hate the hero, or want to control the world, or both. Andrew, and his counterpart, Carrie, (whose narrative closely parallels this one), sometimes don’t know what they are, are sometimes just  in pain, and cause an incalculable amount of damage and death, all because they  weren’t loved enough.

This is the opposite story of Unbreakable, where David Dunn, a depressed stadium security guard, begins to realize his true potential, while mentored by a  man who thinks he knows who and what David is capable of. When he and his  wife, Audrey, were involved in a car crash, David used that as an excuse to quit football, because Audrey was opposed to the sport. He spent the next ten years of his life wondering what could have been, and the life they could have had.

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Not realizing that he is an  Unbreakable man, he  is approached by  Elijah Price, who tells him that he is special, that he can regain the glory he knew as high school football star. By using his strength to save lives, David discovers a new sense of purpose. Taking on the name Savior, his activities regain the  respect of his son, the love of the wife, who was planning to divorce him, and lifts his spirits, as he realizes what kind of man he is. David wasn’t trying to save the world. He was just trying to save himself.

http://reallifesuperheroes.com/

In Sleight,  Bo has the ability to move metal, due to a magnetic device he’s implanted in his arm. He gets involved with the local drug dealer, while trying to make a better life for him and his little sister, after their mother dies. Bo isn’t the next Tony Stark, but he would’ve been, were it not for the circumstances of his birth.

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Here’s what the director had to say about the stereotypical setting of the movie, which also tackles issues of race and class, which most superhero movies don’t mention:

<Making Bo a role model and a drug-dealer seems potentially controversial, but it also speaks to his lack of options as a teenager trying to support his sister, and living without a safety net. But you don’t foreground the social issues of his choices. You don’t make it political. Was it important to you to not spell anything out too much?

Obviously, it’s a trope that’s unfortunately very recognizable for black characters in movies, in having something to do with street-level drugs and committing crimes. Part of the goal in centering ourselves in that world was to find a different, empathetic way into a trope that’s maybe a little too familiar. By centering it on this kid who is brilliant and artistic and has a scholarship going for him, we’re showing that a fall into this world really could happen to anyone. If everything you hold dear slowly started unraveling and you had massive responsibility, and part of that responsibility is shielding someone you care about from even knowing that this is going on… There are certain sacrifices we make to take care of the people around us. We don’t just want to paint that familiar iconography. We wanted to find a different way into it, then [go] past it.

And if you read between the lines in Sleight, there’s enough evidence that we’re not fully falling into the trope, I would hope. Bo’s neighborhood is actually not bad. He’s not in a crime-infested, impoverished area. He’s trying to keep his sister in the environment she’s comfortable in. But also, what he does is a very different brand of drug-dealing, one less associated with the urban crime story. When you look at a show like High Maintenance — if we had another act to talk about Bo’s clientele, these are the kinds of stories we would see. Which hints why Bo would consider selling drugs in the first place. He’s savvy enough to not end up on the corner selling dope. And his boss, Angelo, at first glance, isn’t a gun-toting gang-banger. Bo is making an educated compromise, something he thinks he can keep at arm’s distance.>

 

Bo isn’t  heroic because he’s trying to save the entire world. Bo is a hero because he’s working against long odds to save just one small world, his little sister’s.

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Contrast Spiderman Homecoming with The Avengers. The Avengers are so far removed from everyday life that they seem almost like myths to the working man. Nowhere is this contrast more obvious than in the movie Spiderman Homecoming, about the activities of a low-level superhero who wants to make it to the big time. Peter Parker comes from a world of school, homework, and junior proms. His mentor is a multi-billionaire, whose every minor decision can affect entire lives, as Tony Stark’s decision to take over the salvage operations in New York, creates The Vulture, the villain who eventually becomes one of Spiderman’s Rogue’s Gallery.

Spiderman’s inability to run with the Big Boys, like Thor and The Hulk,  is the subject of a  great deal of humor, as seen in Captain America: Civil War, but it can also result in great tragedy, as his lack of discipline nearly causes a massive loss of  life, when he accidentally breaks the Staten Island Ferry.

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In The Incredibles, the superheroes of yesteryear get a taste of what the mundane life is like when superheroing is outlawed by a fed up public. Now all they have are their real jobs, house payments, and watching their weight.  Mr Incredible chafes at these restrictions, living vicariously through his son’s grade school exploits, secretly crime fighting behind his wife’s back, and yearning for the days when he could channel all his restless ingenuity into bringing down super criminals. Like Peter Parker, the mundane life just isn’t challenging enough for him, or his little boy, Dash, There’s also the not so lowkey message in the film that when everyone is considered special, its really just another version of mundanity.

I suppose this essay would not be complete without mentioning the  ultimate street level superhero, Kick Ass, who is the very definition of a superhero nobody. David is a superhero only because he believes it. He has no superpowers to speak of, no martial skills, not even a sharp tongue. Armed with nothing more than a green bodysuit, and some Escrima sticks, he takes out muggers and drug dealers on the streets of New York City, in the hopes of  impressing that one girl in school he has a crush on. He inadvertently falls into deeper water than he can handle, when he encounters a vigilante father/ daughter duo, who are fighting an organized crime family.

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There have been a spate of these movies in the past ten years, (Super, Defendor, Special) about the the low level exploits of gifted, and non-gifted heroes, yearning for the  Big Time, something to give their life meaning, a way to work out their psychological trauma, or just wanting to be special and/or loved. For some of them, these are weaknesses of character that will never allow them to rise to the level of an Avenger, or an X-Man, and other s are so grounded, they will never  get to be heroic, no matter how much they want it.

Even the move Suicide Squad dabbles in these ideas, with characters like Captain Boomerang, and Slipknot, or a character with no superpowers at all, beyond a taste for chaos, and an ability to wield a baseball bat. The’yre little more than small-time villains who get called on to save the world.

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On the other hand, it makes them more relatable, and sympathetic,than the Tony Starks, and Supermen, of the world. Watching them rise to new levels of superheroics, as when Spiderman has no one to save him but himself in Spiderman: Homecoming, or when Bo defeats the neighborhood villains to successfully raise his little sister, gives us the  confidence to survive, especially when we’re beset by our own physical, and mental issues. When they overcome, they are the best of ourselves. And when they fall to the depths of despair, like Andrew and Carrie, they are reflections of our worst, and can spur us to examine and conquer our own weaknesses.

My Favorite Michael Jackson Videos

The King of Pop’s Birthday is coming on August 29th, and I just wanna celebrate it with a list of my favorite videos. There’s no argument that Michael Jackson revolutionized the music video genre, in a way no one else had before him, when he released Thriller, waaay back in 1982.

In 1982, I was 12 years old. I had been listening to, and watching Michael dancing in videos, since I was a tot. My Mom loved the Jacksons. She named my baby brother after two of them. (I received a more normal sounding name becasue I was born before the Jackson craze.) So yeah, because Mom loved The Jacksons, we grew up loving them too, although I can’t think of anyone in my neighborhood who didn’t.

When Thriller was released, Black people collectively lost the entirety of their shit. The videos released from that album were such major events, that there were specially televised.  There was no thing such as social media at the time. It was all word of mouth, and Michael was all anybody talked about. People dressed like Michael, tried to dance like him, he popularized the Jheri Curl…

 

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And all this was before cosplay was really a thing.

And when he released the video to Billie Jean… well, lets face it! There was no more cooler person on Earth than the King of Pop. Genius is a word that gets bandied around so much these days, but really it should only be reserved for people who changed the world so much while they lived, that all others will be compared to them long after their deaths. Michael was a dancing, singing genius.

Anyway, all of that is to say I have a long list of favorite Michael Jackson songs, but only a few videos really make the  cut. Here they are in no particular order:

 

Billie Jean

There was nothing cooler at the time then those flooding pants, white socks,  that everybody starting rocking after this video came out. I was more impressed by the light-up sidewalk. There’s a great deal of mystery happening in this one. The beat and dancing are prefect, as always.

 

 

Thriller

I think everybody knows the dance from this video. I remember watching this with my family, as it was a major television event at the time, and all anybody talked about at my school  for about a month.

https://youtu.be/sOnqjkJTMaA

Stranger in Moscow

I think the cinematography is just beautiful here. its one of the few music videos that can bring on tears. Its simply gorgeous.

https://youtu.be/pEEMi2j6lYE

Smooth Criminal

I love the dancing in this video. And of course I love to watch Michael dressed up as a gangster anytime. The spats and the silhouette suit him very well here.

https://youtu.be/h_D3VFfhvs4

Earth Song

This is one of my Mom’s favorite songs, and one of my favorite videos. This is another one of those videos that made me cry when I first saw it. The power of Michael’s voice, his message, and the imagery, are all literally breathtaking.

https://youtu.be/XAi3VTSdTxU

Who Is It

There’s so much mystery going on in this video, and the homage to Blue Velvet wasn’t lost on those who watched this.

 

Remember the Time

This is one of my all-time favorite videos ever. This is very possibly one of the Blackest music videos ever made. Of course I wasnt going to miss The Supreme Goddess, Iman. She just looks stunning.

https://youtu.be/LeiFF0gvqcc

Scream

This is the only video, in which both  Janet and Michael starred,  at the height of their careers. I liked the playfulness and pseudo-attitude. Its just fun to watch, even if the plot is  completely baffling.

 

 

The Defenders Season Review

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Instead of reviewing every episode, one by one, like most other reviewers, I’ve decided to just review the entire season.  Rather than 13 episodes, the series has been reduced to eight, which I feel was a really good idea, as this helps the story move along a lot more swiftly, and with less filler, than in the individual shows.  Since the plot is moving faster, and interludes are shortened, it’s not possible to get too irritated by any particular plot point (The Villain), or character (Danny), because you just don’t have much time for it.

Overall, I enjoyed the series. I can definitely say that I like certain characters much better in a team setting, than I did in their individual stories, because a lot of their weaknesses of character aren’t on full display here, and when they are on display, there’s a reason for it. I especially enjoyed all the team action, even just sitting around and talking to each other, because these guys are  a lot of fun together. Their fighting styles and attitudes just mesh really well, and they have great chemistry with each other, which makes for some interesting, and cool fight scenes, and some funny and snarky dialogue.

I think the show played up the reluctant hero angle a bit too much. The characters are always having conversations about how they’re not heroes, and don’t want to be heroes, especially Luke and Jessica. Matt is trying to quit  the superhero game as if he were going cold turkey from some kind of -ism. Danny is the only one who wants to be a hero, and he’s not  remotely equipped to be one.

 

Luke Cage:

 

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We get a slightly deeper understanding of Luke as a person, although there are no huge revelations, or anything. He still doesn’t want to be a hero, he’s still living in Harlem, still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, all of this is just as in his own show.  We see the opening moves of a friendship between him and Danny, and Luke and Claire finally go out for that coffee, before being awkwardly interrupted by Luke’s former one night, Misty.

All of the characters get a chance to interact, one on one, during the series, although there’s not a lot of forward momentum in their characters, or relationships. Just hints of things to come. We get hints of a reconciliation between him and Jessica. In the comic books, the two are married and have a baby, but I don’t know if these shows will move in that direction. I’m opposed to it because of Jessica having killed his wife, (and then lied to him about it), and Jessica is also  not in any kind of emotional shape to have a relationship with anyone. Also, she is, ethically speaking, the complete opposite of  Luke, and I just don’t see those two  styles of personality meshing well.

As I mentioned, the showrunner doesn’t do anything new with the character. Luke remains a deeply principled guy who, while okay with kicking ass, is opposed to killing. He is not afraid to call someone on their shit, the way he does to Danny.

I love that all the characters have their place and purpose  in the team, and how their differing fighting styles are showcased. Luke is like Superman. He’s invulnerable to most harm, and is often a shield for the others, when the guns come out. He’s not completely invulnerable though, as Danny is one of the few people that can knock him off his feet (well…Danny and unexpected trucks). Seriously, the man is like a tank. He’s even immune to fire.

The team needs Danny whenever they need a huge, loud distraction, as in the finale, when they needed to reach a safe place, but The Hand was being an obstruction. Danny is like a large explosive device, delivering concussive sound and force, and I like the way his powers are used here, although yeah, the glowing fist still looks kinda silly. Still, Luke and Danny are definitely the team’s two heavy hitters.

One of the most annoying parts of the show is the Rap music that appears whenever Luke shows up on screen. To the showrunner: Hey! Luke does not  need a soundtrack to announce his presence!

Matt is the resident Ninja, and while Danny isn’t too bad in that department, Danny has a different purpose. Matt is the kind of team member who can move in and out of a situation quickly and quietly, warn the team of any impending danger, (and get them out of trouble with the law,  if necessary, I guess.)

 

 

Matt Murdock:

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Matt spends a lot of the first couple of episodes trying not to be heroic, or save people. I think we’re meant to believe that he gave it all up after losing Elektra, but since I wasn’t buying his relationship with her, I didn’t care. The two of them have no chemistry, and the emotional intensity of a pair of titmice, especially when it comes to passionate exchanges.

On the other hand, it was nice seeing him put his lawyer-ly shit down, it was nice to see Foggy and Karen again, and I’m glad the three of them made some effort towards reconciliation, especially after last season’s events, when Karen found out he was Daredevil. The two of them treat, and talk about Matt, as if he were a recovering junkie, so that’s kind of weird, made even weirder by scenes of Matt “staring” longingly at his Daredevil outfit, as if it were an ice cream sundae.

Actually, a lot of Charlie Cox’s acting is off in this series. There’s story movement, but his character remains pretty much the same. His fighting skills are awesome as ever, but Charlie looks like he’s phoning in  his performance. When I called him a Floor Lamp Ninja, I meant that he could pretty much be swapped out by any other martial arts actor, and this would not  greatly affect the plot.

I did enjoy the scene where he tails Jessica on the streets and she susses him out, and when they meet for the first time in their superhero guises. Matt steals that big gray scarf she wears everywhere, to wrap around his face, and Jessica rolls her eyes at him.

 

 

Jessica Jones:

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This show went a long way towards making me like this character. As much as she hates people, Jessica really does work well in a team setting. She takes nothing seriously, which ends up making her the funniest person in the group. Her one on one interactions with Matt are especially funny, and she gives absolutely no fucks about who  Danny is, and is quick to say so, which I thought was hilarious.

A lot of the weakness of Jessica’s show is that its very White Feminist, and her mistreatment of PoC in the show really started, not just to grate on my nerves, but to make me actively dislike her, no matter how much I sympathized with her issues. I know and understand  that she is dealing with the severe trauma of what Killgrave did to her, but trauma is not an excuse for her abuse and mistreatment of characters of color.

I actually had a problem, not just with her,but with the show’s writers as well. Despite women’s trauma issues being  the center of  the story, they still managed to erase  WoC entirely, which is something White Feminism keeps doing, in stories that are supposed to be empowering to women. (The stories end up being empowering only  to White women.) But I still applaud the show for its messages and the general treatment of its (White) female characters. I see why some people liked it, but ultimately the show wasn’t for me.

That’s just the logical reasoning for why I disliked the show. The other reason is there was a lot of triggering shit in that show. I had to stop watching it, for my own self care, because I was not ready!

I liked Jessica in The Defenders, because the focus wasn’t on Jessica’s pain, so we got to see her reacting to other things. She’s still an unlikable, alcoholic, snarky mess, but that’s okay. Who says heroes have to be likable? Its especially interesting because unlikability is rare in female characters, and Jessica is thoroughly unapologetic about herself. At one point she very openly steals a can of beer, from a passed out homeless man on the subway, (because she’s had a long day,) right in front of Matt and Luke, who handle  the act with no more than raised eyebrows.

Jessica is definitely the team’s Tony Stark to Luke’s Steve Rogers. There’s much of the same personality dynamics present, except some of the motivation for  Jessica’s rather  loose ethics stem partially from her trauma at the hands of Killgrave.

 

Danny Rand:

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Yeah, for someone who talked a lot of shit about the Iron Fist series, I think you guys will be pleasantly surprised that I didn’t actually dislike Danny Rand in this show. As I mentioned, the shorter running time for the series means that Danny’s scenes are kept to a minimum, so he doesn’t have as much time to be irritating. Not that he doesn’t give it a big try.

Finn Jones has also had the benefit of some practice on his fight choreography, and better directors and it shows. His fight scenes aren’t the trash fire that they were in Iron Fist, so he actually ends up looking competent. Plus, he just works better with a team of people, than he does on his own.

The team dynamics go a long way towards making Danny likable here, and really, in the next season of Iron Fist, the show runners really need to lean in to the ridiculousness of his story, rather than playing it straight, because yeah, Danny sounds like he’s insane. None of the other team members take his backstory seriously, rolling their eyes every time he mentions he’s the Immortal Iron Fist, an attitude I thought was incredibly funny. And then there’s the silliness of him walking around with a large dragon tattoo on his test. His powers aren’t funny, and the audience is never given to laugh at those, but his backstory is kinda nuts. Mr. I Punched a Dragon!

Another reason I like Danny here, is because the showrunner makes an effort to make his character understandable, in a way that he wasn’t in his own series. In his own series, his behavior is incredibly rage inducing, and frustrating, (and I can’t help but think that this change has at least a little to do with the showrunner being a man of color, who understands the issue in a way the last showrunner didn’t). But here, Danny’s behavior is in smaller doses, and he has more well developed characters reacting to his wtf*ery, so he’s  a lot easier to understand. Granted, if the character had been cast as Asian to begin with, we wouldn’t need all these careful repairs.

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/08/luke-cage-iron-fist-marvel-defenders-netflix-privilege-1201868048/

For example, at one point, he and Luke square off, with Luke confronting Danny about his privilege as a rich White man, who chooses to come into his part of town and beat up the impoverished Black people, rather than finding some other way to defeat The Hand’s purposes. The Hand is able to operate with impunity in such neighborhoods because all they have to do is offer money. Luke’s statement is a reminder to Danny that there’s a bunch of other things he could’ve done, as a wealthy White man to defeat the purposes of The Hand, besides beating up the citizens. But then you notice that Danny’s go-to, when dealing with The Hand, is only ever violence. He never tries to thwart them any other way, and thinks he can  simply punch his way to the proper outcome.

For example: Danny and Colleen find a warehouse full of bodies. The Hand is hiring young men from Luke’s  neighborhood to  clean up any evidence that might lead to their organization. Danny and Colleen do not know this. They don’t ask questions, have not investigated the situation, and haven’t bothered to understand the why of any of it. The two of them immediately jump to kicking ass. Danny and Luke first meet when  Luke steps in to protect one of the young men, who has lost his family to The Hand, and feels coerced to work for them.

Luke’s statement about his privilege is meant to remind Danny that there are other perspectives  besides his own. It’s made very plain  that when it comes to The Hand, Danny has a huge blind spot.  Danny doesn’t  think, he just reacts, and that was what happened at the warehouse, which  resulted in Danny brutally beating a (Black) teenage boy. He’s  reckless, impulsive, and has anger issues. He and Colleen don’t have any kind of a plan, beyond destroying The Hand. This gets mentioned a couple of times during the show.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/18/16118680/the-defenders-netflix-marvel-iron-fist-sucks

On to the good part: Danny doesn’t get any better at being impulsive, but he does listen to what gets said to him. And the showrunner is a lot better at making clear what Danny’s motivations are, something which is cloudier on his own show. Danny is looking for a purpose. Since he abdicated his responsibilities to K’un L’un (Why?), he’s not only been looking for a way to atone for that, but looking for a new purpose to replace it, and probably looking for a new family too, as he’s one of the few characters that’s at all excited about teaming up. But again he is blind to his rage about The Hand, and as long as he remains blind to his lack of control, as regards them, he can accomplish nothing.

When the rest of the team find out the the The Hand is specifically after Danny, they try to get him to stand down, and stay out of their next fight, rather than just running up on ’em, without a plan. I’m always here for Danny getting his ass handed to him, which the team has to resort to, to keep Danny from fucking up, yet again. There follows a long interlude with him and Luke getting to know each other, and Danny trying to at least understand Luke’s perspective on the world.

So yeah, this show went a little way to making me, if not like Danny, at least understand where he’s coming from in terms I could easily grok.

 

Alexandria:

Image result for defenders gifs alexandra

 

Sigourney Weaver turns in a beautiful performance, as I expected, before being unexpectedly dispatched near the end of the series. My biggest problem is that her motivations as a villain are so vague and ill-defined I was completely unable to care what her goals were. We know what she and the other members of The Hand want to do, but we have no idea why they want to take over the world, other than just wanting to do it.

I didn’t focus on her unfathomable motivations. I just tried to focus on her performance.  She and Elektra have great chemistry, reminiscent of Ellen Ripley and Call, the Android from Alien Resurrection, and I found this dynamic fascinating. On a lighter note, I loved her outfits. Alexandra is always impeccably dressed. She just looks like a woman with a lot of money and extravagant but unshowy tastes.

Another problem that I have is that the women in this show rarely get to interact with each other, (although Claire and Colleen get some nice scenes together, and later, Colleen and Misty get to talk). Alexandra spends a lot of time alone. They couldn’t even bother to write her as being friends to Madame Gao, having her treat Gao like a servant, which I found especially distasteful. Here you have a wealthy White woman treating this older Asian woman as if she were the Help, although there are other factors behind why she does it, it was still ugly and racist, even if that was not what was intended.

I still don’t know why the  showrunners bothered to call Sigourney into this show, which she is simply too good for. I had noticed that her presence sidelines the Asian characters putting, them all in a subordinate position to her, and significantly reducing Madame Gao’s street cred, that she’s built over three other shows. As much as I like Sigourney, I feel like the story would have been better served without Alexandra.

 

Elektra:

Image result for defenders gifs elektra

 

I still do not like this character, because I just feel like she’s evil for no  feckin’ reason. I didn’t like her in Daredevil either, because the writers just made her seem batshit insane for no reason. Elodie Young is gorgeous and all, and can actually act, as I’ve seen her elsewhere acting just fine, but I don’t like the way she approached this character. When we first see her here, she has been brainwashed and controlled by The Hand, most especially Alexandra. She’s pretty much a perfect example of the Born Sexy Yesterday Trope.  Later,  she appears to become evil on purpose,and for the life of me, I simply could not care.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=dxgnmgk8728039vcnyat5g65

After Elektra’s resurrection, she is mentored in her evil-ness by Alexandra, and it was really interesting watching the relationship between the two of them, but she does eventually betray Alexandra, and turns against The Hand. Once again, for no reason that I could discern than that the writers needed a new villain in the plot.

The show is somewhat formulaic, with the idea of replacing one Big Bad with another, halfway through the season. This happened with Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Luke Cage, where the viewer starts out with one villain, who gets unceremoniously dispatched by the true villain of the story. Basically, a villain bait and  switch.

I wanted to like Elektra. I just don’t. I couldn’t understand her motivations for anything, and I wasn’t feeling her deep love affair with Matt Murdock. Which is not helped by Matt Murdock acting like  “Floor Lamp Ninja”, throughout most of the series. When she’s not smurking evil-ly, she has a blank, wide-eyed, look on her face, which I found kinda irritating. I got no problem with Elektra’s martial skills. Those were exemplary, as always.

 

Colleen Wing:

Image result for defenders gifs colleen

 

She has even less personality growth here then in Iron Fist. In fact, I found her much more annoying in The Defenders, than I did in that show. She didn’t make much of an impression on me for this show, either. Part of this has to do with the shorter length of the series. There’s just not enough time to develop all the characters, so some of them get short shrift and hers is especially short.

The only thing we get from Colleen’s is more of her being Danny’s support network, (as she is told by Claire) and fighting the same endless fight against Bakuto, that she fought in Iron Fist, with Bakuto making the exact same talking points. Why he wants her is anybody’s guess Is he in love? Wants her as a protege? We don’t know or understand. His motivations are pretty vague. As are most The The Hand’s motivations.

Collen’s motivations are even less discernible to us than they were in Iron Fist. That was a problem that wasn’t even approached here. We don’t know why she loves him, and the two are not especially demonstrative, but nevertheless we are led to believe they are a couple. She may be Danny’s emotional support but she’s doing an awful job at helping him deal with his anger issues ,or his ideas about who and what he is. Case in point, it took a near total stranger, Luke , to point out one of Danny’s biggest flaws. The problem may be that Colleen is unable to point out Danny’s flaws because she’s too much like him. She has a go along to get along attitude with Danny that I found irritating, never questioning what he says or does, and mindlessly following him in his quest. She has no story of her own, seemingly having gave it up to be little more than Danny’s helpmate. The writers need to do better with her. Hopefully, if there is a spinoff show with Misty, she’ll be better written.

As per usual there’s nothing wrong with Colleen’s martial skills. In fact the choreography isn’t bad for the whole series, and at least a few of the directors know how to shoot fight scenes well enough to make them all different, and compelling enough, to keep watching. My favorite fight scenes are the team fights though.

 

Misty Knight:

 

Image result for defenders gifs misty

There’s not much character growth with Misty Knight either, but at least her motivations are clear. We know exactly what she wants in the narrative and why she wants it. She wants to solve her case, and get a promotion, (or not be fired), which is hindered by the fact that the people who could help her solve it, refuse to tell her anything, and the fact that, with The Hand, she is totally out of her league.

Misty is a cop, so she has mostly cop concerns, just as she did in Luke Cage. Shit is happening, her friends are in the middle of it, and they won’t tell her anything, because they realize, but refuse to explain clearly to her, just how far out of her depth she is. I kept admonishing Luke (and Jessica) to make clear to her, that the organization they’re  dealing with  doesn’t give a flying hot damn if she’s a cop, and will happily kill her (and her entire fam), but they kept refusing to tell her this, which was becoming really frustrating.

I’ve also seen some shitty meta about how she’s a bad character because she keeps attacking people she needs help from, and I’m like Bish please! She’s not attacking your White faves! She is being a cop, who knows that the information that will allow her to do her job, is being withheld. She’s got one job in the damn show, which is solving her case, and  she can’t do it, because  the four people who know something about it, won’t tell her anything. So yeah, she gonna be irritated, and not afraid to show that irritation.  This is called DRAMA, people!( I’m trying to  remember that I’m dealing with the hysterical children of Tumblr, who think any time  characters of color show irritation at a White character’s actions,  that it automatically makes them a villain. Yep! This is the level of logic I’m dealing with on Tumblr, guys!)

But she comes through in the end anyway, and lets the team handle their bidness. Although, I suspect she’s mostly there because Luke and Claire were in danger. (Remember, Misty doesn’t know who  any of those White people are. They are just mysterious somebodies who are obstructing her job. Luke and Claire are the ones who are her friends..)

Misty is known in the comic books for having a silver bionic arm, and for teaming up with Colleen to be the Daughters of the Dragon. (On an alternate Earth, she even gets to carry Steve Rogers shield, sorta like a female Bucky.) So,  we may get to see her new prosthetic in season two of Luke Cage, and if we’re lucky we’ll get to see her and Colleen team up. Hey! If side characters like the Punisher can get their own show, they can make a Daughters of the Dragon series, (possibly in the style of the Foxy Brown Blaxploitation movies of my youth.) The series should of course be helmed by a Black or Asian woman, because I absolutely do not  trust a White, male, showrunner to get a Black woman, and an Asian woman correct.

http://mashable.com/2017/08/18/the-defenders-misty-knight-arm-daughters-of-the-dragon-spinoff/#KKkkf8UKpmqx

 

The Hand:

Image result for defenders gifs the hand

https://www.bustle.com/p/who-are-the-five-fingers-of-the-hand-the-defenders-reveals-whos-pulling-the-strings-77358

Unfortunately, the shorter the running time of the series does not seem to allow much clarity on who, or what, The Hand is, or why they want what they want. We have some idea of what they’re doing globally, not just in New York, but that’s pretty much all we get.

New York starts experiencing a spate of seismic disturbances, which are being caused by The Hand digging near some sort of fault line, under a plot of land they built an office on. Why they are digging is slightly unclear. I think some dragon bones are involved becasue its briefly mentioned tat this has something to do with how Iron Fist got his power. For some reason ,they also need to capture Iron Fist and beat him up, or make him angry so he can open some kind of doorway to K’un L’un, so the five leaders of The Hand can go back home.

I did pay attention but really that’s the best I can do regarding the rather lackluster plot. I really didn’t care, although i guess its supposed to be some sort of revelation ,that the five leaders are all incredibly old, exiled citizens of K’un L’un. Even the facts of why they’re exiled in the first place isn’t made abundantly clear. I really hope the showrunner and the writers were making some kind of point about cloudy motivations, or something becasue the villains are a mess.

Alexandra gets unceremoniously dispatched and replaced by Elektra, who gives a self important speech about how she’s now the leader of The Hand. I don’t know if its the actress, or the writing, but I was bored by the whole thing. Why we were introduced to new memebers of The Hand only to have them killed right away is anyone’s guess.

Since The Hand is an egalitarian organization there’s a Japanese guy, whose name I don’t remember, a Brazilian guy named Bakuto, an African (Haitian?) guy named Sowande, and Ms. Gao, who I assume is Chinese. Sowande reminds me of the lead character from the movie Beasts of the Southern Wilds who was a procurer of child soldiers. Sowande is brutally tortured and killed by he Defenders after they capture him in an attempt to find out his people’s plans, something which did not sit well with me. And before you come into my inbox and start mansplaining about how the other members of The Hand also get killed, I have to remind you, that none of the other members of The Hand were brutally tortured first. This happens to the sole Black member of The Hand, by people who are, supposedly, the good guys.

Couple that scene with Iron Fist’s brutal beating of a young Black boy in an earlier episode,Jessica jones treatment of its Black male characters,  Daredevil’s treatment of its Asian characters as some type of Yellow Peril (which even the presence of a White woman leader cannot resolve), and Iron Fists White Savior issues, and it becomes clear that the the MCU has some serious racial issues that need addressing. The only disability on display is Matt Murdock’s blindness. Jessica Jones treament of one of its lesbian characters was, quite simply, abominable, and outside of that there is no LGBT representation in any of it. Marvel comic books are doing much better in regards to these issues than the MCU.

One of the ways they can address some of these issues is by hiring different types of showrunners, and writers and treating the creation of these shows (and the movies which have all the same problems) the same way they approach the comic books. The newest phase of MCU movies have gotten a little bit better as far as racial issues (but not by much) and it’s seriously lacking in LGBT and disability representation, and the creators of these projects need to think more deeply about these issues, most especially in its treatment of Asian characters across all of the MCU, as it’s becoming creepily apparent that maybe don’t like people of the Asian diaspora.

Despite all my criticisms though, I actually enjoyed watching it. I’m still glad I didn’t have to spend 13 hours watching it, instead of the eight. The strongest part of the series are the scenes of The Defenders working together as a team. There’s a lot of room for improvement but also a lot of promise for a season two.